Friday, October 18, 2013

Disney Magic Bands: Review

Hello, everyone!  Just back from a fabulous weekend getaway to Walt Disney World!  I wanted to do a Magic Band review separately from my regular trip report just because it's such a hot topic in the Disneysphere.

We stayed at the Beach Club Resort which was one of the resorts selected for October testing.  We booked through Travelocity, and knowing that BC had been selected for Magic Band testing, I immediately went online to and added our reservation to my MyDisneyExperience profile.  If you've booked at a Disney resort which is testing (or may soon be testing) Magic Bands through an online booking agent, I wrote a tutorial on how to link that reservation to your MyDisneyExperience account.

After linking that reservation, because the resort had already been selected for October Magic Band testing, I was immediately given the option of ordering and customizing our Magic Bands.  By "customizing" Magic Bands, I mean changing the color and the name written on each band.  If you do not customize your band, then it will be grey.  You also have a very short period of time between being told that you've been invited for testing (if you booked further in advance than we did, you'll receive an invitation to test Magic Bands) to customize your bands.  I also wrote a tutorial on how to customize your Magic Bands through MyDisneyExperience.

The bands seem to be overnighted, as we received ours the day after they shipped.  It's very important that if you booked through an online booking agent such as Travelocity, Expedia, Hotels, etc. that you change your shipping address from their office address to your own home address.  If not, your bands will be sent out into Neverland.  If you do not order your bands before the customization and shipping date, they will be grey, and you will get them when you check into the hotel.

Okay, now time for the fun part...

We decided this year that we would use annual passes.  We had already purchased two annual passes in the past few years to get room discounts which we just hadn't activated yet.  I was able to add one of those will call APs (the one purchased in 2012) to MyDisneyExperience, but I was unable to add the will call AP purchased in June 2011 to MyDisneyExperience.  And then we ended up waiting to purchase the other two APs when we got to WDW.

You cannot purchase annual passes at the resorts.  It must be done at a theme park.  So the morning we arrived, we went to guest relations at Hollywood Studios to purchase and activate our APs.  We had all APs added to our Magic Bands, but were also given a physical card.  You must show your annual pass card in order to get a discount - for some reason, even though the system knows that the ticket on your band is an AP, it will not automatically apply the discount.  I'm sure this could be something that is programmed to automatically add in the future which would speed up transactions.

For curiosity's sake, we did try getting FPs with our AP cards after entering the park with our Magic Bands.  It worked!  My guess is that the card is linked to both, and you could enter the park with either the Magic Band or the card, and it knows that you're in the park, so the annual pass is activated - not just the band or just the card.  I'm sure they could change this, and they might change it in the future.

Review time -


What we LOVED about Magic Bands:

The convenience and speed of transaction.  It's so nice not having to dig your wallet out of your bag to purchase something or to have to dig for your room key at the end of the day.  Really, the convenience has spoiled us!  I can't wait for them to add this to cruise ships and for competitors to start trying this out.  Disney is leading the future here, I'm convinced!

That the Magic Bands could be worn in the pool.  My sister and I usually go to the pool together with no pool bag - just cover-ups, towels, and a room key.  We'll hide our room key inside our cover-ups while we go swim.  Not anymore!!!!!  The fact that we can wear our Magic Bands in the pool and hot tub is awesome!!!

What needs improvement:

This was mainly a Food & Wine Festival issue, and it wouldn't be a problem if I wasn't spoiled by the convenience of Magic Bands.  Whenever I purchased an adult beverage from F&W, they asked to see my ID (understandable).  I then had to dig through my bag to find my wallet and hand them my ID - completely ruining the convenience of the Magic Band and slowing down the line.  I know I'm not the only young adult visiting F&W.  There are several solutions to this, and I don't know if it should be approached as a F&W solution or a Magic Band solution.  For example, F&W could issue wristbands confirming that young-looking guests are indeed the legal drinking age.  As for Magic Bands... they have my freaking FINGERPRINT - I think there's something that could be done to confirm that I'm legal.

