Man, I was the biggest advocate for this darn service as soon as I wrapped my head around the BS of adding $45+ per day for our 3 person party (which is really honestly an absolute knife to the heart given that we manage to afford our trips because we have annual passes with DVC discounts and we get rooms using DVC points. We only managed because the incremental cost of each trip was airfare and food, and we use rewards for the airfare. The incremental cost per trip literally doubled because of this service).
Regardless of the BS cost, I was beyond excited for this to be available for our trip this year. I pride myself on saying I haven’t stood in a line over 20 minutes pre-Covid, thanks to strategic Fastpass use, or during Covid thanks to strategic timing of rides. The return of a Fastpass-like service was going to keep my streak alive ! Not remotely the case. This week has been a bunch of crap with wait times honestly. Still getting some great short lines by being strategic, timing-wise, (see post below), but am seeing very little benefit to Lightning Lane usage. This comes after I debated all naysayers adamantly on social media for the past month, assuming they weren’t being strategic enough with the service.
Overall Cons/Flaws in the System
Over the course of our 9-day trip trying out Genie+, I basically could narrow down my disappointment to the following issues:
1. Price. No need to elaborate further. I HATE that we have to pay for the equivalent of what we used to get included. I’m economically minded and when people used to refer to things like Fastpasses (or the Magical Express) as “free”, I would clarify that they were built into the cost of park passes/room prices already. Well those prices didnt go down in the past 2 years (quite the opposite), so what the heck Disney?
2. You can’t select your return window. With Fastpasses, you’ll recall that you could pick from a few available return windows. Not the case with Genie+. I think I was aware of this concept before our trip started, but the annoyance of it only hit me when I started using the service. It seems to be geared towards guests who spend the full day in the park and are willing to drop things and change plans based on what’s available at the moment. They are hearing peoples complaints about “not being able to go with the flow,” and I think this is their response. Genie+ is not geared towards people with kids who are obsessed with specific rides and who need to plan around dining reservations, naptimes, etc. Being able to select a return window would have been a massive help. It would have allowed me to pick a ride in MK for the evening right off the bat, then stack other LLs throughout the morning in whatever park I started the day at. Fun things like that… It also would leave earlier return windows available for those who want them. I’m not sure why they don’t allow us to pick an evening return window off the bat, but I hope this changes.
For the individual paid LLs you DO get to select your return window from all available return windows throughout the day. So it doesn’t seem to be a feature they just didn’t think of, it seems to be an intentional choice to exclude this from Genie+. Part of the reason we had positive experiences with ROTR and Ratatouille was that we had numerous return windows to select from and we were able to plan around our schedules.
3. Only picking one ride at a time. Come on. Let us pick two in the morning. Let that be a perk of being a resort guest or something. Picking one truly stinks. You’ll see in my recap of our experience in AK that this basically either traps us in AK all day just to ride two rides with LL, or we pay for Genie+ just to ride one ride in that park. It the Fastpass+ system worked fine with each guest being allowed to immediately book 3 Fastpasses per day, I am unsure as to why this system would not function the same. I get the concept of distributing the wealth and allowing more people to book rides, but there were plenty of Fastpasses to go around.
You ARE able to “stack” LL selections throughout the day due to the 120-minute rule, thank god, but it still just doesn’t allow you to get that many LLs per day. In case you are unfamiliar, resort guests can book their first LL through Genie+ at 7am (park opening for non resort guests), and then you can book your next LL either after using the first, after the window for the first has passed, or 120 minutes after park opening. Same goes throughout the day, you can book subsequent LLs either after using a prior one, after the window has passed without using it, or after 120 minutes has passed since you booked the prior one, whatever comes first. Those two hour waiting times cause you to miss out on basically all in-demand LL availability though. You are stuck booking unpopular rides or booking popular rides well into the evening at 11am. As soon as 11am rolls around (on a 9am park opening day), a massive flood of people are booking their second LL.
4. Return windows change. Double check your confirmation screen. The return window you end up with will most likely not be the initial return window you saw. The return windows are constantly shifting so that you get the “next available” window. Our Slinky Dog window actually shifted after our confirmation, which shouldn’t happen, but the Guest Experiences Rep said it has happened several times on Slinky Dog in particular since so many people are booking it so fast.
