Do you believe in miracles?! Walt Disney World has made another change to Genie+ and it’s an unequivocally positive one! This post runs through recent changes to the paid FastPass service, explaining how this is an improvement for Lightning Lane power users and newcomers alike.
Most recently, Walt Disney World permanently moved one Individual Lightning Lane attraction per park to the Genie+ service in an effort to load balance. Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Hollywood Studios, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Frozen Ever After at EPCOT, and Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom are all now included in the flat-rate Genie+ service after temporarily shifting there for the busy spring and summer seasons.
All of this has happened as the company’s executives have repeatedly commented that Genie+ uptake has exceeded expectations. CEO Bob Chapek has stated that Disney is “very, very encouraged” by the trends of guests who purchase the Genie+ service and caught the company by surprise. According to Chapek, “about 50% of the people who come through the gate buy up the Genie product” at Walt Disney World, which explains why there have been so many load-balancing efforts since Genie+ launched almost a year ago.
Today’s good news is that Walt Disney World has finally added a banner to the Tip Board in My Disney Experience that has been conspicuously absent since Genie+ launched last year. With this change, your next eligible selection time is prominently displayed within the Disney Genie+ Tip Board. Here’s a look at the new layout…
In the above screenshots, you should notice a purple banner at the top of the Tip Board that says “When you can book: 1:32 pm” as of 12:27 pm. This is pursuant to the 120 minute rule–the previous Lightning Lane selection was made at 11:32 am.
At 1:32 pm, that changes to “When you can book: Now.”
This is a minor UI change that makes a meaningful difference.
While it didn’t crack the top 3 for our Genie+ Wish List of Improvements for Walt Disney World, it was deserving of an honorable mention. This is especially true for first-timers who don’t read blogs like this one. To this day, we hear from people who were oblivious to the 120 minute rule until reading about it here–it’s not something actively advertised. (For the longest time, Disney’s official materials only indicated that Lightning Lane “selections can only be made one at a time” without mention of the 2 hour rule. The latter has since been added in some spots.)
More screenshots showing the app in action. Note that in the last screenshot the banner is gone–it’s not sticky, so it disappears once you start scrolling. (This is perfectly fine–having more screen space devoted to the wait and return times is the smarter move.)
This change is impossible to criticize. It’s an improvement for everyone, a small step forward on the ‘quality of life’ front that makes Genie+ more intuitive and user-friendly. Obviously, it’s not a panacea for all that ails the app feature, but it’s good to see UI issues are being addressed.
(Okay, it’s almost impossible to criticize this. Those power users who banked on the app’s opaqueness and hostile design to make it less usable for first-timers might be disappointed by improvements. But you can’t complain about Genie+ having awful UI and also about better UI making it easier to use!)
Previously, the only way to know when you were eligible to make another ride reservation was either by setting an alarm on your phone or simply attempting to make another Lightning Lane selection.
We sometimes did both–setting the alarm while also attempting to make a selection just to confirm that no quirks with the system caused the time to be different than what we expected. (That did occur from time to time, especially early on.)
Next, an update based on other recent news and questions we’ve received resulting from that. As you might’ve seen, Walt Disney World tweaked the Park Pass system earlier this week to add a modify button. As much as we’d love to see it, this has absolutely zero bearing on the feature coming to the Genie+ service. They’re two separate systems with separate teams.
Second, no recent changes should be viewed as a sign or evidence that Walt Disney World will soon be eliminating the 2 pm Park Hopper restriction. To the best of our knowledge, this is intended to stick around for the long term. Other tweaks could be made to Park Hopping, but that’s not likely to be one of them–the limitation helps with resource allocation and crowd distribution. We expect that rule to stick around through 2023.
Now, 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.”
Our initial commentary was highly critical of this change, focusing on the frustrations for Park Hopping and “stacking” Lightning Lane reservations for afternoon arrivals. We emphasized how this would be more work for these guests, make the process more difficult, and likelihood of fewer Lightning Lanes per day on average as a result. All of that remains accurate.
The issue is that we underemphasized the upside for less knowledgeable first timers and those without the Park Hopper option (my numbers are dated by a few years, but last I knew, that was a majority of guests). The upside is that 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. Many of you correctly pointed this out.
This is something we should’ve immediately identified and acknowledged, especially since our previous post about frustrating Genie+ changes (among many others) reminded readers that power users are not and should not be the intended beneficiaries of Genie+ changes. The whole Genie system and its policies were formulated in response to complaints from Walt Disney World first-timers.
Most commonly, this comes up in the context of same-day selections rather than those made 30 or 60 days in advance. While the latter is favored by many savvy planners and repeat visitors–disproportionately the readers of blogs like this one–it was not popular with park-goers as a whole. Most first-timers are not planning their day months in advance, and had no clue they could make ride reservations until arriving. By then, it was already too late.
Ultimately, Genie+ has a lot of problems. It’s convoluted, confusing, and counterintuitive in plenty of ways that are troublesome for first-timers and longtime fans. There’s still a lot of that to be resolved, and those improvements would more or less benefit everyone equally by virtue of fewer headaches and less screen time. The addition of this “when you can book” banner is one small step in that direction. It’s an unequivocal improvement for everyone.
Additionally, in revisiting the previous Park Hopper change through an objective lens, that is also a net positive. While it theoretically disadvantages Annual Passholders and knowledge guests with Park Hopper tickets who are attempting to utilize savvy strategy, we are not the target audiences for these changes. The goal is democratization, making it easier to use for more guests–reducing the concentration of Lightning Lanes among experienced power users. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that, instead judging changes on the basis of the benefits inured by us, personally.
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? Pleased to see this “when you can book” banner? Do you consider this a meaningfully positive improvement to the Tip Board? 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!