The inevitable bad news finally dropped today. Since both Disneyland and Walt Disney World have reopened, FastPass options haven’t been reinstated. Today brought the news that FastPass (and FastPass+ at WDW) has been eliminated completely in favor of new paid options called Genie+ and Lightning Lane. In this post, we’ll break down the details of the announcement before adding in our commentary. Here’s what we know so far about the new systems with much of it coming via the Disney Parks Blog.
Disney Genie will arrive this fall and is a complimentary and convenient new digital service designed to optimize scheduling, itineraries and planning. The company has made significant investments in this new technology, which guides you through their theme parks with tips that can help reduce time in lines, discover new items and take the guesswork out of a park day.
Built right into the My Disney Experience and Disneyland apps, the Disney Genie service will maximize park time, so guests 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.
Here are a few more features:
- Get Itinerary Updates from Morning to Night: Disney Genie will continue to update your itinerary throughout your day, so you can be more spontaneous and go with the flow.
- Find Your Favorites at a Glance: Create your very own personal tip board to instantly see your favorites. It will display current AND forecasted future wait times, helping you predict when you might experience quicker entry to attractions.
- Enjoy More Flexibility and Fun: Disney Genie brings existing planning features together in one place. Join a virtual queue at certain attractions, make dining and experience reservations, mobile order food at many locations, get help from a virtual assistant and more.
For even more convenience and flexibility, there are two other options for enjoying the theme parks, through a queue called the Lightning Lane entrance that also saves you time in line:
- Disney Genie+ service (available for purchase): For the price of $15 per ticket per day at Walt Disney World Resort and $20 per ticket per day at Disneyland Resort, you can choose the next available time to arrive at a variety of attractions and experiences using the Lightning Lane entrance. You can make one selection at a time, throughout the day – from classics like Haunted Mansion to thrill rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and newer favorites like Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (attractions subject to limited availability). This convenient option is the next evolution of Disney MaxPass service from Disneyland Resort. Disney Genie+ will also include Disney parks-themed audio experiences and photo features to capture your memories – augmented reality lenses for those visiting Walt Disney World Resort and unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads from your day if you are visiting Disneyland Resort.
- Individual attraction selections (available for purchase): 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+). Pricing for this option will vary by date, attraction and park and will be announced closer to launch.
Lightning Lane selections will be made on the same day of your visit and can be used with a Park Hopper ticket. Guests staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel will be able to purchase and schedule an individual Lightning Lane attraction at 7 am, ahead of off-site guests, who will be able to do so when the park opens. Regardless of where you’re staying, Genie+ will open at 7 AM for reservations.
Attractions continue to offer a traditional standby queue, or a virtual queue at certain attractions like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – to maximize flexibility. While the FASTPASS, FastPass+ and Disney MaxPass services will be retired, we’re incredibly excited about the flexibility and choices Disney Genie service provides. You can choose from all of our new options, a mix of them or none at all, and continue to have a great experience no matter how you decide to plan your best Disney day.
Both resorts are also making some enhancements to our Disability Access Service (DAS) program, including new options to enroll in the program pre-arrival and for DAS participants to select attractions directly in the app. These options will be available in addition to our existing, in-person DAS program. Visit our Services for Guests with Disabilities pages DisneyWorld.com and Disneyland.com for more details.
Confused yet? Here’s a quick breakdown of all the Disney lingo. Lightning lanes are what FastPass queues were. You can pay for Lightning Lanes via Genie+ for a flat rate each day and this will essentially get you a FastPass that you reserve on the app. Most FastPass capable attractions will be available on Genie+ outside of the park’s two most popular attractions. For those popular ones, Lightning Lane will be available individually. Free FastPass as we know it is gone.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way because the overall reaction around the Disney community is largely negative. There’s no getting around that Disney is replacing a free service with a paid one. While MaxPass, which is very similar to Genie+, has received positive reviews at Disneyland part of that is because there was always a free legacy FastPass choice to go with it. No matter how great the new service is, going from free to not is going to frustrate people and rightfully so.
A few months ago, I thought that there would at least be some sort of free FastPass to go along with this announcement. Disney ripping off the band-aid is honestly for the best rather than complicating matters with a few attractions having free Lightning Lane, a few being a la carte and others being in Genie+. While blaming the pandemic for these changes is an easy out, the truth is that this was always coming down the pike, COVID might have just accelerated the timeline.
At Disneyland, the change shouldn’t be too drastic. As I mentioned, this paid option is very close to what already existed with MaxPass. Essentially it’s just cut off all of those that would only use the legacy FastPass. With a crowd that’s more locally driven and relaxed than Walt Disney World, it remains to be seen how many people will jump to the paid option or how many will stick with the standbys. I’m optimistic that the standby lines will stay manageable, especially since there is no Annual Passholder option for the Genie+ yet, although I’m sure that’s coming soon.
Walt Disney World is a different story as people were so used to planning out their FastPasses weeks and even months ahead of time. That’s gone. There were so many options included in FastPass+ by the end of its run that standby lines became stagnant and a mess to deal with. It was clear that some action needed to be taken. Now, we wait to see how many will jump to Genie+ and how many Disney allows in each reservation slot.
Over the last few years, it felt as if there were far too many slots in each window when it came to FastPasses. Lines would stretch well outside the queue to enter the FastPass area and standby lines were as bad as they’ve ever been. Naturally, some of that has to do with attendance being as high as ever. But it was clear that the system was a bit of a mess, with too many people getting FastPasses and overcrowding the infrastructure.
This is where I’m optimistic. I think Disney has likely learned their lesson and cut down on the reserved windows both in a practical sense and by making this a paid service. Having to pay for it will weed some people (including myself) out most of the time. Combine that with the possibility of less slots for the Lightning Lanes and this should make for a more pleasant full day experience for everyone.
Genie+ will also improve the spontaneity of a Walt Disney World vacation, which basically didn’t exist pre-pandemic. Everything was planned in advance and guests that didn’t know much about all the planning it took were behind the 8-ball when they showed up. Now this evens the playing field. That might not be what people who read blogs like this one want to hear, but it will also be nice to not feel instant stress when you realize you’re 60 days out from a Disney World vacation.
In that same vein, guests who don’t frequent the parks as often as regulars will benefit from these changes because they might be willing to spend on a once-in-a-lifetime (or once every 5 years) trip to make sure they have the best experience possible. Frequent guests are less likely to buy this experience over and over again, which again should make the standby lines run smoother in the long run.
Time will tell, as the system probably won’t be released until late September. Even then, it will take a few months to get an accurate reading on what this will do to the park going experience. WDW is set for a wave of travelers (assuming the health crisis doesn’t change everyone’s plans) starting in October thanks to the 50th anniversary. That surge should last through the holidays and will certainly skew the numbers. It could be well into 2022 before we really see the effects of these new systems replacing FastPass. We will be sure to keep you up to date with itineraries and our recommendations once more information is released!
What do you think of these additions replacing FastPass? Let us know, along with any questions you might have, in the comments below! Planning a Disney Trip? Check out our guides to help you along the way! If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog via email or WordPress and like our social media pages. You can find all of those things on the right side of this page. Thank you very much for reading, we appreciate it!