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Disney World Goes High-Tech — and High-Class — for Your Next Vacation

June 25, 2014
MyMagic+ and MagicBands are changing how your family visits the park
MyMagic+ and MagicBands are changing how your family visits the park

Among the new additions to Disney Parks, the MagicBand wristband. (Photo: Disney)

By Carole Sovocool

In a deliberate act of cross-company promotion, the recent season finale of ABC’s sitcom “The Middle” featured the hapless Heck family making a road trip to Disney World. (Disney owns ABC.) As always, the family’s rough luck dogs them — until they are the unlikely recipients of a significant room upgrade. Instead of being crammed into a regular Disney hotel room (garden view), the working-class Hecks get to luxuriate in a suite made for a king — with three bedrooms, four bathrooms, TVs in all rooms (including embedded in the bathroom mirrors), a living room, a media room and a full kitchen with high-end appliances and granite countertops.

Related: Disney’s Epic Magical Experiences — All in One Place

This, however, is not the realm of the writers’ imaginations. It’s the newest suite at the resort’s premier Grand Floridian hotel, and it’s available to anyone who wants to cough up the $2,400-a-night rate.

The suites, which sleep 12 (so opportunities abound to split the bill), are part of the Disney Vacation Club timeshare properties and range in size from studio suites to capacious luxury villas. What many people don’t realize is that you don’t have to be one of the timeshare owners to enjoy them — unused properties go into the reservation system for guests to book at rack rates through all the usual travel sites.

The Grand Floridian resort and monorail
The Grand Floridian resort and monorail

Disney’s latest (and most luxurious) suite inside the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa costs up to $2,400 a night! (Photo: Kent Phillips/Disney)

Visitors to Disney World this summer will also be able to enjoy the new, ticketless, technology-based experience at the parks. The technology is called MyMagic+ — a Web site, mobile app and wristband combo that will shape and, it’s hoped, streamline your theme-park vacation.

The MyMagic+ experience begins even before departure at MyDisneyExperience.com. Here, you can plan your trip, synch it with other members of your group, and most importantly, order and load up a waterproof bracelet that will be your new “key to the magic.” (Read: key and charging.)

Related: Traveling as a Single Parent: Tried and True Survival Tips

This MagicBand, which comes in a variety of colors and personalization options, will also act as your PhotoPass and FastPass+ to further streamline your visit. Three passes per day can be loaded onto the band up to 60 days before your vacation (30 days for those not staying at onsite hotels). At the park, once you have used a FastPass, you can then log on to the mobile app or head to a park kiosk to load up another.

A child tests out the MagicBand RFID reader
A child tests out the MagicBand RFID reader

One of Disney World’s youngest visitors tests out the MagicBand at a park. (Photo: Disney)

Make sure to book a pass on the season’s key new attraction in the Magic Kingdom, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which has you riding in buckets on a smooth and family friendly roller coaster.

You can also pre-book dining reservations and — new, this season — pick VIP spots for shows and parades. There’s even the option to save a time slot for character photo opportunities, thus avoiding the often lengthy and arduous ordeal involved in meeting Mickey (or, since the runaway success of “Frozen,” Princesses Anna and Elsa).

Related: Bar Crawl: How to Successfully Drink Your Way Through Disney’s Magic Kingdom

For those who prefer not to have their vacation organized like a military assault, never fear — these plans can also be customized and changed during the visit via the app. Just make sure to get yourself a good data plan and don’t forget the phone charger.

Anyone arriving on the day, or for those who feel edgy about the MagicBand for any reason, will be issued with a specially adapted card, though day guests can also purchase a MagicBand for $12.95 once inside.

Children have a meet-n-greet with Disney's Frozen princesses
Children have a meet-n-greet with Disney's Frozen princesses

Want to meet your favorite Disney character, like Anna and Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen?” By reserving time slots for photo-ops, you can and avoid long lines in the process. (Photo: Gene Duncan/AP/Disney)

We are assured that the technology, which uses radio frequency, is both secure and private. No personal data is embedded, and bands can be disabled directly from the app.

And of course, never missing a trick, there will be lots of merchandising options for you to decorate your band, from assorted Mickey icons to pirate swag.

For more information, log on to disneyworld.disney.go.com.

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