Walt Disney World has announced per-park pricing is coming to the Genie+ service starting this summer. This post offers details and our commentary about all of these changes, the amount of cost jumps, motivations for the new approach, and more. (Updated June 28, 2023.)
Let’s start with the press release from Walt Disney World announcing the change:
We plan to share more news in the future, but in the meantime, we also want to improve the experience for guests using the service as it exists today, so we will be making an update as we continue to listen to guests.
Beginning June 27, Guests at Walt Disney World will now purchase Disney Genie+ service based on how they want to visit. Guests will be able to select either a single-park option or a multiple-parks option, subject to availability.
With this update, prices may now be lower at some Walt Disney World theme parks compared to others. Guests will continue to be able to purchase Disney Genie+ service through the My Disney Experience app on the day of their visit.
We will continue to listen to guest feedback, and look forward to sharing more information about updates to Disney Genie+ in the future.
Here’s a look at costs for the first two days of per-park Genie+ pricing at Walt Disney World:
Note that pricing for Genie+ was $25 on June 26, when crowd levels were 7/10. That was down to 4/10 on June 27 and real-time crowd levels (subject to change since the day isn’t over) are 5/10 on June 28, 2023. Despite this, pricing for all parks decreased from $27 yesterday to $25 today, with Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios also each dropping by $2, while EPCOT and Animal Kingdom are unchanged.
Obviously, this is just two days and it’s premature to draw any definitive conclusions. Our expectation is that prices increase over the holiday weekend and maybe through Independence Day (although with the weird weekend and holiday trends, there’s no guarantee that those days will end up being busier) before dropping again on July 5, 2023.
Prior to per-park pricing, Genie+ costs in the last two months (since April 23) have ranged from $15 to $25. This per-park pricing is higher than that for Magic Kingdom and all parks, about equal for Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the high end, and average to below-average for Animal Kingdom and EPCOT.
On another note, it appears that guests can purchase any version of Genie+ so long as they have a Park Pass reservation or are not required to have reservations–meaning Annual Passholders or those with 4-Park Magic tickets. (Note that we use the wiggle word “appears” because it allowed us to proceed through the purchase process without an error message–but we did not actually complete the transaction.)
In any case, the true test of Genie+ per-park pricing will be when Walt Disney World is actually busy. As has been discussed in our recent crowd reports (and by Disney executives), Walt Disney World is in the midst of a slowdown as compared to last summer. It’s probably safe to say that Magic Kingdom will exceed the current $35 high water mark come Columbus Day, Veterans Day, or Thanksgiving week.
Turning to commentary, how you feel about this announcement is going to be a bit of a Rorschach test. My strong suspicion is that most Walt Disney World fans will react negatively to this news, because that’s basically the baseline for any changes to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. Any news is bad news. At least, in the eyes of fans who yearn for the days of free FastPass and won’t be satisfied with anything less than a return to that.
We’ve tried to be a bit more objective about Genie+ than that, recognizing that it’s here to stay and that constant complaining is unproductive. There is no going back to free FastPass–the genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no putting it back. There comes a point where you accept reality, and either adapt or move on. Against that backdrop, our reaction to this change is that it’s mixed to (mostly) bad.
Walt Disney World is already spinning this as saying that prices are going to be lower at some parks. Because of course they are. It’s likely that they’ll also claim this offers maximum “flexibility” and “customizability” to guests as they can simply choose to visit where and when Genie+ is less expensive and save. We know this will be how it’s marketed because we’ve seen this movie before.
This is exactly how per-park date-based pricing for tickets was spun ~7 years ago when it was introduced. More recent press releases and comments from Disney spokespeople strike the same familiar notes about date-based pricing for Genie+ and other price increases, mirroring this language.
This is quite literally a page out of that playbook. You might notice that each year when ticket prices increase, Walt Disney World highlights how 1-day admission still starts at only $109. To Disney’s credit, that has been the base price since the introduction of the date-based system back in October 2018. That’s a long time for the starting price to remain unchanged, especially as inflation and all other prices have increased.
