MyMagic+ is a guest “enhancement” planning program at Walt Disney World that will utilize RFID technology in wristbands and smartphone apps to assist guests in planning their vacations and increase engagement during their trips. This post provides answers to frequently asked questions and advice for how to get the most out of MyMagic+ and MagicBands.
On March 31, 2014, MyMagic+ completed its rollout, with FastPass+ and MagicBands now being available to all guests, including those staying at off-site hotels when visiting Walt Disney World.
With that said, we anticipate further tweaks to MyMagic+ even though it is now fully rolled out, as adjustments are made based on full scale use of the system. As information changes, we’ll revise and supplement this page. Please note that this post has been revised heavily since MyMagic+ initially began testing, and many comments in response to this post are now likely outdated (as they referred to what was occurring to the test).
1. What is MyMagic+?
Beyond the general description above, to the forward-facing public, MyMagic+ is a planning and enhancement tool consisting of the My Disney Experience smartphone app, FASTPASS+, and the MagicBand bracelet, all of which are proprietary Disney technology.
To guests, MyMagic+ is a way to seamlessly integrate various aspects of their Walt Disney World experience into one system, making dining and FastPass+ reservations via the My Disney Experience app, and redeeming FastPass+, charging expenses, and opening their hotel room doors (among other future functionality) with their MagicBands.
To Disney, MyMagic+ is a way to track guest behavior to maximize spending, manage labor more effectively, and assist with strategic planning. In theory, the system should also allow Disney to be more responsive to in-park traffic patterns as they shift, and deploy additional entertainment or increase (artificially underutilized) capacity at certain attractions with demand. In theory at least.
In a perfect world, the system will be beneficial to both guests and Disney.
What is My Disney Experience?
My Disney Experience is the smartphone app for the iPhone, iPad, and Android that is now available for download. Guests can view wait times, make or change FastPass+ reservations, make dining reservations, and utilize other functionality. It is expected that advanced functionality for the app will be added over time.
What is FastPass+?
FastPass+ is a digital ride reservation system that has replaced paper FastPass tickets. FastPass+ can be obtained via the My Disney Experience app in advance of visits or via in-park kiosks for guests who don’t have smart phones, and will be stored on the MagicBand or park tickets. Guests can “redeem” their FastPass+ by swiping the MagicBand against an RFID reader outside applicable attractions. Guests are able to book 3 FastPass+ tickets in advance of their vacation (so, from home) at scheduled times. FastPass+ effectively spells the end of the morning Toy Story Mania FastPass dash!
Not all FastPass+ attractions are created equally–many were added in order to have sufficient capacity in the system so that each guest can book 3 per day. Do research before booking these, as some attractions with FASTPASS+ normally have no wait. You are wasting a FastPass by using it at one of these attractions. Our Disney Ride Guides for Walt Disney World each contain recommendations concerning the best uses of FastPass+.
How does FastPass+ work?
Much like Advance Dining Reservations, guests can select three “preferred experiences” (attractions and reserved seating for shows/parades) guests then can choose from available time slots. Some parks have FastPass+ “tiers,” and you may only select 1 attraction from the top tier (meaning no FastPass+ for both Soarin’ and Test Track at Epcot!) All advance selections must be in the same park, so guests who Park Hop will essentially be limited to day-of kiosk availability, if any.
Guests staying at Disney resort hotels at Walt Disney World can book their FastPass+ experiences up to 60 days in advance of their stay. Annual Passholders and off-site guests may book their FastPass+ experiences up to 30 days in advance of their visit.
Are you limited to 3 FastPass+ per day?
NO! Not anymore, at least. As of early-April 2014, you can now book additional FastPass+ on the day-of once you’ve used the 3 FastPass+ that you booked in advance. This works similarly to the old FastPass system in that these day-of FastPasses can be booked one at a time, once you’ve used your previous FastPass.
You are still limited to book 3 per day in advance of your trip, but this change effectively means no limit on FastPass+ once you start using the FastPass+ that you booked in advance. This opens the door to using FastPass+ when Park Hopping, too. Same day FastPass+ availability isn’t as good as advance booking availability, so we still strongly recommend booking in advance.
Expect continuing adjustments to the FastPass+ process as Disney responds to guest patterns now that MyMagic+ has been rolled out to the general public. If you notice more changes during your visit, please report them to us in the comments below!
What is a MagicBand?
The MagicBand is the little bracelet that guests wear around their wrists. It stores guest information, including park tickets, FastPass+ reservations, Memory Maker photo package details, and can also be used to charge purchases to the guest’s room and as a room key. It will also contain a code that identifies the guest’s profile in Disney’s system, which the guest (at their election) can complete with a variety of encrypted personal information to make elements of their visit more interactive (for example, in the future, characters might say, “happy birthday” to a guest on his or her birthday).
For many guests, a MagicBand will replace all of the papers and cards you carry with you on a given day in the park. You could potentially just carry a MagicBand and an ID, and leave behind the rest of your wallet.
