Update: How MyMagic+ and the My Disney Disney Experience App Have Impacted Disney World Dining

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.

MyMagic+ MagicBand

MyMagic+ MagicBand in Action

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.

Access My Disney Experience on Your Computer or Your Mobile App

Access My Disney Experience on Your Computer or Your Mobile App

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.

My Disney Experience Mobile App

Access My Disney Experience on Your Computer or Your Mobile App

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.

There Are Lots of MagicBand Colors to Choose From!

There Are Lots of MagicBand Colors to Choose From!

If you book a Walt Disney World Resort room reservation or you are an Annual Passholder, you’ll automatically receive a Magic Band. Other guests receive cards rather than bands, but can 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.

Magic Band Food Bling

Magic Band Food Bling

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.

Soarin', Anyone?

Soarin’, Anyone?

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.

Chocolate Toffee/Butterfinger cupcake

Pay For That Butterfinger Cupcake with Your MagicBand

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.

Erin Paying with Her Magic Band at Artist Point!

Erin Paying with Her Magic Band at Artist Point!

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.

Touch to Pay at a Counter Service Location

Touch to Pay at a Counter Service Location

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.

Your Table Awaits...

Changing My Narcoossee’s Advance Dining Reservation Recently Was a Snap with the My Disney Experience App

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. :-)

Filet Mignon at Le Cellier

Having My Steak and Eating It Too at Le Cellier :-)

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.

Check Out Menus From Anywhere Via the My Disney Experience App

Check Out Menus From Anywhere Via the My Disney Experience App

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 Toy Story Mania 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.

Cheers!

No Running for Rope Drop Means Time to Enjoy a Cocktail Before Hitting Toy Story Mania

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.

Lines for Frozen Ever After... still hours later

Use FastPass+ To Avoid Linezzz for Dayzzz

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.

Plaza Loaded Fries

Oh, Plaza Restaurant — You Get Us! (Plaza Loaded Fries and Walk Up Seating FTW)

We applaud this move toward giving guests options and we hope to see it continue.

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!

Comments

  1. Yo Adrienne says

    For those who like to plan everything down to the minute, yes, there’s no question that Fast passes have fed that passion.

    However, spontaneity has definitely taken a hit…! In years (and decades gone by), one of the joys of Walt Disney World was being able to wake up in the morning and just go to whichever park we felt like visiting…and eating whatever was available whenever we were hungry. No longer–not without incredible waiting times everywhere.

    With as busy as everyone’s lives are these days…having to plan which parks and restaurants we want to visit 30, 60, 90 and even 180 days in advance certainly makes it less of a relaxing and “magical” experience and more an exercise in figuring out how to beat the crowds and fill every single moment of every Disney day.

    Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Walt really envisioned.

  2. DwarfPlanet says

    It’s all fine and dandy if you are getting your tickets in advance from Disney. But if you are part of our military forces and have to wait to exchange your Disney Military Salute vouchers the day you arrive then you don’t get to part of that advance scheduling scheme they put in place. Also lately in watching trip planning sites the fastpass lines are longer than they ever were before and if it is a low capacity ride standby lines may take an even longer time to board.

  3. Molly says

    I love every aspect of planning, so all of these changes are fantastic from my point of view. And you’re really only planning a couple hours of your day, so there’s plenty of room for some spontaneity.

  4. Luana Sallows says

    Spontaneity is still possible! I have made fast passes and dining reservations on the fly, from my hotel room, on WDW transportation and in my vehicle. One time we were in Disney Springs and made an ADR for 30 minutes later. The best thing about it is being able to look and see what is available and then make a decision!!

  5. Katie says

    I feel like MDE has helped me to be more spontaneous. Because I KNOW I will be able to ride certain popular rides at some point during my visit, it helps me less uptight and enjoy strolling around the parks. I went a few months back as part of a group of 7 and was surprised how easy it was to manage and change our fastpasses on the spot – even for the more popular rides. It’s a nice feature to have when the kiddos are moving a little slow on day 4 of your trip :)

  6. Catherine says

    As a Canadian visitor, I love MDE with the exception that it means guests require Wifi and sadly that is still not dependable in the WDW parks. I was there last week and without exaggeration I could not get a connection, it was weak or we lost it part way through a transaction hundreds of times. It’s challenging at best! At home I can use my own data plan but once I enter the US I am dependent on the Wifi provided, in this case by Disney.

    My wish is that Disney would strengthen their wifi signals so that the MDE app that is a ‘must’ could be used with less frustation…and without draining my battery as my phone constantly tries to get a new signal!

