We received our package in the mail this week, and I’m proud to say that I am the owner of a Magic Band. In a few weeks we’ll be heading to Wald Disney World, for a weeklong vacation with another family and to prepare for our trip we got a chance to order Magic Bands. If you’re not familiar with them, they are the new replacement to the vaunted paper Fast Pass, first introduced in 1999 for Mission to Mars at WDW, I’m not 100% sure but I believe the first ride in California with Fast Pass was The Indian Jones Adventure. Fast Pass was and is the reservation system for getting a ticket to an attraction with a specific return time. The idea was to cut down the sometimes hours long wait to enjoy one of the spectacular rides and attractions. Over the years the process has morphed from unlimited distribution of them via a AAA ticket purchase to getting one ever few hours based on some Disney formula to now only being able to redeem them during the specific hour long return time.
That being said, Disney always in the forefront of crowd control technology was looking for a better way to get guests to their ride w/out long wait times, and I imagine, trying to track down where their guests are for spending opportunities. So the Magic Bands was born. I don’t know exactly when they started being used at WDW, but I do know they were introduced back in early 2013 at a press event and as late at November 2013 were in use at The Kingdom. So what is a Magic Band? It’s a way for you to collect and keep fast Passes, pay for food and souvenirs, open your room if you’re staying at one of their resorts and even make ride reservations 60+ days in advance. Yes you heard it, make a ride reservation 60+ days in advance. The idea is to allow guests to be more in control of their time at the Mouse House, and know where and when to be at a certain time. Now the fine print is that not all guests have access to Magic Bands yet. They are still in pilot phase, but are becoming more and more common. As of now if you’re staying on property or are a season pass holder you get one free of charge, and in fact can customize them on their website. You just have to order then at least ten days before your visit. Once they are rolled out full time, any daily guest will have the ability to get one too, but my understanding is you’ll have to pay for it.
The overall idea as I’ve said it to make yourself more in control of your vacation. If you can make reservations for rides weeks in advance you can plan better, you’re allowed to make three per day but all must be at the same park. You also have the ability to use it to check into restaurants instead of talking to a hostess. Also at Be Our Guest Restaurant, at the Magic Kingdom you can even order food online and when you get to the restraint swipe your Magic Band and are directed to your table and your food is brought to you. I’m not so sure I like that idea, but for those people on the run, that might be a good. At this point I can’t say I’m a fan or not, that jury is out. I’ll have to wait to see how much I like the service once we get to use it. On the surface it does seem like a great idea. I remember when I was 14 on my very first visit to WDW, all I can remember is waiting in line. It seemed like hours no matter where we went. For those of you born in the 90’s or 2000’s you don’t remember a time without smart phones, iPads or Kindles. Back in my day you just waited, there was no texting, Tweeting or Instagraming. So for all I know the lines were only 30 minutes long, but they sure felt like hours. What I don’t know is will you be able to get Fast Passes for rides the normal way. If you’re only allowed three reservations per day, do you have to wait in the normal lines otherwise, or can you still get paper ones. I hope there’s an alternate option for when you don’t want to wait in line and your Magic Band reservation is not ready yet. Also what happens if you miss your ride reservation, will oyu be able to make another one, or all you out of luck? These are just questions I’ll have to answer once I get there.
What I’m not so keen on is the amount of information they have on you as a consumer. The microchip has RFID, so they will be able to track movements, obviously track spend and also track when you leave/enter your room. In fact you also use it to check in for Magical Express from Orlando Airport to your hotel. I mean with this kind of technology, they will be able to send you customized specials, and direct you to rides that are less busy. I imagine the possibilities are endless, we don’t know what technology will look like in five years let alone ten. I’m not saying that I worry about Big Brother, I just wonder how technology like this will enhance and change the vacation experience.
That being said I’m pretty thrilled to get to use one of these, have it in my teams colors (Go San Francisco Giants) and hopefully be able to leave my wallet in the hotel room and just Magic Band it for everything. I am bummed though that sometime in the near future the old Fast Passes will become collectors items.