It’s not your mother’s Disney World anymore… Well, you can still scream your way through Space Mountain and it’s still just as much a Small World as ever – but Disney has certainly changed with the times when it comes to keeping up with technology.
With the recent launch of MyMagic+ and free wi-fi throughout the parks, those of us who never leave home without our smartphones or tablets will find them extra useful on our next Disney family vacation. Here are five reasons why:
1) Magic Bands really truly are magic. OK, well, maybe not – but when you can simply touch your wrist to your resort room door to open it instead of fumbling for a room key (or better yet, let your kids open the door with their magic bands), it feels like magic. Magic Bands also act as your park ticket, fast passes, dining reservations, and if you put a credit card on file you can also simply scan your wrist to charge a purchase too.
Here’s an extra useful safety tip that I learned recently – teach your kids that if they get lost while you’re at the parks, a) find a Cast Member if possible, or b) scan their Magic Band at the closest ride or attraction and stay there. The bands can’t be tracked, but it’s possible to see where they’ve last been scanned. That’s what any Cast Member will do now if they find a lost child that has a Magic Band on. Right now you can only personalize the inside of your Magic Band with an 8-character name or nickname, but I’d love to see the ability to put parents’ contact information inside of kids’ Magic Bands too.
2) The myDisneyExperience site and app keep all of your Disney vacation plans in one easy place – your resort and dining reservations, fast passes, park tickets, and more are all accessible with a click or finger swipe. You use the site to sign up for your fast passes now too. And when you open the app inside one of the parks, you can see an interactive map that shows exactly where you’re located in the park so you can easily find your way to wherever you’re trying to go, or find the nearest restroom when your kid suddenly needs to go “right now, Mom!”
3) Disney PhotoPass has been incorporated into myDisneyExperience as well so all of your PhotoPass pics are right there. Any time you have a shot taken by a Disney PhotoPass photographer, they’ll just scan your
Magic Band to link the photo(s) with your account. The same goes for those pics that get taken on rides too – just have your Magic Band scanned at the photo booth when you get off the ride and your scream stays frozen in time right inside your account. There are many ways you can use your PhotoPass photos, but if you want unlimited downloads of all of them, the Memory Maker option is the way to go (there are some limitations in terms of timing with this, so check for details on this before you leave for your trip if you think you want to purchase it).
4) Fast passes have been replaced by FastPass+, which eliminates having to feed tickets into those kiosks and carry around paper, and now allows you to schedule 3 fast passes ahead of time (up to 30 days in advance if you have park tickets, or up to 60 days ahead of time if you’re staying at a Disney resort). Once you use all three, you can add one more at a time each day as you use each previous fast pass (as of May 2014). Plus, FastPass+ service also now includes some Character Greetings, shows, parades and fireworks. If you need to change something while you’re on-the-go, you can do that either in the myDisneyExperience app, at your Resort Concierge or at one of the many FastPass+ kiosks in the parks.
My favorite part of the new FastPass+ combined with the Magic Bands is that all you have to do to check to see if your FastPass time has arrived is to scan your Magic Band at the FastPass entrance to the ride or attraction. If the Mickey shape lights up green, you’re good to go. If not,
then you know you haven’t hit your FastPass window yet. Seeing that Mickey light up green makes you feel like you’ve got a secret key or something into the ride and is an easy way to amuse little kids too.
5) Did I mention the FREE wi-fi? Everywhere? Yes, with all of this new tech, Disney understands that we need to stay connected, so they now offer free wi-fi in all parks and resorts. So not only can you check the myDisneyExperience map whenever and wherever you need to, but you can also easily keep your family and friends up-to-date on your favorite social networks in real time as well.
For those who are either tech-challenged or prefer to live a low-tech lifestyle, you can still use paper maps at every park (my kids still love to carry and check those). But you can’t really escape all of the technological improvements at Disney, and in my opinion, why would you want to, when they make your vacation so much smoother in so many ways?
Have you used MyMagic+ at Walt Disney World yet? I’d love to hear about your experience with it!