By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Disney World’s New Means for Accessing its Attractions: Genie+ and Its Confusing Alternatives



By Dave Shute

Walt Disney World has implemented a wreck and rebuild of its former FastPass+ system, with more and different options for accessing its rides, many for the first time since the days of E Tickets at an extra fee.

The two key parts of this are known as

  • “Individual Lightning Lane” (“ILL”)–paid scheduled access, by individual ride, to a small group of rides–and
  • “Genie+,” paid access to all of a group of other rides.

Below is a comprehensive overview of  all the different ways you can access Walt Disney World’s rides and shows–its “attractions.”

Note that I was unable to discuss the new means of accessing these rides without also talking about Disney’s new Early Entry program, a much more important than commonly understood replacement for Disney’s former “Extra Magic Hours” program.

ATTRACTIONS AVAILABLE BY EITHER WAITING IN A FREE LINE OR BY A SPECIFIC “INDIVIDUAL LIGHTNING LANE” PAYMENT FOR THEM

Many of these rides have traditionally had high demand compared to capacity and, often, high waits.

You can access them for free either during Early Entry by waiting a standby line, or during the regular day by waiting in a line. Alternatively, you can purchase individual access to them–making them “Individual Lightning Lane” or “ILL” attractions.

 

  • At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, currently the ILL offering is Flight of Passage.
  • At Epcot, Cosmic Rewind–the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride that opened at Epcot May 27, is Epcot’s current ILL entry, but free access is via Boarding Group/Virtual Queue (see below), not waiting in line.
  • At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Rise of the Resistance is the current ILL ride
  • At Magic Kingdom, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the current ILL ride, likely to be joined by Tron: Lightcycle Run when it opens later in 2022 or early in 2023

Options for accessing these attractions. The ILL rides in this group may be accessed by everyone for free by waiting in standby lines during normal park hours; most are accessible for free by Disney resort hotel and other eligible guests during Early Entry; and all will be accessible via individual paid access (“ILL.”)

ILL for these rides opens for same-day reservations to Disney World resort hotel guests and other eligible guests (and guests at a narrow list of non-Disney hotels on or near property) at 7a, and to everyone else when the park the rides are in officially opens.

Early Entry eligibility. All these rides are generally available during Disney World’s Early Entry program—where Disney resort hotel guests, and guests at a limited number of other eligible hotels, can enter any park any day at least 30 minutes before everyone else.

Having them available during early entry is both a valuable perk for Disney resort guests, and also a way to drive up the value of paid individual access for these rides—because at the “everyone else” park opening time, many of these rides will already have a line….

Pricing. Standby lines and Early Entry access are free. Individual paid access will be paid per person, and varies by ride, date, time of day, phase of the moon, etc. Prices typically are >$5 and <$25, with the higher prices at the more popular rides and on more popular dates.

Logistics, limitations, constraints

All guests will be able to book via individual paid access each day no more than two of either this class of rides or the “Boarding Group” class above, and these two can’t be the same ride. Pricing will be per person, and you will not have to buy it for all in your party—only for those who wish to use it. Those with park hopper tickets will be allowed to book their two rides in two different parks, so long as the timing complies with whatever park hopper policies are in place the day of booking—and availably exists…

Genie+ (the third class, below) is NOT required to access these rides, and these rides are NOT a part of Genie+.

You can book the time to come to the attraction that you wish from among those offered–that is, unlike the Genie+ rides noted below, you are not stuck with the next available time.

No cancellations or refunds will be available except for those related to ride closures. A temporary ride closure during your window will result in an “anytime” pass allowing you to re-enter when you choose. If the ride is closed at your return time, and never re-opens that day, you will automatically receive a refund.

You do not need to be physically present in a park or even on Disney World property to book.

Best for: Those staying at a Disney-owned or other hotel eligible for both 7a paid virtual access and also for Early Entry, and for whom this day/this trip/their entire life would be powerfully harmed by missing out on the attractions in this class. Such folks will be pretty likely to be able access these rides, via Early Access and/or by signing up for paid individual access at 7a.

Worst for: Everyone else.

