16 Ways to Use MagicBands: How We Used Disney’s MagicBands at Walt Disney World 28

Our MagicBands

Our MagicBands

Last night I returned from a fabulous visit to Walt Disney World. I was fortunate enough to be included in a test of the new MagicBand, which is a plastic wristband that uses HF Radio Frequency (RF) technology and is picked up by short- and long-range readers located at the Walt Disney World Resort. The MagicBand does everything the Key to the World card does … and more!

So where can you use a MagicBand?

I was on the lookout for all the places we could use the MagicBand, and here’s what I found:

  1. A Cast Member shows my son how to use his MagicBand at our first spot -- Disney's Magical Express

    A Cast Member shows my son how to use his MagicBand at our first spot — Disney’s Magical Express

    Disney’s Magical Express (used at podiums and boarding)

  2. Resort check-in
  3. Your resort room door (unlocking)
  4. Club/concierge level access in elevators
  5. Alternate entrances to resorts (like the doors at the ends of the wings at Wilderness Lodge)
  6. Disney parking lot entry
  7. Park admission (if you’ve purchased admission, of course)
  8. Attractions with FastPass+
  9. Stores (parks, resorts, and Downtown Disney)
  10. Counter-service restaurants and snack stands
  11. Table-service restaurants (servers carry portable scanners)
  12. PhotoPass photographers (photographers with portable scanners)
  13. Using MagicBands just before entering the ride vehicle at Test Track to bring up the car design customized earlier.

    Using MagicBands just before entering the ride vehicle at Test Track to bring up the car design customized earlier.

    Interactive games (such as Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, A Pirate’s Adventure, Test Track’s Vehicle Design Studio)

  14. Booking and modifying FastPass+ at the kiosks or with cast members who have iPads
  15. Disney’s Infinity game on XBOX (unlock the Disney Dragon and new Toy Box)
  16. Guest Relations and Concierge Desks

Places and things that were NOT using the MagicBands during my visit in October 2013: arcades, lockers, in-room safes, on-property taxis, and purchases of Disney gift cards.

I found MagicBand readers everywhere we expected and hoped to find them, and then some! I was issued a Key to the Word card, and dutifully carried it with me, but I never had to actually use it. The MagicBand made my visit very simple.

My favorite experience with MagicBand happened when I arrived at the Wilderness Lodge to check-in. We had just exited our taxi and were standing under the portico, gathering our luggage, when a Cast Member walked up with a big smile and said, “Ah, the Marx Family has arrived! We’ve been expecting you. Come right in!” I was thrilled. The Cast Member would not reveal her secret (just “Mickey told us you were coming!”). But I snuck a peek at her iPad and I could see that it was tracking arrivals, presumably with long-range radio frequency receivers.  While I imagine there are some guests who would not be happy with this, I absolutely loved it. I felt recognized and welcomed. I’m on vacation and quite fine with Disney knowing what I’m doing. The MagicBand has nothing more than a randomly assigned code that securely links to an encrypted database and is configured to not store any other information. If you’re among those who feel funny about this, opt for a Key to the World card instead — cards contain a passive HF Radio Frequency chip and cannot be detected by the long-range readers.

[Edit: I’ve since learned that the personalized greeting is probably due to giving my name at the security gatehouse rather than anything going on with the MagicBands. I usually arrive on Disney’s Magical Express, so I hadn’t experienced this greeting before and automatically assumed it was our shiny MagicBands. Ah well! I still loved it!]

My second favorite experience was when we used FastPass+ at the Haunted Mansion. Besides the fact that we whizzed past a very long queue, we were delighted to hear a creepy yet fun sound when the MagicBand was held up to the sensor. I even took a video, which you can see below:

Do you know of other places to use a MagicBand? Tell me!

I also have more experiences and opinions on wearing the MagicBands, decorating the MagicBands, and using the MagicBands. I took photos of nearly every place we used them — even some video. Let me know what you’d like to know and see.

About Jennifer Marx

Jennifer Marx is the author of more than 50 travel guides and the recipient of more than a dozen awards. She is also the co-founder and co-creator of PassPorter.com, an active community of enthusiastic travelers. Her amazing son, Alexander, is the subject of many of her posts and thoughts on family travel. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+.

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What Do You Think?

28 thoughts on “16 Ways to Use MagicBands: How We Used Disney’s MagicBands at Walt Disney World

  • Susan Jackam

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Jennifer!! Looking forward to using our Magic Bands in a few days!! Love that they were so convenient for you;

  • missourifarmfamily

    Thanks for your share! I just customized our bands for our upcoming trip. I am ever so curious on how to maximize the use of it.

