What is a Disney MagicBand?

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One big change from our last Disney World vacation a couple of years ago to this time was the introduction of MagicBands.  I had gotten used to Disney innovations such as FastPasses and the strategy and running around that was required to maximize those magical pieces of paper that allowed you to avoid waiting in very long lines for some attractions.  However, I was a total newbie when it came to what these new magical plastic bands could do.

Thankfully, like most things that Disney does, these MagicBands are relatively intuitive in many ways.  Still, I’ll share a few tips that would have been helpful for me to read through before embarking on our first MagicBand powered experience.

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What is a Disney MagicBand

A MagicBand looks like a plastic wrist watch strap and uses Radio Frequency (RF) technology that can be read by short range readers you tap the “Mickey” portion of the band to, as well as long-range readers.  The bands allow you to do things like enter the parks, use FastPass+ selections, charge purchases to your room, open your Disney Resort hotel room, and more.

While at the parks, it can essentially replace your hotel key, park ticket, credit card, ID, and paper FastPasses.  When making purchases using the band you have to enter a pin number, and when entering the parks you also have to utilize your fingerprint.  Anyone else notice Disney knows as much, or more, about us than the FBI?!

To work, your MagicBand has to be attached to your online Disney account, tickets, reservations, etc – we had the Disney Desk at the Swan complete this process for us upon arrival.  In terms of scanning the band, even my five year old quickly caught on to how to use a MagicBand around the parks, so this is something that is simple for both kids and adults to utilize.

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Who Gets Free Magic Bands

MagicBands are free to those staying at Disney Resorts and Walt Disney World annual passholders.  However, for the purposes of a MagicBand, the Swan and Dolphin hotels that many of us like to stay at using SPG points do not count as Disney Resorts.  This means if you want a MagicBand and are staying at one of those hotels you have to purchase one starting at $12.95 for a plain colored band.

It also means that if you are staying at the Swan or Dolphin your MagicBand can’t be used to charge purchases to the room or to open your hotel door.  It will basically just enable you to get into the parks, use FastPass+ reservations, and potentially encounter “surprises” along the way…though I don’t know what those surprises would be as we didn’t seem to have any.

Are MagicBands Worth It

If you get the bands free as part of your hotel stay or similar then of course they are worth it as they do make life a bit easier by not having to keep up with as many things while enjoying Disney.  We bought our MagicBands at the Disney Store at the Orlando airport, but you can also order them online ahead of time if you wish.  I would guess for the three of us we spent probably close to $60 on MagicBands and assorted decorations for the bands, so it was not a small purchase.

I am glad we got the bands as I wanted to try them and appreciated not having to keep up with any pieces of paper, but I’d say it is a toss up as to whether it really was worth the $60 we spent since the MagicBands don’t do as much for those staying at places like the Swan or Dolphin or other off-site properties.  However, we will hold onto them and have them ready for a future trip!

If you have the money to spend, or are getting the bands for free I say go for it, but if you are really sticking to a tight Disney budget and staying off-site I don’t think the bands are crucial at this point to a magical Disney experience.

Comments

  1. At Dia’s Family Travel for Real Life this weekend, one of the speakers did an excellent presentation about Disney. Learned a lot.

  2. As for the “surprises”, I believe you can enter data about your child’s preferences at the park, such as their favorite characters. Since Disney now knows that your son/daughter loves, say, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, don’t be surprised when Belle happens to greet you somewhere along your route through the park. 🙂

  3. If you’re staying at a disney resort, but didn’t purchase your tickets as part of a package, does anyone know when/how you can claim your free magic bands? I purchased our tickets through Undercover Tourist, but I’m not sure where the magic band comes in.

    Thanks in advance for any help!

    • Disney will mail MagicBands to your home a few weeks before your trip, independent of where (or even whether) you buy tickets. I also bought tickets from Undercover Tourist. You can add the tickets to your MyDisneyExperience profile, and the tickets will then be linked to your stay. You will be able to make FastPass reservations for your entire stay at 60 days before you check-in, even though the tickets were not purchased as part of a package.

    • Have you been on “mydisneyexperience” and set everything up yet? We didn’t book through a 3rd party, but we set everything up through that website–fast passes, dining reservations, etc. And make sure you download the mydisneyexperience app to your smart phone b/c it comes in handy for purposes of itinerary and fastpasses.

      As far as ordering the bands (assuming you get them and I assume you do since you are staying in a Disney property), they will mail them to your home about 30 days before your trip. On the mydisneyexperience website, you can pick your magic band color . If you don’t pick a color, you will get a grey band.

      And, staying on a Disney Property, you can go onto mydisneyexperience and set up your fast passes 60 days in advance (if you aren’t staying on properties, you can only do it 30 days in advance). As for setting dining reservations, I think it is 180 days in advance (but can’t remember).

