During the pandemic, Disney shut down its famous FastPass+ system and converted the formerly free perk into a new profit center called Lightning Lane. Lightning Lane is a timed ticket to something (a ride, show, character greeting, priority seating) that allows you to scoot right in without waiting in the normal “Standby” line. There are a few ways to get access, all of which cost extra money—on top of whatever you paid for park admission.

If you pay $15 extra a day to unlock the Genie+ option in the Disney World app, you’re given timed access to Lightning Lane on some lower- and middle-tier attractions. As the day progresses, Genie will tell you what’s available, and you can may generally only hold one reservation at a time, so it's smartest to reserve the first avaiable Lightning Lane time slot that you want so that you can begin packing in as many reservations as you can during the day.

Warning: That $15 doesn’t mean you are allowed to use all the Lightning Lanes. Some are withheld from you. The most popular rides (two in each park) have Individual Lightning Lanes that are not covered by Genie+. For those, if you want to skip Standby lines or the lottery, you must pay a one-time fee via the app—per person, and the price is the same no matter your age. The dollar amount of the up-charge amount fluctuates by the attraction, by the time of day, according to how thick crowds are, and other factors Disney hasn’t disclosed—but rest assured that it will cost you more than you expect it to, like $15 per person for a single ride. Reservations are timed, and you’re only allowed to use this method twice a day.

Disney may also dole out Lightning Lane access as an incentive to book a more expensive hotel, to apologize for ride breakdowns, or just as a lark.

Lightning Lane assignments open at 7am on the day of use for Disney hotel guests (if you're not staying on site, you have to wait until park opening) and can be managed via the app from any location.

Prepare to be disappointed: Lightning Lane access to the most popular rides—meaning the ones that aren't covered by Genie+ but which require a separate fee for the quicker line—can sell out early in the day, even before the reservations open to non-Disney guests.

The less popular rides that are part of the $15 Genie+ can also book up, but on a moderately busy day, those slots can start vanishing after lunchtime. 

The only way to make Genie+ pay for itself in terms of shorter lines are to 1) be at the park when it opens and start booking reservations right away, 2) make sure those reservation times are as soon as possible, and 3) every time you use a reservation, immediately book your next one. Warning: If you show up at the park well after opening time, such as in late morning or at lunch, by the time you start using Genie+ available ride reservation slots will be later in the day, and you won't be able to book more until you use your first one. It's extremely easy to waste money on a Genie+ purchase this way.

The big pitfall: Splurging on Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane on a day when it's not that busy and lines wouldn't be long anyway. If the wait times are generally short on the day of your visit, you might be able to skip this expense.

The new system, which debuted in late 2021, is still establishing itself and because it depends on the wobbly app, its implementation can be rocky.

It’s also murky: Disney now has a financial incentive to slow down lines or fudge the posted wait time, because that would drive customers to pay extra fees for Lightning Lane access so that they can ride no matter what. From a consumer standpoint, there are concerns.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.