Despite Fan Outrage, Is Disney’s New Genie+ FastPass Worth the Additional Cost?

6 min Read

AaronP / Bauer-Griffin / Shutterstock.com

Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California launched its Disney Genie, Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane services on Wednesday, Dec. 8. The move followed October’s rollout at Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. If you’re saving money for a trip to a Disney property, the following information may prove vital.

The services replace Disney’s previous FastPass, which was a free option available to all park guests. You could grab tickets for specific rides and then return back at your scheduled time, essentially saving hours previously wasted waiting in line. Later incarnations of the service allowed guests to claim times via Disney’s travel-planning mobile apps. You could claim three rides 30 days prior to your planned visit, and once you rode the first, make additional selections throughout the day.

Choosing to use FastPasses could streamline your park visit, minimize wait times and help ensure you could get on your favorite “must-ride” attractions.

Understanding Disney’s New Options To Minimize Wait Times

The FastPass service has now been replaced by two paid options:

Make Your Money Work for You

Disney World charges $15 per person (on top of park admission) for the Genie+, which works much like the FastPass did. Disneyland charges $20 per person for Genie+.

FastPass queues are now called Lightning Lanes, presumably after America’s favorite talking racecar, Lightning McQueen. Individual Lightning Lane Entrance passes are available for specific, in-demand rides. At Disneyland, these rides include:

Lightning Lane passes cost between $7 and $20 at Disneyland.

Walt Disney World has just a pair of individual Lightning Lane passes for two of the attractions that typically have the longest wait times and which, under the old system, were the most difficult to get FastPasses for:

Prices vary based on the date and attraction, according to the Disney World Resort website, and can range up to $15.

One recent Disney World visitor took advantage of Lightning Lane passes and said they cost $11 each for the two Walt Disney World rides mentioned above. “It was super confusing,” Lisamarie Arnold, a mom from Long Island, remarked. “But basically we only paid for the single rides that weren’t included in the Genie+ pass. We go every two years, so we’d already done a lot of the other stuff.”

Make Your Money Work for You

For Arnold, the Lightning Lane passes offered the opportunity to experience rides they had missed out on under the old system. “We opted to go for the stuff we’ve never gotten FastPasses on because they were the quickest to fill up and the lines were always ridiculous for the rides without a FastPass,” she said.

Is Genie+ a “Cash Grab?”

In spite of these new opportunities to take advantage of shorter lines, many fans are against the new Genie+ service.

Writer Katie Dowd of SFGate.com called the new service a “cash grab” on the part of Disney CEO Bob Chapek, and a “crass move… aimed to please wealthy shareholders rather than ordinary park guests.”

Yet, cash grab or no, Disney fans are willingly buying in. On a recent earnings call, Chapek noted that one-third of Disney World guests have paid for Genie+. Fans and travel agents told GOBankingRates that the lines at Disney World were shorter than usual on recent trips, even without using the Genie+. However, sparse line-ups could disappear during peak spring and summertime hours, especially if pandemic fears continue to abate. As parks become more crowded, the Genie+ and Lightning Lane passes will likely attract even more customer dollars.

Make Your Money Work for You

“Some have used it and loved it, while some have said that the Lightning Lane was longer than the standby entrance,” said Matthew Kondrup, president and CEO of Matty K Travel Group and Castle Vacations.

Pointing out that rides are only a portion of the full “Disney experience,” Kondrup said that people have different values and will spend their money on different things. “Some people do a value resort versus a moderate or a deluxe suite. Some are budgeting for the Genie+ and some cannot afford it or just don’t see the value in it,” he said.

Modeling Other Parks
Like Six Flags and Universal Studios

Kondrup pointed out that Universal Studios also has a paid Express Pass model. Similarly, Six Flags theme parks charge fans for the Flash Pass, an option offering different pricing tiers and different costs for peak and off-peak days.

However, in general, passes for Six Flags parks cost much less than passes for Disney parks, with a season pass going for $59.99 at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. That’s nearly half the price of a single day at Disney, and the Six Flags season pass includes access to the Hurricane Harbor water park. Parking is an additional cost at both Disney and Six Flags properties, however.

Make Your Money Work for You

Pricing for Universal Studios parks is comparable to Disney Resorts, according to MagicGuides.net, with tickets for both parks costing more than $100 per day, per guest.

Genie+: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

It’s no secret that a Disney vacation is costly, so prioritizing where you want to spend your money should be key. “Guests should consider Genie+ as an option when pricing their trip out and see if it’s something they can afford,” Kondrup said. “In that way, it’s similar to the Memory Maker photo service. Not everyone can afford it, while some won’t see the need for it.”

Travel agent Kristina Gulbin agreed that this is a service families can choose to prioritize in their budget — or not. “I like that families can choose to use the system as much or as little as they want,” she told GOBankingRates. “They could use it for one day of their vacation or every day. In some ways, this is better than an across-the-board ticket price increase, because it allows choice to be there.”

For some, a Disney vacation has become cost-prohibitive whether they pay for perks like Genie+ service or not. But for many families, it’s still an experience that’s worth saving up for. “Disney has become more expensive,” Arnold said. “After this most recent trip, we decided we were going to wait five years to go back instead of two years like we’ve been doing because it’s just become more expensive.”

More From GOBankingRates