Despite reaching its record high price, Genie+ has sold out for the day at Walt Disney World for the first time ever. This post shares details about the current crowds, Lightning Lane availability, and our commentary on the paid FastPass service selling out despite the date-based pricing scheme…including why this is a good thing!
For starters, let’s talk crowds. The first sentence should tells the story there–that Genie+ sold out for the first time ever despite reaching its record high price set last year over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. Genie+ went from “only” $16 after tax days ago to ~$31 after tax this weekend, just as it did during last year’s holiday season on a handful of occasions.
As with those holidays, this is one of the busiest stretches of the entire year at Walt Disney World. We’ve been warning readers for the last two years–since literally the last time this happened–that this would be the Worst Week of Winter 2023 at Walt Disney World. Nevertheless, it’s still likely catching some people by surprise. Pretty much everyone knows that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and NYE are busy travel times. Fewer are away that Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras coinciding is a recipe for crowd-tastrophe.
In any case, the price of paid FastPass has jumped to its record high of $29 per person (pre-tax) at Walt Disney World. It reached that yesterday and today (February 19, 2023) and presumably will remain at that level for at least tomorrow and perhaps most or all of next week. It’s also possible that the price will drop on weekdays after Presidents’ Day, but I highly doubt that given today’s sell out.
If anything, Walt Disney World could be emboldened to increase the price from $31 per person (post-tax) given today’s sell out. After all, they’re leaving money on the table. Some might argue that’s the right move to reach the equilibrium price. (We would not for the reasons explained below, but some might!)
Again, the timing of this move shouldn’t be too surprising. This same week last year was one of the year’s 5 busiest, and that was without Mardi Gras coinciding with Presidents’ Day. Certain school districts have all or part of this coming week off, and then there’s the Princess Half Marathon and youth events next weekend, on top of that.
The goal of all these changes is to avoid a repeat of when Genie+ Collapsed in Crowds. A lot has been done since then to better load balance the paid FastPass service. More capacity was added to it via meet & greets and other entertainment, the Genie+ add-on was eliminated, and the date-based pricing scheme was introduced. All of that has helped to varying degrees, and has kept Genie+ from being rendered effectively useless as it was during that collapse. (Although those in the parks today might contest its usability!)
To that point, here’s a look at current wait times and Lightning Lane return times at Walt Disney World:
These are not great, but they’re also not awful for a top-tier 10/10 crowd day on the weekend of what will end up being one of the 5 busiest weeks of the year. When it comes to days like today, context is key. Sure, these wait times and those Lightning Lane returns are much, much worse than a random weekday in September. But today is not a random weekday in September.
As compared to some of what we observed between Christmas and Central Florida school districts going back into session last month, this is not awful. Again, not great. But it’s also not as bad as it could be…or even what I expected going into this weekend.
I’ll go one further, sharing my possibly unpopular and controversial opinion: I’m glad Genie+ sold out.
Before grabbing the pitchforks, allow me to explain. In this extremely high crowds scenario, there are only a few options. The first is not letting Genie+ sell out and instead allowing it to become a miserable experience for everyone. Walt Disney World already “experimented” with this approach (see the aforementioned ‘Genie+ crowd collapse’ post). Spoiler: it was awful.
The second option is continuing to raise prices until there’s a corresponding drop in demand. My position on this is well-established, and was laid out back when Walt Disney World first announced demand/date-based pricing for Lightning Lanes.
In a nutshell, my position is that demand for Genie+ is relatively inelastic with incrementally higher prices for the line-skipping service because it’s still a relatively minor cost in the grand scheme of the price of a Walt Disney World vacation. In other words, if you spent $8,000 or more to visit Walt Disney World and were willing to pay peak season prices for hotels and tickets, are you going to balk at paying a few dollars extra to avoid long lines and crowds?
Worse wait times creates a higher incentive for bypassing lines, meaning higher uptake of Genie+ even when it costs more. Demand for beating crowds increases as crowds increase, and as such, Genie+ will always be a relatively small price to pay in the grand scheme of things. Complain as they might, most people will reluctantly fork over the extra money rather than risk a bad trip. They’ve already spent so much–what’s another “few dollars” on top of a multi-thousand dollar trip if it’ll offer a competitive advantage?!
