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.

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Long-Awaited Moments Vs. the Unexpected

Some things you wait a long time for, and you have years and years to mentally prepare for them to happen. Other things happen in an instant, with no warning, and you have to act in the moment on instinct. I recently had both of these experiences within two days of each other. 

THURSDAY – AUGUST 19TH

My son started Kindergarten on a Thursday. 5 years ago when he was born, I knew that one day I would be dropping him off for his first day of school. But it seemed so far away. (And it was!) But as he turned 2, and then 3, it started hitting me that it was coming faster than I thought it would. When people asked me where he was going to go to school, I always just kind of shrugged my shoulders and said he’d probably go to the public school nearest us. I wasn’t really ready to wrap my mind around it yet.

Once he was 4, I admitted I really needed to begin thinking about it seriously. Did I want him to go to public school or private school? I work for a private Christian university, and they also have a K-12 private school that I could get a large discount at if I sent him there. 

My husband and I both went to public schools, so it seemed like a logical decision to have Calvin go to public school as well. And the public school near us was said to be one of the best elementary schools in Abilene. I hadn’t heard anything negative about it (except for the drop-off and pick-up lines!) 

I weighed the pros and cons of public vs. private school. I thought about class size, curriculum, teachers, demographics, and location. Ultimately, we decided that public school was going to be the right choice for our son and our family. 

My son has a summer birthday (late June), so people also began asking me if I planned to hold him back a year before sending him on to Kindergarten. I didn’t see a reason to do it unless his Pre-K teachers felt like he was really struggling or that he seemed to lack certain skills needed for Kindergarten. Since they didn’t, we were ready to send him on. Would he be one of the youngest in his class? Yes – but that is okay. I knew moving Calvin forward would be the best thing for him. He was ready to learn and go to school. 

Thursday morning arrived: the first day of school. A moment that had seemed so far off when my son was born, and yet here we were. I had played out this scenario many times in my head. Would Calvin cry? (He did not.) Would I? (Yes indeed.) Would he like his teacher? Would he make friends in his new class? 

The transition to Kindergarten felt like a big milestone. Before having a child of my own, I had always kind of rolled my eyes at things like preschool or Kindergarten graduation ceremonies. I didn’t understand why “every grade” (an exaggeration on my part) needed to have their own celebration or festivities. Well, the reason is (I have now learned) because they are actually a big deal. When Calvin dressed up in his graduation cap and outfit for Pre-K, and his class put on a little program of songs for all the parents, I got emotional. And I was so proud of him. 

Going to Kindergarten is a big deal. And the moment I knew was coming one day, had finally arrived.

SATURDAY – AUGUST 21ST

Two days later, something happened to me that I could never have imagined would even be possible. I guess if I had thought about it, I could have determined that it would technically be possible, like by the laws of physics, but the chances of it actually happening had to be miniscule. 

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silver Gerber knife

Running with Knives (Part 1): Reflections on a Traumatic Experience

*TRIGGER WARNING – trauma, attempted assault

I know normally it’s a bad idea to run with knives, but every time I go jogging, I always have one in my pocket.

Many times when I go running, it will be early in the morning, a little before sunrise. It’s dark outside as I head off down my road, the occasional street lamp helping to light my way. I’m acutely aware of my surroundings, looking out for anything suspicious or unusual. I check behind me often to make sure I’m not being followed. The irrational side of me (or is it actually my rational side?) feels somewhat unsafe and the warning bells are ringing loudly inside my mind. The other side of me pushes those feelings aside and thinks “what are the odds that something bad would actually happen?” The problem is, I’m all too familiar with those odds, because all it takes is one time, one event – and that event happened to me when I was a junior in high school.

Our family had a dog growing up, and by dog I mean a little chihuahua-dachshund mix that weighed about 10 pounds. Her name was Peanut. Every day my dad or I would take her on walks around our neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona. One evening, I don’t remember why, I decided I was going to take Peanut on a short walk. It was around 9pm, and the sun was long gone. The warning bells were softly chiming in my mind – it’s dark, you shouldn’t go out by yourself, yes YOU, the skinny 17-year-old girl! – but I brushed the thoughts aside and told myself, “what’s the worst that could happen?”

Our house in Phoenix was unusual in that it had an 8-foot stucco wall surrounding the entire front yard. (All the houses in this neighborhood were like that – I guess to offer more privacy.) So I walked out the front door of my house, and then unlocked the front gate in the outer wall that led out to our driveway.

I walked along the sidewalk past all the stucco-surrounded homes, carrying my pooper-scooper and plastic bag on one hand, and holding Peanut’s bright pink leash in the other. The next block over (continuing straight) was just a big empty dirt field, and on the other side of the street were various apartment complexes. I wasn’t that far from home, I had just made it to the dirt field in the next block over, when I noticed a man walking a ways behind me. But he was gaining on me fast.

I didn’t like the way he was walking or how fast he was catching up to me. The warning bells were now full-on blaring in my head, I knew this was not good. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that when I’m in a bad situation (real or perceived) my personality initially wants to do something to try to fix it. In other words, I’m not going down without a fight. That being said, the LAST thing I really wanted to do was get into a fight with a strange man who might be out to harm me. But I wasn’t going to go down easily either.

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