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Category: Fastpasses

What’s Right–and Wrong–With MyDisneyExperience and Fastpass+

magicKingdomEntrance

It’s been over two years since Disney unveiled MyDisneyExperience (MDE) and Fastpass+ and the $1.5 billion system has had it’s ups and downs. Guests love the ability to put everything on their MagicBand, including room keys, credit card, park tickets and fastpasses. On the other hand, the entire Fastpass+ system has been a mixed bag.  Here’s what I think are the strengths and weaknesses of the new system.

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Does Fastpass+ Make Staying On Property a Better Deal?

It used to be, when a potential client called about booking an off site room, I had to try pretty hard to put them into a hotel on Disney property. The reason for this is pretty obvious to anyone who’s ever booked a hotel room in Orlando: Disney rooms are, for the most part, more expensive per square foot than off-site hotels. Sure, you can talk about tangible benefits, like transportation and extra park hours, as well as intangibles like “being in the magic,” but I’ve found that if a visitor is intent on paying a set amount for a certain type of room, it’s next to impossible to talk him into staying on property.

Until now.

What’s changed? Fastpass+ and the MagicBands. And much as I’ve fussed about having to pick my own fastpasses 60 days in advance, the truth is that the MagicBands have become a huge selling point for guests. Briefly, off site guests are currently required to make their fastpass selections when they enter the park. Often, this means standing in long lines and a limited selection. More often than not, that selection becomes more and more limited as the morning passes, with few if any fastpass options available by mid-day.  In short, having the ability to choose your fastpasses ahead of time, in the comfort of your own home, has become a game-changer.

I’m not going to argue whether or not the new fastpass system is fair. After all, Disney is a business, not some benevolent uncle sent to make all your dreams come true, although it can sometimes feel that way.  I’ve heard a lot of complaints from those who stay off site, particularly those who own local timeshares, that Disney is marginalizing off site guests.  I can see some validity in this argument, but in the end, Fastpass+ is just good business.  And why shouldn’t a company maximize their profits?

For all its bumps and hiccups, Fastpass+ just made your theme park experience run a lot more smoothly. It also, in some respects, evened the playing field. It used to be, many guests didn’t even bother with fastpasses–they simply didn’t know they needed them. Now, more guests than ever are using fastpasses, and more importantly, they’re using them them correctly.  This probably means better crowd control in the long run, although I’m not sure that statement has been proven correct just yet.  What we do know is that right now, it’s giving an advantage to on-site guests.

Will Disney eventually extend the ability to book fastpasses in advance to off-site guests? That remains to be seen. So far, Disney has only stated that it will happen “in the future.” What do you think?  Does Fastpass+make you more inclined to stay on site? And if you stay off site, how do you feel about this? I’d love to hear.

Using Disney’s Magic Bands.

I just got back from Disney’s Earmark Conference at Walt Disney World. This is a conference for Disney travel planners that carry the Earmark logo, which means they meet certain criteria for selling the Disney product. It comes with some nice perks for the agencies and this is one of them. This year’s theme was all about the Magic Bands and I want to cover everything we were told so far even though there are likely going to be some changes as the system is rolled out over the next coming weeks.  I also used the bands for eight days, so I have some practical experience with it as well.

Magic bands assistance area at the conference. 

If you’re traveling in the next few weeks, you may be part of the testing that’s going on across property. If this is the case, you will likely have been notified by Disney or by your travel agent, but don’t lose hope if you haven’t been–we’re finding that the situation is so fluid right now that you might think you’re not using the bands only to arrive on property and find out that your resort is one that has been chosen for testing. Don’t worry if this happens. You can set up the bands at check-in.  We were told at the conference that it will be rolled out resort-wide by the second or third week in October.  So let’s get down to all the practical matters.

What’s a Magic Band?  

First things first: What are the magic bands?  The magic bands are basically a Key to the World Card (KTTW) that you’ll wear on your wrist. It holds all your basic information, including Magical Express, tickets, room key, dining credits, plus something new: Fastpasses, which I’ll get to separately since it’s such an important part of the story.  Your information isn’t stored on the band. Instead, it allows Disney cast members to access your information by touching one of the Mickey head sensors and then viewing it on their Ipad or computer screens.

The fun thing about the bands is that your name comes up in various places when you use the band, so Disney cast members can say “Welcome to the Magic Kingdom, Chris,” or something to that effect, which adds a nice personal touch.  They can also look into your file and know that you like eating Mickey bars at midnight, provided you’re purchasing them with your credit card attached to the bands.  In later months, there will be sensors at various places in the parks that can track your movements for crowd control purposes.

Say what? Okay, that just got creepy.

