Before I start this sure to be long post, I’d like to add a disclaimer that I am ALL for the integration of technology. I love the idea of streamlining processes and making things more magical using the latest and greatest tech. However, what I do not like is disorganization, and I feel like this post is about to go into that. A lot. You’ve been warned (:
Being an annual passholder definitely has it’s advantages. And then, it also has it’s disadvantages. The addition of the Fastpass+/Magic Band program, also known as MyMagic+, at Disney, as I’ve seen, has caused some issues for Annual Passholders (or APs, as I’ll be calling us for this post).
Fastpass+ is the replacement of the old paper ticket Fastpass program, which allowed you to go to a ride, pick up a ticket outside the regular line, and return at a specific time to get in a much shorter line. This was especially handy for families with small children, like mine growing up, who couldn’t stand in a line for more than 10 minutes without fear of a tantrum (Heather!).
The new system uses Disney’s latest web launch, the My Disney Experience. My Disney Experience is an AWESOME site that allows you to manage everything about your upcoming Disney vacation, from your hotel reservation, to your tickets, to your dining reservations, to your Fastpasses.
There is also an app version of My Disney Experience, which lets you do pretty much everything the MDE website does, except look at pictures from your Photopass. The MDE app also includes interactive maps and park times, which is super handy for figuring out if waiting in the line for Space Mountain the 10th time is worth it when the park is closing in an hour.
With the new Fastpass+ program, you can book up to three initial Fastpasses per day, and those all have to be in the same park. There are different groups of Fastpasses for certain parks. For instance, you can not Fastpass Soarin and Test Track in the same day, but you can Fastpass Soarin and two smaller rides in Epcot, such as Mission Space or the Character Spot, the latter of which is a super nice addition, since lines to meet characters are super long most of the time.
After your initial three Fastpass+ times have passed, you can go to any Fastpass+ kiosk in any park (there’s a handy map inside the MDE App) to make one additional Fastpass. This fourth Fastpass does NOT have to be in the same park as your initial three Fastpasses, but you can not book it on the MDE website or app. After that Fastpass timeframe is completed, you can do the same thing over and over. However, most of the times we went to book our fourth Fastpass+, the line for the kiosks were longer than most of the rides we had left to Fastpass!
I know what you’re thinking. Why can’t I just book more Fastpasses online instead of having to wait in a mile long line to get a pass to wait in another mile long line? That’s exactly what I thought. And I’m still trying to figure it out.
Granted, the initial three Fastpass+ times you receive are often so spread out, it’s really impossible to fit any more than one additional Fastpass in. But it still frustrates me, and I’m sure other guests, that this is the way things are organized. All in all, I really do like the new Fastpass+ program, and I think that the scheduling of larger attractions, which often have large wait times, makes the experience of the parks much more enjoyable for guests.
The next part of the MyMagic+ program is the new Magic Bands. I was SUPER excited for the Magic Bands when they were first announced, but they have since caused me considerable grief. I’ll get to that a bit later, though.
Magic Bands are waterproof rubber bracelets, which hold your tickets and Fastpasses on an RFID chip inside. Exclusively for resort guests, this band also holds room keys, credit cards (every merch location has a Magic Band reader on their credit card machine, and you just swipe the band and enter your PIN), and meal plan. They are provided free of charge to APs and resort guests, and are also available for purchase at most large merchandise locations in the parks for those staying off-property or coming in from other areas of Florida (or California, as this system has also been implemented at Disneyland!).
This is where I ran into some issues. In order to start booking Fastpasses, dining reservations or anything of that nature, you must have tickets linked to the account. For those who book a resort stay or have a previously purchased annual pass, your tickets are automatically linked and you can go ahead and make the reservations.
For APs, when you initially order your tickets online, they send you what’s called an exchange certificate in the mail. It’s an ugly green card with a single black info strip and no bar-code or number on the back.
Do you see the problem? No bar-code. No way of linking your exchange certificate to the account. So, guests like myself and Le Boyfriend, who do NOT live anywhere near a Disney park and therefore could not link our tickets to our accounts before arriving at the park, could not book ANY Fastpasses or dining reservations before our first day at Disney.
We were both incredibly frustrated after discovering this, and when we called the Disney hotline they said that they did not have many people who don’t live in Florida that have an annual pass and do not stay on property (I highly doubt that, but okay).
The people on the phone did, however, assure us that once we arrived at the park, they would link up two new Magic Bands to our accounts. We were mollified by that, because both of us were fairly excited to use the new technology at the parks.
When we arrived at Disney, we took our exchange passes to the ticket counter and the cast member there put our passes on plastic cards, which also act as tickets in lue of the Magic Bands. When she said “alright, you’re good to go!” Le Boyfriend and I just looked at each other.
Magic Bands for APs, she told us, HAD to be ordered through the MDE website and would be shipped to our home within 10 days.
We were not staying in Florida for more than 10 days, so understandably, we were again INCREDIBLY frustrated. She did everything she could to soothe us and was very nice, as most cast members are, but the policies here were SO backwards and didn’t make any sense to us, the guests who had spent over $600 each on tickets and couldn’t even book Fastpasses like everyone else. We customized our bands that afternoon while eating at Tomorrowland Terrace, but we were still upset about the process of simply trying to get what we were promised.
In addition to this snafu, when we attempted to use the plastic passes to get in the park, the cast member at the ticket counter had put my pass on Le Boyfriend’s card, and NO pass on my card. It took an additional 30 minutes to get into Magic Kingdom, and it was only our FIRST day there.
Our cards arrived in four days at our friends house in Florida, which was surprising with all of the problems we’d had, and, of course, the other shoe dropped when the Magic Band I was sent in the mail didn’t have a working RFID chip when attempting to get into Animal Kingdom the following day. The cast member at the merch location we went to told me that this happens sometimes, because of the mass production of a new product, but it was just one more layer on top of the pile of stuff we’d already been through.
This cast member, however, supplied me with a new band on the spot, and when I arrived home after the trip, I actually had a new one with my name on it waiting in my bedroom (thanks, Mom!).
Overall, this program is AWESOME, and the concepts behind it will make the experience of the average guest that much more magical. But I faced a LOT of issues with the process of linking our accounts and getting Magic Bands as APs.
I’d definitely be interested in hearing others’ stories and experiences with the new MyMagic+ program!