The latest line-avoiding services have landed at Walt Disney World, and we’ve already shared our top tips for getting the most out of the paid Genie+ and Lightning Lane options. Today, we’re sharing results from our field testing at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to show five ways that the free Disney Genie fails to provide a frustration-free theme park visit.
For our first big test of the new Disney Genie itinerary planning tool inside the Walt Disney World app, we visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom and tried to see how many of our favorite attractions Genie would help us experience in an afternoon, without using any paid line-skipping options. The results showed that Disney Genie is definitely still a work-in-progress. Here are five key ways Disney Genie failed us, to help you judge whether or not to rely on the app’s advice during your next Disney park visit.
Eight Is Not Enough
The first step in using Disney Genie (after purchasing your park admission and making daily park pass reservations) is to pick your favorite attractions from a list of the park’s offerings. The problem is that you are asked to only select eight experiences, which is far fewer than most guests will want to try to pack into their park day.
Even if you select additional categories of interest for Genie to choose from, you’ll still only receive eight agenda items on your suggested daily itinerary. It wasn’t until we manually deleted steps and repeatedly refreshed that we could get Genie to make additional recommendations after our initial itinerary was completed. Speaking of which…
A Failure to Communicate
Considering Disney’s access to GPS data through the smartphone app, you might assume that Genie would remain aware of your movements through the park and automatically update your plans accordingly. In reality, Genie doesn’t seem to recognize when you’ve arrived at an attraction on your list. Worse still, there is no obvious way to let Genie know that you’ve completed a ride and are moving on to your next stop.
As a result, if you are ahead of or behind Genie’s forecasted arrival times, the app doesn’t know to recalculate. We resorted to manually deleting completed attractions by telling Genie that we didn’t want to do them anymore, but even that doesn’t consistently prompt Genie to reconsider your upcoming recommendations.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
On the subject of recommendations, perhaps the most frustrating thing about Disney Genie is that, after querying you on your interests, it then seems to willfully disregard your preferences. Only half of the attractions we picked in our initial selections appeared on the plan Genie generated, leaving out major E-Tickets like Expedition Everest and Dinosaur.
In their place, Genie substituted experiences we had expressed zero interest in, including various street shows and the Wildlife Express train. And when we attempted to use the “swaperoo” feature to trade out one of Genie’s picks, the limited range of replacement options was even more suspect: Genie repeatedly recommended The Boneyard playground, which is awkward at best (and creepy at worst) for a childless adult.
Take It (Too) Easy
Even though the Unofficial Guide was built by Type A “theme park commandos,” we still support visitors who want to slow down a little during their days at Disney. However, Disney Genie takes stopping and smelling the roses to an absurd level, building huge gaps between activities for no apparent reason.
For example, in the time window Genie allocated for me to only ride Triceratops Spin, I was able to ride Dinosaur once, ride Expedition Everest twice, walk through the Maharaja Jungle Trek, and get a snack—with time to spare. If you follow Genie’s advice and don’t squeeze in other experiences between its suggested steps, you’ll probably end up with a lot of wasted time in your day.
Don’t Trust the Times
The final fatal flaw in Disney Genie is that you can’t trust the information it gives you. Genie directed me to ride Avatar: Flight of Passage while it was posting a 55-minute standby wait and offered to let me pay $11 to skip the regular line. But the actual standby wait time (including both preshows) was under 30 minutes, and using Lightning Lane would have only cut about 20 minutes off of that, a significant difference from what was advertised.
Standby waits seemed similarly overestimated across the park’s attractions, with Nav’i River Journey’s actual standby wait one-third less than Genie predicted and 15-minute waits posted for rides that were walk-ons. You don’t have to be too cynical to imagine that Disney might be inflating their posted estimates to encourage Lightning Lane purchases.
Furthermore, Disney Genie sometimes seems to be the last to know when operations change inside the park. When the 3:15 p.m. performance of KiteTails was canceled due to high wind, Genie continued telling me to see the show, even though Guest Experience Team cast members were already aware it had been scrubbed.
We are obviously biased in favor of Touring Plans, but our initial testing supports the theory that Lines will continue to offer value, especially for those who want maximum flexibility in customizing their itineraries. Wait times in Lines are consistently more accurate than those in Genie, and the personalized touring plans are far more powerful.
There are still some useful features inside Genie—the Dining tab on the Tip Board provides easy access to mobile ordering and restaurant wait lists—but (at least for right now) Disney’s free app is best used in conjunction with another planning tool, and it shouldn’t be relied upon for optimizing your Walt Disney World experience.
What have your experiences with Disney Genie been like? Let us know in the comments!
For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.