Is Disney Genie as powerful as it seems? Here’s what I learned after testing it out
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When Disney announced Disney Genie in 2019, I was ecstatic. A trip-planning service that would take the guesswork out of where to go, what to do and when to do it at Disney World and Disneyland? Sign me up!
Disney Genie launched Oct. 19 and I convinced my husband it was important that we wake up at 4 a.m. on the following weekend to fly to Orlando and spend a full day at the Magic Kingdom tinkering with this new suite of services.
I loved certain things and found others confusing, but overall I think Disney Genie is a valuable and robust tool once you learn how to make it work for you. Here’s how my day went and some of my top takeaways.
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My Disney Genie journey began before we left for Disney World
A few days before our trip, I paid the $15 plus tax per person to add Genie+ to our existing tickets. I also set up my Disney Genie preferences in the My Disney Experience app and poked around to get familiar with the new features. I added a lot of favorite rides and interests (so many that Genie scolded me and told me to choose fewer), which I think may have been a mistake. I’ll share why in a moment.
I also made our first Genie+ selection. You can do this beginning at 7 a.m. on the day of your visit and then make selections throughout the day after you use each one or after two hours have passed since you booked your last one. I went with Haunted Mansion because it’s one of our Magic Kingdom must-dos and the return time was far enough out that we’d have time for breakfast and one or two rides beforehand.
I spent the morning learning how to navigate the new system
After we landed and were en route to the Magic Kingdom, I looked over Genie’s recommended itinerary for my day. I expected this complimentary feature to be my favorite of the new services and planned to just do whatever Genie suggested.
The suggestions made sense at first. Genie recommended we head toward Peter Pan’s Flight, which does tend to get a long line as the day wears on, but there were also large chunks of time with no recommendations whatsoever. There were also suggestions that didn’t seem to line up with any of my interests, which is why I wished I’d given a little less gusto while I was setting my preferences. Next time, I’ll only add a few favorites to (hopefully) help fine-tune Genie’s suggestions.
The Tip Board, on the other hand, turned out to be my favorite feature included with the free portion of Genie. I had access to current and forecasted wait times, Genie+ and individual Lightning Lane selections, dining options, show times and more.
As soon as we arrived at the park, I checked the Tip Board and found that we had time to ride Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and mobile order breakfast before heading toward the Haunted Mansion.
While we were eating, I noticed the standby queue for Haunted Mansion was only 20 minutes, so I canceled my Genie+ reservation and re-booked a later one for Big Thunder. This was another instance where my lack of familiarity with Disney Genie led me to do something that didn’t really make sense. I could have kept that reservation and made another one for Big Thunder as soon as I tapped in at Haunted Mansion, but I was still getting the hang of it.
When we got off Haunted Mansion, Genie suggested we ride…Haunted Mansion. I do love Haunted Mansion, but I was a little frustrated that it didn’t suggest something different.
Choosing whether to purchase an individual Lightning Lane selection took some consideration
The individual Lightning Lane selections work a little differently than the Genie+ Lightning Lane selections. You can only make two per day and once you make your choice, it can’t be modified or canceled (though they will accommodate you if the attraction goes down). I often skip Seven Dwarfs Mine Train because the wait times hover between one to two hours, which is longer than I’m willing to wait, so I went with that.
It cost $12 each plus tax for us to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. That’s a total of $25.56. The ride did have an 80-minute standby line when it was our time to ride and we waited less than five minutes. The Lightning Lane lines were consistently even faster than the old FastPass lines and, for me, the cost was worth it.
That’s easy to say when it’s a one-time purchase for only two people. But what if we’d been there with our kids? Would I pay $60 for all five of us to skip the line? Probably not. I’d be more likely to enlist one of my other tried-and-true methods for finding shorter wait times like arriving early, staying late, attending an after-hours party, or staying onsite and taking advantage of early entry.
By the afternoon, I felt like I was beginning to figure it out
I spent a lot of time on my phone in the morning, which I was hoping Genie and Genie+ would help me avoid. The biggest difference between Disney Genie and FastPass is that there are so many ways to use Genie and there was really only one way to use FastPass.
These new services are so robust and there is a lot to learn, so it’s inevitable there is going to be a learning curve. At first, I was frustrated about spending so much time on my phone (and draining my battery…remember to bring your external charger!), but I think, like anything else new, it just takes time to get the hang of it.
At first, I felt lost if Genie didn’t have a recommendation for me. I hadn’t made a plan so I was relying on Genie to tell me where to go. Eventually, I treated Genie’s recommendations as just that, suggestions I could choose to follow (or not). I stopped constantly checking my phone and went where I wanted to go. I only checked in with Genie when I was looking for something to do.
This was when it all started to click for me. Instead of having my face buried in my phone, we wandered around and watched a couple of cavalcades and I even visited the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade for the first time. To me, this is the magic of Disney World. These little moments of spontaneity that create lasting memories; not making a beeline from ride to ride without ever stopping to take in the details.
