I enjoyed the old FastPass system at Disney. I liked the strategery of it. You could get up early and nab FastPasses for your trip up to 60 days out.
If you got them early enough, you could get a fourth or even a fifth later in the evening.
There was skill and also luck. There was planning, but it wasn’t overly complicated.
What there was not, however, was extra money spent. FastPasses were included with the price of your tickets.
If I’m being honest, I felt like the old FastPass system gave me a step ahead of the competition. If you followed ride wait times and queues, you knew which FastPasses had the most value.
I felt like the king of the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks. Then, Disney went and changed the game.
FastPass is out.
Genie+ and Lightning Lanes are in.
To be clear, the planning adventures continue. However, they are just so much harder – and costlier – to navigate than they used to be.
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What is a Lightning Lane at Disney?
The Lightning Lane entrance is a separate queue for customers who have paid more for the privilege of cutting lines a few times throughout the day.
It’s essentially the old FastPass concept, but you have to pay for it.
Lightning Lanes can be purchased individually through the My Disney Experience app. In the app, select “Tip Board”. Then, select an experience and follow the prompts to purchase.
You choose your experience and an arrival window on the day of your visit.
Disney Resort Hotel guests can make their first selection at 7 am on the day of their visit. All other guests can make their selection when the park opens.
What is the Disney Genie Service?
The basic Disney Genie Service is like an online concierge to help grant your wish. Get it?
For example, with the My Disney Experience app, you can manage your Disney vacation, building ideal itineraries that the Genie will then help you maximize in the park.
Using the customized Tip Board, Genie will make suggestions based on the park’s expected wait times for even the most popular attractions.
It manages your photo pass and dining reservations. Recommendations are offered based on where you’re supposed to be and at what time, adjusting your personalized itinerary as necessary.
It will also make you aware of wait times for all the rides and when appropriate will show you the standby queue versus a Lightning Lane selection and allow you to pay to make an Individual Lightning Lane reservation as well.
It also lets you request to join a virtual queue and get your Lightning Lane return time.
It’s a wonderfully advanced technology, but it also requires quite a bit of interaction throughout the day.
Some guests feel like having to manage their itinerary during the day takes away from the celebration of the whole thing.
But Disney is leaning so hard into the app and the Genie service that they have no choice but to not only participate, but to purchase Genie+.
Is a Lightning Lane the same as Genie+?
They are very closely connected. Genie+ grants you access to Lightning Lanes, but it is different than Individual Lightning Lanes.
If you purchase Disney Genie+ for $15 per ticket per day, you get the ability to access Lightning Lanes for all but the most popular rides in each park, which come with Individual Lightning Lane options.
For example, rides like Rise of the Resistance are not included in the $15 Disney Genie+ service. They have Individual Lightning Lanes. You purchase Individual Lightning Lane reservations separately, and Disney Genie+ is not required.
They can be purchased with or without Disney Genie+.
Editor’s note: Pricing and availability may vary. Consult your Disney app for the most up-to-date information.
How do Lightning Lane and Genie+ work?
First, you buy your ticket and make your Disney Park Pass Reservation. If you haven’t been since the park re-opened – before you buy your ticket, you should go online and make sure there is availability the day you want to go.
Most of the time this isn’t a problem, but Disney is capping the number of guests it allows in the park each day.
At midnight on the day of your visit, you can go on the My Disney Experience app and purchase Disney Genie+ for the day.
The reservation system goes live at 7 am for the day. At that point, you will be in competition with the other Disney Genie+ guests for time slots.
You want to have a clear target of the most popular rides and try to get them as early as possible. Once you’ve made your reservation, you can’t make another until you’ve ridden the ride, had your window expire or waited until two hours have passed.
If you make your first booking at 7 am, the clock doesn’t start ticking until after the park’s opening.
Do you need Genie+ to get Lightning Lane?
For Lightning Lane, yes. For Individual Lightning Lane, no.
In each of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, there is a single ride – the most popular ride in the park – with the Individual Lightning Lane designation.
You can purchase those Lightning Lane options “à la carte”, or outside of the Disney Genie+ System.
Guests at Disney Resort Hotels can make Individual Lightning Lane purchases at 7 am the day of their visit. Also, there’s no stipulation that says the Individual Lightning Lane is limited to one ride per park.
In California, there are two Individual Lightning Lane rides at Disney’s California Adventure.
Prices and availability vary. The Disney app does a good job of walking you through it once you make your reservation.
How many Lightning Lanes do you get with Genie+?
We need to make two things abundantly clear. First, Lightning Lanes are available on a wide variety of attractions, shows and experiences throughout the parks. However, your purchase does not guarantee you’ll get to ride any of them.