Optimistically, in the future it is likely that the MagicBand will offer a more tailored experience throughout the parks. Pessimistically, Disney will use MagicBand as an “ankle tracking bracelet” of sorts that monitors just about everything guests do in parks for the purpose of maximizing guest spending.
MagicBands are available in seven colors (red, blue, green, pink, yellow, orange, and iconic gray). For guests staying at Walt Disney World hotels, they will be shipped to a guest’s home prior to arrival. If the trip is booked within 9 days of arrival, the MagicBand will be provided upon check-in. Annual Passholders may order a MagicBand and have it shipped to their home, free of charge. Iconic gray will be the default color for replacements and late arrivals. The MagicBand is waterproof, but doesn’t float. Each band will have a 3-year battery.
For guests staying off-site, MagicBands may be purchased in the theme parks, Downtown Disney, and various other locations for $12.95 each. MagicBands are not required for park admission or FastPass+ redemption, so they aren’t technically necessary at this time. Because of that, we do not recommend off-site guests purchase them.
Tables in Wonderland and other “membership” cards (Disney Vacation Club, D23, etc.) cannot be added to the MagicBand as of right now.
Is MyMagic+ available to the general public?
Yes, the only restrictions on MyMagic+ to the general public (as in those guests not staying in Disney-owned hotels) at this point is that their MagicBands are not free, and they have a 30-day advance window for booking FastPass+ once they have their park tickets. For this reason, we recommend purchasing park tickets in advance.
As a practical reality, we have noticed no actual disadvantages for off-site guests. Sure, there is convenience in being able to use the MagicBand for a variety of purposes including room charges and a hotel key, but even without the MagicBand, these weren’t things off-site guests could do.
As for the 30 v. 60 day window, we haven’t seen that make much of a difference. That could change as more people continue to use MyMagic+, but as of right now, there is usually very good FastPass+ availability at 30 days.
We do anticipate some future features that will require a MagicBand, but that is not presently the case. If/when that happens, off-site guests will be able to take full advantage by purchasing a MagicBand.
How much does MyMagic+ cost?
MyMagic+ will be available for all on-site guests, Annual Passholders, and Cast Members at no additional visible charge. However, since this entire NextGen project that includes MyMagic+ has cost Disney an estimated $1.5 to $2 billion dollars, you can bet that Disney will be rolling the costs into existing charges. Sort of the same way Disney’s Magical Express and transportation are ostensibly free, but Disney builds these “freebies” into the cost of vacation packages. Disney is a for-profit business, so you can bet you’ll be paying for this one way or another.
Off-site guests will have to pay $12.95 if they want a MagicBand. Again, at this point we really view that as an unnecessary purchase for off-site guests unless you really think the bands look stylish!
Add-on accessories and other trinkets for customizing the MagicBands are also available, called “MagicBandits” at an additional cost. Disney will have to sell a lot of Little Mermaid MagicBand dinglehoppers to pay for the system completely!
How will MyMagic+ enhance my park experience?
MyMagic+ allows for greater advance planning and less racing around collecting FastPasses when in the park. It reduces a bunch on interconnected, but separate, aspects of a Walt Disney World vacation into a single, seamless system.
Going forward, it could also lead to increased interactively in the parks. Examples include characters at meet & greets saying hello to you by name and knowing a few of your personal details to humanize the experience. Similarly, advanced Audio-Animatronics in queues may interact with you. It’s also possible that queue games and experiences may be able to store your “achievements.” None of these things are “live” right now, but Disney has such projects in the works.
These are just a few examples of what is possible with MyMagic+. Much remains unknown, and is dependent upon how Disney is able to utilize the system going forward.
How will MyMagic+ detract from my park experience?
While the advance planning might be a plus for some, it’s likely to be a negative for many others. A portion of all FastPass+ will be allocated towards day-guests who don’t make reservations in advance, but there’s no question that there will be fewer FastPass+ for day-guests, who could find themselves waiting in long lines at FastPass+ kiosks when they arrive to the park. However, since you’re reading this article, it’s unlikely that this will detract from your experience–you now know that it’s important to make FastPass+ reservations in advance.
The main people who will be disadvantaged are those who do not do any advance planning before their trips. In fairness, these people are pretty much always disadvantaged, and are disadvantaged for failing to do their own due diligence.
Serious planners may also be disadvantaged, especially those who typically were able to utilize more than 3 FastPasses under the old, paper FastPass system. Efficient guests could regularly use 5+ FastPasses in a single day, and those people will likely find themselves waiting more time in line by being limited to 3 FastPass+ per day.
Elements of spontaneity will also be gone, as the new system requires more advance planning, some of which may not be practical for many guests 60 days before their visit. Beyond these concerns, there are great concerns by many over privacy information that Disney will collect as part of this initiative. Disney’s goal with MyMagic+ is a more enjoyable and intimate theme park experience, but its other main goal is to increase guest spending and efficiency. Many guests probably already feel as if they are spending too much at Walt Disney World.
Will you be able to opt out of MyMagic+?
