Sam Examines the Small Print Behind the My Disney Experience Program

Written by Sam Gennawey. Posted in Disney, Samland, Walt Disney World

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Published on January 17, 2013 at 4:02 am with 60 Comments

As the battles between Disney and the other theme park operators is notched up another level with the introduction of the My Disney Experience program (MyMagic+), it is instructive to see how two of the biggest players are going in opposite directions. While Universal is trying to replicate the way Walt’s generation of Imagineers thought by focusing on building ride capacity, immersive theming, combined with novel merchandise, the Walt Disney Company’s new approach seems to be about rationing experiences using cutting edge software and technology.

To understand Disney’s new program a bit better, I decided to read through the Terms and Conditions. I figure Disney spends a lot of money on lawyers and there might be something to be learned.

Give us your info, get a Fastpass for Mermaid


I know there has been a lot of talk about a potential invasion of privacy. The fact is, if you want to play and benefit from the program you are going to have to give up something more than money. Right up front you are told that “we need to collect information from you through our Site/App, and through your experience at our Resorts.” This includes location information when you use one of their applications. And yes, it does include anyone in your family that secures “Park Experience benefits.”

To get started, you will need to sign on at the Park Experience portal. Guests 18 and over have full access while younger guests will be blocked from some of the functions. Those under 13 are not invited to play unless they are with somebody older.

One of the features of the program is Family and Friends. In this case, you have either Managed Friends (the people who will be control by the schedule you create) and Connected Friends (anybody else that you want to hook up with).

Be nice to your Managed Friends because they are the ones that must live with the schedule you create. The primary objective of this feature is “to assign Experience benefits you’ve purchased to your Friends (such as ticket entitlements) and plan activities for them (such as Disney FastPass+ selections and dining reservations).”

You have control over what your Connected friends can see. They can even invite you to join them. However, be careful. If they invite you to an activity and you accept, that activity “will count against the number of Fastpass+ selections you may hold.” By accepting them “you authorize your Connected Friends to plan activities for you, including making FastPass+ selection for you without notice to you.” If you are using the Connected Friends feature be sure to review your itinerary frequently because when they make reservations for you, the only way to tell is when you log in. Choose your (Connected) friends wisely.

The Radio Frequency (RFID) wristband (Magic Band) is a critical component to the experience. It is your entry ticket, your room key, your way to get and use your FastPass+ selections, even paying for dining and merchandise. Now that you are part of the grid, you could almost go without your wallet. If they need further identification they can use “additional authentication information” via “biometric read or PIN.” Your RFID device will also enable other readers placed throughout the parks. Everybody over 10 will be given charging privileges. If you don’t trust junior, you can make adjustments at the front desk.

Some of the current benefits, such as vacation notices, online dining reservations and online check in service remain. In fact, you don’t have a choice: “You will be required to accept the Online Check-in Service.”

The FastPass+ service is an expansion of what we know today as FastPass. This program includes “certain park attractions, character meet and greets, and quick-service restaurants, and to arrange a viewing location for certain entertainment such as fireworks, parades and shows.” As part of the rationing, “the number of experiences you may select and arrival windows are limited and vary based on factors such as the theme park you are visiting, the attraction or entertainment experience, the time of year and the day of the week, and prior demand.” As you can see, this is not necessarily all about you.

Image courtesy Werner Weiss,

When trying to think of how to describe the program I kept coming back to the old days at Disneyland when we used tickets. This new program is kind of the same. At the beginning of your trip, you are handed a limited number of tickets. Those tickets are only good for that one park you choose many months before. If you use the tickets or passes at times reserved, Disney takes all of your tickets away for that day. You cannot use your tickets at another park unless you trade in all your tickets first thing in the morning and hope that there are some left overs at the park you want to visit. If you are a big fan of park-hopping, you may need to learn new habits. Don’t use a ticket by the end of the day? Too bad. It does not carry over to the next day.

Since the window for making reservations begins 60 days before your trip, you will need to have figured out which parks on which days you want to visit. Line up all of the FastPass+ reservations and hope that you are quick enough to get your prime times. Latecomers will be rationed to times more convenient for the Park. And remember, you are restricted to one park per day when you make your FastPass+ reservations. For those who used to pile up on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad FastPasses, those days are over as well since you can only secure one FastPass+ for any given attraction each day.

