Genie+ & Lightning Lane Predictions for Disney World in 2024

Over the last few years, we’ve heard more complaints from fans about Genie+ and Lightning Lanes than anything else at Walt Disney World–even the end of Magical Express. Lots of changes have already been made to address the problems and shortcomings of the system, with more on the horizon. This offers our list of predictions for 2024 about the good & bad ways paid FastPass will continue to evolve.

We probably can all agree that paid FastPass has its share of problems. First and foremost, as the moniker suggests, it costs money. Paying for what used to be free stinks. Not only that, but there have been issues with user interface and so many policy quirks and changes that it’s tough to stay on top of everything. Even setting all of that aside, Genie+ would still be a step backwards as compared to FastPass+ for many WDW vacation planners even if it were still free. (But again, it is not.)

The good news is that Genie+ has already improved, and almost everything on our list of predictions below is positive. More steps in the right direction, both big and small. The bad news is that many fans won’t view these changes as such–due to preconceived notions, aversion to change, or the understandable hostility towards paying for what was once free. (Sadly, there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle on that, at least not anytime soon.) Anyway, on with the list of predicted changes to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes later in 2024…

Advance Booking Launces Late – We previously discussed the timing of advance booking in When Will Pre-Arrival Lightning Lanes Start at Walt Disney World? That offered a couple of different predictions for debut dates, one in March and another no sooner than mid-April. Basically, either with sufficient time before Spring Break season to make sure things are going smoothly or during the shoulder season when the parks are slower (meaning before summer vacation).

However, my other prediction was that the announcement offering specifics and a launch date would occurs roughly 30 days in advance–probably not muchless. They need to give sufficient time for planners with trips on the horizon to make their ride reservations; after all, this system entails advance booking.

It’s now mid-February and the start of Spring Break is one month away. Even if the announcement came tomorrow, it would be implausible for rollout to occur during a slower season. Given that, it seems highly likely that pre-arrival Lightning Lane reservations aren’t happening until sometime before the start of the summer tourist season in June 2024.

Frankly, we view this as a good thing. One of the biggest problems with Genie+ was that it was rushed to market and not properly developed or tested prior to launch, necessitating a slow trickle of tweaks and features being implemented for two years after launch. Walt Disney World taking a slower and more methodical approach to this–even if it means the launch is delayed–is absolutely the right call. Get it right so fans hate it less. (Many are still going to hate anything that isn’t free, but it’ll have a higher ‘approval rating’ if it’s at least user friendly!)

7 a.m. Wakeup Call Ends – One of the biggest complaints about Walt Disney World that we’ve heard from readers concerns the stress of having to wake up early to book ride reservations while on vacation. With the arrival of advance booking of Lightning Lanes, this would seemingly end. Well, except for those who still buy same-day, which will undoubtedly continue…but those guests probably aren’t getting up at 7 a.m. anyway.

So this is seemingly a safe prediction, at least as it relates to Lightning Lanes. However, we still don’t have a full picture of how the advance booking system will work, which means it could also entail a same-day component for everyone that somehow begins at 7 a.m. My guess is that it won’t, given the complaints. But never bet against Disney!

There’s also the issue of virtual queues, which are separate from Lightning Lanes but interconnected. After all, you might not want to buy an Individual Lightning Lane until finding out whether you’ve won the VQ lottery. Or you might feel the need to modify Lightning Lane selections based upon your success or failure with boarding groups. So even with pre-arrival Lightning Lanes, there will still be the “need” to wake up early on Magic Kingdom and EPCOT days.

This is not necessarily a prediction that the virtual queue system will change alongside Lightning Lane pre-booking, as VQs evolved a lot between late 2019 and mid-2020, with the current system being the best compromise to minimize complaints (short of retiring VQs completely). But I wouldn’t be surprised to see another adjustment made under the guise of ‘guest experience enhancements.’

Personally, I think the optimal approach that balances competing interests and complaints would be having the rides that’ll otherwise use VQs open each day with standby lines and then open the virtual queue at 10 or 11 a.m., and possibly again at 2 p.m. That eliminates the early wake-up call and gives guests choice, while also retaining VQs as a form of queue control.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is ILL – This might seem like a foregone conclusion, as every ride that has opened since Genie+ debuted has at least started out as selling an Individual Lightning Lane. And it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s an internal mandate that every new attraction needs to be directly monetizable via Individual Lightning Lanes in order to get funded.

However, there are also counterpoints to this. The first is that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure was greenlit pre-Genie+ and also not primarily as a marketable draw. The second is that Splash Mountain did not offer an Individual Lightning Lane. Third, there were probably ‘operational realities’ for that, which will also apply to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, such as the necessity of winter refurbishments at some point and the fact that water rides simply are not as popular at night or when the weather is colder. Finally, if Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens with an Individual Lightning Lane and nothing else changes, Magic Kingdom will be the only park with more than a single ILL attraction. It’ll have not 2, but 3.

