New Genie+ Change Disadvantages Park Hopping at Disney World
A couple of weeks ago, we shared news that Genie+ found a frustrating new way to start the day. Well, we have the “sequel” to that post…as Walt Disney World has made more new changes that impact the value of Genie+ when Park Hopping.
In the last several months, Walt Disney World has been making a ton of tweaks to Genie+, both good and bad. This has been in an effort to balance supply & demand, and has included Eliminating the Genie+ Ticket Add- at Walt Disney World and “warning” guests that Genie+ essentially amounts to paid FastPass.
Other changes have been more well-received among fans, such as adding more entertainment and character meet & greets to Genie+ in an attempt to provide more capacity to the highly in-demand service. We’re not going to rehash all of that here, as even a short history of the changes to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes would be quite lengthy at this point.
In a nutshell, there have been two types of changes being made to Genie+ at Walt Disney World over the last several months: ones that lower expectations and ones that enhance and expand the service to improve its utility.
In the last two weeks, we’ve seen a third category emerge: tweaks to the user interface and feature set that address common complaints…by concealing them rather than fixing them. Here’s the latest on that front…
Previously, Walt Disney World visitors who wanted to make Lightning Lane selections for their second park of the day could easily do so from the Tip Board at any time of the day–starting right at 7 am. Even though the return times displayed were before 2 pm (when Park Hopping begins), that didn’t matter.
If you had a Disney Park Pass reservation in one park and tried to book a Lightning Lane selection via Genie+ for a second park that’s before 2 pm, the system would automatically adjust the time to start at 2 pm. In the above screenshot, you can see with a “time changed due to park hopping” message. This was a feature of the system–and one that worked nicely. Until now.
Genie+ has now been updated and no longer automatically changes times due to Park Hopping.
Instead, the system prevents you from booking a Lightning Lane if the current return time is before Park Hopping opens up. Meaning that if the ride you want to reserve has a current return time of 1 pm, Genie+ will not let you make that selection. You’ll be greeted with an error message that says, “select a new time that is included in your Park Hopper option.”
As this might not be entirely clear, above and below are screenshots illustrating how this works in practice. Above is my attempt at making ride reservations right at 7:00:00 am for Slinky Dog Dash using our Genie+ Speed Strategy.
Maybe I’m just dense, but the cause of the issue wasn’t obvious to me based on the error message. Fortunately (I guess?), I have no shortage of experience with getting error messages in Genie+. Whenever I hit a wall, I just try again to see if there’s a different outcome and/or tweak my approach until it works.
Bouncing over to EPCOT, my results are exactly the same for Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
My park reservation is for Magic Kingdom today, so this would be the result for literally every attraction in Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, or EPCOT.
At 7:01 am, the clock had advanced far enough that I was able to make a reservation for Slinky Dog Dash. I’m particularly “amused” by the message: “Please note your time has changed.”
That might be relevant if I knew what the return time was in the first place!
To that point, the frustrations of this new change are further compounded by the challenge of trying to do this right at 7 am. Here’s where we run into the change from two weeks ago–this really makes for a frustrating start to the day using the Genie+ service.
In case you missed it, during the high-demand window from the time Genie+ goes live in the morning at 7 am up until 7:30 am, guests will not be able to see the Lightning Lane return window. Instead, My Disney Experience displays a “Check Availability” message that requires an extra tap to see the return window.
So now, you cannot book a Lightning Lane for your second park unless the return time is after 2 pm…and you also can’t see current return times until after 7:30 am.
This might seem like “no big deal” and that’s probably true for at least some of you. However, many savvy strategists booked their Genie+ selections for their Park Hopping destination from the very beginning. This is a smart approach because afternoon waits are worse than morning waits. This means you’re better off doing as many attractions via standby lines at your first park, and building up a stockpile of Lightning Lane selections at park two or three.
