For decades, a Disney World vacation worked this way: you bought tickets with money and then you rode things. Simple. This year, though, the Orlando-area Disney resort has adorned the classic amusement formula with a new, high-concept accessory: MagicBands
Embedded with sensors and linked to guests’ personal information, this bracelet works like a wearable magic wand as visitors roam Walt Disney World Florida’s four theme parks and two water parks. Wave it over sensors and it grants front-gate admittance, makes cashless purchases, opens locked hotel-room doors, and validates up to three reservations a day for the shorter FastPass+ lines at major attractions. Plans can now be changed on the fly as well using an app, My Disney Experience.
But if all this technological innovation sounds daunting to you—you’re not alone. Privacy concerns created a congressional kerfuffle about the MagicBands and revealed that linking up your personal information is optional, at the loss of custom Disney experiences. For example, you may miss a character calling you by name or a personal goodbye appearing on a screen at the end of a ride.
By bucking theme-park tradition, Disney’s new technological wrinkles have created a rabbit hole of advance research requirements that not even Alice would enjoy. But we have some insider tips to help.
For one, Matt Roseboom, publisher of Orlando Attractions Magazine, suggests downloading the My Disney Experience app and signing in long before heading to Orlando, especially if you're staying at an official Disney hotel. “You can book your FastPasses up to 60 days in advance,” he explains. “And if an attraction breaks down or the line is moving slower than you’d like, you can update the times for your next reservation.” Disney may have started with a Mouse, but now it’s running on a click.
For everything else—to trim waits, secure dining times, and enjoy a full dose of Disney’s famous pixie dust—just follow our streamlined planning advice, which goes a long way toward making a Disney visit as simple as it once was.