As luck would have it, we got to trial Disney’s new MyMagic+ technology during our August 2013 vacation at Walt Disney World. It was a nice, unexpected surprise.
We were originally booked at the Dolphin, but switched over to the Yacht Club about six weeks ago so we could share the same pool as my Beach Clubbing brother and his family. We’ve stayed at the Yacht Club a few times now, so we thought we knew what to expect when checking in, etc. But this time, there was a little extra magic (sorry, couldn’t resist!): the Yacht Club is the test resort for the Magic Bands – woo hoo!
I have to admit I’ve been slacking on my Walt Disney World news stalking, so I was caught a little by surprise that the bands are here. (Well, for some…almost here for all!). I was even more surprised when I arrived at the Magical Express desk and the gentleman said, “Oh, you didn’t have your Magic Bands shipped to you, so you can pick them up at the front desk.” At that point, I didn’t really know what he meant – haha. I said something to Kenny – who is apparently a bit more up to speed on WDW happenings – and he said it sounded like we were getting the new bands. He was right.
Upon checking in at the resort, we received our Magic Bands. I feel like there was a lot of drama and fanfare around it – haha. They don’t just have them waiting for you – the cast member disappeared behind closed doors and brought them out to us. He was kind of hilarious – he strutted that box out like it was Cinderella’s glass slipper on a pillow. Haha. He opened the box, told us all about the bands and what they’d do for us. In normal circumstances (and you know the Clarks weren’t operating under normal circumstances – lol!), the bands are:
- your room key (including charging privileges, if desired)
- your park entrace key
- your fast pass+ ticket(s)
- your link to your vacation – you can log into My Disney Experience, plan your day (including Fast Pass+ scheduling and meal reservations) and make changes on the go via the mobile app.
- your link to in-park experiences – as an example, Gavin used his Magic Band to store the Test Track vehicle he designed, then loaded into our test car, and then loaded it again for the leaderboard rankings at the end of the ride. Pretty cool stuff – I am excited to see how else they use this capability!
So, because it’s still a test, it seems the finer details are are a little fuzzy amongst the cast members. It’s understandable – this is new technology that brings together a lot of Disney processes, so I get that they haven’t figured it all out yet. Here are some tricky things we faced:
- Because of the strict pool rules at Beach Club / Yacht Club, we also had to be given room card keys in case they wouldn’t let us in with the Magic Bands. (Now…if Yacht Club is the only test resort, and the Beach Club and Yacht Club share the same pool…why wouldn’t our Magic Bands be proof enough that we were allowed to use the pool? This made no sense to me.)
- We are annual pass holders, so we typically use that card to gain entrance to the parks. We asked the guy checking us in about linking our passes to the bands and got sent to the concierge. Kenny visited with the concierge and was told that we had to use our annual passes to gain entrance to the parks. (Um, what? This thing is live and you don’t have a way to link it to annual passes? Again, this made no sense to me.)
This meant that the Magic Bands were not actually helping us – they were just one more thing for us to keep track of. We’d have to use the band as a our room key / wallet, the fake room key to use the pool and then our annual passes to go to the parks. Hahaha. Insane, right? Kenny and I couldn’t wrap our heads around this – why in the world wouldn’t they make sure the technology synced for what were – in theory – the most loyal park fans, that is, the annual pass holders? (Ok. I’ll admit it – this was mostly me. I was incredulous that they wouldn’t have fixed this before even doing a soft launch within one resort. Being a professional communicator / marketer, I couldn’t wrap my head around this – it seems important to keep your most loyal fans engaged, if not at the forefront!, of exciting innovations like this!)
Because he’s so awesome, Kenny persisted – he read and researched and tested things – AND linked our annual passes to the Magic Bands. Also, they worked for entrance into the pool. Woo hoo! Crisis (ha!) averted.
Here’s what we learned:
- Magic Bands are available now at the Yacht Club. The concierge told my sister-in-law that they will be available at Beach Club next (within a few weeks).
- Magic Bands are expected to be available – in full use across WDW – by end of December / early January.
- Magic Bands last for two years.
- You can only get three FastPass+s a day with the Magic Bands.
- We were able to schedule FastPass+ visits with our Magic Bands AND use our annual passes (i.e. paper tickets) to get fast passes once in the parks. Don’t worry, we didn’t take advantage of the system – Kenny wanted to test it out and see what worked given the mis-information we received about the bands not linking to our passes, etc. A cast member did tell us that will NOT be the case once the full roll out happens later this year.
- You can wear them in the pool, shower, etc.
It was kind of cool being part of the test group for these things. It seemed many of the cast members hadn’t encountered the bands too often as of yet, so we got a lot of questions and drawn into a lot of conversations in ride / character lines, etc. I am guessing this is part of Disney’s plans, because almost all of the conversations started with, “So how do you like your bands?” Haha. We also had many people ask where we got them and how they could get them, too.
- I liked the bands.
- I found the band comfortable and I forgot I was wearing it most of the time. Same for Kenny. Same for the kids. In fact, my kids were excited to put theirs on every day and would remind each other not to forget to wear it!
- While I am not sure that I love the daily maximum of three passes in one park only, when we thought about it, that’s really all we’d get anyway given how we vacation there. Overall, I think this will even the playing field for all visitors – no more rush to the parks to fight the crowds to get Soarin’ Fast Passes – haha. We can actually sleep in, mosey over to the parks in the afternoon and leisurely hop on Soarin’ because we pre-booked our time the day before. Assuming I don’t have to have a day-by-day plan months in advance of my vacation, I kind of like having the ability to book my FastPasses the night before I go to a park like Kenny was able to do last week. I think it will allow us more freedom to have fun. (Haha – not that rushing to the parks for rope drop so you can grab Fast Passes isn’t fun…but you know what I mean. ;))
- I like that you will be able to personalize them to some extent. (Of course, I couldn’t take advantage this time since I didn’t know we were getting them – but there’s always next time! :)) I know, I know – it also means you are giving even more money to Disney, but I thought these little wrap-arounds were seriously cute.
- There seems to be a lot of potential with these things. Like our kids’ bands are linked to our bands so if they ever got lost, eventually, a Disney cast member would be able to identify us, find a cell phone number and contact us. You might even be able to upload a picture of your kids to add a layer of identification security. Also, I feel like they’ll be expanding the interactivity capability Gavin used at Test Track – I’m interested to see what they do in that space.
Overall, we liked the Magic Bands. We’re heading back in a few months, and, for that trip, we’ll get to fully utilize the pre-planning aspect of them. We’ll see how that goes :).