Our First Experience with Disneyland's Genie+ and Lightning Lanes
Is Genie+ at Disneyland even worth it? One of the very many questions I've gotten after our trip.
On 3/1/22, my son and I traveled down to Disneyland to celebrate his 12th birthday with a date day. I haven't been since 11/30/21, and since Disneyland's Genie, Genie+, and Lightning Lanes launched on 12/8/21, it was our first trip with that option. I didn't go to the parks with the intention of purchasing the services, however, after seeing updates from friends that the crowds were pretty heavy on the day before, I decided, at rope drop to go ahead and get it. I got quite a few questions about it over on Instagram, so I wanted to detail our experience, and share the details with you!
We started the day off with a good old-fashioned Rope Drop! We got to the security line around 7:00am, and waited about 15 minutes before they opened up the security lines. We got in line at the Disneyland gate and at that point, I was judging the scene and I honestly was going to pass on Genie+. I just didn't think it was going to be super crowded, and I just kept hearing about it not being worth it and that sometimes the Lightning Lane (Genie+) lines were longer than the stand-by lines! At 7:25am, they opened up the Disneyland gates and let everyone come on in to get set for the rope drop at 8:00am.
We got in, filmed part of an Instagram Reel, some of Carter's future YouTube video about our trip, and made our way up to the Rope Drop crowd. We managed to make our way up close to the front of the crowd over by the Frontierland entrance. We had about 20 minutes to wait around, and during that time, I justified to myself that even if Genie+ wasn't going to be worth it, since it was only two of us on this trip, I wanted to try it out to see how it works and I just went ahead and got it set up for us.
Previously, in my head, I was like, I'm never going to use this. We have 6 people in our family, and with the Genie+ service costing an additional $20 per ticket, that would be an extra $120 for our family. Money that we could spend on food, snacks, and/or souvenirs.
Before we dive into how Genie+ works, let's quickly look at the Genie service as a whole and what the terminology for each service actually means.
I'll be honest, I didn't use the complimentary Genie service - at all during this trip. I set it up with. my preferences before we even left our house, but really, I took Carter's lead most of the day and let him choose what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it since it was his birthday. He's not interested in any shows or parades, etc., so I won't be able to testify how Genie worked, specifically.
How Genie+ Works:
You need to wait until you are in the actual parks (and through the gate) on the day of your reservation to purchase the Genie+ option. As we were waiting for the rope to drop, I went onto my Disneyland app on my phone. The option to get started with Genie+ was available to me and I clicked that. I followed the prompts to pay for it, and once that process was completed, I was immediately given the option to view ride standby times and also, to book Lightning Lane times. So, while standing there, I made Rookie mistake #1.
Carter wanted to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad first. Cool, it was an available option for 8:00-9:00am. So, I just booked it! On top of that, I decided to also pay for the individual Lightning Lane for Rise of the Resistance ($20 each), and that said we could get in line from 9:00-10:00am.
As soon as 8:00am hit, I got a notification that our Lightning Lane was ready. We got to the ride, and at this point, even the stand-by was a walk-on. (Basically, EVERYONE in the parks rushes to Rise of the Resistance to ride it before the line gets freakishly long, so all of the other ride wait times are very short first thing).
Here's what happened:
We pull up our Lightning Lane reservation on our phone, and we're so excited to use it!
We walk proudly through the Lightning Lane line entrance (separate from the stand-by entrance) and present our Lightning Lane tickets to the Cast Member, where she seems a bit confused.
She still happily greets us, and tells us to use the scanner for both of our tickets, but tells us, that we probably didn't need to use our Lightning Lane reservation for the ride at this point.
Now, I'm confused as to why she said that, but I just explain to her that it was our first time using it, and we were excited to try it out.
She then excitedly tells us, "Well then, YAY! You are the first ones to use it today!"
So we blast through the Lightning Lane, and are boarded on the ride in front of the 10 other people standing in stand-by... LoL
I was a bit concerned, however, that I just spent $40 for really nothing if the crowds were going to remain pretty low like this throughout the day.
At this point, I'm still getting used to this whole new world of Genie+, and completely forget that you can only use ONE LIGHTNING LANE PER RIDE PER DAY! I don't remember this until the crowds were extremely heavy. Keep reading for my ah-ha moment...
As soon as you scan your Lightning Lane reservation in the scanner, you're able to make a new reservation for another eligible ride. You can only hold one Lightning Lane reservation at a time (unless you pay for the individual Lightning Lane rides - you can hold those on top of the normal Genie+ reservations - I know... it's A LOT to take in and remember.) Since we walked on so quickly to Thunder Moutain, I just waited until after the ride to book our next one. As we were getting off, I went back onto the app, and we chose Smuggler's Run to fly the Millenium Falcon.
It said that our window wouldn't start until 8:45am, so we decided to stop by the Churro stand in Fantasyland (Carter got the first one of the day) and head over to get a locker on Main Street. Then, we got some breakfast at Jolly Holiday to eat while walking towards our next Lightning Lane ride.
