Using Disney’s Magic Bands

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I’m down here in Disney World right now for Disney’s Earmark Conference, which is a conference for Disney travel agents, and I’m writing this from the balcony of my room at the Contemporary Resort–not a bad place to write, although the castle is a bit distracting! This trip was my first opportunity to try the Magic Bands, as they’re still in the testing phase. They’ve been rolled out to most resorts at this point and should be resort-wide sometime in October (this can change), but I wanted to share some thoughts on using them with all of you.

First, let me just explain the bands for the uninitiated. The bands are literally that–wrist bands (similar to plastic wrist watch bands, but without the watch face) that will hold all your pertinent information, from where you’re staying to how many dining credits you have left on the Disney dining plan. They’ll have your room key, credit card information, and tickets on them as well.  You’ll be given a pin as well, which makes it more secure for credit card transactions. All your information is stored on the system, meaning that Disney can tell if you like Mickey bars at 11:00 p.m. and send one to your room. Or, more likely, they can use that information to customize marketing towards your likes.  In the future, there will even be sensors in the parks that track movements for crowd control purposes.

We dealt with a lot of “bugs” yesterday, in part due to the fact that we are traveling with a large group so we had to connect multiple reservations.  Additionally, some of us have annual passes which makes it somewhat more difficult to connect your tickets. If you have a pass that covers both Disneyland and Disney World, as I do, you’re not going to be able to add that online at this time. Instead, you’ll call the help line and have them give you a special number. We had a very friendly and competent cast member yesterday who spent a lot of time with us getting all this done. It was frustrating and I couldn’t help but feel that someone who only comes here once a year or even every few years would be extremely disappointed to be wasting park time getting their bands set up.

Now here’s the good news: When they work, and they seem to be working well for most people, they’re really convenient.  I’m a bit of technophobe to begin with and like a lot of people, I don’t like the suggestion of “data mining,” but it’s worth it for the convenience of walking into the park so quickly.  Often, guests are fumbling with their cards:  Trying to find them, putting them in wrong–you know the drill.  With the bands this is generally a thing of the past and the line went super fast. I also liked paying with the cards–okay that might have been a little too easy for my bank account.

I still don’t like idea of planning out fastpasses weeks in advance–right now you can do it 30 days out, but in the future, you’ll have the opportunity to do it at 60 days out. I do, however, love the idea of having all my dining information and other reservations in one place on the website. Overall, I think this is going to really streamline the guest experience, but the bugs need to be worked out.

Again, much of this will change. In fact, at the conference I’m attending in just a couple of hours, we’re going to get more information. But I wanted to get this out now because I’ve had so many questions about it.  Have you tried the bands yet? What did you think? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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About Christina Wood

For more travel planning articles by Chris, check out her Disney travel blog, Everything Walt Disney World. Chris is also a member of the Mouse Chat podcast team and an authorized Disney travel planner with Pixie Vacations, and visits the parks about 55 days each year. To get free planning and assistance with your next Disney vacation, please call her at 919-889-5281 or email at ChrisW@PixieVacations.com. You may also fill out a quick Disney Vacation Quote form here.
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29 Responses to Using Disney’s Magic Bands

  1. Stephen DelVecchio says:

    I think the pre-planning for Fast passes is a sore spot for many. There are just too many variables like which park will I be in on any particular day? Will I even need a fastpass for a particular ride, maybe the crowds are going to be low that day for that ride. The biggest is what if my child isn’t in the mood that day for a fastpass reserved ride?

    Sure you can use your smartphone or the kiosk to change these when your at the park, but the point of going in the first place is to enjoy the rides not spend an extra few minutes fiddling with my phone to change tickets, and like the dining reservations people are going to have to make advance reservations for fastpass so they can be sure to get them when they arrive.

  2. mike in mis'sippi says:

    We were invited to use the bands during our recent trip, August 21-Sept 1. We were staying at Pop Century. The only problem I encountered with them was park entry at MK and AK. There was a cast member whith a lap top who scanned me in both me times. I like the conveneinec for purchases, room, keys, etc. I, too, am not crazy about setting up Fast Passes 30 days in adavance, but I did like being able to set one up without having to fight a line at the kiosks. All in all, I’m a fan.