  7. Kelly N says

    @DwarfPlanet – You can add the Military Salute tickets to your My Disney Experience (MDE) account. I did this for my parents staying at the Shades of Green. I linked the tickets to their account and was able to schedule FastPasses for them 30 days out. I got the info from militarydisneytips.com. They have very easy instruction on how to do it. I also bought them MagicBands and linked them up. You will still need to activate the tickets at the transportation center or park, but they will already be linked to MDE and/or Magic Bands.

  8. Sandy says

    No way is this better. Micro-managing to the fullest. And the “tiering” of attractions is ridiculous — why can’t we get both Soarin’ and Test Track? There is no logical reason. And my app did not sync properly several days in a row. Not good.

  9. Kerry says

    I love MDE! Fast pass already made the standby lines unbearable with their insane wait times before MDE, but now I can make sure we can ride the popular rides while keeping an eye out for low wait times around the rest of the park with the app (to be fair the app is never quite accurate, always add at least 10mins). We can plan part of our day and then let the rest happen instead of rushing in the morning or spending far too long waiting in line for the Mine Train or others. We’re rarely disappointed now, everyone gets to do what they most want to do all because of some foresight and planning plus flexibility once you get to the parks.

  10. Jason says

    I actually think the app has been helpful because now you can find last minute availability. To me, it’s actually been the pervasiveness of dining plans for resort guests that has suppressed reservation availability.
    Also, it should be pointed out that this post alludes to using a magic band to pay for dining; but that’s only true if you are a resort guest. Why, after three years, annual passholders cannot charge purchases is a mystery to me.

  11. Lisa P says

    As AJ pointed out, the amount of information Disney can now gather on us is significant. We are not comfortable with this. We use this technology only when we have to, and still use cash and credit cards, which we would always carry with us anyway.

  12. Leslie says

    I would take the tip on the ADR cancellations a step further (though some people may find it a little distasteful – get it? :)). I have found that if you discover that you can’t make your reservation, and you are in the 24 hour window, yes you can reschedule and avoid the fee. Then, if that new time is outside the 24 hour window, you are then able to cancel that new reservation without a fee. This is a good way to get around the fee even if you know you won’t be able to make the new reservation either. Of course, WDW will often give you a break on the fee if you explain/ask nicely, but this avoids the need for that call/risk.

  13. emmy says

    Reading this makes me glad I live on the Left Coast! I can’t imagine being punished for not scheduling my rides(!) months in advance. The whole process seems cumbersome, stressful, and not remotely fun. I hope and pray this poppycock stays away from good ol’ Disneyland. Articles like this only remind me to not bother with DW. I want a vacation, not homework.

  14. Kelly says

    My family and I went to Disney World last week in August. This was our first experience using MDE and the Magic Bands. I really liked it but I wish the window to schedule things was shorter. I’m not sure why they want us to make reservations so far in advance. We didn’t have an issue changing some of our fastpass reservation. We didn’t try to make new reservation. for dinner but we did cancel a reservation and went to our hotel’s restaurant which we had no trouble getting into. While in Disney Springs we also got lucky and walked right into The Boathouse! We sat outside and it wasn’t too hot at all. We really did enjoy having everything on the Magic Band and wearing it didn’t bother us like I thought it would.

  15. Mark says

    Overall, the system is very good and pretty easy to use. I do agree with Sandy on tiering. My only real complaint is the 30 day head start that hotel guests get on fast passes.

  16. Lynne says

    I love love love MDE!!! No more running back and fourth to get fasspasses or running to get into a popular ride at rope drop. I take a screen shot of my FP screen, that means I don’t have to get on the app every time I want to check out my FP times. Helps with battery usage in the park. I like that Disney guests get that 30 day window. You should get some perks for staying on property.

  17. Neil says

    I really miss the spontaniety…we always stay at OKW and used to enjoy seeing which bus came first and then going to that resort.

    Where we struggled was in using the app to get same day reservations to the more mid-priced restaurants. One day we were due to be meeting family who were staying off-site so we tried to get a reservation for eight people almost anywhere in Disney Springs. It was giving us literally no options.

    If we had been able to get in touch with my cousin we would have rearranged to meet somewhere nearby (probably Lake Buena Vista) as we were under the impression that everywhere was packed out.

    We met outside the AMC as planned and were able to walk straight in to Splitsville and got a choice of tables. It wasn’t full all night. When I mentioned this in passing to our server said that this was a recurring problem and that it was limiting their business.

  18. Patricia C says

    If I had to rate MDE on a 5 star system, it would get 3.5 stars. I like being able to view all my plans in one place, that I can check wait times on rides (yep, this is how we got on Mine Train in under 20 mins), and I can change dining reservations and view menus. LOVE the magic bands…I never have to think about bringing my credit cards or cash out — just BOOP! — souvenirs/starbucks/snacks/gifts bought instantly!

