Magic Bands & My Disney Experience Part 2: How it works on Vacation

Magic Bands & My Disney Experience

Part 2:  How it works on Vacation

The Magic Bands become your lifeline on your Walt Disney World vacation.  If you have stayed in some all-inclusive resorts you have an idea of how this works.  Once you check in, these act as your room key, theme park admission, charging privileges, dining plan credits, FastPass+ tickets, and more in the future.

The experience starts with Disney’s Magical Express if you are flying in to Orlando.  Be sure to pack your bands where they are accessible upon arrival—whether you are flying or driving.  At MCO airport you can tap your band to check-in for your Magical Express ride to your resort.

Once you arrive at your resort you must check in to “activate” the magic in your Magic Bands.  If you didn’t have time to ship the bands they will be waiting for you at check-in.  The Cast Member should go over the details with you about how they work, and you will set up a 4 digit PIN number that you must enter any time you charge to the band.  When I checked in I was given a traditional Key to the World card “just in case,” but Disney is currently phasing those out and you will only get a Magic Band.

Now you’re off!  No matter where you use your band you will hear the new Cast Member catchphrase “Touch Mickey to Mickey.”  On your resort room door, the “un-turnstiles” at the parks, the point of sales locations, FastPass+ queues—everywhere—you will find a Mickey Head emblem.  To unleash the magic in your band you must touch the Mickey head on your band to the Mickey head in that location.  If everything works correctly it lights up green and you are set.  At the park entrances you will tap your band, and scan your fingerprint to get the green light.

Many people have been concerned about privacy with the bands and their RFID technology.  The RFID chip in the band gives out a signal with a number, so only the Walt Disney World readers can get any information from that number.  They have to be linked to the Disney computer system and then your number pulls up some of your information.  Another guest walking around with an RFID reader will not be able to get any personal information from the signal your band is emitting.

When you tap your band it does pull up some basic information about you—Cast Members at the FastPass+ return locations will often greet you by name and they know when your FastPass+ is scheduled if you are there at the wrong time.  In the future this will play a larger role as you will begin to see personalized experiences in attractions and character meet and greets.

While you are in the parks you may need to manage your My Disney Experience (MDX) account.  You have a few options to do this.  One is to use the MDX App on your smartphone.  This works, but it is frustrating.  On our recent trip I had multiple issues including very slow loading, changing a FastPass+ experience only to find out later it didn’t process completely, and draining my battery.  I was told by a Cast Member that if you switch off of the guest WIFI and on to your 3G or 4G network you can sometimes get it to function faster.  The solution to the last problem is to bring a portable charger into the parks with you.  There are some charging stations, but if you have a portable charger you are still able to tour.  I don’t know of a solution to the middle problem until they work out more of the bugs.

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Another option is to visit a Guest Relations location as they can assist you in making changes to your experiences.  And, there are locations in the parks with iPad kiosks where you can log in to your MDX account and make changes.  If you don’t have a smartphone you only choice is to wait in line for one of these options.

While in the World in late October I had no technical issues with our Magic Bands; in fact, I loved using them.  No more fumbling for my Key to the World card to enter my room, make my purchase, or enter the park.  It is incredibly convenient (aside from trying to manager my MDX account).  PhotoPass is also starting to transition to going on your Magic Band—I tapped mine a couple of times for photos and luckily they all showed up in my account.  And, my husband was able to upload his Test Track ride photo into our regular (non-PhotoPass+) account by tapping his Magic Band.

Always looking for a way to maximize your “experience” (and their profits), Disney has a line of accessories to let you personalize your Magic Band.  These include Cover Bands, Magic Band Its (like Jibbitz for the Crocs shoes), and Magic Band Sliders (large pieces that slide over the center of the band).  These range in price from $7-$16 and can be found in all of the resort gift shops.  These can be fun—I bought a set of the Cover Bands that represent different classic attractions (Haunted Mansion, it’s a small world, and The Enchanted Tiki Room) in a retro style.  The accessories do not inhibit the use of the Magic Band in any way.

And once you return home from your vacation your Magic Band still has some uses.  I was told by Cast Members that you can reuse your band on future trips—the battery life is a couple of years.  You can customize another color band for that future trip, but as long as they are all active in your MDX account you can use all of them.  So, you can collect a group and always have a matching color for your outfit.  Also, another fun “Easter Egg” is that your Magic Band works with the Disney Infinity video game.  Just place the band on the Infinity base and it unlocks a secret bonus when playing in Toy Box mode.  I really love that Disney went the extra mile with that one to incorporate the bands into the game.

Magic Bands are a great new technology that in the end will make our visits to Walt Disney World Resort easier and more convenient.  There are just a few bugs in the system that need to be worked out before it is completely smooth sailing.  They continue to tweak and adjust during this “testing phase,” and hopefully the end product will be even more amazing than we can predict right now.


Also Read: Part One Magic Bands & My Disney Experience: Know Before You Go

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).