FastPass is gone, long live Genie. Disney announced its paid FastPass replacement for Disney World and Disneyland, and to say its been controversial would be an understatement. The Genie+ announcement video is Disney Parks’ most disliked video on YouTube as of this writing. I’ve seen endless tweets from Disney World fans saying this was the final straw and Disney had gone too far. It’s what you’d expect from online discourse in 2021: a lot of hyperbole and a lot of people freaking out.

As someone who has been going to Disney World and Disneyland since FastPass debuted with its delightful paper return tickets, I’ve been thinking a lot about Genie, Genie+, and Lightning Lane. I’ve tried to be fair in my thinking about it, as I don’t mind paying for something if it brings value and adds to the experience. In that spirit, I’ve broken down what I see as the pros and cons of Genie+. I don’t want to bash the new system before it even has a chance to debut, but I also don’t want to blindly say “this is fine!” to every time there’s a new upcharge at the parks. Will Genie+ be worth it? Here’s what I think the pros and cons of Genie+ will be. And in the spirit of positivity, let’s start with the pros.

The Pros

Avatar Flight of Passage on Pandora Ð The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Genie+ gets rid of the 60 day planning window at Disney World

Since FastPass+ debuted, it’s become a ritual for Disney World guests to get up at 7 am eastern time 60 days ahead of their vacation to try to secure the most coveted FastPasses for their trip. And by Disney World guests, I mean the planner in each family or a travel agent. Your trip would be structured around when you could get that Flight of Passage or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Fastpass. If you knew the system and you were lucky, you could make sure you got FastPasses for all the big rides on each day of your trip. If you weren’t lucky, you were facing a few weeks of checking over and over again to see if any slots opened. And if you were planning a last minute trip, your chances of getting any of the major FastPasses were slim-to-none. This happened to me a couple of years ago. My parents and sister’s family had a WDW trip already planned, and my wife and I decided to join about a month before the trip. The rest of my family already had FastPasses for the major E-tickets, and while my wife and I were able to match up some Fastpass slots with their already existing plans, we weren’t able to get any FPs for Flight of Passage, Slinky Dog Dash, or 7DMT. With Genie+, all Lightning Lane selections are made on the same day. As someone with a lot of experience with Disney World’s pre-planned Fastpass+ system and Disneyland’s same day system, I vastly prefer same day. It levels the playing field for all guests.

Relatively speaking, Genie+ is reasonably priced

Look, I’m not going to argue that this price is better than free. For Genie+, $15/day in WDW and $20/day in Disneyland is relatively reasonable. If you look at Universal Express Pass, it ranges from $60/day in the slow season to $259/day on peak days. It’s not a perfect comparison, because Universal’s Express Pass includes every ride, and they offer discounts on bundles and complementary Express Pass for hotel guests. Considering that Genie+ is most similar to Disneyland’s MaxPass, which was a similarly priced paid service that I wholeheartedly recommended, the pricing is reasonable. This includes a huge caveat that we do not know the pricing for individual attractions that aren’t included in Genie+.

Genie+ is based off of MaxPass

MaxPass was my favorite system of FastPass since it debuted. It offered the spontaneity of the original paper FastPass system, but it eliminated the need to run across the park to check if Space Mountain still had FastPasses available since everything is done on your phone. On busy days at Disneyland, MaxPass let me get on a ton of rides with FastPass, and that was with a free system still available as an alternative. Theoretically, with no free FastPasses competing for slots, Genie+ should offer as much if not more value than MaxPass.  

It offers flexibility and spontaneity

This is a combination of points 1 & 3, and it makes a bigger impact on the Disney World experience. With FastPass+, your days were really dictated by when you could secure FastPasses. So if you had a Flight of Passage secured for Thursday evening of your trip, you better bet you were going to Animal Kingdom on Thursday evening. While park reservations and dining reservations will still necessitate planning, removing the layer of pre-reserved FastPasses really does open up your day a lot more. There is a certain joy to exploring the parks without a down-to-the-minute agenda and seeing what experiences are available with a short wait and doing those things. It’s a theme park vacation, and there should be a feeling of joy and adventure rather than the rush to make your appointments on time.