Later in the afternoon, when we had a little break before lunch, I checked the app and Genie recommended the PeopleMover with only a 15-minute wait. This became my preferred way to use Genie’s recommendations. Not sure what you want to do next? Genie will show you recommendations that are nearby, match your interests, and have a low wait.
Speaking of saving time…
When we made it over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad around noon for our first Genie+ reservation, the posted wait was 40 minutes. As soon as we tapped in using the Magic Mobile pass on our phones, I was able to make another Genie+ selection. You do have to tap in twice at each attraction, once at the entrance and again before you board the ride, before you can make another selection.
As soon as I tapped that second tapstile, I made a reservation shortly after for Pirates of the Caribbean. When we arrived at that attraction, the posted wait was 30 minutes. Just between those two attractions, we saved over an hour waiting in line. By the end of the day using a couple more Genie+ reservations, we saved over three hours that would have been spent waiting in line.
There’s been some chatter that Disney is padding wait times to convince you to purchase Genie+, but on the day we visited, that wasn’t the case. I timed each standby lane we waited in and it was accurate within five minutes each time.
The day ended much better than it started
By the end of the day, I was feeling like a real DisneyGenie pro. Before heading back to the hotel for an afternoon break, I made an evening Genie+ reservation for Peter Pan’s Flight. I knew that after two hours I could make another Genie+ selection and could “stack” those to use later in the day. After the allotted time, I made another reservation for Space Mountain right after the fireworks. Genie even helped me out by suggesting I arrive 30 minutes early for the fireworks.
While we waited for the show to begin, we played with the augmented reality filters that are included when you purchase Disney Genie+. I can’t speak for my husband, but I had entirely too much fun with them and, along with the behind-the-scenes audio tales you also get access to, it was a great way to pass the time.
One thing Genie didn’t know was how tired I was after that 4 a.m. wakeup call. After the fireworks, we skipped out on our Space Mountain return time and left for a quick dinner before retiring for the evening.
The good and the not-so-good
Like I mentioned earlier, I loved the Tip Board. Seeing wait times, dining, and everything else in one place was invaluable. I utilized it more than any other feature (except maybe the AR filters).
Although it took me a while to get used to, I really appreciated Genie’s flexibility. I no longer feel like I need to have my entire day planned out before I arrive at the park. If it gave me a recommendation I wasn’t interested in, I could swap it out (playfully called a “swaperoo” in the app) or ask Genie to remove it from my day.
I also liked that Genie steers you toward attractions you might otherwise skip over. Country Bear Jamboree and the Carousel of Progress might not be headliners, but they are tons of fun and an important part of Disney history. I never regret it when I do make time for them.
On the other hand, the app gave me a lot of issues throughout the day. Sometimes, the app just gave me a blank screen and I couldn’t see my selections or make new ones. It’s also a lot of new information to take in. The first time you use it, there’s a good chance you’ll spend a lot of time on your phone. Don’t let that discourage you.
Once you play around with it and find the features that work with the way you like to do Disney, you won’t need to rely on your phone nearly as much. You can use the three services independently or in tandem in a way that makes sense for your day.
Is it worth the extra money to skip the line?
There’s no easy answer to that question because there are so many factors to take into consideration. You have to account for how many people are in your party, how long you’ll be at Disney, which parks you’ll be visiting, which rides you hope to get on, how much time you’re willing to wait in line, and, of course, your vacation budget.
For example, at Epcot, where there are fewer attractions that use Genie+ (and I spend most of the day eating and drinking around the world anyway), I would probably only use the free Genie planning service and maybe purchase Lightning Lane for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure if I didn’t get a boarding group. But I know other people who prefer to pay for any and everything that is going to make their Disney trip easier and they would likely add Disney Genie+ to their entire vacation package and purchase individual Lightning Lane selections every day.
If you are on a tight budget, but want the convenience of skipping the line, you could cut spending elsewhere by choosing quick-service meals or staying in a Value resort rather than a Moderate one. It really depends on what is most important to you and how much money you are willing to trade for your time.
Is Disney Genie perfect? No. But neither am I and, luckily, my friends and family still keep me around. There are a lot of good things about Disney Genie, Disney Genie+, and the individual Lightning Lane access and I think over time, they’ll get even better.
I definitely felt I got a good value for the money I spent on Genie+, but I probably wouldn’t spend the extra on individual Lightning Lane selections unless it was an attraction I hadn’t experienced before or if my kids were melting down and I knew 60 minutes in line could mean disaster.
Based on my experience, I think Disney is trying to get people away from the minute-by-minute, regimented planning that often happens at Disney World. I’ve been one of those people and I always have more fun when I go in with a loose plan and just a few must-dos each day. Now, Disney Genie can help you fill in the gaps between those must-dos, leaving more opportunity for fun, surprises, and maybe even a little Disney magic.
Featured photo courtesy of Tarah Chieffi
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