Things are always changing at Walt Disney World and all changes come with their pros and cons and some people may love the change and some may hate the change. In October 2021, a new skip the line program called Disney’s Genie + and Lightning Lane was instituted in the parks. It’s come with a lot of criticism as it does involve an additional charge added on to an already expensive ticket price. As a travel agent who specializes in Disney Travel, I decided to try it out. This is my honest review on the system, but I must warn, it really is up to the person, everyone will have their own opinion and I think it’s good to hear what other people are saying and then make the best decision for you on whether or not you pay extra for this service.
History of Ride Tickets: Before I get into my review, I think it’s important to talk about the past as this is by no means the first change that the Disney parks has made when it comes to rides.
When Walt Disney World opened 5 years ago in October 1971, guests would pay a general admission price of $3.50, seems really cheap right? Well, on top of that, they would also have to pay for ride tickets. The rides were classified as A-E rides with simple rides such as Cinderella’s Golden Carousel being an A ticket which cost 10 cents to the more popular rides such as Haunted Mansion being an E ticket which cost 90 cents. Ticket books were sold with a variety of the lettered tickets for 7 tickets at $4.50 or 11 tickets at $5.75. Although these seem like very small dollars now in 2021, if you wanted to go on a lot of E ticket rides, it could really add up.
They continued with the lettered ride tickets thru the 70s, although with price increases almost annually. Towards the end of the decade, they started selling two-day passports which gave guests two days admission to Magic Kingdom with unlimited rides, these tickets started at $18.
The Long Lines: Eventually the lettered ride tickets went away and all rides would be included in your ticket to the park. Being one of the most popular vacation spots in the United States, the lines for the rides were long. Throughout my entire childhood, part of going to Disney World involved standing in lines a good portion of each day. It might have taught me a bit about patience, maybe.
While some rides might have had shorter lines, the former E-ticket rides like Space Mountain were known to very frequently have an hour plus long lines. While no one enjoyed standing in these long lines, they were part of the experience, it was a time to talk about what ride you were going to hit next, plan where you were going to have your meals and to just enjoy the time with your family.
The introduction of FastPass: In 1999, Disney came out with a solution to the long lines and introduced FastPass, which allowed guests to basically skip the long lines. When FastPass started, they were paper passes. You would walk to the attraction you wanted a FastPass to and insert your park ticket and would get a paper FastPass to return to the ride during a specified hour time frame. I remember when they first came out with it, me and my sister were very against it (Disney fans seem to just not like change!), but we learned to like it. It definitely did have its downfalls though, imagine everyone rushing to the big E-ticket rides as the park opened to secure a FastPass and then spending the rest of the day going back and forth to rides to get a FastPass, only having to come back to that ride later to actually use the pass. Sometimes the time of the FastPass may also not be convenient and you had to make sure you didn’t lose the paper FastPass before you got to use it!
Thinking back on this now, I can’t believe this is how things were all the way until 2013 when they started using FastPass+ which was a digital version of the FastPass system. Not only did you no longer have to worry about keeping track of the paper FastPass, but you were also able to reserve three FastPass in advance. If you were staying at one of the on-property Disney World resorts, you were able to reserve these three FastPass 60 days before your trip. If you were staying offsite, you could reserve them 30 days before your trip. This definitely creates an added stress to planning your trip, having to be on the website bright and early 60 or 30 days out to make sure you get the FastPass that you want.
Introducing Genie+ and Lightning Lane: In the summer of 2020, when the parks opened back up after being closed due to the pandemic, FastPass did not come back. For a little over a year, it was back to the pre-1999 waiting in lines for rides. Due to the on-going pandemic, the lower capacity limits kept the lines down, at least that’s how it felt to someone like me who went to the parks plenty of times pre-FastPass, those that hadn’t visited the parks much before FastPass definitely have a different opinion on this.
But I will admit that as the capacity limits increased in the parks, the lines did get longer. In October 2021, FastPass’s replacement Genie+ and Lightning Lane was introduced. The names Genie+ and Lightning Lane can be confusing. Here is a quick breakdown of the new terms, Genie, Genie+, Lightning Lane and Individual Lightning Lane:
- Genie – This is a free tool within the My Disney Experience App that will give you suggestions to help plan your day, like what rides to go to next. I haven’t played around with this too much, but in my quick glance, it really didn’t seem that helpful to me and I’ve heard the same from other people. The worst part about it, is that it is easy to get confused with Genie+
- Genie+ – If you are looking for the FastPass replacement, this is it! A number of the more popular rides are included in Genie+ (see photo below).
- Lightning Lane: The FastPass lanes at each ride have been renamed Lightning Lanes. Not to be confused with….
- Individual Lightning Lane: At each park the two most popular rides are not included in Genie+ but instead you can purchase an individual lightning lane to ride these rides.
Not sure why they had to have similar names, nothing like confusing people while they are on vacation!
Update – from 2/25-8/7/22, Frozen Ever After, Space Mountain and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will be part of Genie + instead of Individual Lightning Lane.
Genie+: The biggest change between FastPass and Genie+ is that it is no longer free. Genie+ costs $15 plus tax per person per day. For a family that can really add up when you think of paying that on top of the already very expensive tickets to the park.
The good thing is that you do not need to decide if you are going to purchase Genie+ when you book your trip, it can be purchased the day you are going to the park. This can help you budget out your money by paying for it separately. Also, if you are visiting Disney World for a week and have a 7-day park pass and wait until the day your going to the park, you will not need to commit to spending the $15 each day, you can basically pick and choose which days to purchase Genie+. You can purchase Genie+ right on the My Disney Experience App starting at midnight the day you are visiting the park.
