For the last few years, Walt Disney World has offered discounted MagicBand upgrades pre-arrival for on-site resort hotel guests as well as Annual Passholders. This program has had its problems and controversies since it started, and we’re going to cover the latest issue that’s frustrating fans in this post.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the Magic Band upgrade program, it’s a feature on DisneyWorld.com that allows you to choose from a variety of colors and designs inspired by characters, resorts, attractions, nighttime spectaculars, and more. The styles rotate regularly, and there are (usually) dozens of MagicBands at discounted prices, ranging from $10 to $30. Prior to the start of last year, basic colors were free and the upgrade options were all cheaper–in case you’ve forgotten. (It’s not easy to remember all of the many on-site perks lost over the last 2 years, but included MagicBands were one of them!)
On average, Walt Disney World offers around 50 MagicBand upgrade options, with new looks added as others sell out. However, that is the historical average, which definitely does not reflect the current availability you’ll find if searching in Spring 2022. While this number has always fluctuated and often has dropped well below 50, it has been significantly lower since late last year. Availability has become so limited that Walt Disney World has posted a message on the upgrade page:
“Due to ongoing, industry-wide supply chain challenges, MagicBands may have limited availability or be unavailable in some styles. Our teams are working to improve our selection over the coming weeks and recommend Guests continue to check back to see if their preferred style is available.
If you are traveling to Walt Disney World Resort soon, we encourage you to use the My Disney Experience mobile app to access a digital room key and the Disney MagicMobile service once you arrive. Disney MagicMobile service is available on eligible smartphones and is a convenient way to access MagicBand features.”
“With Disney MagicMobile service, you first link entitlements to your Disney account and then create a mobile pass to access select theme park and Disney Resort hotel features, such as entering theme parks with valid admission and a theme park reservation, charging food and merchandise purchases to the payment card on file at your Disney Resort hotel room during your stay, connecting Disney PhotoPass images and more—similar to how you use a MagicBand. Disney MagicMobile is available for Guests in the United States.
For Disney Resort guests, you can use the My Disney Experience mobile app to access a digital room key feature. With the feature, you can unlock your hotel resort room door and common area doors using your eligible smartphone.”
In terms of MagicBand availability, there are only 12 options as of April 9, 2022. This is the fewest we’ve ever seen, down dramatically from just one month ago.
The good news is that the awesome Wilderness Lodge, Caribbean Beach, Old Key West, and WDW 50th LE designs are all available. The bad news is that those 4 options are likely available because they’re $25 (for the resort-specific designs) and $30 for the 50th Anniversary MagicBand.
Again, this number fluctuates regularly, but this is way, way low by historical standards. Even later today, there may be a higher or lower number.
This limited inventory also doesn’t tell the full story, as we’ve heard from many Walt Disney World planners who have placed an order only to have it cancelled a couple of weeks later. Some have even then logged back onto Disneyworld.com only to find their exact same selections still on the site. We don’t know what’s up with that, but something to be mindful of when making and monitoring your MagicBand orders.
Many readers have asked us about the limited MagicBand availability, and we haven’t had many good answers.
All I can tell you is where this number has been in the past. There was a point last fall when that number hit 50, but it’s typically been around 30-40 in the last 2 years. Since around the holiday season, the number has been slowly falling, bottoming out at its current level of a dozen.
Walt Disney World has been a victim of this supply chain disruptions and merchandise shortages, resulting in empty shelves in gift shops and the delay of new merchandise releases. If you’re wondering why the 50th Anniversary releases have been so scattered–or why “new” Christmas merchandise keeps coming out–that’s why.
Due to manufacturing slowdowns, limited factory inventory, unloaded cargo ships, etc., it has been a challenge just to keep shelves stocked. Rather than unloading unpopular items at the Disney Character Warehouse outlet stores, the company is retaining those items so the Emporium and other stores don’t look like Target’s toilet paper aisle, circa March 2020.
As for when the limited MagicBand availability will be resolved, it’s really anyone’s guess. I doubt many Americans expected these supply chain issues to persist for so long. Anecdotally, we’ve noticed more inventory on store shelves at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. MagicBands are a specific type of merchandise, and each product line is unique in terms of sourcing, raw materials requirements, etc.
Heck, you could walk into Walt Disney World right now and find shelves and shelves of MagicBands in some gift shops. There is ample availability there…but these are not the same product lines and the logistics of delivering to the parks is different than the fulfillment center for these MagicBand upgrade options. (A more resourceful company might figure out a way to reallocate supply, but Disney is no Amazon!)
