Last week I took part in a MyMagic+ test at Walt Disney World. When I let Touring Plans blog readers know that I was headed down for testing, you all came up with some great questions about using the new electronic systems at the parks and resorts. After having spent four days with my MagicBand and after having spoken to many cast members about the program, I’m here to give you some answers and a full report about my experience.
Before I get going, let me first say that every MyMagic+ cast member I encountered was incredibly enthusiastic about the testing. They bent over backwards to solicit real, honest feedback about the guest experience. There are kinks in the system, but they are trying very hard to work them out.
MyMagic+ starts with with the My Disney Experience center on the Walt Disney World website. You can find this prominently displayed at the top right of the welcome page at DisneyWorld.com. You must have (or create) an online account with Disney to access any of the MyMagic features. At my home computer, I linked my resort confirmation number and several existing dining reservation numbers to my account. I selected colors and names for MagicBands for myself and my husband, Jeff. We also chose FastPass+ attractions and ride times for our park days.
At check-in at Bay Lake Tower, we were given a sturdy presentation box (decorated with my hero, Mrs. Incredible) which held our MagicBands. We were also given standard Key to the World cards. We were told that these were back-ups for the MagicBands, and indeed they were completely duplicative of the MagicBands functions. Both the bands and the cards could be used to open our room, access our FastPasses, pay for merchandise, and so on.
Also at check-in, we received a letter introducing us to the test and letting us know that there was a room at BLT set aside specifically for resolving problems with the program. I didn’t have any problems, but I did visit the resolution room to see if they had answers to some of YOUR questions. There I met cast member RJ who was extremely knowledgable about the program. I identified myself as a blogger, and – even so – he was quite candid and forthcoming with information.
Now on to respond to some of your questions about the MyMagic+ project:
Teri asked: “Is there a way to block kiddos from making charges on their MagicBand?” Cast member RJ confirmed what I thought. During check-in, you’re able to select which specific members of your party are allowed charging privileges. If you don’t want your kids to charge, it’s easy to make that happen. Also, as I mentioned, any charges you make with your MagicBand will require you to enter a PIN code into the “Touch to Pay” pad at the register. In a follow-up comment, reader Rob mentioned that only purchases over $50 would require a PIN. I did not have that experience during my test. I was required to enter my PIN EVERY time I made a purchase with my MagicBand. This included a $3 soda from the Bay Lake gift shop, a $14 popcorn run at the Magic Kingdom, and other food and merchandise purchases both large and small.
Alan asked if Disney would allow you register for FP+ if you’ve purchased an annual pass online or on the phone, but have not yet activated it. According to cast member RJ, the answer is yes. Every Disney ticket now comes with an ID code, even “Will Call” tickets like an unactivated annual pass. On the My Disney Experience site, in the screen to link tickets to your account, select “Will Call” and take it from there. In the MyMagic help room at Bay Lake, I overheard a guest trying to solve an issue similar to yours. It took a while, but they did resolve the situation. My personal guess is that many guests will have problems with this type of transaction, but once everything is up and running, it will sort itself out.
Rhiannon asked about a loophole in which guests could basically “double up” on their FastPass acquisition by using their preselected FastPass+ allotment while also using their Annual Pass card to get standard FastPasses. Despite a notice on the WDW website saying that this is not possible, I found that Rhiannon was completely correct. I selected and used FP+ on my MagicBand, but I was also able to use my AP card to get regular Fast Passes from the regular Fast Pass machines. Additionally, my husband was able to get regular Fast Passes with his Key to the World card. Enjoy it while you can, folks! Rhiannon’s question spurred what I found to be the most interesting tidbit from my conversation with RJ. He stated quite unequivocally that the old “legacy” FASTPASS will be going away completely. Once the new systems are fully in place the only type of FastPass will be the FastPass+. No more paper FASTPASS tickets.
Betsy asked about whether MagicBand usage would be mandatory or whether cards could be used instead. RJ said that the plan is to give guests both MagicBands and RFID cards and let them choose which to use. During our trip, I used my MagicBand almost exclusively, but my husband did a lot of switching back and forth between the card and the band depending on where we were and what kind of mood he was in. The card and the band had the same functions, so go ahead and use whichever seems more comfortable to you.
John asked about linking AAA pass vouchers to the MyMagic+ system. No cast member I spoke with had any idea what I was talking about when I mentioned AAA vouchers. My guess is that it will take quite some time for this method of ticket purchase to catch up with the system.
Alfie and Shazzie both asked about using FP+ on some days, but legacy old-school FP on other days. As it stands now, yes you can do this, but once the legacy FP stations are removed, this will no longer be an option.
Alfie also asked if you could use the MagicBands without using FP+. Yes, certainly, there is no requirement that you sign up for FP+ when using the MagicBand. But again, in the future the only way to get any sort of FP would be to select it electronically.
