Is Disney’s new paid FastPass, Genie+, worth it? Here’s how it saved me nearly 3 hours in line
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Once upon a time, in a reality far, far away (before the monthslong 2020 pandemic shutdown), there was a time when every family that entered Disney World had access to three magical FastPasses they could book in advance of their visit.
After using those planned cut-the-line passes, families could then book more free FastPasses, as they were available, throughout the day in the parks. But like most good fairy tales, that bliss was not to last.
When Disney World reopened in July 2020, it did so without FastPass.
The truth is, FastPass wasn’t immediately needed after the reopening, as the crowds were so light in the initial months. But as the crowds built back up later in 2020 and into 2021, so did people’s desire for a way to skip the line without spending thousands of dollars on a private VIP tour.
To replace its former FastPass perk, Disney has unveiled paid services called Genie+ and Lightning Lanes that offer elements of the retired, free system but with some distinctly different features. Now that Genie+ and Lightning Lanes have rolled out, we did the only thing we know how to do when deciding if something is really worth it — we tested the heck out of it in a head-to-head competition.
For this Genie+ test, TPG sent two staffers (senior editor Nick Ewen and myself) down to Orlando with the goal of planning out roughly the same day at Disney World.
We would start and end at the same time and work from the same list of must-do rides. The difference? One person (me) lucked out and had access to the fee-based Genie+ service and individual Lightning Lanes (for an added cost), and the other … didn’t.
Here’s what we learned during our visit and how it helps answer this question: Is Disney’s Genie+ worth it?
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Disney Genie+ basics
This new system is going to be confusing at first … and maybe for quite a while. To help, we created a whole guide on Disney Genie+ that I recommend you read, but here’s a quick summary:
This is the new, free part of the MyDisney Experience app that helps optimize your day by making suggestions on what to do in which order, predicting future wait times and more. As a pretty experienced Disney guest, this part wasn’t the most useful for me and wasn’t part of this test.
This is essentially the new, paid FastPass. At Disney World, it costs $15 per day and gives you access to Lightning Lanes at a large number of attractions at each park.
The catch? You can only book one Lightning Lane at a time starting at 7 a.m. on the day you visit. However, you can get more of these times to ride either as you use them or after two hours have passed since you last grabbed one, which is useful in case you are stacking them for an afternoon or evening park visit.
Individual Lightning Lanes
In each Disney World theme park, there are two attractions with special Lightning Lanes that cost extra to use. You do not need to purchase Genie+ to be able to pay for access to the individual Lightning Lanes, though you can purchase both if you want.
These individually sold Lightning Lanes not included in Genie+ are for the extra-popular rides, which include:
- Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Epcot: Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Animal Kingdom: Avatar Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest
- Hollywood Studios: Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
You can purchase up to two individual Lightning Lanes, which cost $7 to $15 per ride, per person, for every day you visit.
Disney occasionally makes changes to which Lightning Lane attractions are included with Genie+ and which must be purchased individually. You can check the latest updates on Disney’s website prior to your visit.
Our goals that day and how we planned the test
This wasn’t a flat-out race to see who could do more rides. Rather, the goal was to approximate an ambitious but otherwise average family day at Disney that included a park hop, a stop for lunch and an emphasis on some big-name rides with a few classics mixed in.
Our priority rides at the Magic Kingdom were Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Haunted Mansion, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mad Tea Party, Pirates of the Caribbean and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
At Epcot, we wanted to ride Soarin’ Around the World, Frozen Ever After, Living with the Land and Test Track. Anything else we were able to add on at either park was a bonus.
As Disney resort guests, we were able to start riding select attractions 30 minutes before non-resort guests, which we took advantage of to start our ride day at the Magic Kingdom at 8:30 a.m. Park hopping starts at 2 p.m. — which is when we could head to Epcot — and we had to stop by 5:30 p.m. for dinner.
With those rules in play, here’s how the results shook out.
