- I am thinking about canceling my trip to Walt Disney World because I am so worried that FastPass+ and MagicBands will ruin it. I don’t even like wearing something on my wrist!
- Disney MagicBands are too confusing. They make a vacation hard.
- They are rationing out how many rides you can go on now in Epcot as their answer to not having enough of them in the park. I’m going to skip that park entirely now.
- A cast member told me to just go and have a good time. How can I do that with this system?
- I went to Disney recently and all of the lines were backed up because of MagicBands and FastPass+!
- I don’t want to plan where I am going to be, what I’m going to ride, and where I am going to eat months in advance! I’m on vacation!
These are the comments (paraphrased, of course) that have been circulating the Net and popping up in face-to-face conversations about Disney’s newest program to enhance guest experience: FastPass+ (FP+) and its counterpart, the MagicBand. Like many of you out there, I have been keeping my eyes and ears open when the latest dribble of news or rumor pops up regarding the new system. I even schmoozed my way into getting some early information from one of the head cast members distributing the new RFID-enabled annual passes this past spring. While I am sure there are several underlying goals, the main point of FP+ is simple: help guests get on and off attractions with little to no wait in lines. Sounds like a great thing, right? Well, it appears not to be for many guests who are declaring war on the new “bands-o’-fun” before they even begin their official run in the parks. That, my friends, is what has prompted this blog. Before you continue reading, keep in mind that everyone has a right to his or her own opinion about the program and, quite frankly, no single viewpoint is the correct one; this is mine, and I hope it helps to settle some pre-vacation jitters for those concerned about their upcoming trips.
The FP+ and MagicBand program offers guests the opportunity to reserve an attraction wait time before entering the parks using the new My Disney Experience website or smartphone app. A customizable bracelet is sent to your home before you leave for the World and acts as your room key, park ticket, dining plan voucher, and FastPass to select attractions. You also have the option of syncing a credit card to it for use at the various merchandise locations on property. When activating a pre-selected FastPass+, guests hold up their MagicBands to a Mickey-head-themed sensor at the turnstile and are then allowed to by-pass the regular queue line which results in limited to no wait for the attraction.
There are a number of concerns surfacing about the FastPass+ and MagicBand system:
Foremost, many guests feel that it will be uncomfortable wearing the plastic bracelets around in the Florida heat all day. Some even go on to say that they do not normally wear a watch or other item on their wrists which will make MagicBands burdensome in the parks.
Second, the My Disney Experience website has had ups and downs since its conception. Many users have found that it crashes, freezes, or does not perform as expected to do so. Several posts on message board communities such as DISboards.com show that guests are also having trouble navigating the site’s various menus. As a result, selecting FP+ options is time-consuming and confusing.
Next, those who frequent the parks often do not necessarily plan out their vacations as novice guests. Annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club members, for example, spend larger amounts of time at Walt Disney World and, therefore, plan less in terms of what park they will visit, where they will eat, and so on. The FP+ system, according to some, would therefore require this to change.
Not Enough Options
Finally, another common complaint about FP+ is that there are simply not enough options for the average visitor. As it stands right now, guests are limited to three FP+ selections in a single park, per day. None of the same attractions may be selected more than once. Likewise, some have reported that popular Epcot attractions like Soarin’ and Test Track are being tiered into two groups so that you could only pick one or the other for a FP+ selection. Such limitations are increasing the frustration with the system.
When really breaking down and taking a closer look at these concerns, I can’t help but feel frustrated by the mass hysteria about FP+ that is saturating the Internet. Yes, I recognize that people are worried about their vacations and how their favorite parks will be affected, but I think we are jumping the gun here. FP+ and MagicBands are, to this very day, still not officially live. Instead, guest populations are being selected for testing – something that has been taking place since the early summer – and larger groups are being tested as time passes. Of course there are going to be problems. The reason why Disney is not fully implementing the system is because it needs to be modified based on the results of these tests. Visit the park last week and notice backed up FP queues? That could very well be the case. Is it FP+’s fault? Not necessarily so. The program is being phased into what is an already complex theme park world and cast members are being trained on how to avoid such bumps in the road. Would one rather these issues happen once the system is fully implemented?
As time passes, the calculations will be configured in such a way that the lines will shorten and FP+ will have the same benefits of, if not more than, the old system. Speaking of which, “Legacy FastPass,” as the original program has been dubbed, was not born without its skeptics and criticisms. Once the kinks were worked out, it became a very popular option to shorten wait times for your favorite attractions; other theme parks even created their own systems based on the success of FastPass. I have no doubt that its successor, FP+, will grow to be another unique touring tool for the parks.
With program testing, comes feedback. Those guests who were selected to use FP+ and MagicBands are being contacted to share their park experience. This information is then being used to alter the system so that it works better. Why would Disney bother to contact anyone if they weren’t concerned about how well it really works? This is a multi-billion dollar venture on Disney’s part, and they can’t risk its failure. If that happened it would be detrimental to the company’s holding as one of the top vacation destinations in the world. Disney has to get this right or guests won’t come to the parks. If the system truly is a hassle, competitors like Universal Studios will be quick to jump on it and entice guests to their parks much like CityWalk did when Pleasure Island met its demise.
If one were to look back at the number of changes made to how guests access and use FP+, it is easy to see that testers’ feedback is already playing a role. My Disney Experience has been altered a few times since its initial debut. Most recently, guests were pleased to see that they could cancel previously-made FP+ selections; this was not something that was originally an option. I can imagine that other options will emerge as Disney collects more data from guests and advances the program.
In the end, it is up to you, a guest of Walt Disney World Resort, to decide whether or not FastPass+ is for you. You are not being forced to wear a MagicBand (that’s what belt loops and pockets are for) or pre-plan your vacation. If you are offered a chance to try the program, go in with an open mind and remember that it is still in testing. If you are dead set against selecting FastPass times, at least try a MagicBand as a room key and park ticket option (no more waiting in long lines at the turnstiles!); the perks from doing so are worth it alone. There are many people who are not able to afford a trip to Disney. Take joy in the fact that you are one of the lucky individuals who can experience Walt’s dream of creating a place families can enjoy together and adults can escape from reality. Remember that many cast members, like guests, are still learning the in’s and out’s of the system, so we’re all in this together. Take a deep breath and look at things positively. It will result in a much more pleasant vacation for everyone.
You can find more discussion about MagicBands and guest feedback on this week’s episode of The DIS Unplugged.