Over the past month or so, I’ve been very vocal about not trusting some of the features of Genie. We’ve run tests to show why you can’t and shouldn’t trust the wait times shown to you. Those were always going to be a non-starter for me. But as a data geek, one of the features that I was most hopeful about when Genie announced was the proactive suggestions of experiences and attractions based on someone’s interests. Because, really, Disney is best-positioned to give people this sort of information. The vast majority of people that visit Disney World have no idea how much there is to do. And if Genie was able to legitimately guide them toward things that would make them happy and fit their interests, it would be a huge win for everyone. Unfortunately, our first attempt at an interest-based Genie plan was a complete and utter failure – to a shocking degree. But I want to check in again a month later, at a park that is better-suited for meeting different interests. So at Magic Kingdom, can you effectively get a Genie plan based on your interests?
Explain the Test
Unlike the tests in the first week of Genie from October, these tests weren’t head-to-head. Instead, we sent the same tester to Magic Kingdom three days in a row, each time with a different approach to her interest-based touring. That means the tests didn’t have the same crowd conditions, or even start times. That wasn’t the point. We wanted three examples of what your time spent could look like, regardless of exact wait times (but of course we won’t totally be ignoring those – this is TouringPlans, after all). But we did need to pick a specific theme. And since we were testing at the Magic Kingdom, the Princess theme seemed like a natural choice.
Test 1: Princess Touring Plan
On the first day of testing, I created a custom touring plan that arrived at 2 pm (when visitors are eligible to park hop over), and that had 10 steps plus a break for dinner. It was incredibly princess-focused, and just based on what I’d suggest a family with a princess-obsessed kid try to do:
- See Cinderella and a Visiting Princess at Princess Fairytale Hall
- See Tiana and a Visiting Princess at Princess Fairytale Hall
- Cinderella Castle (a step to walk through, instead of around)
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid
- Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
- Royal Princess Processional
- Disney Enchantment
Obviously, there are some missing steps here because some princess-centric experiences aren’t yet reopened, like meeting Ariel, Enchanted Tales with Belle, or the Festival of Fantasy parade (hey, at least the parade is returning soon). But these 10 steps still make a pretty busy afternoon/evening, and we allowed the tester to optimize throughout her time in the park.
Test 2: Princess Touring Strategy
This test might not seem much different from the first one, but there are some big nuances. First, this test was run in the morning rather than the afternoon. So Disney Enchantment wasn’t on the table as an option. Otherwise, we tried to hit the other steps from the Princess Touring Plan listed above. But there was no official “plan” or any optimization to be done this day. Instead, we gave our tester a list of tips and strategies for how to experience things (which you can find later in this post). We wanted to test out this option instead of the constant re-optimization to see how much of a difference it made, and to provide a little flexibility in allowing our tester to use her intuition about what to go to next. It also provides a nice “in between” step compared to the extremes of a fully optimized plan and going with the whims of the Genie that tend to have large breaks between each step.
Test 3: Genie Plan with Princess Interests
Our last test was the make-it-or-break-it. Our tester had already had a really, really awful day back in October when she tried to tell Genie that she wanted a “Star Wars” day at Hollywood Studios in October. So there was understandably a little hesitation about what might happen on a “Princess” day at Magic Kingdom. The idea was to start at 2 pm again, give Genie all “Princess” interest input, and see what sort of day got planned out for her. We wouldn’t do any Genie hacks to try to get something more princess-y: no deleting steps, no swaperoos unless absolutely necessary, etc.
What Were the Results?
What was the Princess Touring Plan able to accomplish?
- Once park-hoppers were able to enter the park, the optimized touring plan sent our tester to Magic Carpets of Aladdin. The posted wait was 30 minutes, but the actual wait was only 13 minutes. Good start.
Next, the two princess “character sightings” were suggested together, and each only ended up having about a 20 minute wait.
- After saying hello to four princesses, the plan sent our tester to Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel with a posted wait of 20 minutes, but the actual wait was only 13 minutes.
- Then Mickey’s PhilharMagic was suggested, with a posted wait of 30 minutes and an actual wait of 16 minutes.
- When the show was over, there was just enough time to walk through Cinderella’s Castle and grab a spot on the hub for the 4:30 Royal Princess Processional.
- After a nice dinner break, the optimizer sent our tester to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at 5:57, with an 80-minute posted wait time. The actual wait time was only 46 minutes – pretty crazy, given the high posted wait.
- The last attraction on the list was Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid at 7 pm, which had a 35 minute posted wait, but was actually only 11 minutes.
- That left plenty of time to grab a good spot to watch Enchantment at 8.
What was the Princess Touring Strategy able to accomplish?