We get to Smuggler's Run. Again... empty, it's a walk-on even for the stand-by line. I'm still over here, happily using our Lightning Lane and we're basically running through the queue to get on the ride. We get in, the Cast Members give us our "jobs" as Engineers, but the family we are grouped with allows Carter to be a pilot since they see that it's his birthday. It's so empty that even though it's our turn to board the Millenium Falcon, the Cast Members invite us to take as many photos as we want in the rec room.
We have an amazing time on Smuggler's Run! It's now 9:00am, and while we have a reservation to get to at The Droid Depot, we also have our purchased Lightning Lane for Rise of the Resistance. We choose to go on Rise of the Resistance first, so that 1) we don't miss our Lightning Lane window and 2) we don't have to carry Carter's new droid on the ride. The Droid Depot DOES have a Droid Day Care that you can keep your droids in for the day, but I also didn't know how long it would take Carter to build. We head straight over to Rise, and while there is a line, it would have been totally tolerable without paying $20 each for the Lightning Lane pass. Woops. I think it said the stand-by was 25 minutes at that point. We did walk right into the prep area where we are briefed about what is happening by Rey with zero wait, however.
After, this we went over to our Droid Depot building experience, and Carter got to build a droid with the money he received for his birthday from friends and family. It's a good thing we decided to ride Rise first, because it took a good amount of time choosing, building, and activating his droid. I think normally, you can expect this experience to only take 20 minutes or so, but we took a bit longer because the Cast Members blessed us with a little extra Disney magic - but that's another blog post for another day. Our reservation was for 9:10am, and we didn't get there until 9:30am, but they still gladly took us back.
While he was building, I took a look at our Genie+ and decided to book our next ride. I could tell that things around the park were starting to maybe pick up because the next ride Carter wanted to ride was Indiana Jones, but the reservation couldn't be booked until 12:45pm. It was still only about 10:45am when we got finished building.
So, we decided to go stand in the stand-by line for Pirates of the Caribbean, which had a posted wait time of 35 minutes (eek!) BUT it ended up only being like 17, and they pulled a party of 2 (us) from behind some people in line to go in the front row! Pro Tip: Remember to not let the posted wait time intimidate you. It's almost never accurate and it's almost always shorter.
We're getting off Pirates, and we still have about 1.5 hours until our Indiana Jones reservation. So, we decide to get some lunch at Alien Pizza Planet. On our way there, we take some photos in front of the castle and just enjoy some of the sights, sounds, and smells of Disneyland.
After lunch, it's a decent time to make our way back to Adventureland and get on Indy. We are about 10 minutes early, so we just hang out in front of the ride for the notification to pop up on my phone... however, it was at this time that the internet on my phone decided to stop working completely. I kind of started having a mini panic attack - because an internet connection at the parks is, well... kind of essential nowadays. After trying many different troubleshooting solutions, I tried the one tried and true I.T. trick... Restart. Ahhh, it works, and as I'm turning my phone back on, I get a notification that our Lightning Lane is ready! The posted time for stand-by was 65 minutes and with Lightning Lane, we waited for 15.
It is now after 1:00pm and we have the option to park hop to California Adventure if we wish. I still haven't had a chance to say goodbye to Mickey's Toontown, as it closes 3/9/22 for an extensive renovation that is slated to take over a year to complete. I really wanted to do this, and since Carter actually didn't want to ride too many things at DCA, we decided to go ahead and wait to park hop. We said that we'd go to Toontown, then catch the Disneyland Railroad to the front gate and park hop from there.
We didn't do much in Toontown, just walked around, and enjoyed the last time that we'd see it this way. Toontown opened when I was just a bit younger than Carter, and I remember loving it so much back then. And it hasn't changed at all ever since, I'm pretty sure that if I can dig hard enough, I can find a photo of me with this dumbbell when I was his age!! Glad we got to intentionally stop by and say goodbye to the old look. Then, it was time to catch the train!
While waiting in line for the train, I booked our first DCA Lightning Lane for Radiator Springs Racers for 3:10pm! This is another individually paid-for attraction ($15 each), so we were also able to book Goofy's Sky School at the same time for 3:45pm. We waited and waited 2 rounds for the train... and then... it broke down as we were going to be on the next load. Aye... I was really looking forward to that foot break!!!
So, we just walk to California Adventure, and again, we get to Cars Land about 10 minutes before our Lightning Lane, we take a break and sit in the stroller parking area (there is some tree shading here and benches as well), and wait for our reservation to be ready. The standby wait is 80 minutes and we get on the ride in just under 20 minutes. You could tell that the standby line was very long, and it felt really good to bypass all those snaking lines.
We again got to Goofy's Sky School a little early, and this was the first time where we didn't know if the Lightning Lane would be any better than the standby. It said that the standby was 45 minutes, however, I've stood way farther back in that line before and it wasn't a 45-minute wait. The Lightning Lane, however, was sticking out nice and far from the entrance, about halfway out toward the walkway. As our time came up to use our reservation, the line moved very slowly. As we were about to board, a previous party had lost a Wookie backpack on the ride (I'm still trying to figure out how), and the Cast Members had to stop the ride to retrieve it. It took us about 35 minutes to finally get on... just as Carter was asking that we just forget it. At this point, I think he's really kind of done with everything, so we take a nice long break under the Symphony Swings with some soda and just reflect on our day thus far, and what else we'd like to try to accomplish before we leave.
