My Disney Experience – A Fair and Balanced Review

WDW Bus Stop at Old Key WestUp until our recent visit to Walt Disney World, I could only speculate about how I would use all the new bells and whistles of the My Disney Experience, MyMagic+, FastPass+, and MagicBand.  I researched, I planned, I chose my ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations) 180 days in advance, I purchased MemoryMaker, I customized my Magic Band, I selected my FastPasses 60 days before I would need them.  I played by the rules, so to speak, and fulfilled what I considered all the new requirements for a visit to my favorite vacation destination.

The Good News:  For the most part, the WHOLE of our experience was a positive one.  I’m going to be completely honest in the rest of this article – not to whine, but to tell you how our experience really was – for us.  We always have been and still are HUGE Disney fans.  Please don’t misunderstand comments that seem to be complaints – to be fair and balanced, I need to point out areas that can be improved or that didn’t work well for our family.WDW Mickey Pretzel

We did not experience any glitches with linking our party in the My Disney Experience / MyMagic+ system, selecting FastPasses, etc.  The convenience of using a MagicBand for resort room access was awesome!  Our MagicBands were comfortable, lightweight, and non-irritating.  After selecting a PIN for use with our MagicBands for charging purchases, I’m certain we did spend quite a bit more money than intended – the process was so darned easy to use!  Touch the key pad, enter the 4-digit pin, enjoy your purchase.  Snacks, souvenirs, meals, drinks – the bill really racks up fast!

The whole FastPass+ thing was fine, but not as great as I’d imagined.  I was, perhaps, a bit overly optimistic.  We left a lot of FastPass selections unused!  Crowd levels were such that, for the most part, we didn’t need FastPasses for any other than e-ticket (headliner) rides and attractions.  Being forced to select 3 then only needing one or two Waiting for Toy Story Midway Maniameant that if we never used all 3 on a particular day, we totally ruined our chances to select more.  Yes, we could have changed our selections to something else in the same park, but then we’d have been more or less “forced” to ride out those passes to be eligible to get more – and we wanted more, especially for a different park.  Plus, the addition of the tiered FP systems in Epcot and the Studios really proved to be challenging and not as good as the old FP system for our family (your experience may be completely different!).

Getting into the parks seemed to be a LOT slower than in the past.  Especially for us since Raymond’s MagicBand almost never worked properly.  Remember Key to The World cards?  How you fed them into the card reader then the fingerprint reader’s light would come on?  Well now you touch the Mickey on your MagicBand to a reader and wait for a light to swirl around and around (on the reader, while you’re touching Mickey to it) before the swirling light becomes a bright, solid light – THEN the light comes on for the fingerprint DSCN3367reader.  Then you wait for the whole shebang to turn green- it’s much slower than the card reader!  Especially when one member of your party has trouble almost every time.  In Raymond’s case, the Cast Member by the MagicBand reader would have him try multiple times before calling over a Senior Cast Member with a hand held reader – who would read Raymond’s MagicBand, call him by name, and give him the go-ahead to enter.  This would have been okay if it only happened once, but we visited two parks a day and the process got tedious in a hurry.  It also felt like we were…how do I put this…appearing suspect.  I wasn’t embarrassed, really, but – we just felt singled out, stared at, scrutinized, again and again.  When you’re trying to use Morning Extra Magic Hours and you get held up every time…I’ll stop complaining now, you get the idea.

Splash Mountain Ride PhotoSo – to wrap it all up for you…

MagicBands – very convenient when they work properly.  Highly wearable – no complaints about comfort (I kept looking at mine as if it would tell time).  If Disney really wants this to be convenient, they’ll find a way to attach your discounts (Tables in Wonderland, DVC, Annual Pass) so you don’t have to carry all the cards!

MemoryMaker / PhotoPass – easier to use than the old system – just hold your arm out post-picture-taking for a quick scan of a MagicBand and you’re on your way.  Ride photos, character dining pics, park photos all together for one price with MemoryMaker.  If you’re Family Pic at Disney's Boardwalkthinking about it, pre-purchase for the $50 discount.  You can read my justification for forking over the $149 here.

FastPass+ – There’s a definite learning curve here.  I think I can do better on our next visit.  I strongly dislike the must-choose-and-use-three at the same park before getting the option to hop and pick again.  I also wasn’t a huge fan of having to use a kiosk to pick the fourth, fifth, etc. (versus being able to use the app, which you can’t).

MyMagic+ – There’s still some work to be done.  I believe the app is not as user-friendly as it could (and should) be.  It’s so slow!  Even when we were in a park – SLOW!!!Meg and Joe at Disney's Hollywood Studios

We had a GREAT vacation!  None of the problems we experienced were more than momentary annoyances.  No matter what kind of change you’re faced with, there’s always a period of adjustment.  I feel certain that Disney will address the existing system glitches.  I believe they will listen to guest feedback and make some additional tweaks here and there.  I am very much looking forward to our next visit to Walt Disney World in October to celebrate our 25th Anniversary – our first trip without children since my first visit in 1990!

Tim over at Dad for Disney has a great article on new versus old FastPass systems.  Check it out here.

If you’ve been to Walt Disney World recently, how was your experience with the new system?







