My son and I just returned from a 3 day trip to Disney World and we were able to test out our brand new MagicBands and FastPass+.
We did not use the old FastPass system because we wanted to just see how it would work with the new system.
Here’s how it went…
It seems like the default reaction online to all changes made in Disney theme parks is “ugh, we hate it!” but that isn’t how I normally think.
I don’t mind change and if there’s technology involved, I’m often super curious to see how it works.
And so I went into my trip with an open mind and excited to try something new.
My son and I had ordered our MagicBands online and they arrived about a month before our trip began and had them in our backpack on the plane.
We put our MagicBands on as we stepped off our plane at Orlando International Airport and used them for the very first time to check into Magical Express. It worked very easily and we were on the bus within seconds.
Our next chance to use the MagicBands was when we checked in at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Since I’d done online check-in, all of our info was at the desk and ready to go.
We scanned our MagicBands at the registration desk just to test them and they worked well. Within just a few minutes, we were off to our room (we paid for a Standard View room but got a Savannah View – pixie dust to start off our trip!).
Once we got to our room, my son wanted to use his MagicBand to enter but it wasn’t working easily so I scanned mine and got right in (we would later figure out that there’s a particular position to touch the band to the sensor that will make it work).
At this point, it was after 1 a.m. and, although we have never missed a rope drop, we had FastPass+ reservations for the following day and decided this was our chance to sleep in.
Day 1: Animal Kingdom, 2 character dining meals and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
We normally get to the bus stop at 8 a.m. but ended up there around 10 a.m. on our first park day.
We used our MagicBands to get into Animal Kingdom (no issues there – the only issue seems to be that people don’t understand that there are 2 scanners per lane so the line goes more slowly than it should) and then headed for our first FastPass+ reservation at Expedition Everest.
We proceeded to the FastPass return lane and scanned our MagicBands. We were ushered through and then asked to scan one more time before boarding. Many rides require that only 1 person in the party scan at the first sensors but everybody must scan individually at the second set of sensors.
We were finished riding within 15 minutes and rode some things nearby before proceeding to our next FastPass+ reservation.
Our next FastPass+ reservation was for Kilimanjaro Safaris and the FastPass line looked about the same size as the standby line. We were there during a time with very low crowds but it did seem like the FastPass lines were longer than normal, even compared to busy times that we’ve visited.
At that point, we had our lunch reservation at Tusker House. During lunch, I like to look at schedules and figure out what shows we want to see. We really wanted to see the Flights of Wonder show but it was hard to figure out how to do that with our FastPass+ reservation for Festival of the Lion King.
My son said “why don’t you just change the Lion King reservation so we can do both?” Obviously that’s 1 of the perks of FastPass+ but I’m not used to having that option and the ability to do it depends on availability.
So I opened up the app on my phone and was able to move the FastPass+ reservation to a later show. We finished up lunch by paying by MagicBand. The servers carry handheld scanners and can scan your info right at the table. These scanners don’t seem to work as reliably as others do and sometimes it took a little work to get it to scan but it eventually would do it.
We were able to head to Flights of Wonder and then to Festival of the Lion King.
Now, I was really curious how this would work at a show but excited to try them because this is my favorite show at Disney World.
We got to the theater and there was a separate area just for people with FastPass+ reservations. I heard people in line grumbling things like “are you kidding me?” because the line was so long but they may not have realized that the theater is big and the regular standby line was much bigger.
The FastPass+ return time for this show was a window between 5 and 25 minutes before the show begins. We were taken into the theater and ushered to some seats. Most people follow the Cast Member and load into 1 area but that loses the real benefit to this reservation.
The real benefit is to get into 1 of the first couple of rows (behind the handicapped rows) in 1 of the 4 sections of the theater and you don’t have to follow the Cast Member. If the section they’re pointing you to has filled up more than a couple of rows, walk to a new section and sit there. The first rows will give you the best views of the show.
After the show, we headed out to get our jackets at the hotel since we were going to be out late, then we had dinner at 1900 Park Fare at The Grand Floridian (paid with MagicBand) and on to Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
This event is a separate ticketed event that requires printed tickets and you’re given an armband that says you paid to be there. This is something separate from MagicBands and most people were wearing both at the same time.
Once inside the party, MagicBands aren’t needed much since there are no FastPasses issued (we walked on to everything except the recently revamped Jingle Cruise which had a fairly long line all evening) and the only reason we needed the MagicBands was to pay for things.
Day 2: Epcot and Hollywood Studios
So, if you are on the WDW Prep Facebook Page, you already know that I had some struggles during this trip with feeling sick.
This is something that has happened during my last two 3-day trips (my previous one was to New Orleans in October) and I don’t really understand it but it’s crippling nausea that disappears by about 1 or 2 p.m. each time.
