RIP FASTPASS. We hardly knew ye MaxPass. Everything you knew about cutting the lines to ride attractions at Disneyland (and for that matter, Walt Disney World too!) just got hit with some big changes. It’s time to learn something new for your next Disneyland vacation.
Disney just announced the successor to the FASTPASS system that has existed in some shape or form in its parks since 1999. This next-gen service, Disney Genie, uses technology and queue data to improve your Disneyland day and minimize waits. Disney Genie upgrades called Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane promise even more ways to ride more efficiently – but at a cost.
This new ecosystem is coming both to Walt Disney World and Disneyland in Fall 2021, but this article focuses on Disneyland specifically. Thankfully, a lot of Disneyland regulars are familiar with the Disneyland MaxPass system already, which should help in understanding some of these new offerings. I promise I’ll have more detailed help for you Florida-bound folks in another post soon too, but be sure to scroll down to Question 11 below which will get you started if you want to know about Walt Disney World differences.
So just what is Disney Genie at Disneyland? And what about its upsells, Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane? Let’s dive in.
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Disney Genie, Disney Genie+ & Lightning Lane Basics
Before we get into the FAQs about all things Disney Genie, we’ll start with the most basic of basics. Disney has just thrown a lot of new terms our way, and it’s confusing. The essential framework of this new system has three new offerings to help you be more efficient on your Disneyland day:
- Disney Genie
- Disney Genie+*
- Individual attraction selection*
(*You’ll also hear the term Lightning Lane, which is a feature of both 2 & 3.)
1. Disney Genie
Disney Genie is the name of a new free service that will be built into the Disneyland app. Disney describes it as follows:
Disney Genie service will maximize your park time, so you can have more fun. It includes a personalized itinerary feature that will quickly and seamlessly map out an entire day. From specific attractions, foodie experiences and entertainment, to general interests like Disney princesses, villains, Pixar, Star Wars, thrill rides and more – just tell Disney Genie what you want to do and it will do the planning for you.
It’s crucial to note that Disney Genie won’t give you any way to cut ride lines like the free FASTPASS of old. It’s function is to guide guests only through the normal standby lines for rides, advising when those waits are lower and giving guests an efficient touring plan.
Details on just how regular Disney Genie will work and how much it will really maximize your day are still pretty unclear. We’ll have to wait until we see it in action to know much more.
2. Disney Genie+
Disney Genie+ is similar to many theme park cut-the-line services and is the successor to Disneyland’s FASTPASS and MaxPass digital queuing system. Unlike Disney Genie and the previous paper FASTPASS, it isn’t free.
With Genie+, guests pre-book ride reservation time windows on their smartphone throughout the day. (Disney says guests can make these reservations one at a time, but that may not be entirely accurate – more on that below.) When each time window opens, they can return to a ride and access it through an express queue with reduced waits.
This express queue at Disneyland will be known as Lightning Lane. The Lightning Lane is simply the new name for what we all knew as the FASTPASS line.
To use Genie+, link your ticket in the official Disneyland app (which you’ll need to do anyway these days in order to make required Disneyland reservations) and manage it all from your phone. You can even manage all the tickets for everyone in your family with just one phone. When it’s time to ride, scan your park ticket or bar code in the Disneyland app at the Lightning Lane entrance.
Disney Genie+ will include Photopass at Disneyland, giving you access to all your digital photo downloads as part of the $20 per person price. Since the cost of one day Photopass is already $19.99, this offering is a nice bonus.
3. Individual Attraction Selections
Here’s where it gets confusing. While guests who use Genie+ to ride attractions will enter through the Lightning Lane, there are also Lightning Lanes for a few attractions that are not available as part of Disney Genie+. Disneyland doesn’t have a catchy name for these attractions, calling them only “Individual Attraction Selections” in information so far.
To access the Lightning Lane for these a la carte attractions, you’ll need to pay a separate per person fee. Guests will be limited to purchasing access to 2 of these attractions per day. As you might guess, these Individual Attraction Selections are likely to be some of the most popular headliners in each park (more on that below).
Frequently Asked Questions about Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane at Disneyland
I bet you have questions galore about Disney Genie and its related additional charges. Let’s dive in.
1. How much do Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane Offerings Cost at Disneyland?
Disneyland’s regular Disney Genie system is free. But Disney Genie+ and the attractions offering Lightning Lane for a separate a la carte price are not.
The cost for Disney Genie+ at Disneyland is $20 per person per day.
The cost of the individual attraction selections offering Lightning Lane with a la carte pricing is not known just yet. We know that pricing will be dynamic. Prices will surely be higher during peak travel periods and holidays, and may well fluctuate during the day too as demand ebbs and flows and regular standby lines get longer. Judging by what cut the line services for rides at Disneyland Paris cost, most experts are estimating $5-25 per person, per ride for these attractions.