We’ve been strong advocates of this approach, as accumulating Lightning Lane reservations via Genie+ later in the day (between around noon and 4 pm) is what we view as the optimal strategy. Our Tips for “Stacking” Genie+ Ride Reservations are one of the pillars of leveraging Lightning Lanes, with stacking and Park Hopping often going hand in hand.
Another advanced-level strategy we liked was strategically making Park Pass reservations to “force” the return time clock forward on days we weren’t rope dropping. That worked well for half-days with Genie+ and the morning spent sleeping in, at the pool, going to Disney Springs, or wherever else.
This is all especially relevant right now, as Walt Disney World kicks off 5 months of ‘party season’ at Magic Kingdom, during which time the park will regularly close to day guests at 6 pm to host Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. (Not simultaneously–although that could be cool.)
During the days of these hard ticket nighttime events, we’ve strongly recommended doing Magic Kingdom for shorter standby waits and lower crowds before bouncing to one of the other three parks around 4 pm. It makes a tremendous amount of sense to buy Genie+ primarily for the park to which you’re Park Hopping, and stacking Lightning Lane reservations throughout the morning and early afternoon. To that, Walt Disney World now says good luck!
To be fair and clear, this change does not eliminate stacking Lightning Lanes while Park Hopping. That’s still entirely achievable, albeit only pursuant to the 120 minute rule (the other loopholes were closed long ago and never returned).
It’s just more difficult, with the ability to book Lightning Lanes when Park Hopping throttled for the vast majority of attractions. Rather than being an automatic feature as was the case at launch, it’s now an impediment. This likely means even more screen time as you monitor return times, and only booking Lightning Lanes once the clock moves past 2 pm. (As I write this at 8:20 am, there are only a handful of Lightning Lanes I could book in all of Walt Disney World when Park Hopping from Magic Kingdom: Slinky Dog Dash, Tower of Terror, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, and Test Track.)
Also in fairness, this is a potential positive for guests who do not purchase the Park Hopper option. Visitors spending all day in the same park will no longer be competing with Park Hoppers or Annual Passholders for Lightning Lane availability to quite the same degree.
On certain days this fall, that might be significant—the difference between scoring Lightning Lane selections at Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After, AND Test Track rather than just 2 of that 3.
We’re skeptical that this is Disney’s motivation, and think it’s more likely being done to balance capacity during the busier months of October through December—to prevent Genie+ from selling out. But in the meantime, it is an upside for some guests.
Alone, this change might seem like no big deal or even a positive for some guests at some times. And if this were the only quirk to Genie+ or change made in the last few months, we’d be inclined to agree. However, neither one of those things are even remotely the case.
When it came to the last tweak (the aforementioned “Check Availability” change), we were critical that Walt Disney World wasn’t offering even a “duct tape solution” to a known problem. Instead, they were just trying to hide the underlying issue (return times not locking) in a way that is actively counterproductive.
Perhaps it’s our bias as people who always Park Hop, but we’re even more disappointed by this change.
Here, Walt Disney World is taking one of the few features they truly got right with Genie+ at launch and removing it. This is something we praised before, noting how the otherwise “dumb” Genie+ system (meaning that it would let you book Lightning Lanes that conflicted with one another or ADRs) had this one “smart” feature.
Some Walt Disney World fans might hope that this foreshadows what would be a very welcome change to Genie+ for many: the ability to select return times. To be sure, I think that would be a fantastic feature that would improve overall satisfaction of the paid FastPass service.
However, I do not think that’s what is going to happen here. Not to be unnecessarily pessimistic, but I think that’s overly optimistic. If that were the intended change, it could’ve happened already (or all at once without the incremental step backwards). FastPass+ had this functionality–it’s a deliberate omission from the Genie+ service.
More likely, this is another obstacle created to decrease utilization–not by a ton, but enough to move the needle a little bit. People planning to Park Hop won’t be able to book their first Lightning Lane (at least, not easily) right at 7 am, and will have more headaches throughout the day. On average, that’ll decrease the overall average of per guest ride reservations throughout the day.
