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. They’ve been updated several times for the Orlando theme parks. Finally in late 2022, the third generation MagicBand+ debuted at Disneyland in California as well.
Depending on your Disney destination, MagicBands are tools to unlock many features of a high-tech vacation experience while on-site. For example, guests may be able to use them as a room key for on-property resort hotel rooms, to charge purchases, to scan into theme park entrances and Lightning Lanes, and much more. MagicBands are made of flexible plastic and fit around guest wrists so they go 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 they were first released that even guests who have used them 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, gleaned from my numerous experiences using MagicBands over the years (including MagicBand+ which I have personally used at both Disney World and Disneyland). By the time you are done reading, I promise you will know all the important things there are to know about using MagicBands no matter what Disney destination you plan to visit. That way, you will be able to use them to the fullest on your next Disney vacation.
Last updated: February 22, 2023.
(Trips With Tykes uses affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase through links in this post. See our full disclosure policy linked in the menu at the bottom of this site.)
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 to get oriented.
Disney’s original 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 had a slight design modification to allow for more ways to wear it.
On July 27, 2022, a third generation MagicBand debuted at Walt Disney World – MagicBand+. The new band has interactive features within the parks, light up, require charging, and – of course – cost more.
But MagicBand+ is also not limited to just Walt Disney World any more. Disneyland finally has bands of its own, with MagicBand+ debuting as of October 26, 2022. The bands don’t have quite as much functionality in California as they do in Florida initially, so it’s important to understand the differences if you visit both Disney coasts.
Related: Guide to Visiting Disneyland in 2023
Let’s dive into the MagicBand product as it exists today at Walt Disney World and the features that have been released in this initial launch at Disneyland.
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 (Disney World and Disneyland)
- as room keys to access your Disney on-property hotel room (Disney World only)
- for redeeming Lightning Lane reservations you booked either with the Disney Genie+ service or paid individual Lightning Lane (Disney World and Disneyland)
- to enter rides reserved with virtual queues (when offered) when a guest’s boarding group is called (Disney World and Disneyland)
- for charging purchases to your Disney hotel room at stores and restaurants, acting like your credit card (Disney World only)
- to load Photopass photos into your My Disney Experience account or Disneyland app (Disney World and Disneyland)
- to unlock interactive features in the parks, including the Star Wars: Batuu Bounty Hunters game in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge as well as lighting up during nighttime spectaculars – MagicBand+ only (Disney World and Disneyland)
- Coming TBD: The new MagicBand+ offering will also eventually work with a new Amazon Echo product “Hey Disney!” in on-property hotel rooms.
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 have appreciated 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 early 2023, MagicBands are now used at both Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California. There have been no plans announced to introduce them in any of the international parks.
At 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 there. Both MagicBand 2.0 and the new MagicBand+ will work at Disney World for most functions.
At Disneyland, MagicBand usage is more limited to a handful of features in the theme parks only. And only MagicBand+ works at Disneyland. Guests who have MagicBand 2.0 cannot use the older bands in California. Guests can, however, use the same MagicBand+ for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland vacations. (See more even details about MagicBand+ at Disneyland specifically.)
What about Disney Cruise Line and Aulani? While there aren’t MagicBands on either DCL ships or at the Aulani Resort in the same way as they are used at the parks, you’ve probably spotted a band or two at both.
Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii introduced MagicBands in a more limited way – exclusively for opening hotel room doors. Their use has been glitchy and bands also haven’t been consistently sold on site, so only a few guests use them so far. MagicBands are also used at the kids club at Aulani, Aunty’s Beach House. The scanning technology on the band is used to track kids as they check in and out in a secure way.
Aboard Disney Cruise Line, bands are used at the kids clubs, the Oceaneer Club and Lab, for the same security features.
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 Walt Disney World 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.
How much do they cost? The new MagicBand+ at Disney World starts at a retail price of $34.99 for solid color, with more unique character designs and limited edition bands costing $44.99 and above. Products are available on shopDisney.com or at most stores on Disney property.
On-property Disney World hotel guests can also pre-purchase MagicBand+ at a discount, either to be shipped to their home or picked up at their Disney on-property hotel. There is no similar pre-purchase option, however, for Disneyland on-property hotel guests.
Ordering discounted MagicBand+ has been a very popular option at Walt Disney World. That means many of the premium choices have fluctuating availability. I recommend checking early and often, as bands come in and out of stock.
MagicBand 2.0 is also still available for purchase for Walt Disney World guests as well (remember, MagicBand 2.0 isn’t supported at Disneyland). The retail price on these bands is $19.99 and up. Both solid colors as well as special designs are available, and for now at least, so are pre-ordering discounts.
4. When Will My MagicBands Be Shipped and Arrive?
If you are an on-property Walt Disney World guest who has decided to purchase MagicBands, you’ll be shipped a set 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 design).
