MagicBands – Love ’em or leave ’em?

Today I have a guest post from my friend and former cast member, Jo Anne!  She has been an annual passholder, is a DVC member, and when we first met I thought she was a Disney fanatic (in a bad way.)  I still think she’s a Disney fanatic, but in a good way!  She used the new MagicBands in September and this is her review. 

Since this review took place during the test phase, things may have changed since then. Be sure to check Disney’s website for updates to policies and procedures.

In late October/early November we took a family vacation to Walt Disney World with family and friends to celebrate several birthdays (including my daughter’s first birthday.)  As DVC members, my parents stayed in a 1 bedroom villa and my family and our friends stayed in a 2 bedroom villa at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We were all super excited to find out we would be able to participate in the soft launch of the new Disney MagicBand program. Marketed as a colorful, all-in-one band that connects all of your vacation plans and reservations through My Disney Experience, we weren’t sure what to expect. My friend and I were super excited about the colorful bands and a free souvenir for the kids’ first trip to WDW.  However, our husbands were very cynical – they made comments about how Disney will know everything about us, can track us, help us spend money…but deep down they were excited too.

Once we were registered in My Disney Experience, I linked all of our ticket and dining information to our bands. I still brought my trusty spreadsheet, but I could see phasing this out now that I have this great tool.

I highly recommend taking the time to customize your MagicBands through My Disney Experience. We assigned a character to each person and had fun picking the colors of our bands. The packaging on them is amazing as well. We were so excited when we finally got them in the mail. If you don’t customize your band, you will be issued a gray one at the front desk when you check in. Boo…gray is so boring!

When we checked into our resort, we were flooded by MagicBand merchandise.

MagicBand Bandits and Sliders

MagicBand Bandits and Sliders

Of course Disney had tons of clever marketing around the bands and merchandise. There are T-shirts, character bling to decorate your bands, or covers you can put over them if you got a gray boring one at check in.

Band Together T-Shirt

Band Together T-Shirt

Bandits ($6.95-$8.95 per set) are actually the bling that clips into the holes, Magic Sliders ($12.95-$14.95 per set) slide onto your band and CoverBands ($6.95-$14.95 each) slide over your band to make them more decorative and more Disney-fied.

Magic Band Accessories

Throughout the trip we had a love them/leave them relationship with our bands. Here are some of our experiences.  Overall, I absolutely LOVED the MagicBand program. When shopping with the MagicBands, you align the Mickey on your band with the Mickey on their scanner and it lights up green. That’s it! You just spent some money, which we started calling “Lighting up some Mickey’s.”

MagicBand Scanner

MagicBand Scanner

Love Them

What makes them different from the old room key/ticket card? I guess it is all about the experience and a couple of other benefits that were not available with your Key to the World room key/card. On the old card you had your room key, tickets and charging privileges (which are also on your MagicBand) but you also get so much more!

  • Integrating the MagicBand with My Disney Experience lets you use your computer or the mobile app. This makes it super easy to make/change reservations, etc. One BIG new plus is you can book Fast Passes + through My Disney Experience months ahead or even up to the day you want to use them.
  • Each night after the kids went to sleep, we headed out to our balcony looking over the Savannah with a cocktail and planned the next day. We looked at any dining reservations we had scheduled and decided if we were going to go or not. If we decided we didn’t want to go, we could cancel right from the app.
  • We also looked at the attractions we wanted to visit and reserved our Fast Pass+.  This experience alone was awesome. The + is that you can book up to 4 Fast Passes for each day in each park. What makes this an experience is you pick your top 4 attractions and they give you up to 4 options on the order to use them.  For example, Option A is typical in a logical order that you would navigate through a park through Option D which could be picking specific times for specific attractions. We almost always opted for Option A.
  • Another not so obvious perk of the MagicBand program was quite apparent on pool days. Instead of having to hide the room key in my bag and keep an eye on it, I had it on my wrist. We were able to “Light up a Mickey” for cocktails and snacks making it safer and super convenient.

Leave Them

  • There are some downsides to the new MagicBand program. Luckily we didn’t experience this one first hand – as we were heading out for the day, we ran into a family was just coming back from the parks because their youngest son forgot his band and couldn’t get into the park. Major bummer for them…but it quickly made us double check our wrists before leaving for the parks.
  • Another downside was partly the fault of the resort and not the MagicBands, but it is still definitely a “leave them”. As I mentioned earlier, we had 2 separate families for a total of 7 people staying in our 2 bedroom villa. On our third day, our bands were declined when trying to purchase lunch at Animal Kingdom and we later found out that the resort had combined the charges for both families. They quickly separated them, but it was frustrating because this happened TWICE during our trip.  The restaurant was awesome about working with the resort to get our charging privileges back, but always keep some money on you in cash or a debit/credit card just in case.
  • My last “leave them” about the bands is the bling (Bandits). If you have something that you can accessorize I HAVE to do it, especially if there is something sparkly. But beware – at $6.95-$8.95 a set, these accessories easily pop off. I lost 3 in the week we were down there. (A fun tip is the front desk gave us a free glow in the dark 2013 slider to add to our band.)

In short, we love the conveniences, but hope they improve the quality of the Bandits and recommend you always carry some back up cash or credit card just in case the front desk has a mix up. So will you love them or leave them?

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