It won’t be by some huge amount. Hypothetically, let’s say that the average daily Lightning Lanes per guest currently stands at 3.47. The way the app has been throttled here might drop that average down to 3.36. These are totally made up numbers, but they’re to illustrate the point that it won’t be a huge difference. Nevertheless, it’s one that adds up in aggregate. So that’s a technical “win” for Walt Disney World as it seeks to balance supply and demand.
However, it comes at the cost of guest frustration, which is already high with all things Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. We won’t want to beat a dead horse, but the UI already had a surplus of quirks and counterintuitive processes. Removing one of the few things that felt like a thoughtful feature is unfortunate.
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 FAQ for 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.
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What do you think of the recent UI changes to Genie+ at Walt Disney World? Think this is being done to throttle the feature, and as a result, the average number of Lightning Lanes some users can book? Do these policy changes make sense to you or is it too overwhelming or frustrating? Will you purchase Genie+ or does this all sound like too much of a headache? 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!
Wanted to repeat a question I saw in earlier comments – how does this change affect the ILL purchases with regard to park hopping? If I’m planning to park hop, can I still buy an ILL for a park I’m planning to hop to when ILLs are available first thing in the morning? Or does this change prevent me from buying an ILL for a park I don’t have a pass for?
We are headed to Disney the 2nd week of September (5 days, but all weekdays). I know it’s hard to predict because last year was far from normal, but we are hoping that things like ILLs and perhaps Genie+ wouldn’t be as necessary. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks!
How does this change affect the ILL purchases for those attractions not included in Genie+, and park hopping? Example: If. you’re starting at MK, but want to purchase an ILL for GotG at Epcot for later in the day?
They have made this entirely too confusing and, frankly, not much fun.
My wife and I were both ruminating over this latest news and “what did Bricker say…”? Something we do a few times a week…. We both had the thought that this change might be seen as a necessary step if there was a future plan to remove or alter the 2pm park hop limitation. Any thoughts on whether that might be a possibility?
Used to love this place so much. Literally my happy place. No more. We have visited a dozen times and always stayed at the park in a top tier hotel. Polynesian a favorite. Paid extra for the park hopper passes. Very discouraged by the expensive straight jacketed approach they have pushed in recent years. Too confining, too confusing. Too expensive . All of it just their way to maximize the number of bodies they can force into the park. I get that this is a business but for many of us it was an important piece of our lives. Many happy memories made there. Its just another expensive racket now. I dont expect them to eliminate these crazy changes any time soon. Nor do i have any plans to return under the current system. Its very sad what has happened there.
LOL. You all don’t seem to get it… These changes to FastPass and Genie over the years are not there to get you on more rides. The number of rides at the parks are fixed — one more ride for you means one less ride for someone else. If you were in the crowd, like me, who abused the heck out of FastPass-, and later FastPass+, riding Everest 5 times thru the fast lane while everyone else stands around in line… you are the anti-guest. Do you not see that? You are the guest Disney wouldn’t care if you didn’t come back. You ride more and spend less per ride. Even Universal and Six Flags are catching on; did you not see recent posts from Six Flags leadership?
Think about the old scenario when you rode all day long cuz you booked in advance, (heck do you remember when you could book 6 in advance in select rooms?) everyone else shows up to look at FastPass and sees nothing but junk cuz they’re all taken by the power-users. Fast Forward to today. Thousands of regular guests can show up, flip open their app at 10:00 and see tons of availability — even good rides. Why — because you, the power users, have only been able to get 1 single G+ by this time. That is by design. Everyone can come in whenever and still access a good FastPass. Sure you’ll pick a second at 10:30 maybe, before their second… But average guests will again still be able to get more when their 2 hours is up because you’ve only been able to take, by this point, a total of 2. Sure you may pick before them and get slightly better times but you cannot usurp the day in advance.
