Genie+ has reached a record high price at Walt Disney World for the peak week of Thanksgiving, with 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 this week, and other commentary on the paid FastPass service. (Updated November 21, 2023.)
For starters, let’s talk crowds. It’s not going to surprise anyone that this is going to be a busy week. Our most recent crowd report, Holiday Crowd Wave Swells & Subsides at Walt Disney World, predicted that Walt Disney World would see another another big spike in attendance and wait times. It’ll almost certainly be worse than Veterans Day and Jersey Week, and probably the busiest week at Walt Disney World since April. However, it probably will not surpass Easter–the last truly busy holiday.
More specifically, we forecast that November 20 would be the busiest day of Thanksgiving week since Monday is the busiest day of almost every week (it had the highest wait times during Thanksgiving week last year), but don’t discount Tuesday or Wednesday–those were also 10/10 days last year. Thanksgiving and Black Friday were both 9/10 days, while Saturday was 6/10. By Sunday, the surge had subsided, and the week that followed had a crowd level of 2/10. That’s precisely why it’s Our Favorite Week of the Entire Year at Walt Disney World.
Against that backdrop, here are the prices for Genie+ at Walt Disney World for November 20-21, 2023:
Multiple Parks (valid with Park Hopper tickets): $35
Magic Kingdom: $35
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: $32
Animal Kingdom: $25
November 21, 2023 Update: For the second straight day, Genie+ prices are at record highs (see above). Moreover, Magic Kingdom has now sold out for the day, and Multiple Parks along with it. (Presumably, Multiple Parks becomes unavailable when any park sells out.)
Today’s crowd level at Magic Kingdom is only 3/10 with an average wait time of 29 minutes for the entire entire. However, the real-time numbers look much worse, with wait times quickly rising. It’s also a party-shortened day due to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, meaning that guests have less time to get as much done.
Yesterday, Magic Kingdom hit a 10/10, with an average wait time for the day of 47 minutes. As mentioned above, Monday should be the busiest day of the holiday week across Walt Disney World as a whole. That was amplified at Magic Kingdom, because Monday was the only day in a 4-day stretch with no Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Magic Kingdom closes at 6 pm on party days, which causes crowds to consolidate into the days when the event is not being held. Having 3 out of 4 days be MVMCP is a bad idea always, but doubly so during a busy week like this. A really guest-unfriendly scheduling decision, if you ask me.
Wednesday is also a party shortened day at Magic Kingdom, and our expectation is that Genie+ will again sell out around noon. Thursday (Thanksgiving) should start to see a slight reprieve from the crowds and normal operating hours at all parks. That might be enough that Genie+ does not sell out on Thanksgiving. We’ll keep you posted!
I know many of you are going to vehemently disagree, but we view it as slightly good news that Genie+ is “only” $35 on what’s likely to be the worst day of Thanksgiving week. Obviously, this is higher than the then-record high price of $29 on the same date last year. But before you grab the pitchforks, hear us out!
First of all, this $35 price point is not a new record–it’s a repeat of a prior record. For those keeping score at home, the last time Genie+ hit this all-time high for prices was Easter week. This was prior to Walt Disney World adopting per-park pricing, which is significant, because that model enabled Walt Disney World to charge more for Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Park Hopping. EPCOT essentially became the new baseline, with Animal Kingdom being the new “discount” option.
This price segmentation was marketed one way by Walt Disney World, but the real purpose was charging more for the in-demand parks and multiple parks without losing out on sales at the less in-demand ones. (We won’t climb back up on our soapbox, but we almost never recommend using Genie+ at Animal Kingdom, as it’s a waste of money. Part of the reason we’ll spare you that rant is because this is one of the few weeks that’s a potential exception to that rule and Genie+ might be worth buying at DAK.)
Anyway, our expectation was that Genie+ pricing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s weeks would be in-line with Easter, but adjusted for per-park pricing. That meant Magic Kingdom and Park Hopping hitting $40, Disney’s Hollywood Studios costing ~$37, EPCOT at ~$35, and Animal Kingdom at ~$30. That this didn’t happen is a small victory.
Well, a small victory for now. There’s always the possibility of Walt Disney World seeing “unanticipated” high demand for Genie+ and raising later this week. It wouldn’t be the first time that prices have gone up after crowds have peaked, and the odds of it occurring increase if Genie+ sells out at one or multiple parks today.
