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Magic Bands & My Disney Experience: Know Before You Go

Magic Bands & My Disney Experience

Part 1:  Know Before You Go

“My Disney Experience” encompasses all of the elements of a huge investment Disney made to improve guest experience and simplify your vacation, in theory.  This includes “Magic Bands” (RFID enabled wristbands that give you access to all parts of your vacation including room charges, room entry, park tickets and more), “FastPass+” (a system of reserving times for park attractions before you ever leave home), and more integrating your resort accommodations, park tickets, dining plans, etc.

As of this writing (November 9, 2013), the Magic Band system is still considered to be in a testing phase by Disney.  This means that the details here could change as they iron out the bugs in the system.  For now, only on-site Walt Disney World Resort guests are eligible for Magic Bands and FastPass+.  The Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin will begin a test phase with FastPass+, but guests staying there will not be able to make their arrangements in advance–they are limited to what is still available for FastPass+ on the day of their visit.  As changes are made look for updates to this post and future posts.

So, how do you get started with all of this planning?

Assuming you are a guest at a Walt Disney World Resort you will want to make sure you have a My Disney Experience account.  Your account is accessed by your email and password, and if you’ve ever had a Disney account (or associated site like abc.com or espn.com) you already have that part taken care of.  If you haven’t logged in to your disneyworld.com account in a while you will have to enter some new information the first time like security questions, and there are some options to make your experience a little smoother like going ahead and linking a credit card for any charges you might make through your account (ordering party tickets, making dining reservations, etc.–this is optional).

 

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Once you have your account set up you need to link any existing resort and dining reservations, and any tickets or annual passes that you have.  You do this by clicking on the My Disney Experience (MDX) tab at the top of the screen.  The drop down menu brings up several options including “Reservations” and “Magic Bands and Cards.”  When you click on reservations it will automatically try to retrieve your resort and dining reservations, but you may have to enter them manually–you will just need the confirmation numbers.  Click on Magic Bands and Cards and you can link your tickets–it explains where to find the ticket numbers based on the type of ticket you have.  You will want to do these steps as soon as you have your reservations and ticket media so they will be in your account waiting on you.

If you make your reservations, particularly dining, while logged in to your account they should automatically populate your plans, reservations and itineraries, but hang on to those confirmation numbers just in case.

The real fun begins about 60 days prior to your vacation.  Around that point you will want to log in to your account and click on “Magic Bands & Cards” where you should find a button to enter your shipping information for Magic Bands.  This will allow you to customize your bands for each member of your party.  You can choose from pink, orange, red, yellow, green, blue and gray.  You may also choose the name to go on the back of the band.  Once MDX is fully operational the name will be used in other ways too.  I’ve noticed screens in the last scene of “it’s a small world” where they will be able to project personalized messages, and I hear of similar technology at Haunted Mansion among other places.  And eventually the “face’ characters will know your child’s name and be able to wish them a personal Happy Birthday.  So, be careful what name you choose to put on your band–it just might be broadcast to a boat load of it’s a small world guests.

At the current time it appears that your bands need to be customized prior to the 30 day mark prior to check-in to have them mailed to you in your preferred colors.  For my recent trip they were sent overnight so I received them very quickly.  Once you get your bands (packaged in a very nice Incredibles themed box), you can make a size adjustment.  Although they cannot be made larger, you can remove the outer gray band found on all of the color selections.  It peels away and cannot be put back on–so be certain you want it removed before you do it (instructions are found on the lid of the box).  This adjustment makes it the proper size for a child or someone with a small wrist.  Although I have a small wrist I preferred the way the band looked with the border, so I left mine on–if the overlapping inside the band is bothersome you could trim off some of the gray band at the end.

Now that you have your bands customized, it is time to select your FastPass+ (FP+) experiences.  Currently this opens 60 days prior to check-in.  To be able to make FP+ arrangements you must have your resort reservation and valid theme park admission linked in MDX.  If you have all of these done and you are still unable to make reservations contact the MDX hotline at 407-939-7849.  Rest assured you aren’t the only one as evidenced by the waits on hold to have it resolved.  I had an issue with my account that took 6 phone calls and 1 month to resolve–it was fixed, but it took some persistence.

