A few years ago Walt Disney World rolled out its “planning-your-vacay-for-serious” program, MyMagic+ and its corresponding My Disney Experience App. The Dynamic Duo promised to transform your Disney vacation in every imaginable way.
Did it succeed? You betcha.
At the time, Disney confidently predicted that MyMagic+ would allow you to be as structured and planned, or as free and spontaneous as you preferred. How’s that workin’ for ya?
If you’re a planner, great! Right? And if you’re not, um…not so well, eh?
To be fair, we’ve found a whole lot to embrace and really really love about MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience (I’m calling it MDE from here on out. OK?) But it’s definitely changed the landscape of how you manage a Disney visit.
Back then, we made a few predictions about how MyMagic+ might affect your Disney Dining. Today, we’d like to revisit those predictions to see what happened, and to determine what other impact MDE and MyMagic+ has had.
MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience: The Basics
Just in case you aren’t familiar with MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience, let’s go over the basics.
MyMagic+ is a suite of complimentary services that Disney provides when you purchase theme park admission, are a Disney World Annual Passholder, or you book a stay at a Disney World Resort.
My Disney Experience — MDE for short — is the mobile app that you use to keep track of the details. Install the app on your mobile device and add your ticket, reservation, and/or pass information, and you’ll be able to see all of your information, including room reservations, advance dining reservations, FastPasses, and even MagicBands that are tied to your account.
You can also access My Disney Experience on your computer by signing into your Disney account.
What Does MyMagic+ Include?
So — already, that’s a lot of information! Let’s back up and talk about just what all of this means, and what MyMagic+ includes.
MagicBands. Using MyMagic+ opens you to all kinds of options that really do feel a little bit like magic. You access MyMagic+ via the use of a MagicBand wristband. The band is embedded with RFID technology, and serves as your access to Disney Parks and more.
If you book a Walt Disney World Resort room reservation, you will have the chance to purchase a Magic Band at a discounted rate prior to your arrival, or you may purchase one at any time during your trip. (Please note that this is a change that went into effect in January 2021. Prior to that point, Resort guests received complimentary MagicBands. Guests who do not opt to purchase a MagicBand at a discounted price prior to their arrival receive a Key to the World card, which offers the same features.) Other guests also receive cards rather than bands, but anyone may purchase a band if they’d like. Bands come in several different colors. Additional bands, commemorative bands, and band accessories are also available for purchase.
MagicBands are your all-access key to Walt Disney World. Use them as a room key if you’re staying in the resort. They’ll function to get you into the Parks as well. With a swipe of your wrist, you’ll access your FastPasses and pay for purchases, too.
FastPass+. FastPass has graduated to a new level of service with the introduction of FastPass+. These days, rather than running to your favorite ride to obtain a FastPass card, you can book your FastPass+ up to 30 days in advance of your visit. If you’re staying in a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, you can book FastPasses up to 60 days in advance.
FastPass+ offers a window of one hour of time to show up for your ride. You can also alter the time and day of your FastPass on the go via the MDE app if you need to. (This service is subject to availability, of course.)
Payment Methods. I touched briefly on this above, but one of the handiest aspects of the MyMagic+ program is using your MagicBand to pay for purchases. When you assign a credit card to your MagicBand, you can pay for meals, memorabilia, snacks, and services with a scan of your band.
While it’s similar to the old Key to the World card, it’s somewhat simpler in that you don’t have to dig through your bag. The band is right there on your wrist.
Disney Dining Plan. If you’ve pre-purchased your Disney Dining Plan, then you’ll also have the convenience of managing your plan from your Magic Band. This is also a preferred perk for teens who would like to explore on their own — but who also appreciate things like eating. 🙂 No more handing them a card or cash to lose.
They can manage their DDP credits with their own MagicBands.
PhotoPass. Gone — GONE! are the days when you received photos at the end of that character dining experience, or had to keep track of a PhotoPass card in addition to everything else. Today, just stand in line for that picture with Mickey, and the photographer will swipe your band. You’ll automatically have access to all of your professional photos in one spot.
Just About Everything Else. It seems that just about anytime you need help with anything at Disney, the answer is found on your MagicBand. We’ve seen Cast Members do everything from coordinating FastPass changes, to determining Park parking eligibility, all with a swipe.
How Do MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience Impact Dining?
But you wouldn’t be reading this post if this weren’t your real question, right?
