Are Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane Worth the Price in 2023?
A few years ago, Disney quietly plotted a future wherein guests paid for FastPass access.
In late 2021, Walt Disney World and Disney alike introduced the new Lightning Lane system. It’s just like FastPass, only you pay for the privilege now.
Are Disney Genie Plus and Lightning Lane worth the price? Let’s talk honestly about an incendiary topic.
Disney’s Gradual Move away from Free FastPasses
While many fans believe that the pandemic caused Disney to charge for a FastPass-style service, the reality is that it had been in the offing for years.
Some would argue that Disney set the table for paid FastPass as early as 2007.
Back then, guests would have used SMS texts and the in-room television to book FastPasses. Gradually, Disney would have charged for the service.
Instead, Disneyland Resort officially introduced the first form of paid FastPass in 2017. In January of that year, the company announced MaxPass.
On July 19th, 2017, MaxPass debuted, and Disneyland fanatics…didn’t hate it. Many loved that the paid service reduced the number of FastPass users.
Yes, you had to pay for a formerly free service. In exchange, you were more likely to schedule your favorite rides for the day.
That advantage matters at Disneyland, which caters to a much larger local tourist market than at Walt Disney World.
With roughly four times as many locals fighting for the same FastPasses, many of them were more than willing to pay to improve their park visit.
Even then, Disney executives understood that Walt Disney World would prove a harder sell.
The International Trial Runs
So, Disney tested international markets first. In 2017, Shanghai Disneyland, which wasn’t even a year old at the time, introduced Disney Premier Access.
Shanghai Disneyland’s management actually took this step to curb a newfound problem.
Scalpers were snagging all the free FastPasses for Tron Lightcycle Power Run and then reselling them!
These two programs proved successful enough that Disneyland Paris added its own thing in 2019.
Called Disney Premier Access Ultimate, this system wasn’t a FastPass replacement inasmuch as a supplemental offering.
Guests could pay to enter the shorter line for a cost of €8-€15. If that sounds familiar, it should.
Disneyland Paris effectively worked as the trial run for Lightning Lane.
During the pandemic, park officials didn’t bother with this approach, which led to an oddity in 2021.
At that point, Disneyland Paris reintroduced Disney Premier Access. Also, another option, Disney Premier Access Ultimate became available.
This “Ultimate” version basically entitled guests to short lines for all the park’s rides for what set fee. It was the equivalent of about $95 at the time.
In short, Disney has prepped for a post-FastPass world for a while now.
About Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane
In 2021, park officials finally took the leap at Walt Disney World. They announced that FastPass wouldn’t return.
At the time, Disney executives used the cover of the pandemic to change the system. It helped that then-CEO Bob Chapek prioritized any and all forms of monetization.
In October, barely two weeks after Walt Disney World celebrated its 50th anniversary, it introduced the FastPass replacements.
Disney Genie+ worked similarly to the old FastPass system. Guests could enter the shorter line queue for many attractions.
However, they had to pay $15 plus tax to gain access to Disney Genie+ on My Disney Experience.
In other words, park guests could still use the system, but they had to pay for the privilege.
Simultaneously, Disney introduced Lightning Lane, an even more ambitious money grab.
Only two attractions per park offered Lightning Lane. It provided near-immediate entrance to many attractions.
However, Disney required guests to pay per attraction. Usually, the price hovered between $10-$15.
After about a year, Disney dropped to one Lightning Lane attraction per park.
That’s been the system in place for a while now but has changed in 2023, as we’ll discuss.
Meanwhile, Disneyland fans will tell you (through clenched teeth) that the debut of Walt Disney World’s paid FastPass program hurt them as well.
Disneyland gained its own version of Disney Genie+, the spiritual successor to MaxPass.
Even though the system works mostly the same, Disneyland bumped the price by $5 or 33 percent to $20 per person per day.
Later, another $5 bump at Walt Disney World also rippled to Disneyland. Now, the prices start at $20 in Orlando and $25 in Anaheim.
Also, Disney has added tiered pricing. So, the cost varies depending on the day/week/month you visit.
In short, Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane aren’t cheap.
Is Disney Genie+ Worth the Price?
Evaluating something with blanket pricing is rarely simple.
Everyone’s budget differs, and we all have different pain points for pricing.
So, you may be able to afford more but choose not to do it due to the principle involved.
Conversely, a Disney Genie+ purchase may stretch your budget, but you believe it enhances your park visit.
The reality is that guests pay a lot of money per daily visit to a Disney park.
As such, another $20 can feel cruel and unusual to some but perfectly reasonable to others.
Management knew this in advance and priced accordingly at Walt Disney World.
Frankly, everyone was caught a bit off-guard by the immediate success of Disney Genie+. Sales paced well ahead of park projections.
By the holiday season of 2021, roughly half of the guests were paying for the privilege of shorter line queue access.
Remarkably, that trend continued in 2022, which explains the price increases.
You could pay as little as $15 for Disney Genie+, or you might be out $28 plus tax. That’s a giant pricing swing that also leads to a challenging evaluation.
Anecdotally, I’ll mention that I’ve always paid for Disney Genie+. I have had visits where I didn’t feel like I got my money’s worth.
Usually, those mistakes were due to my not planning well, though. When used correctly, Disney Genie+ helps substantially to improve a park visit.
Is that worth paying 20-25 percent more for a park visit than you would with merely an admission ticket?
Some of our dearest friends only buy Disney Genie+ when they’re joining us at the parks. As Disney pros, they know how to work the lines anyway.
So, they save their money for other purchases, which is smart. You’ll remember a souvenir more than a Disney Genie+ purchase.
Is Lightning Lane Worth the Price?
Here’s an even more challenging evaluation. Disney’s six American theme parks each host a Lightning Lane attraction.
You can think of each ride as Disney’s best (or at least most popular) at a given park.
We’re talking about Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Avatar Flight of Passage, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Radiator Springs Racers, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
You want to ride all those, right? In 2023, we can add Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disneyland Park and Tron Lightcycle Power Run at Magic Kingdom.
Unless something changes, those two parks will offer multiple Lightning Lanes throughout 2023.
You should expect to pay $18-$25 for Disney’s newest rides and somewhere around $15-$20 for the other Lightning Lane options.
Let’s be brutally honest about this expense. When you buy Disney Genie+, you can experience many more attractions per park visit.
With a Lightning Lane purchase, you skip most (but not all) of one ride.
In the case of Rise of the Resistance, I have still stood in line for 45 minutes with a Lightning Lane. With Cosmic Rewind, it’s been 30+ minutes on multiple occasions.
Now, you can and should contrast those waits to the averages. With Rise of the Resistance, we’re talking 80-150 minutes, depending on which park and when.
Cosmic Rewind doesn’t even offer a standby line queue at the time of publication.
So, the question comes down to how much you’re willing to pay to spend 60-90 minutes less time in the same line.
For my family, we buy Lightning Lanes for Cosmic Rewind and Rise of the Resistance. We will wait on everything else or just skip the line.
That’s my overall evaluation here. I believe that Disney Genie+ is worth the price. With Lightning Lane, it depends entirely on the ride.
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Feature Photo: Disney