Genie+ has set a brand-new, all-time record high price at Walt Disney World for Festivus 2023 (December 23), likely leading to more guest airing of grievances. Lightning Lane prices increasing overnight on Park Hopping, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and Animal Kingdom. This post covers crowds, the likelihood of the line-skipping service selling out despite the higher cost, and other commentary on the paid FastPass service.
For starters, let’s talk crowds. It’s not going to surprise anyone that this is going to be a busy week. Crowds always build in mid-December, and it’s typically the case that the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve are two of the busiest of the year. More of a surprise to a lot of people is that the first full week of January is often just as busy, which is due to the confluence of winter break for Central Florida schools, lifting of Annual Pass blockouts, and WDW Marathon.
The most variable of those when it comes to crowds is actually this week, with attendance driven by the day of the week of Christmas. This year, it’s on a Monday. As a result, we expected crowds consolidated into the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, including the surrounding weekend–meaning yesterday, today, and Christmas Eve. We already discussed this at length in this week’s earlier post about Peak Season Christmas Crowds Arriving at Walt Disney World.
Against that backdrop, here are the prices for Genie+ at Walt Disney World for December 23, 2023:
Multiple Parks (valid with Park Hopper tickets): $39
Magic Kingdom: $39
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: $35
Animal Kingdom: $29
For those keeping score at home, below are prices from this week prior to today:
Multiple Parks (valid with Park Hopper tickets): $29
Magic Kingdom: $29
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: $26
Animal Kingdom: $18
Here are prior all-time high prices last seen during the week of Thanksgiving:
Multiple Parks (valid with Park Hopper tickets): $35
Magic Kingdom: $35
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: $32
Animal Kingdom: $25
We know the price increases are significant and we’re not downplaying them. However, roughly the next two-weeks will see peak season plus attendance, with crowd levels of 10+/10, for lack of a better term.
That may not make complete sense, but last year’s peak week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a good illustration. December 20 was a 10/10 crowd level day with an average wait time of 54 minutes–that was only one minute higher than a 9/10 crowd level. By contrast, December 29 was the worst day of last year, also with a 10/10 crowd level but an average wait time of 67 minutes.
That’s a 13 minute spread–which is absolutely massive–but the exact same crowd level. Nowhere else on the scale (except, I guess, 1/10 since it could theoretically start at 0 minutes–but that never happens in practice) has that range. Usually a crowd level has a range of a few minutes before it moves up or down. Not 10/10. It can be 54 minutes, 67 minutes, 80 minutes, etc. Hence the 10+/10 crowd level.
Hope that makes sense. Even if not, the salient point is that there are varying degrees of ‘bad’ crowds and that 10/10 isn’t a static level of awfulness. Right now is pretty bad, but next week will almost certainly be way worse. On the plus side, the parks will be operating in ‘maximum efficiency’ mode, which presents more opportunities for beating the crowds if you’re willing to work a bit.
We’d highly recommend reading Making the Most of Midnight in Magic Kingdom & Beating Peak Season Crowds! That’s a recent post that I put a ton of work into based on my midnight experience, and it was relatively overlooked by readers (I probably should’ve done the hours updates separate from the strategy. Live and learn.) In any case, the tips there can save you a ton of time and stress if you’re visiting Walt Disney World in the next few weeks.
We expect $39 to be the Magic Kingdom and Multi-Park price through New Year’s Eve. On January 1, 2024, it’s likely the price will fall back to $29. Don’t be surprised if Genie+ sells out several times in the days and week to come despite this.
With the exception of earlier this week when it was “only” $29 and sold out at Magic Kingdom, every time Genie+ has sold out, it has been at the peak price. In case you’re wondering, the last time Genie+ sold was a few days during Thanksgiving week and during Easter week before that.
Most days when Genie+ has sold out, it has happened between 9:45 a.m. and noon. To the best of my recollection, Genie+ has never sold out in the afternoon. Which makes sense–it’s expensive, so people are buying it relatively early, if at all, to maximize their use of the paid FastPass service.
Nothing would surprise us at this point, but we actually do not expect Genie+ to sell out on December 23-24, 2023. If it does, it’ll likely sell out for every single day between now and the end of the year. This is because this weekend actually should not be the high point of peak season holiday crowds–that’ll happen next week.
Nevertheless, it’ll be really interesting to see how many days Genie+ sells out between now and January 6, 2024. My guess is 3-4, possibly on Christmas Day, and then again later in the week as NYE draws nearer and crowds crescendo.
However, my sincere hope is that I’m wrong and Genie+ doesn’t sell out at all. That guests have finally reached their breaking point. With the pullback we’ve seen in all other forms of spending, that may finally be the case, but I certainly would not bet on it. In that scenario, $39 might stand as the record-high price for the line-skipping service at Walt Disney World–and prices might finally start to recede. (Just as they have for Walt Disney World’s resort hotels, which are actually down year-over-year due to dramatically better discounting this holiday season!)
Genie+ selling out despite higher prices actually shouldn’t be a surprise. For one thing, there’s a certain amount of price inelasticity when it comes to paid line-skipping. Most guests who don’t balk at the $35 price point also are unlikely to be dissuaded from buying the service when it’s priced at $39. That’s especially true of visitors who pay peak season prices to visit Walt Disney World–they’re less likely to be cost-sensitive (if they were, they’d choose cheaper dates in the first place).
There’s also the practical reality that Genie+ is more valuable when crowds are higher. As we’ve discussed previously, there is a “sweet spot” for buying the Genie+ service, and you are arguably better off skipping it in favor of superior strategy when prices are highest due to lack of Lightning Lane availability (see When to Skip Genie+ at Walt Disney World).
However, that’s not exactly intuitive to a lot of people who aren’t savvy planners. In general, the more guests see longer wait times, the more likely they are to want to skip those standby lines. Worse wait times creates a higher incentive for bypassing lines, meaning higher uptake of Genie+ even when it costs more. Demand for beating crowds increases as crowds increase, and as such, Genie+ will always be most popular when it’s most expensive. Even if it’s advantage is somewhat illusory in 10/10 crowds, since availability worsens and so too do the Lightning Lane return lines.
Ultimately, there’s no easy fix to this issue for Walt Disney World. In the near term, capping Genie+ sales is the best solution. In the medium term, our expectation is that Walt Disney World’s crackdown on DAS abuse will accelerate in 2024, and that alone should free up a lot of Lightning Lane inventory. (Seriously. Judging by the comments to that post, many of you massively underestimate just how much abuse–not just proper use–of DAS is occurring.)
The move to advance-booking of Lightning Lanes will also change things, but that will not increase Lightning Lane availability, because it cannot. It’ll be a reallocation. (It can, however, have the appearance of an improvement if paired with a DAS crackdown…) Longer term, the solutions are restoring all entertainment that is still (STILL!) missing, repurposing underutilized areas of each park, reimagining rides that are unpopular. Oh, and of course, park expansion and building more new rides.
What do you think of Genie+ setting a new all-time record high price of $39? If you’re visiting during the weeks of Christmas or New Year’s, what’s the maximum price you’ll pay for the line-skipping service? Thoughts on our perspective that demand for Genie+ will continue to be highest on the busiest/most expensive days? Any other considerations we failed to take into account or details we missed/got wrong? 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!