From the days when Walt himself was at the helm, Disney has always been at the forefront of using new and innovative technologies in their parks.
Within the last few years, one of the largest incorporations of new tech has been the introduction of MagicBands.
Sure, those brightly colored bands with Mickey's head on them are cute, but they also serve some very important functions while vacationing at Walt Disney World.
Here's what you need to know.
UPDATE 6/19/2020: Complimentary MagicBands discontinued for reservations beginning 1/1/2021 and forward
Disney has stated that on-site resort reservations with arrivals beginning on 1/1/2021 and later will no longer include a complimentary MagicBand.
Instead, the My Disney Experience app will be updated to include functionality that the MagicBand currently provides.
Guests that would like to continue to use MagicBands will still have the opportunity to purchase discounted bands with their on-site resort reservations and MagicBands will continue to be sold at retail locations and on the shopDisney.com website.
How do MagicBands work?
Magic. Clearly. It is even in the name.
Ok, it isn't magic at all. It is a technology called RFID or Radio Frequency IDentification.
Incorporated inside your band are what amounts to 2 different types of antennae: a long-range one and a short-range one.
The short-range one is what interacts with touch points, like the Mickey heads at the entrance of the parks and the FastPass+ lines.
The long-range one is what is used to track guests for everything from crowd trends to ride photos.
Looking for more details?
Gizmodo has a fantastic article that breaks it down way better than we ever could!
How much do MagicBands cost?
If you are an onsite guest or an Annual Passholder, you receive one of the solid colored bands for free! (Note: beginning for reservations with arrivals on 1/1/2021 and later, complimentary MagicBands will no longer be available).
Looking for something a little bit more individualized?
You'll also have the option to upgrade to one of the "premium" options available.
When upgrading you'll receive a $14.99 credit (which is the cost of a solid colored band) making most of the upgrade band options about $10.00 out-of-pocket.
If you are staying offsite and you'd still like a MagicBand, you can buy one in the parks (they are sold in nearly every store), or you can even order one ahead of time from the Disney Store online.
When do I get my MagicBands?
For onsite resort stays, your bands typically ship about 3-4 weeks out from your trip.
Sometimes it's a little less, but 3-4 weeks is a good number to keep in mind.
If you're trying to keep the trip secret, you'll be happy to know that the box arrives without anything on the outside to indicate the happiness that is on the inside.
What else might I find in the box?
Sometimes you'll find other things inside the box.
If you booked a package (room and tickets or room and tickets and dining) your complimentary luggage tags and your "magical extras" (mini golf vouchers, etc.) will also be inside of the box.
And, if you are receiving your Annual Passholder MagicBand you'll find your complimentary "Annual Passholder" slider inside.
What if I live out of the United States?
MagicBands aren't shipped outside of the United States, but don't worry - you still get them!
Instead of them arriving in the mail, you'll pick them up at the front desk of your resort.
What if I book a last minute trip?
If your trip is more than about 10 days away, Disney will likely still mail you your bands. If, however, there isn't enough time to mail them, they will be available for you to pick up at the front desk of your resort.
MagicBands and Magical Express
If you plan on taking Magical Express, you'll need to make sure you carry your bands with you and not pack them in your suitcase because Cast Members will need to scan them before you board the bus.
International travelers and those that forgot their bands, etc., will need to visit the Magical Express desk at the airport before getting in line.
To speed up the process of locating your Magical Express reservation, it is recommended that you have your Walt Disney World Resort confirmation paperwork/email with you.
What all can my MagicBand do?
It can be used to:
- Unlock the door of your Walt Disney World Resort hotel room
- Enter any of the Disney World theme parks and water parks
- Redeem FastPass+ reservations
- Charge items to your resort room (only if staying onsite)
- Redeem Disney Dining Plan credits (only if staying onsite)
- Link PhotoPass images to your account
Do I need one?
Almost everything that you can do with a MagicBand you can do with a ticket, and now guests can even use their phones to enter their resort rooms.
But, there is one thing that you can only do with one: ride videos.
Both Tower of Terror and 7 Dwarfs Mine Train record actual video of you on the attraction; however, those ride videos are only available to guests with Memory Maker and a MagicBand.
If you don't have a band you're still able to get ride photos, but you'll need to scan your ticket at the Mickey head touch points outside of the rides to attach them to your PhotoPass account.
Guests with MagicBands, however, don't need to scan anything as their MagicBand sends a signal that is used to pair your photos to your PhotoPass account.
Is my information safe?
Yes - because very little information is stored directly on the band itself.
No financial information is stored on your MagicBand. In fact, no personal information at all is stored on the band at all.
Instead, Disney describes the process as "each band being assigned a random code that securely links to an encrypted database."
And, since each band also has a personalized PIN number attached to it, that adds another level of protection.
Want more information on the privacy and safety aspects? Check out the official Disney World website.
Do I need to carry my ID with me?
Disney makes it seem like you'll be able to handle everything with just your MagicBand.