The dining reservation fee stays in place. One interesting new twist is the ability to make a reservation for certain quick service locations. You can order your food selection up to 60 days in advance.

Once the FastPass+ system is up and running fully, there will be two types of folks, those who have wristbands and those who don’t.

Al Lutz, Dusty Sage and Doug Barnes discuss the pros and cons of Disney’s MyMagic+, My Disney Experience, Fastpass+ and MagicBand on the latest MiceChat Podcast. give it a listen.

That is the program from the legal eagles point of view. What do you think? Excited or dreading the changes?

The holidays are here. Are you looking for the perfect gift for that Disney fan in your life? If you enjoy reading SAMLAND, you’ll love my book. Walt and the Promise of Progress City is a detailed look into how Walt Disney envisioned the future of communities. Along the way, we explore many facets of a fascinating man. Plus, buying the book helps ensure that I’ll be able to continue bringing you more Samland. It’s a win/win situation.

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About Sam Gennawey

Sam Gennawey is an urban planner who has collaborated with communities throughout California over the course of more than 100 projects to create a great, big, beautiful tomorrow. Sam is a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Regional Planning History Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving municipal, county, and private sector planning documents from throughout Los Angeles County. Sam is the author of Walt and the Promise of Progress City which you can find on Amazon.

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  • StevenW

    I wish they had a different approach. How about pre-planned itineraries? You pick the parks you want to attend in the order you desire. The park spits out a plan for you with attractions and the restaurant reservations pre-selected. Of course, not every plan is the same. Every party gets a different plan due to availability of the attractions and the restaurants, and rides/show preferences. After reviewing the plan, the party can swap out items and/or add new options. This will remove some mystery of the system while also automating the selections.

    The idea is a family will automatically get guarranteed access to 5 marque attractions or shows or restaurants and options for 2 more. They will also have a highly dynamic system that will make adjustments in case of itinerary changes.

    I prefer the cruise ship approach who tells you where to go. It is much easier to plan than MyMagic+. Fastpass is already difficult for some to grasp.

    • Oregonmom2

      A much better idea!!! This is where is should be headed!

  • jcruise86

    It does seem to me like they are spending money on this INSTEAD of spending money on beautifying the parks and adding new attractions. I wish Harry Potter and Universal’s Spiderman were in WDW.

    I was planning on taking the family to WDW in 2014, but now I’m tempted to instead go to NYC and take the train to Washington, D.C. In D.C., for less than the price of going to WDW, we could stay in a nice hotel near the mall and take in a bunch of great museums (some free).

    Or fly into Denver and rent a big car that can handle the Rockies and drive across Colorado and Utah. Drop the car off in Las Vegas.

    Or. . .? Mr. Staggs & Goerge K., we have many other options.

  • Oregonmom2

    Thanks for the info!!! Please keep us updated as the program rolls out and is fine-tuned. When my family goes in a year or two, hopefully all the bugs will be worked out. Knowledge is power! Thanks!

  • brian11811

    It sound like it would be good for someone who visits once ever few years, but for APs or a spontaneous trip forsemi locals, it seems that it would ruin the experience if you dont use the new syatem. Then again, on excessively crowded days this might enhance the experience if you used the new system.

    If you think about it etremely crowded days are pretty crappy. It might make those days work better (with the reservations etc). On non crowded days, it might not be an issue. I guess I will wait and see how it pans out.

  • BrerSchultzy

    It is apparent that the current FP system will soon be gone. Which means anyone staying off-property or at Shades of Green are now completely relegated to the Standby line. So staying on-property now has one more MAJOR benefit…which could only mean higher prices at Disney hotels. THEN, when they have raised the prices, they’ll pull back on the MyMagic + program, making it less beneficial. These Disney Orlando folks are getting flagrantly predictable.

    That said….I can’t wait to go this summer. What can I say…I’m an addict.

  • HeeHee

    And finally someone has said, I’m not so sure about this. Data mining your children at an amusement park that you have paid a fortune to go to (can’t even say small fortune anymore) under the guise its for the guest, has officially been scrutinized, by the government no less. Do I hear a collective sigh? Yes, its a wait and see. But at least someone is questioning this!