5. You can’t book the same ride twice/There aren’t really that many rides to choose from (outside of MK). So this is where things are a little different from Fastpasses. I get that the Fastpasses had the tiered rides, but you were still selecting from all the rides in the parks when making your selections. When Disney took out the top 2 rides from each park, they reduced the rides offered through Genie+ in Epcot, HS, and AK substantially. If you look at my screenshots of the rides offered through the service (below), you’ll notice they really pad the lists with silly shows and things you would never use a LL/Fastpass on (especially when you can only pick one at a time). It is honestly laughable that for Epcot they include Mission Space twice so that the list looks a little longer.
I often found myself staring at the options on the Tip Board, thinking to myself “well none of these rides’ return windows fit our timing right now, so I literally have nothing that it makes sense to pick, therefore I’m wasting my chance to book a new LL.” If I could have booked something for a second time, that would have opened up some options at least. As soon as you eliminate a ride you’ve already booked, your options plummet, given how short the lists are to begin with. If I book Slinky Dog first thing in the morning, then I grab the next available Toy Story Mania LL at 11 (probably an evening return time), I’m left with four rides that I can pick LLs for throughout the day (it rarely made sense to use a Fastpass for a show, and it seems the same for LL). When I’m checking for a ride to select at 1pm, it would be nice if I could at least be checking all 6 of the rides instead of narrowing it down to 4.
We also had a case where we didn’t use our Haunted Mansion LL, but didn’t think to cancel it, and then we couldn’t book Haunted Mansion again later, so make sure you cancel your unused LLs!
I’m a full supporter of limiting the Individually Paid For LLs limited to 1 per day (2 total, 1 for each specific ride), just to be clear. I don’t want some ultra wealthy a-hole buying up a million of those and screwing the regular folks. With Genie+ though you already paid your $15, so it wouldn’t give anyone an unfair advantage. If a kid loves TSM, why not let them get to ride it over and over ?
6. LL lines are long. Based on our experience, this only applies to Magic Kingdom. We walked right on every LL ride we did in the other parks. For some reason the LL lines in MK can get much longer than any Fastpass line ever was. We waited 15 minutes for Haunted Mansion, and over 20 minutes for Jungle Cruise. This might not sound long, but think back to when you used to have a Fastpass and you’d walk right on these rides. I’m confused as to why this experience would be different. They should be allocating the same number of passes per return window as they did for Fastpasses, so I have no idea what is going on there. For those rides where we had positive LL experiences, such as ROTR, Ratatouille, FOP, Kilimanjaro Safari, Slinky Dog, etc, the rides were pure walk-ons when utilizing a LL.
See below for a detailed account of our experience using the system in each park, and my view of the best approach to using or skipping Genie+/Individual LLs in each park (underlined within each section).
Basically, as I previously reported, we had great success getting an individual Lightning Lane for ROTR ($15 per person). We easily got it at 7am and had a choice of endless return windows (we selected 9:20). No issues whatsoever, and we were able to walk right through to the first pre show room. Excellent first experience with LL.
Despite our positive experience paying for LL for ROTR, I must note: we ended up being able to wait only 5 minutes to ride ROTR standby the next day in the evening, so that took away a lot of the incentive to pay for that Lightning lane again. It is worth noting that we didn’t see extremely low wait times in the evening many other nights for ROTR. It seems to depend on if the ride was down at all during the day. If ROTR is a huge favorite of yours, I’d pay for the LL and then maybe you will get lucky and ride it for free a second time with a short standby wait in the evening.
Similarly, MMRR has such short waits in the evening that I would never pay for that individual ride. We rode MMRR twice this week. The first time we waited 20-25 minutes at around 8pm. The second time we walked on at 8:55pm. Consistently every single night, that ride has a reasonable line (unlike ROTR which is a crapshoot). If you ever see the line barely extending out of the building, you won’t wait more than 20 minutes to get to the pre show.
It is a really interesting move by Disney to have Slinky Dog included in Genie+ and MMRR as a paid individual Lightning Lane. Some people view this as an error, because Slinky Dog is a more popular ride with longer wait times, and therefore would be a more in-demand LL selection. I think that is actually the point though. Similar set up with the Safari and Everest in AK. More people would pay for the Safari than for Everest, but because of how Disney set it up, now guests in HS and AK HAVE to get Genie+ to ride two of the most popular rides. I’d probably skip Genie+ in both parks and just pay for individual rides if Slinky and the Safari were individual options. That logic is exactly why they did what they did (I assume).
