This month over at WDW Magazine, we focused on all the new NextGen technology Disney is implementing with MyMagic+. From FastPass+ to My Disney Experience to Magic Bands, we covered it all, and it got me to thinking that I’ve never shared my experiences with you! So today, that’s going to change, starting with Magic Bands!
I’ve been lucky enough to experience Magic Bands twice – as a beta tester in the fall of 2013, and during full roll out in spring 2014! This is going to be a long one, so grab your favorite #FoodieFriday inspired snack and settle in! In the fall, the system was still new enough that cast members were still getting the hang of the new system, and guests without bands asked us a few questions about our bands. We had very little trouble – the only complication was that at one gift shop my band didn’t scan correctly and I had to provide my Key to the World Card. Small potatoes for a new system in the testing stage!
I have to say that Disney has done a great job at providing lots of informative materials for guest to learn how to use the new technology. Signage and rack cards in the parks and hotels, along with cast members willing to help at every turn. But even so, in the spring my top complaint was that other guests had not yet learned how to use their Magic Bands – causing lots of hold ups especially at park entrances and attraction queues. Sometimes the inconvenience was for a few seconds, but on several occasions I waiting between 2-5 minutes for guests in line in front of me to resolve issues that seemed to stem from families being unprepared to scan their bands or not understanding that the Mickey on the band needs to touch the Mickey on the checkpoint. Aside from these very minor setbacks, I’ve had a great time with the Magic Bands! I think they’re a great addition along with the rest of the MyMagic+ suite of experiences (the jury’s still out on FastPass+ for me, but more on that another day). So what’s the Magic Band experience like?
Well, it starts at home when you get an exciting email from WDW telling you that you have a window of time to go online and personalize your bands. You can pick a color, and give your band a nickname. This is great to keep families organized who who’s band is whose. If you’re in the States, your Magic Bands will be shipped to your home so you can wear them on the plane and check in at Disney’s Magical Express at Orlando International Airport with them. Guests from other countries can pick their bands up at hotel check-in! Remember, at this time guests staying on property and annual passholders get bands for free – offsite and day guests can choose to purchase bands in the parks or use their card-style park tickets. Once you arrive at your hotel and check-in it’s time to put your band to the test – opening your hotel room, accessing the pool area, buying snacks (or charging them to your Disney Dining Plan), or even shopping for souvenirs with your band can begin at check in! I love that I can wear my waterproof band to the pool and not worry about getting my room key and cash wet/lost/stolen, because I can charge a drink or get back into my room with the flash of my band! Just like your Key to the World Card, you can add charging privileges to your band with a credit card, which I love so I don’t have to worry about losing my wallet in the parks!
I found the bands to be a particularly useful payment method at the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival booths and the outdoor kitchens at the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival – it’s basically hands free payment which is good when your hands are chock full ‘o foodie goodies! Disney has been very public about disclosing that the new technologies are still in an early stage and will change in the months and years to come. While I think Magic Bands are at a great starting point, I can’t wait to see what they do with them next. There are two functions I’d especially like to see:
Biometric scanning at bars/restaurants would be a great addition to the bands – Guests could provide their ID at hotel check in and their age could be biometrically linked to their band (just like park tickets) so that bartenders can just scan your band to see if you’re of legal age. Otherwise the freedom of the Magic Band disappears when you have to carry your ID in your wallet anyway. And, guests from outside the US are required to present their passports to confirm their legal age – I don’t know about you but walking around all day with my passport isn’t something I’m keen to do! The other problem of the Magic Bands relates to FastPass+ return windows – unlike with the paper FastPass system where you could easily see your return window, the bands offer no way to view your upcoming times without stopping at a kiosk (inconvenient) or looking at your app (not a great feature if you’re looking to “unplug” on vacation). A LED screen embedded in a “premium” Magic Band would be a great add-on! Thanks for bearing with me folks! I’d love to hear about your experiences with Magic Bands – please share with me in the comments below!