In late 2013, Disney rolled out the first full version of MyMagic+. This is an integrated system that combines your Room Key, Park Tickets, FastPasses, Dining Plan Credits, PhotoPass information, Magical Express tickets and resort charging privileges all into a single object: The MagicBand. Your MagicBand is a RFID-enabled wristband (in your choice of one of 7 free colors, and able to be sized down for small children) that you wear during your entire trip. You link your MagicBand to everything else via the MyDisney Experience app (available on the iPhone and Android platforms) and can control almost all aspects of your trip via the app.
The MagicBand has a name printed on the back-side of it (your choice), but other than that, there is no identifying feature to it making theft virtually irrelevant. It’s merely the conduit to redeem everything that you’ve done via the app. So if someone WERE to take yours (or find yours), without knowing who you are and what you have planned, the MB isn’t helpful to them. Even charging privileges require a PIN to be useful.
All of the MB functionality is straight-forward. Hold the band to the Mickey-head-shaped icons around the park and it glows green to show that it was accepted – or blue to show that it wasn’t.
Disney also offers special edition MBs (most recently, Frozen-themed, Star Wars-themed and one for the Haunted Mansion). In addition, you can purchase customized MB’s (special colors, special graphics, even get your name on them) at key locations throughout the Resort. They aren’t free (typical cost is $25/band) and can only be purchased at a Park (not online) by the person who is going to use them, as they’re immediately activated onto your MDE account. Some special edition MB’s even come with sound effects. Note, however, that they do NOT currently provide the wearer with any additional/special access.
OK… and now that I told you all about MBs, it appears that Disney is working hard to phase them out sometime in 2021 or 2022. They’ve integrated the MB functionality into their core iPhone/Android apps, with the functionality called “Disney MagicMobile” taking advantage of the NFC chips in most current cellphones. Moving in this direction, Disney no longer provides free MBs to guests (and just discontinued providing them to Annual Passholders, too), though they are still releasing versions that you can purchase. So now more than ever, it’s imperative that you get the Disney app on your phone.
The one thing most people are still really confused about are FastPasses.
NOTE: As of post-COVID reopening at WDW and DL, FastPasses have been suspended at both Parks. All queues are “standby” (meaning you just wait in a line for your turn). This has not been a bad thing from most frequent visitor’s perspectives, and when I was there in March of 2021, I really liked the lack of the FP system.
The key concern everyone has about going to Disney are waiting in lines. To alleviate some of the stress (and to balance out the distribution of people), all of the four theme parks at WDW, as well as both of the parks at DL, have a free system called FastPass (FP+). FP+ allows you to get a ticket NOW to ride LATER. FP+-attractions all have two lines: the FP+ line and the “standby” line. Standby is the traditional get-in-line-and-wait-your-turn line. FP+ is basically a quicker line. Usually has VERY little wait, relative to the standby line. Great for getting to do more attractions.
FastPass+ is a portion of a new reservation system, called MyMagic+. Guests are now able to book their attraction by date/time and get a FP for that date/time before their arrival at WDW/DL.
Sixty days prior to a resort reservation, or thirty days prior to a park-only reservation, guests can now pre-book three FastPasses at select attractions at all four Parks. Once you have used your three FP’s, you get sequential FP’s (one at a time) until they run out or the Park closes. As a result, the key is to book your FP’s for the morning and then use them up so you can get more.
FP’s have a few other tricks. First, resort guests get to book sixty days out as I said above – but it’s really more than that, since they can book FP’s for every day of their resort reservation starting on the 60 day mark from arrival. Park-only guests get thirty days, and it’s a rolling 30-day limit. So if you’re staying off property, you can book your first day’s FP’s 30 days out, but you’ll have to come back to the booking system the next day to get FP’s for your second day, and so on.
Second, some Parks only allow you to reserve FP’s in a tiered system, such that you have to get a three-FP “package” to start. As you might imagine, one FP will be for a so-called E-Ticket attraction, and the other two will be for something of lesser popularity. What is important to note as of today is that while they force you to get the package at first, you can change them individually after booking the package. Which leads us to:
Third, you can change your FP’s by person, by reservation. Not everyone has to do the same attractions or do them at the same time. You can change your reservation at anytime BEFORE the reservation time via the MyDisneyExperience app from your phone or computer, or via any of the dozens of FP+ kiosks around each Park.
Fourth – if you miss a reservation and haven’t moved it prior to the reservation time, you lose that FP. This isn’t as damaging as it was when you only got 3, but still.
Lastly, because everything is on your MagicBand (or RFID-enabled ticket), you need to make sure that EVERYONE in your party has their MB’s (even the little ones). The only exception is the ❤ crowd. They will get MB’s, but don’t need to carry them around. However, if you remember the paper FP system and one person taking everyone’s paper tickets to the FP machines, that is no longer necessary. Anyone on your reservation who has administrative privileges for the reservation (adults, typically) can use their MagicBand to access the FP+ system and modify reservations for the entire group.
Tracking and Monitoring
MyDisney+ is the next evolution of a variety of interaction-governance. The readers that you see at virtually every attraction (the stanchions) can, at least, track your movement through the Parks, theoretically allowing Disney to watch your individual Park visit from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave. They also display the first name of the MB-wearer so that the CM can see it – and they will use it to address children by name. It’s a little creepy the first few times it happens, but the kids get a kick out of it. There are also long-range RFID readers that can detect your presence on property, but the absolute specifics of the accuracy of location isn’t public knowledge.
In due time, I believe Disney will be found to have more tracking information than you might imagine stored in the MB itself. MB’s have a useful life of about 2 years, but you can buy them as often as you wish. I think that they’re using the information as to where you come from to inform their marketing efforts. Otherwise, there’d be no reason to ship the bands to your home when they can just as easily have them waiting for you at your resort. As it is, you’ll get your bands about 10 days prior to your trip. Annual Passholders and DVC members used to get free bands, too, but now are only available to purchase. Make sure to pack your MB’s in your carry-on baggage, especially if you’re using Magical Express to get to your resort (since you might not see your bags until 11pm that night) and the MB will get you on the Magical Express bus in lieu of the paper ticket booklet they send you.
Unofficially, as I said above, MB’s have a battery life of about 2 years. As long as you don’t remove a MB from your individual accounts via the MDE app, and the battery is still alive, you can use a previously-acquired MB on a future Disney trip. In fact, you can have multiple MB’s linked to each person and simply decide in the morning, for example, what color band you want to wear. You enable that band on the MDE app and off you go.
As I previously stated, you will select a PIN to associate with your MB for charging privileges. There is also nothing on the MB that will identify it as to your room or resort. If it’s lost, simply go to a Guest Services location so that they can deactivate it, or you can do so yourself via the Disney app on your phone.
In addition, if you don’t like the idea of the Disney long-range sensors knowing where you are in the parks at all times, you can elect to use a RFID-enabled plastic keycard in lieu of a MB. They work in every other respect like a MB.