Regardless of all that, I still think that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is elevated to Individual Lightning Lane. It will be a marketable draw and even more popular than Splash Mountain for at least a couple of years–unless something goes terribly wrong with the execution of the reimagining, and there’s no reason to expect that after seeing the wowing Tiana Audio Animatronics. It also probably wouldn’t be great optics to have the new ride be relegated to Genie+ status.

The bottom line is that the odds are high that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure gets Individual Lightning Lane status, but it’s far from a sure thing–unlike Cosmic Rewind or TRON Lightcycle Run. Those were very obvious ILL candidates, whereas TBA is more TBD with compelling arguments for it going either way.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is Not – Nowhere is it written in stone that Magic Kingdom can’t have 3 Individual Lightning Lane attractions. At only a year old and still insanely popular, TRON Lightcycle Run will obviously keep its ILL status. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it isn’t relegated until the Beyond Big Thunder stuff opens, whatever and whenever that is.

Then there’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. This roller coaster is now about a decade old, but remains very popular and its Individual Lightning Lanes sell out with regularity. I don’t see circumstances changing between now and Beyond Big Thunder to materially impact its popularity. It’s also more of a known quantity; less refurbishment-intensive and weather dependent. Meaning Seven Dwarfs Mine Train could continue to sell out ILLs indefinitely on a more consistent basis than Tiana’s Bayou Adventure over the course of the next decade, not just the next few years.

Given all of that, will Seven Dwarfs Mine Train remain an ILL? There’s a strong case for it, but I don’t think so. Again, there’s a bit of optics at play here. If one park has 3 ILLs but the rest have only 1, which of those parks is home to most of the “best” rides? Not only that, but if there are 3 ILLs, does that disincentivize buying the Genie+ bundle?

Although ILLs would continue to sell, the same could be said for the newer Slinky Dog Dash at DHS, and yet, that’s a Genie+ attraction. It’s also just not a good look at a time when Walt Disney World is constantly accused of being greedy. All things considered, the safe and guest-friendly move is downgrading Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

Onsite Advantage Returns – During the last few earnings calls, the domestic Parks & Resorts have had lower results due to decreased revenue at Walt Disney World, with the following explanation: “lower volumes due to decreases in attendance and occupied room nights, both of which reflected the comparison to the 50th anniversary celebration in the prior-year quarter.”

In plain English, this means that hotel bookings are down. This is also relative to 2021-2022 when the 50th was in full swing in pent-up demand was running hot and Walt Disney World was breaking records. That explains how bookings can be down, but there are still dates when resorts are sold out.

This also means that Walt Disney World did not have to offer incentives to get guests to stay on-site at the time when Genie+ launched, which is why they largely didn’t. They also didn’t do much in the way of discounting at the time, whereas special offers are back in full force–Walt Disney World has busted out the 2019 playbook, bringing back everything from bouncebacks to Free Dining. And that still isn’t enough!

An obvious “lever” to pull that would help move the needle on occupancy would be bringing back the on-site advantage for advance booking of Lightning Lanes. Under the prior FastPass+ system, it was a 60 day window for on-site and 30 day for off-site. Our expectation is that Lightning Lane pre-arrival reservations will be a much shorter timeframe as a whole than the old FastPass+ system.

Our bet would be that there will be an on-site perk for Lightning Lane reservations, perhaps 14 days vs. 7 for off-site guests, or maybe 30 days vs. 14 for off-site guests. Regardless of the exact number, we’d expect booking timelines of a month or less, and a week or two headstart–at most–for on-site guests.

No matter what it ends up being, this will be huge for on-site guests. It could be only a single day head-start and it’d still offer a big competitive advantage! If you want Slinky Dog Dash, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After, and other popular Lightning Lanes…you’ll pretty much need to be staying on-site! Given the need for higher occupancy stats and the fact that this is how it worked under FastPass+ in the past, I’d be shocked if there’s no on-site advantage for Lightning Lanes once the new system launches.

It Breaks the $50 Barrier – I’m going to hedge my bets and clarify that this means $50 after tax. It seems like this is the trajectory, and logical pricing during the holiday season. After all, the cost of Genie+ set a new record of $29 at Christmas 2022, then hit $35 the following Easter, then $39 at Christmas 2023. And the paid FastPass service sold out repeatedly at each of those record price points.

It thus seems like an inevitability that Genie+ reaches $45 this Easter and $49 (~$52 after tax) around Christmas 2024. That’s a fairly safe bet given the trend line since the system launched for $15 plus tax with no seasonal pricing and no per-park pricing.

However, my prediction is based less on precedent and more on upcoming move to the pre-arrival booking system for Lightning Lanes. I actually wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Spring Break maxes out at $39 and Walt Disney World saves the price increases for the new system. Advance booking coming with premium pricing for the luxury and peace of mind of booking at home seems both possible and probable.

