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Genie+, Lightning Lane, Express Pass- Explained

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

If you have started the planning process for your Disney or Universal vacation then your head may be spinning with all the terminology and different theme park offerings. Do not worry, we are here to help!

Let’s dive right in!

What is the Disney Genie Service?

Disney Genie is free to use, and you can find it in your My Disney Experience app (MDE). The purpose of Disney Genie is to help you choose your plans for the day based on your selections for what you are interested in accomplishing. You can make these selections any time before your trip, basically telling Genie what is most important to you at each park. The more specific you are in selecting rides/entertainment/dining then the more customized Genie will be for you. If you are too general and make too many selections then Genie’s suggestions will include most everything. Honest opinion: we do not care for Disney’s Genie Service and do not use it EXCEPT to choose our top two rides for each theme park. Our reason for this is so those rides are the first to pop up on our tip boards when we go to make our Genie+ selections each park day.

What is Disney World’s Genie+ ?

While the basic Genie service is free to use, Genie+ is not. The cost is $15-29 per person per day plus tax to add Genie+ to your ticket. You use Genie+ within the same My Disney Experience app, and can make your first ride selection at 7am on the day you plan to visit that park. You either pre-purchase Genie+ with your vacation package (option ends June 8, 2022), or you purchase it each morning you would like to use it. Most attractions are included with Genie+, but typically the most popular ride at each park is left off (can change during busier times of the year, best to check Disney’s website or with your travel professional closer to your trip dates).

You can only make one ride selection at a time. Your first can be made at 7am. You will receive a time window (1 hr) to visit your attraction selection. You will enter the attraction through the lightning lane (previously listed as fast pass lanes) and bypass the general queue. You may still have a wait time, but it should be a fraction of the time in the standby line. Once through the line you can make your next Genie+ ride selection in the app. If 120 minutes passes before your next ride selection then you can make an additional selection. In other words, you can make your next attraction selection after completing your first or after 120 minutes have passed, whichever comes first. The only exception to this rule is first thing in the morning. While you can make your first selection at 7am, the 120 minute rule does not begin until park opening. So unless your first attraction selection is within the first two hours of park opening (hopefully it is) then you must wait until two hours after park opening to make your next Genie+ selection. Genie+ reservation windows can also overlap.

Sound confusing? It is. And Disney further complicates things by adding something called Individual Lightning Lanes.

What are Individual Lightning Lanes at Disney World?

Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL) are a completely separate paid for service than Genie+. Again you will use the same My Disney Experience app to purchase, but the ILL’s are not included with Genie+. Typically each park lists the most popular rides as ILL’s. This can change during busier times of the year, so always important to check the latest info with Disney or your travel agent before your trip dates. The rides can vary in price from anywhere from $7-$25 per ride per person. Since ILL’s are completely separate from Genie+ you can purchase both, neither, or one without the other. If you choose to purchase an ILL ride then you will receive a time window just like with Genie+ and also enter through the lightning lane entrance.

Are Genie+ and Lightning Lanes the same at Disneyland?

Mostly yes. You will use the Disneyland app rather than the My Disney Experience app. Disneyland is continuing to offer the per-purchase option for Genie+ for entire length of stay while Disney World is discontinuing this offering June 8, 2022 (if you have already added Genie+ to your Disney World vacation you will still have it for your entire length of stay). At Disneyland if you choose to add Genie+ daily then you must wait until you are inside the theme park. Even if you have pre-purchased Genie+ at Disneyland you must wait until your are inside the theme park to make your first attraction selection. Everything else including the 120 minute rule is the same.

As for Individual Lightning Lanes at Disneyland, you also must be inside the park to purchase and there is no earlier time benefit given to on-site Disneyland resort guests like at Disney World.

What is Express Pass?

Express Pass is exclusive to Universal theme parks and not used by Disney. You can add Express Pass to your theme park ticket at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Volcano Bay water park has a separate Express Pass (but we do not find it necessary at VB). Express Pass is a physical ticket you show to access the Express lane and minimize your wait time for attractions. You can either purchase an unlimited pass or a one use per ride pass. Currently (May 2022) Hagrid’s and Velocicoaster are not included with Express Pass. For mostly everything else, your wait times will be cut in half with Express Pass.

Have you used Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes at a Disney park? Have you tried Express Pass at a Universal park? What has been your experience? Please comment below, we’d love to hear from you!


Allyson Marks

Travel Advisor | Blogger

Allyson is an independent travel advisor with Castle Coaches Travel. Her specialty is crafting custom, stress-free vacations for families. Allyson is a former Disney World resort cast member, and currently resides in Raleigh, NC with her husband and 3 children.

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