People are still a little confused getting inside the park.... and it might be the lack of turnstiles that confuses them (really - it's so weird to see no turnstiles!).  But it's not clear when you should put your finger on the scanner.  I approached it as once the Mickey head lights up white, put your finger on the scanner, and then it will spin a white circle around your finger and then turn Mickey green.  However, my parents and others seemed to be waiting longer to start scanning their finger.  I think people could be getting in a lot faster if they just start scanning their finger sooner, but there aren't really clear instructions on how to do it.


What we LOVED about FastPass+:

It's awesome to not have to worry about being in the park early before the FastPasses run out.  I had good luck with making us FP+ reservations the night before (not so much the day of).

One day, we went to AK in the morning, and I made our FP+ reservations for Epcot that afternoon - something we would have never been able to do with regular FP.  We were able to benefit from the light crowds of getting to the park early while still getting FPs for another park.

What needs improvement:

It's annoying that Disney gives you different "options" and that you have to "change" them to get exactly what you want.  Why can't you just see all of the available times up front?  Disney is trying to get people to do certain things by not showing them everything available.  I guess that this might work in my favor for now, since I realize that all you have to do is click "change time" to see all of the available times for the attraction that day.

I'd really like the option to double or triple-up on FPs for one attraction... or just choose one or two FPs.  For example, for Epcot, I only really wanted to FP Soarin' and Test Track.  I would've loved to FP Soarin' twice.  But I had to choose three different FPs, so I got another FP that I ended up not using..... this is a WASTE because someone else might have wanted that FP, but I kept them from getting it.

It would be nice to be able to get FPs in different parks.  Maybe this is something they'll add later.

I found a GLITCH in the system:

Well, I think for it to be a true glitch, it has to work every time, and I don't know if it does or not because I only did it once.  Anyway, I somehow got FOUR FP+s for Magic Kingdom.... TWO for Space Mountain (attached as an image below).  How did this happen?  I was trying to change the times for FP+s because I made them for the afternoon, but Rachel wanted them earlier.  Well, at one point, there was a "system error" when I was trying to change the time for Space Mountain.  I shut the app down and opened it back up... and learned that I now had two Space Mountain FP times - one for the time I had, and one for the time I was changing it to.  The four FPs showed up on my MyDisneyExperience account, as well as my dad's.


My Disney Experience App

I don't think it's the most user-friendly.  I had a difficult time understanding where to see my FP+ reservations after I made them (under "My Reservations" or "Plans"), and I think there are a lot of redundancies.  However, that being said, I installed this app on my mother and my father's phones.  My dad was having a difficult time using the app... griping, griping, griping.  And then I look over at my MOM (who has all of 5 apps on her phone) who is quietly looking at our FP+ reservations... something that I hadn't even figured out how to do yet.  My non-techy sister was also really good with the app.  Though she didn't have it on her phone, she would take my phone or my mother's phone and look over the app.  This makes me wonder if it actually is very user-friendly... to the non-technology person and just overly simple to everyone else.  It's probably blatantly obvious and I was just overlooking everything.

Overall My Disney Experience

My initial concerns which were shut down after testing:

That the Magic Band would be uncomfortable.... not at all!  The Magic Bands are super lightweight and don't feel sticky on your skin.  I also kept mine a little loose so that it could slide around on my wrist and wouldn't be uncomfortably stuck.

That we wouldn't be able to get FP+ reservations unless we planned months in advance.... not true.  While I didn't have that much good luck with day-of FP+ options (disclaimer: this was at 10AM when regular FPs were also being quickly dispensed... TSM was already well into the evening, and I was able to make a FP+ reservation for TSM for that evening.  It was quite on-par with regular FP that day), I had good luck getting FP+ that I wanted when booking the night before.  The only point when this wasn't the case was the night before Epcot when the park had morning EMH - FP+ was distributed well into the afternoon, the first one available at 4:30PM.

That FastPass+ will make us all theme park commandos.... nah.  You're only making three FP+ reservations per day.  Will you know what park you're going to be in that day?  Probably.  Do you know what you would FP for that park that day?  Probably.

