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.
Disney Genie and Genie+ (formerly known as FastPass+)
NOTE: As of post-COVID reopening at WDW and DL, FastPasses have now been replaced by Genie+ and the Lightning Lane.
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, used to have a free system called FastPass (FP+). FP+ allowed 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.
As the Parks re-opened after COVID issues forced the suspension of FastPasses at the Parks, WDW and DL introduced Disney Genie and Genie+ and the conversion of FastPass lines to Lightning Lanes.
Disney Genie is a free “service” attached to your MyDisneyExperience app that will make suggestions about your itinerary as you move through your day. You tell the MDE app (and, by extension, Genie) what you want to do during your day, and the app will return a customized experience that, theoretically, maximizes your time in the Parks. This maximization is supposed to minimize your time in line (as “maximizing” is considered by most people to be more time IN attractions rather than waiting for them). But there’s no demonstrable proof of this.
Part of the problem is that in conjunction with Genie, Disney rolled out Genie+, which is essentially a paid-for FastPass system (not FP+, as some of you will remember).
To explain this, we have to go back in time to the original FastPass system with paper-based FastPasses and FP kiosks that were strategically distributed through the Parks. When you entered a Park, you would run to the FP kiosk AT THE ATTRACTION you wanted, and use your paper/plastic ticket to get a paper-based FastPass ticket. This FP ticket would allow you to come back a few hours later to ride that particular attraction. You were then eligible for a new FP 2 hours after getting the first one (regardless of what your return time was for that particular attraction).
Then MyDisneyExperience was born and Disney moved to FP+ as part of a program called MyMagic+. Guests were then able to book up to 3 attractions by date/time 30-60 days before your trip and get a FP for that date/time before their arrival at WDW/DL. The MDE app held each of the “reservations” for the FP’s you reserved and once you had used your three FP’s, you got sequential FP’s (one at a time) until they run out or the Park closes. As a result, the key was to book your FP’s for the morning and then use them up so you can get more. Some attractions would only be 1-time/day attractions (you couldn’t get more than one FP for that attraction in a given day) and at times, they even had groupings of attractions, where you had to PICK which FP you would get vs which attraction you would wait stand-by for.
Genie+ is essentially a combination of the two; for a current (as of 2021) cost of $15/day/person at WDW and $20/day/person at DL. No more pre-reservations. No paper. At 7am Park Local Time, you can log into the MDE app from anywhere in the world and book your first Lightning Lane (LL) selection (an attraction where you can wait in a preferred line instead of stand-by). Book that first attraction and then do whatever else you want in the Parks until your stated return time (which could be late afternoon, depending on attraction popularity). Once you have “badged” yourself through the second turnstile (there’s one at the entrance to each attraction and one closer to where you board the ride vehicle), you can log back into Genie+ and book your next Lightning Lane selection.
Unlike FP/FP+, there’s no minimum number per day that you are guaranteed. Play your cards right and you could get several. Pick your first LL selection late in the day, and you might not have another, depending on availability for those attractions in the LL selection queue.
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.
So, what are the attractions that have Lightning Lanes? Most of the ones you remember having FP lanes:
Individual Attraction Lightning Lane Selections
It wouldn’t be Disney if there wasn’t a “plusser” involved. And for Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, it’s the Individual Attraction Selection process.
Did you notice anything interesting about the list above? Missing anything? Well, not all attractions are created equally. You know it, I know it and Disney DEFINITELY knows it. So for those special attractions in each Park that are overly-popular, you won’t find them in the regular Genie+ Lightning Lane selection list. Rather, they’re available ONLY as Individual Attraction Selections, AT AN ADDITIONAL, VARIABLE, COST! Yup, you read that right. Your base ticket purchase doesn’t allow for it, Genie+ doesn’t allow for it… you have to pay MORE ($7-$12/person/ride). You can make these purchases via the MDE app, of course. As you can see below, there’s two at every Park (lucky for you, you can only buy 2/person/day).
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 so you can use them immediately.
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 of 2021, Disney no longer mails free MagicBands to anyone. They’re still available in the Parks for purchase/collection. And your old ones will work until the batteries run out. But you can now use your NFC-enabled cell phone (all iPhones and most Androids) as a replacement via the MDE app.
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.