Old: You’d pick 3 before they pick any. New: You pick 1, you don’t get your 2nd till they’ve got their 1st. You don’t get your 3rd till they’ve gotten their 1st and 2nd. See the difference?
Disney worked hard to make FP+ do this… Don’t you remember? First you could take multiple bands… then you could transfer fast passes… then you could buy extras… then they added tiers… all constant changes to try to get there to be day-of availability for the casual higher-spending visitor, with less dominance of the system by the regulars.
With this change they are actually reaching that goal. This is a good thing. Keep in mind you will scream at calling this a good thing because it’s worse for you… but the beneficiaries of this rule are not the readers of comments in this blog. Comment-readers will be those power users who used to ride all day long via FP- back in the day or FP+ a few years ago.
Just like before, I will always think of ways to be a step ahead… but one thing I suggest: Just like people came up w the notion of stacking for a late park, next time you think of an idea that works for you, don’t post it ON THE INTERNET. All it takes is a blog like this picking it up and sending to millions of people. Once everyone does it, Disney will notice and evaluate if it needs to be shut down, and like they did here, they shut that stuff down.
Again a good change tho, cuz now guests who are actually at EPCOT or another evening park, will get more rides while say me who just wants to rack up 5 FastPasses in a row, pop in, ride them and leave, cannot. There is no value to Disney or any of the other guests in me doing this! It is so simple now. Wherever you are, you pull up G+, and there are pretty good ride options throughout the day.
A Disney vacation of late requires more planning and logistics than if you were going ashore at Normandy on D-Day..
Spent all your time checking phones, clocks and such, not worth it. Disney knew EXACTLY what they were doing when they came up with this.
Have not been since 2012 or thereabouts, no desire to go back.
This is a great post, Mike. While I like to be ahead of the crowd and, obviously, read the strategies to do so, it is important for families who just want to enjoy WDW to be able to do so (especially considering the investment it is). After reading your post, I’d be curious to know if Tom agrees that all these changes just basically give us “strategic” guests and extra ride or two (if you’re really lucky)
a day. It certainly seems like that’s the case. If so, you have to really question if you want to have your head in a phone all day unless you’re ensuring you get to ride an attraction you just can’t live without.
We just returned from California and found it much more relaxing and doable than WDW. Stayed across the street from the parks, a 10 minute walk to park entrance or Downtown Disney (compared to a 30-60 minute commute at WDW – when staying ON the property). Saved lots of time with this arrangement in the morning, at the end of a long day, as well as when returning to hotel for an afternoon break. Park hopping begins at 1:00 vs. 2:00. We rode 7 rides in Fantasyland in LESS than 90 minutes. We don’t even bother at WDW because the wait times are so ridiculous. Fast passes with Genie+ are made after you enter the park in CA. Sure they don’t have EPCOT but Pixar Pier is fantastic and Downtown Disney has lots of excellent dining options. Another observation: we weren’t overwhelmed by stroller traffic! At WDW it is difficult to navigate, especially Magic Kingdom, with stroller traffic and parking – EVERYWHERE. Oh, the hotel where we stayed (non-Disney) cleaned the room twice during our 6 night stay. Last November our room was never cleaned during a stay at Pop Century in WDW during a 10 night stay, we emptied our own trash and had to ask for clean towels. If you can, give the original Disneyland a try.
And the Pirates ride at Disney Land is better than the one in WDW
You lost me at “Pixar Pier is fantastic.” 😉
Seriously though, you bring up a good point that’s worth reiterating: all of the Genie+ difficulties discussed here are for Walt Disney World only. It’s a whole different ball game at Disneyland.
In general, I agree with your main point–Disneyland is so much easier and more enjoyable.