Every step you take, every purchase you make, I’ll be watching you.
Look, I’ll be honest. I read all the online diatribes about data mining and I got a little bit paranoid about it, but then I remembered that Disney already knows everything about me and my family because I use a Key to the World card already. They know what I buy, when I come back to my room, and they have a lot of my personal information on file to use as they deem fit, which incidentally, still still doesn’t mean I get pin codes. Disney has said our information won’t be sold to outside companies.  I’m not worried about the new system but if you are, you can opt out. It won’t make your vacation any less magical, although it might make getting fastpasses a little more difficult–no one can actually say yet since the system isn’t fully in place.
Magic band sensors in the Magic Kingdom. 
How Magic Bands Work.
Simply touch your magic band to the Mickey head sensor when the cast member tells you and it can charge to your account, admit you to the park, take away dining credits, or pay for a transaction. When entering the park, you’ll first tap the Mickey head and then put your finger on the scanner (for guests ages ten and up).  For transactions requiring money, you’ll use a pin code which you’ll set up when you check in.  We talked to a lot of visitors in the parks and they seemed to love the convenience of using the bands. It definitely makes getting into the parks and paying easy (maybe too easy) when your hands are full.
Linking Tickets.
We found this to be the biggest problem of all but keep in mind, this is the initial testing phase and there are bound to be bugs.  Annual passholders are able to link to their reservation, but those who have a premier pass for Walt Disney World and Disneyland will have to call tech support to get a special number so that they can add their passes. We didn’t find that out until many days into the trip because no one seemed to know this was an issue in the first place. Finally the tech support people at the conference we’re able to link my pass. We also had an issue with some of the tickets we received as a group even after attempting to link those several times. We finally gave up on those.  I suspect that those who buy their tickets from other sources will have the same difficulty, at least for the time being.
The good news is if you have a Disney package that includes tickets, connecting your tickets to My Disney Experience online or on your phone is automatic. You’ll just put your resort confirmation into the system and Disney does the rest. It will also link your dining reservations and fastpasses.  Next, you’ll invite those who are traveling with your to join your group so that you can link fastpasses. We had a very large group and were able to link all our fastpasses. We were even able to link to those who came in later and who weren’t on the system originally.
Magic bands go with everything, even your fancy dessert
from the California Grill.
Are They Comfortable?
Yes, surprisingly so. They’ve got little ridges on the underside of the band so that air can flow through. Yes, they still get a little bit sweaty, so we recommend not putting them on too tight. But they’re comfortable enough that I flew halfway home before I remembered that I had it on. Apparently Disney put tons of research into making sure that these bands are not only comfortable but also hypoallergenic, so if you’ve got a latex allergy, it’s safe to wear these.  
One nice thing is that the bands are easily fitted to the biggest or the smallest wrists. That’s because they come in two pieces.   Here it is full-size:

And here it is with the outer portion stripped off to reveal a much smaller band:
I’m guessing that many women have wrists that are small enough that they would be comfortable with the outer band taken off, but since you get sweaty under the bands if they’re tight, I would leave it on and just wear it a little bit baggy.  Once you take the outer band off, you can’t put it back on, as you can see from the picture.  
Fancy a t-shirt that touts your love of the magic bands?

Currently, you can buy covers, “band-its”, and sliders to decorate your magic band. Covers will keep you from getting a bit sweaty under the band and the sliders are cute.