      Also–go to as many “extra magic hours” as possible. It cuts the volume of people by a ton, allowing you to ride Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, etc without much of a line (Mine Train, Soarin, Test Track, Toy Story will all still be insanely long–I was at Hollywood Studios for park opening in September for extra magic hours and had a 40 minute wait for Toy Story! For Seven Mines, I waited almost an hour at 1:30 AM!).

      As a side note, I am NOT a fan of the Fastpass+ magic bands. I liked the pieces of paper, because I always got multiple fast passes for Toy Story, Soarin, etc). And, you weren’t restricted on parks. With Fastpass+, when reserving online, you can only get them for one park in a day. So, if you wanted to go to Magic Kingdom in the AM but Epcot in the PM, you have to choose which park to reserve Fastpasses–and you would have to do the AM park or else not get any fastpasses at that park. You can’t get new ones at the second park, until all of your ones at the first park are used (or you cancel them). This restriction caused us problems with a 2 y/o trying to organize park times. So, while the Magic Bands do have some good, we were not fans of the fastpass part of them. They mainly help the people who are good about planning way ahead and not good about getting to the park early. BUT, I will say that they were helpful in ensuring we got fastpasses in the morning for purposes of taking our child back to the hotel for an afternoon nap.

      Additionally, to get additional fastpasses, there are kiosks in the park. If memory serves correct, for more fastpasses for the SAME park for which you originally had fastpasses, you can reserve more on the mydisneyexperience app. But for a different park, you have to go to a kiosk.

      Finally, not sure if you have been to Disney before. I personally LOVE Disney World. There is just something amazing about walking through the gates of the Magic Kingdom and looking at Cinderella’s Castle down Main Street USA. If you can, try to get to Magic Kingdom one morning for park opening–about 15 minutes early. Mickey comes out on the train to open the park. I have not had the opportunity to see this yet, but I’ve heard it is really neat.

      Here are my recommendations for fastpasses, if you want to avoid 60-120 minute wait times on the rides (again, in case you have never been):
      –Soarin’
      –Test Track (I don’t think you can get one for Sorin and Track. So, get one for one of them and go to the other one right at park opening).
      –Toy Story (if you can, get to Hollywood Studios at park opening sprint to this ride as well–this one is definitely worth at least two rides if possible)
      –Seven Dwarves Mine Train
      –Peter Pan
      –Expedition Everest (although, if you can go through the single rider line, you don’t need to “waste” a fastpass here)
      –Rockin Roller Coaster (only if you don’t get one for Toy Story, b/c you can’t have one for each. This ride also has a single rider line. I highly recommend doing this line b/c your wait is usually no more than about 20 minutes. Its a fast roller coaster. You won’t talk during it anyway).

      We also used fast passes for one character greeting.

      One last note–one of the Disney Credit Cards allows for a special line in Epcot at Innovations to do pictures with characters–usually a combination of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto.

      Have a great time!

  4. We are going to Disney in February, and staying at the Shades of Green resort on Disney. From your description, it sounds like the Magic Bands would not be really useful for us, either.

  5. We found it more cost effective to reserve the first night at a lower budget Disney property hotel- the Pop Century is a favorite of many on the Disney boards. Then, you get the free magic bands and free bus ride to the property so that pays for a good portion of the hotel. Then we transferred for free to the Swan and Dolphin. This summer we stayed at the Animal Kingdom and they transferred our luggage for free to the Swan and Dolphin so we were able to enjoy time in the parks and got our luggage from the bell captains at the Swan and Dolphin when we checked in around maybe 6 pm. It was an easy way to do it. We just rented a car for a few days from the Disney Car Center and you can also return a car rental to the Swan and Dolphin so that is also an easy way to do it if you don’t need the car rental the entire time. Then you can try to use Uber to go back to the airport as Orland MCO does not allow Uber for pick ups from the airport but dropping off at the airport should be fine.

    • Also, the magic bands are great when you stay on Disney owned hotels on Disney property as they act as your room key and for charging but at the Swan and Dolphin, they aren’t much help since they can’t be used for the room key.

  6. The MagicBand is an interesting deployment of technology. Are they available at other Disney parks, i.e. Disneyland in Anaheim, or any of the international parks, or are they unique to Disney World in Orlando?

    And MP, it is amazing how much information a private entity such as Disney knows about us.

  7. Hi I have a reservation for the swan. I just booked our ADR’s and was surprised I had to do it day by day instead of being able to book for my whole trip on day 180. When staying at a Disney hotel I am always able to book my whole trip on day 180. I got what I wanted so no problem. So I have two questions, 1. Did you have a similar experience with ADR’s (day by day)? 2. How did fastpass work at the 60 day mark? I am used to booking them all on day 60, will it work that way?
    Thanks! C

    • Chris, it is very complicated in terms of what Disney perks Swan and Dolphin guests get. Sadly booking all 10 days of a vacation on the 180th day prior to the first day is not one of the perks of staying at these properties. You have to go day by day. FastPass does work 60 days out from the first day for the duration of your trip.

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