  3. Laura says:

    I too am a little skeptical about setting up Fastpasses in advance, but, that being said, I can’t wait to try out MagicBands!

  4. Sarah says:

    Magicbands sound convenient in many ways. But setting up fastpasses months in advance is an absolute deal breaker for me. I do not want to be micromanaging my Disney vacation to that extent. I know the details aren’t fully known, but so far I do not like what I hear regarding the limitations on FastPass (limited to 3 per day, no park hopping, cant fastpass the same ride twice) and the advance planning required. Having to be in front of a computer 60 days out to be able to get the rides you want when you want them, and then having to stick to a detailed schedule every single day. Not fun! And often not even possible. Disappointed in many facets of this plan, and hope it changes.

  5. Alice Robinson says:

    I was wondering if the Magic Bands are coming to Disneyland as well, I’d love to try one out. We’re going to be visiting Disneyland in Feb 2014, so maybe it will be active there by then.

  6. Disney Mike says:

    I’m guessing annual passholders will still have to carry their APs with them, since I don’t plan on wearing a wristband 365 days a year. We do stay on property (DVC resorts), but I haven’t heard whether APs can be temporarily added to the wristbands for the duration of stay.

    Count me among those who don’t like the idea of having to pre-plan Fastpasses. We’ll be there next week, and I can’t tell you which ride we’ll want to ride on which day even just a few days in advance, much less 30 or 60 days in advance.

    Fastpass+ could prove to be one of the worst ideas ever thought of by Disney. Longer standby wait times for rides that don’t need Fastpass, more stress added to the vacation to make sure you make your Fastpass reservations and make it to the rides on time. Less spontaneity if you don’t want to have to wait in long lines. I have a feeling I’m really going to hate using it.

  7. Red says:

    One small correction that could be a big deal for some. The wristband doesn’t hold ANY of that information. All that info is stored in Disney’s computers, the wristband just links to it.

  8. Jerimie says:

    I have to say I really enjoyed the bands. My wife has a habit of losing/forgetting her room key when on vacation. Having these bands made it that much harder to lose. As the bands get linked to the photo pass, dinner reservations, and who knows what else it will only make our trips less stressful. As for “planning” the fastpasses it wasn’t that bad. You know which rides/shows tend to be busiest, Toy Story Mania for example, you can guarantee your family can enjoy them. My 2 year old only wanted to meet Rapunzel and Cinderella and the new “Storybook Hall” opening while we were there the ability to change them on the fly was key to making those memories. And when planning the fastpass plus you get 3-4 options to times you schedule your day. The bands and fastpass plus items will improve people’s time at Disney. Now to fix the wait times for the Disney Transportation buses.

  9. Jill says:

    Just customized our magic bands for nov 10 thur 17. Staying one day at pop century then the rest at all star music. Had to have 2 different reservations due to the free dining plan. So we get 2 sets of magic bands. There are 3 of us and we get 6 bands because of the 2 reservations. Already set up fast passes and it went really smooth. Very excited to get them in about 12 days. Can’t wait. First time at disney world

  10. Cynthia says:

    We have used them nod love them so far! They are very convenient and do halo keep the lines moving quickly upon entry. So far the only downside to them is that if you park hop, keep in mind if you’ve already used your 3 fast passes in the first park, you’re done with fast passes for the rest of the day.

    One other thing I don’t understand is if you already have a magic band from a previous visit why they can’t add your next visit to that band instead of sending you a new one? Especially of you’re an AP holder. I’m sure they will work all these little kinks out and I can’t wait to see the improvements.

  11. Stacy j says:

    Magic bands have been great for us!!! The issue many are questioning about reserving fast passes is really not that big a deal….I had planned ours out, but then after arriving we decided to change our plans, it was nothing to change it in our room the night before, as a matter of fact I made changes every night for one reason or another!!! The was one night I had issues with the server being down, but I just made the changes the next morning while everyone got ready. I loved the convenience of having my room key on my wrist, especially when coming in late with a sleeping toddler in my arms & being able to pay for food items & carry a tray loaded down with food…didn’t want my little ones dropping theirs….and not having to fool with a wallet or purse. Glad we got to try these out!!!!