My opinion is that Genie+ is worth the money at Magic Kingdom. With so many rides on the Genie+ list and being that the park is usually pretty crowded you could definitely get on more rides in less time by purchasing Genie+. Hollywood Studios is usually pretty busy so that may be another good park to purchase it for but there just as many rides offered so you might not feel you are getting a return on your money. For me, Epcot and Animal Kingdom just don’t seem worth purchasing Genie+ for. The rides with the longest lines at these parks are part of the Individual Lightning Lane (to be discussed below) and not part of Genie+.
My Experience with Genie+: When I visited Walt Disney World in November, I knew it would be busy, as it was the first runDisney race weekend since before covid, so I thought it was the perfect time to test out Genie+. I was going to try it out the day I was scheduled to go to the Magic Kingdom, but that day it was pouring rain so I didn’t spend much time in the park. The following day I was going to Hollywood Studios and planned to hop over to Magic Kingdom for the evening since it rained the day I was supposed to be there. It was the perfect day to try it out.
I woke up early that morning and purchased Genie+. You can make your first Genie+ reservation at 7am, this is for both on-site and off-site guests. I had read that you could then make another reservation every 2 hours. I seemed to have missed where it said, “starting at park opening”. After trying for quite a while trying to make another reservation after 9am and having no luck, I went to the Guest Experience Team (just look for the blue umbrellas throughout the parks) and they explained the 2 hours starts after park opening, not 7am. If it hasn’t been 2 hours yet, but you have used your reservation, you can reserve another one. Luckily my first reservation was at 10:20, so I was able to make my next reservation before the 2 hours were up. You can even have overlapping times (see example below). This is something that you couldn’t do with FastPass, so I really enjoyed this.
I would set a reminder on my phone for every 2 hours so that I knew when to reserve another ride, if I didn’t use a reservation before the two hours. It did make having a charged phone (always bring a portable charger with you to Disney!) important and added a bit of structure to the day by having to go on and make the reservation every two hours, but I actually didn’t mind it. Since I was planning to go to Magic Kingdom that evening, I was able to start reserving rides for there while I was still in Hollywood Studios. The only downfall that I saw with Genie+ is that you can’t pick the time for your ride reservation, you just have to choose the next available and sometimes it will say one time and then you click on it and it actually reserves a different time, this happened to me, but it was only a 10-minute difference, but definitely something to pay attention to.
The parks were very busy the day I used Genie+, I skipped an hour long line at Tower of Terror and in the Magic Kingdom, I used it to get on Jungle Cruise (which during the holiday season is changed to Jingle Cruise and all decorated for the holidays, making it even more popular than usual) which said it was a 75 minute wait, but I heard a guy as he was getting on the boat say he had waited closer to 2 hours, I got on in a couple of minutes.
Individual Lightning Lane: For a real time-saver on 2 of the most popular rides at each park, you can purchase Individual Lightning Lane. These costs anywhere from $7-$15 plus tax per person depending on the ride. The prices of these rides might fluctuate depending on the day. You can purchase up to two Individual Lightning Lane rides per day. Staying at an onsite Walt Disney World Resort has the benefit of being able to purchase and reserve your Individual Lightning Lane rides starting at 7am. If you are staying offsite, you will need to wait until park opening time to purchase and reserve the Individual Lightning Lane rides. The great thing about the Individual Lightning Lane, is that you have the ability to pick a time to purchase from the available time slots. Being that you are paying for just one ride, it is good to be able to pick a time.
The rides the Individual Lightning Lane is offered for typically have very long lines, usually an hour plus. Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the most popular ride at Disney World right now. It used to be a virtual queue and then went to a regular standby line in September 2021. The standby line is normally hours long, see above photo, the line was over 3 hours long the day I was there. This made me very happy with my $15 purchase of the Individual Lightning Lane for this ride. This ride is definitely worth the money, especially if you have never been on it.
Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed using the Genie+ service in November and plan on using it again in January 2022 when I visit Disney World next. I go to Disney World quite a bit and after all this time, I just don’t want to stand in long lines for some of the rides. It was nice being able to get more rides done than I normally would. I liked that you could use it for more than one park if you have a park hopper pass or an annual pass.
I do think it could get pricey for a family, but it could be something you use for one or two days instead of every day of your trip. If you were going to pick just one park to use it at, Magic Kingdom would be my first choice since there are so many rides available. A tip for you: if you use Genie+ for Hollywood Studios and want to ride Slinky Dog, definitely purchase it before 7am, so you can be on the app right at 7am to reserve Slinky Dog, that ride sells out usually in minutes.
I recommend setting a reminder on your phone for every two hours, so you don’t miss your opportunity to reserve another ride and can get your full money’s worth. If you don’t want to be pulling out your phone alot during your vacation, then Genie+ may not be for you. And a note on phones, wifi in the park can be spotty sometimes, so be prepared to use your mobile data if there are wifi issues.
The best way to get the most out of Genie+ and Lightning Lane is to know all you need to know about it. So check out the Walt Disney World website, read the blogs (thank you for reading this one), watch the youtube videos and talk with your travel agent about it. Then it’s really a personal decision on if spending the extra money will make sense for you.
Need help booking your next Disney Vacation and want someone to help you navigate all the details including Genie+, contact Beyond The Miles Travel today.
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