If you haven’t been on a Disney vacation in the past decade, then you may not be familiar with Disney’s MagicBands. These bands, similar in size to a FitBit, were introduced in 2013 as part of a major technology overhaul to the guest experience at Walt Disney World. Disney guests start by planning their vacation and pre-booking many of their desired vacation experiences on My Disney Experience online accounts.
Once arriving on site at Disney, MagicBands are tools to unlock many features of that high-tech vacation experience. For example, guests can use MagicBands as a room key for on-property hotel rooms, to charge purchases, to scan into theme parks entrances and Lightning Lanes, and much more. MagicBands are made of flexible plastic and fit around guest wrists so they go can everywhere each guest goes.
The technology is impressive (yes, one might even say “magic!”). But new technological innovations have a learning curve. Many Disney visitors can be confused about how MagicBands work, who can get them, and all of their features and conveniences. And so much has changed since MagicBands were first released that even guests who have used MagicBands before may find that the details are different on a vacation today.
Never fear! This post is intended to help clear up any confusion you might have. By the time you are done reading, I promise you will know all the important things there are to know about using MagicBands. That way, you will be able to use them to the fullest on your next Disney vacation.
Last updated: May 19, 2022
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Disney MagicBand History and Latest News
Before diving into all the questions you may have about MagicBands today, it’s important to know a little history and also learn about what’s about to change in the future.
Disney’s MagicBands debuted at Walt Disney World only in 2013. Disney made further upgrades to the bands in early 2017 with the release of MagicBand 2.0, which has a slight design modification that allows for more ways to wear it. MagicBand 2.0 is what guests in the Walt Disney World park are using today – as of the date of publication of this post.
In November of 2021, however, Disney announced future changes coming to the MagicBand landscape. Very soon (likely by summer 2022), a third generation MagicBand will debut at Walt Disney World – MagicBand+. The new band will have interactive features within the parks, light up, require charging, and – of course – cost more. The new MagicBand+ offering will also eventually work with a new Amazon Echo product “Hey Disney!” in on-property hotel rooms.
And, MagicBand+ will not just be limited to Walt Disney World any more. Disneyland will finally get MagicBands of its own this year.
Stay tuned for more updates to this post in the coming days and weeks for both Disney coasts. But for now, let’s dive into the product as it exists today.
Top Questions about Disney’s MagicBands Answered!
1. How Do MagicBands Work?
The magic of MagicBands is enabled by a tiny RFID chip embedded in the center puck of the band. The bands transmit at both short range and long range distances to communicate to the Disney computers and allow you to access all the features of your Disney vacation.
As for what MagicBands do, the answer is a LOT! The bands can be used in the following ways:
- to scan/tap into the theme parks, acting as your park tickets
- as room keys to access your Disney on-property hotel room
- for redeeming Lightning Lane reservations you booked either with Walt Disney World’s Genie+ service or paid Lightning Lane individual attraction selection
- to enter rides reserved with virtual queues (when offered) when a guest’s boarding group is called
- for charging purchases to your Disney hotel room at stores and restaurants all over Walt Disney World resort (acting like your credit card)
- to load Photopass photos into your My Disney Experience account (to access with Memory Maker)
As you might guess, the goal of MagicBands is to make all aspects of a Disney vacation as seamless as possible. There is no need to fumble with a hotel room key, risk losing a separate park ticket, or pull out a credit card every time you make a purchase. As a mom who is usually in Disney parks juggling young kids, I really appreciate the hands-free aspect of it all!
2. Which Disney Parks Have MagicBands?
One important thing to know about MagicBands is in which Disney destination you will find them. As of May 2022, the answer for Disney’s theme parks is only Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. But as mentioned above, the new MagicBand+ is coming to Disneyland soon! There have been no plans to introduce MagicBands in any of the international parks.
At Walt Disney World, MagicBands work all over the resort. This includes the four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom), the water parks (Blizzard Beach & Typhoon Lagoon), and Disney Springs. They also work in all Disney hotels, shops, and restaurants.
What about Disney Cruise Line and Aulani? Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii recently introduced MagicBands in a more limited way not long after the resort reopened in fall 2020 (Related: Big Changes at Disney’s Aulani for 2021), but had technological difficulties. On my most recent Aulani trip, I was told they were not operational and further updates are still TBD.
And on Disney Cruise Line, while there aren’t MagicBands there in the same way as they are used at Disney World, you’ve probably spotted a band or two on board. Why? The bands are used at the kids clubs there, the Oceaneer Club and Lab on DCL ships (as well as at Aunty’s Beach House at Aulani). The scanning technology on the band is used to track kids as they check in and out in a secure way.
3. Are MagicBands Free? If Not, How Much Do MagicBands Cost & Where Can I Buy Them?
For many years, solid colored MagicBands were free to on-property hotel guests for every trip. But things changed effective January 1, 2021. All guests who wish to use a MagicBand must now purchase a new one or reuse one from a prior trip.
If you want a MagicBand, how much do they cost? The most basic solid colored MagicBands that used to be free can start at $5 for on-property hotel guests. Lately, these cheap band choices haven’t been available due to supply chain issues. The retail price on these same bands was $14.99 on shopDisney.com or at most stores on Disney property, meaning that on-property guests could save about $10 per person.
