We’ve been preparing for (and maybe dreading?) Genie launch day for months, and it finally happened. Leading up to day one, we knew that we wanted a robust plan for testing and answering as much as we possibly could in a single day with our in-parks team and researchers at home. That meant some spreadsheets, planning sessions, task lists, soliciting feedback on what questions our users had, making park reservations, and then getting up really early to try it all out today. Plus a lot of caffeine and sugar to make it through the day. So what happened and what did we find out? (Note: if you’d rather watch most of this info instead of reading it, you can check out our YouTube stream from yesterday afternoon instead!)
What We Learned About Genie Being Tricky
I promise this post won’t all be doom and gloom about how buggy Genie was. In fact, I think on the whole the day went a lot more smoothly than we all expected. Stitch didn’t eat the app. Hoards of hangry humans weren’t roaming the park aimlessly with nothing to do until their next return window opened. But here were the big outliers, at least as far as things we gave the side-eye.
$15 per day! … *cough*plus tax*cough*
Most of us had gotten over the mental hurdle that sure, we’d have to pay for Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane Access (now called ILL, in this article at least). We did all of our “is it worth it” math based on $15 per person per day. And then we bought it. And we got charged for tax. And suddenly after getting over feeling nickled and dimed, we were literally nickled and dimed. It is what it is. And what it is is salt in the wound.
Forecasted waits! Or at least … bars going up and down
Genie (the free version) promised forecasted waits for all! Here at Touring Plans, we are all about forecasting waits. It’s our jam. So we were pumped to see these. And then we opened them. And Disney broke one of the cardinal rules of data visualization (or at least honest data visualization). They didn’t label the axis! So you can see the vague shape of the really vertically squished forecasted wait. And bonus, it looks like each of those big long horizontal lines means something different for every ride. So if you pull up It’s Tough To Be a Bug and Flight of Passage side by side, you’ll see that you should obviously rope drop the Bug show because the rest of the day, you’ll wait longer for it than you would wait for Flight of Passage. Right?! Wrong. But it’s okay, because …
Don’t make decisions based on “data” anyway, okay?
In the fine print of the Genie terms and conditions, it tells you the following:
So it’s okay that you don’t know what the bars actually mean, because even though the app will keep throwing the Genie+ and ILL purchases in your face repeatedly, it doesn’t mean that they’re actually telling you to purchase something. Legally speaking.
Wait 5 minutes now, or pay $7 and ride 20 minutes from now
At least as you’re perusing the tip board, you can see the posted standby times. Still no guarantee that these are accurate (refer back to that fine print, y’all). But at least it’s not an unlabeled bar. Rise having a 150 minute posted standby wait is very different than Expedition Everest having a 5 minute posted standby wait, at least as it concerns my propensity for purchasing ILL and skipping the line.
But if you’re in the “My Day” side of Genie, which is the arguably more helpful listing of all of your plans and reservations for the day, you don’t get that information. You get “ride now, wait times low” or “wait times high”, or whatever other arbitrary terms Disney has chosen to show you. So an example we found was that My Day showed you that wait times at Expedition Everest were low, but that you could still purchase Lightning Lane for $7 per person. If you flipped over to the Tip Board at the exact same time, you saw that it was currently a posted 5 minute wait, and the next ILL return window didn’t open for 20 minutes. Hmm.
Questionable rope drop recommendations
There were multiple reports from users and on social media that the free Genie planning tool was maybe not as useful as people had originally hoped. Many people were told to proceed directly to the Carrousel upon arrival at the Magic Kingdom. Or to mobile order lunch at 9 am … for Pinocchio Village Haus. The horror! Alternatively, your first three attractions could’ve been Magic Carpets, Swiss Family Treehouse, and Haunted Mansion. Hm. All interesting. Maybe a first-day learning curve thing. But while Genie climbs the learning curve, you can stick with TouringPlans. We climbed the curve long ago.
Things We Learned About Genie That Made Us Giggle
You know that teams and teams of people have to approve everything that goes into an app as big as My Disney Experience and this Genie update. And maybe it was just because we woke up way too early, but when we figured out that you could take a Genie plan and try to switch out a recommendation, and that the app then declared “Let’s Do A Swaperoo” … WHAT?! How? Why? What is a swaperoo?! I don’t know, but I’m now going to use it all of the time.
Teacups or Die
Chrissy attempted to swaperoo her Magic Tea Party recommendation for 7:30 pm at Magic Kingdom. And Genie told her that there was literally nothing else to do at that time in the Magic Kingdom. Given that other suggested “swaperoos” included swapping attractions for walking trails or other attractions … it’s odd that there’s nothing else to do instead of the teacups.
When the free Genie service throws together an itinerary for you, it gives you recommendations. Even better, you can then click “Why This?” to get the detailed reasons why it was selected! In theory, this would be awesome. It would even give us a peek behind the curtain regarding why people were being sent certain places. In reality … it’s just “Because parties like yours enjoy this” and “It’s air-conditioned” and a random factoid about the attraction. So, very generic and probably not real reasons anyway. We’ll let you know when we stumble upon an honest “Because no one goes here ever and we need to move crowds away from the popular attractions and restaurants.”