2. What rides are offered on Disney Genie+? What about with a la carte Lightning Lane?
Disneyland will be offering at least 15 yet-to-be-named attractions with Genie+ for the single $20 daily fee.
Generally speaking, rides that used to have FASTPASS lanes will be offered with Genie+, with the exception of the couple of attractions in each park that are reserved for separate a la carte Lightning Lane sale. Most FASTPASS attractions were the more popular thrill rides with height minimums, but a few family-friendly rides were on that system too.
Disney has mentioned a couple of attractions or made some ride names visible in screenshots demonstrating Genie+, so here’s what we know so far about what rides fall into what bucket.
DisneyGenie+ Rides (15+ attractions)
- Big Thunder Mountain (DL)
- Haunted Mansion (DL)
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (DL)
A La Carte Lightning Lane Rides (number TBD)
- Rise of the Resistance (DL)
- Radiator Springs Racers (DCA)
3. Will Virtual Queues Still Be Available?
Yes. There will still be rides at Disneyland that continue to offer virtual queues even when Disney Genie and Disney Genie+ launch. These rides will not have regular standby lines like all other attractions, as the virtual queue takes the place of the standby line.
At Disneyland, the two rides we know that will keep their virtual queues are Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure. Virtual queue spots open up for booking two times daily (at 7:00 am and 12 noon). See my guides to getting a spot in the virtual queue for these rides for the most updated information as it changes:
- How to Snag a Boarding Group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Tips and Tricks for the Virtual Queue for WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure
If you don’t luck out during the free virtual queue drops, then both rides will likely also be offered for individual a la cart Lightning Lane sale. Of course, as more space on these attractions will now be allocated to Lightning Lane, that means fewer free virtual queue spots will be up for grabs.
4. When and how can I purchase Disney Genie+?
If you want to have Genie+ for your entire trip, you will be able to purchase it in advance. Exact details aren’t available yet, but this is likely to be at the time you purchase tickets, as was the case with MaxPass.
If you want to purchase Disney Genie+ for only some days of your Disneyland trip, you can purchase day-by-day on your smartphone in the Disneyland app. Sales start at midnight before each day.
5. When and how can I book rides with Disney Genie+?
Once you’ve purchased Disney Genie+, when can you start using it to book ride return times?
At Disneyland, you can start booking Genie+ attractions at the very moment you scan your ticket to enter a park for the morning. This is similar to how MaxPass operated. (Note that the rules are different at Walt Disney World where everyone can start Genie+ bookings at 7:00am daily.)
Once you have entered any park for the day, you can then book DisneyGenie+ from any location for the rest of the day. So if you take a mid-day break to back at your hotel, you can keep booking from there. The app will let you know when you are eligible to book your next attraction. We don’t yet know, however, the exact eligibility rules that will be applied.
6. When and how can I purchase and book rides available only as individual Lightning Lane a la carte attractions?
If you wish to purchase a la carte attractions offering Lightning Lane, that process at Disneyland is same day only. You will purchase and book at the same time, unlike Genie+ which can be purchased earlier than booking starts. Individual Lightning Lane sales only open up once you’ve scanned your ticket and entered a park for the morning.
Disney says this about individual attraction selection: “Schedule a time to arrive at up to two highly demanded attractions each day using the Lightning Lane entrance – like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom Park and Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure Park (subject to limited availability; attractions not included with Disney Genie+).” So it seems likely that guests will be able to pick their preferred time to ride, perhaps scheduling around park hopping plans or a dining reservation. In contrast, Genie+ only offers the next available queue time.
7. Is there a limit to the number of Lightning Lane return times I can get?
Not that we know of with Disney Genie+. If you can grab return windows and use them quickly, the sky is likely the only limit! If the system ultimately works like MaxPass, savvy guests may be well able to get 10 or more attractions with Genie+ in a single day with efficient use of the system. But we are still waiting on lots more details from Disney to know all of that for sure.
While Disney Genie+ attractions have no upper limit, individual attraction selection Lightning Lane does. Guests can only purchase 2 of those attractions overall per day, even if they park hop.
8. Will Disney Genie+ or Lightning Lane individual attractions sell out?
Potentially, but likely not instantaneously. These are still premium offerings that cost extra. There will be many guests who simply can’t afford the upcharges or who simply don’t find them valuable enough to pay for them – and certainly not every day.
It’s more likely that individual attraction Lightning Lane will sell out for some rides over the course of a day than it is for the Disney Genie+ offering overall to sell out.
