When planning a Disney World vacation, you’ve gotta have basics covered like park tickets, hotel reservations, transportation plans, and Park Pass reservations. That’s a given, right??
Well, another thing that has become absolutely ESSENTIAL when it comes to visiting Disney World is our phones! Seriously, you may view your cell phone as essential in normal, daily life, but it may be even MORE SO in Disney World. The My Disney Experience App has become critical for having a successful Disney trip, and it has SO many features that can be used for so many different things. BUT, there are probably a few things you didn’t even know the app could do!
First, let’s talk a little about the My Disney Experience App before we get into all the cool things it can do. This is a free app that you can download onto your smart device (like a cell phone or a tablet), available for both iOS and Android systems. Here, you can create or connect your Disney account which will keep track of your vacation plans, like resort and dining reservations, other members in your travel party, and much more.
It’s basically a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know, including park maps, wait times, menus, and beyond. Let’s get into the features that you probably didn’t know about!
Check Refurbishment Schedules
It seems like some type of refurbishment is always being done in Disney World, especially now as the resort gets ready for its 50th Anniversary this fall. Rides and hotels need a little TLC sometimes, and these closures can impact your Disney trip! That’s why it’s important to be on top of any closures you might encounter during your trip — and you can do so right in the app!
On the main screen of the My Disney Experience App, you can see the park hours listed for the current day. When you click the option that says, “all hours,” and then scroll all the way down, you can actually see everything that’s closed for refurbishment. You can also see these closures in advance on the Disney World website, but this handy list will be at your fingertips while you’re in the parks.
Dine at Your Fave Restaurants WITHOUT a Reservation
Just last year, a new feature was added to the app — the Mobile Dine Walk-Up Waitlist. Maybe you weren’t able to snag a dining reservation or you didn’t expect to have time for a full sit-down meal. Whatever the reason may be, you now have the opportunity to experience a table-service meal without having made a reservation beforehand!
When you select, “check dining availability,” in the app, you’re presented with the restaurants (if any) that are currently accepting walk-up guests. It’s kind of hard to spot at first glance though. Under “Search by Time” it’s simply called “Now.”
This feature kinda works like a virtual queue in that it will show you how long the wait at a certain restaurant is until the next table is available. Or, if the restaurant is too busy, it’ll tell you that walk-ups are not being offered.
A spot isn’t guaranteed and totally depends on the restaurants’ availability during the time that you check. But, it’s definitely worth the try to see if you can score an impromptu meal at some fan-favorite Disney restaurants.
SKIP the Lines at Merchandise Locations
Another new feature that the My Disney Experience app introduced not too long ago is Mobile Merchandise Checkout. Guys, this one is SO UNDERUTILIZED BUT AMAZING. This essentially allows you to skip the checkout lines in merchandise locations. Although it’s not offered in every Disney World store, it’s practically guaranteed to save you time.
In order to use this feature, you’ll select, “Shop in Store — Now Testing,” in the app. It will bring up a list of stores where you can use this service, like Mouse Gear in EPCOT. If you’re in a participating store there are QR codes all over you can scan as well. First, you’ll grab a special shopping bag designated for mobile merchandise purchases. Then, you’ll grab whatever goodies you want to buy, like normal. You’ll scan each item into the app yourself, and when you’ve got everything you need, you’ll pay directly in the app.
That’s right, no waiting in long checkout lines! You take care of the checkout by yourself. On the way out of the store, you’ll show your designated QR code to a Cast Member. They’ll hand you a bag for your goodies. And that’s it, you’re good to go! Sometimes those checkout lines can get seriously long, so this is a major perk.
Seriously, when the lines are long (lookin’ at you, end of the day lines in Mouse Gear!) this is a life saver. When the line is wrapping around the store to check out, you’ll be smart and know to skip the wait and check out in seconds on your phone!
Order Food From Table Service Restaurants To-Go
This is yet another new dining feature that was introduced last year! Mobile Order Table Service To-Go allows you to do, well, basically exactly what it says! Mobile Order is a common feature at many of Disney World’s quick-service restaurants, and this is kind of the same deal but for traditionally sit-down only restaurants. Think of it like ordering take-out from a restaurant! In the app, click, “order food,” and it’ll bring up a whole list of table-service restaurants that offer this service.
Some of the spots that offer Table Service To-Go include Olivia’s Cafe, Sanaa, Kona Cafe, and Ale & Compass. Sanaa Bread Service from the comfort of a hotel room?! Um, sign us up. You’ll have to select an arrival window for when you’d like to pick up your food, and you’ll be notified when it’s ready to go.
This is a great option if you don’t have time for a full sit-down meal, or maybe you’re traveling with a kiddo who won’t last through a whole meal (we’ve all been there). For a whole step-by-step walkthrough, and a list of participating restaurants, click here.
