Is Disney’s Tech Innovation a Nightmare or a Time Saver?

00-mk-mymagic

Yesterday we wrote about how unscrupulous people where taking advantage of Disney’s online dining reservation system to book the best restaurants and times and then scalp those reservations to guests who weren’t able to get them on their own. I think most Disney fans are aware of what a mess the dining reservation system has become. However, it’s not just theme park fans who are complaining.

Over the weekend a column ran in Fortune magazine decrying how Disney’s tech innovation has made the vacation experience too structured.

but the thing about these FastPasses is that you don’t sign up for them when you arrive at the park, or even first thing in the morning. No, if you’re staying in a Disney hotel (as we are), the FastPasses go on sale 60 days before you arrive (30 days for everyone else). And, from what I’m told, they go so quick that if we don’t have a plan of action put in motion at 12:01am, we might as well not bother.

And that doesn’t even take into account the process for making reservations for character meals, like what we had hoped to be her birthday dinner in Cinderella’s castle. Those began 180 days out, and we hadn’t decided on the trip by then. So that’s not happening.

To Disney, all of this is supposed to make our trip easier and, thus, more enjoyable. But Disney is wrong.

I think it’s important to note, that reserving 3 fastpasses does not take all the spontaneity out of one’s visit. But having to book them 30 or 60 days out does add to that feeling.

I understand Disney’s motivation behind the MyMagic+ additions. Walt Disney World vacations are an expensive proposition that most families have to save for. When you’re selling a premium experience, you want guests to be able to plan ahead to make sure they get those few premium experiences they want to have. Obviously this is only working for a percentage of guests. Those guests are happy, the rest. Not so much.

With complaints about Disney’s next-gen technology making it into main street media (even worse, Fortune, which is read by exactly the type of families Disney wants to attract in the future), is it time for Disney to make some adjustment to accommodate both the planners and those who like the freedom to make last minute decisions?

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

27 thoughts on “Is Disney’s Tech Innovation a Nightmare or a Time Saver?

  1. Patricia

    as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m 29 and have been going to Disney regularly with my family since the age of 2. For people/families like us, booking fast passes isn’t a big deal because if we have done everything already, so if we miss something because we didn’t get a fastpass, it’s no big deal. However, I can see how families visiting for the first time can be overwhelmed by the fastpass system. Last summer, we used it for some attractions in AK, but we were able to book them the night before via the MyDisneyExperience iPhone app. You’re correct when you say it doesn’t totally remove the spontaneity of the trip, but for people who haven’t been there before or haven’t been back in years, it can definitely feel that way – especially when you’re unfamiliar with the layout of the parks. My neighbors took their 6 year old for the first time, and the night before they left I rebooked all their fastpasses for them — there’s no reason to fastpass IASW immediately after space mountain, but how would they know that since they’d never been there before? From our perspectives, it’s easy to handle the new system – but for new visitors, it can be stressful.

  2. Bailers

    I agree with Fortune. Even as a repeat customer, it’s sucking the fun out of my trip. Because now not only am I locking myself in to a park if I made dining reservations, but now with rides as well. So the days of just deciding to change up our plans and wing it are over. At least, if I don’t want to wait in standby.

    I had a lot more fun at Disneyland last year, where there was no advance ride reservations, than I did the year before at WDW when Fastpass+ was in the testing phase with resort guests only.

  3. Jay

    It’s obvious that the writer for Fortune has not been to the parks for a while, or hasn’t tried to do some of the things he referenced. Cindy’s table has been 180 days for years and years and years. Neither MyMagic+ nor Fastpass+ has changed that experience, other than the fact that now you can do it online or with your mobile device instead of just having to call and hoping to get through.
    One seldom mentioned factor in FP+ is the matter of park safety. If this system avoids or lessens the rope drop stampede to Toy Story or Everest I think that’s for the better.
    I also feel I can be *more* spontaneous if I know I have certain things in place. I can linger in other parts of the park and not feel I have to race over to Soarin’ first thing only to find out the traditional Fastpasses times are now 8:00 PM returns, especially if I was lucky enough to get Le Cellier for 7:30. (Yeah, I could know that from the board at the hub but what if I’m coming in the international gateway from those resorts?)

    Let’s face it. No system is going to be perfect. There’s no way for Disney to let everyone onto every ride exactly when they get there. Ticket books had flaws Old Fastpass had flaws. I’m just happy Disney is continuing to try to find better and more equitable solutions.

