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Disney’s Genie+ Service: Walt Disney World Makes the Move to Charging for FastPasses

I just spent 30 minutes trying to find a picture of myself with the Genie and for some reason they've all disappeared. (You'd think I'd have 100s with him being at every race in some form, alas…) Anyway, you get this instead. I hope it's close enough.

That aside, we all know why we're here. Disney announced lots of details and a loose arrival date of early fall for its new Disney Genie service, first teased at D23 in 2019.

The detail that's getting the most attention today is the introduction of what's effectively a paid FastPass system. Here's the run down: 

  • The Genie service itself is free. It will live in your phone and offer assistance with trip planning from the date you first book until you're here for your trip. It will do things like suggest daily itineraries and the best times to ride certain attractions. 
  • The Disney Genie+ service is separate and available for purchase for $15 per person/ticket per day at Walt Disney World Resort and $20 per person/ticket per day at Disneyland Resort.
  • If you opt to buy it, you'll be able to choose the next available time to arrive at a variety of attractions and experiences using the Lightning Lane entrance – much like MaxPass in Disneyland. (So FastPass entrances will now be called Lightning Lanes.)
  • Lightning Lane selections will be made on the same day of your visit and can be used across multiple theme parks if you are park hopping. You can make one selection at a time, throughout the day – always subject to limited availability.
  • To allow for more flexibility, attractions will continue to offer a traditional standby queue, or a virtual queue at certain attractions like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
  • Disney Genie+ will also include Disney parks-themed audio experiences and photo features to capture your memories – augmented reality lenses for those visiting Walt Disney World Resort and unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads from your day if you are visiting Disneyland Resort.
  • Over and above the cost of the service, individual attraction selections for some of the most sought after attractions will be available for purchase a la carte INSTEAD of as a part of the main Disney+ service. You'll be able to make separate paid bookings for the Lightning Lane at up to two of these highly demanded attractions each day. This will include things like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom and Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure. These are also subject to limited availability and, as I mentioned above, won't be included in the base $15/$20 Disney Genie+ purchase. Pricing for this option will vary by date, attraction and park and will be announced closer to launch of the service. You'll be able to buy this in addition to OR instead of the $15/$20 general option. 
  • This service will be replacing the FastPass, FastPass+ and Disney MaxPass services – all of which will be retired.

There are also changes coming to Disney's Disability Access Service (for DAS). There will now be an option to enroll in the program pre-arrival and for DAS participants to select attractions directly in the app. These options will be in addition to the current in-person DAS program.

My thoughts…

So initial thoughts? For starters, it's too soon to judge. How this plays out is yet to be seen. 

For vacationers, this might end up being a great option. It presumably won't be as widely used a FastPasses, so it will probably be easier to book things. And because things are booked same day, it allows for a more spontaneous vacation – eliminating that old feeling that you needed to start planning the minutia of your trip 2-6 months out. On the flip side, if you enjoyed planning your trip months out and are stressed at the thought of planning on the fly starting at 7am that morning, you might not love this new approach at first. (I completely sympathize with this as I loved the planning phases of our Disney trips. It helped me to feel organized going in and also sort of mentally extended the trip. I would daydream about it all as I booked meals and Fast Passes for our upcoming vacations. I would miss that.) 

For local Annual Passholders, it might be a harder pill to swallow. If it has the trickle down effect of making standby waits shorter, it will be great. If on the other hand it becomes almost a necessity, it will be difficult. What's great about being a local AP holder is the ability to visit the parks spontaneously. I love running over with my kids to ride one attraction or grab something to eat. For some time, the park reservation system made that all but impossible. Now that seems to be changing, as same day bookings are usually not difficult to get. But if those quick stops into the park to ride one attraction start costing me $60 for a family of 4…well that's tough.

The math gets harder for families planning longer trips, too. A family of 5 staying for a week and wanting this option is looking at an additional $525 for their trip. And to everyone comparing this to places like Universal, whose paid Express Pass option has been around for a long time and is far more expensive, keep in mind that people don't usually plan week long trips to just Universal. So the numbers are just very different – both for Universal as a corporation and for guests making decisions about splurges. And Universal does have a tier of Annual Pass that includes Express Pass after 4pm – which is a great way to bring your most loyal fans into the fold.

Again, I'm not passing judgement on Disney's system at this stage…just casting a wary eye on justifications that aren't built on the stablest ground.

Bottom line – we'll have to wait and see. Max Pass worked beautifully. My experience with it in Disneyland was seamless. And in a park *full* of local AP holders, Disneyland proved that this approach could work. 

The one thing I'd love to see eventually is the option to add the Genie+ service to an annual pass. Max Pass offered this option. As I mentioned above, Universal Orlando even offers a tier of annual pass that includes their similar Express Pass after 4pm – so you can effectively use their version of FastPass on most attractions, once per ride, at any time after 4pm. I'd love to see Disney add this in some form. 

As always, it will be interesting to see what comes of this. Like most things, we'll probably get used to it and forget what a big deal it seemed like at the outset. But that doesn't mean it's good or bad. Only that, like most things, we're bound to get used to it.

What are your thoughts on this switch to the Genie+ paid service? Promising change? Money grab? Or are you going to wait and see how it plays out?

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You can find my complete guide to making the most of your runDisney race weekend RIGHT HERE. And while those are on hold, you can find my guide to running trails on Disney World property RIGHT HERE.

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If you’re missing home (or love someone who is) and are looking for a way to bring the magic home, I’d love for you to check out my Core Memory Candle collection right HERE. And as always, stay safe and be kind, my friends.

 

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