I noted earlier this week that we had technical difficulties with our Slinky Dog Lightning lane pass that we got through Genie+. I was on the app right at 7am, selected Slinky Dog with a return window of 12:55-1:55, and at some point during the day it changed to 2:40-3:40 with no notification. I’m really second guessing whether it changed during the confirmation process, because that has happened with nearly 100% of my Genie+ selections this week, but I swear I saw it say return between 12:55 and 1:55 in the app all morning. Regardless, the guest experiences rep said always screenshot every Lightning Lane selection due to rampant issues with times changing. They are very accommodating if you have an issue and show them a screenshot. They recognize it’s a new system and issues are to be expected. They seem to be extra accommodating since it is a paid system and everyone deserves to get what they paid for.
So the Slinky Dog one was frustrating, but ultimately fine because when we did enter the LL line, we walked right through. However, this is another example of a ride that you could just ride in the evening via standby and have a wait of 15ish minutes (go after 8:30, the posted wait time will be inflated). We rode 4 times this week: one with Genie+/Lightning Lane, and 3 times after 8pm with 15-20 minute waits. Every single day the line was very doable at 8:30 or later.
So basically in retrospect, that takes away any need for Lightning Lane in Hollywood Studios. The only one I would pay for would be ROTR, given that the standby wait time being short in the evening is not guaranteed (it is literally 100% guaranteed for Slinky Dog and MMRR). Unless you are determined to do rides in the peak of the morning, just wait for the shorter standby lines in the evening and save your money. Prioritize short lines like Star Tours, and shows like Frozen and Beauty and the Beast (and soon to be Indiana Jones) during the morning, then do TSM, Slinky, MMRR, and ROTR in the last 2 hours of the park day. No genie+ or lightning lane required. (I realize I make no mention of Tower of Terror or Aerosmith. I’m pretty far removed from riding those rides now that our kiddo is 4 and it’s been a solid 5 years of skipping them. If I recall though, Aerosmith has a single rider line, which negated the need for a fastpass back in the day)
So then we have Epcot. In fastpass days, the priority was getting a fastpass for Frozen and for Test Track if you had kids and couldn’t utilize the single rider line. However, now they also have Ratatouille, which unfortunately only utilizes a virtual queue or a paid Lightning Lane. At first I figured this was a no brainer: get a spot in the virtual queue and avoid a line without paying anything. Unfortunately, with this virtual queue, your boarding group is called and then you end up waiting 30-45 minutes in line when you get there. I don’t love that. Not thrilled with walking a mile through shoulder to shoulder World Showcase enjoyers to get to a ride isolated in the far corner of the park just to stand in a 45 minute line, after reserving a spot at 7am. Therefore we paid for that Lightning Lane twice during our trip. Both times went smoothly and we were pretty much immediately on the ride. I’d splurge for that one especially since the pricing wasn’t as high as the pricing for LL for rides like ROTR.
Our experience with LL for Ratatouille was very similar to our experience with ROTR. Lots of windows to pick from, and it was a literal walk-on when we arrived to use the LL. Seemed totally “worth it” (not really, because paying those prices truly sucks, but I’m just saying the LL itself was quite easy and quick).
So for Epcot, I’d use your money for the two individual paid LLs (Frozen and Ratatouille). That damn Frozen line balloons to 60+ minutes within the first 20 minutes of early entry and stays high all day. The only time I saw the standby line under 30 minutes was during the fireworks. Frozen is the quintessential ride to use a paid Lightning Lane on for these reasons: 1. The line never gets short (unless you stay for the second hour of the extended hours for deluxe resort guests on Monday nights), 2. It’s a favorite of small kids, aka tiny humans with whom it isn’t fun to stand in line for over an hour, and 3. It’s such a short little ride, if you stand in line for an hour you will feel so disappointed with the actual ride at that point !
With Genie+ in Epcot you’ll only be shortening the lines for: Imagination, Nemo, Spaceship Earth, Living with the Land, Mission Space, Soarin, and Test Track. Of those, only two lines ever get remotely long. For Test Track you can avoid the line by riding as a single rider. If you have kids and this isn’t an option, just do Test Track either first or last in the day and the line is quite reasonable. We walked on Soarin around 9:30 the other night with no issues (the theater was actually half empty). I frequently see that wait time hovering around 20 minutes during the day. It isn’t the marathon wait it once was, so I wouldn’t worry about being able to find a time to ride that one with a short wait.