In reality, that low starting price is only available at Animal Kingdom, and only for a scattering of weekdays two months out of the year. What isn’t mentioned is that the maximum ticket price has skyrocketed for all parks and the distribution of dates has skewed towards the higher end of the spectrum. Meaning that most guests who are doing a single day in the parks (or multiple days) are paying more. It’s likely that 1-day tickets to DAK don’t account for a tremendous amount of ticket sales, so the ‘static base price’ talking point is largely marketing. (We discuss this phenomenon in Disney Doesn’t Want Lower Crowds if you want to read more.)
It’s a very similar idea here, except even more exaggerated. Although that $109 ticket starting price is almost illusory and more about marketing, it’s undeniable that you can spend $109 and receive something of value–admission to Animal Kingdom. Sure, it’ll be during a slow weekday in August or September, but it’s not nothing.
By contrast, the argument could be made that the value of Genie+ at Animal Kingdom on those same slower days is totally illusory. I’ve done Animal Kingdom during the fall off-season–the crowds are nonexistent. Aside from Avatar Flight of Passage, Lightning Lanes are practically useless (and Flight of Passage isn’t included in the Genie+ service, anyway).
Even on busier days, you do not need Genie+ at Animal Kingdom with even a scintilla of strategizing. Regular readers of this site know this, as we’ve hammered home time and time again that Genie+ is a waste of money at Animal Kingdom. This is discussed in countless posts, including in our Best Time-Saving Strategies for Walt Disney World, which says all you need to know for DAK is “don’t go during the middle of the day and stand in long lines.”
Seriously, that’s about it. Arriving early or staying late work perfectly fine for beating the crowds because most guests still treat it like a half-day park and attendance is significantly lower at Animal Kingdom than any other park at Walt Disney World. As a result, a lower advertised base price for Genie+ by virtue of Animal Kingdom is almost meaningless. You shouldn’t be wasting your money on Genie+ there in the first place. It’s the paid equivalent of a “Bonus FastPass” for PhilharMagic. It might make you feel good, but you’re arguably being played.
Additionally, as the above graph from Thrill-Data demonstrates, Walt Disney World has done a couple of ‘soft resets’ on Genie+ pricing in advance of this per-park pricing change. Obviously, there was the introduction of date-based pricing last year that increased costs above the board. That’s not what we’re talking about, as that was an actual reset.
If you look closely at that graph and compare wait times from peak season last year to this spring break, you’ll see that the ceiling was raised–despite comparable (and often lower) crowd levels. Look again at the low to moderate wait times since Memorial Day weekend and contrast those with last fall or this winter on dates with comparable crowds. You’ll see that the floor has also been adjusted upwards.
That’s part of the “flexibility” that date-based pricing offers to Walt Disney World. It was a big story over spring break when the maximum price of Genie+ increased to $35. As it should’ve been. Genie+ had reached a new high and still sold out despite that. (In retrospect, it almost feels like that was laying the groundwork to “justify” this change.)
However, it’s equally as significant that the average price has increased in the last month despite lower crowd levels. There’s been scant coverage of that since it’s more difficult to explain–and doesn’t make for as punchy of a headline. (We’ve mentioned this trend in a couple of crowd reports and I don’t recall anyone even commenting on it–whereas the increased maximum garnered a ton of reactions.)
Basically, the change to per-park pricing for Genie+ is a price increase in disguise. Where and when Lightning Lanes are useful, the cost of using Genie+ is going to increase. The average guest will spend more, not less, on Genie+ over the course of their Walt Disney World vacation. The company can spin it how they want–that’ll be the most likely outcome in practice.
As with date-based pricing on Genie+ or park tickets, rolling out per-park pricing gives Walt Disney World the ability to adjust average pricing upwards at the parks where demand is highest: Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
This will effectively amount to a price increase on Genie+ at those two parks. Anyone who is more inclined to purchase Genie+ at Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or when Park Hopping is likely to pay more, on average, for Genie+ than in the absence of the per-park pricing scheme.
Our expectation is that EPCOT prices will be more or less unchanged as compared to earlier this year. Maybe its average price will decrease slightly as compared to pre-spring break, which would amount to a win for guests who use Genie+ at EPCOT but no other parks.
As discussed above, the average price will likely decrease at Animal Kingdom. In our view, that is completely illusory. There’s a reason the price of Genie+ is going down at DAK, and that’s because the service offers far less value and far fewer people use it there. With that park already struggling and no prospects in the near or medium term, that’s one park where Walt Disney World should just bring back free FastPass+ if they really want to get people through the gates! (Obviously, that isn’t going to happen, but that would actually be the kind of change that’s needed there–not ~$10 off Genie.)
