As I mentioned last month, my family and I were selected to test out the new Magic Bands and FastPass+ system during our trip last week. After 8days of Magic Band use, I am excited to report the great and not-so-great aspects of the new system, as experienced by our family of 7. Since our stay was split between Wilderness Lodge and Ft Wilderness, our Magic Bands (and FastPass+) were only supposed to work for the last three days of our trip. October 14th was the day the bands were to be tested by Wilderness Lodge guests and that just happened to be when we were checking in-again. However, this was not the case. Our bands actually worked on day one of our trip (October 9), and we used them to open our room, enter the parks, and pay for food and souvenirs. I was told by a cast member that as long as our reservations were in the My Disney Experience (MDE) system, we would be able to use the bands throughout our stay. The Fast Pass+ system, however, was not active until 10/14, so we could only schedule our Fast Pass+ experiences for two of the days of our trip.
The Magic Bands themselves make life very convenient while visiting the Walt Disney World area. As I reported last month, the Magic Bands act as your room key, park ticket, and mode of payment, while staying at a Walt Disney World resort. What I did NOT know is that it can also be used as your Magical Express ticket and as your PhotoPass as well. It makes packing for your park day easier, as you do not have to worry about making sure you have a separate park ticket, photopass, money and/or credit card. The Magic Bands are very easy to use, even for kids. You simply line up the Mickey on your wrist with the Mickey at the “touch point” at the main entrance to the park and place your finger on the fingerprint identification spot. Kids simply have to line up their band to the “touch point”. When paying for food or merchandise, after tapping the touch point, you will be required to enter your four digit PIN number on the key pad. This is a number you select during check in (or during online check in) and is used as a security measure to make sure it is really you making the purchase. If you have authorized anyone on your reservation to have charging privileges, they will be able to use their Magic Band to make purchases using that same PIN number as well. To use your band as a photo pass, the photographer will simply scan your band once he/she is finished taking pictures. The photos can then be viewed on the MDE website under “Disney PhotoPass”. This aspect of the bands is really awesome because we can’t ever seem to keep track of those little cards they give us after taking pictures. We either come home with 20 of them or lose them all before ever walking in the front door. The MDE website will not only save all your photos for you in one convenient place, but the photos are also categorized by date and according to the park or special event in which the photo was taken. The Magic Band also works as your FastPass+ entry and works similar to how you enter the park. The advantage to the FastPass+ system is that you can get a Fast Pass for your favorite attractions, parades, and shows up to 60 days before your trip. Our opinion is that the FastPass+ is most useful when you schedule the attractions for the middle to end of the day, when crowds tend to be heavier and wait times for rides are longer. For us, there isn’t an advantage to scheduling our Fast Pass for Toy Story Mania at 9:15am, as we are already at the park when it opens and can usually get on the ride with minimal wait. The other advantage to the FastPass+ system is its use for shows such as Wishes or Main Street Electrical Parade (MSEP). During peak season, this will be great to use to obtain a prime viewing spot for nighttime shows. Oh–and the other thing that was a plus, the bands are waterproof so you can say goodbye to the days of going down to the pool and not knowing where to securely hide your Key to the World Card!
The Magic Band and FastPass+ system are great–when they work. Since the bands are still in the test phase, you do need to keep your ticket and/or Key to the World Card on you just in case you run into problems at the main entrance–which we did on several occasions. Since we knew this was a possibility, we were prepared. It was the FastPass+ that probably gave us the most challenge during our trip. Scheduling your rides for the day may not sound like a big deal, after all you start planning your Disney vacation months in advance and make dining reservations up to 180days before your trip, but it is. Like I said earlier, the advantage of having a FastPass+ is that you can schedule rides for later in the day when the park is more crowded and wait times are long. The problem with that is that if anything occurs during the day to deviate your time schedule, you may not get to use your passes–and remember, right now you only get 3 per day. Baby napping longer than expected, missing a bus to the park, or a dinner service that is slower than usual are all things that can happen during your vacation and could cause you to miss your FastPass+ time. If you know you are going to be late, you can try to reschedule your time through the MDE app, but if you are looking to change a time on one of the more popular attractions, like Test Track or Sorin’, you will most likely not be able to do so if the Fast Passes are gone for the day (which they usually are by mid-morning). We felt that having the FastPass+ put more stress on our park day and felt that we were rushing around, anxious to get to the next attraction. FastPass+ users are allowed only three Fast Passes per day and only at one park , something we felt was limiting. We like to park hop with our annual passes and sometimes our evening plans are determined by the moods of our children. Like I said, you can change your time and attraction selection, but only if there is availability. If all passes are gone, you just wasted one or more of your “three wishes” for the day.
All things considered, we really enjoyed having the Magic Bands. It really made our time in the park easier, especially when buying merchandise. I tend to keep my wallet with my stroller and sometimes my mom or husband will be off in another direction with it, leaving me without a way to pay (which is VERY embarassing, by the way). With the Magic Bands, I always had everything I needed with me right on my wrist. Some guest will find the FastPass+ system a great tool to help plan their park day. We thought the system was limiting and added a bit more stress to our visit. However, since the system is still in the testing phase, things can change. We were very excited to be a part of the test and cannot wait to use our Magic Bands again. Our next trip to WDW is planned for February for the Princess Half Marathon Weekend. I cannot wait to see how this program develops in the months to come.