ATTRACTIONS AVAILABLE BY EITHER A FREE BOARDING GROUP/VIRTUAL QUEUE OR BY A SPECIFIC “INDIVIDUAL LIGHTNING LANE” PAYMENT FOR THEM

Attractions in this class are very popular rides for which long standby lines are not attractive to Disney, for reasons of queue space, ride unreliability, or both.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot is in this class. You can access Cosmic Rewind one of two ways: by paying for Individual Lighting Lane access, or by successfully signing up via your My Disney Experience app for a free “Boarding Group.” Numbered Boarding Groups are called to the ride in numeric order to experience it, and until then, you can enjoy the rest of the park.  This is called a “virtual queue.”

Boarding Group sign-up begins at 7a for those staying in an eligible hotel, and at the time park open for everyone else. A second set of boarding group options will be available at 1p, but for this group–unlike the morning group–guests must first have tapped into Epcot.

So there is no traditional “standby line” option for accessing Guardian’s of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind–at least during regular park hours. Guests eligible for Extended Evening hours can try to garb a special boarding group opportunity just for them beginning at 6p (that is, the sign up begins at 6p–not the ability to ride).

ATTRACTIONS AVAILABLE BY EITHER WAITING IN A FREE LINE OR AS A GROUP BY A SINGLE PAYMENT FOR THAT ENTIRE GROUP OF ATTRACTIONS–FORMALLY KNOWN AS “GENIE+”

Attractions included.

When Disney’s free FastPass+ shut down in March 2020, ~65ish attractions were available for FastPass+ booking or headed that way: ~25 at Magic Kingdom, ~15 at AK, ~15 at Hollywood Studios, and ~10 at Epcot.

This has been replaced with a paid option that covers about 60 rides–Disney calls the program that lets you buy access to this entire group of rides for a day for a single fee “Genie+.”

The current list of rides available for both individual purchase (i.e. in one of the two classes above) or in Genie+ is here.

The number of rides in this class–available both in paid Genie+ and free by waiting in line–is ~12 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, ~14 at Epcot, ~14 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and ~22 at Magic Kingdom.

These rides are collectively attractive enough to enough people that there will be some value to paying for the entire group to either avoid lines or assure access, but not so attractive compared to their capacity to otherwise generate the kind of lines that might warrant individual paid access.

Options for accessing these attractions. Attractions in this “Genie+” class are available to experience both for free by waiting in line, or as a group for special scheduling for a flat per-person per day fee—that is, one payment will grant you access to all ~60 rides, with no additional individual attraction payment required. Many will also be available for free during Disney World’s Early Entry program.

Early Entry eligibility. Almost all of these rides will be available during Early Entry.  The major exception is Magic Kingdom rides that are not in Fantasyland or Tomorrowland, as those are the only two lands open during Early Entry. The only other major ride I can think of that is on the Genie+ list but excluded from Early Entry is Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom–I believe ruminant union rules are the issue here.

Pricing. Access to Genie+ for this group of rides is available by the day. By the day pricing began at $15/person/day (plus tax), and that pricing will almost certainly change as Disney learns more about the balance of supply and demand. Per day pricing is per person. For per-day use, you will not have to buy it for all in your party—only those who wish to use it.

Capacity allocated among access options. Disney has reversed its earlier policy claimed that it will not stop selling Genie+ on any given day—that is, that the program itself will not “sell out,” and now notes that it will be “subject to availability.” Other recent changes limit your ability to buy Genie+ ahead of time for a block of days. The overall impact of this is mixed.  Many have noted that Genie+ is least valuable on the busiest days, because so many people have it that attractions–especially at Hollywood Studios–book up too soon.  On the other hand, a limit on availability and limits on the ability to buy it other than day-of adds stress to the beginning of the day, and a certain amount of uncertainty…

It is unclear how much of the capacity of Genie+ attractions will be allocated to it vs. the traditional standby lines. The fairly simple point here is that the more capacity allocated to Genie+, the longer the waits in the standby lines, thus strengthening the value proposition of Genie+…but raising complexity in responding to operational closures. There are more complicated interactions to think about as well…So far, on very high crowd days, access to popular rides has booked out early, greatly diminishing the value of Genie+ on days when folks might want it most…

The language Disney now uses re Genie+ is “On average, guests can enter 2 to 3 attractions or experiences per day … if the first selection is made early in the day.”  While most of you will do better than that except perhaps at Hollywood Studios, it’s a good way to set expectations.