  • Tamara

    Hi Jennifer
    Thanks for all the magic band info. We are leaving in 10
    Days for our first disney world trip and can’t wait to use out magic bands. Two question maybe you can help me with:
    1. Can money be ‘stored/put’ on the band to use for merchandise, food, etc?
    2. What happens if one of my kiddos looses their band? Does the ‘adult’ band or main account band have everyone’s info/tickets/etc on it?

    Thanks for any possible help!

  • beau222

    We just arrived back from 6 days at WDW. We to were excited to be picked as Beta Testers for the Customized bands BUT low and behold when we arrived everyone must have been a Beta Tester they were everywhere. Overall I like the bands. They are convenient and more practical then carrying the card around. Now my DD did lose hers at ESPN during a ATA Tournament and I thought it would be an easy thing to just locate it since it’s HF RFID but the concierge said that the technology was not possible to do that. So they issued her a replacement. We only had a few hiccups with the band and that was at the guard shack entrance it would not scan but they just let you through usually since there are about 50 cars backed up behind you. And the Picture takers seemed to have bad luck with their hand held scanners they would have to ask for our backup room key card. I also wish the soda fountain refills were tied in with the bands then the chips on the bottom of the cups.

  • Lynette Findlay

    Great summary and its lovely to hear that you too had a great experience with the Bands. On our recent trip they were excellent and far better than carrying around cash and cards which makes me pretty nervous, particularly coming from outwith the US. Noticing your comment about being welcomed on arrival, we often found in our two weeks there that at ride entrances and FP+ entrances for Character Meets etc in the parks that we were welcomed by the Cast Members by our first names which we equally thought was a lovely touch and made us feel special! As we beeped through the CM would be standing by an iPad station and made a point of saying Welcome or Hi to each of us by name. When you were near a regular queue you could see other guests looking on in fascination (and a touch of envy) and we felt like VIPs although I’m sure as the rollout continues it will become slightly less of a novelty. I was genuinely honoured to have been part of the first testers and very impressed with this system – simple but effective.

  • deedeemks

    Just got back from our WDW trip yesterday! Everyone in our travel party enjoyed using the Magic Bands! We never had to use our Key to the World card, but carried them just in case. Only a few times the system was slow to read the Magic Band. Overall, I like the Magic Band program. Even purchased some bling for it!

    • Jennifer Marx Post author

      I think eventually the MagicBands will be at ALL the Disney-owned resorts — deluxe, moderate, value, and deluxe villa (DVC). I don’t think it’ll be at Shades or Green, Swan, Dolphin, or the Downtown Disney Hotels, however. Only time will tell, though.

  • ElizabethS

    If the MagicBands hold your ticket information how do you get in park FastPasses with a runner? Does the runner need to take everyone’s band, or can all the passes for your party be printed from one? Thanks for the time you put into your posts!

  • Kathy Simas

    Yes I love the Magic Bands. We were fortunate enough to use them last week and they are wonderful. Like you I never took out the key card they gave us. Why would I want to? Although they did tell me that not all places were equiped to use the magic bands. But everywhere we went they were in place..except for the laundry room. I had to use the key card for that. Truly a wonderful new tool to make Disney easier to enjoy without worrying about carrying key cards around. Can’t wait to go back next May. Yahoooooooooooooooo

  • Jan

    My Disney Experience website has gotten better. When we went in September, our daughter had coordinated all our bands. We were a party of 10 staying at Port Orleans Riverside. At that point the website was frustrating to say the least! We did carry our cards with us and at Coral Reef we had to use them as the bands were not working. However, we are returning this November, staying at the Beach Club and they sent us new bands. We had checked with concierge and they told us that would happen and just deactivate the old ones. Odd since the bands are good for 2 years. And a waste of money in my opinion. When choosing Fast Past this time, I didn’t have any issues with choices in EPCOT as others have reported. And I got one for ILLUMINATIONS. Interested in seeing how that works.

  • Shirley Garcowski

    I asked if the bands would only be for resort guests but was told that it would be rolled out to everyone. I’m hoping that resort guests will be able to reserve fastpasses earlier (much like advanced dining) before others, although, quite frankly, we pay a lot more to stay on site and think that it should be a perk just for on-site guests (or perhaps annual passholders as well). What do others think?

  • Sharry

    I was just curious, my family is going next year. It happens to be that I am fluffier and have bigger wrists. Are the bands adjustable or large enough to comfortably fit a fuller figured adult?

  • rob t

    They do have long range readers that they use. I just read that on the insert in the box with our MB’s. So the CM at the door did know your name not security like you thought.