Mobile Check-In for Dining Reservations
Back again with another new dining feature! Mobile Dine Check-In was introduced as a way to promote Disney World’s health and safety measures. By giving guests the ability to check-in for dining reservations through their phone, long lines at check-in podiums could be avoided, minimizing extra contact between guests and Cast Members.
When you make an Advance Dining Reservation at a Disney World table-service restaurant that uses this feature, you’ll receive a push notification via the app when your check-in window arrives. Alternatively, there may be a QR code at the restaurant to scan and check-in! For the mobile check-in process, you’ll be prompted with questions about your party, which (if any) dietary restrictions/allergies they should know about, if you’re celebrating anything, and more.
After checking in, you’ll receive a notification when your table is ready and a Cast Member will direct you to your table! Then it’s time to EAT!
Filter the Park Map When Looking for Specific Things
Disney World is BIG, and if you don’t know the lay of the land, you may feel overwhelmed when trying to find something quickly. Luckily, you can filter your park map to help you find exactly what you’re looking for in that instant. And one of those things that you’ve gotta find in a timely manner is bathrooms! Thankfully, the maps will direct you to the bathrooms closest to you! This can help avoid some…not-so-magical situations.
Another biggie that the map can help you locate is hand sanitizing stations. Although we do recommend keeping a travel-sized hand sanitizer with you, this is a helpful feature that can point you right to those sanitation stations.
The map will also help you find ATMs, souvenir penny press machines, First Aid locations, PhotoPass spots, and more! It even can help you hunt down a Notary Public so…you know…if you have a need for that service on vacation. The map can help. 🙂
Learn the Ins and Outs of EPCOT’s Current Festival
If you’re visiting EPCOT during one of its festivals (which is pretty much most of the year now, TBH), you can learn everything you need to know right through the app. Right now, EPCOT’s Flower and Garden Festival is in full swing, and you can bet all the important info is right at your fingertips.
If you scroll down on the main page of the app, the current EPCOT festival will be featured. After clicking “learn more,” you can see ALL of the food booths along with their menus, entertainment schedules, and activities going on.
For the Flower and Garden Festival specifically, it tells you about all the special topiaries and gardens on display, and where they’re located in the park. Now, if all of this information feels overwhelming and you don’t know where to start — check out our Best of the Fest! We put this list together to help you decide which eats you don’t want to miss during your festival visit.
Bring the Disney Parks Magic Home With You!
You can actually step into the magic from the Disney Parks all over the world right in the app! Disney Parks Magic at Home features original series that make you feel like you’re in the parks, even if you’re thousands of miles away.
Current offerings include interviews with Disney Imagineers, Jungle Cruise Skipper Jokes, special videos of rides, and behind-the-scenes looks at the creatures from Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Those topics just scratch the surface of what’s available, so go check it out!
Chat With Disney Resort Cast Members
Disney launched this virtual chat feature last year and it allows resort guests to access Cast Members at the front desk without actually having to go there. It’s also an alternative to calling up guest services on the phone. If you’re a resort guest, an option that says, “chat with us,” should pop up on your app.
There, you can send a message about whatever questions you may have, but you may encounter some long wait times. This system is the same as the Virtual Chat on Disney’s website, so it can become overwhelmed, especially during busy periods.
Our most recent experience trying to get through to change a Dining Reservation over the phone was met with sitting on hold for over two hours (!!). But we were able to get through to a Cast Member to change our reservation via the chat feature within 15 minutes. Note that they can’t do EVERYTHING over chat. If you’re looking to do something specific, they might still direct you to call. But, if you’re not interested in sitting on hold or have a simple request for your hotel, this is a good option to get in touch with Disney Cast Members!
Coming Soon: MagicMobile Service
Disney recently announced that MagicMobile, a completely new service, is on its way. This new feature will allow guests to access the features of their MagicBands directly on their phones. So, essentially, your phone can act like your park ticket! Within the My Disney Experience App, guests can create a MagicMobile pass. That MagicMobile pass can then be added to a phone’s digital wallet, allowing it to be scanned the same way a MagicBand would.
MagicBands will still be available (though, no longer complimentary) and Key to the World Cards are another option for resort guests. If you want to, you can even alternate between using your MagicBand and MagicMobile pass, they’re essentially interchangeable.
This new service will be introduced in phases throughout the year, beginning with Apple devices. We’ll be sure to share all the details you need to know, so check back for more updates.
Well, those are the 10 things you didn’t know your Disney World app could do! Hopefully, all these features will be helpful during your next trip to Disney World, or even while you’re at home. Check back with us for more Disney tips!
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Have you used any of these features? Tell us in the comments!