If these privacy concerns don’t sit well with you, fear not, as MyMagic+ is an opt-in program that will not require participation. However, the number of perks afforded only to those who use MyMagic+ will be such that most guests will feel compelled to participate. If not, you’ll be stuck with waiting in the same-day FastPass+ lines and will have a difficult (if not impossible) time scoring FastPass+ for the most popular attractions, like Toy Story Mania.
What about Annual Passholders?
Annual Passholders can now register to receive their own MyMagic+ accounts and MagicBands free of charge. FastPass+ rules are slightly different for Annual Passholders, who have the 30 day advance booking window but also are limited to only 7 days worth of FastPass+ reservations for any 30 day period. For Annual Passholders who visit more than 7 days per month, this means some days with 0 FastPass+.
Replacement MagicBands for Annual Passholders will cost $50 (given the $12.95 cost for a MagicBand for day guests, we’re not sure whether this replacement cost will change, but it’s the current cost). Annual Passholders will be able to tie a credit card to their MagicBands for purchases at Walt Disney World.
What about guests without smartphones?
While a smartphone is necessary to use the My Disney Experience app, it is not necessary to use MyMagic+. Guests can pre-book their FastPass+ experiences from home or on kiosks set-up within the parks. Kiosks are located throughout the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. One thing we noticed in Epcot is that the first FastPass+ kiosk in the park always had the longest lines–try going to one further in the park for shorter lines if you need to use the in-park kiosks. However, we highly recommend advance booking of FastPass+.
The user experience likely won’t be quite the same for those who can’t make adjustments on the fly with the My Disney Experience app, but a smartphone is still not required to partake.
What if I miss a FastPass+ window?
Disney is pretty efficient given its size, but it has a number of inefficiencies and variables beyond guest’s control. If transportation, dining, etc., outside of the guest’s control causes a guest to miss their FastPass+ window, Cast Members have limited discretionary authority over accommodating the guests. We don’t recommend “testing” the amount of discretion they have unless you have real circumstances beyond your control preventing you from making the window. It’s more of a hassle than it’s worth.
What if I book through a travel agent or have already booked my 2014 trip before the system full rolled out?
Any guests who visit now that MyMagic+ is fully rolled out to the general public will be able to participate in the program, regardless of when or how they booked their trip. You will either receive an email prompting you to make necessary adjustments to ensure you receive your MagicBands if you’re staying on-site, or you will be able to book FastPass+ once you arrive if you’re staying off-site and don’t purchase tickets in advance.
What is Memory Maker?
Memory Maker is the photography service component of MyMagic+ that effectively replaces PhotoPass+. Although there are some differences between Memory Maker and PhotoPass+, they aren’t expected to be significant. Essentially, this is just a renaming as Disney integrates the photo service into the Magic Bands and My Disney Experience. If you liked PhotoPass+, you’ll probably like Memory Maker. If you didn’t like PhotoPass+, same goes. If you are unfamiliar with PhotoPass+, read our post explaining its pros and cons.
While I do have some concerns about the privacy aspect and the money Disney has spent on the infrastructure for this new system, I already heavily use Google products, so the privacy concerns aren’t a big thing. I’m not exactly wild about the direction society is going with privacy, and I think corporations are diminishing our expectations of privacy, but this is far from the most (or even close to it) egregious example of that.
My greater concern lies with how much Disney has spent on this whole NextGen initiative, and how that money could have been used on actual substance or necessary maintenance in the parks. To me, the gains from a streamlined system aren’t a big deal. As for other aspects of NextGen and what MyMagic+ might be able to do in the future, I enjoy video games, but I don’t go to Walt Disney World to experience them, and it seems the whole direction of the Disney enterprise has been to cater more to the video game and iPhone-addicted generation. I hope quality dark rides and themed environments continue to be a huge focus for Disney (and if Cars Land is any indication, they are), because this billion dollar investment represents nothing that I personally couldn’t do without. Now, if Disney quickly sees a huge return on investment, great. But I’d still rather see capital expenditures made on attractions and transportation infrastructure, rather than Disney Vacation Club resorts and NextGen. Not to say DVC and NextGen don’t have their place, but right now they seem like the primary focus of Disney in the theme parks realm (at least at Walt Disney World).
As for the actual functionality of MyMagic+? While it was initially somewhat problematic during early testing (we encountered problems with it in September 2013), on our visits in 2014, MyMagic+ has worked flawlessly. This isn’t to say there aren’t still some kinks with the system, but it’s now (mostly) operating as intended. Even though it’s fully rolled out, I suspect it will take much of 2014 to finish making tweaks. This is a huge undertaking that is bound to have a lot of hiccups. It seems cool enough, I just hope it doesn’t come at the detriment of the kind of experiences and the kind of leisurely park touring I enjoy.
For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.
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Now that we have a good amount of concrete information about MyMagic+ and the NextGen project, what are your thoughts? Do you see this as the evolution of the theme park experience, a profiteering and data-mining folly that is bound to fail, or is your opinion somewhere in between? If you’ve had a chance to use FastPass+, we really want to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments!