Disney World and the Relaxed Vacationer: What it Feels Like to Use Genie+

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Disney advice is kind of like parenting advice: how useful it is often depends less on how well it works, and more on what kind of person you are. If you are the person who sleeps in and calmly accepts that the trade-off is spending a little longer in line or skipping some rides altogether, then this post is for you.
If you are the person who aims to spend at most 4-5 hours a day in the parks so that you can have plenty of time to sit at the pool and rest up your feet for tomorrow, this post is for you. And if you are the person who had mastered FastPass+ and was accustomed to crafting perfect 4-hour jaunts that included a headliner or two and left enough time to sit by the fountain in the Morocco Pavilion and pretend you were really in Morocco — then especially this post is for you.

Follow along with me as I recount some of my weekend at Disney World. It’s not a blow-by-blow trip report, but my goal is to give you a taste of what we experienced with Genie+ as relaxed vacationers, so that you can get a glimmer of what your experience might be like.

Thursday, December 2

The plan

Wake up at 5 a.m. to catch a plane to Orlando, arriving at EPCOT around noon. Spend a couple of hours in the park while waiting for check-in time.  Then head to the hotel and relax for a few hours, returning in the evening to see the Living with the Land at night and watch Harmonious.

We were all looking forward to seeing the Beacons of Light on our first night at Disney World.

What actually happened

We woke up at 5 a.m. and caught a plane, arriving at EPCOT around noon.  We hopped onto Spaceship Earth with a 10 minute wait, and then went to check if there might, possibly, perhaps, in a miraculous miracle be a reservation for Space 220 because hope springs eternal.  But no dice, so we decided to go with the backup plan — Festival of the Holidays.  A few booths later and many dollars lighter we took a quick ride on Living with the Land, then were off to the hotel where we arrived just about 3 p.m.

The afternoon had gone perfectly according to plan, but at 8 p.m. it was time to head back to the parks and some of us had made the terrible mistake of Sitting Down.  After a half-hour of hemming and hawing about what to do, only two of us went back for the evening spectacular.

Friday, December 3

The plan

Some of my family had never been to Galaxy’s Edge, so our Park Reservation was for Hollywood Studios.  We’d use Early Theme Park Entry and do Rise of the Resistance with a short wait, then explore Galaxy’s Edge for a couple of hours.  In the evening we had Christmas party tickets, so we’d head over to Magic Kingdom around 6 p.m. and knock out a few low-wait rides before the party.

Since we were hopping between two parks and could use it for the entire day, I thought purchasing Genie+ might make sense. Plus, you know, I really wanted an excuse to try it out — it was like a shiny new Disney toy, beckoning me.

We’re big Star Wars fans, but only some of us had been to Galaxy’s Edge before this trip. (photo by Michael Carelli)

What actually happened

By Thursday night people were not only bailing on the fireworks, but also expressing their lack of excitement about waking up early. The nail in the coffin was a kid who had an assignment due in the morning. As a student I might have blown off my homework to go to the parks, but as a parent I’m supposed to be more responsible, right? I floated the idea of getting an Individual Lightning Lane (ILL) for Rise of the Resistance instead, but everyone who is not a TouringPlans blogger was shocked at the price and immediately voted no.  One kid was willing to wait in the line whenever we got there, until he heard it would probably be 2 hours.  In the end we decided to play it by ear, and I gave up on Genie+ because I didn’t have a plan for using it.

Rise of the Resistance is the hot new ticket, but no one in my family was interested in paying to skip the line. Of course, they have the luxury of knowing that eventually the line will get shorter, and this isn’t our last trip to the World.

On Friday at 9 a.m. we hadn’t left the hotel (child-with-assignment was still working) and I decided to open up MDE and see what Lightning Lane (LL) times looked like. Did I mention the shiny new toy thing?  I figured we had already missed everything good in the Studios, but the latest return times in Magic Kingdom were around 3-4 p.m. — way earlier than we planned to be there.  I switched to HS just for funsies, and found Millennium Falcon for 12:10 p.m. Oooh! OK, let me grab that!

