When Disney starts inventing words for things, and they do it all the time, sometimes it makes it a little bit more confusing. I know that I have seen lots of questions floating around the interwebs about things like Magic Bands, and Fast Pass Plus. Not to mention My Disney Experience and My Magic Plus. All of these things work together, in theory, to “help” you get the most out of your vacation. This article is going to briefly explain each of these things, and how they are connected, so you have a better idea of what all this is about.
What is MyMagic+ (My Magic Plus)?
MyMagic+ is the name of the overall program Disney has rolled out. MyMagic+ is nothing more than a title for the new planning and reservation system that Disney has implemented. In its simplest form, you can think of MyMagic+ as having three parts.
- My Disney Experience
All of these items, and more will be discussed here, so don’t worry if you don’t know what I am talking about yet. The three parts listed above are what really make up the experience, so MyMagic+ is nothing but a name for the group of new services that Disney is offering to “help” customize your individual experience, and in theory, make it easier for you while on your trip.
What is My Disney Experience?
My Disney Experience is the computer interface that you use to tie things together on your account for your vacation. It is available online, or as a mobile app. If you don’t have, or don’t want to carry around a smart phone in the park, that is fine too. There are kiosks available in the park where you can modify your specific reservations, or information, on the My Disney Experience Site. You can also call Disney at any time to help with any of the reservations or features of the system, but Disney is trying to get you to do this on your own.
My Disney Experience combines a lot of what the “old” Disney site would refer to as “My Vacation”. This is where you can view, and control, your reservations on your vacation. The system shows the packages you have booked including the park tickets and room reservations. The site will also help you reserve, and manage dining reservations. Also, your FastPass+ reservations. The site will also give you specific information for the parks about show times, parade and firework times as well as ride wait times character greeting locations. It also contains a GPS enabled map that will show you where you are in the park related to services and attractions that you are looking for and apparently will alert you to happenings that are very close to you. Obviously the maps and GPS are only going to work with a smart phone, but part of the large investment that Disney has made in their technology upgrades within the past few years is in park Wi-Fi, so in theory, you are using Disney’s Wi-Fi instead of your mobile data plan.
You can also link your My Disney Experience account to other people’s accounts. For example, if you are going with a large group or family reunion, it would allow you to coordinate your plans for things like advance dining reservations and FastPass+ times. My Disney Experience also lets you add in notes for your trip, so it is acting like more of a vacation planning tool than the website was in the past.
So you can think of My Disney Experience as the control panel for your reservations and vacation planning. It’s nothing more than that. Just a central place where your vacation information is stored, and accessed, and can be modified by you to help organize your trip.
What is FastPass+ (Fast Pass Plus) and how is FastPass+ different from the old Fast Pass system?
First, you should know what Fast Pass was, but I am betting that most of you do. Fast Pass was a system where you would take your park ticket, insert it into a “Fast Pass Machine” that was located by an attraction, and the machine would spit out a paper ticket that allowed you a return time frame so you could go through a shorter line to get to the attraction. There were lots of ways to “game” the system, but in theory, you could only get one fast pass per ticket until the return time on the fast pass, then you could get another, again, in theory, only having one at a time. However, the return time was more of a “suggestion” than a firm deadline, so some people would collect fast passes during the day, then use them all up, one after the other, at the end of the day to more or less “walk on” all the major attractions. Disney attempted to resolve some of the issues with the “old” Fast Passes by enforcing the return time, but it made some of the Disney nerds very upset because they could not abuse the system anymore, even though they did not consider it abuse. Disney held to it, and it was one of the first steps in moving to the new FastPass+ system.
FastPass+ is similar to the old system in that it allows you to book a time window where you can get into a shorter line, thus significantly reducing the wait time for an attraction. I would not say that any Fast Pass system ever allowed you to “walk on” any attraction really. Sure, it occasionally happens, but really, you are just reducing your wait time, however, it’s usually by quite a bit. The big difference in FastPass+ is that you are allowed to make 3 reservations per day at one park days or even months in advance of your visit. It’s very similar to dining reservations. You go on the My Disney Experience site, and choose the attraction and the time you want to go. If your first choice is not available, other options will be given to you. Instead of paper tickets with return times, the information is stored on your My Disney Experience account, and that’s linked to your MagicBand. Another new option is that they have added attractions and experiences to the FastPass+ system. You can now make FastPass+ reservations for attractions that did not have Fast Pass before, and also for things like parades, fireworks, and character interactions. A FastPass+ reservation for shows, parades, or fireworks would allow you guaranteed seating in a prime viewing area.