It’s also possible that the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s are more expensive. Last year, crowd levels were higher those two weeks (and the first week of January) than Thanksgiving.
In case you’re wondering, the last time Genie+ sold was during Easter week–April 4-6. On all three of those days, the service sold out at or around 10 am. April 6 was a new record for the earliest Genie+ has ever sold out, going unavailable at around 9:45 am.
Prior to that, Genie+ sold out on two consecutive days over Presidents’ Day weekend and once during Florida’s spring break this March. From what we’ve seen, higher prices do not discourage guests from purchasing paid FastPass. To the contrary, the only dates that have sold out have been the most expensive ones. This makes sense, as the price is higher when attendance is higher–and the stakes are higher, too. Simply put, there’s more of a need for line-skipping on days like today.
Three days is hardly a trend, but one dynamic we noticed over Easter week is that it seemed like sell outs beget more sell outs. Guests develop Genie+ FOMO, seeing that it sold out the previous day and thus moving faster to purchase it the next. Suffice to say, if Genie does sell out today, expect it to also sell out Tuesday and Wednesday–and probably faster.
One reason why Genie+ may not sell out is the aforementioned switch to per-park pricing. It may seem notable that Genie+ has not sold out since the debut of this model, but it isn’t. At this point, that’s more a coincidence–even though it launched several months ago, there simply have not been any truly busy days since then.
There has not been a single 10/10 crowd level day since Easter, and only a handful of 9/10 days. And for what it’s worth, there’s a very big difference between a holiday peak 10/10 day and a 9/10 day–much more pronounced than the difference between an 8/10 day and a 9/10 day.
With that said, per-park pricing could help reduce the likelihood of Genie+ selling out. It’s our understanding that, previously, Animal Kingdom was actually often the park that “dictated” whether Genie+ sold out. This may seem counterintuitive–and it sorta is–but this apparently was less a matter of high demand than it was low supply. Animal Kingdom is the park with the fewest rides and lowest Lightning Lane capacity, so when it ran out of options, Genie+ sold out across the board.
I cannot speak to the veracity of this, but it makes sense to me. I guess we’ll see if Animal Kingdom sells out first. I think you could probably make a compelling case for EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios selling out quickly for similar reasons–low capacity, but higher demand than Animal Kingdom. Heck, even Magic Kingdom is a candidate for selling out–today due to the consolidated crowds and the next two days due to the 6 pm closing (despite lower crowds).
No matter which park sells out first, we’d expect the Park Hopping option to go with it. Regardless, it’ll be fascinating to watch which park(s) sell out over the course of this week. Or if none at all do, reflecting a further exhaustion of pent-up demand and/or Walt Disney World overselling Lightning Lanes. We shall see!
What follows is my standard commentary about Genie+ and price inelasticity, crowds, etc…
When it comes to commentary, the short and simple of it is that there’s a certain amount of price inelasticity when it comes to paid line-skipping. Most guests who don’t balk at the $30 price point also are unlikely to be dissuaded from buying the service when it’s priced at $35.
With that said, we’re now getting to the point where that may no longer be true for many guests. It wasn’t that long ago that Walt Disney World switched to date-based pricing for the Genie+ service; prior to that, every day was priced at $15 plus tax. That change occurred just over a year ago, so at least some of the people traveling today likely planned their trips back then, budgeting for the old price.
That means the $35 price amounts to an increase of over $20 (post-tax) per person. For a family of 4, that’s a difference of more than $80 per day. Over the course of a 5-day trip, that’s potentially an increase of $400. That’s not the total amount, just the extra amount as compared to what was budgeted. That is a very significant added expense in the grand scheme of things!
With that said, it is still not necessarily major when compared to the cost of a Walt Disney World vacation as a whole, which has been precisely my concern with the company incrementally increasing prices like this, in search of a ceiling. I’m not sure they’re going to find one anytime soon, and worry about where it could eventually end up.
Think about it this way: if you spent $10,000 for your family to visit Walt Disney World and were willing to pay peak season room rates for hotels and tickets over Thanksgiving, are you going to balk at paying ~$400 extra to avoid long lines and crowds? Or are you going to spend ~$80 more for your family to have Genie+ and “ensure” your experience is good and that $10,000 wasn’t wasted?