What if you want something a little more exciting or themed? There are also fancier premium character and other designs available. But if you are an on-property guest, there’s also a feature that allows you to purchase some of these premium MagicBands at a discount. The price depends a lot on the design, but most of them also are about $10-15 in savings per band off the retail price (but note that many of these premium bands retail at $29.99 or more so this still adds up quickly for a traveling family!).
Ordering discounted premium MagicBands has been a very popular option. That means many of the premium choices have fluctuating availability. I recommend checking early and often for the premium choices, as bands come in and out of stock.
4. When Will My MagicBands Be Shipped and Arrive?
If you are an on-property guest who has decided to purchase MagicBands, you’ll be shipped a set of MagicBands before your trip. Note that you must customize and request them through your My Disney Experience online account in advance.
The key date to watch is to order them at least 11 days before your vacation so they have time to ship and arrive. Make sure your address on file is correct (although you’ll have a chance to double-check that as you select your MagicBand colors).
What if you forget or are too late? Back when MagicBands were free, you could still select a band if you were 6-10 days in advance of your vacation to wait for your arrival at the front desk of your Disney hotel. If you are at the 5 day mark or less, then pre-ordering is not available and you’ll need to pay full retail price if you purchase a MagicBand on-site.
Now that Disney’s Magical Express airport transportation from Orlando has been discontinued entirely, getting MagicBands early is not as essential. So if you have your heart set on a design that you can’t pre-order in advance, it may make more sense to wait.
5. How do MagicBands Work as Park Tickets?
For guests who use MagicBands, perhaps the most convenient feature is that they store your park tickets. No more worrying about forgetting or losing your park tickets. A simple tap of the band on a reader at park gates (plus a fingerprint match scan) are all you need to enter the theme parks every day of your vacation.
Remember also that you can get legitimate, discounted park tickets for your Disney vacation from Trips With Tykes partner and authorized ticket broker Get Away Today. Their tickets work seamlessly with MagicBands and give you all the same privileges as the ones you purchase from Disney directly. Don’t purchase direct from Disney and pay more! Book your Disney World park tickets from Get Away Today here.
6. How Do Disney MagicBands Work with Genie+ and Lightning Lane?
Walt Disney World now has two new paid services for guests wanting to bypass long lines for popular attractions – Genie+ and individual Lightning Lane (replacing Fastpass+). Guests holding these reservations return to rides in a special line can ride the attraction with a shorter wait.
When you book Lightning Lane return times in Walt Disney World’s mobile app, those times are then linked to your MagicBand. When your reservation time arrives, scan your MagicBand at the Lightning Lane entrance to the attraction and breeze on through.
If you don’t have a MagicBand, you can still access these lanes using several alternatives (see #13 below).
7. How Do MagicBands Work as Your Hotel Room Key?
In addition to letting you into the Disney parks, MagicBands also let you into your on-property hotel room. All Disney resort hotels (value, moderate, deluxe, and deluxe villas) have MagicBand readers on guest room doors. A simple tap of the MagicBand opens your room. No keys to lose!
8. Can I Customize My MagicBand?
Since Disney visitors wear MagicBands for the entirety of a Disney vacation, many guests want to add a bit of originality and flair. Luckily, Disney has a number of options available for personalizing your wristband.
The most basic form of customization is color and theme selection. Disney has plenty of solid color choices as well as a number of premium special edition MagicBands: everything from Star Wars to the Incredibles. Most of these special bands are over $20 each and can be purchased from shopDisney.com in advance of your trip or in theme park stores on-site. A limited selection of premium MagicBands are also available for discounted upgrades for on-property guests. (See section 3 above for more details).
But MagicBand customization goes way beyond just colors and character designs at this point. MagicBand 2.0 has a center disc/puck Disney calls the “icon” that can be removed with a small screwdriver. Creative Disney types mix and match the icon with different color bands. And so many people decorate their MagicBands with paint, nail polish, vinyl cutout designs, temporary tattoos, rhinestones, and so much more. (Check out some easy DIY MagicBand ideas here.)
Finally, if you don’t want to wear a band, you can even remove the icon entirely. It fits into a variety of accessories that have come and gone in Disney stock, including MagicKeepers to turn it into a keychain or lanyard and new slap bracelets.
9. Do MagicBands Integrate with Photopass and MemoryMaker?
Yes! One of my favorite services at Disney parks is Photopass (also called MemoryMaker). Cast members who are professional photographers are located throughout the parks to take shots of your family’s vacation. You can use your MagicBand to add photos to your online account where you can download some or all of them depending on what options you purchase.
Even more cameras take snapshots on rides. In some cases, you’ll need to scan your band at the end of the ride at the photo screens to add them to your account. But a few rides, like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, do this for you automatically. Yes, the long-range RF capabilities of MagicBands can actually identify you on the coaster and deliver photos and video straight to your My Disney Experience account!