You can begin your FP+ reservations in a couple of different ways.  You can click on “My Itinerary” select your date and select add FP+ at the bottom.  You can click on the FP+ option from the MDX tab.  Or you can click on your reservations and add experiences—FP+ is listed at the bottom.  Once you get to the portal to select FP+ you may choose 3 per day and they all must be in the same park.  You first select which guests you are selecting the FP+ for, the make your selections.  Usually you get 4 options with different times integrating your FP+–you can really select any of these because later you can go in and select each one individually to change the experience or the time.  You can even change them once you are on vacation (up to the time the FP+ is supposed to start)–based on availability.

This is fairly straightforward if you are only planning FP+ for members of your traveling party on the same reservation.  If you have a larger party with people staying in various rooms with different package reservations you need to invite them to participate in MDX with you (with full sharing options).  This happens by sending them an invitation (using the email they have associated with their MDX account) from your MDX account.  They will receive a notification in their MDX that they will need to click on and accept your invitation.  This can get complicated and doesn’t always work out just right so that you can reserve their FP+.  If that is the case for you just call that hotline.

You do have the option to make different FP+ reservations for each member of your party.  If you have non-thrill riders (like me) you can line up a FP+ for Peter Pan while everyone else rides Space Mountain.  Once all of the options are “live” you will also be able to choose from reserved parade and fireworks viewing spots, and exclusive character meet and greets.  And there are many more attractions and experiences available with FP+ than with the “legacy” FastPass machines.

After you have all of your FP+ arranged the way you want them you can check them by clicking “My Itinerary” on MDX.  Select your date and it should show you everything you have on your agenda for that day:  resort, dining and FP+.

Aside from the technical issues I encountered with my account, there are some shortcomings with the planning stages.  It is very tedious to make your FP+ arrangements and takes a lot of time and clicks to get it completed.  I only had two people traveling on my last trip and it took over an hour.  This is because you have to select one of the four pre-arrangeed groups of FastPasses.  Then you have to go to each one individually if you want to change the times (or experience).  I found it easier to make the same 3 FP+ for both of us, then go in and change my experience manually from the thrill ride I originally selected to a tamer ride for the same time frame (that way I knew we would get the same time frame for the other 2 rides we wanted to do together).  It just seems like it would be easier if you could manually select each time individually for each FP+.  And, there are a lot of clicks to accomplish a change–hopefully that will get streamlined a bit as the testing reveals these shortfalls.

All in all, despite those bugs, I was very pleased to have my pink magic band ready to take with me on our vacation, and to know that I already had arrangements for our must-do attractions each day.  Knowing that if we didn’t make rope drop we would still be able to ride Toy Story Mania was a major stress reducer for me personally.

One more tip before you go:  click on your Itinerary under MDX & print out a hard copy of each day’s plans.  It is hard to keep up with the times of your FP+ arrangements, and the app can be buggy when using it in the parks (more on that next time).

Disney is currently testing new ways of scheduling your FastPass+ experiences.  At Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios they are giving you two groups of attractions, and you may choose 1 experience from Group A and 2 experiences from Group B.  This is going to be more limiting in that you would not be able to schedule Fastpass+ for both Test Track and Soarin’ at Epcot, nor Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Toy Story Mania at the Studios.

Also Read  Part Two, Magic Bands & My Disney Experience Part 2: How it works on Vacation

About Sarah Chapman

I am a long time Disney fan since I was hooked on Walt Disney World with my first trip in 1987. Since that time I’ve tried experiencing everything I can in the parks, with a total of 30 visits and counting (I’m always planning my next trip) to Walt Disney World—not to mention Disney Cruise Line and even (shhh!) Universal Orlando and Sea World. I’ve turned my Disney obsession into a profession helping others plan their magical vacations as a Dream Vacation Maker at LBAC Travel. I am a work at home mom to three wonderful boys, and each one has been properly indoctrinated with all things Disney. Walt Disney World is definitely our “Laughing Place.” Look for me on Facebook at Facebook.com/SarahLBAC for updates, discount announcements, tips, tricks and planning advice for your next vacation. You can also find me on Instagram (sarahdreamvacationmaker) and Pinterest (sarahlbactravel).