This is where one of the divides on Disney Vacation Planning theory occurs. There are going to be some people who don’t like the thought of having to plan out their day months in advance. (up to 180 days in advance for dining reservations, up to 60 days in advance for FastPass+, if you’re really on top of things) I hear things like….“How will I know where I will feel like eating lunch 6 months from now? How will I know that I want to ride Space Mountain in the Afternoon, not the morning?” I don’t know how you know, but a lot of us do. To me it’s not an issue to make those kinds of reservations in advance, but that’s because I am a planner. You do not have to make these decisions in advance. You can make them on the day of your visit, you just may not have as many options. You can still be a “seat of your pants” Disney tourist, but some of us don’t like going without some kind of plan in place.
FastPass+ is a good tool if you know how to use it. I use the word tool because it’s not going to do the work for you, you still have to make sure you’re using it correctly to maximize its benefit. For example, I would never book a FastPass+ reservation for Space Ship Earth. The wait is only going to be 15-20 minutes usually, at the most (of course there are exceptions). That ride is a people eater (meaning it has a high hourly guest capacity) and the line is going to move quickly. However, something like Seven Dwarves Mine Train (because it’s new, so it’s popular) or if I had a kid that wanted to meet the girls from Frozen (and I do) then that’s going to save me from standing for hours in a queue. I don’t think I would book one for a prime parade spot, the route is too long with too many options, but maybe for Fireworks, Fantasmic!, or Illuminations, I would consider it, but only if I had one left for the day.
Can I get an additional FastPass+ once I use my 3 reserved spots?
Yes, you can. Once you have used your 3 spots that you reserved in advance, you can get additional FastPass+ reservations, even in a different park, but only one at a time, and only after your initial 3 have expired. After you use the additional one, you can go back and get another, and on, and on. As long as the one you have has been used or expired.
What is a MagicBand?
So here’s where a lot of the additional questions come in. In its simplest form, a MagicBand is a bracelet. However, the bracelet contains an RFID chip. Some people may not be familiar with RFID, but basically, it’s a little chip that gets activated when it gets a signal from a “reader”. The reader then knows the number the chip contains, and ties that number back to a database. You access the information in this database by modifying and inputting information into the My Disney Experience interface.
I remember one of the first times I had direct knowledge and experience with one of these chips, and it was many, many years ago with a pet that we had. On its first vet visit, they implanted one of these chips into him. At that point, we the vet used a reader to scan the chip, and the reader spit out a number. We used that number to register on a website where we could continue to update our personal information when we moved or changed phone numbers. Should the pet ever be lost, as long as someone who found him brought him to a place with a chip reader, he could be scanned. The scanner would provide the number, and our personal information would come up in the system after the vet, or pound, looked up his chip number online.
So, instead of Disney implanting chips into all their guests, they put it into a bracelet. Disney has readers around the park, and when necessary, like at the park entrance, or for the new FastPass+ system, you simply hold up your band to the reader for the system to know who you are, and if you have a valid park ticket, or FastPass+ reservation for the attraction. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Your MagicBand will “help” you in many different ways, including but not limited to:
- The key to your room – Most Disney Resort rooms have been replaced with RFID locks now, so to get into your room, you simply tap your MagicBand by the door knob.
- Tickets to the Parks – All your park pass information is stored in the system accessed by the bands, so you simply tap your band to the reader to get in. The turnstiles are more or less gone.
- Dining Credits – If you are using the Disney Dining plan, your Dining Plan Credit information is stored there as well, so you will simply scan it at meals and for snacks to redeem credits from the plan.
- Disney Memory Maker – (Not called Photo Pass anymore) allows cast members to take your family photos and load the information into your account controlled by your MagicBand. Also, just announced is the use of long distance readers, so your ride photos will automatically be loaded to your account by the use of long distance RFID readers realizing that you are on the ride, and what specific photo you are in. These options are only available if you purchase the Disney Memory Maker add on to your vacation (about $150).
- Charge to your room – You can use your MagicBand to charge items directly to your room, just like you would using the old Key to the World card, you simply tap your MagicBand on the RFID reader when paying. A PIN number is required when making purchases with your MagicBand as an extra security step.
Why do I need to get a MagicBand?
