FastPass+, MagicBands and My Disney Experience, Oh My!: Decoding Disney’s Massive Technology Overhaul

Lisa Fritscher May 2, 2014 No Comments


MagicBands serve as your link to all that Walt Disney World has to offer.

If you haven’t been to Walt Disney World for a while, you might be somewhat confused by the new alphabet soup. Replacing the hugely popular 15-year-old FastPass system, FastPass+ allows you to book rides in advance, before you ever set foot in the park. My Disney Experience embeds the FastPass + experience into an entire planning app and website that let you make changes on the fly, and MagicBands are an optional replacement for park tickets and room keys. Let’s break each piece down so you know what to expect on your next Disney trip. Note that as of April 2014, these changes only affect Walt Disney World in Florida, not Disneyland in California or any other Disney parks worldwide.


FastPass +
The heart of the entire system is FastPass+. Rather than going to individual attractions to collect FastPasses, you can book your return times in advance of your visit. How far in advance depends on your vacation package. Guests staying at an official Walt Disney World resort can book FastPass+ 60 days in advance. Guests staying offsite, including those who live in the area, can book FastPass+ 30 days in advance. However, you must have already purchased admission tickets in order to book FastPass+. If you wait to purchase tickets when you arrive at the park, then you can only book FastPass+ at that time.

As of April 2014, you can book 3 FastPass+ per day, and all 3 must be in the same park. If you park hop, or travel from one park to another in the same day, you cannot spread out your FastPass+ reservations among the parks. Disney has announced that they will add the ability to book more FastPass+ after the first three are used, and will allow those to be used at multiple parks. It is unknown at this time exactly when that feature will be added, and whether you can use My Disney Experience to make those changes, or whether you will have to visit a FastPass+ kiosk inside a theme park.

Note that FastPass+ sometimes uses a tiered system. Depending on the park you choose and expected crowd levels, you might be able to book FastPass+ for only one of the major headliner attractions. For example, at Epcot, you could book Soarin’ OR Test Track, but not both. This is dynamic and subject to change. You can also book FastPass+ for priority viewing for parades and evening shows, although the viewing areas are not always the best, and for character meet and greets. Each FastPass+ provides a one-hour ride time window. You can arrive at any time during that window, but may not arrive earlier or later.


My Disney Experience
My Disney Experience is the website and app that allows you to book all aspects of your Walt Disney World vacation. The first step is to create an account and link your park tickets to it. If you are staying in an official Walt Disney World resort, link that reservation as well. If you are traveling in a group, with multiple parties paying their own way, there is a place to send a link invitation by email. Link to everyone in your group so that you can make FastPass+ and dining reservations together. Don’t worry if not everyone wants to do the same things all the time. When making reservations or booking FastPass+, you will have the option to select which people will participate in any given experience.

To book dining reservations, click on “Make Dining Reservations.” Choose the date, time and number of people to search all available restaurants, or narrow your search by location. Note that most table service restaurants require a $10 credit card guarantee.

To reserve FastPass+, click on “Make Selections.” Choose the date and park, and then select three attractions. Note that if you choose less than three, the computerized system will assign additional attractions to you. After you make your selections, the system will generate three combinations of FastPass+ times. Choose the one that most closely matches your desired ride times. Confirm your selections and then, if desired, click individually on each ride time to modify it. You cannot have overlapping ride time windows, so modify your times in order according to the overall changes you want.

For example, when Dad and I went to Magic Kingdom to see the new Festival of Fantasy parade, we wanted to ride Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise as close as possible to the parade time. The parade started at 3:00 and ended around 3:15. The system assigned us a Haunted Mansion ride time of 1:50 to 2:50, a Jungle Cruise ride time of 3:25 to 4:25, and a Pirates ride time of 4:30 to 5:30. The Haunted Mansion ride time worked perfectly, but we did not want to sit around and wait for Jungle Cruise and Pirates. I modified the Jungle Cruise ride time first, backing it up to 2:55 to 3:55. Then I backed up Pirates to a new ride time of 4:00 to 5:00.

We entered the Haunted Mansion FastPass+ queue at approximately 2:15. After the ride, we had plenty of time to secure a good viewing area for the parade. After the parade, we headed directly to Jungle Cruise, arriving at around 3:40. That left us 20 minutes until our Pirates ride time, which we filled by having a Dole Whip float at Aloha Isle. We entered Pirates just after 4:00 and were on our way to Epcot shortly after.