To be abundantly clear: $400 extra is a lot of money, especially if you didn’t plan on that expense. However, it’s less than 5% of the cost of the vacation as a whole, which seems like a reasonable amount for “insurance” to make sure you don’t lose the full value of the $10,000. (Hopefully that makes some degree of sense.)
In a nutshell, my position is that demand for Genie+ is relatively inelastic with incrementally higher prices for the line-skipping service. This is because Genie+ is still a relatively minor cost in the grand scheme of a Walt Disney World vacation.
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 a relatively “small” (air quotes) price to pay for peace of mind in the grand scheme of things.
Complain as they might, most people will reluctantly fork over the extra money rather than risk a bad trip. They’ve already spent so much–what’s another “few hundred dollars” on top of a multi-thousand dollar trip if it’ll offer a competitive advantage?!
In various ways, we’ve seen all of this play out for years with date-based pricing on everything else at Walt Disney World. Whether it be for park tickets, resorts, or the Genie+ service, date-based pricing is an effective way for the company to accomplish its desired optimizations at Walt Disney World. There are certain times of year that experience higher demand for a number of reasons–school schedules, seasonal events, weather, etc.
Charging incrementally higher prices for these times of year allows Walt Disney World to capitalize on and profit from that inherently higher demand. That’s the goal–not preserving the guest experience or whatever the talking point might be. Increasing prices on that quasi-captive audience is simply savvy business or opportunism, depending upon your perspective.
The alternative to continually incrementally increasing prices in search of a ceiling is determining a fair price that balances demand with guest satisfaction, and letting Genie+ sell out at that level. Due to the aforementioned price inelasticity, who knows what the limit is for Genie+ during peak season.
When it moved to date-based pricing, I was inclined to believe $25 would be the magic number. As I sit here today, I truly wonder how much sales would even slow down at $40 or $50. People are willing to throw a lot of money at making problems on vacation go away; long lines and high wait times are the ultimate problem at Walt Disney World.
The problem with that line of thinking is that it also comes with higher expectations. I still remember the first two months after Genie+ first launched up until the week of Thanksgiving; it worked amazingly well and was priced at $15 per person after tax. Even then, diehard fans were understandably upset at going from free FastPass+ to paid line-skipping.
Genie+ is more than double that price, which brings with it higher expectations of being able to score more Lightning Lanes. (In my testing over Veterans Day/Jersey Week, I actually was able to score more Lightning Lanes than during Spring Break, but it’s impossible to tell whether this was “caused” by lower crowds or improvements to Lightning Lane inventory. My guess is a bit of both.)
This isn’t idle speculation; we’ve seen exactly this happen as costs have increased all around Walt Disney World. Guests didn’t magically become more entitled, stressed out, etc–it was all a direct result of higher prices and rising expectations resulting therefrom.
With this comes greater tensions among everyone (guests and Cast Members; guests and other guests), which negatively impacts the overall mood. (Not to go on too much of a tangent, but this is one of the great things about Disneyland–everything is much more laid back and lower stakes, and the energy is obviously different and better as a result.)
Unsurprisingly, that also impacts guest satisfaction scores and intent to return metrics. Since his return, Bob Iger has taken a keen interest in this, already empowering leaders at Walt Disney World and Disneyland to make changes and roll back previously-made and unpopular decisions. Genie+ pricing would seem to fit squarely within that initiative.
Ultimately, there’s no easy fix to this issue for Walt Disney World. Aside from park expansion and more new rides (hardly immediate fixes), no perfect solution exists that balances supply and demand and keeps everyone happy (both those who purchase Genie+ and those who opt against it). There’s also the company’s obvious and understandable short-term “desire” to maximize revenue and profits, which is precisely how it ended up on the current path–going from free FastPass to Genie+ costing $35 per person per day (plus tax) for Park Hopping or Magic Kingdom.
It’ll be really interesting to see whether Genie+ sells out on Wednesday (November 22, 2023). Again, the first three days of the week should be busier than Thanksgiving and Black Friday. If it does continue to sell out, will Genie+ hit $40 later in the week? If not, will the price be lowered by the weekend? Given Walt Disney World’s reactionary pricing, will the cost remain elevated even after the Thanksgiving crowds have started to depart on Saturday?
My sincere hope is 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. In that scenario, $35 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!)
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 Genie+ reaching its record high price of $35? If you’re visiting during the weeks of Thanksgiving, 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!