With all of that said, in the interest of fairness, guests who only purchase Genie+ at EPCOT and Animal Kingdom will likely come out ahead with the change to per-park pricing. You won’t spend less money on the paid FastPass service than you did at the same time last year when it cost $16 everywhere–or four years ago when it was free everywhere–but you will pay less as compared to 2-3 months ago, on average. So that’s a win for probably about 4% of all Walt Disney World guests!
Beyond this, there’s a certain amount of price inelasticity when it comes to paid line-skipping. This is something we discussed at length when explaining past price increases and the record-setting $35 price for Genie+ over spring break, so I don’t want to beat a dead horse.
In a nutshell, my position is that demand for Genie+ is relatively inelastic with incrementally higher prices for the line-skipping service. This is because Genie+ is still a relatively minor cost in the grand scheme of the price of a Walt Disney World vacation for current guests. This isn’t being dismissive of the expense–Genie+ increases the cost of a vacation significantly and it all adds up.
Instead, think about it this way: if you already spent $8,000 for your family to visit Walt Disney World and were willing to pay peak season room rates for hotels and tickets, are you going to balk at paying even more to avoid long lines and crowds? Or are you going to spend ~$80 more (on top of what you already budgeted for Genie+) for your family to have Genie+ and “ensure” your experience is good and that $8,000 wasn’t wasted?
As was demonstrated over spring break, plenty of people are going to pay the extra money. That was evident with Genie+ selling out on some of those $35 days, and it was apparent to us based on our days in the parks, seeing the lengthy return lines for Lightning Lanes, and the high standby wait times.
However, as we’ve also discussed, there are limits to this. One likely applies to those who are not already on vacation, and balk when pricing out the trip. That group can do the math on Genie+ and also can see the trajectory of price points before making a decision about even booking a vacation in the first place.
For those already on vacation, there’s also the strong possibility that the satisfaction scores of Genie+ are low and people are less likely to purchase on subsequent days of their trip as a result. This is partly based on observed patterns on Monday and Tuesday versus later in the week, and partly theoretical.
Personally, I can’t imagine dropping $35 per person (plus tax!) for Genie+ at Animal Kingdom on a day when crowd levels were 3/10 for that park (that happened April 9). Or even dropping $20+ any of the many days since when crowd levels have been 1/10 or 2/10 in Animal Kingdom. Experiences like those, and the resulting assumption that Genie+ is “useless,” have probably hurt sales at Magic Kingdom and DHS–where Genie+ actually is useful!
In various ways, we’ve seen all of this play out for years with date-based pricing at Walt Disney World. Per-park pricing is just a different spin on the exact same underlying idea. Both are effective ways for the company to accomplish its desired optimizations at Walt Disney World. There are certain places and times that experience higher demand for a number of reasons–school schedules, seasonal events, weather, etc.
Charging incrementally higher prices where or when possible allows Walt Disney World to capitalize on and profit from that inherently higher demand. That’s the goal–not preserving the guest experience, offering maximum flexibility, or whatever the talking point might be. It’s a way to price with surgical precision, capturing more revenue where demand allows.
Turning to other impacts, this will likely result in reduced Park Hopping away from EPCOT or Animal Kingdom. Think about it–if you purchase Genie+ at one of those parks at a lower price point, you will have a financial disincentive to leave. That’s good for Walt Disney World, which wants to keep people in DAK longer because of its attendance woes. Per guest spending is also likely higher at EPCOT because of festival booths and booze, so it’s also good for them there.
Conversely, there will be the incentive to leave Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios–the two parks that struggle the most with crowds–because those guests have already paid the premium pricing for the Genie+ service. My guess is that the impact of this will be slight, but it won’t be nothing. (Perhaps one silver lining of this change will be that it paves the way for the restoration of full Park Hopping! Instead of that rule being “needed” to limit movement, the per-park pricing of Genie+ will indirectly accomplish the same.)