I think you’re overlooking the impact of party season at MK. With extra ticketed events leading to early closings at MK 50% of the time for the rest of the year, all those park hoppers need somewhere to go. AK closes early too, and without the return of Fantasmic and relatively limited dining options, DHS is a less attractive evening hopper option. This leaves Epcot with Harmonious, the Food & Wine festival, and other strong dining options as the obvious choice. But while Epcot itself has lots of space for afternoon/evening hoppers, it’s LL lineup is sparse. This move seems to give those who plan to start at Epcot a jumpstart at earlier LL return times for headliners , while pushing hoppers to the later times. It’s a clunky fix to a clunky problem created by a clunky system. But it probably has a minimal real impact on 99% of park visitors. It may slightly increase guest satisfaction for non-hoppers and is cheaper than addressing the real issue of park capacity on MK party nights.
This is a fair point, too. Not quite yet given current crowds, but they’re likely anticipating a problem in October through December.
My hope/expectation is that Fantasmic will be back by then and really help absorb those displaced crowds, but I also expected it to be back by Memorial Day, then July 4th, then…
We don’t park hop when we go so doesn’t really affect us. But Genie is pretty broken in general. I hope most of this is sorted by my trip in December. I think the paid idea is good but it needs to be probably a higher price point with unlimited fastpass or something . Also I feel like they let too many people into the parks- even with reservations system. Its honestly kind of a mess- we have been twice within a year and doesn’t seem to be working itself out.
I only get Genie + to park hop. Never manage to get what I want in the first park, so book for the 2nd. What would be useful is to allow park hopping before 2pm though?
Interesting to hear your positive feedback on this change. Honestly, our initial reaction was far more negative, but we ALWAYS Park Hop, so we were viewing it through that lens.
This just goes to show that with all ride reservation systems and policies (whether it be paper FastPass, FastPass+ or Genie+), there are winners and losers. We are definitely among the losers this time. Great to hear it’s well received among other WDW fans, though!
Here is a simple thought which is why something like it will never happen. Disney is far too focused on maximizing it’s numbers instead of serving is public.
You buy Park Hopper. You plan to go to one park in the morning – and then hop to another park at whatever time you are allowed. Disney “allows” you to make up to 3 “timed” reservations at Park #2 for your day. They can allot as many spots, or as few spots per ride or attraction each day as they want. Provide it as a benefit for staying at a resort. Or not. You choose from what is available PRIOR to the start of your day. At 7:00AM or after 11:00PM the previous night. Disney can decide. Allow the selections in tiers as before if necessary so only one of your choices can be the big ride options. If you see your “park hopper choice has limited options, you can change your second park choice accordingly. Disney, in effect, will drive you to choose the park with the best options. Now – you embark on your day however you wish. Rope drop or leisurely. Your choice. You can now decide where you want to eat lunch, which rides you know you has a time to get on later in the day, and which rides to wait in sand-by lines for. You are almost assured of a happy day. Disney can still restrict access however it wants. They can guide the flow of people without angering anyone. The general patron can still do whatever they want because Disney can control how many of which rides are available. This arrangement would cause most people to want to pay for the equivalent of Fastpass because they would know, for sure, they will receive a benefit later in their day. (Some people will choose to use their selections early in the day at their first park – which is their choice.) Creating a Fastpass equivalent that benefits the Disney visitor does not need to be that hard. And does not need to make so many of us outraged. Find the positive option Disney. Make the system one that is designed to make people happy. Not restrict behavior overtly and punitively which is always negative. This does not need to be that difficult.
I’m definitely a loser on this one, since I have to throw away a bunch of plans and touring for AK and (maybe?) HS. On the other hand, I’m all in with your assumption elsewhere to think what casual/newcomers would do, and it was an added complexity that they wouldn’t know about.
Good reminder that it’s impossible to create a system that benefits every Disney visitor because we all want different things AND that it’s impossible to get people who might be willing to accept such a system to do so when the system keeps getting changed!