  4. Gail

    I abhor the new fast pass system, just used it for first time in June. Long time visitor who is now dreading a return visit.

  5. Bev

    No whining allowed. No system is perfect and this one works well. Of course, I’m one of those people who likes to plan ahead. I’ve found over the years that other people’s plans change, so often you are able to get the fastpass+ or dining experience that you really wanted at the last minute. And, many times I’ve tried to get reservations for a restaurant and couldn’t, but I’ve been able to get in after a surprisingly short wait.

  6. Brian

    I experienced FP+ for the first time this past July, and while it was not the disaster I had anticipated, it was not the best option. As a frequent guest I got so used to using the paper fastpasses that I never–NEVER–waited in line. This trip, I did wait in line far more than last few trips. For instance, having to wait in SOARIN’ or TEST TRACK is inevitable b/c you cannot book both before you visit and you will not be able to day of in busy season. Same thing goes for ROCK N ROLLER COASTER & TOWER OF TERROR. I never used to wait for either of these, and now, count on a 40-60 minute wait for either.

    Not to be totally negative, I did like the app. It worked amazingly well for the traffic I am sure it was getting. I was able to change many reservations 24-48 hours before to adjust times.

    BUT THE WORST, was that after using your first three FP+ reservations, you had to go to a kiosk, and could not do so on the app, and make 1 reservation more, then go back and make another 1, then go back and make another 1, etc etc. Ludicrous–that you cannot make more than one, why not three more after using first three. And why not on the app that DISNEY now uses for everything else.

    Anyway, FP+ could be a whole lot worse, could be a whole lot better. Let’s face it though, it is what we have and that is not changing.

  7. Kevin

    The issue is that for some rides, like Seven Dwarves Mine Train, getting a fastpass day of just isn’t possible (in busy seasons, anyway). And unless have a fastpass, you’re going to be waiting 75+ minutes at any time of day. That’s a long time to wait for an underwhelming ride. The bottom line is that people who plan like crazy and people who don’t are not on a level playing field. They need to at least reserve some fastpasses for day of consumption.

  8. Craig

    I live in Orlando. I have a love-hate relationship with the FP system.

    On the one hand, I can, on the way home from work, decide to go to the parks and have FP available. It may not be the “best” attractions, but I get to have some experiences in the park — before this system, the passes would be gone and the long lines would mean going into the park for the evening was pointless.

    On the other hand, I cannot typically get the best FP, unless I luck into them, for the “best” attractions, like Seven Dwarves or the Anna and Elsa meet and greet. These high-demand attractions are gone before the 30-day window. Dining reservations can be just as bad — though the extra 10-day for resort guests only matters for Cinderella and the like. But for the most part, I am ok with Dining, but as an example, I wanted a Kitchen Sink at Beaches and Cream — I had to book it for February … that’s annoying as a local, especially when you do a reservation and the restaurants are half-empty most of the time.

  9. Kat

    When I’m on vacation I like to put my phone away, get away from it all, and enjoy the park. For my job I have to plan everything ahead of time, always be checking my phone, and be on a schedule. This new system just reminds of my job.

  10. Ali

    I dread coming back to this new FP system. I don’t like to plan too much what days we will go into a specific park but have the flexibility to change. Our last holiday my youngest daughter was ill and we had to keep changing park plans and dining reservations which was stressful enough but worked. Now it sounds like a disaster. Also as an overseas visitor do I have to pay data use for the app? This would cost a fortune surely?

    1. Jay

      Disney’s working hard to provide wi-fi in all parks and hotels, so you shouldn’t have to be tapping into your phone’s data.

  11. Ed K

    After 27 trips to WDW, I have decided not to go anymore. All the techy stuff, needed reservations, etc.,etc. magic band B.S. has taken all the spur-of-the minute fun out of it. I have always gone on vacation to relax, not plan, plan, plan.

  12. Amy S

    This past June my family of four went on our sixth trip to WDW. We stayed on property like we have every other time and are used to make the dining plans way in advance but we have also changed our minds on a restaurant and hadn’t had trouble switching to a different one. As far as the fast pass + we really liked it because once we had our must do’s reserved we could visit places we hadn’t in the past because we were running to rides or trying to get the must have ride fast pass. I agree that for first timers or the infrequent visitor it can be over whelming but WDW has that affect. As far as winging it we had no problem either. The only thing I really used my phone for other than pics and checking in with family was to find something I hadn’t considered seeing in the past, like forcing the kids to see the Hall of Presidents.