You don’t. You don’t have to have one at all. If you don’t want one, or are staying offsite, and don’t want to pay for one, Disney will offer you a card in place of a paper park entrance ticket. The card contains the same type of chip, and can be used for almost the same things. The one thing it will not do is utilize the long distance RFID readers, but for now that’s not much of an issue. That technology is just starting to be utilized in the parks.
Using a Card at a MagicBand Reader
What if I don’t want to wear a bracelet?
Again, don’t. You don’t have to. You can get the card as described above, or you can just carry it with you. I have heard that the bands are fairly comfortable, and have a new and unique design that allows it to fit all sized, from very small children, to “full sized” adults without issue.
What information does the MagicBand Contain?
The band contains an RFID chip. This chip only contains a number. That number is linked to a database where all your personal information is stored, but if someone was to steal your bracelet, they would only be able to get a number from it. They would still have to hack the Disney database to get any personal information.
What if I lose my MagicBand?
Even though the MagicBands only contain a number, this is still a concern, and you should treat your MagicBand like you would any other credit card, or room key, etc. Limits can be set up on the MagicBands to prevent things like your child going on a spending spree without your knowledge, but if you do lose or have a MagicBand stolen, you should contact Disney Guest Services, or a Disney Cast Member for immediate assistance. A PIN number is required to make purchases and Disney has gone through extensive privacy procedures because they know that if there is a breech, it’s going to cause serious problems. That’s not to say that I blindly trust Disney. All corporations, large and small, are subject to security threats all the time, and putting your personal information anywhere online is always associated with some risk.
Are MagicBands Waterproof?
Yes, they are. This is for many reasons, including the water rides at several parks that will get you soaked. In addition, your MagicBand would get you entry into Disney’s official water parks, if that’s purchased as part of your package, and allow you the benefits there, such as using meal or snack credits, or charging to your room. Not only that, but if they have not already, they may soon use them as entry to pools that are gated off in resorts. “Is Pool Hopping Legal?” is a hotly debated, and entirely different discussion. The short answer is No, with a couple of exceptions. However, at some point, I would not be surprised to see all pools gated and require you to scan your MagicBand for entry, since it would contain information regarding what resort you are staying at.
Who needs a MagicBand?
Again, you don’t have to have one, you can use a card, but it’s not a terrible idea to have them for your children. This will be even more evident as the technology changes and improves. Basically, everyone who has a ticket needs either a magic band, or an actual ticket that contains the RFID chip. I have heard of people putting them on kids as anklets to prevent much of the fidgeting, or messing with the bands as kids are known to do. Also, if you become a “lost parent” as Disney says, in theory, they could scan your child’s bracelet and have immediate information about who you are, what resort you are at, what part of the park you were most recently in, and even your cell phone number, assuming you provided that in your account.
What are all these accessories I see available?
As with any Disney product, you can now buy accessories for your bands of course. I know why people do it, but at the same time, it’s like dressing up your park tickets. There are MagicBandits, the equivalent of Pins for your band, but not hard metal. MagicSliders that fit over your band, not locked into the holes like the MagicBandits. CoverBands cover your MagicBand with decorative images that relate to Disney of course. Accessories are coming out all the time with different characters, from the “Big 5” to Star Wars. They want something for everyone so everyone can spend money on accessorizing their accessory.
How do I get my Name on a MagicBand?
If you are staying at a Disney resort, or if you are an annual pass holder you can “customize” your band. This allows you to pick a color, and have your name printed on the inside. If you book a vacation, staying at a Disney Resort, you have until 10 days before your arrival to customize your MagicBand and have it shipped to you. If you do the customization between 9 and 5 days before your arrival you will receive it when you check in. If you don’t customize your band 5 days before your arrival, you will get the standard grey with no name.
Also, a note on bands being shipped to you – DO NOT pack them in your suit case. Carry them on the plane with you if you are flying. You will need the band to check into your room, and get started with your vacation. Now with Magical Express, you would not have access to your bag until AFTER you get into your room. (Think about it – Your band is your room key, your room key is in your luggage – Your luggage is now locked in your room – How do you open the door?) Obviously, if you are renting a car, or using some other form of transport from the airport, this does not apply, but I would still make sure you have them with you when you check in.
If I am staying off property, can I still get a MagicBand?
