The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Disney's Magic Bands
Written by Anthony Murphy
Walt Disney World is still in its testing phase for its Magic Band program, but it has spread to nearly every resort. I was lucky enough to have my family as a test group at Old Key West. My family had mixed reviews on this program, so that's why I am breaking it down this way:Tweet
Disney gave us warning in advance if we wanted to be part of this program and allowed us to pick our own Magic Band colors and have our name printed on the back. It costs nothing, but it was a fun touch. If general efficiency is the name of the game, this is a godsend. Instead of fumbling around with multiple cards for Fastpasses, room key, ticket, and Photopass, you now have everything on your wrist. They currently still give you a room key as backup just in case, but putting your wrist to registers, cameras, and room door really make the vacation a little easier. I found it helpful when I was carrying groceries up to our second floor room at Old Key West. Just a tap of the wrist opened the door. The wrist band also can work on some attractions like Test Track. Disney links everything though My Disney Experience while also allows you to make extra Fastpasses (Fastpass+) if you are staying at a Disney resort. This is particularly helpful because it also knows when your dining reservations or other special events are happening and will spit out a time that should work for you and your family. It also is nice because if there are attractions you really want to experience (Everest, Soarin', heck, Captain EO), you now have the ease of knowing you will get to ride. The two aspects that never failed when we were there were the Photopass and the room key.
Things that I am considering "bad" were things that worked sometimes, but not consistently. This is the case with the Fastpass+. On the surface, Fastpass+ works beautifully when making your selections for up to a week in advance. However, it appears that you always have to pick three attraction (no more, no less) and they have to be from the same park. This does spread guests throughout the park, but I found it greatly increased traditional Fastpass times (which you can still do, but only one at a time). The problem is that guests are really not penalized if they do not show up to the Fastpass+ times. At least the traditional Fastpasses lock you out for about an hour. Changing Fastpass+ times due to down attractions was a bit of a nightmare. My Disney Experience would drop some of my family from Fastpass+, change the times, and lock us out from making changes. If you had proof on your phone for the times, Cast Members gave you the benefit of the doubt and wrote down your band number for a "problem" in the system. Their list was a bit long. I am pretty sure that Disney can fix this, but the system is a bit buggy. The register scanners sometimes didn't work (20% of the time), but that could have been just a fluke.
If there is one person that you do not want to ask about the Magic Band experience, it is my mother. Because she is the DVC member, she made the reservation on her Disney account. I made the dining reservation. While everything transferred over to my account, the system could not reconcile that "Laura Murphy" was on two different Disney accounts and basically crashed her Magic Band before stepping into our first park. It took 45 minutes to check into Old Key West because they could not get her band to work. In the end, they had to give her a new gray generic band so that she could open the room and link her tickets. For some reason, she had to use her Key to the World Card to charge. She was not happy. Also, because we are Annual Pass Holders, we had to get the bands linked not at OKW, but at our first park (DHS). That took another 45 minutes for three people because they were "having trouble with the system." As we entered the park, my mother's and my Magic Bands would not let us into the parks. They scanned the wristband with their iPads and let us in. It took another 10 minutes before our Fastpass+ came up for us to make selections. We also noticed that whenever we tried to get paper Fastpasses (using our Annual Pass ticket card -- given just in case!), it would not accept my mother and my ticket. The next day, we went to EPCOT and found out that they messed up our cards and had to issue new ones (which then had to be linked to the Magic Bands). All in all, we wasted nearly 3½ hours of our vacation getting this bands to work. We are pretty knowledgeable about Disney World so if it took us 3½ hours, what about the guest coming for the first time? We found out that we were not the only people having problem with the bands as we heard from other DVC members who were cursing the program. Cast Members also looked perplexed with the bands making me think that we were not the first to complain. They also appeared to be pretty uneducated about the program with only have two (yes, TWO) cast members per park that were assigned to help with the bands. I have never seen such long lines out of Guest Services in the life.
I really don't know how I feel about the Magic Bands. They either worked very well or majorly failed, with nothing in between. It is still in its testing stage so it is being actively worked on. If you are a new guest to Walt Disney World, you should still do it since you are starting out fresh with Disney. If you are like us who have DVC, annual passes, and Tables in Wonderland, I would tread with caution until the bugs are worked out.
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