10 Fun Things to Look For While Waiting in Line at Disney World

DSCN2608No matter what time of year you go or how savvy you are with rope-drops and FastPass+, you will inevitably find yourself – at some point during your vacation at Walt Disney World – waiting in line.  It’s not like waiting in line at the grocery store or at your local movie theater’s concession stand.  Disney (as with everything else) adds a bit (and sometimes a LOT) of pixie-dusted details, even to queues.  That’s why I encourage friends that are planning their very first visit to Walt Disney World to embrace the line.  Become zen with the waiting, so to speak.  Folks with little ones may want to bring games and toys to make waiting easier.  Personally, when I’m waiting, I like to soak up all the tiny, but magical details.  Really try to be in the moment…I mean, even waiting in line, I’m still on vacation at Disney World, right?

Now that we’ve established that we’re going to wait, whether it’s a few minutes or several, those special Disney touches to the queue areas for rides and attractions can be a form of entertainment all on their own.  So, my dear blog-reading friends, I give you….IMG_5255

10 Fun Things to Look For While Waiting in Line:

In the Magic Kingdom

  • Haunted Mansion – Since HM was re-vamped in 2011 to add the super-cool interactive queue, I find I love it even more than I did before (which was a lot).  I’d heard about the bride’s ring that can be found in the cement along the queue and I just had to find it.  Locating the elusive piece of jewelry was excellent entertainment for a hot, crowded day.  Lots to see in this queue even if you can’t find the ring.  You’ve gotta find it now, though, dontcha.
  • It’s a Small World – No, the line’s not very exciting while you’re waiting for your turn to board the “Happiest cruise that ever sailed”, but if you stand there long enough, keep your eye on IMG_2547the clock.  Every 15 minutes, the clock opens up and displays the time.  No, I cannot explain what I find so special about this particular detail.  I just think it’s pretty neat – and getting little ones to watch for it as the time draws close for the clock to open, makes waiting a little more entertaining.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – This ride (to me) has particularly hilarious details that go with Big Thunder’s backstory.  There are genuine pieces of antique mining equipment and tools, but the best part is what’s printed on the crates.  They’re from the Lytum and Hyde Explosives Company!
  • Splash Mountain – The part of the queue inside the mountain is really neat – the walls andIMG_3313 rough wood beams are very realistic, but the best part to me is outside in the courtyard.  Look for the fancy and adorable bird houses…not sure if it’s the whimsy or the little special details, but I always imagine the kinds of birds that must live there to be like the one’s that help Cinderella.

In Epcot

  • Soarin’ – Right before you board (while you’re still in line), there’s a video that explains what to expect and what actions are necessary on your part.  The video is hosted by Patrick IMG_5054Warburton (Kronk!), who I adore.  During the video, as Patrick explains how to properly stow loose items – there’s this guy.  He’s wearing an Earhat that he must, sadly, place in a storage area for safekeeping.  That guy!  He just cracks me up.  A lot.  G’head…watch and see what I mean.  Every time I wait in the line for Soarin’, I look forward to that Earhat man and the dejected expression he has when he’s got to take off his hat.
  • Mission: SPACE – If you read my previous post on Mission: SPACE, you know how I feel about it, but there’s still some pretty awesome stuff to see if you decide you’ve got to ride it.  On loan from The Smithsonian (National Air and Space Museum), is an actual really real Lunar Roving Vehicle.  Take a minute or two to check it out – think about how tough it would have been to design a vehicle that would drive around in a place with no air and little gravity.  Not into that sort of thing?  Then spend your time reading the posted health warnings – there are enough of those to keep you entertained while you wait.IMG_3024

In Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Rock’n’ Roller Coaster – The queue for this isn’t that great to me until I actually make it into the garage to board the limo – then I love the details and most especially the Hidden Mickey’s and the very clever license plates on the limos.  So, once you step through the door, take the time to look all around.  It’s pretty exciting to see the limos shoot off into the tunnel – knowing you’ll soon be doing the same.
  • DSCN2558Star Tours – This queue is awesome.  You will wind your way through a spaceport terminal complete with flight information displays, droids (like C-3PO and R2-D2) working, and luggage being screened.  Pay particular attention to the luggage screening – it’s hilarious!
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – There’s loads of cool stuff to see, but I’m particularly partial to one certain Hidden Mickey inside the hotel lobby.  Look for the desk – the glasses on the desk form a Hidden Mickey.  It’s subtle, the special effects that make everything look old, dusty, and run down add just the right amount of creepy-ness and in the midst of it all is that cleverly placed detail.  Love.  It.

In the Animal Kingdom

  • Expedition Everest – I love the stand-by line for EE almost as much as I love the ride.  It is myIMG_3405 favorite attraction at Walt Disney World.  Part of the queue will take you through a Yeti Museum – and this, to me, is the coolest part of all.  Take it all in!  Especially the plaster cast of the Yeti footprint and the remains of an expedition gone bad – clearly, by the evidence, they were attacked by some mysterious and destructive creature.  This is GREAT stuff, you guys, don’t miss it!
  • Kali River Rapids – Thousands of details and artifacts await the waiters (in line, that is) at this white-water attraction in Asia.  When you get to the Tiger Temple pavilion, please take the time to look up at the beautiful, extremely detailed artwork – it’s one of the amazing things that makes Walt Disney World so special.  While you’re waiting, there are tons of cool things to see, but I also want you to listen.  Disney’s focus on the evils of deforestation includes the sounds of chainsaws and falling trees!  Seriously.  Listen.

I limited myself to just 10 things to tell you about today – it was pretty hard.  I love riding rides and seeing shows, but I also love just being on a Disney vacation, soaking up the magic in all its forms.  Next time you find yourself at the World, take the time to enjoy the wait and tell me….

What do you do for fun while you’re waiting in line at Walt Disney World?