The Touring Strategy approach was the only morning attempt at some princess time in the Magic Kingdom. The information we gave to our tester was the following:
“If you arrive after Early Theme Park Entry, head straight to Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid. Then aim to get in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train between 9:45 and 10:15 when the wait time tends to temporarily drop. Only get in line if the posted time is 60 minutes or less. For the rest of the morning before lunch, do Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel, See Cinderella+Friend and See Tiana+Friend in any order, depending on wait times. Only do the character sightings if the posted time is 20 minutes or less – they’ll bounce around a lot, so check back later if they’re higher. After lunch, stop by Magic Carpets of Aladdin as your last step.”
So what happened?
Our tester arrived at 9 am, after Early Theme Park Entry, so she headed to Under the Sea, where there was a 5 minute posted wait, but it was actually a walk-on. Then she was well-positioned for a cinnamon roll from Gaston’s as she waited just a few minutes for a good time to enter her next ride – and certainly we can consider that a big bonus to this strategy!
- At 9:40, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train had a posted time of 60 minutes, so she got in line and had an actual wait of 66 minutes.
- Next, both princess character sightings had posted wait times of 20 minutes, so she was able to visit all four princesses in less than an hour overall
- That put her out at Prince Regal’s Charming Carrousel at 11:55 with a posted wait time of 15 minutes. Actual wait time ended up being closer to 20 minutes.
- The last pre-lunch step was Mickey’s PhilharMagic at 12:30, with a posted wait time of 20 minutes, but actual wait time of only 9 minutes.
- Post-lunch, Magic Carpets of Aladdin had a posted wait time of 25 minutes at 2 pm, but was actually only a 16 minute wait.
What did Genie plan for our Princess afternoon and evening?
Upon arrival at Magic Kingdom, our tester told Genie that she was princess-obsessed and wanted to do all things princess-y and got sent immediately to … Astro Orbiter. With a 40 minute posted wait. The actual wait was only 32 minutes, but still. A questionable start
- Thankfully, the next step at 3 pm was See Cinderella and a Visiting Friend. There was a posted wait of 20 minutes, and an actual wait of 21 minutes.
- Next, Genie wanted our tester to wait until the 4:30 Royal Princess Processional. That meant getting a spot an hour early.
- After the 4:30 processional that lasts about a minute, our tester was supposed to wait until 5 pm to eat dinner at Casey’s Corner. Not my first pick for a princess-y quick service dinner option.
- The next suggested step wasn’t until 6:05 pm, when Magic Carpets of Aladdin had a 10 minute posted wait that ended up actually being 9 minutes.
- At 6:40, our tester was told to go See Tiana and a Visiting Friend, with a 25 minute posted wait, and 21 minute actual wait.
- That meant, for the first time, there was a somewhat tight turnaround for our tester to make it to her next step, Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, by 7:15 pm. But she did make it, and had a 2 minute wait (posted wait was 5 minutes).
- And … that was that. No more suggestions – not even Enchantment to wrap up the night.
How Did Genie Compare to Touring Plans?
- The Touring Plan in the afternoon was able to accomplish all 10 steps, generally with very short waits, especially compared to what was posted at each attraction. It even left time for a relaxed dinner.
- The morning strategy accomplished many of the same attractions, with pretty similar wait times and without the need to reoptimize after every step.
- The Genie plan, although it started with a totally inconceivable step, actually did stay on the princess track after that point. So that’s … something.
- Eventually, the Genie plan accomplished 6 steps (5 of which were princess-y) between 2 and 8, with lots and lots of downtime between most steps.
- Especially questionable was the implication that our tester was waiting over an hour for the Royal Princess Processional, when just two days earlier she had essentially walked right up to a spot just before the processional ran past. That’s an hour of time when she could’ve been doing literally anything else.
What Does This Mean For You?
- Genie’s plan at least, for the most part, stayed on-theme – unlike what we saw at Hollywood Studios. It will be interesting to see if this is an actual improvement, or if it went more positively specifically because of the theme or park that we chose.
- Large amounts of buffer time that don’t automatically adjust when you move through steps quickly continue to plague Genie.
- Either way, both a Touring Plan and a well-informed strategy out-performed Genie in their ability to get more done with minimal waits.
- None of these plans took advantage of ILL or Genie+, and yet were able to do a lot in about half of a day. Crowds will be picking up as we near Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s – but crowds at Magic Kingdom last week were nothing to blink at, and the experience was still positive without the extra purchases. This leads us to perhaps the most important point here: be smart about what you’re paying for. Know your touring style and what you want to accomplish, and then decide whether Genie+ or ILL will help you with that. Don’t just purchase based on crowd levels or posted wait times.
Would you want a plan focused around interests, or do you tour the parks in a different way? Let us know what you think about these tests in the comments.