Hello Reservations, Goodbye Magic Bands at Disney World

June 19, 2020, 10:44 AM · Advance reservations are in and free Magic Bands and Park Hopping are out as Walt Disney World prepares to return from its pandemic shutdown.

The Orlando-area resort - the world's most popular theme park vacation destination - today revealed some of the details of its upcoming "Disney Park Pass System" for making advance reservations to visit its theme parks. To accommodate reduced capacities with the new reservation system, Disney will not be allowing Park Hopping during its initial reopening period. Disney will be released information for guests who have purchased a Park Hopper option for their passes.

Reservations will begin to open next week for guests who have booked on-site hotel stays at the resort.

Reservation windows will open at 7am. Hotel guests with valid admission can make reservations for up to the length of their stay, while annual passholders without hotel reservations may make up to three park reservations at a time. In addition, Walt Disney World will be offering previews at the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom and for annual passholders on July 9 and 10.

Guests will be able to make new hotel reservations and buy theme park tickets again "by June 28." You can learn more about making park reservations through Disney's My Disney Experience app in this video:

Walt Disney World will give annual passholders the option of accepting a one-month extension to their pass, which will be processed and visible in their account in October, or canceling their pass for a pro-rated refund. If a passholder was on monthly payments, those payments would stop on August 11, and any payments made between July 11 and August 11 will be refunded. Passholders will get information about these options early next month. Disney will begin collecting monthly payments with the reopening of the parks on July 11.

Disney also announced that it will retire complimentary Magic Band distribution to hotel guests starting January 1. Instead, Magic Band functionality will transfer to the My Disney Experience app, using the app’s existing digital key feature. Magic Band will continue to be available for purchase, but the expectation will be that you can use your phone and the app for anything you used the Magic Band for before, even though you can keeping using Magic Bands, if you'd like.

Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom reopen on July 11, followed by Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios on July 15.

Replies (19)

June 19, 2020 at 10:59 AM

Big Geek question here, but I wonder if there will be a way for one to use their Apple Watch as the Magic Band replacement instead of the phone. I've always thought the Apple Watch was perfectly suited to be a Magic Band replacement/option.

June 19, 2020 at 11:06 AM

While the My Disney Experience (MDE) app can push notifications to your watch, the app has no other functionality on the AppleWatch, and there's no AppleWatch specific app for the Disney Parks. I don't think it would be too difficult for Disney to link the NFC chip on watches to the app on your phone, but it might require a complete redesign of the app depending on how it processes location information. AppleWatch just doesn't have enough processing power to handle what the MDE app does, so it most likely would be need to set up as a peripheral within the iPhone app. I'm not sure if there's a lot of demand there, though given the current Pandemic, I find myself using ApplePay on my watch increasingly more, and being able to link MDE to the NFC on my Watch would seem to be a huge convenience.

June 19, 2020 at 11:06 AM

Kind of sucks for people without a smart phone. Plus, how many people are going to do this and then be sitting in the lobby of their hotel waiting on their phone to charge enough to turn on, load the app, then get into their room.

Seems like they could at least make the credit card style an option for those without phones.

June 19, 2020 at 11:45 AM

"Magic Band functionality will transfer to the My Disney Experience app, using the app’s existing digital key feature." So the billion dollars that Disney spent on implementing Magic Bands ended up being a waste of a billion dollars. But then again, we already knew this with reports at the time that the system wasn't paying back what Disney expected it to, Tom Staggs being let go, and Iger proclaiming "This has to work".

June 19, 2020 at 11:56 AM

"Seems like they could at least make the credit card style an option for those without phones."
They did, its a keys to the world card (free) or magic band (not free)

June 19, 2020 at 12:13 PM

Magic bands were a mistake to begin with. Wearable tech never has caught on. Smart phones were already well established prior to the introduction of magic bands. Just a missed call by Disney, and it happens to sometimes. I'd speculate they had a bunch of R&D in them prior to smart phones exploding onto the scene and they decided to go through with the implementation as opposed to wasting all the R&D.

Doubt the magic bands will come back at all.

June 19, 2020 at 12:45 PM

@Court E .... it's only the complimentary magic bands that are not being given out. You can still buy them, if you really want one. I'm sure all of the pass holders will still be utilizing their magic bands when they go. (I don't use mine, preferring the hard card)

You're just not going to see everyone in the park wearing one, that's all.

Also, meant to say, Disney is only allowing people to go to one park per day .... no park hopping allowed.

June 19, 2020 at 2:03 PM

I'm interested to see how Disney will handle park reservations for hotel guests. I have a reservation for opening weekend. Three of us have an AP, our fourth person does not have a ticket. I definitely don't want to make the trip if he can't go.

June 19, 2020 at 2:06 PM

Does anybody know how far in advance, park reservations can be made?