Though Genie+ does not have limited availability, the rides do. That means some of the most popular attractions, like Millennium Falcom: Smugglers Run at Hollywood Studios, could run out of their inventory for Lightning Lanes each day.
Secondly, Disney says that on average, Genie+ users get two to three Lightning Lane rides per day.
You can only use a ride’s Lightning Lane entrance once per day. That means – for instance – you couldn’t use two Lightning Lane reservations on the Slinky Dog Dash twice on the same day.
Park hopping does not change any of the restrictions.
Are the Individual Lightning Lanes worth it?
I think the Individual Lightning Lane is worth it right now for three of the four. Cosmic Rewind and Avatar Flight of Passage are among the best – if not the best rides – in Orlando.
In fact, Rise of the Resistance is one of the best rides in the world.
I would pay a full ticket price to be able to just walk on that thing without having to wait at all. And I’d do a little happy dance on the way in.
The Dwarfs? It’s a very, short quick little coaster. It’s a good ride, but I don’t think it’s even the best ride in the Magic Kingdom right now.
The Individual Lightning Lane attractions, or rides that are currently not offered through Genie+, include:
- Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarves Mine Train
- EPCOT: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
- Hollywood Studios: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Animal Kingdom: Avatar Flight of Passage
The Individual Lightning Lane ride may change in Magic Kingdom after Tron opens in March.
For the record, Rise of Resistance is the Individual Lightning Lane option at the Disneyland Resort while Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure and the Radiator Springs Racers are Individual Lightning Lane selections at Disney’s California Adventure.
Which is better, Genie+ or the Individual Lightning Lane?
If I was spending the extra money, I’d opt for the Individual Lightning Lane selections.
The Rise of the Resistance wait can take forever. That’s a major section out of your park day, standing on asphalt or concrete, wearing you and the family out.
For that reason, I think the Individual Lightning Lanes are more valuable.
With some planning and willingness to go with the flow, you can see most of the rest of the park using the standby line. If the average is two or three, then Genie+ is only really saving you one – maybe two – line waits over the individual rides.
I’m pretty sure Disney wants you to buy both.
If I would rank the parks at which I think Genie+ would be beneficial, it would be as follows:
1. Hollywood Studios: Skip long lines at Slinky Dog, Toy Story Mania, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway or Smuggler’s Run.
2. EPCOT: Same for the Frozen Ever After and the Ratatouille rides.
3. Magic Kingdom: I’d only do it if you really want to ride Space Mountain or Peter Pan without a wait. The rest of the wait times are usually manageable.
4. Animal Kingdom: Go to the River Journey or Safari at the park’s opening and you won’t need a Lightning Lane.
Is Genie+ worth it?
Yes and no. I like the way it assists in planning on the fly, recommending changes and that sort of thing.
But the whole thing with the Lightning Lanes and reservations and rules is just too complicated.
I’d prefer Disney just go to individual prices.
Want to skip the line at Rise of Resistance? Use your app and pay the $20. Want to skip the “line” at Mickey’s PhilHarmagic? It’s a quarter.
It would be better to pay the money, buy the reservation and go watch Donald’s giant posterior hanging out of the wall and savor the air conditioning.
Which attractions have Lightning Lane entrances?
At the time of this writing, here are the attractions offered with the “regular” Lightning Lane through Genie+ in each park:
Events: Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade
Shows: Mickey’s PhilharMagic and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor
Experiences: Meet Cinderella and a Visiting Princess at Princess Fairytale Hall, Meet Mickey and Minnie at Town Square Theater and Meet Princess Tiana and a Visiting Princess at Princess Fairytale Hall
Rides: Frontierland, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Tomorrowland, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Speedway, Storybook Circus, The Barnstormer, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Liberty Square, Haunted Mansion, Fantasyland, It’s a Small World, Mad Tea Party, Peter Pan’s Flight, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Under the Sea: Journey of The Little Mermaid, Adventureland, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean and Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Shows: Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
Rides: Frozen Ever After, Journey into Imagination with Figment, Living with the Land, Mission: SPACE – Green, Mission: SPACE – Orange, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Soarin’ Around the World, Spaceship Earth, Test Track, The Seas with Nemo & Friends and Turtle Talk with Crush
Shows: Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, Disney Junior Play and Dance!, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! and Muppet Vision 3D
Experiences: Meet Olaf at Celebrity Spotlight
Rides: Alien Swirling Saucers, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Slinky Dog Dash, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Toy Story Mania!
Shows: Festival of the Lion King, Feathered Friends in Flight, Finding Nemo: The Big Blue … and Beyond! and It’s Tough to Be a Bug!
Experiences: The Animation Experience at Conservation Station, Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost
Rides: DINOSAUR, Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safaris and Naʻvi River Journey
Do you use the Disney Genie+ system? Let us know in the comments.