MagicBands and Blips

I’ve been apprehensive to write anything about MagicBands on the blog since my last two trips to WDW. Why? It feels like everything has been said. In such a vast blogosphere with people frequenting the parks all the time, there didn’t seem like much for me to contribute.

Magic Bands during January 2014 trip

The MagicBands are certainly here to stay. Do I love them? Not exactly. I’m not a fan of wearing something else on my wrist unless I have to. (Now I feel pressured to have my clothes semi-sorta match the color of my Band.) Did I think they were convenient? At times, definitely. For someone like me who carries a purse to the parks, it was so nice not to have to dig around and seek out my room key. The same was true when I was buying small items at the gift shop like postcard stamps. It saved time and I wasn’t scrambling for a card wrapped in a receipt from two days ago.

So two months since our trip, how am I really feeling? Here are a few main points:

→ Since we had non-park hopper tickets, using the FP+ was useful. We didn’t feel bad about switching parks and missing out on something. One instance still bothers me: a quiet day in Epcot where we were still glad we used our FP+ for Soarin’ but felt like the other two were wasted. There was no wait time for anything except Test Track — the only attraction we didn’t make it onto.

My hope is, at some point, when we use all 3 of our FP+ opportunities and a certain amount of time passes by, we can elect to book something else.

→ My fear that my phone addiction is only going to grow because of the importance of having your Smartphone handy to change FP+ times, book reservations, look at wait times, and generally have your whole trip available for customization on your phone. I’ve talked about how much trouble I have shutting myself off from “the world” when I’m on a trip, especially because I want to share pictures with all of you but it’s doomed to intensify. Luckily (?), the WiFi connection was pretty poor the last time we were in town and I kept getting a lot of “errors” using the My Disney Experience app so I relied on James to navigate the technology but… ugh.

Error on MDE app January 2014

One detail that bothers me so much is the belief that Smartphones are no longer seen as a luxury and instead, are deemed a necessity. I have one very good friend who likes to be “off the grid” and as a solo traveler, she would have to upgrade her phone for her return to Florida. And then there’s my dad who still  uses his flip phone and will have to rely on my mom (who I love but who is known for pressing a lot of buttons) for any changes they have to make during their upcoming trip. (They haven’t been happy about these “extras” a.k.a. the new reality of the parks, even in the planning stages.)

The reliance on your phone for all the new features makes it pretty impossible to have an unplugged vacation.

→ Let’s talk pre-planning. We all lead these super-crammed busy lives, and I don’t know about you but after eight hours of work, time at the gym, dinner, and writing — I’m zonked and my brain is not fit for working too well. So having to decide what attractions I would feel like going on months and months before I even step on a plane? No. I just don’t love it. (For the record, I’m also not a fan of parties where I need to choose my entree before I get there. How do I know what I’m going to be hungry for so far in advance?)

Working with the MDE app and the website and planning from home actually made me care less about what we were doing. I felt a little complacent because it’s hard to get excited about planning something so particular about your trip when you have to wake up at the crack of dawn and ride on a super crowded subway to work. You could argue that planning a little bit here and there before you go is actually fun and builds your excitement… but I feel that way about reservations and choosing a hotel. Not an attraction, or a night show.

This is something I’ve been concerned about since the FP+/MagicBands phenomenon was announced. Every day my life is so scheduled (and I still end up late for everything). Why would I want to go on vacation, escape from the hustle and bustle of life and find more of the same waiting for me?

As a guest who travels to the parks twice a year (sometimes more), it’s imperative for me to practice patience. I know there will be many changes to the system before it’s the way it will be for good. (Even then, I’m sure there will be tweaks as the years go on.) But I feel bad for new folks coming down to the parks that have to finagle through the bugs, the veterans who just want to go on a damn trip and keep getting errors when they log into their MDE, and even for all of the attraction entrances that have been “enhanced” with a FP+ entryway. (It makes it all look a bit more cartoonish, don’t you think?)

I appreciate that Disney is moving forward with their technology and adapting to new lifestyle. It’s a risk because people (like me, maybe like you) are afraid of change, whether it be physical or emotional. Bottom line is: we don’t want anything to complicate the downtime we have saved our hard-earned dollars for or we have been wistfully awaiting because we desperately need some time to recharge.

Let’s be real. I’m open to MagicBands and FP+ experiences because I have to be. If I want to continue visiting this place that has filled with me joy and brought me solace, that holds so many of my memories, I have to accept that this is the future of our parks. But it doesn’t mean I can’t help but hope for something more.

7 thoughts on “MagicBands and Blips

  1. I agree with you about all this technology. I’m planning a trip in May, and it will be my first one since the advent of MDE and Fastpass+ and all that jazz. I don’t mind committing to restaurants in advance because I know where I like to eat and that no matter what I find myself in the mood for that day, I can find something I want on a menu. But if I had to pick my entree this far in advance…no thanks. It’s the same for me with this fastpass+ nonsense. I am feeling a lot of frustration that I have never felt before while planning a Disney trip because I don’t like this idea of locking myself in so much. We are pretty laid back WDW tourists and are going with our toddler for the first time on this trip, and I will also be 2 months away from having a baby. I have NO IDEA what we will want to do day to day and I resent that I basically have to choose something or else risk the possibility of losing the opportunity to have this technology work in my favor at all. I appreciate your honest review. Fingers crossed that this evolves into something a little better.

  2. I was part of the test group last September for on-site guests at Pop Century and was very apprehensive about it. Certain conveniences were a pleasant surprise, like our Magical Express reservations being connected and not having to dig around in my carry on for our voucher. I didn’t have any issues changes reservations in the parks, or experience any malfunctions which was great.
    That being said, I’m not a fan of the Fastpass+ restrictions, or the tiered attraction system. I also think it’s crazy to have to get a new MagicBand every time you book a trip, that seems like an awful waste of money on Disney’s part to manufacture them. Once you have one connected to your account, you should be able to add new tickets to it, and just request a new one when it bites the dust or gets lost like you would with a credit card.
    With any new technology there are sure to be some headaches and plenty of changes along the way so I’m just going to make the best of them!

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Even though “it’s all been said,” I still love to hear everyone’s individual thoughts on things. We’re all different!

    I’m nervous that for my next trip to the world, things aren’t going to be as great magic-band wise as they were when we went in October. We didn’t have any complaints and we honestly loved them! Were we just too lucky? Is everything going to be a mess? My parents are traveling with us in May, and it’s probably a good thing, because I know they would be completely overwhelmed figuring out FP+ on their own.

    My aunt took my cousins to WDW last fall for their first trip and they didn’t have any issues with FP+, but my aunt is semi-tech savvy. I don’t think first timers will be as confused as I originally thought. She had more trouble with the dining plan 🙂

  4. I think it is not possible for me to agree with you more and you’ve very eloquently articulated how I feel about the MDE and magic+ roll out.

    Oddly enough, I found on my trip in January that for the first time in forever, I didn’t book dining reservations and I didn’t really use fastpass+. I didn’t like not being able to change my mind at the last minute, or use one in Epcot and one in Hollywood Studios, so I just skipped it entirely. I need some unstructured fun on vacation!

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