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.