I’m curious at what point guests will become so frustrated (or anticipate frustration) that they will bypass Genie+ all together, and what that will do to guest flow and wait times. My husband and I took my parents to Disney this past May and I definitely felt handcuffed to our Genie+ ride reservations. Sometimes we booked just what we could get (because sometimes it was crumbs or nothing), which definitely led us to criss-crossing the park more than necessary and ate up time. The rush & pushing to the ILL rides was too much for us, so we bought ILL for the last 3 parks. I feel like guests have gotten more aggressive at rope drop compared to many years of previous visits. Not to mention my husband and I had a lot of trouble and glitches with the disney app due to having an older Android….but then guest services also said new Androids have problems in the app too. *sigh*
I say all this to point out at our next visit we may just buy ILL and do standby lines because I honestly hated Genie+. To me it was almost a joke for the total amount of money spent and the non-guarantee guarantee. Its the first time I’ve ever thought about things to cut out of my Disney vacation as opposed to thinking about things to add on.
The whole system is confusing, and I consider myself extremely knowledgeable of the parks, how to maximize our visit, LL and the workarounds. Our July trip I felt trapped – our choice was either being miserable waiting in ridiculously long lines in the extreme heat or sucking it up and paying $60 for Genie+ each day for our family of four, which I did. And I was surprised that in the Q3 earnings call Chapek said that close to 50% of park guests purchase Genie+. I guess it is here to stay, despite all our complaining. I hate (HATE!) that I purchased it.
Surely there is some hidden reason for this change. Seems to devalue park hopping tickets; unlikely that TPTB would interest themselves in keeping park hoppers from making second park Genie+ reservations before 2:00 p.m. as an ultimate goal. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Trying to see the glass half full here…any chance the change might signal a coming change to the 2pm park hopping rule?
Ohhh good point!
Love the panning shot of Slinky Dog!!
Just returned from an 8 day with park hopper trip. Your strategies helped me understand they system and feel comfortable going into the first days of our trip. Unfortunately we quickly became frustrated with Genie+. We get to the parks for early entry, spend the afternoon (1-4PM) back at the resort, then go back to a park in the evenings. But by the time we were ready to leave the park for our afternoon break Genie+ retrun times for the park we were going to in the evening were too early (before we planned on going back). That meant that we couldn’t schedule a Genie+ time at the 2 hour after park opening window and had to wait for return times to move ahead. That then pushed when we could make a second Genie+ reservaton out and being able to make fewer overall reservations. I think we averaged about 3-4 reservations on days we purchased Genie+ which resulted in considerably shorter wait times. I’d be okay with paid FASTPASS+, but Genie+ is not FASTPASS+ and the frustration it adds to the tirp is a huge issue for us. Adding the option to pick a return time would make the system much more usable. We also noticed the huge impact Genie+ had on wait times particularly when headliner rides would go down and all the Genie+ reservations for that attraction would be turned into an any LL reservation.
The whole Geni and lightening lanes are so confusing it’s making us think twice about going. What used yo be the most wonderful holidays ever have now become a nightmare you must endure if your child wants to go. No rides to and ftom airport included, no dining plan, Geni plus, lightening lanes, ckeaning only on day three if you are lucky, no gifts on top of the well made beds when you return in the evening, etc. It has turned into a giant amusement park. I wonder what Walt would think of this now????
Even the comments regarding Genie+ and LL sound confusing. Every time I read a Genie+ article, my mind goes in circles. When did it become so difficult to be on vacation? Makes me yearn for a good old Caribbean beach vacation, where all I had to worry about was whether to order a Pina Colada or Bahama Mama.
Disney pushed us out of their resort with their lack of consideration for the very people who contribute to their large bonuses – Joe and Jane Public and their families. We took our last Disney trip this past spring and came away with no regrets about not returning. In fact, today I started the ball rolling on our next trip, which won’t even be in Florida. A big step for someone who has been visiting WDW since 1973.