    1. Patricia

      Oh geez, my parents forced me to see the Hall of Presidents several times as a child and in the 16+ times we’ve been to WDW since then, I haven’t gone near that place!

  13. Michael Mosteller

    I hadn’t been to Disney World since the early 90s. Took my wife and 2 kids two weeks ago. I loved the FastPass system. I didn’t mind planning out our trip because I wanted them to get ride most of the rides in the parks. The Fastpass allowed us to book rides that I’d rather not have waited in long lines for like Peter Pan’s Flight, Kali River Rapids and Big Thunder Mountain while also helping us skip lines on rides we really wanted to go on like Space Mountain. It also helped tremendously with getting to see Elsa and Anna.

    I used Touringplans.com which is a great resource to help you put in all the rides you want to ride and then letting you know the realistic order for doing them in. Sure it’s over planning but I loved having my trip put in a logical order and the honest feedback that the app and website gave for evaluating your plans. It still allowed us flexibility because we had built the trip for being able to explore a land while waiting for a Fastpass to come up. They also give you smart tips like which rides to not book a Fastpass for. The problem I’ve seen with the Fastpass process is Disney tries to force you into certain selections. This is easily fixed by taking their suggestions and modifying them either on the app or via the Disney Experience website. I was changing Fastpass options or ride times up to the day we left for our trip.

    I was shocked that so many people in the lines we saw didn’t know about the Fastpass or Magic Band options. My kids loved the Magic Bands because it was their own little magical experience every time they got to wave their wrist in front of the device.

    Now the dining reservations, that’s insane. We got all the dining options we wanted but only because we stayed onsite and I got up at 4am the morning of the 180 days out to make the selections. It was a panic inducing moment that I’d rather not relive any time soon. I think now that we’ve done it, we’ll opt for more quick dining options when we go to Disney in the future. Next summer, we’re going to Disneyland to ride some of the classic rides that Disney World casted away like Snow White and Mr Toad’s Wild Ride.

  14. Charlie

    Since FastPass was originally introduced I think I have used them MAYBE 5 times. Just something I don’t care for at all. I typically just meander around a park and if I want to do an attraction, I just get in line. No big deal to me.

    The same goes for dining. We’ve done our share of reservations but if we can’t get into a sit-down place, we’ll opt for counter service or, heaven forbid, go off-property.

    The new stuff makes my real-world escape way to structured. I don’t need anymore of that!

  15. Disney Mike

    I’ve said it again and again — I don’t understand all the whining. If you abhor planning and want to be 100% spontaneous, you can still do that. No one is stopping you. Go stand in line like everyone did before FastPass was ever invented. Yes, other people will get to go ahead of you, but you’re getting to be spontaneous, and that’s more important.

    Then there are the people who whine about not being able to be spontaneous once they’re in the park because they’re locked into their FastPasses. Guess what? When you went to DHS in the past, rushed back to Midway Mania to get your FastPass first thing, got a return time of 4:00p.m. – 5:00p.m., you were then locked into your FastPass, and you had to wait around all day to use it. You didn’t have a choice about when you were going to ride it. You also couldn’t get another FastPass for at least two hours, so you had to do other stuff. To me, having Disney tell me when I can ride something is FAR less “spontaneous” than choosing the time myself in advance.

    I’d also rather make advance dining reservations than wait two hours for a table at a crowded restaurant. I like not having the stress of trying to find something when it’s time for dinner. There’s also no bickering among family members about what kind of food to have. It’s far less stressful than having the kids bicker for an hour about what restaurant they want to eat at.

    Here’s my advice to all the people who love to complain — stay home. Don’t go. The rest of us will have a better time because of it. Anything to cut down on the crowds is a great thing.

    For people who aren’t convinced about the new system, here’s my advice — go ahead and book everything as far in advance as possible. Schedule your dining reservations and FastPasses within a certain time period in one park. For example. say we have a reservation for noon at Tony’s Town Square. We’ll book FastPasses for Space Mountain at 10:15a.m., the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at 11:15a.m., and Splash Mountain at 1:15p.m. We start our day in the Magic Kingdom, do our FastPass attractions and have our meal, then we’re free to do whatever we want with the rest of the day. We can go to another park. We can go to the hotel and swim during the afternoon. We can stay at the Magic Kingdom and ride more rides. It’s completely spontaneous outside of that four-hour window.