What if you forget or are too late? You can still select a band 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 shipped to your home is not as essential. So if you have your heart set on a design that you can’t pre-order in advance at a discount, 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 at both Disney World and Disneyland. 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 at Walt Disney World) 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 and Disneyland now have 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 the Disney World or Disneyland mobile app, those times are then linked to your account and redeemable via MagicBand. When your reservation time arrives, scan your MagicBand at the Lightning Lane entrance to the attraction (look for the poles with the Mickey heads) and breeze on through.
Related: Tips for Maximizing Genie+ at Walt Disney World
Related: Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane and Disneyland: 17 Questions Answered
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 Walt Disney World resort hotels (value, moderate, deluxe, and deluxe villas) have readers on guest room doors. A simple tap of the band opens your room. No keys to lose!
This feature is not yet available for on-property hotel guests at Disneyland with MagicBand+.
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 can be purchased from shopDisney.com in advance of your trip or in theme park stores on-site. A limited selection of premium bands are also available for discounted upgrades for on-property guests. (See section 3 above for more details).
When MagicBand 2.0 debuted, customization often went beyond just colors and character designs. MagicBand 2.0 has a center disc/puck called the “icon” that can be removed with a small screwdriver. Creative Disney types mixed and matched the icon with different color bands, and also decorated them with paint, nail polish, vinyl cutout designs, temporary tattoos, rhinestones, and so much more.
MagicBand+ has less of this physical customization potential because the center icon isn’t removable, Plus the designs that Disney sells are now much more extensive and varied. So a lot of the customization comes at the point of purchase when guests pick their favorite character or design. I expect fewer people will be making DIY modifications to MagicBand+, but you do you if you enjoy this aspect of the product!
Another new way MagicBand+ can be customized is in its lighted color scheme. Guests can select the color combination they want to see displayed when the band lights up when interacting with features within the parks or being scanned. You can change this color scheme in the Disneyland or Disney World app at any time (go to the MagicBand menu, select the particular band, and then view and change the “Light Up Theme” options).
9. Do MagicBands Integrate with Photopass and MemoryMaker?
Yes! One of my favorite services at Disney parks is Photopass (also called MemoryMaker at Walt Disney World). Cast members who are professional photographers are located throughout the parks to take shots of your family’s vacation. Disney Photopass photographers can scan your MagicBand to add photos to your online account where you can download some or all of them depending on what options you purchase. This feature is available at both Walt Disney World and at Disneyland. It’s much more convenient to scan a band than it is to find a Photopass code buried in an app on your phone, so this feature saves time and hassle.
Disney parks also have cameras that take snapshots of guests automatically on certain rides. At Walt Disney World, your band helps add those photos into your online account too. In some cases, you’ll need to scan your band at the end of the ride at the photo screens to add them. But a few rides at Walt Disney World, like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, do this for you automatically. 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! (Note that Disneyland doesn’t have MagicBand+ scanners or RF capabilities for on-ride photos yet.)
10. Can I Charge Purchases Using My MagicBand?
For even further convenience, some Disney World guests can link a credit card and use their 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 the card on file for your hotel bill. There is no way to use MagicBands for charging privileges when you are staying off-site. (The charging option is also not available with MagicBand+ at Disneyland, even for on-property hotel guests.)
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 all MagicBands to have a tear away layer to make the band much smaller for the smallest of guests. MagicBand+ has this size customization as well.
We have been able to fit one 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 band on is a different matter entirely.
12. Can MagicBands Get Wet?
Yes! All MagicBand generations, including MagicBand+, 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 guest staying on-property now no longer have to carry money or credit cards.
If you do choose to take them off to shower, swim, or sleep just remember to put them back on. I find it’s sometimes easier to keep them on for the entirety of a vacation so you don’t risk leaving them on the nightstand or bathroom vanity. When I do take them off in my hotel room I often will fasten them immediately around the strap of my purse so I absolutely do not forget to take them with me into the parks!
13. Can I do Disney World (or Disneyland) without MagicBands? Are MagicBands Really Worth the Money?
By now you are probably pretty tempted by 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. I think they are even less essential at Disneyland because their functionality is more limited there. With the increased prices of MagicBand+, a lot more guests are considering this purchase more carefully and rightfully so!
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 free and can be used in lieu of MagicBands or as an alternative or backup to them.
RFID Cards/Tickets: For park tickets and Lightning Lane redemptions, Disney World has offered a special RFID card 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. (At Disneyland, a regular paper ticket with barcode continues to offer the same functionality.)
Hotel Keycard: For on-property hotels, guests have other room key options as well. The old “Key to the World” hotel card keys are still available if desired at Walt Disney World. And at Disneyland, hotel keycards are still the default as always.
Digital Key: Both the My Disney Experience App (for Walt Disney World) and official Disneyland App now have a feature that turns your mobile phone into a room key card for on-property hotels using Bluetooth technology (here’s how). Just be aware that this can be glitchy in my experience so you may want to have a backup or alternative.
Disney’s MagicMobile Service: In 2021 Disney World unveiled a brand new offering – Disney’s MagicMobile service – to offer a further option. 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 or Lightning Lanes, guests hold up their phone. It offers an Express Mode so that opening the app or unlocking the screen isn’t even necessary. One device can also be used to manage access for multiple family members with a swipe feature.