This will likely present many of you with the “age old” MagicBand upgrade dilemma: order now or wait for every desired design to be available?
Okay, so that’s not really an “age old” dilemma, but it has been a common question since this upgrade program began a few years ago, even back when design options were in the 40-60 range. In my view, it depends on how soon you’re visiting. If you still have a few months and there’s very little you like, wait. If you’re approaching the deadline and are reasonably happy with ~50% of what’s there, order now. Even once supply chain issues start getting worked out, it’s likely designs will be more limited than in the past and availability will be inconsistent.
Another question we’ve received is whether this is happening because the current MagicBands are being phased out. Many readers have wondered if this is due to the upcoming release of the MagicBand+, which is launching at Walt Disney World and Disneyland this year.
To put one bit of speculation to bed, the MagicBand+ will not replace the current generation of MagicBands. It’s an upgraded version of that, with more features–like color-changing lights, haptic vibrations, gesture recognition, in-park interactivity, and more–plus a higher price point. Walt Disney World will want to still capture sales from guests unwilling to pay premium pricing for the MagicBand+, so the base versions will continue being sold.
While we haven’t received any credible rumors about the MagicBand+ recently, the last we did hear was that the same underlying problem causing limited OG MagicBand availability–supply chain disruptions–is also what has delayed release of the MagicBand+. (There was also still some in-park programming to be done, but that should be good to go now.)
I had the chance to see the MagicBand+ in person last fall, and they’re really cool. This could end up being one of the surprise additions of the year at Walt Disney World, that does a lot more than guests are expecting. If you’re visiting later in 2022, you might want to hold off on buying MagicBands until the MagicBand+ is released.
As always, MagicBands are not required at Walt Disney World. For room entry, park admission, Lightning Lanes, and charging privileges to the hotel room, Walt Disney World offers plastic Key To The World cards. This can be provided at the hotel front desk, and is how things worked prior to the debut of MagicBands several years ago. Alternatively, guests can receive standard ticket media and use that for park entry or using Lightning Lanes.
Additionally, MagicMobile service is available at Walt Disney World via the My Disney Experience app, and can be added to your Android, iPhone, or Apple Watch digital wallet once enabled. This works just like a MagicBand with most features working by simply holding up your smart device near an access point. It can be used to enter theme parks, connect Disney PhotoPass images to your account, and more.
UPDATE: Another question a couple of readers have asked in the comments here, and in several other posts, is whether you can reuse old MagicBands or purchase from somewhere else. The answer to both questions is YES. If you’re reusing an old MagicBand, no further action is necessary, it’s already in your My Disney Experience account.
If it’s a new purchase, go to “My Account” and then the edit button on “MagicBands & Cards.” Then click “Link a MagicBand or Card” and scan or enter the ID code and you’re good to go. (As you can see from the screenshot above, I have 71 MagicBands linked to my account. I would not recommend linking this many…it has caused me serious issues over the years and I had to have IT manually remove some of them.)
As for how long MagicBands last, it depends. MagicBands operate with long-range RFID for automatic linking of on-ride photos. A battery is necessary for that, and those tend to die after about 2 years. Short-range RFID does not require a battery, meaning you can use the same MagicBand for scanning into the parks, opening hotel doors, or any other tap point…pretty much forever!
Ultimately, that’s about all we know about the MagicBand and MagicBand+ “situations” at Walt Disney World. We’ve been receiving a lot of questions about both the delay in release of the latter and availability of the former, and hopefully this answers some of those. It probably won’t, but at least it covers everything that we know, which really isn’t much different than what you know at this point. Definitely a frustrating situation!
Whether you should pay to purchase a MagicBand pre-arrival is a personal decision, but there’s one big upside in that it makes the vacation experience seamless and streamlined. They’re fun and there’s definitely an element of convenience for on-site guests. With that said, I’d probably wait for the MagicBand+ if I were visiting in the second half of 2022, as I think it’s going to be a cool device that’s worth the added cost for some people.
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What do you think of the Walt Disney World’s woes with MagicBand inventory and merchandise inventory issues? Have you placed a MagicBand upgrade order recently? If you’ve been watching the site, what’s your experience with inventory and design options? Optimistic that even more styles will be available soon once supply chains normalize…or does it seem like there’s no end in sight to these problems? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!