Lightning Lanes v. Genie+ at Disney World

If you’re confused by the differences between the free Genie feature, paid Genie+ service, Lightning Lanes, and individual attraction selections at Walt Disney World, this comparison and explanation is here to help. It breaks down what each are and offer, along with an analogy and further explanations.

This is intended to supplement our Lightning Lane and Genie+ at Walt Disney World FAQ. Recently, we’ve been receiving questions that confusion Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, and it’s absolutely fundamental and foundational knowledge that you understand the differences. Otherwise, you won’t get the rest of it. Honestly, what’s covered here should have been the very top of that FAQ, but I assumed too much. That’s my bad–not yours. This is incredibly convoluted and confusing, and the way Walt Disney World has rolled it out has left a lot to be desired from a guest education perspective.

I do want to reassure you that this all gets easier to understand over time. As a thought experiment, try to assume a veil of ignorance about FastPass+ at Walt Disney World. Now consider all of the different tiers, the 30 day v. 60 day rule, the check-in extension rule, 4th FastPass+ scenarios, refresh strategy, Park Hopping hacks, same-day drop times–the list goes on and on. Most longtime Walt Disney World fans take FastPass+ for granted, but it had a steep learning curve. Which is part of the reason fans loved it–the barriers to entry and confusion created meant FastPass+ was easier to leverage for power users than average guests.

Many fans are confused by Genie+ and Lightning Lanes right now, and that’s absolutely understandable given that you’ve never used them and Walt Disney World still hasn’t announced all of the specifics. There are a ton of absolutely legitimate complaints about this. While certainly not the only criticism, the cost of the once-free service is far and away the most valid of those. (If you’re upset, we’d recommend emailing Walt Disney World and respectfully articulating how Genie+ will impact your future business with the company.)

“It’s too complicated and confusing” is not a particularly persuasive complaint. At least, not coming from fans who mastered FastPass+, the most unnecessarily complex ride reservation system at any Disney theme park in the world. Ask anyone who used both FastPass+ and MaxPass (again, the Genie system is built around MaxPass) more than a couple of times which was more user-friendly. I’d hazard a guess that over 75% would respond that MaxPass was easier to use and more laid back.

If you have an advanced degree in Walt Disney World vacation planning, the Genie system is only intimidating because it’s new and unknown, and currently an abstraction. It’s the type of thing you need to play with to understand. Give yourself a couple of hours with the app feature–you’ll be fine. Of course, that doesn’t wave away all of the many other complaints, but maybe it offers a little peace of mind?

But I digress. Back to the basics, with an explanation of what each component of this new system replacing free FastPass+ at Walt Disney World entails…

Lightning Lanes

Lightning Lanes are the new name for FastPass+ entrances, meaning they are actual queues or lines. Something guests who purchased Genie+ or individual attraction line-skipping access will use.

To illustrate, the Lightning Lane is the entrance on the left in the photo above. The standby line is the entrance on the right. In the coming weeks, expect FastPass+ entrances to get new signage as they’re converted to Lightning Lanes.

Lightning Lanes exist in the physical world. Disney Genie+ is a service that exists in the digital world–on the Grid. You can walk through a Lightning Lane–you can scroll through the Genie+ service with your fingers.

Free Disney Genie service

The free Disney Genie service in the My Disney Experience app will “maximize your park time” via a personalized itinerary feature that will “quickly and seamlessly map out an entire day.” It will also offer forecasted wait times throughout the day and attraction suggestions, so you can save time in line.

While Walt Disney World highlighted the free components of Disney Genie in its announcement, no one else is focusing on this for a few reasons. First, Disney IT doesn’t exactly have the best track record, so there’s considerable skepticism that this will work as advertised. Second, Disney promised similar features with My Disney Experience almost a decade ago, and none of those features materialized. (It’s a good day when the app works without crashing!) Finally, even if the free Disney Genie service works, it’s more likely to benefit the company than guests.