10. Can I Charge Purchases Using My MagicBand?
For even further convenience, Disney guests can link a credit card to their MagicBands and use the bands to charge for purchases in the parks. Just be aware that this privilege only works for guests staying in on-property hotels, as the charges are routed back to your hotel bill. There is no way to use MagicBands for charging privileges when you are staying off-site.
If you don’t want your kids to have unfettered access to charging privileges, there are plenty of controls in place too. You can specify that only the adults in your party have MagicBand charging privileges if you so choose. Plus, you can add a PIN that you can keep to yourself.
11. Will MagicBands Fit Me or My Child?
How can one size really fit all when it comes to a little soft plastic wristband? Disney has wisely created MagicBands to have a tear away layer to make the band much smaller for the smallest of guests. We have been able to fit a MagicBand on my son’s wrist when he was as young as 2 as well as all the adults in our extended traveling family. Of course, getting a toddler to keep a MagicBand on was a different matter entirely.
12. Can MagicBands Get Wet?
Yes! MagicBands are fully waterproof. You can take a shower with them or swim with them in your hotel’s pool with no worries. They are perhaps the most convenient at Disney’s water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, because guests now no longer have to carry money or credit cards.
If you do choose to take them off to shower or swim (or sleep!) just remember to put them back on. I find it’s sometimes easier to keep them on for the entirety of your vacation so you don’t risk leaving them on the nightstand or bathroom vanity.
13. Can I do Disney World without MagicBands?
By now you are probably pretty sold on the convenience factor of MagicBands. But are they a must-have for a Disney vacation? No. If they aren’t in your budget to purchase them (or just aren’t your thing), it’s entirely possible to do a Disney vacation without MagicBands.
What do you use instead (besides the obvious like cash or credit cards)? Disney now has several alternatives, depending on the function you are trying to complete. All of these options are also free.
RFID Cards: For park tickets and Lightning Lane redemptions, Disney has offered a special RFID card instead of MagicBands for many years. This card is small enough to slide in a wallet or in a pocket of a purse. Just scan it at the same tapstyles and touch points where you would scan a MagicBand.
Key to the World Card: For on-property hotels, guests have other room key options if they don’t want to use MagicBands. The old “Key to the World” hotel card keys are still available if desired.
My Disney Experience App: For Disney hotel guests, perhaps more exciting than a room key card is the newest option – your mobile phone! As of last year, guests can use the My Disney Experience app and Bluetooth technology to open hotel room doors with a smartphone (here’s how).
Disney’s MagicMobile Service: Last but certainly not least, the smartphone features continue to expand even beyond hotel room access. In March 2021 Disney unveiled a brand new offering – Disney’s MagicMobile service – to offer a further alternative to MagicBands for many more functions. Some features of it are already available to use, with additional phases to come.
14. How are MagicBands Different than MagicMobile?
The new MagicMobile feature is another convenient way to access a number of the features previously only available on MagicBands. MagicMobile allows guests to create a pass in the My Disney Experience app to add to their smartphone’s digital wallet. Instead of holding a MagicBand or RFID card up to a reader for functions like park entry, guests hold up their phone.
Current features available on MagicMobile as of May 2022:
- Scan to enter theme parks (note: a valid Disney World park reservation required)
- Link Disney PhotoPass images to your account
- Scan to access Lightning Lanes or redeem virtual queue boarding groups when called for rides that offer them
- Charge purchases back to Disney resort hotel
Opening the app or unlocking the screen isn’t even necessary with Express Mode. The device can be used to manage access for multiple family members with a swipe feature too.
Have both a MagicBand and MagicMobile? Guests can toggle between using the two interchangeably depending on what is most convenient in the circumstances.
15. Can I Reuse MagicBands on a Future Vacation?
If you’ve created a MagicBand original that you can’t part with or want to be environmentally responsible and generate less plastic, you don’t have to use a new MagicBand on your next vacation. MagicBands can be used again and again for your next Disney trips if you choose. As long as a band is listed as active in your My Disney Experience account, it can be re-used.
If you have an old band from a previous on-property stay but are staying off-property on your next Disney vacation, you can take advantage of the convenience of reuse at no additional cost. Just remember it won’t work for charging privileges, since those are only for hotel guests.
16. Can My MagicBand Be Used By or Transferred to Someone Else?
While a MagicBand can most definitely be used again by the original guest, it cannot be repurposed or transferred to work for a different person. Unfortunately you cannot give your MagicBands to friends or family going later on a Disney World vacation. (Learn about other things not to do with MagicBands here.)
17. What Happens if I Lose my MagicBand?
With all these features, I bet you are worried about losing your MagicBand. Don’t be! Any guest services counter can deactivate the lost one to protect your security.
Disney previously provided replacement gray bands to guests who lost them for free as well. Now that MagicBands are no longer free, don’t expect replacements. So consider carefully whether to buy expensive custom bands for younger kids who might easily lose one. Our family found that our son would lose his frequently when we were on a trips when he was 2-3 years old. Kids under 3 don’t even need a MagicBand as they don’t require a park ticket, so don’t worry about needing one for the youngest of visitors!
Have you used MagicBands on a Disney vacation yet? Share your experiences in the comments.
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