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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A "Band" New Day: Disney Magic Bands


Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.



Disney's Magic Bands ®
I'm hopping up and down because my Disney Magic Bands have arrived for my upcoming vacation. The bands are literally the tickets/passports to Disney vacations.

As a Disneyite, I am still rooted in reality and I can certainly tell you the negative side of a Disney vacation: cost, crowds, long lines and the fact that if you dare to go on "it's a small world ®," I can almost guarantee that the song will annoy you by staying in your brain for at least 24 hours (that, and the mystery of the long 60 minute wait for "Peter Pan's Flight®." It's a cute ride and all, but I liked Universal's "E.T. Adventure ®" better.) It's also advisable to get your spot for the parades almost an hour in advance. One holds the spaces while the others get ice cream or go to the restroom.


But, Disney is a master of creating entertainment that involves the whole family and under the seemingly sticky sweet persona is a shrewd business that is one of the largest employers in the world, especially Florida. This keeps people coming back year after year. They treasure their repeat customers and so they are always retooling and refining themselves. Enter one of their newest projects: the Magic Bands.

The Magic Bands are waterproof wristbands with a chip inside that can function as your admission ticket, your annual pass, your hotel key if you are staying in a Disney resort, your "credit card" in Disney (if you are at a resort) and also, your FastPass+. Huh?

Disney's All Star Resort: The Bands are your hotel keys
When we were younger, you never knew how long you may have to wait for rides Theme parks later installed wait time clocks, based on their assessment of how long a person would reach the ride itself. Later, parks realized they could make more money by charging for the privilege of "skipping the lines." "FastPass" (by various names in many theme parks) involves reserving a spot at your favorite ride to avoid the long lines at the more popular attractions.
Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom): Stand by and Fast Pass entrances

Disney never charged for its FastPass. However, for some reason they decided to revamp its system. (They take a lot of surveys of guests and this must have been one of the chief complaints). An employee tipped us off to it last year: he had just been to a presentation and hinted something new was coming with the FastPass system and the entry tickets.  

In the past, you went to the FastPass kiosk at the particular ride you wanted, inserted your admission ticket and received another ticket for the reservation. To avoid clogging up the system, only a certain amount of reservations would be issued for an attraction per day and you could only get one every few hours. Your FastPass ticket told you when you could get another FastPass. We would plan which attractions were worth waiting on line for and which ones we would need to get a FastPass for and plan our day around that and the shows schedules (parades and such).
Lights, Motors, Action stunt show (Hollywood Studios)
Now, you can actually book your spot in line at the more popular attractions in blocks of more than one attraction (you pick from "groups"). Disney has lumped certain rides together in packages like the Rockin' Roller Coaster and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (along with two others). You book the time you want and then plan the rest of your day. You are allowed to book FastPass times 30 days in advance.

If you choose to book your FastPass times at the park, they are currently installing new kiosks. Some are up and running and some areas have cast members (employees) with iPads to help you reserve your spot. You click and swipe and voila, you have your reservation.

FastPasses are not just for rides. You can use them for character greetings and shows. I would not use them for "The Little Mermaid" in Hollywood Studios, but I could understand a family with antsy children not wanting to stand in line for 20-30 minutes. 
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Magic Kingdom): FastPass worthy for the kids

In the FAQ's, Disney anticipated the question about spontaneity. You can still simply show up at the park and stand in line if you want. Wait times are still posted.

My issues: you have to actually think about what you may want to do far in advance; weather may shut down a ride at the time you want; if you don't book in advance and you try to do it at the park, the ride you want may not be available early. For a popular attraction such as Toy Story Midway Mania, the massively popular game where you ride and shoot at targets, this can be 90-120 minutes (no lie). Finally, the most popular attractions are in one group and you can only choose one. For example, in Epcot, Soarin' and Test Track are in the same group (hint: pick Soarin').

So, how do you get a Magic Band? Well, you simply either stay at a Disney resort and/or purchase an admission. To do that, one should create an account at disneyworld.disney.go.com. Many people really plan their trip in advance and you can purchase your tickets way ahead (as opposed to the rest of us who hop in the car or on a plane and hope for the best). Once you have purchased your ticket, the fun begins. Choose your color (so that each family member can keep track). Instead of an actual ticket you will receive a Magic Band in the mail. A series of emails will pump up your anticipation (along with the one that tells you your band has shipped).

For those who may choose to purchase your ticket at the park, you can upgrade your paper ticket for a Magic Band for @12.95.

So, how will it work? I'm going in mid-July and I'll let you know!


Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.