The reason this is relevant to explain is that as I laid in bed feeling super sick, I was able to open the My Disney Experience app and change all of my FastPass+ reservations to later in the day. I’ve never felt sick on a Disney trip and I’ve never used FastPass+ but I was so glad to have the option.
This day happened to be my son’s 12th birthday and he had chosen to eat at Teppan Edo in the Japan section of Epcot for his birthday meal. Although I was still really sick, we made it there and had lunch (I told the server we were going to split an entree and then my son ate his half and then we switched plates and ate my half. I didn’t want to call attention to myself and this seemed to be the best way to do it).
After lunch, we strolled the World Showcase, buying things as Christmas gifts using our MagicBands and I started to feel much better which was great timing because our FastPass+ reservations were coming up.
We first headed to Soarin’, and once again this FastPass line seemed much longer than normal. We probably boarded in about 15 or 20 minutes. Not terrible but more than I expected.
We were able to walk on to anything we wanted while we waited for our Test Track FastPass+ reservation time (ah, the joys of visiting during a super non-busy time!), including Mission: Space which we actually did have a FastPass+ reservation for but the ride was a walk-on so we didn’t even scan our bands – we just got into the standby line.
This actually reminds of a tip that I hope people will use: if you arrive to a ride for a FastPass+ reservation and the line has a standby wait of 10 minutes or less, get into the standby line, open your app and change your FastPass+ to something else if you can.
We eventually did use our FastPass+ reservation for Test Track. MagicBands are used for the design phase of this ride and my son’s ridiculous, pink monstrosity was actually assessed as the “most capable” of all vehicles designed that day.
We ended up heading out for Hollywood Studios to see the Osborne Lights and Fantasmic! The lights were beautiful and I was insistent that we see Fantasmic! because every time I’ve tried to see it for the past couple of years, something has happened like bad weather to stop it.
So when we finally did get there on this night, the show started and just a minute or two in, it stopped. The images that are projected onto the water screens weren’t working so the show was completely shut down. After about 10 minutes or so, everything resumed and we were finally able to see a whole Fantasmic! show all the way through.
We left the park and headed back to Animal Kingdom Lodge for our late dinner reservation at Boma. We asked if we could check in early but they told us they were actually really busy so we could go to our room and they’d call us. That was super convenient and we ended up loving this restaurant so, so much. It’s definitely at the top of my list of favorite Disney World restaurants.
Day 3: Hollywood Studios and departure day
On our final day, we had the first half of the day to spend in a park and then the last half of the day to travel home.
Once again, nausea hit me. I was able to switch a FastPass+ to later in the day but decided to forge ahead since we only had a few hours anyway.
We first headed to Toy Story Mania for our FastPass+ reservation at 10:15 where the FastPasses were already completely gone for the day and standby was 90 minutes. The ride kept breaking down while we were riding it so we got lots of time to shoot at screens for no points.
And then we were off to use our Star Tours FastPass+ except that the standby was short so we just walked on instead.
And, finally, it was off to Rock ‘n Roller Coaster where we were able to use our FastPass+ about 5 minutes before the time of our reservation.
We decided to head out of the park and back to our resort where we’d be catching the Magical Express bus to the airport soon. I like to allow for lots of extra time since you never know how long the buses will take. We ended up getting right on to a bus so we were back to the resort very early.
We had a Quick Service lunch, got our bags out of luggage check and then took an earlier Magical Express bus than we were scheduled to.
A note about MagicBands and Magical Express: although they worked to get us checked in when we arrived, they weren’t used to get us on the bus to head home. The Magical Express tickets that are left in an envelope on your resort room door are what you need to board to go home.
Once at the airport, I tried to use my MagicBand to buy a snack. They are really just so convenient that it feels like a huge burden to have to pull out a credit card after leaving Disney World.
I did talk to the Cast Members at the Disney World store at the airport and they did say that MagicBands would work there eventually and that people would be able to use Disney Dining Plan snack credits to buy snacks within that store, giving you one last chance to use MagicBands before boarding the plane. At least then I won’t feel so crazy trying to use my MagicBand at the airport.
My overall thoughts
The MagicBands and FastPass+ were super, super convenient and fun to use. It really was nice to not have to run to get FastPasses, to be able to sleep in and to make changes on the fly.
However, this worked well for us because we could choose any FastPass+ reservations we wanted. There are currently tests being done at Epcot and Hollywood Studios that allow guests to only choose 1 of the top tier attractions (Soarin’, Test Track, Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, etc.) and then the other 2 have to be from a lower tier.
If that system ends up being adopted long-term (and it’s reasonable to think that it will), the ability to sleep in will go away because you’ll still need to be there early to ride the ride(s) you don’t have a FastPass+ for.
There are some good lower tier FastPass+ options like seating at Festival of the Lion King but mostly FastPasses aren’t needed for anything except for the top tier attractions.
I know this is a hot topic. What are your thoughts, concerns or feedback? Please share in the comments.
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