Here’s Why I Never Buy Genie+ at Disneyland

by | May 15, 2024 | Disney California Adventure Park, Disneyland, Disneyland Parks

I’m a Disneyland Resort expert, and I refuse to use my hard-earned money to buy Genie+ (yes, even during the busy season.)

Since its introduction at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland in 2021, Genie+ has been the number one way to shorten the wait for attractions and experience more across the theme parks in a single day. As the replacement for the former Fastpass system, Genie+ is a paid alternative that, to some guests, is well worth its costs. But it’s not without its flaws.

As someone who’s been visiting Disneyland Resort regularly since the 1980s, I’ve lived through the “before” era and remember when there were zero options to skip the long wait times for the park’s best attractions. I loved Fastpass, and I even used MaxPass briefly – but when it comes to Genie+, I always opt out.

I’ve used Genie+ multiple times at Disneyland’s two theme parks, but typically only because someone else in my party purchased it for the group. But when I visit myself, I won’t buy Genie+ at Disneyland (or Disney California Adventure Park), and here’s why.

You Don’t Need Genie+ if You Get to the Parks Early

If you’re willing to get up early and rope drop Disneyland or California Adventure, you can easily cover a lot of attractions with short wait times – which renders Genie+ pretty useless.

Arrive early enough before either of Disneyland Resort’s theme parks open, and you can hang out on Main Street, U.S.A. or Buena Vista Street until Cast Members (literally) drop the ropes and let guests into the parks’ lands. There will be crowds, yes – but plenty of guests prefer to sleep in and arrive between 10 and 11 AM, giving you plenty of time to knock out popular rides with lower wait times.

For example, when I rope drop California Adventure, I head immediately to the Incredicoaster (most people don’t head to the back of the park first!), then make my way to Radiator Springs Racers, where I can join the single rider queue if the line is already growing long. Alternatively, you can hit Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission – Breakout! and then head to Soarin’, or you can attack the attractions from any order you’d like.

But if you’re able to get on a slew of popular rides early on in the day, you don’t need to spring for Genie+ at all.

Of course, you might not always have good luck at rope drop. Some days, rope drop is more crowded than others; sometimes, popular Lighting Lane attractions like Rise of the Resistance and Radiator Springs Racers are down and don’t open with the theme park. But it’s still worth trying to beat the crowds, since you can often make it onto at least two attractions with very little wait first thing in the morning.

It’s a Waste of Money if You Visit Regularly

Yes, I’m talking to you, Magic Key holders! If you’re someone who heads to the parks monthly – or perhaps even more often – paying for Genie+ is a total waste of money. 

This service is really designed for out-of-towners who want to get as much out of their one visit to Disneyland as possible. Locals don’t need to worry about that, since they can return any time throughout the year without shelling out for a hotel stay.

If you’re a Magic Key holder, you know just how much wait times fluctuate throughout the year. You also likely know just when to visit in order to avoid the crowds and get on popular attractions with little to no wait. 

Sure, Magic Key holders get a discount on Genie+, which does make the price more palatable (and budget-friendly). But honestly, if you head down to the parks early in the morning or in the off season, you can easily get on rides without a long wait – or needing to pay for Genie+.

And you can’t go wrong with an “I’ll just ride that next time” approach, either! With the flexibility to return, there’s really no reason to pay to skip a long line when you can just come back on a different day and try again. 

Genie+ Requires Constant Work to Grab Lightning Lanes

One of my biggest complaints with Genie+ is the dedication required to use the service throughout the day. In order to grab new Lightning Lanes, you need to constantly check the Disneyland app to see when you’re eligible for another Lightning Lane, what available return times look like, and if the availability of those Lightning Lanes has changed throughout the day. 

This means you’re spending an awful lot of time glued to your phone… and I don’t know about you, but that’s not exactly how I like to spend a day with friends or family. At least one person in your party will need to oversee all of the Genie+ logistics for the day, and that can be a frustrating job.

I find that using Genie+ has me constantly checking my phone, so much so that it’s hard to break away from the game of trying to maximize the value and get on as many rides via Lightning Lanes as possible. There are different ways to strategize your use of Genie+ – just like there are different strategies to working your way through Disneyland or California Adventure without it – but regardless of your approach, you’re going to wind up on your phone more often than you might expect.

And honestly, I personally enjoy my Disneyland days more when I rope drop and ride my must-do attractions first thing in the morning, or when I take it slow and have a “we’ll ride what we can ride” attitude.

Genie+ Pricing Can Surge at Any Time

Last but certainly not least, I strongly dislike the pricing system for Genie+. The per-day cost of Genie+ starts at $30. That’s roughly the same price as many Disney souvenirs, including those ever-popular novelty popcorn buckets and sippers.

But on the day of your visit, you may find that demand is high. As a result, the price can easily increase to $35 or more. With prices reaching highs of up to $39 at Walt Disney World’s theme parks during the peak season, that means you could find yourself paying similar prices at Disneyland during surges. 

And while $30 to $35 may not seem like a lot of extra cash for one person, it really adds up fast if you’re visiting with friends or family. A family of four will spend $120 on Genie+ alone – and that’s at the base price. If demand surges during your visit, you could wind up spending more.

I completely understand the reasons for the surge pricing model – after all, if everyone pays for the service on the busiest days of the year, both standby and Lightning Lane wait times would soar! But with per-day prices hitting new highs every year, it’s a system that seems to be increasing the cost of skipping the line more and more.

This is the Only Time I’ll Pay for Genie+

In the years since Genie+ was introduced to Disneyland and California Adventure, I’ve paid for it exactly one time: for my son’s first birthday. What made me cave? Well, when you’re visiting the parks with a toddler who doesn’t understand the concept of waiting in lines and can’t really practice patience, anything over a 20-minute wait starts to feel like an eternity.

With an increasingly feisty kid in tow, I’ve now warmed up to the idea of paying for Genie+ on select occasions. After experiencing hour-plus waits on most toddler-friendly rides in Fantasyland (always the most crowded area within Disneyland, of course!), I caved and used Genie+ to get my son and I on rides faster… and since he’s simply not old enough to wait in lengthy queues, it was worth both the price and the effort required to secure Lightning Lanes.

I’m now open to enlisting the help of Genie+ when we visit Disneyland and California Adventure on crowded days, with lines that are too long for my son. With that said, though, I’ve got a personal limit: In order to make the $30 per person price worth it, we have to spend the entire day at the parks, and we need to see wait times over 45 minutes for the attractions we want to ride.

So, while you still won’t catch me paying for Genie+ during most of my park visits, I may spring for it on special occasions. And I will note that, if you don’t have the luxury to be as flexible as a local Disneyland visitor, there are plenty of other scenarios in which paying for Genie+ is worth the price. 

In fact, you can learn when we find Genie+ offers the most value at both Disneyland and Disney World. For some – and for some theme parks – its price can provide far more bang for your buck than at others. And, of course, when it comes to once-in-a-lifetime Disney theme park trips, skipping the wait is often worth paying a little extra.

Posts by Heather Adams

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Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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Authored by
Heather Adams

Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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