Animal Kingdom was the only park where even in my initial enthusiasm about Genie+, I toyed with the idea of skipping it. Honestly the only reason I got Genie+ on our first Animal Kingdom day was because we intended to park hop in the evening. It is tricky though because they make it so you need Genie+ to get a Lightning Lane for the ride that is absolutely unskippable in the park. The Safari literally defines Animal Kingdom, yet it isn’t an individual LL selection. They knew what they were doing. If you want to ride the Safari mid-day without waiting over an hour, you need to buy Genie+, even if the Safari ends up being the only ride you use it on.
As you can see, there are only a handful of actual rides that are included with Genie+ in AK (fastpasses and lightning lanes tend to provide minimal benefit for shows). With Kali Rapids closed for refurbishment this month, getting Genie+ so that we could skip the line for the Safari really only got us short lines for two other rides: Navi River and Dinosaur. The pain here is that we only intended to spend the morning in AK, and by the time we could book our second LL (after using our first one or two hours after park opening), the next available window for Navi River was late afternoon. Using Genie+ to ride 3 rides in AK would literally take the whole day. You’d get a window for the Safari mid morning, then you could get an immediate spot on Dinosaur, but then you’d be stuck waiting until the evening to ride Navi River. In the meantime you could pay to ride Flight of Passage, wait on a short line for Everest (that line was short all week last week), do the train to Conservation Station, do the shows and walking trails, etc. you can definitely fill a day in Animal Kingdom, don’t get me wrong. We just aren’t full-day park people. We can’t last a full 10 hours in Animal Kingdom. It is exhausting. We prefer to visit for the morning, and then come back another morning. Seems less stressful and exhausting that way. So for people like us, Genie+ is practically useless in AK.
For our second AK morning, we skipped Genie+ and just rode the Safari first thing. We unfortunately got a late start and we weren’t in the park until 9ish, so we had to choose between a short line for the Safari and a short line for Navi River. If we had been there by 8 or 8:30, we could have ridden both with minimal waits.
So for Animal Kingdom I’d say: pay for the individual LL for Flight of Passage (no wait at all when we did this), and just get to the park around 8 to have short lines for Navi River and the Safari, then the rest of the day is easy. Lines for Everest and Dinosaur don’t get particularly long usually. You can happily enjoy all of the shows without Genie+.
In Magic Kingdom the two individual paid Lightning Lane rides are Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain (presumably to be replaced by Tron). This is one park where the list of Genie+ LL rides is quite extensive (see below).
Due to the number of rides available through Genie+, and the fact that several are small rides that kids love, but no parent wants to wait an hour for, Genie+ is a good buy in MK.
Prioritize getting a LL for rides like Jungle Cruise or Peter Pan as your first selection (or Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain if your life isn’t dictated by a 4 year old), and then when you are able to make your second selection (after using the first or two hours after the park opens), you’ll have tons of fun options to select from. Lots of rides end up having return windows that aren’t that far out. We used LL on Buzz Lightyear, the Speedway, Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan, and Aladdin.
For some reason, the LL lines in MK are significantly longer than those in the other parks. They are also significantly longer than Fastpass lines ever were. We waited a good 15 minutes in the LL line for Haunted Mansion, and over 20 minutes for Jungle Cruise. I assume they will work on this and they are just figuring out the best number of LLs to give out each hour for these rides, but right now, the LL lines in MK are oddly long.
So, unlike the other parks, I’d 100% pay for Genie+ in MK, and I’d 100% skip both individual paid LLs. We rode Mine Train twice in 30 minutes during the extended hours for Deluxe Resort guests. We could have easily done 4 times in a row. During regular hours, I’ve consistently seen that the wait time for 7DMT gets quite low during the last hour of the day. It will be posted as 45 minutes, but in reality the wait will be around 15. We’ve done it on multiple trips and it has remained quite consistent. In lieu of rushing there at rope drop or paying to skip the line, just save 7DMT for the end of the day. The line for Space Mountain has its moments where it is long, but it actually has quite a low wait time for the first couple hours of the day, and again in the evening. Not worth paying for. I assume it’s a placeholder until the swap it out for Tron as the second individual LL in the park.