Ginette asked if it was OK to get MagicBand wet. Getting the bands wet is no problem. I showered with mine and had it soaked by one of those classic Florida thunderstorms. The band suffered no ill effects.
Panagiota is an Annual Passholder and asked whether you must be staying at a WDW resort to use the FP+ system. During this small test, all FP+ users were WDW hotel guests; once the system is fully operational, anyone will be able to use FP+, including local Florida-area Annual Passholders.
Donna asked about automatic linking of tickets to the FP+ system when purchasing a package from Walt Disney World. Once the program is fully in place, my understanding it that yes, guests purchasing a WDW package will automatically have their tickets in the MyMagic+ system. There are no firm dates on when that might happen.
Bryan asked about whether guests would have the ability to change their FP+ reservations times on the fly, while in the parks. Yes – and I did this several times. On my Epcot touring day, we ended up at the park much earlier than expected. Our Soarin’ FP+ reservation time was in the late afternoon, but we ending wanting an earlier slot. I hopped on the My Disney Experience app on my iPhone and was able to change our Soarin’ FP+ to a morning reservation within about 15 seconds. The system gave me several options of available return times. I was impressed by the speed of the system. From the time I changed the Soarin FP+ return, to the time we were at the attraction ready to ride was about 7 minutes. The FP+ reader at Soarin’ recognized our bands and the new return time with no problem at all. One caveat – I was part of a very small test. There were so few guests like me vying for FP+ that, for all intents and purposes, I could have any FP+ time I wanted. In the future, when many, many guests are competing for a limited number of FP+, then you might not be able to switch FP+ reservation times because different times might not be available.
Holly asked about whether reserved seating for parades was a FP+ option. While the list of FP+ attractions will likely have periodic changes. I can tell you what attractions I was offered as part of my test:
- At the Magic Kingdom: Big Thunder, Buzz Lightyear, Dumbo, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Meet Mickey at Town Square, Meet Princesses at Town Square, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Barnstormer, Winnie the Pooh, Under the Sea.
- At Epcot: Living with the Land, Maelstrom, Mission Space, Soarin’, Spaceship Earth, Test Track, The Seas with Nemo, Captain EO, Journey Into Imagination, Meet Disney Pals at Character Spot, Turtle Talk with Crush
- At Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, Disney Junior Live on Stage, Indiana Jones, Lights Motors Action, Muppet*Vision 3D, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours, American Idol Experience, Great Movie Ride, Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania, Voyage of the Little Mermaid
- At Animal Kingdom: DINOSAUR, Expedition Everest, Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo – The Musical, It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safari, Primeval Whirl, Meet Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost
As you can see, there are no parades listed as FP+ options. However, when I did some testing in December, there were reserved parade seating areas available for FP+, so this is obviously an area in flux.
Chris asked about whether it would be possible to avoid unsightly tan lines when wearing a MagicBand. You know, this is actually a thing. I wore my MagicBand in the Florida sun for 3+ days, and I did have a semi-noticeable tan line on my wrist. I also found that I briefly took my MagicBand off a few times for photographs, since the bright orange band clashed with my ensemble. If these are issues for you, then you may want to go with the card option rather than the band option.
Daniel lamented the lack of a purple colored MagicBand. There is no purple band, but there are plenty of solutions to this pressing dilemma. Disney has started to sell an array of MagicBand accessories to alter the appearance of your band. Some accessories are “jewels” that you clip to your band like a charm bracelet. Some accessories slide onto the band and can be made to disguise your band to look like a watch. And some accessories are fabric sleeves you slide completely over the band to fully change its color. Several of the fabric sleeves available had a purple base, including purple with a field of Mickey balloons and a purple Haunted Mansion-esque design.
Now that I’ve hit the highlights of your questions, here are some of my personal observations about the MyMagic+ test experience.
- MagicBand delivery. Due to the short turnaround time of the test, we received our MagicBands upon check-in. However, the eventual plan is for Disney to send the MagicBands to guests at their homes in advance of their trip. To me, that just seems silly. Aside from the cost of mailing all those bands, there’s not much use for them until you get on property. I can see many situations where people have their colorful, personalized bands sent to their homes and then accidentally leave them on their kitchen counter. Sure, they’ll be replaced at WDW, but the replacement bands are all gray and won’t be personalized, undoubtedly leading to on-site family confusion. The only possible reason I can see to have the bands ahead of time is if it somehow helps with Magical Express or resort check-in. The transportation folks on property are clearly not equipped to deal with MagicBands just yet. My husband and I drove to Fort Wilderness for a tour. We were stopped at the security gate and asked for our resort ID (normal procedure). I showed the guard my MagicBand and she quite unprofessionally laughed in my face. When I dug the Key to the World card out of my bag, we were allowed to proceed, but this is clearly an area that needs work.