Rides that have Lightning Lanes offered on Genie+ will of course run out of available return times at some point in each day. Back when MaxPass was offered at Disneyland, the most popular rides could run out of times before the lunch hour on busy days. Other rides might remain available with MaxPass nearly up to park closing on a less busy day. The bottom line is that guests who use Genie+ will need to know what the most in-demand rides are and watch when the return times are getting close to running out so as not to miss a chance to book a time!
Of course, until the system launches and we see what demand will be, it’s too soon to really devise a complete strategy.
9. Do I have to use Disney Genie or Disney Genie+?
No. If this all seems like just too much, I feel you. You don’t have to use any of this. You can still go from standby line to standby line like we all used to do in the theme parks of old. Strategies like rope dropping or squeezing in one last ride a minute before park closing will still work. Virtual queues that many guests have gotten used to by now will function the same.
You can also also choose to purchase just one of these offerings or mix and match as you wish. For example, you can purchase a single Lightning Lane a la carte ride without purchasing Genie+. Or vice versa!
If you don’t want to pay for any extras, you can also just use Disney Genie to streamline your day – even casually. If you already are used to checking wait times in the Disneyland app, the basics of regular Genie aren’t likely to be that much harder to use.
10. Can I add Disney Genie+ to my Magic Key (annual pass)?
Disneyland just began selling annual passes again, now called Magic Keys. MaxPass used to be included in the cost of the most expensive top level annual passes, and an annual add-on was available for the lower cost passes. No longer with Genie+.
The only way for Magic Keyholders to use Genie+ is to purchase day by day. Perhaps an add on cost for the year might be considered at a later date, but for now Keyholders need to factor $20 daily costs into their budget calculations if they wish to use this service.
11. How are Disney Genie(+) and Lightning Lane different at Walt Disney World than at Disneyland?
Although the Disney Genie offerings at Walt Disney World and Disneyland work in the same general way, there are some crucial differences to keep in mind if you are a guest who visits both coasts. I fully expect that these systems may diverge even more over time.
The current differences are:
- Disneyland: Genie+ is $20 per person
- Disney World: Genie+ is $15 per person
- Number of Rides Available
- Disneyland: at least 15 attractions on Genie+
- Disney World: at least 40 attractions on Genie+
- Disney Genie+ Ride Booking Start Time
- Disneyland: guests may only start booking rides with Genie+ after they have scanned into a park for the day
- Disney World: guests may start booking rides with Genie+ at 7:00am from any location.
- Individual Lightning Lane Ride Booking Start Time
- Disneyland: guests may start booking individual attractions with Lightning Lane after they have scanned into a park for the day
- Disney World: guests staying on property may start booking individual attractions with Lightning Lane rides at 7:00am from any location (off-property guests must wait until park opening time)
- Photo Offerings
- Disneyland: Genie+ includes Photopass
- Disney World: Genie+ at Disney World does not include Photopass but does have augmented reality photo lenses.
Remember too that Disneyland and Disney World have different times for park hopping (1:00 pm at Disneyland vs. 2:00 pm at Walt Disney World). The parks also have different times for the second drop of virtual queue time slots (noon at Disneyland vs. 1:00 pm at Walt Disney World). These time differences may well affect how Genie+ and individual attraction Lightning Lane return times operate in practice and thus your overall strategy.
For even more information about Disney Genie at Walt Disney World, be sure to listen to the Disney Deciphered podcast episode I recorded with Joe Cheung below. And if you didn’t know I co-hosted a Disney podcast, please consider subscribing!
What We Still Don’t Know (And Really Need to Know) about Disney Genie+ at Disneyland
So we do know a lot about Disney Genie+ at Disneyland so far. But the devil is in the details. And there are a LOT of details missing in the information Disney has released to date about how Genie+ and Lightning Lane will work. I still have a lot of questions.
Until most of those questions are answered, I can’t say for certain whether Disney Genie+ is going to be a good value. And more importantly, I can’t devise a strategy for how to hack it to maximize your Disneyland day (which is totally the goal, right?).
I’ve gone on record before about my love of MaxPass at Disneyland. If Disney Genie+ implements the same key parameters as MaxPass, I think it could be pretty great. But that’s still unclear. No one likes to pay more, but if you get more, then most guests will be happy.
So what questions are we still waiting on answers to? Here goes!
- Are guests really limited to one ride at a time with Disney Genie+? Or will it work like MaxPass where guests can get a new return time after a certain time period has passed, even if the original ride return window has not opened?
- If it will work like MaxPass, will guests be eligible for a new ride after no more than 90 minutes have passed (as was the case with MaxPass)? Or will Disneyland set a longer time period (like 120 minutes, which was the rule for old paper FASTPASS)?
