In August 2013, a Cast Member friend invited us to test the new MagicBand/Fastpass+ system at Walt Disney World. Here is my first article sharing our MagicBand test. My second article, titled “My Thoughts on MyMagic+, Using MagicBands for Fastpass+” has been pinned far and away more times on Pinterest than any other article I’ve written. Our first video showing how MagicBands work has surpassed 134,000 views!
Here is our first MagicBand video from August:
Over 5 months have passed since our initial test, and paper Fastpasses (or “Legacy Fastpasses” as Disney now coins them) have been phased out at Walt Disney World. Guests with Walt Disney World resort reservations can choose 3 attractions per day up to 60 days in advance. After our resort stay in August, we were able to use Fastpass+ ahead of time until we purchased our new (bi-coastal) Premier Annual Passes in December. At that point, our Annual Passes were no longer attached to our MyMagic+ experience, making us day visitors – we were able to pick 3 attractions per day on the day-of only. It is definitely a much different experience, needing to rely on the kiosks and not our phone (a Cast Member offered to put our Premier Passes back into the system last week, so we can now book ahead again if we choose).
Guests visiting Walt Disney World will find their Fastpass experience very different than even 6 months ago. We have friends who used to utilize Fastpass all day long, and currently they will be limited to 3 per day. That “magic number” of 3 may change sometime in the future, as Fastpass+ is tweaked. Fastpass+ is still considered a test. Most attractions are part of the Fastpass+ system, where fewer were with legacy Fastpass.
Here is our Mousesteps Weekly YouTube Show with MagicBand testing from August:
We did stop using the MagicBands themselves months ago. Our Premier Annual Passes are our admission into the parks and into the attractions for our Fastpass+ experiences. I personally find having the card much easier and more convenient (except if swimming at a resort we are staying at, the band is beneficial for that). Since our first test, we also stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for a night – picking up a second pair of MagicBands – and the Walt Disney World Swan, which is also testing their guests at tables in the parks for day-of reservations.
A few tips:
– Familiarize yourself with MyMagic+ before you leave for your vacation. Right now, only Walt Disney World resort guests are able to book up to 60 days ahead, but we were told that everyone will be able to book in advance eventually (I am not sure how that would work without valid ticket media). Making Fastpass+ changes can be cumbersome – it isn’t difficult, but there are quite a few steps if you want to change experiences and/or times. The more familiar you are, the quicker and easier it will be once you arrive.
– Make reservations for the middle of the day. We watched guests enter Spaceship Earth at 8:00 p.m. through the Fastpass+ queue last night when there was a 2 minute line for walk-up. With the current 3 Fastpass+ reservations per guest, it’s good to make them count. There are some attractions that can get busy early in the day – Spaceship Earth does draw guests in the morning, because it is the first attraction they see. But I wouldn’t use a Fastpass+ reservation for it at 9:00 a.m., and I would definitely not book one for the end of the day – it is almost always a walk-on by late afternoon/early evening.
– There can still be waits. We rode Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom yesterday with Fastpass+, and there was an outside Fastpass+ line before we even entered the queue. The standby line was only 15 minutes, which wasn’t much different than our wait. But in most instances, Fastpass+ has saved us quite a bit of time.
– Use your phone instead of the kiosks if you can. During the month we utilized the day-of passes, it could sometimes be a little frustrating to find open kiosks. The Magic Kingdom especially had quite lengthy lines a little over a week ago, the worst being the kiosks at Philharmagic. That day, the Heritage House was the least visited at the times we walked by (Storybook Circus was a little busy, but not the 20+ minute wait we were told Philharmagic was). We actually went into City Hall with no wait upon arrival for our first kiosk visit. I use the same principal I use for restrooms – if one is busy, then keep moving to the next.
Here is our experience as day guests with Fastpass+, in Mousesteps Weekly #85:
When we started using our MagicBands in August 2013, lines for the handful of kiosks scattered around the parks were almost non-existent. That has changed. Kiosks and Cast Members are being added, and we found Disney’s Hollywood Studios the most impressive park in the past few week in terms of how many Cast Members were on hand to help. They were stationed at the front of the park, and Sid Cahuenga’s is also now a service center (we were afraid the theming would be lost, but it actually looks great – and Sid’s does still sell some merchandise).
Even with all the resorts and day guests now using Fastpass+, we found nearly every attraction available to us as “day of” guests. There wasn’t as much time availability as if we’d booked a day or more earlier, but few attractions were completely unavailable – even on a fairly busy day.
Fastpass+ is still in testing phase – it isn’t always perfect, but it can be a very convenient way to be able to make and modify ride reservations while on the go. One of my favorite aspects of it is changing ride times from the phone after enjoying an attraction. Some rides are harder to modify – like Peter Pan’s Flight, which almost always has a wait. But on our last Magic Kingdom visit, we were able to condense several rides into less than 2 hours. On our phone, you’ll see that it says “Time Overlap”. We rode Peter Pan’s Flight at 2:50 p.m, then moved our Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh time to 3:15 p.m., and then moved our Jungle Cruise to 3:30 p.m. Peter Pan was the only attraction that could not be moved to a current time (and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ended up only having a 15 minute wait.)
Since my last article, Epcot did make it where guests can only choose one Fastpass+ from the first group of attractions (like Soarin’, Maelstrom, and Illuminations), and then the other two attractions chosen are mostly from attractions nobody wants to ride or rarely have a line (like Captain EO, Journey Into Imagination, and The Seas With Nemo and Friends). I am not sure who will choose Maelstrom over Soarin’ unless they absolutely have to, I wouldn’t put them in the same category. But the separate categories are closer to how Fastpass+ was in Cast Member testing in December 2012, we were invited to that as well. It will be interesting to see if and when all parks follow suit.
The best part of Fastpass+ for me is that we often aren’t in the parks long enough to wait for a regular Fastpass. Now, if we want to ride Peter Pan (or Toy Story Mania, Space Mountain, etc.), we can check before we leave the house to see if the attraction is available. And it will be the same for guests on vacation. Guests currently staying at Walt Disney World resorts can book ahead, and enjoy breakfast at their resort (or sleep in) if they choose to instead of running to the park to get an early Fastpass for their favorite attraction.
I do get asked often if I would rather have Fastpass+ over more attractions – definitely not. I would rather see new attractions, new Epcot pavilions, new E-ticket rides (or C-ticket rides!) New attractions in each park would make it less necessary for guests to need Fastpass. But Fastpass+ has some great benefits, and it’s nice to have good WiFi in all the parks – that might not have happened as quickly otherwise (and it saves me money on a more expensive phone plan).
It was announced in the past week that Annual Passholders are starting to be added into the system – not all to begin with, but that hopefully will happen soon!