If you haven't been to Walt Disney World in a while, you'll want to know about an innovative planning tool called My Disney Experience, which replaced the old paper ticketing system by combining a powerful smartphone app with wearable technology.
For families, the result is a truly seamless experience that starts with your pre-trip planning, letting you schedule FastPass+ and dining options, and continues during your stay at Walt Disney World.
Set Up Your My Disney Experience Account
My Disney Experience revolutionizes the Walt Disney World vacation by bundling nearly every aspect of your trip together. The process can begin as soon as you've booked your trip and have a hotel and ticket reservation.
The My Disney Experience website allows you to set up your account and download the free My Disney Experience mobile app (available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices).
Once you're signed in, just enter your reservation info. Each family member can choose a different colored MagicBand—cards are also available—and have it personalized with a first name. Disney will send your MagicBands to your home (though they don't ship to all countries), and in the meantime, you can start planning.
Schedule FastPass+ and Dining Experiences
What Walt Disney World experiences are you most looking forward to? You can program them into your day with FastPass+, a reservation system that lets you bypass the regular lines at popular rides and attractions.
FastPass+ replaced the paper FastPass system that Walt Disney World used for decades. If you will be staying at a Disney Resort, you can make plans 60 days in advance. If you're not staying at a Disney Resort but have bought tickets online, you can make plans 30 days in advance.
For each day of your ticket, you can use FastPass+ to designate advance times to visit three attractions of your choice in a single park. Note that you can use FastPass+ for every Disney experience—for popular rides, character greetings, parades, shows, and fireworks.
You can also use the My Disney Experience mobile app to make advance dining reservations and even pre-order a meal in venues such as the wildly popular Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.
In addition, once at Walt Disney World, you can use your app to pre-order meals with Mobile Order at select restaurants in the parks.
MagicBands Are the Ultimate Disney Accessory
Think of your MagicBand as your key to Walt Disney World. It's a rubber bracelet containing a computer chip that holds all the components of your Walt Disney World vacation—theme park ticket, room key, FastPass+ choices, dining reservations, Disney PhotoPass—and it also acts as a resort charge card.
All of these plans are stored on your MagicBands, so keep them safe and remember to pack them for your trip. Once you arrive at Walt Disney World, you can also create a personalized MagicBand at the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. in the Magic Kingdom Park.
Check Into Your Hotel
The My Disney Experience mobile app is particularly handy for families that want to take advantage of the many perks of staying at Walt Disney World Resort hotel.
If you're staying at an official Disney World resort, you can use your MagicBands to check into your hotel and enter your hotel room. The app has a feature called “My Resort Dashboard,” which gives you access to your reservation details all in one place, including the ability to see room number, theme, building, and floor once you have your room assignment and even check in from the app.
“My Resort Dashboard” even gives you directions to your resort using Disney transportation options, a map showing you the location of your room, and a link to directly call the Resort Front Desk if you need further assistance during your stay.
Enter Turnstile-Free Theme Parks
The turnstiles at Walt Disney World's park entrances were replaced with sleek MagicBand readers. Just touch the Mickey head on your MagicBand to the Mickey head on the reader and it turns green. It's fun for kids to watch the famous mouse's head light up.
Get Your Bearings and Find More Fun
The My Disney Experience mobile app opens right to the park maps to help you find attractions, restaurants, restrooms, and more. A section called “Spotlight” highlights new park experiences and entertainment offerings to help you find the latest in entertainment at the parks.
Gift shops and vendors around Walt Disney World are also equipped with MagicBand readers. Instead of swiping a room key or a credit card, you simply place your MagicBand against the reader and type in your PIN.
If your MagicBand is lost or stolen, nobody can make a purchase without your PIN. You can immediately deactivate your band using the My Disney Experience mobile app on your smartphone or iPad until you can get another MagicBand.
It's important to know that your credit card information and other personal data is not stored in your MagicBand. Instead, the readers access an encrypted database of your stored information with a randomly assigned code that securely links to your account.
Use the App to Check Wait Times and Much More
The My Disney Experience mobile app can give you current wait times at attractions and character greetings in the park. Use the map view to find nearby dining venues, restrooms, and other amenities.
Don't worry about being locked into your plans. When you're at Walt Disney World, you can use the app to change your FastPass+ and dining choices on the fly.
After you have completed your three FastPass+ experiences, you can get three more FastPass+ choices for later that same day. You can also "park hop" in a second park with your fourth FastPass+ of the day.