  12. Trina says:

    Ill be going from Oct. 21-23. I’ve recieved my bands already and am apparently receiving another set due to the fact that we are switching hotels mid trip. I’m with the previous person who mentioned that they should let you link your trips to your one band, instead of receiving multiple. I guess it’s good to match different outfits lol. Anyway, I’m 30 and have been to Disney every year of my life and multiple times at that. I’m not a person who likes change and like the fact that Disney reminds me of my childhood. However, I will make an exception and try to stay positive and see how it works out! And I do hate fumbling around for the keys/passes and constantly worrying if I still have them on me after space mountain, thunder mountain, and every other ride. I will come post after my experience and let you know how it went.

  13. Mary Testa says:

    I thought I saw something about putting the magical express reservations on the bands.
    I am going on Thursday and would love to find out how to link that up.
    Any information?
    Thanks

  14. Lisa says:

    A silly question, but can you take the bands off? They aren’t like park bracelets that stay on for the length of your trip right? (Like the ones you have to cut off?) I am weirdly claustrophobic about those kinds of bands- I know, strange!

  15. Renee says:

    I have received my bands for our upcoming November trip. We have made some Fastpass + reservations. My husband and I are planners, but we appreciate the flexibility of being able to change Fastpass reservations from our phones (you can change the time and/or the attraction very easily). When making the reservations, choose up to 3 attractions, and then you are given a few options to choose from – some are grouped so they are all earlier in the day or later in the day, some are more spread out). You pick the one that best fits your plans, but then can easily fine-tune each (we had to change a couple of times to fit in with dining reservations). My only question now is whether we will still be able to use the regular fast-pass kiosks at the parks? With the Fastpass +, you are limited to 3 per day. When we were there just over a yer ago, we were able to use the kiosks to get several Fastpasses per day (I think there was a 1-hour limit between). I think that will be a big disappointment if we end up being limited to the three, since we used them so much last time.

  16. Beth says:

    I have the same question as the previous poster – I just ordered our bands last night and selected our FastPass+ rides (which I really like, mostly because of Toy Story Mania). But can you still get paper FastPasses in addition to the three FastPlass+ ones that you are limited to each day?

  17. Karen says:

    I just confirmed my Wrist band for our trip on Nov. 23rd last night, Oct. 22nd …my question is will the Wrist Bands arrive in time for my trip?

  18. Bob says:

    Yes you can still get paper in addition to the bands… Despite some cast members saying you cant. Only thing is you must carry your actual room key to get the paper ones. Having the 3 on your band is fantastic knowing you have your three biggest rides secured for the day, then playing the paper game for the rest of the day. Changing is a complete non event, we changed reservations constantly throughout the week as our schedule changed or the fact we got right on a ride and didnt need the fp, so id pull up the app and move the “experience or “time” as i was walking on to a ride. The best part is say your going to hollywood studios, get on the app and reserve toy story, aerosmith and tower of terror…. Then sit back relax and laugh watching the mad dash at park opening as everyone runs to those fp’s. We just got back yesterday from our trip so this is very up to date info.

  19. David says:

    We just got back from Disneyworld and were part of the band experiment. We stayed at the Saratoga, checked in on Wednesday – they received bands on Monday. We had already ordered ours online and had them with us – got colored ones rather than the gray. Our experience with the band gettting checked in and set up was a nightmare – very non-Disney. We were given confusing mis-information, like the bands wouldn’t work until we touched the door so they were also giving us cards so we could go eat our first meal on the dining plan. At the restaurant the bands worked fine. When we finally did get to our room, neither the bands nor the cards worked to unlock the door. We had to have the bands reprogrammed, one of them three times before they all worked. By the second day the bands were working fine and were very convenient during our stay. I liked using the bands – it just seemed to take a lot of time to get them set up and linked. Hopefully it will run smotther next time.
    One question I have is are the bands intended to be reusable when we go back to Disneyworld next time? We usually go at least once a year.

    Thanks

    • Chris Wood says:

      Disney says they’re good for 2 years so you can re-use them–but they’ll still issue you bands when you check in. I don’t really understand this and I’m sure it will change, but for now that’s the policy.