Things We Learned About Genie That Were Painful
Parties that do different things
When you purchase Genie+ for yourself, purchase it for your whole party. You know, if it lets you. If they purchased tickets separately, you might not be able to. But if you don’t do it all at once, it can also be hard to line everything up and connect it.
And once you are connected, best of luck to you if your party likes to split up and do different things during parts of the day. Based on our day-one experience, the My Day list shows everyone’s plans all in one big list organized by time. And they’re not labelled helpfully. It takes 3 clicks to figure out who the reservation is for. All in all, very much a pain unless your party is all on one set of tickets, all buys Genie+ at the exact same time, and all want to stick together for the entire day.
DAS (at least early in the day)
DAS was the one part of the roll-out today that didn’t really go surprisingly smoothly. In the morning it was at a hard crash. Maybe not a shock since DAS advance had to push back its start date. But eventually everything came back online, and we were able to see that parties can hold DAS reservations and Genie+ reservations and ILL reservations all at the same time. The systems play … nicely? Or at least play together.
Things We Learned About Genie To Answer Your Questions
**Fine print – these answers are all as of the first day. Things are definitely changing as Disney adapts to how people are using Genie, so keep that in mind when reading through.
Q: Can I “stack” multiple Genie+ return times before the park even opens?
A: Nope! Disney swiftly closed this nifty loophole before Genie launched. If you get your first MK Genie+ reservation at 7 am, your 120 minute counter doesn’t start until the park opens (say, at 9 am).
Q: What happens when I try to purchase ILL Access for an attraction at a park that I plan on hopping to?
A: You can purchase ILL as soon as you become eligible (7 am if you’re a resort guest, and at park opening if you’re off-site), but you will only be offered return times of 2 pm or later.
Q: How does return time availability change throughout the day?
A: It’s the first day, and a pretty low-crowd day, so don’t take this as truth moving forward. But the only park that had issues with rides “booking up” was Hollywood Studios, with Slinky Dog Dash booking up around 11 am, and Millennium Falcon also booking up before the park closed. But really, even late into the evening, most rides had Genie+ return times available starting within 10 minutes of searching.
Q: Are there options for return times, or is it always just next available?
A: For ILL Access, you get to choose. For everything else, it’s next available. The only exception to this is park hopping (more on that later).
Q: Can I cancel or modify Genie+ reservations?
A: Yes, you can cancel. No you cannot modify (for now). That being said, cancelling immediately gives you the chance to select something else, or even just select the same attraction again, which is basically modifying.
Q: What happens to my boarding pass for Remy if I also purchase ILL Access?
A: It just keeps cooking. You can do both and they won’t interfere with each other. So if you’re determined to ride Remy twice, this is the way to do it. ILL waits will be shorter than boarding pass/virtual queue waits, though.
Q: When can I start making Genie+ reservations for a park that I plan to hop to?
A: Whenever you want! But they’ll be limited to arrival at or after 2 pm. No matter what the “next available” is, in the morning you’ll be offered 2 pm – 3 pm, or later if other park hoppers have already booked or if the ride is booking up quickly.
Q: What happens if I decide to purchase Genie+ late in the day?
A: Nothing! Disney happily takes your money, and you just have fewer chances to use return times in your “shortened” day.
Q: What happens if I get a Genie+ return time that conflicts with my dining reservation?
A: You beat yourself up for making that planning mistake. At this point, Genie doesn’t have guardrails that save you from double-booking yourself. So you deal with it, or you go to Guest Relations and kindly ask for some help.
Q: Is it possible to hold two Genie+ return times at once that overlap (i.e 2 pm – 3 pm for Peter Pan and 2:45 pm – 3:45 pm for Buzz Lightyear)?
A: Yes, it’s possible. Again, Genie knows no bounds – unlimited cosmic power and whatnot. So you can overlap them.
Q: Is it possible to get a Genie+ return time that overlaps with one of my ILL return times?
A: … Yes. Still possible to overlap all of the things.
Q: Is it possible to get two ILL return times that overlap with each other?
A: If you don’t know this answer by now. . . . But as an example, Chrissy was able to hold ILL return times for Frozen Ever After and Remy that were exactly the same, and as a bonus she also had a dining reservation at the same time.
Q: What happens if I miss the ILL return time that I purchased?
A: Mostly, you’re out of luck. At least if you arrive significantly late. I mean, you chose the time, so that’s on you. Unless something related to the attraction was down during your return window, then maybe you have a case to make.
Q: What happens if I show up late to a Genie+ return time?
A: Turns out this is remarkably similar to the FP+ rules. If you show up 5 minutes early or 15 minutes late, you tap in and it turns green and you go right through. Outside of that window, no green … and the CM gets to decide your fate. We were able to push it out to 17 minutes, but didn’t attempt anything further past the return time.
Q: Can I get multiple Genie+ return times for the same ride?
A: No, you cannot. One per attraction, so no cycling through the Lightning Lane for it’s a small world all day, sorry.
Q: If I miss a Genie+ return time, can I pick up another return time for that same attraction?
A: That’s another no. If you miss it, it’s like you used it. It still shows up as “booked” on your tip board, and you’re done with it for the day.
We’ll be testing more on day two (and three, and four, and pretty much forevermore), so let us know what other questions you may have. And if you were in the parks and tried out Genie+, let us know your experience!