On the other hand, it would be savvy to jack-up the price of Genie+ before rolling out the new system to make it look better by comparison. If Genie+ spikes to $75 over Spring Break and then the new system maxes out at “only” $50, it’ll look like Walt Disney World is doing us a solid and dropping prices! (I don’t think this will actually happen, but it’d be a slick move.)

Genie Vanishes – I would be surprised if Genie (the free itinerary builder) ever accomplished Walt Disney World’s goal of redistributing crowds and minimizing unutilized capacity. I’m not questioning whether it made a meaningful impact on congestion or capacity–it definitely didn’t. I’m wondering whether it ever did anything at all. Probably, I guess, because some dumb blogger tested it out a few times and he did things he otherwise wouldn’t have. So that’s an at least one idiot riding the carrousel when Peter Pan’s Flight had a short wait.

I’m skeptical any normal guests outside of those testing it ever materially changed their park touring behavior because of Genie. It was just so aggressively bad to the point that it defied credulity. If Walt Disney World wanted to use Genie as a sneaky vehicle for accomplishing their goal of redistributing crowds without real benefit to guests, it needed to be a little more believable. Instead, Genie was the equivalent of a GPS instructing you to drive your car into a lake. Unless your name is Michael Scott, you just aren’t going to listen because the guidance is so comically bad.

I suspect Walt Disney World finally “gets” this. Genie is still awful, which means they also don’t want to throw good money after bad in making the system not-worthless. Given all of that and now that enough time has passed, I also suspect that they’ll use the launch of advance Lightning Lanes to make a clean break and eliminate Genie.

But what about the Genie+ name? Can there be a plussed version of something without the regular? It’s a somewhat similar story there, but less of a sure thing. Regardless, Genie+ is a toxic name on par with Monsanto, Philip Morris, Comcast, or Robert Chapek. While it’s certainly possible that the advance booking of Lightning Lanes will simply slot into the existing Genie+ system that would, frankly, be an awful idea. There’s so much badwill associated with Genie, that it just makes sense to rebrand entirely (again).

So why not turn the page backwards, and go with what’s old is new again (but now paid). Honestly, I’d call it FastPass Max or something like that and use Powerline as the character above the logo. I suspect Disney was (and maybe still is) reluctant to bring back the FastPass name because of the free versus paid stigma, but Genie+ was commonly called “paid FastPass” by everyone but Disney anyway. Why throw away the great FastPass branding for no real reason?!

It Gets A Lot Better – There are a few reasons for this prediction. One is quite simply what Walt Disney World has learned from Genie+ and FastPass+, and will be able to cherry pick the elements of each that people liked most, while discarding the aspects that were most hated.

That makes it sound simple, which is not even remotely the case. Different demographics prefer different systems, and queueing is ultimately a zero-sum game that creates winners and losers in equal parts. But it is possible for an outcome that feels more fair and doesn’t advantage or disadvantage anyone too much. From what we’ve heard, this is the needle they’re trying to thread with the new system, and we’re hoping for success.

Beyond that, I’m anticipating lower utilization for a variety of reasons that will have positive second order effects for guests in both the Lightning Lanes and the standby lines. Of course, this will have its costs (literally and figuratively) since queueing is (again) a zero-sum game, but the end result should be something that feels more fair and less exploitable.

As we’ve been saying for the last few months, part of this will likely be due to Walt Disney World overhauling DAS again. The DAS Abuse Crackdown that started last fall with tour groups was simply an opening salvo and not the endgame. It’s possible that this won’t come to fruition given concerns about litigation, but that should be viewed as the cost of doing business. If DAS changes do happen, that probably needs to occur before the Lightning Lane changes.

All in all, we’re looking forward to more massive changes to Lightning Lanes. Even though Genie+ has become much more usable since launch and is certainly better than it was 2 years ago (well, minus the higher price…but that part isn’t going to change!), there are still a number of shortcomings with the system.

Whatever comes next needs to strike a better balance between pre-panning and spontaneity, leveling the playing field to the greatest extent possible while (obviously) giving those who pay extra an option to skip the line. From what we’ve heard, it sounds like those are Walt Disney World’s goals with the next iteration of paid FastPass. Now let’s just see if they can actually stick the landing and execute on this!

For now, 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.

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

What do you think of these predictions for Genie+ at Walt Disney World? Do you think any of these changes would be bad, or could have unintended negative consequence? Are you optimistic that advance booking of Lightning Lanes will improve the guest experience? Think that Walt Disney World will be able to thread the needle and balance the preferences of planners with spontaneous or lower-knowledge single day visitors? Do you agree or disagree with my predictions? 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!

42 Responses to “Genie+ & Lightning Lane Predictions for Disney World in 2024”
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