Logistics, limitations, constraints

The way Genie+ works is similar to the old paper FastPass days. You will be able to book one Genie+ attraction at a time, and then book your next as soon as the first of the following conditions is met:

  • When you enter the old FastPass+ return line (now called the Lightning Lane, and used not only for Genie+, but also for individual paid attractions, a point of massive confusion), or
  • If the park is scheduled to open after the time you booked, after two hours pass after park open
  • If the park is open when you book, after two hours have passed since you booked

You can only pick the “next available” slot for any specific Genie+ ride–that is, for a specific ride, you cannot pick your time among various possibilities, but rather must book the next available time. You can’t “change” such a booking, but you can cancel it and seek a different ride–or the next time for that same ride–instead.

At the moment, Genie + for the day will be available for purchase beginning a tick after midnight, and the first bookings of an attraction among the 60 or so attractions in the group can be made by everyone who has already purchased Genie+ at 7a for that day’s touring—whether a Disney resort guest, someone staying off-site, or an annual passholder booking from Kissimmee.

Best for: Because everyone who has bought Genie+ can book beginning at 7a, Disney World resort guests (and others eligible for the first two classes and for Early Entry) don’t at first glance have much advantage in Genie+ compared to everyone else.

However, there is a nuance to this. Because Disney World resort guests (and others eligible for Early Entry) will be able—if they arrive early enough—to see one or two Genie+ rides during Early Entry, and be in line for another before anyone else can get in the park, with a well-designed itinerary, such guests can remain two to four steps ahead of everyone else over the course of their day. This can have a substantial impact on both waits and the availability of good Genie+ return times.

Worst for: Those not eligible for Early Entry will have the other side of the coin. In the best case these folks will inherit pre-existing lines in the most attractive rides, be a couple of steps behind on the highest-demand rides, and will be likely many days of the year to move from rough line to rough line to rough line.

ATTRACTIONS AVAILABLE ONLY BY WAITING IN A FREE LINE

When Disney World is fully re-opened, there will be on the order of 100 attractions. (“On the order of” because people can disagree on whether something is an attraction or not. Is the petting zoo in Animal Kingdom’s Conservation Station an attraction? Is the Boneyard? What about the China Pavilion at Epcot? The vehicles on Main Street? Fantasmic? My answers: yes, yes, no, no, yes.)

Among these (at least as I’ve defined them), there’s about 40 attractions at Magic Kingdom, and about 20 each at the other three parks. Subtract 4 or so paid individual access ILL rides, and 60ish Genie+ rides, and you’ve got 35ish attractions that will be available only via waiting in line. Think Country Bears, Tiki Room, Carousel of Progress, Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, etc.

All guests will have nominally equal access to these attractions–show up, wait in line–and most of the time waits will be reasonable. That said, for the reasons noted above, a lower proportion of Disney resort hotel (and other eligible) guests) will be in long standby lines, so they will have more time, if they choose, to clot up Country Bears…

About a dozen of these “no-pay” rides are also available in Disney’s morning Early Entry program.

HOTEL ELIGIBILITY FOR PERKS

Various hotels are eligible for various perks related to reducing wait times .  I keep confusing myself regarding which can book ILL at 7a, which are eligible for Early Entry, and which are eligible for Extended Evening Hours.

The following chart illuminates this.

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4 comments

1 Kristy { 09.03.21 at 4:12 pm }

Looking forward to new itineraries once you get everything tried, tested and true! Kind of exciting for new things to figure out.

2 Dave { 09.04.21 at 9:24 am }

Kristy, I am looking forward to them too!

3 Cindy { 12.01.21 at 10:55 pm }

Can we visit WDW without a smartphone?
And if so, how do we?

4 Dave { 12.02.21 at 12:44 pm }

Cindy you can, but you won’t be able to use these tools–either at all, or without cast member assistance. I have not yet figured out itineraries for touring with or without these tools–all is too uncertain right now.

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