You have to have a smartphone to access Disneyland Resort’s Genie+ in the parks. I suppose you could probably carry around a laptop or tablet, but neither of those is convenient. If you don’t own a smartphone, you can do what I did. There are several companies that offer pay as you go smartphones. $23 for the phone and $30 for the plan was more than enough to get me through five days in the Disneyland Resorts. I didn’t use the phone for anything but the Genie+ app, and the park Wi-Fi was generally strong enough outside the attractions to update with little to no lag. If you don’t have a smartphone in your party, Genie+ isn’t for you unless you’re just going for photos. So, what does Genie+ bring to the experience, and is it worth your while?
Genie+ and Photos
If you purchase Disney’s Genie+ service for your Disneyland Resorts trip, you get access to all of the photos taken of you by Disney photographers. This is called “PhotoPass,” and back in the day, it was a good way to include everyone in the photo. Fewer people were willing to take advantage of the photographers in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, so it was relatively easy to get your money’s worth with photos. Now, there are lines in front of the iconic photo spaces, like Sleeping Beauty Castle and the big pumpkin at the beginning of Main Street, U.S.A. during Halloween. Still, it’s nice to be able to run into an unoccupied photographer and get a couple of photos, especially when they throw in a little pixie dust. It can be a good way to extend your day if you’re running out of things to do in Disney California Adventure.
Photos aren’t the only benefit of Genie+. Lightning Lane is the replacement for Disney’s formerly free service – FastPass. Because Genie+ is set at a specific amount per ticket per day ($20 as of Sep. 23, 2022), PhotoPass wasn’t enough to offer guests, even with the touted app “benefits.” Lightning Lane allows you to reserve a time at an attraction and to board that attraction with little to no waiting. Even the longest line we got in at the Haunted Mansion Holiday went relatively quickly as cast members herded Lightning Lane users through the phone scanners with phenomenal efficiency. You only get one Lightning Lane use per attraction per day – I guess lightning never strikes twice. Still, if you’re on a limited time schedule and you want to get through all the attractions in Disneyland, Lightning is well worth using.
However, there is a caveat. Some attractions that offer Lightning Lane, do so at an extra cost. Radiator Springs Racers, Web Slingers: a Spider-Man Adventure, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance would allow you to pay to go to the head of the line. The prices differed by attraction and by day. At up to $20 a person, it might just be better to plan your trip to hit those attractions early in the day, avoiding both the crowds and the additional fees. Web Slingers had the lowest wait time of the two throughout the day while we were there, even getting down to 40 minutes, so that is the one I would least likely spend additional money on, even if it was the most fun.
Plus, seriously, think about what you can do with the fee before spending it on a three- or four-minute attraction. If it makes your vacation better because you hate standing in line, go for it. (It’ll help improve the value of my Disney stock.) But even at $7 a person, that’s a churro with change left over.
Other App Benefits
The app features quite a few IRL experiences. In Peter Pan’s Flight, you can find hidden objects in line that lead to Tinkerbell, and for a 45-minute wait, that’s something to do. Esmeralda and Fortune Red offer up tales of adventure – one card a day is free. (You can continue the adventure with additional coins if you don’t have the time to complete it.) And there are a series of Imagineer talks available to listen to. (I didn’t use those because I was with my wife and thought I should spend my time with her. We didn’t have headphones, either.)
While the app will plan your day for you, telling you which attraction you should hit next, the biggest benefit is knowing the wait times for attractions before you get to them. It was especially useful for knowing when attractions had broken down. If the stand-by line is unavailable, you know not to go there.
Mobile ordering for your meal is also available.
Disneyland Resort’s Genie+ Conclusion
Getting into the parks is expensive, the Disneyland Resort’s Genie+ allows you to maximize your time with its Lightning Lane and can bring more enjoyment through its games and IRL freebies if you are inclined to collect or use them.