Those Magic Bands and Fast Pass + at Walt Disney World

Disney's new Magic Bands.  Resort guests are given gray ones with their name inside on arrival.  Resort guests and Annual Pass Holders can also select color bands on-line at www.mydisneyexperience.com.  The bands are free to resort guests.  You can also purchase the bands in the park. ©Jean Janssen

Disney’s new Magic Bands. Resort guests are given gray ones with their name inside on arrival. Resort guests and Annual Pass Holders can also select color bands on-line at http://www.mydisneyexperience.com. The bands are free to resort guests. You can also purchase the bands in the park.
©Jean Janssen

This is my second trip to Disney since the introduction of the Magic Bands.  Last time, I got a nondescript gray one when I checked into the Wilderness Lodge, a disney resort.  Your name is printed inside and the outside features the Mickey outline where all the magic is delivered.  The band is worn on your wrist and is pretty comfortable.  The size adjustment seems endless, so no worries there for the big or small.  The magic band serves as your hotel key, charge card (linked to the credit card you gave the resort), park ticket (linked in before your arrival), photo pass card (to claim photos taken by cast members), magical express pass, and fast pass ticket.

Never ones to miss a marketing/retail opportunity, the disney shops offer magic bands for sale for those that didn't get the FREE ones that come with your disney hotel stay.  You can also purchase band cover and jewels and other decorations to go into the sizing holes.  We met some clever guests who pre-decorated theirs at home. ©Jean Janssen

Never ones to miss a marketing/retail opportunity, the disney shops offer magic bands for sale for those that didn’t get the FREE ones that come with your disney hotel stay. You can also purchase band covers and jewels and other decorations to go into the sizing holes. We met some clever guests who pre-decorated theirs at home.
©Jean Janssen

This time I was determined to get one of the colorful bands you can select if you book early and register your request on mydisneyexperience.com (more on the website below).  This time the green and orange ones Rocky and I selected came in the mail before our trip.  We put them on when we landed in Orlando and used them first for direct access on the Magical Express.

The Magical Express is just one of the many forms of transportation at WDW.  Rocky "rode" a speeder at Hollywood Studios, WDW. ©Jean Janssen

The Magical Express is just one of the many forms of transportation at WDW. Rocky “rode” a speeder at Hollywood Studios, WDW.
©Jean Janssen

If you have never used the Magical Express, this is the FREE bus service to and from the Orlando airport for guests staying at Disney resorts (all levels).  You save money and the hassle of renting a car and Disney has captured all of your dollars by keeping you on their property.  Unless you are able to drive to the resort from home or plan to go a lot of different places off-property while in Orlando, Magical Express is great for disney resort guests.  Luggage service is also included.  Your luggage is picked up at the airport and taken directly to your room.  Upon departure, you can check your luggage (to most airlines) at the resort and not worry about it until you arrive home.  Rocky and I usually carry aboard the plane and there is plenty of room for that under the bus.  They will also check you in, print your boarding passes, and deliver your boarding passes to your hotel room before departure.  Awesome!

One place you might want to skip the fast pass in the Haunted Mansion has just been updated with an interactive and entertaining expanded graveyard in the standby line. ©Jean Janssen

One place you might want to skip the fast pass is the Haunted Mansion.  The attraction has just been updated with an interactive and entertaining expanded graveyard in the standby line.
©Jean Janssen

Rocky and I were arriving mid day, so we detoured by the food court at the airport and grabbed something for lunch.  If the lines for the bus are long, you can eat in in line while waiting for your Magical Express bus.  We had a short wait and ate our lunch on board on the ride to Walt Disney World (WDW).  No one ever bothered us about bringing or eating food aboard.  (On a previous trip, I picked up a box of crispy creme donuts for Emma and transported them to the hotel via the Magical Express; the box was not quite as full when it arrived at the resort.)

Bajo player at the Hoop Dee Do Revue, Fort Wilderness, WDW.  We had good seats very close to the stage. ©Jean Janssen

Bajo player at the Hoop Dee Do Revue, Fort Wilderness, WDW. We had good seats very close to the stage.
©Jean Janssen

The benefits of the magic bands are multiplied if you register on-line at mydisneyexperience.com before you go.  You can link together your room reservation with dining reservations and fast pass selections-that can now be done in advance.  Rocky and I have some places we really like to eat while in WDW.  Back in the day, you had to call for reservations, wait forever on hold, and hope for an opening when you finally got through to an operator.  On-line reservations have been available for a while now, but the mydisneyexperience site made it even easier to see all our options.  We tried the long-celebrated Hoop-de-doo Revue, now in its 41st year, for the first time on this trip all because we spotted an opening when booking reservations on-line.

You can also prebook your fast passes, perhaps the most important benefit of the on-line registration.  If your magic bands are linked in on-line, you just walk up to the FP entrance, place the Mickey outline on the outside of your band against the similar figure on the silver ball and when it lights up green you are good to go.

