New tech makes it even easier to visit with your favorite princesses. (Photo: Disney)
There was a moment of pure joy when we opened the box.
"These are your MagicBands,” the concierge at the Disney BoardWalk hotel informed us. "You can use it for everything while you are here."
The light-gray, plastic bands resemble the fitness bands everyone seems to be wearing these days — the Fitbit or the Jawbone. The difference is that the MagicBand has Mickey Mouse stenciled on the front and isn’t tracking your calories and steps. The MagicBand is your park admission, your ticket to fast-tracked experiences and, if you want it to be, a virtual wallet for your stay at a Disney theme park.
We felt a thrill the moment we put on our MagicBands. So we took a picture. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
Disney theme parks have been upping the ante on their technology over the past three years. The MagicBand, which borrows a page from technology long used at spas, is the most recent and forward-thinking iteration of that.
But before techie visitors even take the MagicBand out of its prettily appointed box, they will start their journey from their smartphone or tablet, using the My Disney Experience website or mobile app. This allows the Disney vacation to actually begin months in advance. Using the platform, guests can reserve access to various Disney experiences, such as FastPass+ selections (access to shorter lines) for three experiences. The perks multiply if visitors stay at a Walt Disney World hotel. Those visitors are able to make their FastPass+ selections 60 days ahead of their visit, while nonhotel guests have only 30 days to map their itineraries.
It is incredibly important to know how quickly one can get to see Anna and Elsa. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
Once in the park, your phone becomes a fifth appendage for one very simple reason: It will tell you the wait times for various rides, allowing you to plot the most efficient path through the park at any given time of the day. For me, a person who abhors lines, this is the most important advancement Disney could have made.
10 minutes for Space Mountain? Get me there now! (Photo: Jo Piazza)
The app also allows you to make dinner reservations and stalk your favorite Disney characters (no more lining up to see Mickey, just book a time). It also helps you link up with family and friends in the park so that you never have to make that annoying phone call to Uncle Bob explaining exactly which restaurant you will be meeting in for dinner. Uncle Bob almost always shows up at the wrong restaurant.
Within minutes of locating her, we were able to ask the Fairy Godmother why we were still waiting for our Princes Charming. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
At the end of the day, it all goes back to the MagicBand.
A tap of the Magic Band, once linked to the My Disney Experience app, serves as park admission and access to FastPass+ experiences. It also lets you access all the photos taken of you by park photographers throughout the day. All you have to do is tap.
For resort guests, the band becomes a wireless payment system. Linked to a major credit card, it becomes your room key as well as an optional payment method that allows single-tap payment for everything from meals to souvenirs.
Extensive measures are in place to protect the privacy of guests and the security of their personal information. The MagicBand contains only a randomly assigned code that securely links to an encrypted database. It is not GPS-enabled.
For us, it was a convenient and seamless system, although we wonder how much more guests will be encouraged to spend when payment is essentially invisible.