“Sweet Spot” for Genie+ at Disney World

Depending on when you’re visiting Walt Disney World, you might be wondering if Genie+ is “worth it” during your vacation. When crowds are low, it’s possible Lightning Lanes won’t save much time. Conversely, during peak season when attendance is higher, selections might “sell out” or return times might be too late. This post discusses when it’s best to skip or buy Genie+, along with commentary about best leveraging paid FastPass and potential changes.

For starters, those who are knowledgeable about the Genie+ system are always going to come out ahead. If you’re reading this, that’s you. Even if you find all of this incredibly confusing, you have above-average knowledge simply by virtue of knowing that Genie+ exists at 7 am on the days you visit the parks. Genie+ is still new, but we’ve seen more guests than we can count learning about it in line at ~11 am and buying it then. FastPass+ had the exact same problem, so this isn’t a huge surprise.

To that end, there are three “advanced” level strategy posts we’d encourage you to read for fully leveraging the Genie+ system: How the Genie+ 120 Minute Rule Works, Tips for “Stacking” Genie+ Ride Reservations, and Speed Strategy for Genie+ Selections. None of those things are explained by Walt Disney World on its official sites or info, and probably for good reason–they can be confusing and overwhelming. However, if you take ~30 minutes to learn the ins and outs, you won’t just be above average–you’ll be a top 5% Genie+ power user.

Now to the titular question: is there a “sweet spot” for buying Genie+ at Walt Disney World?

You might recall in our early days of testing the Genie+ system, Sarah used it and I simply stuck to savvy strategy. (See Sarah’s Day Using Genie+ at Magic Kingdom and Tom’s Day in Magic Kingdom NOT Using Genie+ .) I came pretty close to accomplishing as much as her, albeit with aggressively criss-crossing the park to hit attractions at their optimal times.

Those early tests occurred during a lull in attendance after the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, with most days being 4/10 to 6/10 on the Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar. Some days were as low as 3/10 or as high as 7/10 depending upon the park.

Unsurprisingly, the lower the crowd level, the less advantageous Genie+ (and vice-versa). In fact, once standby wait times drop below a certain threshold, using Genie+ is arguably detrimental to the guest experience.

This might seem counterintuitive given that Genie+ allows you to skip standby lines, but the reason for it is pretty straightforward. If you’re using Genie+ to make Lightning Lane selections, you almost certainly aren’t touring the park in the most efficient manner. You’re zig-zagging around based upon availability, return times, etc.

If you’re just using standby lines on a relatively uncrowded day, you’re largely doing attractions in the order you approach them. Even if you’re waiting slightly longer at each attraction because you’re not skipping the line, you aren’t wasting extra time “commuting” between each attraction. Basically, there comes a point where that added walking between attractions outweighs the added wait within each line.

This is to say nothing about the fatigue of an extra 10,000 steps per day using Lightning Lanes. If that causes you to leave the park earlier–before wait times drop at night–you’re missing out even more.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are peak weeks. During Thanksgiving, we shared Genie+ Collapsing in Crowds at Walt Disney World. That detailed the many problems with Lightning Lanes and the paid FastPass service during what was the busiest week of the year (so far) at Walt Disney World, from technical difficulties to limited ride reservation inventory.

With holiday crowds descending upon Walt Disney World, Lightning Lane availability for many popular attractions was gone not long after park opening. Slinky Dog Dash was unavailable well before that, booking up for the entire day within minutes of 7 am. There were virtually no (worthwhile) options by midday, meaning that even savvy users of Genie+ are likely only getting a couple of “good” selections per day. Novices or those visiting parks other than Magic Kingdom would likely be doing worse. Some readers reported only scoring 1-2 Lightning Lane selections via Genie+ for the entire day.

This is to say nothing of the technical difficulties with Genie. High use of My Disney Experience has always strained the system and caused problems, but Genie takes that to the next level. The extra time you spend in line by not using Genie+ might be preferable to the frustrations and time incurred in bypassing some lines. Unless your tolerance for Disney IT induced pain is high, you might come out ahead just doing standby and not messing with it.

In the last ~10 days, we’ve seen the “sweet spot” in attendance for optimal use of Genie+ at Walt Disney World (see screenshots).

With holiday travelers heading home, most parks fell into the 6/10 to 8/10 range for crowd levels (with only a couple of exceptions to that). This was pretty much the perfect scenario for using Genie+ to book Lightning Lanes.

Following the busy Thanksgiving week, wait times are still high–but they’re comparatively lower. The parks posting averages in the 30-40 minute range most days.

Keep in mind that’s all attractions, including less popular ones that don’t offer (or need) Genie+ in the first place. If you’re only analyzing wait times for Genie+ eligible rides, that average is probably closer to an hour–at least for Disney’s Hollywood Studios and maybe Magic Kingdom.

On top of that, availability was far better. Slinky Dog Dash still didn’t last long, but every other attraction was available until after park opening.

Jungle Cruise, Test Track, and Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run were the next to book up, but those lasted hours–not minutes.

Over the course of the last week, we’ve seen everything except for Slinky Dog Dash still available at 11 am.

That’s significant, as that’s 120 minutes after park opening at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, meaning it’s the latest that most guests would be eligible for their second selection.

By mid-afternoon, most parks still have ample Lightning Lane availability on 6/10 to 8/10 days. As such, you should be able to book at least 4 “good” Lightning Lane selections at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and 6+ at Magic Kingdom.

