MyMagic+ Review: A Game Changer?

Buzz and I were finally able to reunite for Spring Break; after months of not seeing each other we were able to return to WDW our home away from home. And I’m sure that all of you would love to hear about all the details about our spring break, this article is actually regarding all things MyMagic+. When Buzz and I left after finishing our College Programs Disney was just beginning to test MyMagic+. And now almost a year later Disney has rolled out MagicBands, Fastpass+, and the My Disney Experience app. So Buzz and I decided that we were going to take on Magic Kingdom as full-on tourists.

See! We're Disneybounding tourists!

See! We’re Disneybounding tourists!

We booked a 2 night stay at Pop Century Resort, had a 1 day ticket to the Magic Kingdom, and customized our MagicBands ahead of time! About 2 weeks before our arrival date, Buzz received our MagicBands. However, because of her school and a little bit of miscommunication in the mailroom, the MagicBands were lost. I called Disney regarding the MagicBands, and they immediately sent out new ones and cancelled out our old ones. Funny enough the mail room found the first MagicBands an hour after we called to order our new ones.

Our MagicBands! They finally arrived :)

Our MagicBands! They finally arrived 🙂

A few days before our trip we decided to switch resorts from Caribbean Beach to Pop Century. Once again, Disney made this transition extremely easy and we were able to keep our MagicBands. We had done online check-in before we had arrived, which made check-in super quick and easy. Disney resorts no longer encode Key to the World cards, so everything is now on MagicBands when you are staying at a Disney resort. This includes charging privileges, room key, park tickets, photopass, and FP+. After we checked in we went to our room and dropped off our stuff— good news our MagicBands worked!

Once we left our room we headed over to Art of Animation to grab a quick bite and explore the resort. In terms of decoration, Art is definitely my favorite themed value resort; it’s a great place to walk around and you feel exactly how Disney wants you to, like you are in the movie with your favorite Disney Characters! And if y’all haven’t seen Art of Animation yet, I would definitely recommend heading over and just walking around the resort. After our stroll we decided to head to Downtown Disney. With all the new construction for the parking garage and the upcoming revival of DD into Disney Springs, it was difficult to find parking. However, once we did find a spot we checked out our favorite shopping district. Team Mickey had already been closed and was under refurbishment to become the new Marketplace Co-Op (click here about the new shops coming to Disney Springs). But all of our favorites were still there, yes Basin White, Earl of Sandwich, and Trend-D, I am talking to you!

Once we had sufficiently wiped ourselves out we headed back to the resort and decided to buy some refillable mugs. For those of you who don’t know, all the mugs on property and just regular cups as well, have RFID tags in the bottom. Meaning, the mugs and cups had chips at the bottom that the drink machines can read, allowing you to refill your mug/cup for a certain amount of time. We did have a few issues when we tried to buy the mugs. Apparently, buying a mug is a very technical process now. Once I reached the register I told the Cast Member I wanted to buy a 3-day usage for my mug, just an FYI it was about 10 at night. The Cast Member was a little distressed about this only because she wasn’t sure if by buying this option so late at night if the cup would work on our last day, so she made sure that I knew to keep my receipt in case anything happened.  I used my MagicBand to buy my mug and then went to fill it. Once I reached the drink station the machine kept telling me my mug was expired, which I knew wasn’t right seeing as how I just bought a few days for it. So I went back to the Cast Member where Buzz was waiting and the CM said that she forgot to code the mug. So she placed it on a sensor and coded it. Once I went back the mug was able to be refilled for another 14 days. I don’t know how that happened, and there isn’t an option to have the mug be refillable for 14 days so I just went with it. Funny enough the same thing happened to Buzz, but when she tried to pay for her mug it wouldn’t work. The CM forgot to set up a PIN for Buzz when we added her credit card on the transaction, and since I already had one set up mine worked, but she never had a PIN under her name before. So I bought the mug for her since we didn’t have our wallets with us because our MagicBands were our wallets at that moment.

Once we filled our mugs we went back to the front desk and set-up a PIN for Buzz. The Cast Member was extremely helpful and ensured us that there wouldn’t be any issues with our MagicBands and their PINs. I don’t blame the Cast Member’s at all because this is still an extremely new program and there are a lot of steps to take to ensure that every part of the MyMagic+ experience is seamless for guests.

The next day was our one and only day in the parks, and that day would be spent at the Magic Kingdom! We woke up mighty early and grabbed breakfast at the Pop Food Court, and went to the bus stop an hour before park open. When we arrived at the Magic Kingdom our bus stopped at the new MK bus stop. I just have to say it doesn’t look new at all, which I love it is themes exactly like the other stop, and there aren’t buses everywhere trying to get around each other which is fantastic. Anyways, I made sure we had our plastic tickets with us in case our MagicBands did not work. Luckily, we didn’t have any issues with entering the park with our bands and were able to get into the park far more easily than we would have with the old paper and plastic ticket machines.

We arrived so early to watch the Opening show, which in my opinion is totally worth getting to the park before opening.

park open 1 park open 2

Mary Poppins and Stitch? What an odd combination...

