I pride myself in getting my money’s worth.
In 2019, when I bought a Disneyland annual pass for the first time, I made plans to take as many trips to Anaheim as I could that year to get the most bang for my buck, even though I live in Utah.
By year’s end, I had visited the parks 40 days.
Yes, all the hotel costs did a real number on my savings account — so did buying a unhealthy amount of merchandise — but I was satisfied in knowing that, with 40 days in Disneyland that year, my daily cost of admission had worked out to be under $30, based on how much the pass initially cost.
Things have, of course, changed since then, with a new annual pass Magic Key program, as well as the Genie+ service and Lightning Lane passes replacing the old FastPass system.
How have those changes impacted the affordability and effectiveness of these programs?
Here’s a look at the Genie+ service, and whether it’s worth the money and hassle.
Please note: There are differences between the Disneyland and Disney World versions of Genie+. This specific story is geared toward using the Genie+ service at Disneyland.
What is Disney’s Genie+ service, and what does it include?
It can get confusing, but here’s the gist.
There’s the free Disney Genie Service, which is essentially a personal planner segment inside the larger Disneyland app. It helps organize your day, from monitoring ride times to when your next dining reservation is — kind of like how a Google Calendar helps you organize your day.
Genie+ is a purchasable service within the app — it runs $20 per person, per day — and works alongside the Disney Genie Service. You have to scan your park ticket at the gate to either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure before you can purchase Genie+ for that day.
By purchasing Genie+, you are allowed to book Lightning Lane passes — in other words, a pass to a shorter line with priority access over the traditional standby line.
Once you purchase Genie+ service for the day, you can book your first Lightning Lane pass.
To book another, you have to either 1) redeem that pass, which allows you to then book another, or 2) wait two hours before the window opens up again for you to book another Lightning Lane pass.
That’s why it’s important to try and book Lightning Lane passes that aren’t too far out time-wise.
There are also three attractions that require an additional cost above what you initially paid for Genie+ to obtain Lightning Lane passes for each person.
Those attractions include Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Disneyland, which is $20 per person to book a Lightning Lane each day, and Radiator Springs Racers and Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, whose Lightning Lanes runs $15 each.
Tips for making Disneyland’s Genie+ service worth the cost
Is Genie+ worth the investment?
Yes, but you have to commit to it. Otherwise, it can easily turn into a waste of time and money.
Genie+ also is less necessary on days where you plan to ride fewer attractions and experience more shows or dining reservations. It’s largely for the rides, and if they’re not a priority that day, it’s not a must-have.
Here are three tips to trying and getting the most out of this service:
1. Be prepared to arrive early at the parks — it’s good to get there before the parks open and wait in line at the gates.
Also, understand that once you book a Lightning Lane pass for a ride, that’s it for the day for that attraction.
Under Disneyland’s old FastPass system, you could book multiple FastPasses for a particular attraction during the same day.
That’s not the case with Lightning Lane, and you should plan accordingly.
2. Focus on and prioritize which attractions are most important to you each day.
Check the times on your most sought-after Lightning Lanes often — in between rides, while you’re staying in line at an attraction or for food, when you’re waiting for others in your party, etc.
Get in the habit of checking your Disneyland app frequently for when Lightning Lane passes are available for the attractions you want to ride.
It can be easy to lose track of how far away a certain ride’s return window is to redeem a Lightning Lane pass, and once a certain time passes, it’s not coming back that day.
3. Stay late, and learn how to stack the Lightning Lane passes up late in the day.
OK, this may sound a bit redundant, since tip No. 1 was about arriving early to the parks. Staying late at the park, though, is vital, too, for getting your money’s worth.
Crowds tend to thin out after the fireworks shows and nighttime performances, so it’s easier to get on rides at the end of the night.
I also like stacking up several Lightning Lane passes for the end of the day, which can get tricky.
To start the day, I try to book one or two Lightning Lane passes for some of my favorite rides where I can redeem the pass relatively quickly — like booking Haunted Mansion in Disneyland or Incredicoaster in DCA.
Then, once it looks like the crowds are starting to get heavier, usually an hour to an hour and a half after opening, I’ll start to book Lightning Lane passes for other attractions during the day that work best to be able to redeem in a reasonable time frame — preferably an hour or less.
If I want to book one of the Lightning Lanes for the three that require an additional cost — Rise of the Resistance, Radiator Springs Racers or Web Slingers, I’ll do that by late morning.
Then around 1 p.m. or so, I’ll start monitoring the Genie+ service and book as many of the ones with extra-long standby lines — like Indiana Jones Adventure — in the evening and night hours, typically when I have to wait two hours to book my next one.
In that way, I can start to stack up Lightning Lane passes for the hours after dinner time.
Since it’s not possible to book Lightning Lane passes multiple times a day for an attraction like it once was, I can better ensure I have a chance at every ride during the day by stacking the ones with longer standby lines in the evening.
Who does Genie+ typically work best for?
In general, single parkgoers, couples and those without large groups will have an easier time navigating the Genie+ service and making it work best for their schedule while booking a higher number of Lightning Lane passes.
Who does Genie+ typically work worst for?
On the opposite side, those who are attending Disneyland with small children or in large groups will have a more difficult time getting a high number of Lightning Lane passes. It’s not impossible to make it work well for these kinds of groups, it’s just more difficult considering the parameters.