Several screens worth of purchasing later I was back at the Tip Board, which was now showing LL for Millennium Falcon at 6:05 p.m. Disappointed! Oh well, I had already bought Genie+ so I picked a 12:05 p.m. reservation for Toy Story Midway Mania that magically morphed into 12:30 p.m. during the 20 seconds it took me to complete the booking.  You can imagine how annoyed I was to see 12:15 p.m. for Millennium Falcon when I came back to the Tip Board after making the TSMM reservation. Aggravating!  I considered canceling TSMM and trying again for MF, but I was afraid I’d end up with nothing that I wanted so I just left it.

Toy Story Mania Wait sign showing 75 minute posted wait at 12:28 p.m.
With a wait of 75 minutes, my family would have probably chosen to skip this attraction

When we arrived at TSMM the posted wait was 75 minutes, which was accurate. Our wait with Lightning Lane was 14 minutes, so if your marker for “making back the cost of Genie+” is 1 hour, then we were already there. But actually my family probably would have just skipped this rather than wait that long for it, so how do you put a value on the difference between riding something and not doing it at all?  I don’t have a good answer for that.

Screenshot showing 4 Lightning Lane Reservations between 6:20 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

After TSMM I had been dutifully coming back every two hours to make a new reservation, and by the time we headed out to the Magic Kingdom we had 4 Lightning Lane spots “stacked” into a window of an hour and a half.  We also wanted to try to see Enchantment, which was at 8.

If you’ve gotten the impression that touring Disney World with my family is a little like herding cats, you’re not wrong.  We were aiming to arrive at 6:20, but ended up getting to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at 6:45. (Should I tell you that we ran for the bus?  That it could have been even later?)  Once there, however, we knocked off those reservations like dominos and it was smooth sailing.  We did decide to skip Small World to guarantee getting to Jingle Cruise right on time and that paid off, as we found a space to watch the fireworks with 10 minutes to spare.

Chart showing posted, estimated, and actual LL times for three rides in MK on the evening of 12-3-2021
It’s hard to argue with these numbers –
Genie+ definitely saved us a lot of time.

Saturday, December 4

We didn’t use Genie+ on Saturday, so in the interests of time and your attention, I’ll skip the blow-by-blow.  I’m not sure our original plan was ever realistic, and it definitely didn’t become a reality.  Still, we rode the Seas, Figment, and bounced around the Festival booths until World Showcase began to feel insanely crowded.  We came back later in the day to try to catch short waits at Soarin’ (10 minutes at 7:30 p.m.!) and see the Christmas decorations in Living with the Land lit up at night. It was a great day, no complaints.

Seeing the Christmas lights in Living With the Land at night was one of my top goals for this trip – mission accomplished!

Sunday, December 5

The plan

We had a late flight home, so the goal was to check out of the hotel, spend a few hours in Animal Kingdom riding some of our favorites, see the new Kite Tails show, and then have lunch in Disney Springs before heading to the airport.

What actually happened

I decided to try Genie+ for this day — partly because the shiny newness hadn’t worn off yet, and partly because I wanted to maximize our short time in Animal Kingdom.  I stayed up until midnight to buy it so that I wouldn’t have to deal with it in the morning, and set my alarm for 6:55 a.m.

Image of Lightning Lane reservation for Kilimanjaro Safaris at 12:05 p.m.

I won’t even tell you who wanted to do what from where and why that meant we couldn’t leave for the parks before 11 a.m., but from a practical perspective it meant that even though I was on my phone right on the dot, I couldn’t reserve Kilimanjaro Safaris right away.  I had to keep refreshing for about 5 minutes, waiting for the return times to climb up past 11 so they’d fit with our schedule, but eventually — success! Return time at 11:05 a.m.

At 9:05 a.m. I was back, trying for a reservation for Na’vi River Journey, but every time I refreshed it still showed I wasn’t eligible.  Eventually I gave up and asked at the desk what I was doing wrong, and they reminded me that if you haven’t used your first booking then the window opens at 2 hours past park opening and not 2 hours from the first reservation.  Doh!  I couldn’t believe I had forgotten that!

Lightning Lane reservation for Na'vi River Journey on 12-5-2021At 10 a.m. I was back again, and again I was perpetually not eligible. Eventually I checked and discovered that the park opened at 9 a.m., not 8 like I had thought.  Grr! Arghh! Gnashing of teeth.  I don’t know when or why they changed it, but it was originally 8 a.m. — that’s my story and I’m sticking to it, even if it might not be true.

