I recently had the privilege of visiting the happiest place on earth, Disney World in Orlando, FL. It was the first time I was back since 2006 and aside from the obvious theme park renovations Disney makes to keep their parks current, they had made a major change as well.
Disney had implemented FastPass+ which works in conjunction with their app, My Disney Experience, and these fancy new wristbands called MagicBands.
The newly implemented MagicBands are very cool as they control pretty much everything. Your meal plan, purchases, park admission, your room key (if you stay on resort) and of course FastPass+ entry are all controlled with just a swipe of the wrist. But honestly the wristbands aren’t even the coolest new enhancement at Disney, it’s the My Disney Experience app which is a must have for anyone visiting Disney!
The My Disney Experience app offers users the ability to see the entire resort map, things to do, current wait times, park hours and even what characters are where and when in each of the theme parks. But even more importantly the app allows users to setup FastPass+ times, dining reservations and setup an itinerary for each day to ensure that you don’t miss anything you want to do.
As you would expect with the mapping features, they utilize the GPS functionality of your smartphone to pinpoint exactly where you are on the Disney resort. This feature is immediately available when you open the app and are greeted with the option of “Here & Now” which will use your GPS to show you what is happening currently where you are on the resort.
Aside from the “Here & Now” function, the app kicks it up a notch by allowing sub-sections to be mapped as well. For example, if I go to the “Things to Do” or “Wait Times” listings, I can select “Map” in either of these lists and it will convert the list to points on a map. This makes it incredibly easy to find activities that are already close to you since traveling throughout the resort can be very time consuming.
Throughout the app you have the ability to filter, sort or explore to easily find the information you’re looking for. An example would be in the “Characters Today” section of the app. You can sort by name of the character, schedule times or location to easily find what you’re looking for.
Or you can filter to only show characters in a particular location or at a particular time. Also from this screen you can change the theme park and/or activity at the top of the screen. Doing so easily lets you toggle between attractions, characters, dining, entertainment, events & tours, restrooms, etc. at any of the parks.
Probably the most important feature I found in the app was the ability to make restaurant reservations and FastPass+ selections. Disney can be an incredibly busy place and it really pays to take the time to make reservations and FastPass+ selections ahead of time. However, plans can change on the fly and the app makes it easy to facilitate those changes.
Throughout the day I often found myself re-scheduling my FastPass+ times or even changing the rides themselves. You can manage each of your parties’ bands individually as well, so if your teenagers wanted to ride a coaster at the same time you wanted to visit “it’s a small world,” it’s easy to give everyone their own plans.
For dinner, a majority of the reservations I made were made on the fly by checking in the app what restaurants had availability at the time we expected to eat. With that said, I really do recommend making your reservations in advance and trying to stick to them. Occasionally you will find yourself without a place to eat if you expect to dictate your dinnertime at the last minute.
The My Disney Experience App really takes vacation planning/management to a whole new level. As you’re surfing through the app you can tap on rides and/or shows and see additional information about the height requirements, thrill factor and who it may be fun for.
You can even tap the little heart icon and it will add the ride to your wishlist for easy tracking of what you want to do during your trip. Additionally you can add friends to a “friends list” so that you can coordinate ride times and/or dinnertimes with people outside your party. You can manage payment methods linked to your band or deactivate a band or report it as lost.
Overall this app absolutely rocks. It made navigating Disney so much easier. It looks like Disney really spent the time to develop an app that could let you manage any aspect of your trip on the fly. My only real gripe is the load times when going in-between screens and the occasional partial load (where the screen loads the framework, but not the content).
Typically if you exit the app and immediately re-open it these bugs will go away. These small bugs aside, I would recommend this app as a must have for anyone planning a trip to Walt Disney World (or Disneyland).
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