- Have they met a toddler? MagicBands will be supplied to all guests age three or older. That means that everyone in the family will have these fun, colorful, decoratable bracelets except the smallest children. I don’t know about your family, but if my daughters had been two years old and saw that going on, they’d immediately recognize the injustice and DEMAND to have a bracelet like everyone else. I mentioned this situation to several MagicBand cast members and they were all glassy-eyed, like it had never occurred to them that little kids would want their own MagicBand. I got a lot of “Well, since two year olds don’t need tickets, then they don’t need a band” answers. Nope. Not gonna work. At a bare minimum, they need to start selling toddler-sized bands ASAP.
- There will be a “frequent flier” bonus. Cast members on site at the Bay Lake Tower testing center were quite clear that eventually there would be MyMagic rewards for certain categories of guests. While no specifics were given (and I really don’t think they have specifics in mind yet), it was mentioned that eventually “better” or more loyal customers (DVC members, Annual Passholders, Grand Floridian guests, etc.) would get perks like more FP+ reservations or earlier FP+ reservation windows. This is somewhat akin to the Castaway Club program on the Disney Cruise Line where frequent cruisers can make meal and excursion reservations earlier than other guests.
- All guests will get access to the FastPass+ system. I learned that when the “legacy” FASTPASS kiosks are removed, all guests will have access to the FP+ system in some way via their RFID-enabled ticket admission media. I asked about day guests with no access to a smartphone or tablet. I was told that these folks could make their FP+ reservation in the parks at special FP+ stations. And, indeed, I found that these stations are well on their way to being ready. The lobby of Town Hall in the Magic Kingdom is already filled with iPad FP+ reservation stations and several helpful cast members to assist in their use. Additional MK stations will be at Stitch’s Great Escape in Tomorrowland and at Splash Mountain in Adventureland. The other parks will have similar distribution. I also asked about guests with old no-expiration paper tickets and was told that these tickets will still be honored, but that they must be exchanged for RFID-capable admission media ON SITE AT WALT DISNEY WORLD. Only with a RFID-style ticket with a bar code number would these guests be able to make FP+ reservations. So, if you have an older pre-RFID ticket with remaining days, you will be able to exchange it for an RFID ticket to get into the park, but you won’t be able to have those remaining days get you access to the FP+ reservation system at home. I imagine that this will make a small subset of guests more than a little miffed.
- The bands were more comfortable and sturdier than I thought they’d be. It took me a few tries to get the fit just the way I wanted it, but once I worked that out, I really forgot I was wearing the band, which is exactly what should happen. I was concerned that the bands would be flimsy and fall off easily, but they remained secure throughout 3+ days of normal park wear. In the parks, I found it MUCH easier to hold my wrist up to the FP+ pads for attraction access than it had been in the past to dig through my bag for the paper FP tickets. One caveat, I didn’t have children with me on this trip. Younger kids might have a different impression of band comfort.
- Account access is an issue. There were several points during our trip where we tinkered with things on the fly (changing FP+ reservation times, for example). It’s GREAT that we could do this; however, in order to make any changes to reservations (or even just to look at reservation times as a reminder), you need to have access to the main MyMagic+ account name and password associated with that FP+ reservation. Imagine a scenario where you’re on a family vacation with teens, they separate from you for a while and want to modify their FP+ reservation time for Space Mountain. Or they know they have a FP+ reservation time for Space Mountain, but they forget what it was and need to double check on their phone (remember, with the old FASTPASS tickets, the return time was printed out on the ticket). These are perfectly reasonable/common events, which now require access to the FAMILY’s My Disney Experience account password. I can think of a thousand reasons why this might be problematic. I feel like they need to build several levels of access into the program.
- They have kinks to work out, but, again, they’re really trying to make MyMagic+ a positive experience for as many people as possible. In addition to the Bay Lake MyMagic+ help room, there were also research teams stationed in several spots in the hotel. They gathered information both in electronic survey form and via personal interviews. During our stay, the Top of the World Lounge was transformed into a daytime research center. Management-level cast members spent upwards of an hour with each family who wanted to participate, interviewing them in great detail about their MyMagic+, MagicBand, and FP+ experiences. I observed guests giving honest feedback and managers taking notes and understanding their real concerns. They seemed grateful that guests were helping them make they system better. We also received a follow-up feedback survey about the test once we were home.
- I’m looking forward to more! There are some real issues to work out of the MyMagic+ experience, but overall I was favorably impressed with all the new technology. I’m going to give it a year or two of full implementation before I pass final judgment, but my guess it that I’m going to like what I see.
So what do you think? Are you excited to try this yourself? Do you have lingering reservations? Did my observations raise more questions than they answered? Let us know in the comments below.