Mary Poppins and Stitch? What an odd combination…

We were figuring out our game plan for the day because we had three FP+ set up for the day: Space Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. So we decided to hit Adventureland and ride Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise, after that we just wandered the park and rode all the rides we wanted! It was busy so we did have to wait in line for most of them, but the lines were not too bad. Then the moment of truth came and it was time for our first FP at Space Mountain. We headed over and there was a small line of people getting ready to scan their MagicBands for their FP’s as well. The system actually worked far better than I expected, and almost all of the guests knew exactly what to do, which surprised me. After touching our bands to the Mickey poles we got the green light to go and started walking down the queue. We definitely noticed the difference between the old FP line and the new one. There were hardly any people in the FP queue when just a year ago you would have to wait in line for a couple of minutes for Space Mountain, even if you had a paper fastpass. Once you reach the end of the queue you touch your band to another pole, and it reads that you used your fast pass. I will admit that it was weird not holding anything in my hand, I kept thinking I was forgetting something, but fear not everything you need is on your wrist.

Following our first FP+ adventure we headed to other rides and then utilized our other two fast passes throughout the day. Overall, they were efficient and easy. You don’t have to go searching for your fast pass in your wallet or pocket because it’s on your wrist at all times. And if you ever do want to change your times or rides for your FP’s, you can do so on the My Disney Experience app (which is advertised everywhere) or by waiting in line at a select location so a Fastpass+ Cast Member can help you make selections.

We finished our day at the Magic Kingdom when the park closed and checked out the day after. Your MagicBand expires when you checkout, and since we did express checkout I believe our bands expired at 11 a.m. So make sure you have everything out of your room and bought everything you want with your band or else it will no longer work for you.

My overall impression as a full-on guest staying on-site for vacation and utilizing the MagicBands is that Disney definitely has something going for them. We used our bands for everything you could use them for, except for Photopass. There are definitely some kinks, that I believe they will need to work out; ie. PINs, multiple bands per person (I already have 4 bands altogether), and FP+. They worked wonderfully for us, and I did notice a difference in line wait times. The fast pass lines are no longer extremely long and the stand-by queues short, giving a false impression of a short wait time to guests. It will be more difficult for guests to abuse the system, which if I’m completely honest is likely a major reason why fastpass+ works how it does (this is my opinion). I do believe that more options need to be available to guests in terms of the amount of FP’s you receive and what rides you can choose. At Magic Kingdom you can choose 2 high level attractions, and 1 lower level (think Mad Tea Party or Mickey’s Philharmagic). Yet, at Epcot and, I believe, DHS and DAK you can only choose 1 high level and 2 low level attractions. I personally find it frustrating that you are limited to only 3 FP in one day and CANNOT park hop. However, I am hoping that once MyMagic+ has gotten more stable and the technology for it has been tested and tested until the folks at Disney start pulling out their hair, then maybe they will add FP’s per day and allow park hopping with them. But until that day comes, Disney has created a game changer once again, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

-Woody

Have you tested or used any of MyMagic+? Did you have a great or lousy experience with it? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, Twitter, or in an email!

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The Latest on MyMagic+

By now you’ve probably all heard and read about Disney’s “new” MyMagic+ system that has taken over the parks and resorts, right?  Well, for just about the past year, the Walt Disney World Resort has been drastically changing and modernizing.  Resort guests and cast members have been testing this whole system for, well, a really long time now.  The whole process has taken way longer than the company originally anticipated.

While we were all working as Disney Cast Members, we all went through special trainings on MyMagic+, with the anticipation that it would be in full swing last spring, possibly early summer.  That deadline came and went and now, hopefully, by the end of this year (yes, I’m giving them a whole year just in case) all the kinks should be worked out and the current technology will be a thing in the past.

(Photo courtesy of dailyfinance.com)

This week marked a large milestone in the MyMagic+ testing, however.  FastPass+ has been incorporated in the parks for guests staying at the Disney resorts.  You can reserve your passes using the My Disney Experience app and website up to 60 days in advanced.  If your plans change once you get there, you can change them as well.  To do this, you have some different options.  You can change reservations from the app and website just like booking them, or you can visit your hotel concierge, or one of the new FastPass+ kiosks located in each of the parks.  Currently, FastPass+ is available to all guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and now, Magic Kingdom.

As far as the traditional, paper FastPass tickets go, sadly, they are no longer found in DAK, and Magic Kingdom.  Eventually they will also be obsolete in Epcot and Hollywood Studios as well.  Luckily, I spent my entire College Program collecting them from the rides and can say I have at least one from the majority of the attractions that had offered them.

As for MyMagic+, during January 2014, testing will begin for all aspects of MyMagic+ for non-Disney hotel guests.  Selected offsite guests will be testing My Disney Experience, FastPass+, and MagicBands.  This will take place throughout the four parks.

Now, a MagicBand is your key to total happiness.  This band that you wear as a bracelet, becomes your room key (if staying at a Disney resort), your park ticket, your FastPass+ tickets, you can even use it to make purchases across property.  All you have to do is touch and go.  They are even water proof so you don’t have to take them off while taking a dip in the pool.