Additional rides with Genie+
For starters, I was able to check off a total of 18 rides from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. — 11 of these were in the Magic Kingdom, and the remaining seven were in Epcot.
Nick was only able to complete 12 in all — eight in the Magic Kingdom and four in Epcot.
While it wasn’t a race, if you’re keeping score, that means I rode 50% more rides than he did. I averaged roughly two rides per hour at the parks, while he managed just 1.33 rides per hour.
As Nick fell further behind in the count, I was able to grab a pair of additional Genie+ slots for some higher-demand rides. Ultimately, these six were the ones I got on that Nick did not:
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Lightning Lane)
- Journey into Imagination with Figment
- Test Track (Lightning Lane)
- Mission: SPACE
But it’s no surprise I’d be able to ride more with access to line-cutting tools. The real comparison involves wait times.
How much time Disney Genie+ saved
With Genie+ already purchased, I fired up my Disney app at 7 a.m. and grabbed my first Genie+ reservation — a slot for Splash Mountain from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. That meant our first couple of rides were done the old-fashioned way: together in line.
However, our early start led to just a 19-minute wait for Space Mountain and a six-minute wait for Haunted Mansion, which had us wondering whether Genie+ was really going to be worth the added cost on a random Tuesday in November.
Even Splash Mountain — my first Genie+ Lightning Lane ride — only saved me five minutes since Nick hopped in the standby queue.
But then as the minutes ticked later, things got interesting.
Here’s a chart that breaks down the 12 rides that we both did during our day in the parks.
|Ride||Line type for Summer||Summer’s wait||Nick’s wait||Time saved|
|Space Mountain (together)||Didn’t use Genie+||19 mins||19 mins||N/A|
|Haunted Mansion (together)||Didn’t use Genie+||6 mins||6 mins||N/A|
|Splash Mountain||Lightning Lane||3 mins||8 mins||5 mins|
|Big Thunder Mountain||Didn’t use Genie+||25 mins||27 mins||2 mins|
|Pirates of the Caribbean||Lightning Lane||3 mins||17 mins||14 mins|
|Seven Dwarfs Mine Train||Extra cost Lightning Lane||6 mins||1 hour, 19 mins||1 hour, 13 mins|
|Buzz Lightyear||Lightning Lane||2 mins||11 mins||9 mins|
|Tea Cups||Lightning Lane||2 mins||15 mins||13 mins|
|Soarin’||Lightning Lane||5 mins||23 mins||18 mins|
|Living with the Land||Didn’t use Genie+||5 mins||5 mins||None|
|Frozen||Extra cost Lightning Lane||4 mins||44 mins||40 mins|
|Three Caballeros (together)||Didn’t use Genie+||5 mins||5 mins||N/A|
|TOTALS||N/A||1 hour, 25 mins||4 hours, 19 mins||2 hours, 54 mins|
As you can see, the overall wait times across our list of rides differed significantly.
When you compare the wait times for those where I had Genie+, it’s an even bigger difference.
All Lightning Lanes
As noted above, I skipped the lines using the Lightning Lane at seven rides that Nick also did (five in the Magic Kingdom and two in Epcot). Here were our total wait times on those rides:
- Summer: 25 minutes (16 minutes at Magic Kingdom and nine minutes at Epcot)
- Nick: 3 hours, 17 minutes (two hours, 10 minutes at Magic Kingdom and one hour, 7 minutes at Epcot)
In total, I saved two hours, 52 minutes on the rides I had Lightning Lane for and Nick didn’t — or an average of about 25 minutes per ride. When you consider the $34 I spent for Genie+ and the “fancy” Lightning Lanes, I essentially saved about five minutes for every $1 I spent.
Individual Lightning Lanes
My two “fancy” Lightning Lanes were for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ($10) and Frozen Ever After ($9). These rides alone saved me a ton of time:
- Summer: 10 minutes (six minutes for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and four minutes for Frozen Ever After)
- Nick: two hours, three minutes (one hour, 19 minutes for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and 44 minutes for Frozen Ever After)
All in all, I saved one hour, 53 minutes — or an average of 56 minutes per ride on those two individually priced Lightning Lane attractions. For Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, every $1 I spent saved me more than seven minutes of waiting in line, while for Frozen Ever After, each $1 I spent saved me roughly four-and-a-half minutes.
