What Are MagicBands?
Technically, MagicBands are simply an RFID device worn on your wrist. The code on the MagicBand is Disney’s key to all the information you have provided to them on the MyDisneyExperience web site and basically links all your Disney World privileges to a single wearable device.
In the past, room keys were encoded with magnetic strips, but recently all the Disney Resort room locks were upgraded to RFID readers. Room keys could also have your park admission if you included that in your vacation package. If you had separate admission, such as Annual Passes, No Expiration Passes, or discounted passes bought elsewhere, you needed to use that separate media for entry to the parks. Room keys can also have room charging privileges attached to them. Your MagicBand can now serve as the single device required to access all these functions and more.
How Will MagicBands Make Our Vacations Better?
On the surface, having just a MagicBand versus just your room key may not sound like a magical leap towards greater convenience, but on our recent trip during the latest MyMagic+ test, the small conveniences did seem to add up. Having that all-access device on your wrist meant less fumbling in your pockets when paying for food or merchandise, less chance of misplacing a card, no need to carry a card to the pool for a quick swim, (its waterproof) not having to put down the mugs in your hands when returning to your room with morning coffee, etc., etc. Before MagicBands I do not remember ever wishing for something more convenient, but even with the small added conveniences I just mentioned, I personally would choose the MagicBand over the card.
If, like us, your family travels to Walt Disney World multiple times a year, you may see the additional convenience of having your separate admission also tied to the MagicBand. For our family, that means I don’t have to keep track of the room keys and 10 day No Expiration passes of each of the two kids in addition to my room key and my Annual Pass, and that makes me happy.
Does the idea of wearing a bracelet and getting that nasty tan line on your wrist outweigh the extra convenience of having a MagicBand readily available on your wrist? Not for me, but I know that some will simply not want to wear a MagicBand and in that case you can still opt to use the “old fashioned” method. In that case, note that if you have older magnetic strip admission passes, you will need to upgrade them (no charge) to RFID very soon since those turnstiles will probably all be gone by the end of the year.
Ok, cool. But, did the MagicBands actually Work?
I have read a few horror stories about how some people spent many hours at Guest Relations trying to fix problems they had with their MagicBands. For us, the MagicBands worked flawlessly and without a single hiccup. They even worked immediately to enter our room without anyone at check-in ever even seeing them. When we entered the parks with them for the first time they worked perfectly there as well and all our FastPass+ reservations worked without a hitch. Paying with the MagicBand was smooth too. At restaurants when you would normally hand a card to your server, they come to you with a modified iPod touch, scan your MagicBand, and you enter your PIN right on the screen.
Other uses of the MagicBands
Of course, in addition to paying at Table Service locations like shown above, the Tap to Pay system works at all of the many locations scattered around Walt Disney World where they collect your vacation dollars. And to ease worries about losing the band and having unscrupulous individuals use it to pay for their dinner at Victoria and Albert’s, I remind you that you must enter a PIN number that you choose at check-in. It would be easier for someone to use a credit card you dropped than your lost MagicBand.
For lunch at Be Our Guest, instead if getting a Magic Rose, they actually use your MagicBand to find you. I was skeptical and figured there was no way it could possibly work. Then our food showed up. I asked the server how it worked and he just said it was magic. I followed one server around and from what I can tell they have an iPod touch that points them in the direction of the linked MagicBand and I am guessing that the direction finding hardware is inside the massive cart they push around with your food on it. Thats just a guess though, and no matter what, its still quite magical. As a Be Our Guest teaser, below is a photo of the excellent Tuna Niçoise Salad offered at lunch time. Please be sure to Like our Facebook page to be notified when we post about our experience there!
Ok, back to the MagicBand stuff now… If you are one who prefers to drive yourself instead of using the Disney bus system, your MagicBand can be used to enter Theme Park parking lots for no charge if it is tied to a resort reservation or an annual pass. It will also open the gate to your resort but I found this a bit inconvenient since getting the reader to work from inside the car while the band was on my wrist was difficult, especially if it was on my right wrist. I usually just took it off and touched it to the reader. Maybe the most convenient method here would be to dedicate a room key for this and just leave it in the cup holder in the car.
Although I have not used it for this purpose personally, I have read that you can use them to check in for Magical Express at the Orlando Airport. When you receive that Magical package on your doorstep, you will find the included paperwork mentions that you should pack your MagicBands in your carry-on luggage specifically for this propose.
Most importantly, those MagicBands are your key to redeeming those all-important FastPass+ reservations you made! We will have a post coming up soon regarding how all the FastPass+ stuff worked too, so please click the Like button below to be notified!
Please be sure to share any MagicBand questions you have or comments about your experience with MagicBands in the comments below!