Walt Disney World has dropped per-park pricing for Genie+ to its lowest level ever, right as both the fall off-season and Hurricane Idalia arrive. This post offers price trends plus our commentary about why this is happening, what to expect going forward, and where we think paying for Lightning Lane line-skipping makes sense and where it’s a waste of money in Fall 2023.
You might recall that a couple of months ago, Walt Disney World debuted per-park pricing for the Genie+ service. Guests are now able to select either a single-park option or a multiple-parks option, subject to availability. This is in addition to date-based pricing, which debuted last year and is still in effect. (Hence today being a new low price in the date-based, per-park era of the Genie+ service!)
In effect, this has created two tiers of pricing: Park Hopper, Magic Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are all usually at or around the same higher cost. Below that, you’ll usually find Animal Kingdom and EPCOT at or around the same price. There’s a bit of variability with DHS and EPCOT, but usually multi-park and Magic Kingdom are the exact same price–the highest–and Animal Kingdom is cheapest.
Since per-park pricing debuted in late June, we haven’t had many updates since it’s been relatively uneventful. Genie+ hasn’t sold out once for any park during that stretch, and prices were relatively stable for several weeks. In fact, the multi-park option was priced at $25 for two consecutive weeks before dropping a couple of weekends ago and rising the following Monday.
On average, July and August prices for Genie+ have been $25 for Magic Kingdom or Park Hopper, $22 for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, $18 for EPCOT, and $16 for Animal Kingdom. There was a slight spike last week that bumped those averages up by $1-2 across the board.
On August 29, the prices dropped to new record lows:
Magic Kingdom: $20
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: $20
Animal Kingdom: $15
The pessimists out there are going to conclude that this is entirely due to Hurricane Idalia, and the anticipation of lower crowd levels at Walt Disney World as a result. It’s entirely possible that this storm is a contributing factor, with today and August 30, 2023 seeing lower lows before bouncing back a bit for the Labor Day holiday weekend.
However, we’ve been expecting off-season pricing to hit the Genie+ service for the last week-plus, and have been surprised that it hadn’t happened already. Today’s drop tracks with ticket prices and resort rate charts, as well as historical attendance trends. In short, this price decrease is not coincidental–it’s the timing of Hurricane Idalia that’s the coincidence.
Since this is our first Genie+ post in a bit, let’s offer some scattered commentary and belated thoughts. First, it’ll be interesting to see whether there’s a spike in the price of Genie+ over the Labor Day holiday weekend. If you missed it, we previously made the case for Why Labor Day Will Be ‘Dead’ at Walt Disney World.
That prediction came prior to Hurricane Idalia, which should have a negligible impact on crowd levels over the weekend. (We won’t be surprised when fans claim, “of course it was slow over Labor Day, it was because of the hurricane!” They are wrong–whatever slowness occurs would have happened regardless. If anything, Hurricane Idalia could create a small pocket of pent-up demand, where locals want to be outside this weekend after being cooped up during the storm.)
Anyway, what’ll be more interesting to see is whether Walt Disney World is forecasting a Labor Day lull and that’s reflected in Genie+ prices. Our guess is no. Walt Disney World has been surprisingly reactive with Genie+ prices, rather than proactive. It took several months before they adjusted weekday vs. weekend pricing to reflect the new-normal of 2023 attendance trends, which is that weekends are slower at Walt Disney World.
After Independence Day weekend, they probably should have realized that Labor Day weekend will also be slow…but we’d bet against any lessons having been learned from that. It seems like it was hand-waved away as being due to weather and pent-up demand slowing, when in reality, it was largely a story of blockouts.
On a tangentially related note, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the virtual queues at both TRON Lightcycle Run and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Our latest report on TRON Lightcycle Run Virtual Queue’s Roller Coaster Highs & Lows covers recent trends with that attraction, but that post was published prior to the off-season arriving.
Just today, TRON Lightcycle Run set a record with the 7 am virtual queue being open for approximately 80 minutes. If what I’m seeing is accurate, this is only the second time ever that it’s been open for over an hour at 7 am. (Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is tonight, so no such record with the afternoon VQ.) Even as I write this, the afternoon virtual queue is still open for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. No records there, as there were days last fall off-season and over the winter when it was open until after 5 pm.
Another interesting note is that we’re still seeing Multi-Park and Magic Kingdom prices tethered to one another on the high end. On a normal day, this makes complete sense. Genie+ is unquestionably the most valuable at Magic Kingdom or when Park Hopping, and we’ve almost always recommended it in both scenarios.
The “almost” asterisk is added there because that’s not true during Party Season at Magic Kingdom when the park closes at 6 pm. While it might seem superficially important to skip standby lines on those Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party shortened days, it’s not necessary due to significantly lower crowds. However, that tether remains even on MNSSHP days.