Want to buy something? SCAN YOUR MAGICBAND!
Need into your room? SCAN YOUR MAGICBAND!
Want Mary Poppins to clean your house? SCAN YOUR MAGICBAND!
(We made that last one up.)
And, while that is true for most things, it isn't for everything.
Unfortunately even Disney World requires IDs sometimes - like if you want to purchase alcohol.
Yep. If you want to "drink you way around The World" you're gonna need an ID.
Planning on using your Annual Pass for discounts?
You're gonna need an ID.
And, while it is true that you can pay for most things with your MagicBand, system errors aren't unusual and you'll be left high and dry and unable to buy that churro and adult beverage if you don't have some backup cash or card on you.
We hate seeing sad faces at Disney World - especially adults sad because the scanners are down and they can't get that frozen Grand Marnier slushy drink thingy in France.
Do not be that person. Bring your ID. And some cash and maybe even a backup credit or debit card.
Do they have kid sizes?
One of the super cool things about the design is the ability to adjust the size.
For children and people with small wrists, you can remove the outer section to create a smaller-sized band.
Something to keep in mind is that once you pull that outer layer off you can't reattach it so make sure you're positive that's what you need to do before you do it!
What happens if I lose it in the parks?
First - if you lose it while on vacation at Disney World we highly recommend you report it missing as soon as possible.
In addition to reporting it lost, you also need to go into the MagicBands and Cards section of My Disney Experience (either via the app or online) and deactivate it.
You can also ask Cast Members at Guest Relations or at your hotels Lobby Concierge to deactivate it for you, too.
Selecting "LOST" in My Disney Experience also deactivates it.
It seems like Disney used to be more generous when replacing lost MagicBands. Now, they say the replacement of lost bands is handled on a "case by case basis."
You can always, however, purchase a new band and use that if you need to.
Can I reuse an old one?
Yes! Whether your next trip is onsite or offsite you can reuse old bands until the battery dies (which Disney has said is about 3 years).
Can I have more than 1 MagicBand active at a time?
Think back to the olden days when people had landline phones in their home.
Most people with landlines had multiple phones in their house - maybe they had one in the living room and one in the kitchen, etc.
When somebody called your home phone number - all of your phones would ring at once.
Just like you can have multiple phones all connected to the same landline number, you can have multiple active MagicBands connected to the same profile at once, too.
Is there a maximum number of MagicBands I can have active at one time
Disney doesn't say but we can tell you that people we know that have lots and lots of active MagicBands (think 10+) run into more issues with them than those that don't.
The most common problem we have heard of involves bands not working to open up resort doors, which is why we always recommend you test everybody's bands on your resort room door on your arrival day.
Are they waterproof?
Yes! Which is a good thing since it rains a lot in Florida.
Can I customize my MagicBand I get when I book at room at a Disney World resort?
You have lots and lots of options, both free and ones that cost a little extra.
Note: No matter whether you choose a free MagicBand or one of the premium options you are able to add a name to the back of it.
When you stay onsite you'll get the option to choose your MagicBand color (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, or grey).
Premium MagicBand options
Guests staying onsite (as well as new Annual Passholders) also have the option to pay to upgrade to a band featuring characters and designs.
The cost to upgrade will be the retail price of the specialty MagicBand less a $14.99 discount, with most bands running around $10.
There a more than 30 different options available, so pretty much something for everyone.
All of that customization is done inside of My Disney Experience.
Are there other was to customize your band?
Try swapping the pucks
You can also swap out the puck in the middle with other bands to make fun color combinations:
Give MagicKeepers a try
Hate wearing things on your wrist? You can get a MagicKeeper puck holder like these:
Another cool way to customize your Magicband is by using skins which are basically super-adhesive stickers that go right over the top of the band itself.
Our favorite MagicBand decals come from MagicYourBand.com.
They have a huge collection of options, plus, you can even create your own customized decals.
Even more ideas
Another great place to find unique items for customizing your MagicBand is Etsy. A simple search for MagicBand returns tons of different options including decals and puck holders.
Can I give my band to somebody else to use for their trip?
Nope. Once a MagicBand is assigned to you it is always assigned to you. There isn't any way to re-assign it to somebody new.
What are limited/special edition MagicBands?
You may want to sit down for this:
Disney sells ultra-cute limited edition MagicBands.
Seriously, some of the bands available are very cute and if you are a frequent visitor they are a great way to highlight some of your favorite things in the parks!
Want to see all the different MagicBands that have been released?
MagicBandCollectors.com is the spot to go.
MagicBands and special effects
If you are a DVC owner or if you have one of the limited edition MagicBands, you may get a little treat when scanning your band at some Mickey head touch points.
Usually when a band is scanned at the touch points the Mickey head will turn green, but some of the special bands activate different colors or color combinations and some even have audio attached.
Video: Unboxing MagicBands
There you have it! Lots and lots of fun information all about MagicBands. Did we forget to answer any of your questions? Let us know in the comments.