Feel the Magic of Magic Bands (Disney Vacation Part 2)

I couldn’t stop smiling.


After weeks spent counting down the days then the hours, I finally arrived “home” at Walt Disney World.  It was 12:30 p.m., and the day was as young as I felt.  My suitcase leaned against the sea-breeze blue hotel room wall.  Every vertebra in my body pulsed with unbridled excitement and the purest of joy; Time to savor every lick of “yes-ville.” 


Though on a exuberant high, I made sure to double check my week’s schedule.  This segues into my next Disney discussion.


Planning a Vacation = Fully Experiencing the Magic

When it comes to Disney Theme Parks, planning is not only essential, but it is also one of the most vital Bear Necessities of vacation preparation.  Does this mean you have to anticipate and account for every single trip to the restrooms or the beverage vendors?  Absolutely not.  Remember, WDW is “yes-ville,” and when in a land of “yes, I’ll try that,” rigidity only hinders the fun.  Cast Members and folks behind the scenes are constantly trying to make Guests’ vacations as easy, flexible, and fun as possible.  If all else fails (such as technology), kindly ask anyone with that special name tag over his or her heart for assistance.  They are there to help Guests enjoy every second of their Disney days.  Bear in mind, this also means being kind and courteous to Cast Members.  Remember, you might be on vacation, but at the end of the day, they are the ones making your vacation magical.            


The “Key” to the Magic

That is literally what a MagicBand is: part room key, part charge card, and most importantly, part park admissions pass.  All at the touch of a wrist, MagicBands can be ordered prior to arrival in a selection of colors and designs complete with tiny name inscriptions inside its bend.  I opted for a straight, red band, while my friend decorated and painted hers with icons from each park after receiving it in the mail.  What a luxury to have three less things to keep track of when running around from park to park.  If it is more convenient, regular park admissions cards are readily available for purchase at Guest Services counters located at the entrance to every Disney park.   


Organization at Your Fingertips

With the use of MagicBands, Guests are also encouraged to make use of the complimentary My Disney Experience app available for smartphones and androids.  This free application features the most organized guide to the Walt Disney World Resort, complete with a full list of each park’s attraction wait and show times.  Guests are able to schedule and manage reservations for hotels, FastPass+, and Disney Dining regardless of location.  A virtual map can also be utilized to view desired park destinations and nearby amenities, including restrooms and Guest Services stations.         



Park tickets are versatile instruments for not only getting into the parks but also saving the memories made once inside.  Disney Photopass Cast Members are armed with cameras throughout WDW, and they are the go-to pro’s for quality photography and capturing those money shots in front of iconic settings including Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom and Spaceship Earth at the entrance to EPCOT.  Once the photoshoot is complete, the Cast Member scans the park ticket (whether MagicBand or admissions card) used earlier to store the memories and preserve them for future viewing and purchase online or through My Disney Experience.  


In addition to Photopass, Disney also offers Memory Maker, a system allowing Guests to take as many Photopass photos as they wish while enjoying an attraction or dining experience.  Every memory saved on a MagicBand or card links up through the Guest’s Disney account and remains active for a limited number of days following their visit.  


How Long Do We Have To Wait?

Making FastPass+ reservations might seem overwhelming at first, like registering to vote or scouting out the best tickets for a concert.  Do not be intimidated, though, because when done right, FastPass+ gives Guests the power to make the most of their time waiting in line.  Recently refashioned as a completely electronic service and system, FastPass+ allows Guests to reserve a time in line for specific attractions and entertainment experiences.  Every attraction offering FastPass+ has a special FastPass+ queue.


This is how it works: Guests who have a hotel reservation at WDW can check-in online and reserve FastPasses up to 60 days prior to their arrival.  Those who purchase a ticket or obtain an Annual Pass can select FastPasses 30 days in advance.  When making a reservation online, through My Disney Experience, or at one of the many FastPass+ Kiosks around the parks, Guests must choose three FastPass+ experiences at a time.  Those wishing to travel to multiple parks in one day should keep this in mind when scheduling FastPass+ reservations.  There is no penalty for missing a FastPass+ reservation, however, Guests cannot enter an attraction more than five minutes prior to their reserved time. 


Finally, reservations can be altered only if a Guest has not used one of them.  More FastPasses can be made one at a time either after the first three are used or their times have expired.  To make more, Guests must visit a FastPass+ Kiosk, which are marked on all park maps and on My Disney Experience. 


That’s a lot to take in, especially when trying to plan the rest of a vacation.  Guests who experience any issues making or handling their FastPass+ reservations should seek out a Cast Member for assistance.  Fear not, for they are happy to help.      


Calories Don’t Count in “Yes-Ville”

80% of the time, I make my Disney Dining reservations in advance.  Keep in mind, not all eateries take reservations, and an icon for those that do will appear next to any venue when searched on My Disney Experience.  To make dining reservations, Guests can go online through My Disney Experience or call (407) 939-3463.  Most quick-service (cafe-style) restaurants do not allow advance bookings, because even on busy days, they are not necessary.  As the philosophy goes, “Hakuna Matata,” which for Guests translates as “don’t worry if no reservations are available for an impromptu lunch at Be Our Guest Restaurant or Tusker House.”  Quick-service meals and snacks are always a great alternative to fancier sit-down meals if Guests are on the go or need an effective dose of caffeine when blood sugar runs low. 


After changing out of my sweatpants and into my jean shorts, I went through my list one more time.  Logged in to My Disney Experience?  Check.  FastPass+ all set?  Double check.  Dining reservations confirmed?  Triple check.  Aside from a few dinner plans, I decided to mostly go with the flow when it came time to refuel with food.  After all, ice cream sundaes are considered part of a balanced breakfast in “yes-ville.” 


Coming up next: A wild time with friends:  http://www.southmag.com/Unleash-Your-Wild-Side-at-Disneys-Animal-Kingdom-Disney-Vacation-Part-3/