When you hear people complain about how unpleasant and cumbersome a trip to a Disney theme park has become, one of the first things they'll complain about is Genie+.
The paid ride reservation system replaced FastPass, a service that had been offered free of charge for decades. The rollout of Genie+ in late 2021 was extremely glitchy, and although some of the problems have been worked out, the core burden hasn't changed. Guests still have to obsess over a smartphone all day to figure out what reservation slots are available.
Genie+ posts fluctuating prices as high as $29 per person depending on how busy the day is. To get their money's worth, visitors have to start scheduling at 7am, before time slots fill up—provided users can figure out how the app works in the first place.
After the paid service's launch, Disney wasted little time in boasting about how many customers are opting for Genie+. Last year, then-CEO Bob Chapek bragged that up to half of the guests at Disney's American parks were purchasing Genie+.
But claiming theme park guests love Genie+ is like claiming a highway toll booth is popular because it's busy. Vacationers pay for Genie+ because they feel they must in order to circumvent crowds, not because they love the system.
Still, partly thanks to high sales of Genie+, Disney Parks' profits have remained in the black even as other divisions of the Walt Disney Company have struggled. Genie+ has helped buoy the rest of the company.
With Genie+, Disney managed to convert guest dissatisfaction over long lines into a new profit center. Now a cottage industry is sprouting up to outmaneuver the awkwardness of Genie+—for a premium.
Some travel agents are offering to contend with the grunt work of programming Genie+ remotely for customers in the parks.
One Disney visitor I know paid $75 for a travel planner to handle Genie+ for a group all day.
It works like this: Visitors give travel advisors their wish list of attractions and their login information for the Walt Disney World or Disneyland app, depending on which one they're visiting. Then the travel advisor wakes up early and, as soon as reservations open, begins booking Genie+ reservations for the clients.
Park-goers check the Disney app to learn what's been planned next for them. Clients can also send their agent requests.
And so it goes throughout the day, one reservation at a time, without the client ever having to fuss over the planning.
The most popular rides at Disney, generally two per park, are excluded from the core Genie+ system and instead operate a faster-entry line called Individual Lightning Lane. That line can be accessed only by paying yet another separate fee—as much as $20 per person for a single ride.
A remote travel concierge can pay for those reservations, too, because a client's credit card information is stored in the Disney app account.
Obviously, there's risk in handing over your Disney login details to a near-stranger who could theoretically use your payment info to make unauthorized purchases, but there's no indication that letting a travel agent access your account is against the rules.
The Disney apps' terms and conditions explicitly permit travel agents to make dining reservations on behalf of clients, and there's nothing in the fine print expressly forbidding agents from making Genie+ plans on customers' behalf.
There's an obstacle to wider availability, however. Many professional travel planners are not interested in such a labor-intensive service.
"We believe that our clients have the best vacation when given the tools and use Genie+ on their own," a travel advisor at Living with the Magic Vacations explained to me. "There are far too many moving pieces for us to take care of them each day."
Polite responses like that were typical for most of the planning businesses I contacted.
But the effort is still available from some willing planners.
Elisa Espinoza of California-based Dream Vacation Concierge is one advisor who'll handle Genie+ for customers, but only if at least $250 of other bookings for the trip, such as for lodging or tickets, are also made through her business.
That stipulation is common. Most often, Genie+ concierge services come bundled with other VIP offerings or travel agent services that might have to be purchased first.
For example, NEBC Travel might throw in Genie+ concierge services for customers who book multiday Disney World vacations of at least four nights at a Disney resort hotel. Additionally, NEBC partners with Favorite Travel Mom, which can provide a Genie+ concierge for independent bookings. That's what happened with the Disney fan I know.
Scratch around the professional Disney travel planner world and you'll find even more people willing to take on Genie+ for you. You might have to ask—Genie+ concierge services might not be advertised directly to the public on travel advisors' websites.
You'll incur additional costs beyond the service, including Disney-imposed fees to access Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane (which could add as much as $40–$60 per person each day). And all that comes after you've paid for admission, hotel, food, parking, and souvenirs.
Genie+ isn't the only sector of the Disney vacation netherworld where entrepreneurs are stepping forward to soothe planning misery. Another service, Unlocked Magic ($6/month or $50/year) will help guests find reservations at fully booked Disney restaurants by scouting for cancellations.
Finding someone to tackle Disney's reservations systems for you is a new luxury, but increasingly that's the nature of modern Disney vacations. What was once defiantly egalitarian has broken down into a class system, and today the more you pay for a Disney trip, the better your experience will be.
You might also like: The Rules of Using Disney's Genie+: Heed Them or Waste Money