At 11 a.m., as we were trying to check out and load luggage in the car, I was messing around on my phone.  But again, success! Lightning Lane for Na’vi River Journey at 2:35 p.m.

Na’vi River Journey often gets billed as the “other” ride in Pandora, but my family loves it.

Once we arrived at the park everything went (mostly) according to plan.  We rode the Safari, noodled around a little on the trails, and ate Dole Whip.  After the 1:15 showing of Kite Tails we split up, with some of us going to the single rider line for Expedition Everest and others opting for the Maharajah Jungle Trek before meeting up at Na’vi River Journey in time for our  reservation. After 3 hours in the park we moved over to Disney Springs for lunch at The Boathouse, then headed to the airport.

Chart showing LL savings for our day in Animal Kingdom
Again, we saved quite a bit of time with Genie+

Did I like Genie+? Would I buy it again?

Both days that we used Genie+ had medium crowds in the parks we visited, and we were very successful with it even when we bought it “late” at 9 a.m.  We could have used other strategies to save that time, but Genie+ allowed us to save it while giving us more options to visit the parks on a schedule that we chose, the same way that FastPass+ did.  Once reservations were made, using it in the parks and following the “plan” felt very similar to FastPass+.

On the flip side, there was some aggravation and effort associated with making those reservations.  I was not thrilled that the time I ended up with often didn’t match the time I had been shown when I selected the reservation. The largest difference I experienced was only 20 minutes, but others have reported shifts of hours. Yes, I was annoyed on the first day that after I finished purchasing the add-on the time for Millennium Falcon had changed. I would have been even more annoyed if I had clicked on that 12:10 p.m. slot and it had ended up at 6:05 p.m. after booking, a time when we had zero intention of even being in the park.

We did end up riding Millennium Falcon on our day in Hollywood Studios – we spent 4 minutes in the Single Rider line.

I also wasn’t enchanted with having to remember to keep going back to make new reservations, and it didn’t help that in Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom you could almost see the return times lurch as the two hour windows rolled around and people became eligible again. It might have been only my imagination, but there was a lot of FOMO there and I normally try to avoid that on vacation. Of course I did this same kind of work to get the FastPasses I wanted lined up, but with FastPass+ I put in that effort before I went on vacation, not while I was trying to enjoy my holiday.

This is something that will almost certainly improve over time.  I’ll get more familiar with the system.  Disney will make tweaks to remove the friction of having to remember when you’re eligible again.  And data will be available to help set expectations about the probability of getting particular reservations at a specific time, as well as what the likely return windows will be at Animal Kingdom and EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom. It will begin to feel comfortable, and I’ll be better at planning with it and around it.

Jaleo's paella pit
Unless you have an unlimited budget, Genie+ means less money for dinner at Jaleo

Still, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s $80 a day for my family of five to use it. For this weekend trip it helped us make the most of our time and I don’t regret it, but our normal pattern is to go once every two years for a couple of weeks.  On a trip that long we’re certainly not going to purchase Genie+ for every day; that would be over $1,000.

Does that mean there are rides we did with FastPass+ that we won’t do as often in the Genie era?  Maybe. Could be. We have the luxury of being DVC members and knowing we’ll be back, and we’re relaxed vacationers — we think that a day spent in EPCOT where we only rode The Seas, Figment, Living with The Land and Soarin’ is a great day.  But if we decide that we still want to experience everything without paying for Genie+, we can. We just need an alarm clock (or two), a Touring Plan, and the willingness to stand in one or two lines that are more than 25 minutes long.

Are you a relaxed vacationer?  What do you think about Genie+?  Let us know in the comments!

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Jennifer Heymont

Jennifer Heymont has a background in math and biology, but since she couldn't pick between the two she ended up in Data Science where she gets to do both. She lives just north of Boston with her husband, kids, and assorted animal members of the family. Although it took three visits for the Disney bug to "take", she now really wishes she lived a lot closer to the Parks.

9 thoughts on “Disney World and the Relaxed Vacationer: What it Feels Like to Use Genie+

  • December 9, 2021 at 1:00 pm
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    I appreciated this article. It’s helpful to get a feel for how Genie+ works in action.

    Reply
    • December 9, 2021 at 8:15 pm
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      Thanks Tiffany (and mike) — glad to hear it was helpful.

