Even though free distribution was discontinued nearly a year ago, MagicBands still get lots of buzz – with many WDW visitors erroneously believing that they are required to have a MagicBand band to enter the parks. But if you don’t want to pay extra for easy access to components of your Walt Disney World trip, a worthy alternative is Walt Disney World’s free MagicMobile Service.
What is MagicMobile?
MagicMobile is a way to use your smartphone (Apple or Android) or Apple Watch as a contactless access method in the Walt Disney World parks and resorts.
What does that mean? What exactly can I do with MagicMobile?
With MagicMobile enabled you can:
- Use your phone/watch to tap into the theme parks. (Park admission ticket and park reservation are required.)
- Use your phone/watch to tap into a Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane reservation.
- Pay for purchases at the WDW parks and resorts. (Guests of the WDW hotels only.)
- Access virtual queues at Walt Disney World.
- Scan into the theme park parking lots.
- Connect Disney PhotoPass images to your account.
- Identify yourself to cast members at the front desk of your hotel.
Um, why would I want to do any of this?
Some combination of cost and convenience. All of the the above items can be accomplished by using a MagicBand, but MagicBands now cost somewhere in the vicinity of $10-30, depending on the style you choose and when/where you buy them. (Note, an even more expensive version, MagicBand+, will debut sometime in 2022.) Unless you already have an old MagicBand lying around somewhere, then it seems silly to pay extra for something when you don’t have to, particularly when Disney continues to add items like Genie+ to your cost of doing business at Walt Disney World.
You could also accomplish most of the above tasks with a plastic card issued by Disney (either a ticket card or a hotel room key card), but since that card is not part of your normal routine, you might forget it or lose it. Most folks are habituated to grabbing their phone as they walk out the door.
Additionally, many guests already have their phone in their hand at Disney World at all times, for use as a camera.
OK, I get it. How do I load MagicMobile onto my phone?
First things first – to use MagicMobile you’ll need have a few things in place:
- A mobile phone, ideally running the latest available version of its operating system
- An active My Disney Experience account, with the My Disney Experience app loaded on your phone
- A Walt Disney World park ticket, a Walt Disney World resort hotel reservation, or both, linked to your Disney account.
Once you have all that sorted out, open the My Disney Experience app and sign in to your account. On the first page you encounter, you’ll see a box that says “Disney MagicMobile.” Click there and then follow our guide to adding MagicMobile to your phone’s virtual wallet.
OK. The MagicMobile pass is in my phone’s virtual wallet. What next?
If you’re entering the parks or using a Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane allotment, all you have to do is place your phone within a centimeter or so of the tap point – you don’t even have to have the app or your wallet open. This is called “Express Mode” (see the photo below to see whether you have Express Mode toggled on).
MagicMobile works much the same way when you pay for food and merchandise purchases in the parks and resorts. Tap your phone/watch onto a register touchpoint when directed to by a cast member. Assuming that you have enabled room charging to your hotel account, the purchase will be charged to the card on file for your room. If you’re familiar with tapping a credit card on a gas pump or subway turnstile, you get the idea.
To accomplish other tasks with MagicMobile, you may have to open your phone’s wallet and access the virtual card. To do this, click on the three dots at the top of the screen.
Clicking on the dots will bring up a QR code.
Cast members can then use readers to scan your code and accomplish tasks such as linking a PhotoPass shot to your account or verifying your status in a virtual queue.
Wait, the first part seems easy, but the second part seems like kind of a pain.
To have a photographer link a PhotoPass picture to your account you may have to unlock your phone (which is perhaps slightly more cumbersome if you’re wearing a pandemic-era mask), open the phone wallet, find the correct card, and tap the dots. This could take a few seconds. On the other hand, MagicBands cost money. Or if you’re using a plastic card, you might have to fish it out of your pocket. There are pros and cons to everything.
You’ve mentioned Apple Watch? How do I enable MagicMobile on my watch?
Once you set up MagicMobile on your iPhone, then it should automatically appear in the wallet of your linked Apple Watch. In practice, you must have a newer Apple Watch to make this happen. I could not get MagicMobile to function on an old Apple Watch 2, but it works perfectly on my daughter’s series 5 and my series 6. Make sure all the operating systems are up to date.
I have a child. Can she use MobileMagic?
During the initial set-up of MagicMobile, you will see a screen that lists all the accounts that you control with your My Disney Experience login, presumably this includes your minor children. If you select their names during setup, you will have the ability to add their entitlements to your account, allowing you to swipe them in to park turnstiles and tap points.
I’m trying to be less involved with my phone. Do I have to use MagicMobile?
Absolutely not. Using MagicMobile is completely optional.
I have a MagicBand but forgot it in my room, can MagicMobile help me?
Sure. You can enable MagicMobile at any time, even when you’re standing at the park gate. If you forgot your MagicBand, just turn on MagicMobile and you’re good to go. No fuss and no need to stop at any Guest Relations desks.
During any visit to Walt Disney World, you can alternate at will between using your phone, MagicBand, and/or plastic cards.
Are there things I can/should be doing with my phone at Walt Disney World that aren’t part of Magic Mobile?
Although not part of the MagicMobile service, guests of the Disney World resort hotels can also use their smartphones to unlock their hotel room doors and anyone visiting the WDW parks/resorts can (and should) use their phone to mobile order food at quick service restaurants. Additionally, some of the larger merchandise stores at Walt Disney World (World of Disney at Disney Springs and Creations Shop at EPCOT) are testing mobile self-checkout.
Do you have any questions about MagicMobile? Let us know in the comments.