  16. Disney Mike

    I should add that this Fortune article also contains misleading information. FastPasses do not “to on sale.” There is no money involved. I’m sure plenty of people who read the article do not know this, and when they read the words “on sale,” they thing that it’s something that costs extra.

    That’s not just bad journalism, but it could get the woman sued. Frankly, she would deserve it. I got the feeling when reading the whole article that the woman hasn’t ever actually used MyMagic+. People who haven’t ever used it don’t get to complain about it. I wasn’t sure about it until I used it, and now I love it. We’ve been to WDW three times since it started, and we’re thrilled with it.

    1. Amy S

      The writer of the article must have been thinking of Cedar Fair, Six Flags and Universal parks where you can “buy” their version for up to and additional $100-$150 per person to bypass the long wait for a ride. That’s on top of the entrance to the park let alone parking and eating.

  17. Roger Sauer

    Top Ten Problems with Disney World Technology
    10. Security scanner at MCO conducts full colonoscopy on a visitor wearing a Magic Band.

    9. An errant scanning device at California Grill deposited a diner’s entire IRA account into the Cayman Islands.

    8. Bathing suits at Typhoon Lagoon become invisible when swimmers carry their RFID cards into the water. (At least that’s what Glen, the lifeguard, says.)

    7. Some RFID cards enable guests to speak only “Por favor manténganse alejado de las puertas.”

    6. Several of the French dolls in “It’s a Small World” have been observed mooning the wearers of Magic Bands.

    5. Tapping the scanners in three different World Showcase countries in Epcot is enrolling RFID card carrying guests into the International Diplomacy program at the University of Phoenix.

    4. All World of Disney transactions automatically add a Duffy Bear to your purchase.

    3. Resort bus drivers can tell guests within 15 seconds precisely how long they have been standing on the freakin’ curb at the damn All Star Sports in 100 degree heat and 90% humidity for cryin’ out loud!

    2. At the end of “Space Ranger Spin” riders’ game records are displayed as SAT Verbal and Math scores.

    1. Let’s just say Belle gets might frisky during story time.

  18. Jeff

    Having visited California Adventure in Anaheim last week (which was AWESOME by the way). I must say how happy I am they eliminated the paper fastpasses at WDW. I forgot what a pain in the a– they were.
    CONSTANTLY backtracking to get that damn little piece of paper is such a joke.
    I now totally appreciate Fastpasses+ at WDW.

    1. Disney Mike

      This is exactly the reason I don’t buy the argument that the FastPass+ system makes your day “less spontaneous.” Having to visit each attraction twice — forcing you to run all over the parks to get your FastPasses — isn’t very magical.

      At least they did one smart thing at DCA, by having the FP distribution for Radiator Springs Racers at a central location in the park. It would be awful to have to run all the way to the back of the park to get your FP first thing in the morning.

      And just once I’d like for someone to explain to me how it is “spontaneous” to go get a FP for, say, Soarin’, when you won’t be able to ride it for six or seven hours. To me, that was the most annoying part of the day at Epcot, trudging all the way over to The Land to get a FP, then having to trudge back out to do other things for hours upon hours while waiting to use the FP. I’ll take FP+ any day.

  19. Mark

    Would be nice to think someone from Disney reads these. As loyal local annual pass holder, I am ticked off that we are treated as second class citizens versus those staying in Disney’s hotels. Setting aside some spots for pass holders would be nice.

  20. Eric P

    Disney Mike said it well, but I think it bears some repeating, but from a different angle.

    If the argument for avoiding planning is a free-wheeling spontaneous vacation, then that is a very poor argument. For maybe 45 minutes of pre-planning, your fast passes/ADRs are giving you back *hours* of time in the parks. A dining reservation and a few FP+’s each day save us so much time and stress.

    And if you can’t get a FP+ or ADR for the thing you really want to do, the ones you do get will free up huge chunks of time allowing you to wait for your favorites.

    I might only want to check out Soarin’! one time, but I would rather it take about 20 mins of my day instead of 2 hours. The tech Disney has built is truly the best out there, and if you embrace it, you will have an awesome vacation!

Comments are closed.