Epcot and Animal Kingdom don’t have that many good options, so you need to Park Hop to make those two “worth it” with Genie+ (or visit on a 9/10 or 10/10 day, when those two parks have longer waits but still less problems with the system).

It should go without saying, but what happened with Genie+ during Thanksgiving week should be addressed by Walt Disney World. It’s one thing for us to advise against purchasing it when crowds overwhelm the system–it’s another for Disney to let that happen, resulting in one of the longest lines in the parks being at Guest Relations.

Our expectation is that Disney will do something about those issues, probably before Christmas. There are a few possible options that should be relatively easy to implement.

The first is dynamic pricing, which has been suggested by several readers. Just like with park tickets and hotel rooms, Walt Disney World could make Genie+ more expensive on peak dates. They’ve actually already done this with Individual Lightning Lanes, which have variable pricing based on projected attendance levels. As we’ve noted elsewhere, the high range is still way too low for popular attractions like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

This option worries me for a couple of reasons. There’s the obvious issue of Walt Disney World already having increased prices a lot in the last two years while cutting an array of once free perks. Ride reservations are among those, and it would be pretty brazen for Walt Disney World to go from free to paid FastPass–and then increase the price of the latter almost immediately. That might be a bridge too far even by the company’s current standards.

Second, there’s the question of what price point for Genie+ would produce the intended result of a more manageable adoption rate. Usually, when people suggest something like that, what they really mean is “price other people out, but not me.

There’s some degree of inelasticity when it comes to Walt Disney World’s demand during peak seasons. These are popular times to visit because they’re the only times that some people can travel. Despite Disney’s claim that date-based pricing would help redistribute crowds, that hasn’t really happened. People are simply paying more for peak dates and less for off-season ones, with attendance patterns almost unchanged.

If a family has already dropped $1,122 per night for a standard room at Grand Floridian during Christmas week, what’s their balking point for adding Genie+? Is an extra $30 per person really going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? (In other words, be careful with what you wish for when it comes to advocating for higher prices to reduce demand.)

Another option to address the problems plaguing Genie+ during the busiest weeks of the year would be to cap sales–make it possible for the Genie+ service to sell out. Effectively, this could mean that even on 10/10 days, there are still the same number of guests using Genie+ as on 8/10 days, which makes for a more pleasant experience and higher guest satisfaction.

This is the best solution, and the one we hope Walt Disney World implements. However, even this comes with a potentially significant pitfall: induced demand and the scarcity heuristic. Basically, it’s FOMO–the human tendency of ascribing higher values to things that are limited, and not wanting to lose out on them to others. Walt Disney World vacation planners are about the most risk averse people on the planet, which is why things like dessert parties book up with ease despite nonsensical price points. The scale is very different with Genie, but so too is the cost.

The end result is that when confronted with the possibility of Genie+ selling out, guests will be more inclined to purchase the service even when it’s not necessary. Instead of waiting to assess crowd levels or only buying for Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the day of their visit, more people will be inclined to buy the length of stay Genie+ ticket add-on.

The more guests who buy Genie+ when it’s not otherwise needed, the more necessary it becomes. Instead of it only being advised for 6/10 to 8/10 days, that recommendation potentially shifts downward to 4/10 days, as well. The “success” of Genie+ lies in a sufficient number of guests opting against buying it–if the adoption rate gets too high, it really does become nothing more than paid FastPass.

Finally, there’s the solution of adding attraction capacity to the Genie+ service so it more closely resembles MaxPass at Disneyland. That system never had these problems–despite there also being an Annual Passholder add-on option–because both parks there had higher ride counts. There are two ways of doing this at Walt Disney World, with the first being to build more attractions. Given that it’s taking them ~6 years to clone a launched motorbike roller coaster in a warehouse from Shanghai Disneyland, this doesn’t seem like a realistic suggestion.

The other would be to remove Individual Lightning Lanes and roll those into the Genie+ service. This also may seem like an unrealistic suggestion, because money. However, for attractions like Expedition Everest–that are performing poorly as ILLs–the case could be made that including them with Genie+ would increase purchases of that system, and ultimately be a net positive for Disney’s bottom line. (Without knowing what the utilization rate of Genie+ is at Epcot, I think a similar argument could be made there with Frozen Ever After–even though its ILL is performing decently.)

Ultimately, the best scenarios for purchasing Genie+ are those you’ll encounter when visiting Walt Disney World right now. Crowd levels in the 6/10 to 8/10 range. For Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s probably even lower than that, as the ride roster is so top-heavy. Genie+ is arguably useful at Magic Kingdom even in the 9/10 or 10/10 range, assuming you overlook the tech issues (or they get fixed) and not useful at Epcot or Animal Kingdom unless attendance hits those levels.

As with anything else, this advice on the “sweet spot” for Genie+ is subject to change. It’s entirely possible Disney will tweak how the service works prior to Christmas and New Year’s, or that the adoption rate will continue to increase. The former could make buying Genie+ advisable even on days with peak crowds, whereas the latter might undermine the value of Genie+ even more. There’s also the scenario of both occurring, in which case…who knows! We’ll continue to keep you posted with on-the-ground updates and developments with Genie+ at Walt Disney World.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Have you used Genie+ in the last week or so? If so, what has been your experience with Lightning Lanes or standby lines? Any success or failures making Genie+ selections? How many “good” selections were you able to book each day? Other problems or thoughts to share? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

44 Responses to ““Sweet Spot” for Genie+ at Disney World”
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