(Photo courtesy of jimhillmedia.com)

The MagicBand is customizable.  When you book your trip, every member of your party will get to design their own MagicBand.  Choose from a selection of colors like blue, green, orange, pink, yellow, red, and gray and then have your name (or nickname) printed on it.  These are all included in your stay.  Disney will ship them to your house as your vacation approaches so be sure to pack them all in your carry-on if flying.  Disney offers even more ways to customize your MagicBands once you arrive.  You can purchase little charms and bobbles that attach to your MagicBand at various locations across property.

So, there you have it.  You’re all updated on MyMagic+.  If any new developments arise, we will let you know as soon as we can.

-Buzz

What are your thoughts or feelings on the whole MyMagic+ system?  When going through the Cast Member trainings for it, I was kind of against it.  A year later and I’m still a little if-y.  Woody and I will be using MagicBands in March during our stay and we’ve already customized ours so that’s exciting at least.  Have you used MagicBands yet?  We would love to hear from you! 

 

Disney Vacation 101

Trying to plan a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort for the 2014 season?  Don’t want to spend all of your time waiting in long lines?  Well, we are here to help!  Avoiding long lines became our specialty while working for the mouse and we were there in some of the busiest weeks of the year.  We suggest you avoid these times at all costs, if possible.

Rule of thumb, if there’s a holiday within 2 or 3 weeks of your trip, think again.  If it’s summer break, well, you’ll hit long lines and extreme heat all rolled into one.

You’re best bet for an enjoyable, less than crowded, Disney vacation would be anytime after the new year until the first week in February.  The next best time to go would be somewhere between the last week in February and the first week in March.  Other than this first week, avoid the month of March.  It will be complete chaos.  The parks will be filled with spring breakers and middle/high school sports teams (mostly little league baseball and cheerleaders).

If April is a must for you, wait until the last week, and stay into May.   After the second week in May, don’t go!  It will be crowded and hot and if traveling with children, you’re setting yourself up to be a little less than happy.  If you’re from up North like I am, you will still be able to squeeze in a summer trip the last week of August before the kids have to head back to school after Labor Day.  This seems to be the one exception to the “holiday rule of thumb.”  You’re basically in the clear from here on out, until the week of Thanksgiving.

Now, if you have plans to visit Walt Disney World during the weeks of Christmas and New Years, ABORT MISSION!  These are, in my opinion, the two busiest times in the parks during the year.  This past Holiday Season, lines to some attractions reached up to a 5 hour waiting time.  I LOVE Disney, but this news was insane.  I cannot begin to imagine how you could wait in a line to ride a 2 minute attraction for 5 hours.

For a very accurate visual of the busiest and slowest times to take a Disney vacation, click here.  Have used the same type of visual for 2013, this information is reliable and very accurate to the actual park crowds.

Hope this helps you plan a wonderful Disney vacation and allows you to get the most magic out of the trip!

-Buzz

Character Dining

In Honor of Mickey Mouse’s 85th Birthday yesterday we are dedicating this entire week to the main mouse himself!

If you are visiting the parks, chances are you are going to want to meet some characters. Unfortunately, you have to plan quite a ways ahead and wait in some mighty long lines to meet these beloved members of the Disney family. However, there is another way you can meet almost all of your favorite characters without running around the park and waiting in long lines! Instead I recommend you grab a table and eat some food all while waiting for the characters to come to you!

You heard me right, characters will come to you at select Disney restaurants on property! It’s called Character Dining, and at a few restaurants you make reservations to enjoy your company away from the blaring Florida heat and will meet some of your favorite characters!

One of my personal favorite character dining experiences is Breakfast at Chef Mickey’s! Mickey Mouse and the gang come around to your table, take pictures, poke fun at your family sometimes and will do a little song and dance all while you are eating a great breakfast!

Remember though you are paying for this added convenience so character dining isn’t the cheapest meal option; however, I personally believe that it is completely worth it!

Here’s a list of all the character dining experiences available at the Walt Disney World Resort!

  • 1900 Park Fare (Breakfast/Dinner)
  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
  • Cape May Cafe (Breakfast)
  • Chef Mickey’s (Breakfast/Dinner)
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
  • The Crystal Palace (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
  • The Garden Grill (Dinner)
  • Garden Grove (Breakfast- only on Saturday’s and Sunday’s/Dinner – every night)
  • Hollywood & Vine (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ (Dinner)
  • ‘Ohana (Breakfast)
  • Tusker House Restaurant (Breakfast/Lunch)

Ensure you check which characters are at which restaurants because they vary for each experience.

-Woody

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Land and Sea Packages

 

*Photo courtesy of disneystore.com

Want to go on a Disney Cruise but really want to experience the magic of the parks too?  Well Disney is one step ahead of you.  With a Disney Land and Sea package you can do both.

The package includes a cruise to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, or other select locations and hotel and park ticket costs to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.  You can do the “land” portion before your cruise or choose to go to “sea” first.  The choice is up to you.    For more information on the Land and Sea packages, click here.

Disney has also just released the itineraries and ports for cruises setting sail in 2015.  You can start planning now for your perfect Disney vacation.

For all the information possible for Disney Cruises, click here to begin on a magical journey. °o°

-Buzz