You can also buy “band-its” which are similar to the Jibbitz kids you to stick in their Crocs. These tend to fall out, so I don’t recommend buying them until that problem is solved.  Or you could just adorn your magic band with the ones you find on the ground all over the parks.
One sad, lonely Kermit band-it on the ground in the Magic Kingdom.
How Do Fastpasses Work with the Magic Bands?
Okay, this is the big one and it’s also the one people are the most worried about. Currently, you can choose your fastpasses 30 days out. When the system is completely online, Disney will move that to 60 days out.  You’ll simply log into My Disney Experience and choose your fastpass times on the appropriate date. If you’re traveling with a group not on your reservation, invite those individuals and they will chose their times with you if they want–but they can also go at different times as well.  You’re not obligated to be together.
Obviously, the idea of choosing rides 60 days out is a little bit scary and just like with advance dining reservations (ADRs), the early bird is going to get the best times. So now you’ve got to coordinate parks, dining, and fastpasses? That sounds like a lot of work, especially considering that things change from day to day. Maybe everyone likes the Magic Kingdom so much they want to go a second day and skip Epcot? Or maybe you just want to sleep late or spend the afternoon at the pool. Well the good news is that these fastpasses can be changed, provided there is availability. So before your trip, as you continue to plan, you can make adjustments. Then, once you’re on property, you can continue to change your fastpass times.  Again, this is subject to availability but there’s no reason to think at this time that there won’t be at least some fastpass times available for same day selections.  You might just not get your ideal times.
At this time, if you’re not staying on property, you won’t use a magic band. You’ll still be able to get fastpasses the old-fashioned way. I’ll keep you posted on any changes to this, but I don’t see this being extended to off site guests for a while, if at all.
Pros and Cons in a Nutshell.
Pros:
Overall, our group was really happy with the magic bands. Here are a few quick thoughts on the subject:
  • Getting into the park is a lot faster, with less fumbling.  I was shocked at how quickly the lines moved compared to the Keys to the World cards.
  • Easy to pay for purchases, especially when you’ve got your hands full or are wrangling kids.
  • Bands are waterproof so you don’t have to bring much to the pool and you can take them into the water with you without worrying that they’re going to get misplaced.
  • I loved being able to leave with just my magic band and my phone in the morning when I went running (which of course meant I also went into the Boardwalk Bakery).
  Cons:
  • If you’re using an annual pass or DVC discount, you’ll still have to pull your card out of your wallet. It’s not currently showing up on your magic band.
  • We encountered multiple problems with credit cards and tickets “falling off” magic band after they’ve been added. I tried to add my credit card at least three days in a row before I finally gave up.  Each time the cast member said it was on there and we did a new pin and each time it didn’t work.  At least two members of our party arrived at the parks after attaching their tickets only to be sent back to their resort to have them added again. That’s a lot of time wasted.
  • Bands pop off easily.  Most of our agents mentioned hitting them or catching them on something and having the bands go flying off.
  • Since Disneyland is not online yet, you’ll need to call tech services directly to have them attach your premier pass (all U.S. parks) to your band.
Conclusion.
Despite some bumps, we were really happy with our magic bands. I recommend not leaving your credit card or room keys and tickets back at the resort in case you have some issues. The next 3 to 6 months are going to see a lot of changes, so remain flexible but have a back up (your tickets!) with you when you leave the room.  I’ll try to post any new changes here in the future. Meanwhile, if you want to hear more about my group’s experience using the magic bands for eleven days and learn about what we were told by Disney at the Earmark Conference, please listen to the latest Mouse chat episode HERE.  

Using Disney’s Magic Bands.

I just got back from Disney’s Earmark Conference at Walt Disney World. This is a conference for Disney travel planners that carry the Earmark logo, which means they meet certain criteria for selling the Disney product. It comes with some nice perks for the agencies and this is one of them. This year’s theme was all about the Magic Bands and I want to cover everything we were told so far even though there are likely going to be some changes as the system is rolled out over the next coming weeks.  I also used the bands for eight days, so I have some practical experience with it as well.

Magic bands assistance area at the conference. 

If you’re traveling in the next few weeks, you may be part of the testing that’s going on across property. If this is the case, you will likely have been notified by Disney or by your travel agent, but don’t lose hope if you haven’t been–we’re finding that the situation is so fluid right now that you might think you’re not using the bands only to arrive on property and find out that your resort is one that has been chosen for testing. Don’t worry if this happens. You can set up the bands at check-in.  We were told at the conference that it will be rolled out resort-wide by the second or third week in October.  So let’s get down to all the practical matters.

What’s a Magic Band?  

First things first: What are the magic bands?  The magic bands are basically a Key to the World Card (KTTW) that you’ll wear on your wrist. It holds all your basic information, including Magical Express, tickets, room key, dining credits, plus something new: Fastpasses, which I’ll get to separately since it’s such an important part of the story.  Your information isn’t stored on the band. Instead, it allows Disney cast members to access your information by touching one of the Mickey head sensors and then viewing it on their Ipad or computer screens.

The fun thing about the bands is that your name comes up in various places when you use the band, so Disney cast members can say “Welcome to the Magic Kingdom, Chris,” or something to that effect, which adds a nice personal touch.  They can also look into your file and know that you like eating Mickey bars at midnight, provided you’re purchasing them with your credit card attached to the bands.  In later months, there will be sensors at various places in the parks that can track your movements for crowd control purposes.

Say what? Okay, that just got creepy.

