Blog Feature

By: Jennifer Devitt on October 13th, 2013

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New technology at Disney allows you to customize your vacation experience.

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"To Infinity & Beyond!" "It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" "Tomorrowland", EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). All phrases coined by The Walt Disney Company, or Walt Disney himself. Walt Disney, a pioneer of technology had great visions for the future of technology, and his legacy The Walt Disney company has not let him down. Year after year Disney pushes the envelope in different areas of technology. This year their newest venture is "MagicBands" and "FastPass+". Being regular Disney guests we are often offered the opportunity to participate in "beta testing" of new systems. Last year we participated in a very limited, FastPass+ testing and this year we are excited to test MagicBands and FastPass+.

"What is FastPass?" You non-Disney travelers might ask? "FastPass" is Disney's system that allows park guest to obtain a ticket or "FastPass" for a specified time throughout the day to return to a ride or attraction with minimal wait times. It is included with your admission for all park guests, not just those staying on Disney property.

In 2012 The Walt Disney Company offered beta testing to select Disney resort guests for a new FastPass system designed to replace the current FastPass system. The system we tested last year was very rudimentary compared to the system we will be trying out soon. Last year we could only pick from a small selection of rides or attractions, and only for one park, on one day of our trip. This year we could customize almost our entire "experience" all throughout the use of new "MagicBands" and the 'My Disney Experience App/website". Currently, this system is available only to on-site guests (meaning those staying in a Disney owned hotel) and at select Disney resorts. It is Disney's goal to roll this system on to all guests in the near future. Rumor has it there may be a tiered usage system based on the level resort you are staying at, if you are an Annual Pass holder or DVC (Disney Vacation Club Member), although this has yet to be confirmed.

The new system is geared around Disney's use of "RFID" technology or "Radio Frequency Identification". In lieu of using a ticket or room key system, Disney is offering guests the opportunity to link their entire experience to a RFID band called "MagicBand". The band when linked to your account, requires a PIN number for security and you can choose what you want to link to your band. The band is a light weight, the adjustable band (See photo) that guests can choose to customize by color, and of course, Disney is offering add-on accessories for purchase in the parks.

So far, my experience with them has been easy and being a technology firm, and heavily immersed tech family we were intrigued at the opportunity. What I have been able to do so far is: link our resort stay, annual passes, and dining reservations to our bands. I have also been able to select 3 FastPass+ options per day, per person to our bands. So, when we arrive we know we can ride or visit our top attractions without running around collecting FastPasses or waiting in stand-by lines.

This may seem like "Commando-style" vacation planning, but when you are traveling with ride-centered children who want to ride their favorites it's nice to have a plan. And, don't worry we are not tied to this plan. By utilizing the "My Disney Experience" app via my iPhone (it is also available on Andriod) I can access our plans and make changes to our selections on the fly. If we decide to go to the park later in the day, no worries. Just go to the app and switch the time of the FastPass+.

As the keeper of the keys for our family on vacations, otherwise known as Mom or the only person carrying a bag, I find a lot of perks to this new system. If all of my family members are wearing MagicBands that function as their park passes I will not have to fumble with my wallet at the gate and pass out/collect passes, nor will I have to do this at each attraction we hope to obtain a FastPass for (with the old FastPass system, many times for key attractions, FastPasses ran out by early morning). Another plus is it functioning as our room key, no more digging for the resort key when our hands are full in front of our door, any one of us can activate the door via our band. Now that does present another small issue. We have 3 kids, so there will be bickering about who gets to open the door (that is until the novelty wears off). Going to the pool is easier, no worrying about storing my key. Also, it can be linked to the Disney Dining Plan making paying for our meals a snap. With all this functionality tied to my band, I won't be rummaging through my bag nearly as often.

Am I expecting 100% smooth sailing with this beta testing, no? We are in the industry, so we know bugs happen and are going in expecting there to be kinks. However, I see the pluses to this new system as well as the added convenience they represent. I think Walt would be thrilled with the new advances his company is making. Don't worry, I will report back at a later date about how well the technology functioned for us.

Any of you out there tried the new system yet? I would love your feedback. Disney is showing the world that there really is an "App for that". But, don't worry if you don't have a smartphone. Disney does have kiosks around the resort to assist you with changes to your plans. Remember, to quote Walt, "If you can dream it, you can do it!" What's your dream app or tech idea?