Update: Disney Resorts announced the new system will be launching on October 19, 2021 and released new details. This post has been updated.
A few months ago Walt Disney World sent shockwaves through Disney fans by announcing the retirement of the free FastPass+ attraction system, and the introduction of a new Genie system including a paid line skipping program. What that entails remains to be seen, with a launch set for October 19, 2021. In this post, I will attempt to breakdown what the new system is and what it means for your Disney World vacation planning.
Disney World has slowly introduced new technology over the years, the biggest of which was the MagicBand, a system that allows you to use a bracelet for admission, to check in for reservations, and pay for items in the parks and other Disney properties. The app that partners with the MagicBand is called My Disney Experience. This app allows you to see a map of the park, check and make reservations, check wait times, and order food ahead of time. This app’s next feature is called Genie. This upgrade should offer everything listed plus some sort of augmented reality features.
In addition it will offer a service called Genie+. Genie+ is a $15 a day per ticket upgrade line skipping privilege that will work on approximately 40 attractions across the parks. These attractions were previously part of the FastPass+ system including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Splash Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, Spaceship Earth, Tower of Terror, and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
There are also two top tier attractions in each park that will not be included in this pass system, but an additional premium line skipping program that will work with surge pricing model. Cost is thus, TBD, but these top tier attractions include:
- Seven Dwarves Mine Train and Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom
- Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (which currently has a virtual queue) in EPCOT
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (which recently canned their virtual queue option) and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad in Hollywood Studios
- Avatar Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom
Both line skipping programs will use “Lightning Lanes” that were previously FastPass+ line queues.
Is it worth it?
Is it worth these upgrades? On the surface, time is money when it comes to Disney parks and I am always oriented towards reducing line waiting. However, I can see a scenario where if you plan well enough with a strategy of going at lower crowd times you may not need the Genie+ system, outside of perhaps the top tier attractions. Thinking back to my lower crowd dummy day in Magic Kingdom in November via the TouringPlans system, the only attraction that reached an unacceptable hour long wait was Seven Dwarves Mine Train. A few others had a half hour wait, which is still longer than I would like, however, it could be combined with a snack break, making it tolerable. Thus in this scenario, I can see springing for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train and skipping the rest of the Genie+ experience.
In the past, other ways to skip lines and get premium access and seating included dining experiences. My family has booked off time dining to gain free access to the famous Candlelight Processional. We also have paid for the dessert buffet at Magic Kingdom to have great seats for Magic Kingdom Fireworks. Many have used the same strategy for great seats for Hollywood Studio’s night show Fantasmic which is currently on hiatus. Strategies like this can save you hours of waiting and gain you prime seats.
One other item to note on dining, is that for quick service, or take away restaurants, you can now order ahead for pick up via the app. This convenient feature was not available when we visited the parks before, and though we often didn’t wait too terribly long for food, it’s a nice feature to shave off a few precious minutes here and there.
How does it work?
So how will this new Genie+ system work? Many are skeptical (including myself) of the rollout, as systems as large and complex as this tend to be rocky, and Disney IT doesn’t exactly have a smooth reputation. However, those of us familiar with the FastPass+ system have a whole new system to learn.
For starters, if you opt for the Genie+ pass with the 40 attractions, you will have theoretically unlimited access to the attractions. You can purchase ahead of time for the length of your entire stay, but most will purchase per day beginning at midnight. Attraction reservations can be made each day of beginning at 7 a.m. for Disney hotel guests. All others will be able to access the system at park opening each day. Selections can be made one at a time. Times cannot be selected, and instead you will be given the first available time. You will not be able to book any additional attractions until you check into your first, or 120 minutes have passed.
Those of us used to the FastPass+ system where you could pick the time and select three attractions at once will have a lot of adjusting to do. I certainly am not keen that they automatically give you the first available time, and would much rather reserve a specific time that fits my plan and schedule for the day. In theory the system will work around your plans to see a show at a specific time. Perhaps if you had your entire itinerary in the Genie app conflicts can be avoided, but that is making visits less flexible, when the entire promotion around the app is flexibility. I have a feeling there will be a lot of tweaks to the system over the next year.
When it comes to the two top tier attractions in each park, guests can only purchase one Genie+ pass per attraction per day. In other words, you will not be able to book the Lighting Lane twice for Seven Dwarves Mine Train.This seems like a temporary restriction to me that may lift as they system rolls out.
In all, as a Disney fan I’m a bit perturbed to have to pay for a privilege that was previously included in my guest experience, and it’s a tough pill to swallow along with ticket price hikes, but at the same time it is on track with industry trends. If your family opts for the Genie+ upgrade it could add considerable cost to your trip. It may all come down to personal preference and how you like to experience the parks. We like the flexibility of the parkhopper passes, and others think it’s a great waste of money. It’s all up to you. For me, I remain cautiously optimistic about the new system. Time will tell.