For the first time ever, Genie+ has sold out at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (as has the Park Hopping option, which sells out whenever any park is unavailable). This post covers the colossal crowds and triple-digit wait times right now at Walt Disney World, plus the likelihood of the line-skipping service selling out as peak week continues, and more.
Let’s start by talking crowds. It’s not going to surprise anyone that this has already been 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. This trend will continue into early 2024, which is why all of the big changes don’t take effect until January 9. The first week of 2024 will probably be worse than the week before Christmas, in fact.
What might be a surprise is that the days and weekend leading up to Christmas actually were not that bad. Don’t get us wrong–crowds were high, but as a whole, the average wait time for last week was 45 minutes and the crowd level was 8/10. It wasn’t even one of the top 5 weeks of the year, and was well below last Christmas. However, this week has been a totally different story so far…
Although it’s only a few days old, the current week has an average wait time of 54 minutes and a crowd level of 10/10. That’s bad enough to tie as the busiest week of the year. That number is only increasing, too. The average wait time across all 4 Walt Disney World theme parks today (December 27, 2023) is 65 minutes.
That would make December 27 tied for the busiest day of the year (with January 3, 2023) if the day ended right now. Wait times have probably peaked for the day, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see that average dip back to 64 minutes. That’s still far busier than any day since Easter.
It’s safe to say today will go down as the busiest day since this January. That is, until tomorrow rolls around. Every day for the rest of this week/year has a chance of being the busiest of the week/entire year. In fairness, we warned you that crowd levels would be 10+/10 this week!
With that in mind, here are the prices for Genie+ at Walt Disney World for December 27, 2023:
Multiple Parks (valid with Park Hopper tickets): $39
Magic Kingdom: $39
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: $35
Animal Kingdom: $29
These record-high amounts started on December 23 and we expect these precise price points to continue through New Year’s Eve. On January 1, 2024, it’s likely the max price will fall back to $29. Don’t be surprised if Genie+ sells out several times in the days and week to come despite the record high prices.
As noted above, December 27, 2023 is the first time ever that Genie+ has sold out at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Granted, a specific park selling out has only been possible since the switch to per-park pricing earlier this year. Genie+ sold out on multiple occasions before that, but it was across-the-board sell outs that couldn’t be attributed to any single park. We were in DHS on a couple of those days, and based on crowds and Lightning Lane inventory, I’m guessing DHS was the culprit for the sell out at least once.
Regardless, every time that Genie+ has sold out since the switch to per-park pricing, it has happened at Magic Kingdom. And almost all of those times, that has been attributable to Party Season–either shorter hours at Magic Kingdom (meaning less Lightning Lane inventory) or longer hours at Magic Kingdom (meaning a consolidation in crowds). That may seem like a nonsensical explanation, but Party Season is a roller coaster for capacity and attendance at Magic Kingdom. Anyway.
Above is a current look at wait times in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As you can see, there are 5 attractions with triple-digit wait times and another 4 with 60+ minute waits. You know it’s a bad day when Star Tours is posting a 60-minute wait time! Ditto several of the meet & greets being above 30 minutes–and that’s just the ones that post wait times.
You might see those numbers and think that the wait time average thus must be even worse than 65 minutes. That’s a reasonable assessment. If you polled guests currently in the parks about their perceptions of wait times, the consensus average would likely be a much higher number. But averages take the entire day and the entire attraction roster into account.
The 10-15 minute wait times at Vacation Fun, Walt Disney Presents, Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, and MuppetVision 3D help drag down the overall average, as do the morning hours when the park is less busy. Those underutilized attractions and times of day impact the actual average but probably not guest perceptions precisely because they’re less popular/busy.
About the only attraction that I wouldn’t say is atypically bad is Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at 160 minutes. Yes, that’s a nearly 3-hour posted wait time, but it’s not that far above its average wait time. With that said, there’s not a chance on earth I’d jump in that line. That standby line is playing with fire–the longer the wait, the higher the risk of the ride breaking down while you’re in line. In which case, you won’t be waiting “only” 3 hours…it’ll be closer to 4 or perhaps more. (For a thorough explanation, see Why Certain Walt Disney World Rides Can Have WORSE Actual Wait Times Than What’s Posted.)
As previously mentioned, the next two weeks or so 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.
It’ll be interesting to see how many days Genie+ sells out between now and January 6, 2024. My previous guess was 3-4, with all of the sell outs occurring later in the week as NYE draws nearer and crowds crescendo.
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. That’s true even if its 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 week of New Year’s Eve, 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!