Another disappointment of this change is the complexity it adds to the already overly complicated and convoluted Genie+ system. Lately, there’s been far less confusion and fewer questions about all things Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. This is partly due to the guest-friendly changes that Walt Disney World started rolling out last fall. Many of those were positives, and made paid FastPass more intuitive and easier to use. We repeatedly praised Walt Disney World for continuing to iterate upon and improve Genie+ with those changes!
It’s also likely in part because Walt Disney World regulars have taken trips in the last couple of years, “learned by doing,” and as a result no longer have the same trepidations and worries as before when Genie+ was still an unknown quantity to them. But the reality is that, even now, there are thousands of people using Genie+ for the first time ever each day, and they are every bit as confused as Walt Disney World regulars were back in Fall 2021.
Per-park pricing reintroduces more complexity to the Genie+ system, and is a step in the wrong direction as a result. Walt Disney World is already way too confusing and complicated–especially for first-timers–and this is absolutely something that is coming up in guest surveys. The company should be doing everything possible to reduce friction points at Walt Disney World, rather than introducing additional opportunities for headaches.
Until now. This Genie+ change is at odds with all of that. It might seem minor or insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it kills the momentum Iger had established and undermines the narrative of positive changes under the new Iger regime. If Walt Disney World needs to win back diehards with “revenge travel” winding down, this is the exact opposite of how to accomplish that.
Ultimately, moving to per-park pricing is frustrating to us, but it will also help with some of the capacity issues that have plagued Lightning Lanes…while conveniently padding the company’s bottom line. As we’ve said before, there’s no easy fix to the Genie+ issue for Walt Disney World. No perfect solution exists that balances supply and demand in all of the parks and keeps everyone happy (both those who purchase Genie+ and those who opt against it).
There’s also the company’s obvious short-term desire to maximize revenue and profits, which is precisely how it ended up on the current path–going from free FastPass to Genie+ costing $16 to date-based pricing with Genie+ maxing out at $35 to per-park pricing with ??? being the maximum Magic Kingdom and all parks cost.
If a family visiting for summer vacation spent $10,000 on the trip as a whole, I don’t think ~$100 extra is going to be the balking point for many of them. Now, what could happen is that those visiting any park that is not Magic Kingdom or DHS end up feeling like Genie+ was a waste of money, and opt against purchasing it on future days. Maybe lower prices for Animal Kingdom and EPCOT will “help” offset that.
But who knows. Maybe that added cost for Magic Kingdom, DHS, and Park Hopping finally will be what results in enough families hitting their breaking point, and perhaps higher per-park pricing will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and hurts numbers–whether it be Genie+ sales or vacation packages. Given what we’ve seen thus far with Genie+ pricing, that feels like wishful thinking (if not fully delusional). I can hold out hope, though.
We’ll “sign off” this post the same way we’ve done for many previous changes to the Genie+ system. The real solution to all of this is building more attractions. This once again lays that bare, as both Animal Kingdom and EPCOT offer fewer compelling reasons (read: popular rides) to purchase the Genie+ service and, unsurprisingly, it’s less popular and less valuable at those parks.
Beyond that, queueing is a zero-sum game. No approach to lines–not all standby, not paper FastPass, FastPass+ or Genie–changes capacity. The only meaningful way to alter the equation is by actually increasing capacity. That’s done by adding entertainment, attractions, or extending operating hours. Everything else is a matter of rearranging the deck chairs, and having different guests or demographics come out ahead or behind.
Some fans salivate at the (fictional) prospect of a 5th gate, but what’s really needed is building out the existing parks so they don’t have this type of issue in the first place. Despite significantly higher attendance, there’s a reason this isn’t as big of a problem at Magic Kingdom as the other 3 parks. There’s also a reason why Genie+ will soon cost the most at MK. In short, building more rides is better for guests…and the company’s coffers!
If you have questions about the basics of using–or not using–the paid FastPass service, see our Guide to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQfor all of the foundational need-to-know info. This whole system is confusing and convoluted, so you might have a question or two-dozen. That answers all of the most common ones we’ve been receiving from readers.
What do you think of Walt Disney World introducing per-park pricing for the Genie+ service? Disappointed that it’s happening, or do you see the upside? Thoughts on our perspective that this is effectively a price increase for Genie+ at Magic Kingdom and DHS? Any other considerations we failed to take into account or details we missed/got wrong? Will you purchase Genie+ going forward, or is expensive for you? 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!