Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Magic Bands & Rapid Fill Mugs

When I first heard about the Disney's Magic Band system I hated it.  Let's see if having spent the last week using one changed my mind.  I'll go over each function of the band and how well it worked for me.

Room Key:
The first time I used my Magic Band was to get into my hotel room, and it worked fine.  We ended up swithching rooms ( we had asked for one with a queen bed) and the front desk was able to update the room number in our bands without having to go to the front desk.  I had gone to the new room before we moved our luggage to make sure both bands worked, and they did.  Something happened in the time I went from the new room back to the old and my wife's band had stopped working.  The next morning she went to the front desk and had it reset, and this somehow caused mine to stop working.  After it was reset, both of us were able to access the room for the rest of the trip without a problem.
Park Passes:
The Magic Band also holds your park pass on it.  Just like with the key card, you still have to provide a finger print.  Everything you do with the Magic Band requires you tapping the Mickey on your band to a Mickey someplace else.  So, getting into the park you place your Mickey on a pole at the main gate, wait for the circle around Mickey's head to light up, then put your finger on the scanner.  If all goes correctly the lights around Mickey's head will turn green and you can enter the park.  This worked everytime for me.  On our second day my wife's band acted up again and it had to be reset by a Cast Member who was standing by.  They have done away with the old turnstyles and added 2 Magic Band stations in their place.  I wouldn't say this system is any better or worse than before.  Guests without Magic Bands tap their card againt one of the Mickey's which actually seemed to work a little faster because you have to line the Mickey on the band with the Mickey head at the gate the right way to get it to read.
Making Purchases:
So far the Magic Band acts just like a wearable room key, and like the room key, it can be used to make putchases.  When you check into your hotel they will ask you to select a pin number for your charges, this way if you lose your band no one else can make charges with it.  This was the part of the band that caused me the most trouble.  Every register in all of Walt Disney World now has a Magic Band reader.
Just like when entering the parks, you hold the Mickey on your band to the Mickey on the machine and wait for it to turn green.  After that you type in your pin number and you're good to go.  I had a problem with this at least once a day.  One time the problem was with the machine itlsef not reading, but most of the time after I entered my pin the machine would say "Thank You" and nothing would happen.  The Cast Member would have to start over, and if it didn't work the second time I would just get out my credit card.  When it works though,  it's actually very convenient.  At the end of your trip Disney emails you an invoice of everything you charged and even who's Magic Band made the purchase. 
Fast Pass+:
Planning your days in advance was the part of the Magic Band I hated the most when I first read about it.  I did not want to plan out my entire trip before I was even in Florida.  I later realized that was not how it works, it's actually pretty awesome.  I had not ridden Toy Story Mania in years because I did not want to waste my precious "no wait morning hours" on Hollywood Studios.  With Fast Pass + though I can get a Fast Pass for Toy Story, Tower of Terror and Star Tours without even entering the park.  All you have to do it open the "My Disney Experience" app and select the park and attractions you want.  You can even change your Fast Passes for a different attarction or park after you've made your selection.  Every attraction now has it's own fast Pass + line.  They use the same Mickey reader as the main gate.  I did not have any problem with the Magic Band when it came to Fast Passes.  I did miss one of my times because Fantasyland was closed during the fireworks.  Instead of lighting up green, the Mickey lit up blue, but the Cast Member let me go through, she even fixed the status on a nearby computer so when I got to the second station it was back to green.  Using Fast Passes on your band is similar to using the paper ones, you tap the band once at the entrance, then again before you board.

My Disney Experience:
My Disney Experience is the app used to make all of your plans.  You can make dining reservations, select your Fast Passes, and even check wait times for attractions.  The app did crash on Thanksgiving day for a while, maybe there were too many people trying to use it.  Other than that it worked fine.  I do wish they would send push notifications to your phone telling you when you had a Fast Pass available, I kept having to open the app and check.  I would also like to see them cut down on some of the options.  Right now there are too many menus in the app, and I feel like some of the could be combined for a better user experience.

As much as I hate to say it, I like the Magic Bands.  I will miss my beloved key cards, but if they can fix all the small issues with the cards, I think people will enjoy them.  I am worried about what they will do to ticket prices in the future.  Even if the bands are cheap to make, they still have to mail them across the country.  I think they should find a way to charge people for the bands, but also have a free option that uses the plastic bracelets they used to use for Not so Scary and Very Merry. 

Disney has already started making Magic Band related merchandise.  Seriously, I can't find anything with Mr. Toad on it, but this shirt was made?

Plus, all sorts of Magic Band accessories.

Now onto this new mug system.
Rapid Fill Mugs:
I assume everyone is familiar with Disney's resort mugs.  You pay $12 for a platic mug that you can use at the drink stations in your resort for the duration of your trip.  I will admit that I am guilty of throwing my mug in my suitcase and using it on my next trip.  It's not my fault that they havent changed the design on the mug for years.  Do they expect me to buy the same exact mug twice a year?  The answer is yes.  Apparently Disney saw reusing mugs as a big enough issue that they have overhauled the whole system.
My wife went to buy breakfast one morning and decided to purchase a mug.  The Cast Member asked how many days she was staying, my wife thought she was just being friendly.  When she said 6 days the Cast Memeber took her mug and placed it on a machine to activate it.  Then told her it would be $17.99

This is the same picture I posted earlier, but the machine in the back is the one used to activate the mugs.  They set the mug on top then select the number of days.
When she told me about this new day charge I decided to get a mug but say I was only staying for 2 days.  The price of my mug was $11.99.  I figured this was some new sort of honor system, but I was wrong.  When I went to fill up my mug, this is what I saw.
There was a new digital display on the soda fountain.  There are also plastic trays under every selection that you have to set your cup on before it will start dispensing.  If you do not set the cup down, you will see this message.

After you set your mug down on the tray the display changes to show you how many more days you can use your mug, and  how much soda is left with this refill.  When the digital mug is full, you have to wait to get more.
Lets say you try to pull a fast one and  fill up your mug then pour the contents into your friends older mug.  The Rapid Refill system is set up to where you can only refill your mug every 3 minutes.  My wife ran into this problem when one of the machines was broken.  She walked over to a different machine and this message was on the screen.
This all seems completely ridiculious to me.  Were so many people bringing back their old mugs that Disney needed to trash all the old one, buy new high tech mugs, then spend millions of dollars updating every soda machine in the resorts?  They are sending out free Magic Bands to thousands of people everyday!

You might be wondering what I did after my 2 days were up.  Turns out there is a way to cheat the system (for now).  Only the soda fountains are set up with the Rapid Fill system, you can still get all the free tea, coffee, and hot chocolate you want.  I should also mention that the mug is your only option for getting a fountain drink in the resorts now.  There are no more cardboard/styrofoam cups avaialble unless you are drinking coffee.
I rode Small World on this trip and it was a mess;  missing dolls, broken animatronics, and dirty carpets. Who at Disney makes these crazy decisions? "Should we fix the problems we have with attractions, nah, let's find a way to make more money off of these resort mugs!"



  1. That whole mug thing is ridiculous and very disheartening, but the band seems nice! Either way, glad y'all had a great time for your anniversary!

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