- How will Disneyland allocate ride space between Lightning Lane and standby lines? (Often 80+% of ride space was allocated to guests in the Fastpass/MaxPass queue, creating very long standby lines. Will that change?)
- When will guests with park hopper tickets be able to book attractions with Genie+ in the other park? Only after 1:00pm? Or can they start booking post-1pm return times earlier in the day when the return windows fall after the 1pm time?
- Will wait times in the Lightning Lane be similar to what they were with FASTPASS/MaxPass? Will Lightning Lane waits be shorter in the a la carte individual attraction selection ride lines than in Lightning Lanes available for Genie+ rides?
- Will there be more than 2 rides in each park that are available only as a la carte individual attractions for separate purchase?
- Will Disneyland regularly swap out rides between the Genie+ and a la carte purchase buckets? Will that only happen when a new ride is launched? Could it happen seasonally when ride overlays like Haunted Mansion Holiday are available?
- Will guests be able to select a set time (like they could with FASTPASS+ at Walt Disney World) for their a la carte Lightning Lane ride purchases? Or will they be limited to the next available return time, like with Disney Genie+? (Most signs point to the fact that guests will be able to pick their own preferred time.)
- Will there be a minimum or maximum price published for the la carte Lightning Lane attractions?
- How fast will a la carte Lightning Lane attractions “sell out” for the day? (Or at least, how fast will the preferred times sell out?)
- Is the $20 Disney Genie+ price here to stay or will the cost for it, like MaxPass, increase significantly over a short period of time? (MaxPass went from $10 in 2017 to $15 in 2019 to $20 in 2020).
- Is Disney eventually contemplating offering Disney Genie+ as an add on to some or all Magic Keys?
- How will Disney operate queues for Rise of the Resistance and WEB SLINGERS? Will virtual queue guests use what was built to be the standby line while guests who purchase a la carte use the Lightning Lane? (My bet? Yes.)
- Can a guest ride an attraction more than once in a single day with Disney Genie+ like guests could with MaxPass? (My bet? Yes.)
- Can guests use their two Lightning Lane a la carte selections to ride the same ride twice in a single day? (My bet? No.)
- Can you ride an attraction with a virtual queue like Rise of the Resistance and then also purchase it with the a la carte Lightning Lane option to ride it twice in one day? (My bet? Also no.)
- Will there be any way for guests without smartphones to use Disney Genie, Disney Genie+, or Lightning Lane individual attraction selection?
- If early entry like Extra Magic Hour or Magic Mornings return to Disneyland, how these will affect guest ability to start booking rides with Genie+ ride earlier than other guests can enter the parks?
Tired yet? Like I said, there are A LOT of unknowns still out there about the entire Disney Genie system. But never fear. I’m going to be working diligently to find out the answers as we go. Eventually, we’ll figure out the tricks for maximizing this system. And if you want my hot takes in real time like the one below, be sure you are following me on Twitter where I love to talk about this stuff.
Going on record. I bet Disney World starts offering free Disney Genie+ promotions for on-property stays like they do with the free dining plan some times of the year. On-property benefits are just too low right now.— Leslie Harvey (@TripsWithTykes) August 22, 2021
Other Disney Genie Tips & Tricks
A few other miscellaneous tips, tricks, and things to keep in mind as we await the launch of Genie+!
- WiFi at Disneyland has improved quite a bit as the Disneyland app has gotten more full featured. But there are still has dead spots (and your data service may not work everywhere either.) You may not always be able to get service to book that next Genie+ attraction if you are in an indoor queue, so plan accordingly.
- Having to use the Disneyland app that much more for Genie or Genie+ will really drain your smartphone battery. An external portable charger is a must. Disneyland offers one brand of charger, Fuel Rods, in small vending machines around the park. Cost is $30 and you can also swap at the kiosks. I use Fuel Rods but I also pair them with the Anker PowerCore 1000. It has more charging power (about 3+ full iPhone charges) for long Disneyland days and may be better for families with multiple devices.
- Guests could use Rider Switch with MaxPass/FASTPASS so we expect the same will be true for Lightning Lanes on Genie+.
- Disability Access Service at Disneyland (DAS) recently received some updates in August 2021 as well. Guests who are eligible for DAS may be able to use it instead of Genie+ (or in conjunction with it) for a more successful day’s plan.
- Evening shows like World of Color and Fantasmic aren’t back yet, but it’s possible those could be added to Genie+ when they do return (they were added to MaxPass). Stay tuned!
- Under the old MaxPass system, if a ride you had a MaxPass for went down, the reservation turned into a “Multiple Experiences” FASTPASS for any ride in that park. If Disney Genie+ keeps this same feature, this can be a great way to sneak in an attraction that you otherwise might miss!
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