Yes, you can get one, but you will have to buy it. They’re about $13 right now. You would be given the RFID ticket when you enter the first time, but they buy a band, and have the information transferred to your My Disney Experience account so you can receive the benefits of the Magic Band. However, it would not let you charge anything to your band as you are not a Disney Resort Guest.
What else can MagicBands do for me?
I believe that now you should have a better understanding of the system, and have discovered ways to make it work for you. The technology is always changing and improving, so new features will continue to be added. I believe that the next steps, and we are already starting to see some, is long distance RFID reading. Disney references this as well without being specific as they will probably be adding experiences all the time. Stuff no one has even thought of yet. This is where people get really scared by new technology. Currently, and this was just announced and described before, your on ride photo can be instantly linked to your magic band by the use of long range readers. Think about some of the following (and this is just a few things that are possible, but may or may not happen as I am just speculating):
- You go into a character interaction, and up on the wall behind you, so only the character can see it, is your children’s name. This would allow the princess to call your child by name. What if it shows that they just had, or are celebrating a birthday? Can you imagine a face character, or now even the new “Talking Mickey” saying to your child (or you) without even missing a beat, “Hi Julie, it sure is great to see you today! How is your birthday going?”
- Your standing on the parade route, and a character looks directly at you, says your name, and wishes you a happy anniversary.
- You go through Small World, and a character that you designed online pops up on a screen as you exit, maybe even saying goodbye to you directly, in your own language, or referencing what part of the world/country you are from. (This is already happening at Test Track where you design your own vehicle. You can save it for your return visits on your MagicBand.)
- Little Leota says your name as she tells you to “Hurry Back” at the end of the Haunted Mansion.
- You register that you need to eat a gluten free diet, now with the new interactive menus, when you approach a menu board, or when the interactive Ipad type menu is brought to you, it instantly and automatically only shows you only gluten free choices.
- Based on your previous purchases, and interactive screen in a retail store changes to show you advertisements that fit your purchasing habits, and welcomes you as you walk in the door.
- The system knows that you have been on Haunted Mansion more than any other attraction, so the server brings you a Haunted Mansion themed dessert at Dinner as a surprise.
- A Disney “Memory Maker” photographer sees the opportunity to take a great candid shot of your family, and links it to your My Memory Maker photo account without you knowing.
- A designated cast member comes up to you specifically in the park, knowing it’s your first visit, greets you by name, asks how everything is going, and wants to know if there is any way they can help you.
- After you are home, you get personalized advertisements in email based on when you like to go to the parks, what you did last time, and predicts what you would like to do and see next time you are there.
Does MyMagic+ make my vacation any better?
Yes and No. It depends on how you define “better”. If you are a control freak, and like to plan out every minute of every day of your trip, you will probably enjoy the additional level of control that FastPass+ allows you to have in your day. There will be no more “Mad Dash for Fast Pass” at rope drop. Other people will think that they have to plan their days out months in advance, and that’s not entirely true either. However if you don’t want to do it, but think your vacation is suffering because you did not do it, does that make it worse? Do you want characters to know your child’s name? Do you want them to ask how Splash Mountain was because they knew you just rode it? Does that make your vacation better? It all depends on how you look at it.
Other people going to feel that they are being watched. They really already are, but now they are going to feel it even more. Personally, I don’t need the cashier at Starbucks knowing my name as I enter the store, suggesting to me my typical coffee drink, asking me how I like staying at the Contemporary, and offering to charge it directly to my room. (That could absolutely happen at Disney with MagicBands). Other people would think its “neat” and would like it. Keep in mind that Disney is only going to have as much information as you provide to them. Sure, some of its required, but additional information about special occasions is not, and they are not forcing you to use MagicBands. If you want, you can still have your “Key to the World” card like before, it will now just carry your photo pass and FastPass+ reservations on it.
So one more time, to summarize:
MyMagic+ – Just the name of the program.
My Disney Experience – The name of the interface you use to plan and control trip details.
FastPass+ – Early reservation system for attractions, tied to your My Disney Experience Account.
MagicBands – Bracelets you wear that link you to your account while you are in the resort.
Disney has a lot more information on this at their website. A good place to start is the MyMagic+ site. There are many features and benefits that you would want to learn about before you go. I just wanted to touch on a few points. Again, this is not meant to be an exhaustive information page to tell you everything you need to know. I just wanted to help clear up some of the confusion. With all the new words Disney is inventing for their systems, it makes it hard to keep up sometimes.
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