We rolled the dice on the early morning lines at Animal Kingdom and saved our fast passes for late in the day.  We got lucky and rode Expedition Everest (AK roller coaster) three times in a row with NO wait.  Then we took the safari ride with a minimal wait of 20 minutes. ©Jean Janssen

We rolled the dice on the early morning lines at Animal Kingdom and saved our fast passes for later in the day. We got lucky and rode Expedition Everest (AK roller coaster) three times in a row with NO wait. Then we took the safari ride with a minimal wait of 20 minutes.
©Jean Janssen

The safari ride at Animal Kingdom is Rocky's favorite in that park. ©Jean Janssen

The safari ride at Animal Kingdom is Rocky’s favorite in that park.
©Jean Janssen

Almost all attractions, and even some dining options like Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom, have a fast pass option.  With a fast pass, you skip the regular line and in most cases almost immediately get to ride, watch, eat, etc.  Your priority is good for an one-hour window during the park’s regular operating times.  Under the new system, you now select that window rather than getting the next available one.

You are allowed to make three fast pass selections for each day of your visit.  All the FPs have to be at the same park on a single day.  Once you have used all your FPs for the day, you can get more (if available) from the FP kiosks located around the park.  Guests who have not preselected can make all their fast pass selection at a single kiosk stop upon their arrival.  At some parks, attractions are grouped into categories and you can only select one attraction in that category.  This used to be the case at the Magic Kingdom, but now all the attractions are available for combinations of your choice (a welcome refinement to the system).  Not sure if they will update the other parks, which have fewer “rides”, to allow this option.

Surrisingly, The Tower of Terror is not grouped with Toy Story or the Rock N Roller coaster for fast pass +.  This is good news for Emma and Maggie; its their favorite ride in Hollywood Studios. ©Jean Janssen

Surprisingly, The Tower of Terror is not grouped with Toy Story or the Rock N Roller coaster for fast pass +. This is good news for Emma and Maggie; it is their favorite ride in Hollywood Studios.
©Jean Janssen

For example, Rocky and I wanted to go to the Hollywood Studios and ride the Rock N Roller coaster and Toy Story.  Those attractions are grouped together, so you had to choose which one to get a fast pass for.  If you want to ride Toy Story, ALWAYS get a fast pass.  The queue area is well done, but only if you are very lucky will your wait be 30 minutes or less.  It is not unusual for the standby (regular) line to be 90-120 minutes long.  It can be longer.  Until these changes (now called Fast Pass +) you could only get a fast pass when you arrived at the park.  That means if you slept in and came late or transferred from another park, you would arrive to find that all the fast passes for the day were gone or if available were for very late in the day, long after you were ready to leave.

The pre-booking is intended to level the playing field.  That is, if you have a ticket to WDW.  In order to pre-book the fast passes, you have to link it to a ticket.  If you know when you are going, make your ticket selection and purchase on-line while linked into your mydisneyexperience account.

Our mid May visit meant we caught the end of the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot. ©Jean Janssen

Our mid May visit meant we caught the end of the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot.
©Jean Janssen

Our home away from home for this trip was the Animal Kingdom Lodge at WDW.  Although a deluxe resort, I generally get 30% off as an annual pass holder.  That said, I have stayed at all levels of resorts at WDW and highly recommend on-site accommodations at any level. ©Jean Janssen

Our home away from home for this trip was the Animal Kingdom Lodge at WDW. Although a deluxe resort, I generally get 30% off as an annual pass holder. That said, I have stayed at all levels of resorts at WDW and highly recommend on-site accommodations at any level.
©Jean Janssen

This visit I determined that it made sense to buy Rocky an annual pass.  Since the year begins from the date of purchase, I waited until the day before we left to purchase the annual pass.  We pre-booked fast passes the day before we flew to Orlando.  We booked for each day of our stay and then adjusted via the APP on our cell phones (or you could do it from a kiosk) if we wanted to change attractions or times while we were there.  If you purchase multi-day passes (as opposed to the annual pass), you can buy those early and immediately make the FP reservations; the number of days on your passes won’t activate until the first day of use.  Note: Even though you can purchase an annual pass on line and prebook your fast passes, you still have to stop by a ticket booth or guest services to activate the pass upon your arrival; this can not be done at the resort.

Do I like the new system?  Well it requires planning and sometimes we want to go with the flow.  Since our favorite rides were sometimes grouped together, we could no longer get fast passes for everything we wanted.  If you knew how to use the system (as we did), there are definitely some disadvantages to Fast Pass +.  If you need to save those fast passes for the busy afternoon time slots, you have to go all morning and early afternoon in the standby lines, where as before we could use a FP.  Under either system, you have a definite advantage if you know when and for what rides you need a FP.

You can even get a fast pass for some interactive time with the characters.  Rocky had quite the conversation with Cinderella.   ©Jean Janssen

You can even get a fast pass for some interactive time with the characters. Rocky had quite the conversation with Cinderella.
©Jean Janssen

 

About travelbynatasha

I am a retired attorney who loves to travel. Several years ago I began working on a Century Club membership achieved by traveling to 100 "foreign" countries. Today, at 49 years of age the count is at 82. Many were visited on land based trips. Some were cruise ports. Some were dive sites. Most have been fascinating.
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