Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Magic Bands and FastPass+
This week, I wanted to get into the differences between Magic Bands and FastPass+. Many in the Disney fan community have strong feelings (both positive and negative) about Magic Bands and FastPass+. Many guests can easily think that the two go together, which is not exactly the case. So I thought I'd go through what each does and how they can be related.
Put simply, a Magic Band is the same thing as the old Key to the World card guests used to use during a stay at Walt Disney World. Instead of a plastic card, guests receive a rubber-like bracelet. It uses the same RFID technology as the old card. Just like the old card, the band serves as the guest's room key, charging privileges and PhotoPass (now Memory Maker) ID. Also, just like the old card, the band can hold park tickets, if tickets are loaded onto the account. So why did Disney go to Magic Bands instead of the cards? For one thing, the cards are much easier to lose or misplace. It is far easier to have your ticket, room key and everything else right on your wrist. Oh, one thing about security in case you're worried about someone stealing your band and using it to charge purchases or get into the parks - guests must still use a pin number when charging and the biometric scanners are still used at the parks, so there's really no point in stealing a band. If a band is stolen, Disney can very quickly deactivate that band, making it truly useless.
In the old days (I'm starting to sound like some old guy), guests inserted their ticket card into a machine and out came a FastPass ticket allowing the guest to return at a certain time. There was one hitch, though -- the guest had to enter the park and go (sometimes run) to the FastPass machines to get a pass. There were plenty of times where the line for the FastPass machines were longer than the standby lines in the attraction itself, especially at park opening. So Disney created FastPass+, which essentially, is an advance reservation system for FastPasses. Guests go online to the MyDisneyExperience site and make reservations for up to three attractions in one park for a certain day (Disney is tweaking this site and it is likely that soon guests will be able to get passes for attractions and different parks in the same day). These advanced reservations can be done up to sixty days in advance, eliminating the need to be in the parks and to rush to an attraction, or at least that was the theory. Guests are still running around the parks at rope drop. The one benefit here is that guests can use the MyDisneyExperience app while in the parks to change their FastPass reservations (either change the time or the attraction). When it's time for a guest to visit a certain attraction, they place their Magic Band against a reader and are then permitted to enter.
There is one problem with FastPass+ that, I understand, Disney is working to address. Once the guest has used up their three advance FastPasses, they can go to one of several FastPass kiosks located in the parks to get additional passes, but they can't do this online using the MyDisneyExperience app. However, what's happened is that, again, the lines for the kiosks are getting longer than the standby lines themselves. Apparently, Disney is working to modify the app so guests can schedule additional passes online instead of having to wait in a long line for a kiosk - and those lines are LONG! When I was at WDW during Marathon weekend (which is a slower time of year), some people were waiting nearly an hour just to get to a kiosk.
Many of the guests who have problems with the Magic Bands are actually upset with FastPass+ and not the bands themselves. I have to agree with some of the criticisms. In all, FastPass+ is a pretty good idea, but it does require some tweaking, particularly once a guest has used up all the original passes. Further, Disney needs to add the ability to book passes for attractions in multiple parks in the same day.
As the Magic Band technology spreads to other parks around the world - Disneyland is due to start using Magic Bands in the near future, it's important for these kinks to be worked out. One thing remains the same - that families can have fun together and can even do so in a spontaneous way. There's so much to do at Walt Disney World that isn't covered by FastPasses, as I am constantly reminding people.
What are your thoughts about Magic Bands and FastPass+?
(correction: FastPass+ reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance, not 6 months - my error!! The article has been corrected above.)
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