The two biggest impacts that we’ve found MyMagic+ and MDE to have on dining are ease of scheduling and payment. In fact, being able to book advance dining reservations AND to change them on the fly has been a great advantage to me personally. If I’m stuck in a meeting, weather has held up my plans, or a cranky kiddo demands that we change a facet of our touring strategy, I can bump my ADR or change it altogether from the MDE app on my phone.
DFB TIP: And changing the time or date of an existing ADR instead of canceling altogether means that I don’t incur the customary $10 per person cancellation fee. This has personally saved me a ton of money and has actually offered me some flexibility that I didn’t foresee.
Also, as we predicted, having some control over your FastPass+ scheduling allows you to get a FastPass that doesn’t conflict with you ADR. Hooray! I never have to choose between Le Cellier and Soarin’ again. 🙂
I also love the ease of paying with my MagicBand. My record of expenses for a trip are captured all in one place, and I don’t have to worry about keeping track of gift cards, credit cards, or cash.
What Are Other Advantages to the My Disney Experience App?
One unexpected benefit to the MDE app is that you can now view menus for Disney restaurants online. This can be a huge help, especially when deciding between two counter service locations that are located far away from where you currently are. Also, it seems that Disney is doing a much better job of keeping their online menus up to date and accurate these days, as they push guests to rely more and more on these digital resources.
Running for rope drop has also become a thing of the past — at least for Disney Resort Guests and Annual Passholders. Previously, scoring a FastPass to coveted rides like Slinky Dog Dash meant making a mad dash to Pixar Place as soon as the Park opened. These days however, you can schedule ahead of time, thus avoiding the frenzy.
While we did expect to see changes to dining habits as a result of MyMagic+, we haven’t seen a huge uptick in the number of guests enjoying resort breakfasts. The same places are crowded or sparsely populated, just like they used to be. And if anything, we’re seeing additional breakfast options in the Parks, not fewer.
What Does MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience Mean for Spontaneity?
The ability to be spontaneous has taken a hit — in some ways. If you are going to the Parks for an event like the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, and don’t really plan to take in any attractions, then you’re all good. Likewise, if standing in line doesn’t phase you, then no problem. You have the option to join a standby queue just like you always have. But if riding popular rides like Frozen Ever After without gambling that the wait will chew up valuable time is important to you, or you’d like to dine at a specific Table Service Restaurant, you had better plan ahead.
Do we mean that you need to plan every second of everyday that you’re on the ground in Walt Disney World? No, not really. (Unless you really like to do that. Then by all means. Knock yourself out.) What we do strongly suggest is that, now more than ever, if you have table service restaurants or other dining experiences that you really want to book, you had better do it in advance.
We are excited about one new development we’ve seen: Disney seems to be playing with keeping at least some Table Service Restaurant capacity open for walk ups. Earlier this year, we noted that Plaza Restaurant in Magic Kingdom reserved afternoons for walk up traffic only.
We applaud this move toward giving guests options and we hope to see it continue.
Skip the lines and pre-order your food with Mobile Order. Launched within the My Disney Experience app, Mobile Order allows guests to pre-order and pre-pay for their food at participating Counter Service Restaurants around Disney World. Upon arrival to the restaurant, guests using Mobile Order can then bypass the ordering queue and go straight to a designated Pick Up Counter to get their food.
There are counter service restaurants in each theme park, and D-Luxe Burger in Disney Springs, where you can skip the lines by using Mobile Order! You can even use it to order your Dole Whip at Aloha Isle!
Note that at press time, Mobile Order still wasn’t set up to honor Annual Pass discounts or take the Disney Dining Plan.
You can see the full list of participating Mobile Order restaurants here.
The Future of MyMagic+
Welp, it was a bumpy rollout at times, but it does seem that MyMagic+, My Disney Experience, and MagicBands are here to stay. To a great extent, guests seem to have accepted the New Disney World Order. And it also appears that Disney is fine tuning how they use the information they gather about crowd responses and behaviors. And believe me…they ARE gathering the information.
Only time will tell where we go from here. With reports that Annual Passholders are surrendering their passes and attendance is down recently, it’s tough to say if the dawn of MyMagic+ has positively impacted the guest experience. As for your DFB Team, we see the move as more positive than negative. But we’ll continue to monitor the ways in which the program molds and changes the Disney Food Landscape.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. How has MyMagic+ impacted your Disney Dining Habits? Leave a comment below and share about your MyMagic+ experience with us!