My Magic Band Experience
By: Jennifer Parra
My husband Diego and I have been Annual Passholders for over 6 years and visit Walt Disney World (WDW) almost monthly. Recently we decided to leave the children at home and experience WDW from the adult perspective.
We had originally booked at the All-Star Sports resort, but changed our reservations to POP Century resort about 3 weeks prior to our trip. Pop is currently one of the few resorts selected to test the new Magic Band which is part of the new My Magic Plus system that includes Fastpass plus (FP+). Magic Bands currently replace the traditional Keys to the World card which was the room key/ticket. The Magic Bands can be customized and personalized (they’ll even engrave your name in it). They also now have covers for sale for the band and even little pins you can place on them for decoration.
If your resort is selected you can go online and customize your bands via mydisneyexperience.com to customize for free. Many people were notified via email that they were participating in the test, but I found out one morning by checking my Disney experience account. I was surprised how many people didn’t know about My Disney Experience or about Magic Bands in general. If you did not customize your bands, you and your party will be issued grey bands at check-in.
The Magic Bands allow you to make FP+ selections prior to leaving for your trip. The selections can be made as early as two weeks before your trip or even the day of. You are allowed to make three FP+ selections in one park per day. Three FP+ per day doesn’t seem like a lot to an avid WDW traveler like myself; I can rack up 7-8 paper fastpasses per day with proper planning. During testing phase, you will be issued a RFID card as a back up and that can be placed in the traditional fastpass machine for more fastpasses. A little way to add a little more Disney magic! I am unsure how this will change, as Disney does plan on phasing out the old system at some point. I sure do hope that they allow you to make more than 3 selections or have an option to have a park hopping option. My favorite part of being able to preselect my FP+ was I was able to sleep in a little later and not need to be at a park for rope drop (when the park opens to public) to get fastpass for rides like Toy Story Mania or Soarin.
In order to make FP+ selections, you must have a valid theme park ticket linked to your account. I ran into my first glitch then, trying to link my renewed annual pass (which hadn’t been activated yet) to my account. It took over 3 hours on hold with Disney IT on 3 separate occasions to have them try and sort it out. Finally, I learned I needed to go to Guest Relations at any theme park to resolve the issue. I was very bummed about that response because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to get the selections to the attractions I wanted. I was assured by multiple cast members not to worry that I shouldn’t have that problem even if I decide to wait till the day of to make my selections. So I left it to a little bit of faith, trust, and pixie dust.
We checked in late on a Friday night. I had customized our bands and they were mailed to my house ahead of time. I brought them in with me to check-in at the front desk. If you hadn’t customized them, don’t fret, they’ll provide you with the simple grey ones at check-in and provide you with full instructions on how to use them. With a quick magical swipe, our bands were activated and we were off to our room. We never had an issue with the band not working to open the door or get “demagnetized” as I have heard was an issue for others. We made plans to head to Hollywood Studios (HS) the next morning and went to sleep. We arrived at HS the next morning at about 9:00am to activate my annual pass. We learned that by linking my annual pass to my account, we would be able to use our magic bands to enter the park.
We entered the park with our RFID card and iPad in hand ready to link it all together. Linking our tickets was quick and easy and now I was ready to make my FP+ selections.
Sitting on the park bench in HS, we decided we would make our FP+ selections for Epcot that night since we had dining reservations there. Nervously, I picked 3 attractions available at Epcot, unfortunately one of the attractions I wanted I was unable to select, which was Test Track. When you make your original selections it gives you 4 options of varying times for your FP+ from morning, afternoon, and evening. If you don’t like what is offered to you, don’t worry; we learned you can easily modify them. We reserved FP+ for Soarin, Mission Space, and Character Spot. After an hour we went to modify the times and to my surprise Test Track was now available so we swapped it out with Character Spot.
We also decided to go ahead book our following evening at Magic Kingdom (MK) and we were surprised we received a bonus FP+ for Under the Sea with Ariel.
Our original FP+ selection at MK included Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, and Haunted Mansion. Before heading out to MK, we made modifications for the night and swapped out Haunted Mansion for Enchanted Tales with Belle, which normally has a 40-50 minute standby wait time.
The modifications are easy to do and can be done online through the mobile app, and WDW also has kiosks and iPad stations to assist those who want to modify. WDW resorts and parks offer free Wifi which makes using the application on mobile devices easier.
I only have two things I could complain about of the Magic Band trial. My first complaint is over a glitch when a ride you have selected goes down. The first night we tested, Test Track became temporarily unavailable due to lightening in the area. The app removed the FP+ from my account. After talking to the cast member who attended to the My Magic Plus service center, we were notified via email. Who checks their email on vacation? I don’t. The app should have some sort of push notification to advise you that you can either use your FP+ at any location it is available or wait and use it later if the attraction goes back up. Luckily for us, Test track was up and running 15 minutes later and we used our original FP+, crisis adverted!!
My second complaint is more personal, but I couldn’t stand how the band felt on me! My husband wore his the whole time (slept with it and even went with it into the pool) and had no complaints. Day one I used it both lose and tight on my right hand and it thought it was sweaty and sticky. I did better on the second day when I wore it next to my watch on my left hand snug.
Keep in mind Magic Bands are still in testing mode. There are glitches in the system and need to be ironed out prior to My Magic Plus going live. As the program does go live, changes will occur to the program and also the existing paper fastpass machines. This is just my experience with it and the information I provided can change at a moment’s notice.