Note that the My Disney Experience app is available for both iPhones and Android phones. The app provides all the functionality of the website, as well as such helpful information as constantly updated wait times and even GPS tracking through the park. The Here and Now section of the app uses the GPS to tell you exactly where the nearest restroom, character greeting spot and other important places are compared to where you are currently standing.

The app also allows you to change your FastPass+ reservations on the fly. For example, if you have a ride time that is about to expire, but you are stuck on the other side of the park, you can log into the app to change your reservation. You might keep the same ride, but rebook it for an hour later, or change to a ride that is closer to where you are.

If you don’t have a smartphone, or if you do not purchase park admission until you arrive, you can still use FastPass+ without My Disney Experience. FastPass+ kiosks are conveniently located throughout the four Walt Disney World theme parks, and can be used to make new FastPlass+ plans or modify existing ones.


MagicBands are an optional tool to streamline your experience. A lightweight rubber wristband with an RFID chip inside, the MagicBand replaces your park ticket. It can also replace Photo Pass cards and your Walt Disney World resort room key. It can store Dining Plan credits and even credit card information. For Dining Plan and credit card purchases, you must establish a PIN number either online or at your resort during check-in. For park admission, you must scan your finger as well as your MagicBand. These precautions ensure that you are the only one who can access your entitlements.

To scan your MagicBand, just hold it up to the Mickey head located at the park entrance gate, FastPass + attraction entrance, or anywhere else you want to use the band. Scan your finger or enter your PIN number as prompted. Mickey’s head will turn green, and you are all set. Don’t hesitate to ask a nearby cast member (employee) if you have any trouble at all.

Disney resort guests and annual pass holders can order one customized MagicBand per person at no charge. The bands are available in your choice of seven colors, and you can have your name printed inside. Offsite guests who do not have passes can purchase MagicBands for a nominal fee. If you prefer not to use a MagicBand, you may use your RFID-enabled park tickets as normal. If you have older tickets without RFID technology, you will need to exchange them at Guest Relations before entering the parks.


Advantages and Disadvantages
All the new technology makes planning a Walt Disney World vacation simpler in some respects and more complicated in others. For example, if you ever used the old FastPass system, you know that it could be a real pain to try to get FastPasses with reasonable return times for such headliner attractions as Soarin’ and Toy Story Midway Mania. Arriving at park opening was practically a necessity each day, as was staying late into the night when crowds thin.

FastPass+ allows you to tour the parks on your own schedule, by booking advanced reservations on high-demand rides. However, until Disney rolls out the capacity to book additional same-day FastPass+ reservations, particularly in multiple parks, the technology also limits your options. You must try to anticipate which park and attractions will have the longest waits, and therefore make the best use of your three reservations.

A key advantage to FastPass+ is that you can choose a specific ride time. Under the old system, whenever you pulled a FastPass, you were stuck with whatever ride time the machine assigned you. If it happened to be in the middle of a dinner reservation, or conflicted with a show you wanted to see, your only option was to come back later and hope for a better time. Now you can select the time that works best for you, and change it on the fly as your day progresses.


Tips for Parents
MagicBands consist of a piece of rubber in your chosen color encased in a larger piece of dark grey rubber. To make the band more comfortable for a child or an adult with small wrists, simply push the colored piece out of the dark grey casing and discard the grey piece. Test the fit first, by closing the band with both tabs in the colored strip, to ensure the band will be large enough to fit comfortably.

Disney sells a vast array of MagicBand add-ons that attach to the bands. These range from simple charms depicting characters to full printed sleeves that cover the entire band. Although some of them are adorable, it is easy to lose track of how much you are spending on customization, especially if you are paying with your MagicBand rather than cash or a credit card. If budget is a concern, consider setting a maximum dollar limit for customization and helping your kids lay out a cohesive design that fits your budget.

You can make FastPass+ reservations person by person, even though your family is all on the same account. For example, if you have a child too small to ride Space Mountain, one parent could schedule FastPass+ for Space Mountain with the older kids, while the other schedules It’s a Small World with the youngest. Alternately, if everyone wants to ride Space Mountain, the Child Swap system works as it always has. Book Space Mountain FastPass+ for everyone, and then approach a cast member outside the attraction for a Child Swap pass. If someone in your group is simply not into rides, there is nothing wrong with allowing someone else to use that person’s MagicBand for an extra trip through a favorite attraction. Just be sure to book the FastPass+ for the non-rider, and then loan the rider the band at the appropriate time.

avatarAbout the Author:

Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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