In various ways, we’ve seen all of this play out for years with date-based pricing on everything else at Walt Disney World. Whether it be for park tickets, resorts, or the Genie+ service, date-based pricing is an effective way for the company to accomplish its desired optimizations at Walt Disney World. There are certain times of year that experience higher demand for a number of reasons–school schedules, seasonal events, weather, etc.
Charging incrementally higher prices for these times of year allows Walt Disney World to capitalize on and profit from that inherently higher demand. That’s the goal–not preserving the guest experience or whatever the talking point might be. Increasing prices on that quasi-captive audience is simply savvy business or opportunism, depending upon your perspective. I could go on and on. This already isn’t exactly an “in a nutshell” explanation as promised, so I’ll cut it short. (Sorry, it’s a sore subject for me and I let myself get carried away.)
The final option is letting Genie+ sell out. In light of the above, it should be obvious why this is my preferred course of action. The downside to this is that it’s going to rekindle all of the doom and gloom fears that first cropped up among fans last summer when Walt Disney World added the “subject to availability” disclaimer. Back then, many fans worried that they’d have to be up at midnight to buy Genie+ and then again at 7 am to make their first Lightning Lane reservation.
The last several months have debunked that, but it’s certain to make a reappearance after today. To that, I’d simply point to the time when Genie+ sold out (afternoon!) and the continued low likelihood that it’s going to sell out by 7 am or even before park opening. If that didn’t happen around Christmas or New Year’s Eve (or today!), it probably won’t ever.
I’d also add that, in this case, Walt Disney World did guests a favor by suspending Genie+ sales. Once Lightning Lane availability reaches a certain level, guests should be “protected” from their own worst impulses and desire to waste money on a service that won’t do them much good at all.
When Genie+ sold out today, there were barely any good Lightning Lane options outside of Magic Kingdom. Even there, the return times were (mostly) 120 minutes or more into the future, meaning someone might drop $31 per person to skip 2-3 lines. And that’s the best case scenario in buying Genie+ at 1 pm.
Ultimately, there’s probably no easy fix to this issue for Walt Disney World–no perfect solution that balances supply and demand and keeps everyone happy. That’s why, in my view, Genie+ selling out around noon on busier days is the best-case scenario, and something that, frankly, should happen more often. (This isn’t the first time that buying Genie+ after 11 am would’ve been a complete waste of money!)
It will be interesting to see whether Genie+ selling out for the first time ever leads to increased–and earlier–uptake in the coming days. Personally, I’m skeptical. Almost anyone who was savvy and serious about skipping lines today bought Genie+ hours before it sold out, and the last two days should have been busier than the upcoming week.
Speaking of busy days, if the current crowds caught you by surprise and you’re considering a visit during the next school break, check out our Spring Break 2023 Crowd Calendar for Walt Disney World. If you didn’t see this coming, there’s a good chance you also won’t see the worst of that coming–it’s not just Easter that’s bad. In fact, that won’t even be the worst week of spring break season!
Long-term, the solution to all of this is building more attractions. Queueing is a zero-sum game. No approach to lines–not all standby, not paper FastPass, FastPass+ or Genie–changes capacity. The only meaningful way to alter the equation is by actually increasing capacity. That’s done by adding entertainment, attractions, or extending operating hours. Everything else is a matter of rearranging the deck chairs, and having different guests or demographics come out ahead or behind.
Here’s hoping that Bob Iger actually is serious about wanting to build big park expansions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland–and ones that have more than just a single E-Ticket and upcharge offerings. At the end of the day, capacity-adding additions are precisely what’s needed at Walt Disney World. Some fans salivate at the (fictional) prospect of a 5th gate, but what’s really needed is building out the existing parks so they don’t have this type of issue in the first place. (Despite significantly higher attendance, there’s a reason this isn’t as big of a problem at Magic Kingdom as the other 3 parks!)
If you have questions about the basics of using–or not using–the paid FastPass service, see our Guide to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQ for all of the foundational need-to-know info. This whole system is confusing and convoluted, so you might have a question or two-dozen. That answers all of the most common ones we’ve been receiving from readers.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
What do you think of Genie+ selling out at Walt Disney World during the weekend of Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras despite hitting its record high price? Disappointed that it’s happening, or do you see the upside from a lowered demand perspective? Thoughts on our perspective that demand for Genie+ will continue to be highest on the busiest/most expensive days? Any other considerations we failed to take into account or details we missed/got wrong? Will you purchase Genie+ or is $30+ after tax per day too expensive for you? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!