  20. Nick says:

    You don’t have to plan your FastPass+ at all if you don’t want to. We just got back and FastPass+ works wonderfully. There were a few rides we had setup our FastPass+ for and when we got there the lines were short. So, we just waited in line and while doing so my wife changed that FastPass+ to another ride at another time. Not only that, but she was able to change FastPass+ times to a time that was much closer to the current time, even when the FastPasses that were being distributed were hours out.

  21. paul says:

    Just got back last night from Disney. The magic bands are a disaster. I had to use my park tickets on certain rides to obtain a fast pass, on others I had to use my room card and on others (Soarin at Epcot) I could only use the magic band. I could not access fastpass selections on the mobile app. I was juggling 12 cards and a magic band. Oh I forgot about the 3 photopass cards I was issued – also some of the photos were scanned to the not so magical band – Now these photos are not accessible on the web site. The entire affair was confusing and problematic. This system is a disaster.

  22. Michelle says:

    I just got back from my annual visit to Disney and hated the magic band experience. I will be going to Universal next year and will skip Disney. The rides were not working at the time of the Fastpass so the app gave me a new time to a ride of their choice and would not let me get the original ride at a different time. I tried going to kiosks and the system was down on a couple of occasions. A lot of mis-information was given at desk and I finally got angry enough to start complaining. I have never complained at Disney and this made my trip a miserable experience:((((

  23. gina says:

    We just returned from the least Magical Disney trip ever. The Not so Magical bands were a nightmare. The first hotel took a total of 5 hours to get everything working and linked correctly. We only actually had 1 day out of 5 that was an enjoyable day, and only because we did not have any changes in hotel or plans that day. We spent more time trying to get the bands to work than we did having fun. Guess it’s a good thing we left the kids at home so we would have a stress free trip… I actually had a Magical Breakdown on day 4 of the trip because of these goofy bands. I am all for it takes time to work out kinks and testing fazes but seriously nobody should have to go through that much aggrevation. We were locked out of our rooms, locked out of the parks, had our dining plans removed from band access, and my favorite is on day 4 somehow our charging privallages were dropped from the bands and only one of the three bands was able to access the dining plan for everyone in the party. I loved holding the entire group hostage at food and wine festival with my pretty pink band. Its going to be a while before we return to wdw, cancelled the next trip and heading to DL instead.

  24. david kw says:

    My wife and I just returned from 4 nights, 5 days at DW. Stayed at Pop Century, used the bands the whole time. Loved them! Carried room keys, annual pass card, cash, etc., just in case, and never used any of them. Small glitch, a couple of times my band didn’t open the room, but my wifes’ did. Paid for everything with the bands, no problem. fired up the computer each morning and made our fast pass selections then. No need to do it way in advance. Once they get everything ironed out, pass cards will go the way of the E-Ticket.

  25. Jonathan says:

    I was able to use the bands for the first time when my sister came to visit. Their family was staying at Carribean beach and got their bands when they got there. I was only there for three of the five days, but stayed in the same resort. Two features that proved extraordinarily useful were combining reservations with other family members and the FastPass+. Let me explain: Since we were all staying at the same resort, we could get fast passes for the same times, share reservations, etc. Changing reservations as plans changed was relatively simple by smart phone, and all of us could access the reservations.

    FastPass+ was also very useful, and not nearly the burden others seemed to thing it would be. As at least one commentator mentioned, you know which are going to be the busiest rides for each of the parks, so you should focus on those. We were able to coordinate times a day or two before, so it was not a “month out” commitment. Also, since we were also given cards, it was possible to have the FastPass+ reservations, and still use the cards at the fast pass kiosks in the traditional way. This feature may expire as the wrist bands become universal. The other limitation is that only 3 FastPass+ were available per day, and only at one park at a time. For Park Hopper/Annual Passholders like me, that required a little more planning.

    As a Disney World regular, I found the combination of convenience between My Disney Experience and the wrist bands exceptional. It was as much a leap forward as the introduction of Fast Passes were when that occurred, and greatly enhanced our overall experience. It was one of the best visits I have had to WDW, largely because we knew that we would get at least 3 hard-to-find rides each day. My only disappointment is that they are not in use at Disneyland as well, because that is our next destination in three weeks!

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