Final thoughts:

I loved having Magic Bands and FP+.  I'll admit - I was one of the original skeptics when the "rumor" first hit the Disneysphere.  But after my initial skepticism and a lot of the rumors proving to be false (that you would have to PAY for Magic Bands/FP+, that you got more FP+ options based on your resort tier, that the bands actually tap into your brain and play a continuous "it's a small world" inside your head.... okay, I made that one up), I became intrigued by the Magic Bands and all of the benefits they could bring to a Disney vacation.  Will I be nostalgic for the old FP system?  Heck yeah!  My poor dad didn't know what to do with himself, not having to run for FPs (he eased his anxiety by becoming huffy with people who were slow to scan their bands in the FP+ line... fellow Disney park-goers, my family is very sorry!).  But we're in the middle of PROGRESS here and this is awesome!

So I'm going to leave you with a quote by the man behind the mouse who started it all (and a man whose thoughts and ideals the Disneysphere continues to debate about 40+ years after his death):

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

 - Walt Disney

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Disney Magic Bands: Receiving Your Magic Bands

It's been a while since I've last posted, and we're now less than two weeks out from our Disney vacation and Magic Band testing!

Our Magic Bands came the day after Disney shipped them - I was surprised by how quickly they appeared on our doorstep.

Magic Bands

The bands are labeled on the box, and the name is printed inside of the band (I'm assuming for security issues).  There is also an ID printed inside of the band.  They are noted as non-transferable (just like Disney park tickets).

Magic Band-02

The grey band around the outside of the Magic Band can be removed to make it smaller to fit your wrist.  This is something I think I'll have to do, but I didn't want to make a permanent decision so soon.  Once the grey rubber is torn off, I don't think there is a way to reattach it.  However, I'm sure that Disney sells something to make the bands larger again.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

You Are Living My Dream

When people find out about my current or past travels of living on the road, a lot of the time their response is, "you're living my dream!"  I am always flattered that someone would want to choose the lifestyle of traveling like I do.  Lately, I have been responding with, "you can do it too and live your OWN dream."  Most often, that is followed by, "I would if only..."

If only.

Those, "if only's" are choices. Choices we made in our life that we want to, or need to keep.  Maybe you bought a home that you feel you can't leave, or kids, or a marriage, or your job, or your pet... Those are all great reasons to stay put and not do anything different in your life (not that there is anything wrong with that life) except be envious by posts of other people living a life that is YOUR dream.  The question is, "do you really want to live your dream?"  If you do, what is preventing you from making the choices needed to pursue that dream?

The truth is, you don't have to buy that house, you don't have to have children or get married, you don't have to have a traditional 9-5 job in an office.  American culture wants you to spend your money on things to fill up the home you bought and throw away things that you are bored with.  All the while, you hope this will make you happy in your heart and fulfilled in your life.  It might give you a momentary sense of happiness but it fades and crashes fast and then has the opposite effect.  Over time it makes you feel overwhelmed and trapped.  The more space we have, the more we want to fill it with stuff.  

I know of several families with children who live on the road.  If you don't want to travel alone, you can do it with a partner.  I can't imagine traveling without my dog Max, but that is a choice and it limits what I can do.  I am ok with that.  

I own a home and rent it out when I live in the van.  There are several online companies that will help you find someone that will pay you to live in your home with all of your furnishings in place.  I come back a few months out of the year and each time I do, I get rid of things.  I sell or donate the ten years of stuff that I have collected in my garage.  A collection of emotional items (Grandparents furniture, photographs, art) to things I thought I needed.  It's a bigger rush to me to get rid of things now, as opposed to buying something new.  I put out a stack of plastic chairs that I had for parties (which I don't have anymore) out on the curb with a free sign on it.  I was so excited when someone picked it up.  It was giving them a new home instead of a landfill.  If I decide to have a party, B.Y.O.C (bring your own chair) will now be included on the invitation. I digress. 

Here's the thing.  YOU CAN live your dream...whatever that is.  It's all a matter of choices and planning.  Do the work.  Be persistent with your goals and do something to move closer to them every day.  I will leave you with a short clip of artist, Chuck Close on what he would tell his younger self.  

What I took away from this is:
1.) You can do anything
2.) Inspiration is for amateurs.  Professionals show up and do the work.
3.) Continue to do the work, even if you don't feel like it.  Eventually it will get you somewhere.

Time to live YOUR dream.