Hi everyone! Many of you know that I was just down in Disney World for a short trip this past week with one of my fellow colleagues from the travel agency, who was attending the Earmarked Conference.
As part of the deal, we all got to test out the new Magic Bands. This post is my attempt to give a brief introduction to this new piece of technology that will soon be the norm in Disney. However, since it is still in its testing phase, there may be more updates required after I post this initial review. I’ll keep you all in the loop as the system makes a full sweep of the resort.
For years now, each guest received a “Key to the World” card, which was a combination of your room key, park tickets, and dining plan info. Well, now all that info and more is being programmed onto a special band you wear on your wrist. The wrist band is waterproof, so it can be worn while swimming or at a water park. (I chose to take mine off at the pool to minimize tan lines.) You can also customize the size of your Magic Band. For children and small adults, you can remove the longer grey section of the band and just use the inside part that has been customized with your preferred color. Bands are non-transferable!
Overall, The Magic Bands were super convenient. No more fishing around in your bag for your ticket or room key. It’s on your wrist. When entering your room, you just hold the wrist band up to the door fixture. (“Mickey to Mickey”) Voila! Your door is unlocked.
To enter a park, you also hold the wrist band up so that the Mickey heads meet. You still need to do a finger scan when entering the park, though.
You can also set up charging privileges to your room, which is then linked to your Magic Band. (In the same way that you could use your Key to the World Card to charge back to your room.) With it set up on the Magic Band, you just touch your wrist band to the reader at each counter and enter your PIN code to make your purchase. Note that you CANNOT use the charging privileges without the PIN code associated. So if you lose your Band, no one can pick it up and start charging to your account. The PIN code must be used.
Tied into the whole Magic Band system is “My Disney Experience.” This is part of the Disney website where you customize your whole trip to your liking and style. Everything is connected here. Link your room or package, park tickets, dining reservations, etc. From here, you can customize your Magic Bands, choose experiences around the park, make your dining reservations, and choose your FastPass+ selections.
Yes, here is the BIGGEST change that is rolling out, and it is tied to your Magic Bands. It’s FastPass+. (“FastPass Plus”)
Basically, this is how it works….
From the “My Disney Experience” section of the Disney website, you can choose FastPasses for three attractions per day. All three must be at the same park.
Here is how this is huge… Take Soarin’ for example. Normally, FastPasses for this ride go incredibly fast and run out in the first couple hours of Epcot being open – especially during busy season. As a result, if you wanted to ride Soarin’, you had to get to Epcot when the park opened and send someone to be the FastPass runner – getting those early morning FastPasses ensured that you’d get to ride Soarin’ without having to resort to the long stand-by line. But what if you didn’t want to get up early? (Well, if you’re going to Disney in busy season, you have to get up early, but I digress…) Let’s say you didn’t want to go to Epcot until the afternoon. You’d normally have to decide whether to skip Soarin’ altogether, or wait in the hour-plus Stand-By line. Now you can choose an afternoon or evening FastPass time and show up during your time window. Voila – you walk straight into the FastPass line and hardly have any wait at all! My concern will be during busy seasons. Will all the folks ‘in-the-know’ snag the good FastPasses two months out before anyone else can have access to them? Will Soarin’ be the “Le Cellier” of the ride world? I will be eager to see how this all works out.
While there, our Magic Bands worked great. They worked in every park, they worked for charging, and they worked for our FastPass+ tickets. However, I did run into a couple while riding the boat from Hollywood Studios to Epcot, who were having some troubles with the Bands. At one point the woman’s PIN just stopped working, and they also had a bunch of issues with their FastPasses. I honestly feel that Disney still has some kinks that it’s ironing out of the system. Hopefully they will be addressed before the full roll-out.
The goal is for guests to keep re-using their same Magic Bands on future visits. The battery inside is supposed to be good for 2-3 years. Each time you book your Disney trip, you will just have to log onto your account on the website and start adding things to your trip – then throw your Magic Band in your carry-on bag and you’re good to go! (Be sure to have your Magic Band in your CARRY-ON bag! You’ll even get to use it at Magical Express when you’re leaving the airport.)
That’s it for the current report on the Magic Bands! I’ll add more as more information comes out!