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 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 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!