Standby waits could go down

This is a huge question mark, but theoretically, paid Lightning Lane could cause standby wait times to go down. With free FastPass, cast members would prioritize the FastPass line in order to keep that wait time short. I don’t have the exact numbers, but let’s say that a cast member would let in five FastPass guests for every one standby guest. Theoretically, paid Lightning Lane would have less popularity than free FastPass, so there would be less Lightning Lane guests to accommodate. So that ratio of Lightning Lane to standby could go down to something like 3:1, which would make the standby lines shorter. I’m making these numbers up, and there’s a lot more to wait times than just that (i.e. are they fully staffed and running the ride at full capacity?). But Genie+ could lead to standby wait times going down. Additionally, if the estimated wait time function in the app works well, it could have an effect of distributing guests more evenly throughout the day. This more efficient guest flow could cause wait times to even out between attractions. Like I said, this is all more of a thought experiment and a theoretical pro rather than a slam dunk pro. 

Rise of the Resistance Sign DisneylandPaid Lightning Lane offers an escape hatch from the Virtual Queue

It’s been almost 2 years since Rise of the Resistance debuted with a virtual queue, and it’s still can feel like a lottery if you get a boarding group or not. Disney has also brought the virtual queue to California Adventure’s Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure and Epcot’s upcoming Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. The virtual queue is the only way to experience those rides, and if you miss out on the two daily draws, then you’re out of luck. Paid Lightning Lane changes that. Guests who don’t have get a boarding group will have the chance to purchase Lightning Lane access to the ride. I have mixed feelings on this (see the cons list below), but let’s say you are doing a big Disney trip, and you have one day in Disneyland or Hollywood Studios. Rise of the Resistance is at the top of your wish list. At least with this system, you’d have a way to experience the ride if the virtual queue doesn’t work out. 

You can choose when to purchase it

 “You don’t have to buy it” isn’t the most convincing pro. But sometimes going to a Disney Park isn’t all about the rides. I’ve had amazing days at Epcot where I’ve only gone on one ride the whole day. Some members of my family don’t like thrill rides, and the rides they prefer usually have shorter wait times anyway. If you’re going on a multi-day vacation to Disney World, there is something nice about not having to commit to purchasing it for your whole vacation. Maybe you’ll choose to buy it for your Magic Kingdom day, but skip it on your Epcot day. 

Disney Genie - Disney World AppGenie could be a big upgrade to the Disney World and Disneyland apps

Disney’s apps are a necessity for visiting the parks, but they are understandably unwieldy at this point. It’s a single app for doing everything: making dining reservations, mobile ordering, managing FastPasses, joining virtual boarding groups, getting wait times, and more. Genie looks like a promising interface, and if it’s intelligently designed and implemented, it could represent a big upgrade over the current apps. The promised free functionality of forecasted wait times and personalized recommendations could be very useful, especially for first time visitors.

The Cons

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train - Magic Kingdom RideGenie+ won’t include the most popular rides

 Paying for FastPass/Lightning Lane is one thing, especially if it’s one fee that includes everything. Genie+ will include Lightning Lane access to most of the popular attractions that were offered with FastPass like Big Thunder Mountain or Millennium Falcon. But it won’t include access to the most in-demand rides, like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Rise of the Resistance. Those will be available for an extra purchase. I can see this leading to a lot of frustrated guests (i.e. “I already paid $60 for my family to get Genie+, what do you mean it doesn’t include Mine Train?”). The one silver lining I can see in this is that it will help keep the standby wait times from ballooning on the most popular rides, since the individually purchased attractions would theoretically have even fewer Lightning Lane guests than other attractions. But it just adds an unnecessary layer of complexity. 

It’s confusingly branded

Speaking of complexity! I don’t know why Disney didn’t just keep the name “FastPass,” as its made its way into the general public’s lexicon. FastPass had become the Kleenex or Frisbee of line skipping. My guess is that they didn’t want the backlash for charging for something that used to be free, so they chose an entirely new name. But now there are four levels of services here.

  • Genie: The free service that makes recommendations.
  • Genie+: The paid service that gets you Lightning Lane access for most attractions for $15 or $20/day.
  • Lightning Lane: The new name for the FastPass line.
  • Lightning Lane for Individual Purchase: This is the pay per ride for Lightning Lane access option that will be available for the most popular rides. It doesn’t have its own distinct name, and it really should because it’s hard to explain. Call them Super Lightning Lane or Lightning Lane+ or whatever, but the way it is right now is confusing.

As popular as FastPass was, there still has a hurdle to get all guests to understand the system and how it worked. This new system is much more complicated, and I think Disney will have a challenge getting casual guests to understand the differences between Lightning Lane that you get with Genie+ and Lightning Lane for individual attractions.