Maybe Disney will prove everyone wrong and deliver a free service that changes the game. Given past precedent, I’m not willing to give Walt Disney World the benefit of the doubt on that. Accordingly, we won’t be devoting any attention to the free Disney Genie service until it actually arrives–and works as advertised.

Disney Genie+ service

Disney Genie+ service is an option you can purchase in the My Disney Experience app for $15 per day that will give you priority access via the Lightning Lane at a variety of attractions, like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Splash Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, Spaceship Earth, Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and many others. It’ll offer line-skipping access to approximately 40 attractions in total–minus two highly-popular headliners in each park.

The Genie+ service is essentially a digital version of paper FastPass, which was used prior to FastPass+ at Walt Disney World. Except instead of walking around the park to obtain paper slips with day-of return times, you do that via your phone. (More accurately/recently, it’s a modified version of the MaxPass service at Disneyland.)

Genie+ is theoretically unlimited. More practically, average guests will be obtaining new Genie+ return times every ~90 to 120 minutes. Like its predecessors (legacy FastPass and MaxPass), Genie+ will have internal rules inherited from those systems to ensure guests are not being shut out of subsequent selections by virtue of delayed return time windows. Those rules have not yet been announced by Walt Disney World.

Individual attraction selections

Individual attraction selections allow you to schedule a time to arrive at up to two highly demanded attractions each day, again via the Lightning Lane entrance, like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

This is pay per ride access for up to 2 attractions in each park, as opposed to the ‘bundle’ of theoretically unlimited access offered by the Genie+ service. Attractions will either be included in Genie+ or sold as individual attraction selections–not both. There is no overlap between Genie+ and individual attraction selections. The latter will be sold at approximately 7-8 attractions in total across Walt Disney World.

Pricing for the individual attraction selections option will vary by date, attraction, and park–and will be announced closer to launch. Pricing for the comparable Premier Access at Disneyland Paris ranges from €8 to €15 (~$10 to $18) depending on the attraction and day of visit. Think of it like Express Lanes on highways—dynamic pricing that increases with demand.

Individual attraction selections are likely the source of most consumer confusion, as they don’t have a catchy name. Our guess is that many fans are conflating Lightning Lanes (physical queues!) with individual attraction selections, which is inaccurate–but an absolutely understandable error. For a company that is so good at branding and marketing, it seems like a pretty big oversight to not give “individual attraction selections” its own catchy name.

I’m inclined to start calling the individual attraction selections “Magic Carpet Access,” which would make sense, avoid any confusion, create clear product distinctions, and fit with the Aladdin-inspired branding.

All options in practice

1. Standby or Virtual Queue (all attractions, $0)
2. Genie+ via Lightning Lane (~40 attractions, $15 per day and theoretically unlimited)
3. Magic Carpet Access via Lightning Lane (~8 of the highest demand attractions, unknown cost per ride)

All attractions will have #1. Most if not all previous FastPass+ attractions will have 2 or 3, but not both.

I love a good analogy, so think of this all like the diamond lane on the highway (or carpool/HOV lane, depending upon where you live). That fast lane often has various rules for eligibility–hybrids, motorcycles, public mass transit, or vehicles with two or more occupants can use it to facilitate more efficient use of highways.

In that example, Lightning Lanes are the diamond lane–the physical infrastructure on the highway, or in this case, the attraction’s queue that bypasses the gridlocked standby line. The different types of vehicles that can use that physical fast lane are Genie+ or individual attraction purchases, plus things like DAS and Rider Switch. The only material difference in the analogy is that the same Lightning Lane will not give access to both Genie+ and individual attraction purchases–it’ll be either/or.

Okay, with that foundation in place, we can now get to the other 1,248 questions about the Disney Genie+ system and Lightning Lane physical infrastructure. Again, it’s intimidating now, but it’ll make sense over time. Just like driving a car on the highway, it’s a lot easier to grasp when you’re actually doing it as opposed to reading about it on the internet.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


Have any questions we didn’t answer with the above? Still confused by how Genie+ or Lightning Lanes will work? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Other thoughts or concerns? 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!

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