Every step you take, every purchase you make, I’ll be watching you.
Look, I’ll be honest. I read all the online diatribes about data mining and I got a little bit paranoid about it, but then I remembered that Disney already knows everything about me and my family because I use a Key to the World card already. They know what I buy, when I come back to my room, and they have a lot of my personal information on file to use as they deem fit, which incidentally, still still doesn’t mean I get pin codes. Disney has said our information won’t be sold to outside companies.  I’m not worried about the new system but if you are, you can opt out. It won’t make your vacation any less magical, although it might make getting fastpasses a little more difficult–no one can actually say yet since the system isn’t fully in place.
Magic band sensors in the Magic Kingdom. 
How Magic Bands Work.
Simply touch your magic band to the Mickey head sensor when the cast member tells you and it can charge to your account, admit you to the park, take away dining credits, or pay for a transaction. When entering the park, you’ll first tap the Mickey head and then put your finger on the scanner (for guests ages ten and up).  For transactions requiring money, you’ll use a pin code which you’ll set up when you check in.  We talked to a lot of visitors in the parks and they seemed to love the convenience of using the bands. It definitely makes getting into the parks and paying easy (maybe too easy) when your hands are full.
Linking Tickets.
We found this to be the biggest problem of all but keep in mind, this is the initial testing phase and there are bound to be bugs.  Annual passholders are able to link to their reservation, but those who have a premier pass for Walt Disney World and Disneyland will have to call tech support to get a special number so that they can add their passes. We didn’t find that out until many days into the trip because no one seemed to know this was an issue in the first place. Finally the tech support people at the conference we’re able to link my pass. We also had an issue with some of the tickets we received as a group even after attempting to link those several times. We finally gave up on those.  I suspect that those who buy their tickets from other sources will have the same difficulty, at least for the time being.
The good news is if you have a Disney package that includes tickets, connecting your tickets to My Disney Experience online or on your phone is automatic. You’ll just put your resort confirmation into the system and Disney does the rest. It will also link your dining reservations and fastpasses.  Next, you’ll invite those who are traveling with your to join your group so that you can link fastpasses. We had a very large group and were able to link all our fastpasses. We were even able to link to those who came in later and who weren’t on the system originally.
Magic bands go with everything, even your fancy dessert
from the California Grill.
Are They Comfortable?
Yes, surprisingly so. They’ve got little ridges on the underside of the band so that air can flow through. Yes, they still get a little bit sweaty, so we recommend not putting them on too tight. But they’re comfortable enough that I flew halfway home before I remembered that I had it on. Apparently Disney put tons of research into making sure that these bands are not only comfortable but also hypoallergenic, so if you’ve got a latex allergy, it’s safe to wear these.  
One nice thing is that the bands are easily fitted to the biggest or the smallest wrists. That’s because they come in two pieces.   Here it is full-size:

And here it is with the outer portion stripped off to reveal a much smaller band:
I’m guessing that many women have wrists that are small enough that they would be comfortable with the outer band taken off, but since you get sweaty under the bands if they’re tight, I would leave it on and just wear it a little bit baggy.  Once you take the outer band off, you can’t put it back on, as you can see from the picture.  
Fancy a t-shirt that touts your love of the magic bands?

Currently, you can buy covers, “band-its”, and sliders to decorate your magic band. Covers will keep you from getting a bit sweaty under the band and the sliders are cute.