The biggest downside to Genie+
All that time saved sounds great, right? It is, but there is a downside not captured in the charts.
While cost is certainly a factor when you are already dealing with Disney-sized budgets, an additional $15 per day for Genie+ isn’t necessarily the biggest drawback.
The biggest downside to Genie+, specifically, is that it can cause you to spend more time on your phone, meaning you’ll be less present in the moment. And when you are paying Disney prices for things, that’s a pretty big trade-off.
When you’re paying extra for a service like Genie+, you may be tempted to get the most bang for your buck by regularly using your phone to check for ride availability in the Disney app. However, maximizing what’s possible in Genie+ may cause your visit to stop feeling like a vacation in the process.
If you want to minimize your time on your phone, you have to decide not to be greedy. Try to prioritize two rides you really want early on, then casually pick from what is available as you use your selections.
If you only want to buy one thing — make it this
As we showed above, in our one nine-hour park day, I saved 174 minutes by having Genie+ and purchasing two of the individually priced Lightning Lanes for the super popular rides. That’s roughly three hours saved, though it’s worth noting that 113 of those minutes saved came from just two rides: Frozen Ever After and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Without Lightning Lane, Nick spent 79 minutes in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and 44 minutes waiting to ride Frozen Ever After.
If you don’t want to mess with Genie+, consider buying up to two individual Lightning Lanes per day. That alone saved me almost two hours in line.
Based on our experience, the individual Lightning Lanes that are most worth the purchase on an average day are Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Avatar Flight of Passage, Frozen Ever After and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
Other rides like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Space Mountain may also be worth the splurge, depending on when you visit each park and if you can get a virtual boarding pass for Remy.
Is Genie+ worth it?
It cost me $15 for a day of Genie+, $10 for the individual Lightning Lane for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and another $9 for the individual Lightning Lane for Frozen Ever After. That’s a total of $34 I spent that Nick didn’t that day at Disney.
While $34 isn’t a ton of money for one person to spend on one day relative to all the other costs that come with a Disney vacation, that number grows considerably for a family visiting on multiple days. At that cost, it would add more than $400 to a three-day visit for a family of four.
But, as we’ve laid out, my $34 spent meant I was able to easily ride six more rides than Nick in our nine-hour park day thanks to waiting 174 fewer minutes in line. That translates to spending an extra $5.66 for each additional ride or an extra 20 cents for an available minute to do something else like see a parade, rest, shop or watch a show.
While Genie+ has some quirks that I hope are improved over time, it can certainly save you time in line and allow you to experience more than you would otherwise have time for.
In that respect, I do think Disney’s Genie+ is worth it — especially if you’re short on time or patience.
I love having a way to spend less time in line that doesn’t cost thousands of dollars per day, and there’s no doubt that Genie+ and Lightning Lanes can get you out of the lines and onto more rides. But don’t despair if the extra costs don’t fit in your budget.
There are other ways to save time in line. For example, true rope dropping still works (you just have to be there well before the actual opening time to line up). Likewise, the late evenings — up until the minute before the park closes, as long as you’re in line — are still good times to find lower wait times.
Even with Genie+, you will have periods of time in the middle of the day where you’ll have to wait. So if you are in town longer or have an annual pass, don’t feel like you need to get it to max out each day. You can skip Genie+ and just buy the one or two “fancy” Lightning Lanes you really want so you still save some time in line without blowing your budget.
If you do decide to get Genie+, know that you’ll get out of it what you put in. To avoid spending the bulk of your vacation on your phone, I’d recommend taking some easy wins and not stressing about maximizing your time on rides. That way, you can truly enjoy your day at the most magical place on Earth.
Additional reporting by Nick Ewen.
Featured image by author.
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