June 19, 2020 at 2:53 PM

I get that the app can (well, COULD) replace a MagicBands, but...the apps at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World are notoriously unreliable.

Then again, I've had trips to Walt Disney World where MagicBands themselves have been notoriously unreliable.

I'm not against the change. Since the COVID-19 shutdown, I've gotten used to using my phone for touch-less payment, so I'm good there. I just would want to know that the app actually works now (to be fair, it has worked about 75% of the time for me on my trips, but a 25% failure rate isn't good), so it's something we can get used to.

We were on one trip where they installed Bluetooth locks on doors during our stay and told us we could unlock our doors with the app, and they didn't work once (the MagicBands still worked).

Granted, this was several years ago. So maybe it's better now.

I like MagicBands, but as it's been more than two years since my last visit, they officially don't work anymore (they officially have a two-year battery life span).

But I like the idea of being able to use an Apple or Google smart watch in place of pulling out a phone. The tech is there, but I'm not sure how complicated it would be to bring it into being.

If I can "contactless-pay" with my watch or phone, why not unlock my hotel room or redeem a FastPass with it (once FastPasses become a thing again) or use it to make a purchase?

Look, I get that all of us, including the Walt Disney Company, are kind of playing things by ear right now. So this is not a complaint, just an idea. But right now, we've all got to have some patience. Disney has some REALLY bright tech minds on board, but they're in uncharted territory, as are the rest of us. And I know they get the big bucks to figure this stuff out, but it's going to take some time.

Patience is the key here. And I know that's not always easy as we look for answers. But...these are new circumstances, and we all need to find ways to be kind to cast members who are doing the best they can when they don't have much (if any) more info than we do.

June 19, 2020 at 5:02 PM

Just to confirm - It's pretty obvious Magic Bands will still be available to use as always, they are just not going to send out the box full of free bands to people booking resort hotel reservations. That's smart. It will save them a butt load of cash AND will drive people to buy a band once at the park.
I was just hoping that there would at last be a way to keep my phone in my pocket, or (forgive me Tan France)fanny pack and use my linked Apple Watch. The primary reason I'd expect Disney wouldn't want to do that is they still want the incrimental income from Magic Band and Magic Band accessory purchases.

June 19, 2020 at 8:28 PM

Is this new plan with smartphones going to be compatible with Photopass on rides?

June 20, 2020 at 3:51 AM

The huge advantage of a magic band was that you didn't have to carry your damn cellphone in your hand all day. Just being able to wave your wrist at a reader to access attractions, enter rooms, pay for goods and meals, confirm reservations was easy and swift. Having to scroll through multiple screens and use ever-diminishing battery capacity to do the same thing is a HUGE retrograde step to me. Frankly I'd rather have a credit card 'key' than have to constantly access the MDE app on my phone.

But then since I#'m not going to be able to get to Florida any time in the foreseeable future I guess it really doesn't matter....

June 20, 2020 at 6:21 AM

>>Magic Band functionality will transfer to the My Disney Experience app, using the app’s existing digital key feature." So the billion dollars that Disney spent on implementing Magic Bands ended up being a waste of a billion dollars.

I don't think that follows. Aren't they reliant on NFC just like a phone would be?

June 20, 2020 at 1:52 PM

"Goodbye Magic Bands" is a VERY misleading headline - as explained in the actual article.

June 22, 2020 at 7:25 AM

I’m not keen on the idea of having to use smart phones. What if you run out of charge, you damage your phone whilst on holiday and it’s no longer working, having to rummage around in a bag trying to find your phone every time you have a fast pass booked also could be the case of more lost/broken phones when in the parks with people just putting them in their pockets instead of somewhere safer!

June 22, 2020 at 10:05 AM

After the site wasn't ready for over an hour, I made our August park reservations at 8:43 this morning.

June 22, 2020 at 10:06 AM

The other big benefit to being able to use your Apple Watch right now, is with the need to wear a mask, you have to enter an unlock lock on the most recent IPhones rather than the simple touch on the finger scanner. Once you have your watch on, and unlocked once, it does not need to be unlocked again unless you take it off. If I had to choose between using my phone to do stuff or purchasing a MagicBand at the park to activate to my account, I'd be buying the MagicBand.

June 22, 2020 at 11:53 AM

Wok Creative, the headline may not be all that misleading. I’m expecting that since MagicBands won’t be available except at additional cost, a lot of guests will forego the bands and use the MDE app or card. As has been pointed out by Rob McCollough, MagicBands will continue as a revenue source and Disney will save money on preparing and shipping the bands; besides, they’ve got to keep the MagicBands program going in some respect so as not to upset guests who previously paid for them by ditching them completely. Give Disney a couple of years and MagicBands will probably be as useful and ubiquitous at the parks as My Pal Mickey.

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