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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.
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.
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.