Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Entrance at Disney World

Disney World Genie+ and Lightning Lanes – Worth the Extra Cost?

You’ve got your tickets, hotel, and flights, and you’re all set to go to Disney World on a great vacation. But you still have a few more choices to make – the main one now being:

WILL YOU PAY EXTRA FOR GENIE+ AND LIGHTNING LANES???

Genie+ is a new service that rolled out at Disney World in December of last year, essentially like the old Fast Pass system, but not free anymore. (Back in the day, Fast Passes were paper tickets that would give you a window of about one hour to come back to a ride and get in the “Fast Pass” lane, which was much shorter than the regular standby line. If you wanted to ride as many rides as possible, Fast Passes were a must! You could only have one or two Fast Pass reservations at a time, so you had to be strategic about which rides you chose to get them for.)

Now, if you pay $15 per day (per ticketed guest), you get access to Genie+ on the My Disney Experience app, and essentially you make your “fast pass” reservations electronically. You can only book one Genie+ reservation at a time, and you can’t make a new one until you use your current one, or two hours have passed since you made a reservation.

So, if you have a family of 4, and are planning to go to the parks for 6 days, getting Genie+ would cost you an extra $360. (But this doesn’t include paying extra for individual Lightning Lanes.)

Yes, it’s true – even AFTER buying Genie+, there are some rides you still have to pay for individually to get a “fast pass” for – now known as Lightning Lane (LL) passes – and the costs are usually between $8-14 per person. These are the big ticket rides that you probably won’t want to miss, and the standby lines can easily be 1-2 hours long. So, are you willing to shell out another $40 to save time? Is it worth it?

My family just returned from a week-long stay at Disney World, and we opted into getting Genie+ for our party of 4 (myself, my husband, my son, and my mother-in-law) all the days we were there. Below I’ll share what you should consider before purchasing Genie+ or Lightning Lanes, the pros and cons, and what happens if, heaven forbid, a ride you bought a LL pass for breaks down!

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE PURCHASING GENIE+ AND LIGHTNING LANES

1. How crowded will the park be on the day you visit it?
If the park is not going to be super crowded, then it may not be worth it to you to pay the extra money for Genie+. However, our family just visited Disney World from January 10-15, which I figured would be “off-season,” and it was still crazy crowded. I honestly don’t think Disney has an off-season anymore. It’s going to be crowded, you are going to wait in long lines.

2. Which rides are you wanting to ride the most? How popular are they?
Make sure to see which rides you can get passes for with Genie+ (it’s not all the rides). If you are going with small children and only want to ride the carousel over and over – or you are planning to go back to the hotel and go swimming for a good portion of the day – then you may not need Genie+. Some rides that have Genie+ never really seemed to get that crowded (for example, we got a Genie+ pass for Spaceship Earth, but the standby line was only ever 5-15 minutes long). But, if your party wants to ride Peter Pan, Big Thunder Mountain, and the Jungle Cruise (typically all long waits) then Genie+ makes more sense.

3. Do you have small children or others in your party who are not great at waiting?
We had our 5-year-old son with us on this recent trip, and I can tell you it was very much worth it to not attempt to wait in hour-long lines with him. Some of the rides he wanted to do the most were the extra cost Lightning Lanes, like Frozen Ever After, which was typically about a 70 minute wait.

Frozen Ever After ride
Frozen Ever After, back in the good old days of regular Fast Passes (January 2020)

THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION: WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU BUY LL PASSES FOR A RIDE THAT BREAKS DOWN???

So this actually happened to us on this trip – we bought Lightning Lane passes (for $10 per person) for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride in Magic Kingdom. Our passes were good from about 3:30pm to 4:30pm. We headed towards the ride a little bit early, only to find out the ride had broken down.

What to do now? Do we wait and see if it will be back up again by the time our passes are active?

We decided to wait, and in about 20 minutes, the line started moving again. We actually decided to jump into the standby line because it was fairly short (most everyone had left thinking the ride would be broken for a while). The standby line moved fast until they started letting in LL people. Then our line came to a standstill for about 20 minutes. We finally got on the ride, it was great, my son said it was his favorite of the whole trip!

But, we had still paid over $40 (including tax) for four LL passes for the Mine Train. Our window was still open, so we decided to go again, but through the LL this time. In about 10 minutes, we were loaded onto the roller coaster. The Disney employee at the front pushed the green ‘go’ button… and nothing happened. Apparently the ‘go’ button had broken, and there was no backup. They tried to fix it for about 15 minutes, and then had everyone get off the ride.

I overheard a Disney employee tell some of the other guests that we would all get back a free LL pass for any ride in the park that we could use until Magic Kingdom closed. But as we got our magic bands scanned (by a different employee), I confirmed whether or not we could use this new pass for any ride, and she said, “no, only for this ride. And you have to use it today.”

Meanwhile the ride is broken. It’s now after 4pm, and the park closes at 9. So we are supposed to just hope they fix the ride, then stop whatever we are doing and run back over to get in line again? We had already been at Magic Kingdom since 7:30am, and our 5-year-old was not going to last until 9pm.

We decided we would look into getting a refund for our passes instead. Our credit card information is linked to our magic bands and the My Disney Experience app, so you would think it would be super easy to automatically get refunded, right?

Wrong! If you want a refund, you have to go to Guest Relations (the only location is on Main Street), and wait in line so they can process the refunds. This is what we ended up doing, but honestly, this is terrible customer service. There is no reason we should not just get automatically refunded when a ride we bought passes for breaks down.

Guest Relations office at Magic Kingdom

This is a worst-case-scenario situation and hopefully won’t happen to you, but it’s good to have realistic expectations for what might happen if the ride you bought passes for does break down.

SUMMARY: PROS AND CONS OF GENIE+ AND LIGHTNING LANES

Pros:
– Disney WILL be crowded, so you’ll avoid waiting in long lines
– You’ll get to ride WAY more rides

Cons:
– Paying extra money (estimated around $300-500)
– Not all rides are eligible for Genie+ or LL passes
– Not all rides are worth Genie+ passes (less popular rides that never have long lines)
– Inconvenient to get refunds

MY OPINION – BUY GENIE+ AND LIGHTNING LANES

If you want to have a good time at Disney, you need to pay the extra $$$.

You’ve already spent thousands of dollars for the trip, honestly a few hundred more to make sure you get to ride way more rides and go on the rides you love is worth it.

I know my cons list is longer, but for me it all comes down to one point: do you want to wait 70+ minutes for one ride, or only 10? What is your time worth?

Is it sad that free Fast Passes are history? Yes. Is is sad that the off-season at Disney does not seem to exist anymore? Yes. Does it seem like Disney is nickel-and-diming its guests? Yes (because they are).

It is totally within your right to say a resounding “no!” to purchasing Genie+ or Lightning Lanes. But honestly, you will probably only get to ride a third of the rides you would have if you had purchased Genie+. And some rides always have LONG lines from open until close. You will have to decide which rides you just won’t get to go on.

Personally, I think it’s sad to go to Disney and not feel like you’re getting the full experience. So for me, that means I would rather go less often, and spend more money the times I do go.

Thanks for reading! Anyone else planning a trip to Disney World this year? Let me know about your experience!

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