      Reply
  • December 9, 2021 at 7:10 pm
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    For us last week it was frustration, fatigue and aggravation all the way. Getting up before 7am every day to attempt to book rides is NOT what I want to do on vacation. As somebody who works from home, that’s earlier than I get up for work! We felt constantly at the mercy of what Disney offered us rather than in control ahead of time like with FP+ – and we had to PAY for the privilege of crappy service. Nor, as offsite guests, were we able to get an ILL for RotR – all were gone by park opening and none appeared at 1pm. Over the three trips since that ride opened we have yet to get a chance to ride it; we will not wait an hour or more in line for any ride anywhere.

    As for the effect of lurching about from place to place at Disney’s whim (instead of a planned route as with FP+), we had to spend some 16 hours at Epcot spread over two days to get to do everything we wanted to do there. (I had not used your online Touring Plan before, though we did use it once in paper form in 1995, and found trying to figure the app out to be too confusing. In any case, it did not seem to be compatible with also using G+ and ILL. Since the boys became adults we have planned relaxing, late-start park days using FP+, which worked very well for us.)

    Last week was by far the most hectic and stressful trip of our eight together, and the most expensive of our seven staying offsite. Unless and until all this Genie garbage is cleaned up we won’t be back.

    Reply
    • December 9, 2021 at 8:35 pm
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      Hey Mike, I could not agree with you more about the 7 a.m. thing. I don’t actually understand what Disney was trying to do there — and it’s worse because you have to either purchase the night before (after midnight!) or wake up even earlier to make sure you’ve got everything squared away before you can make reservations. I was actually kind of relieved to find that even when I didn’t buy until a more normal hour I could still get enough out of it to not regret the purchase.

      I know exactly what you’re saying about the feeling that you were at the mercy of what you could find. I’ve used both the original Fastpass and MaxPass (in Disneyland) and neither of them offered you the opportunity to reserve in advance the way FP+ did. For me, I think it’s about expectations – when I used those other systems I was happy with them, because I didn’t have the expectation of total control that FP+ gave us. I suspect that as LL behavior becomes more predictable, planners like us will find it easier to work with. We still won’t get everything we want, but we’ll know what we have to do depending on what we do want, and how much uncertainty we’ll just have to live with.

      I can’t ever see myself making peace with the virtual queues though. Those are the ultimate in being “at the mercy” of what you get.

      Reply
  • December 10, 2021 at 11:28 am
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    We were in the parks same days you were, we did not utilize Genie+, but did buy LL for Remy and RoR, for those purchases I appreciated the fact I could schedule the specific time I wanted to ride (from times that were available). I had assumed that you could do the same with Genie+, that you could pick the time you wanted to ride. But it looks like from your experience with Navi River that you can only pick the first time available? Am I understanding that correctly? If that is true, and you want to schedule Genie+ for a park you are park hopping to, does it then only allow you to pick the first available time after 2pm (when park hopping is allowed)?

    Thanks, great post.

    Reply
    • December 10, 2021 at 12:01 pm
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      Hi Chris, yes, that’s correct, you can only take the first available time. Since Genie knows (in theory) which park you have a reservation for, you should only see times after 2 p.m. for all other parks. You can read more about it in the Q&A section here, at the end of the article:
      https://touringplans.com/blog/genie-testing-what-we-learned-in-one-day/

      Other users have reported sometimes being able to select times for a hop-to park that were before 2 p.m., but the reservation was always moved to after 2 p.m. during the booking process.

      That first-available time did move up and down some – I saw Millennium falcon go from noon-ish to six-ish and then back down; this is usually the result of people cancelling or adjusting slots and putting things back into inventory.

      Reply
  • December 12, 2021 at 7:40 pm
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    We refuse to pay to be on our phones continually, all day long – at specific times to continually refresh for a chance to ride something at the time the program gives out. Really?? Getting even 3 FP in advance allowed for overall daily planning. For our family that lives far away and travel costs are large, who come for extended times, this is absolutely disappointing. Add to that discontinuing Magical Express. Disney Magic is decreasing at a rapid rate.

    Reply
    • December 14, 2021 at 12:16 am
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      Anecdotally, it really felt to me like there were far more guests walking around looking at their phones than on previous visits, and it was annoying because it was hard to maneuver around them. But I concede it’s also possible that some of us have lost our social graces after extended stints of isolation in the past couple of years, or that I just don’t remember it accurately.

      Reply

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