I’ve done Magic Kingdom a few times already on MNSSHP days, and–just like last year–have concluded that Genie+ is a waste of money at Magic Kingdom on those dates. There are only a few attractions were Lightning Lanes are truly beneficial–Jungle Cruise and Peter Pan’s Flight are the big rides, along with several meet & greets–but most rides have sufficiently short standby lines most of the day that you’re not saving much time with Lightning Lanes.
To the contrary, there have been times when I’ve passed people in the Lightning Lanes via standby, as the extra time to scan into the tapstiles took longer than simply walking through the empty standby line. That’s not even taking into account using Genie+ to book ride reservations, potential backtracking, etc.
I’m honestly a bit surprised that Magic Kingdom hasn’t dropped to being the least expensive park on MNSSHP days, replaced by Disney’s Hollywood Studios as the most expensive option. That would make sense both in terms of crowd dynamics and value for money. But again, Walt Disney World is often very reactive when it comes to Genie+ pricing, so perhaps that’ll happen next month. (Or maybe there’s some compelling reason for pricing Magic Kingdom higher that I’m overlooking.)
In terms of which parks do offer value under the current date-based pricing scheme during the fall off-season in September 2023, that’s debatable. Magic Kingdom on non-party days would be our #1 pick, but then again, we wouldn’t be doing a ride-heavy day in MK on non-party days in the first place due to the aforementioned crowd disparity.
Our other top pick would be Disney’s Hollywood Studios, especially if arriving late or visiting on a day when MNSSHP is being held at Magic Kingdom. With that said, I’ve been pretty pleased with Early Entry at DHS this month, and that should only get better as occupancy drops during the off-season.
Between Early Entry and staying late (not to mention Extended Evening Hours once those start at DHS), Genie+ is not strictly necessary at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. But we get why others use it there, and recognize that it can be a good option that offers a ton of time-savings, even during the off-season.
Finally, our wildcard pick is EPCOT. In the past, we’ve been reluctant to recommend buying Genie+ at EPCOT. This started because it simply didn’t offer sufficient value since Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Frozen Ever After weren’t included. Now, they are part of the Genie+ service, but it can be difficult to score the top trio of Lightning Lanes–those two plus Test Track–on a moderately busy day.
In light of the lower price and the lower crowds (making those Lightning Lanes less competitive), we’re now much more inclined to roll the dice on Genie+ at EPCOT. There are still a lot of caveats, and the ‘pitfall’ of having to backtrack all across the park remains, but it’s potentially worthwhile. This is especially true as Test Track has been experiencing more downtime than normal of late, and (less-frequent) issues can also exist with Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
With that in mind, I plan on doing more testing of Genie+ at EPCOT next month–it seems warranted. With those exceptions in mind, I personally would not be inclined to purchase Genie+ between now and late September 2023 at Walt Disney World. It just strikes me as overkill when crowds are this low, but I also recognize that I’m not a first-timer or infrequent visitor–and might be a bit more frugal than the average visitor. So your mileage may vary.
Oh, and it’s probably worth reiterating that we don’t recommend Genie+ at Animal Kingdom almost any day of the year…but especially not during the off-season.
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 many times 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.”
You shouldn’t waste your money on Genie+ at DAK in the first place. Most Lightning Lanes at Animal Kingdom during the off-season are the paid equivalent of a “Bonus FastPass” for PhilharMagic. It might make you feel good, but you’re arguably being played. There’s a reason the price of Genie+ is typically lowest 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.)
Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes in the next month during Walt Disney World’s early fall off-season. While it’s entirely possible there’s a bit of a bounce after Hurricane Idalia passes, it should be relatively short-lived, as mid-to-late August through late September is typically the slowest stretch of the entire year, and Genie+ prices typically track with demand.
Specifically, I’m curious as to whether the $20/$15 per-day prices are the new floor for Genie+ at Walt Disney World. If purely dictated by crowd levels, I’d expect Animal Kingdom to drop further, but the fact that EPCOT fell while it held firm at $15 suggests to me that DAK won’t hit $10, even if it arguably should.
Regardless, enjoy the lower prices while they last, because we almost certainly have not seen the highest Genie+ prices of the year. The next date to watch is October 6, 2023. That’s the kickoff to the next big holiday weekend at Walt Disney World, and could be when we see per-park pricing exceed $30 for the first time. While I wouldn’t expect any all-time records to be set then, that’ll almost certainly happen in November or December around those holiday weeks. Either way, we’ll keep you posted about Genie+ pricing patterns and trends at Walt Disney World!
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!