And then... The Ah-Ha Moment:
Carter wanted to try to get on Webslingers, so I figured I'd try to go ahead and Lightning Lane that too, it is also an individually paid-for attraction. I try to book and NOPE! You can only pay for 2 separate individual Lightning Lane attractions per day. You cannot do the same one twice, and you can only do 2 max. How did I forget that!? The standby wait was 60 minutes for Webslingers and Carter said... "yeah, that's going to be a no."
Then, he asked if we could get a Lightning Lane for Thunder Mountain again, and I was like, SURE! So I tried to book THAT and again... NOPE! I totally forgot that you can only get one Lightning Lane for each attraction per day!!! HOW DID I FORGET THAT TOO!?!?!?! Everything - like EVERY SINGLE RIDE had a posted wait of over an hour at both parks... and while I did say to not let the posted times intimidate you, it was very busy, very hot and both of our feet hurt very bad. I think we were running out of steam.
And then it cliked as to why that opening Cast Member at Thunder Mountain was confused that I was already using our Lightning Lane! LoL!
So, we opted for a little more downtime and got an early dinner with some Bacon Mac & Cheese Cozy Cones back in Cars Land. We sat on the Cozy Cones because there was no other seating available, and I was surprised that a Cast Member didn't kick us off. Carter was SUPER happy with his Cozy Cone and said that every time we come in the future, we need to get one! He gave it a 10/10. In fact, I couldn't finish mine, and he ate the rest of mine after he finished his! And it recharged his batteries... for a bit.
We decided to book Space Mountain for Lightning Lane, however, it wouldn't be available until 7:30pm, and it was only 5:00pm, so we wouldn't be able to have any other reservations for the day as the park closed at 9:00pm... Well, I mean, we could have probably gotten another one in, but I could sense that our time at Disneyland was coming to a close due to our exhaustion... and growing tummy turning after eating one and a half Cozy Cones.
After walking through Avengers Campus, we went back to Disneyland and just did the standby for Thunder Mountain. The posted wait time was 50 minutes and we waited for about 35. Then, we went over to Star Tours, and while that posted wait was about 35, we waited for approximately 45. BUT I have to say, they played a video that I think was very brand new, because nobody in the audience had seen it before and we were all like... where did that come from!?!? And it was awesome!
By this point, even though we were reeling about how exciting Star Tours was, Carter's stomach wasn't feeling well at all. I asked him if he wanted to go ahead and try to go home, or just go sit on Main Street until he felt better... either way, he did not want to use our Lightning Lane reservation for Space Mountain. But said that he just wanted to take a slow walk to Galaxy's Edge and wait in the line to let his stomach settle to try and go on Smuggler's Run one more time.
So, we did, and just let our Space Mountain reservation expire. Posted time for Smuggler's Run was 30 minutes and it was accurate. He got grumpy though, that we got Engineer jobs again, and was frustrated that the family we were with didn't let him be a pilot, and the mom didn't do her gunner job - because she was busy filming her daughter as the pilot. I had to explain to him that it's ok, and that he had the chance to be a pilot earlier and that it's actually a pre-programmed video and it really doesn't matter if the mom gunned or not. And dads want the chance to pilot too!
So, that was our experience with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. Was it worth it? For us and the day that we went, where it was extremely busy... I'd say ABSOLUTELY! We definitely wouldn't have been able to ride as much as we did, and have as much downtime as we did without it.
Would it be worth it for our family of six if we all went? Yeah... probably actually... my 3 and 5 year olds... and well, let's be honest, all of my kids, probably wouldn't do well in multiple 1hr+ lines. I likely wouldn't pay for 6 individual Lightning Lanes for either Rise of the Resistance, Radiator Springs Racers, and Webslingers, but since it was just the two of us, it was less of a load to treat ourselves to that. Was there a little bit of a learning curve in how to use it effectively? 100% Yes!
I definitely suggest purchasing Genie+ in the morning, but starting to book your experiences around 10am when the parks begin to fill in more, not using it right away when the park first opens as we did. OR at least get early Lightning Lanes for rides you know you aren't going to want to get on again. Yeah, we got to go on those early Lightning Lane rides, but we practically wasted our passes because there was no standby wait on them to begin with, and again: you only get one Lightning Lane per ride per day. If we would have gone on those first few rides without using our Lightning Lanes in the morning, we could have waited no more than 5-15 minutes in the standby queue and then used the Lightning Lane options later in the day when it got REALLY crowded to go on them again.
So next time we go, we know better and will definitely know how to use Genie+ to our advantage. Again, as I previously mentioned, this is SO much to take in and learn, but if you're planning a Disneyland trip in the future, I hope that you can take any of our experience and apply it to yours so you can have the best time with your family! Make sure to ask any question in the comments, or if you've used Genie+, I invite you to share your experience!