Genie+ gets rid of free Fastpass

This is a lever that we were wondering if Disney would pull for years now. They did, and it’s among a trend of everything in the parks getting more expensive. In the last year, Disney World has cut perks like Magical Express, free Magic Bands, and Photopass for Annual Passholders. Ticket prices have gone up while the need for park reservations have been added, and the parks are still not offering 100% of the experiences from before the pandemic. Disney Parks lost a huge amount of revenue during the shutdown for the global health crisis, and it seems like they are figuring out how to make up that deficit in every way possible all at once. It’s understandable from a business perspective, but from a guest perspective, it’s a lot of value removed in a short amount of time.

Genie+ might be too reasonably priced

Okay, hear me out. In the pro’s section, I mentioned that Universal charges up to $259/day for a similar line skipping service. $15/$20 a day is great in comparison. But not if everyone buys it. The charge is relatively nominal compared to the ticket price, and I can see a lot of guests begrudgingly saying “Sure, why not pay a little bit more to skip the lines?” If a vast majority of guests buy Genie+, then we will be in a situation similar to when we had free Fastpass, so the possibility of it helping reduce standby lines goes out the window, and the value of purchasing Genie+ goes down as well. To horribly misquote a different animated movie: “When everyone’s a Genie, no one is.”

It makes the virtual queue even more of a lottery 

While I think having an alternative option to a virtual queue for Disney’s newest rides is a good thing, it also doesn’t fully sit well with me. If you’re dead set on going on Rise of the Resistance, the virtual queue then becomes gambling, where you’re risking the Lightning Lane fee if you lose. 

Disney Vacation Balance Due - Disney Cruise Line and Walt Disney WorldIt can add up quickly – especially for families.

Let’s do a thought experiment involving a five day trip to Disney World, where someone buys Genie+ for each day of their trip. It adds $75 to their visit, which isn’t too bad when you consider that a 5-day park hopper pass is around $530. For a couple visiting, it would add $150 to their trip. A family of four would add $300 to their trip – which is creeping to the price of an extra ticket. But let’s also add in the Lightning Lane for individual attractions – they’re the best rides, right? We don’t know how much they will be priced, but just for this thought experiment, we’ll take the average price of Disneyland Paris’ Premier access, which is about $14/ride. You can purchase two of these per day, which is $28 per guest, so $112 per family of four per day. That by itself would add $560 for a five day trip. So if you’re a family of four maxing out the Genie+ and Lightning Lane options for a five day trip, you just added $860 to your trip. That’s a huge increase in cost, and I know of families who have less than that budgeted for food for their entire trip. I’ve paid for a nice hotel for about that price for a weeklong trip. 

No Annual Pass option

One big benefit of MaxPass was that there was an option to add it onto an Annual Pass for a reasonable surcharge – around $100-$125/year. For guests frequently visiting the parks, this was a no-brainer. But Disney isn’t offering an annually priced option for Genie+. If you are a Magic Keyholder going to Disneyland frequently, get ready to pay $20/day or don’t expect to use Lightning Lane. 

You are even more dependent on your phone

Your phone is now everything when it comes to Disney World and Disneyland: your ticket, your wallet, your hotel key, and your ultimate planning device. There is something nice about having everything conveniently located within the palm of your hand, but a day at the parks can wreak havoc on your battery life. Do what I do and get a portable charger. These are a necessity for Disney Parks. Even more so now. 

It doesn’t include PhotoPass in Disney World

Why does there always have to be a small difference or layer of complexity? Disneyland’s Genie+ included PhotoPass downloads, but Disney World’s doesn’t. Why? There’s probably some spreadsheet that can explain the decision, but I just wish that Disney kept things consistent between the two parks and included PhotoPass within the price of Genie+ for WDW, even if it meant it being $20. Once again, it adds an extra layer of complexity. I’m sure the number of guests visiting both resorts are small enough, but I can definitely see Disney getting complaints from people saying “I read that this included PhotoPass online,” and cast members will have to kindly explain the differences between Disney World and Disneyland’s Genie+ systems. PhotoPass is a great perk, and including it in Genie+ wouldn’t just make things simple, but also help add value to this new offering for Disney World guests.

As you can see, I’m not sure where I land on Genie+ right now. A lot of it will come down to implementation. When Disneyland announced MaxPass, I was equally mixed. “Why should I have to pay for something I could also get for free?” But I ended up loving MaxPass, and I felt it was worth the price. I’m hoping that’s what will happen with Genie+. It has the potential to enhance the experience of going to Disney World or Disneyland. It also has the potential of being an additional cost that we all add to our vacation. 

What do you think about Genie+? Let me know in the comments below!

Pros and Cons of Genie+