In the beginning of April, I visited Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for the first time in over two years. This also happened to be my first time in the Magic Kingdom Post-FastPass, during the Pandemic and all by myself. It was sort of a “business trip” to gather some content for upcoming posts here on Ferdi’s Learnings — starting with this one.
I decided to pay the extra $15 to see what Disney Genie+ was all about.
Here’s what I learned:
Fast Pass vs Genie+ | Ride the Lightning
When I first heard of Disney Genie and Genie+ taking over for FastPass it just sounded like WDW was attempting to monetize their FastPasses.
For so many years FastPasses have been free, plus they were a way for Disney employees to make disgruntled guests happy:
Sorry, your Disney Hotel room isn’t ready? Congratulations! You just scored some extra FastPasses for your day at the park tomorrow.
The quality of your meal didn’t meet your expectations? Have a FastPass on us.
It was basically a way for Disney employees to fix any problem without losing any money.
There are two parts to the new Disney Genie service. The first (and FREE) part is more of a personal park concierge that plans out your day at the park, according to traffic and other changing factors.
The second part, Disney Genie+, is the paid version that gives you access to the new FastPass — now known as the Lightning Lane. Genie+ means shorter lines for Lightning Lane guests, but longer Standby lines for everyone else. I walked right onto my three Lightning Lane rides — Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and Buzz Lightyear. I also noticed that many of the Standby lines (for popular rides) had long waits all day long.
Since I was only in the park for about half a day, 9:00 am to about 4:30 pm, I was only able to book two Lightning Lane reservations for myself — Haunted Mansion and Buzz Lightyear. My third reservation was a gift — from a Magic Kingdom cast member.
After talking to a Disney Guest Relations representative about renewing my Annual Pass and the Disney Genie+ service I now had a better understanding of the service. His advice was,
“If you want to do the most in one day at a Disney park, it’s best to pay for the Genie+ service and mix it up with waiting in standby lines while also using the lightning lane. It’s all about finding that perfect balance.”
My day was not spent finding that perfect balance. Instead I made my way from Land to Land, visiting some of them multiple times. I knew exactly what I was looking for, I just didn’t plan out my strategy beforehand. I found myself in Tomorrowland at least three separate times that day.
While Lightning Lane reservations only grant you an hour window to get to the attraction, a cast member gift pass lasts all day (single use) — from park open to close. That means I could have jumped onto the Jungle Cruise at any point in my day. I ended up going straight there since it happened to be right by where I had talked to that cast member.
I wouldn’t be surprised if WDW is encouraging cast members to give out these all-day (single use) Lightning Lane gift passes to guests trying out the Genie+ service for the first time. This will encourage us to pay for it over and over again.
How does Genie+ Work?
Back in the day, you were able to book up to three FastPasses per day, up to one month (maybe a little more) in advance. Once completing your three FastPasses, you were eligible to pick up some extra ones, if any were available.
With Genie+, guests are able to book one Lightning Lane pass every two hours. That means if you get into the park at opening (9am), you can pick your first pass and by 11AM you’ll be able to pick the next one. If you claim your first pass before the two hour mark, you may be able to pick your next one a little earlier. This gives the possibility of more opportunities for Lightning Lane as long as you start early and stay on top of it.
From what I saw, I believe that only one member of a party needs to purchase the Genie+ service. So, if I pay for Genie+, I could take a friend with me on my Lightning Lane rides. What I’m not sure of is, “What if two friends purchase Genie+? Can they end up picking up maybe 6-10 separate Lightning Lane rides and sharing them?”
My Genie+ Theory
Here’s how I believe this whole Genie thing got started. Let’s go back to before March 2020. Disney Parks had giant crowds almost every day of the year, up until parks, sports and everything had to shut down (for the first time in forever), right after Tom Hanks got COVID. Once Disney opened back up, they started off with a park reservation system to control crowds and cap the maximum number of park guests (in an attempt to not spread more COVID).
I didn’t visit Disney Parks in the height of the pandemic, but even when I went in February of this year (2022), they were still doing a good job of enforcing the indoor mask mandate. Although when I went this time they were only enforcing mask wearing on the monorail and certain areas, but now that’s over. It’s back to the wild wild west like the rest of Florida.
(Thanks for being a big dumb COVID denier, Gov. Ronald Dion Desantis!)
Back to the reopening. The park reservation system was doing great, not only were they able to control crowds, they also had an idea of how busy or empty each park would on any given day. With all of this new data and info, (in this age of collecting data and info), WDW created this new digital concierge system “Disney Genie,” which could now give park guests recommendations for their big day at a Disney Park.
This also opened up the new possibility of changing up the “FastPass” system and making it a faster, paid system — The Lightning Lane!
Is Genie+ Worth it?
This all depends on your goals. How often do you visit Disney Parks? If you’re trying to do as many rides as you can (especially the most wanted ones), then you should probably pay the extra money for Genie+. You also need to be diligent and stay on top of it. Make sure your phone is charged and bring yourself an extra phone chargy bank.
Where it gets complicated is the “surge” pricing. For a Lightning Lane pass to ride the extremely popular rides, you may have to pay a premium of an extra $5-15 dollars (maybe more than that). The surge pricing is only for a handful of rides (brand new and very popular rides). Most rides are included within the original $15 upgrade.
As an Annual Passholder I don’t think I will purchase the Genie+ service for every visit to Disney Parks. For now, I may just save it for my next visit to Epcot, just so I can ride Remy’s Ratatouille Ride. Maybe I’ll purchase the pass for Rise of the Resistance in Hollywood Studios.
Overall, I think it’s a good service and I’m sure it will continue to evolve. Of course I did enjoy my “FREE” FastPasses from the before times. However, I do think they added some extra value with the concierge system, I just wish it was still FREE, or you could at least pick up a few FastPasses/Lightning Lane rides for FREE.
Now that I’ve renewed my Annual Pass I have to go back as many times as possible this year.