Genie+ & Lightning Lane at Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World


Seth Kubersky, coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, shares with us the differences between Genie+ and Lightning Lane at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.


Although the line-skipping services at Disneyland and Walt Disney World share the same name, there are some subtle operational differences that we feel make Genie+ a far superior experience in Anaheim than in Orlando. The only advantages the Floridian version has over its Californian counterpart are that it costs $4.02 less per day and it gives Walt Disney World on-site resort guests a head start in purchasing Individual Lightning Lanes. But those positives are offset by several differences that make Disneyland’s system much more pleasant to use:

  • Walt Disney World guests can purchase Genie+ starting at midnight before their visit and make their first Lightning Lane selection from their beds at 7 a.m. Disneyland guests can’t activate or use the service until after they enter the park, so there’s no early-morning fumbling for the smartphone.
  • Walt Disney World on-site resort guests can also purchase Individual Lightning Lanes starting at 7 a.m., and they are often all claimed before off-site guests get their chance at park opening. At Disneyland, Individual Lightning Lanes can’t be purchased until entering the park, and all guests are on equal footing. WDW guests get to choose their Individual Lightning Lane return window (if any are available), but Disneyland’s times are assigned on a first-come/first-served basis, the same as Genie+.
  • PhotoPass photographers and on-ride snapshots are included in Disneyland’s Genie+, whereas Walt Disney World charges an additional $69 per day (or $169 for 30 days if purchased online in advance) for its similar Memory Maker service.
  • All Individual Lightning Lane return times for popular rides at Walt Disney World may be claimed before park opening or shortly after, and Disney admits Genie+ buyers may only be able to use the service on 2-3 attractions per day. Disneyland’s return times are available until afternoon or later, even on busy days, and it’s possible to take advantage of Genie+ at every participating ride in both parks during a single (very long) day.
  • It only takes minutes to park-hop back and forth between Disneyland and DCA as your Lightning Lane return times dictate. Commuting between Walt Disney World’s parks can take a half-hour or longer, making it inefficient to repeatedly leave and return.
  • Most Lightning Lane queues at Disneyland tend to have little or no wait (usually 15 minutes or less), whereas at Walt Disney World we’ve frequently faced Lighting Lane waits of 15-30 minutes or more.
  • Multiple Experience passes, issued when a Lightning Lane is temporarily unavailable, are only valid at other Lightning Lane attractions in Walt Disney World but are accepted at many non-Lightning Lane rides in Disneyland.

In other words, if you’ve tried using Lightning Lanes at Walt Disney World and hated it, give the service another shot at Disneyland. A well-traveled couple from Australia who visited both resorts back-to-back agreed with our assessment:

The performance and usefulness of Genie+ was substantially better in Disneyland….We were happy to pay $5 more than WDW per day per person to have PhotoPass included in our Genie+ purchase, [and] we appreciated that we were not able to purchase Genie+ and make our first attraction selection until we entered the park. This avoided the stressful 7 a.m. scramble online to secure our preferred first attraction for the day, and it seemed to be a fairer process that allowed onsite and offsite guests equal access….Where in Disneyland, we were able to manage the system to ensure that there was a consistent flow of attraction reservations, there were often large (sometimes very large) gaps between available return times in WDW.

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 trip to Disneyland order The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland.

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