    Downsides – it definitely takes away some spontaneity, and I hate the fast pass+ system. Yeah, it’s great we don’t have to run to grab fast passes anymore, BUT — it wouldn’t let me book fast passes for overlapping time periods — why?! If I’m in Tomorrowland, and I know I’m going straight to Fantasyland, why can’t I book a FP for space mountain and another for Peter Pan in an overlapping time frame?? One would always be at, say 10am, but then it would only allow me to book fastpasses for nearby rides hours later. Sorry, but I’m not running all over the park all day to try and keep up with the fast passes available — not worth it! I guess I have the luxury of saying that though, since I’m an adult with no children and I’ve been down there 1000 times. If it’s your first visit, or your first visit with family and/or children, it could be even more exhausting than it already is!

    Despite that, my most recent trip to Disney (exactly one month ago — so sad) was one of the absolute best of all time!

  19. Tiffany says

    I love my magicband and being a single mom of 2… It keeps me from digging for cash to pay for everything… I always take my time in the parks and enjoy myself…. it’s Disney why rush!….

  20. Shayne says

    When MyMagic+ and FastPass+ rolled out, I really did not think I would like it. But having now taken a few vacations under the new system, I’m generally happy with it. Using the enhanced MDE app to make new FP+ reservations is a real benefit. On our trip last July, as soon as we were in line for our 3rd FP of the day, I’d get on the app to see what other FPs were available and book a new one. Thus, even with heavy crowds, we were able to use at least 4-5 FPs per day. I agree with Sandy, though, about the tiering.

    I do find that the planning takes a bit more thought now — looking at the anticipated crowd calendar to determine which parks on which days, then making dining reservations that are convenient to where you’re planning to be, then making your FP+ reservations for the correct park on the correct day. All of that does remove some spontaneity, to the point where I may consider not buying Park Hoppers in the future. But I enjoy the planning part almost as much as the vacation, so this doesn’t bother me greatly.

  21. akbarratt says

    Great post, I think you’ve summed up most of the pros and cons here. Just wanted to expound on a few things others have mentioned, in particular same-day reservations.

    I don’t remember this being covered on the site, but about a month ago I noticed as I was about to head down to Disney Springs to do some shopping with my husband (we’re locals) that I was unable to make ADRs for many of the $$ and $$$ restaurants at Disney Springs. If you try to make a same-day reservation on the site now it says “Reservations must be booked at least one day in advance for this restaurant.” This was a weeknight and not a peak day either. Previously it was no problem to log in at lunchtime and make a same day reservation for dinner. I don’t really see how this serves them as people who are just dropping in are going to eat at quick service or a stand rather than a more expensive restaurant.

    As for using FP+ on rides, I enjoy it most of the time, but let’s be real: if you don’t get to pick them 180 days out, you’re not getting on Frozen or Mine Train or whatever the newest ride is. As a season passholder I get to make FP+ 30 days in advance. I’ve never even seen FP+ for Mine Train, even now 2 years later. The system isn’t technically paid like Universal’s but it definitely favors those who put more money down upfront. Not everyone can stay on property or purchase a multi-day pass and not everyone even understands it (my extended family certainly doesn’t no matter how many times I try to explain it).

  22. Leslie says

    I’ve gone back and forth on the FP+ system being unfair to annual pass holders. What I keep coming back to is that AP holders have many opportunities to get to the parks at opening and ride Mine Train or Frozen. For the rest of us who can only make the trip every year or two, it’s nice to have this perk for staying on property so that we can do as much as we can in the 1 or 2 days we have in MK or Epcot. I get that it sucks to never be able to get a mine train FP+ after you’ve paid so much for annual passes, but I guess I can see both sides. . .

  23. says

    There are some things I agree and disagree with related to MDE , yes my husband and I are annual pass holders and have been for more years than I can remember and we have been WDW lovers for 42 years. But I agree with some of the previous comments ; as a pass holder you do not have the opportunity to book FP rides beyond 30 days only if you stay at their resorts etc., well we live locally so no luck on booking any newer rides. Maybe it should go back to the day when you had to physically be in the park to book a ride, you could use your pretty little band once you are there, so unfair to people annual pass holders who yes help support the WDW, with guaranteed money. Yes it is also difficult at times to book eating times on the fly or last minute. Maybe pass holders should have the same window of opportunity that hotel guests have so everyone has an equal playing field/opportunity.
    So am I a big fan of the “New and improved things” not so much. Do I really believe WDW listens to the complaints, not so much. Only if they feel it might be costing them or shareholders money or profit margins decline. Do I understand they need to make money, yes all businesses need to make a profit but not at the cost of everything.

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