Disneyland App: While Disneyland doesn’t have MagicMobile, the park mobile app still continues to work for a lot of the features MagicBand+ offers. Guests can link park ticket to their Disneyland account in the app and use them to enter parks or to scan into Lightning Lanes as always.
As you can see, there are a lot of free alternatives in Disney parks. I personally really enjoy the convenience of MagicBands myself. But I go to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World often, so they are “worth it” to me.
For the very occasional visitor, especially those with big families or on a very tight budget, don’t feel like you must have them. And if the choice is a MagicBand or another valuable extra like a character meal or an extra day of Genie+, I’d probably put the money toward a different splurge first!
14. Do MagicBands Need Charging?
While the original MagicBand and MagicBand 2.0 never needed a charge, that has all changed with the advent of MagicBand+. In order to use all the features, you need to charge your MagicBand+. And often! At the very least, it probably needs to be charged daily – more than a FitBit or Apple Watch.
There have been some complaints about the battery life of MagicBand+, especially when playing Batuu Bounty Hunters, which is particularly draining on the battery. On my most recent Disneyland trip, I found that I couldn’t even connect at all with the game when my band was in a low charge state.
MagicBands have a unique charger cable that docks with the back of the band’s center. The other end of the cable plugs into a standard USB port. The unique design is not ideal, as that’s one more cord to remember to pack (and sometimes bring with you in your Disney day bag) on a vacation. In fact, it’s probably more than one more cord because you really need a charger for each band your family is using. I highly recommend also bringing a portable charger (my fave is the Anker Powercore Slim 10K) because between your phones and your MagicBands, something will run out of power before the day is through!
All bands that Disney sells come with a charger included in the box. Replacement chargers are available for sale in stores in the parks and beyond for $7.99 each.
Even if your MagicBand battery goes dead, all hope is not lost. The RF chip in the band still works, like it did with the no-charge MagicBand 2.0. So you can still scan into theme parks, redeem Lightning Lanes, and charge purchases. You just can’t do some of the extras like see your band light up for nighttime spectaculars or play Batuu Bounty Hunters.
15. Can I Reuse MagicBands on a Future Vacation?
If you’ve created a MagicBand original that you can’t part with, want to be environmentally responsible and generate less plastic, or simply want to save money, 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.
And now that MagicBand+ is here, the product works at both Disneyland and Disney World. So you absolutely should reuse it to save money if you visit both Disney coasts.
16. Can My MagicBand Be Used By or Transferred to Someone Else?
A MagicBand can most definitely be used again by the original guest. But at Walt Disney World, once a MagicBand has been linked to a guest profile in the My Disney Experience app, it is forever tethered to that guest. That means you cannot give your MagicBand+ to friends or family going later on a Disney World vacation. You also can’t swap styles among your family group. (Learn about other things not to do with MagicBands here.)
But here is where Disneyland has one key difference – and for the better! At Disneyland, there are no guest profiles in the app. Instead, you use the app to link a MagicBand+ to a particular ticket or Magic Key. The app also has functionality allowing guests to unlink a ticket from any MagicBand+ and link a different ticket number. This allows for band transferability that isn’t possible at Disney World. So feel free to switch styles or loan an extra to a friend who doesn’t have one if you only go to the California parks.
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. With MagicBand+, you can even now do it yourself in the My Disney Experience app at Walt Disney World (look for the “report as lost” feature). At Disneyland, it’s as simple as unlinking the band from any assigned ticket or Magic Key.
But I bet you are also worried about losing a MagicBand because of how much they cost, especially now with MagicBand+ on the scene. Disney previously provided replacement gray bands to guests who lost them for free. Now that MagicBands are no longer free, don’t expect replacements.
So consider carefully whether to buy expensive 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. But if you have younger kids who can’t be trusted to keep track, consider using alternatives until they are at a more responsible and trustworthy age. Purchasing a less expensive MagicBand 2.0 may be a more budget-friendly alternative as well at Walt Disney World while they are still available.
For extra band security for everyone in the family, consider also a product like Bitbelts. These are small plastic sleeves that you can use to secure the band near its connection point in case it becomes unhooked.
Have you used MagicBands on a Disney vacation yet? Share your experiences in the comments.
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Wednesday 26th of October 2022
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Understanding the Different Expressions of Fintech – Rich & Writing
Wednesday 27th of July 2022
[…] Disney World for example, their MagicBands allows visitors to fulfil financial transactions with the plastic wrist […]
Understanding the Different Expressions of Fintech – Rich and Writing
Sunday 19th of June 2022
[…] Disney World for example, their MagicBands allows visitors to fulfil financial transactions with the plastic wrist […]
Monday 10th of January 2022
I already have magic bands one for me and one for my sister both bands are linked to account how do i put her name on the band number and select a pin to charge
Thursday 28th of October 2021
do I need to buy kid tracker device or kid tracker watch to track my kid in disney world if so which one is the best kind. I am so overwhelmed with different kinds in the market. Thanks for your advice