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Fastpass+ and Magic Band Experience October 2013

After reading about the Fastpass+ experience for 10 months, I was able to test it myself for the Food and Wine festival in October 2013.  There has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding the magicband and all of its powers.  The biggest misconception about the device is that it has been designed to make the customer’s life easier.  This may happen for a large number of people, but that is not the reason.  I was traveling with a savvy group of people, and we could appreciate the marketing gold mine the magicbands bring and also easily identified the irritating aspects we will have to get used to managing.  

Benefits that everybody will like (even with the tradeoffs):  

  • getting to the park in afternoon and having three fastpasses in hand for popular rides.  We showed up to Epcot on arrival day at 7:00 pm, and we were still able to ride Soarin and TestTrack with FP+.  
  • not having to run all over the parks to collect fastpasses, we scheduled them from the room before we left. 
  • the magicbands were a fun option to use to access the World of Disney. 
  • the photopass option connected the magicband was very effective and seemed easier and more fun. 
  • at some point, the interactive queue and ride elements will be fun.  We could see the  monitors in It’s a Small World that are primed to send us our own personal goodbye once everyone is on the band and everything goes live. 

Obvious Marketing Aspects:

  • We can see that we are going to be hit with advertisements
  • People are going to be glued to their phones to follow their plans
  • Fastpass+ reservations are going to be used by Disney to move people around parks and point them to specific parks
  • It will be easier to spend money 
  • Disney will be able to track our every move and use the data for targeted advertising.

Obvious Drawbacks in the future:

  • We could already see that shortages of Fastpasses were occurring.  Fastpasses will need to be grabbed early for some of the big rides.  
  • We can see a time and fully expect to have pay for extra fastpasses in the future.
  • Only having a limited amount of fastpasses does cause problems.  Going to the Magic Kingdom is a great example.  We used priority viewing for Wishes leaving us only two FP+ for the entire day.  If you use another one on Enchanted Tales with Belle (the only way I would visit that attraction), that leaves 1 for Splash Mountain, Big Thunder, Peter Pan, Big Thunder, Mine Train Ride (someday), and even Jungle Cruise.  
  • It does take longer to get into the Fastpass line with the bands than having a castmember simply collect a paper pass.  The technology is not forgiving either.  IF your Mickey Head turns blue and you lose a scheduled fastpass based on technology, I would be angry.  This happened to me on the Great Movie Ride (because it was testing time period, I was still let in.  But I had to deal with the castmembers again at the second check point).  
  • It is frustrating not being able to hop from park to park with fastpasses. 
  • The website/app interface is terribly unreliable and clunky.  Hopefully this will get better.

Overall, my travel group loved the magicbands for the reasons listed above, but we can see how this will lose it shine when everyone is using the system and fastpass+ become more difficult to obtain.  

What everyone wants is to be able to grab fastpasses every two hours like before, but schedule a specific time rather than be given a random time.  This would save the running around the parks and also provide the flexibility people want.  But this is not what has been planned.  

Best plan of attack for the most rides in a day using only three fastpasses:

  1. At Magic Kingdom – skip the parades and fireworks and take advantage of the very short lines at that time.  NEVER schedule a fastpass during a parade or fireworks at any park. 
  2. At Animal Kingdom – arrive after 2:00 pm and take advantage of walk on rides even in peak times.  
  3. I have no suggestions for Epcot or Hollywood Studios.  I can tell you this, the wait times are never as long as posted at Hollywood Studios – no idea why at that park on such a regular basis. 

Things are a changing at Walt Disney World.  I embrace change.  But this Fastpass+ component of MyMagic+ is going to downgrade the experience for regular visitors, while helping those newcomers.  Luckily for me, I only go to hang out with my friends and family now, and I don’t need to ride the attractions as much as I used to.  Some people are going to fall in love with the magicband, and others will lament the loss of their freedom.