You can also buy “band-its” which are similar to the Jibbitz kids you to stick in their Crocs. These tend to fall out, so I don’t recommend buying them until that problem is solved.  Or you could just adorn your magic band with the ones you find on the ground all over the parks.
One sad, lonely Kermit band-it on the ground in the Magic Kingdom.
How Do Fastpasses Work with the Magic Bands?
Okay, this is the big one and it’s also the one people are the most worried about. Currently, you can choose your fastpasses 30 days out. When the system is completely online, Disney will move that to 60 days out.  You’ll simply log into My Disney Experience and choose your fastpass times on the appropriate date. If you’re traveling with a group not on your reservation, invite those individuals and they will chose their times with you if they want–but they can also go at different times as well.  You’re not obligated to be together.
Obviously, the idea of choosing rides 60 days out is a little bit scary and just like with advance dining reservations (ADRs), the early bird is going to get the best times. So now you’ve got to coordinate parks, dining, and fastpasses? That sounds like a lot of work, especially considering that things change from day to day. Maybe everyone likes the Magic Kingdom so much they want to go a second day and skip Epcot? Or maybe you just want to sleep late or spend the afternoon at the pool. Well the good news is that these fastpasses can be changed, provided there is availability. So before your trip, as you continue to plan, you can make adjustments. Then, once you’re on property, you can continue to change your fastpass times.  Again, this is subject to availability but there’s no reason to think at this time that there won’t be at least some fastpass times available for same day selections.  You might just not get your ideal times.
At this time, if you’re not staying on property, you won’t use a magic band. You’ll still be able to get fastpasses the old-fashioned way. I’ll keep you posted on any changes to this, but I don’t see this being extended to off site guests for a while, if at all.
Pros and Cons in a Nutshell.
Pros:
Overall, our group was really happy with the magic bands. Here are a few quick thoughts on the subject:
  • Getting into the park is a lot faster, with less fumbling.  I was shocked at how quickly the lines moved compared to the Keys to the World cards.
  • Easy to pay for purchases, especially when you’ve got your hands full or are wrangling kids.
  • Bands are waterproof so you don’t have to bring much to the pool and you can take them into the water with you without worrying that they’re going to get misplaced.
  • I loved being able to leave with just my magic band and my phone in the morning when I went running (which of course meant I also went into the Boardwalk Bakery).
  Cons:
  • If you’re using an annual pass or DVC discount, you’ll still have to pull your card out of your wallet. It’s not currently showing up on your magic band.
  • We encountered multiple problems with credit cards and tickets “falling off” magic band after they’ve been added. I tried to add my credit card at least three days in a row before I finally gave up.  Each time the cast member said it was on there and we did a new pin and each time it didn’t work.  At least two members of our party arrived at the parks after attaching their tickets only to be sent back to their resort to have them added again. That’s a lot of time wasted.
  • Bands pop off easily.  Most of our agents mentioned hitting them or catching them on something and having the bands go flying off.
  • Since Disneyland is not online yet, you’ll need to call tech services directly to have them attach your premier pass (all U.S. parks) to your band.
Conclusion.
Despite some bumps, we were really happy with our magic bands. I recommend not leaving your credit card or room keys and tickets back at the resort in case you have some issues. The next 3 to 6 months are going to see a lot of changes, so remain flexible but have a back up (your tickets!) with you when you leave the room.  I’ll try to post any new changes here in the future. Meanwhile, if you want to hear more about my group’s experience using the magic bands for eleven days and learn about what we were told by Disney at the Earmark Conference, please listen to the latest Mouse chat episode HERE.  

How to: Beat the Summer Heat

Summertime…and the living is easy
I know it’s not even spring yet, but I can’t help but look forward to summer at Walt Disney World. It’s been a very warm winter here in Central Florida so far. Aside from a scattering of days that were quite cold (and yes, it can get cold here), we’ve experienced consistent temperatures in the upper 70’s and low 80’s . There’s also been very little rain. Having such a warm winter makes me think that we could be in for a very dry, hot summer though.
Summer of course also happens to be a time of year when lots of people visit Disney World. After all, the kids are out of school, the parks  stay open later, and it’s traditionally the period people think of when you talk about taking a vacation. If you’re one of those people, here’s some tips on how to survive summer at the parks.
 Dress appropriately
Average highs during June – August are in the low 90’s, but an average humidity around 60% during the same period can cause the heat index (or what a person’s perception of the temperature is) to be much higher, so it’s not usual to feel like it’s more like 98 degrees (or more!) out. This should go without saying, but now is not the time to wear all black clothing and combat boots, while lugging around a backpack so large it comes with its own Sherpa. Light colored clothing, shorts, and t-shirts is the way to go. And don’t forget to wear a hat and sunglasses. This goes for kids, too. Ditch the combat boots, and the flip flops (they won’t give you enough support as you walk through the park, plus you’re just asking for a wicked sunburn on the tops of your feet). And ditch the huge backpacks, too. I’m not saying don’t carry one, but visitors tend to overpack for the parks. Before you head out the door, ask yourself “Will I really need this in the parks today?” If the answer is no, or probably not, leave it behind. Trust me, by early afternoon, you’ll be thanking me.
Sure it’s a nice hat, but I don’t think it’s going to protect you from the sun….
 Use sunscreen
This is another must. I know, lots of people go on vacation and want to get “a little color” to show off when they get home. The trouble is, it doesn’t take long to go from a little color to a bad burn in the Florida sunshine, and you don’t want to be in pain on your vacation after waiting months for your trip to arrive. Use something strong, with at least an SPF of 50 for the best protection, and don’t forget your ears and behind your neck. The goal is to shield your skin, not saute it, so skip the cocoa butter. Parents, make sure your kids wear it too, even if they’re like me as a kid and scrunch up their face and yell as soon as you try to touch them with it. If you’re going to be swimming or at a water park, take the time to reapply it more often than you normally would. Remember that the sun’s rays reflect off the water, so you will burn faster.
Stay hydrated
Aside from all the walking you’re going to be doing, the heat will really take its toll on you, and you’re going to sweat – a lot – so drink plenty of fluids. Ideally, you want to drink water, and not caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, since those will actually dehydrate you more quickly. You can even get a cup of ice water from all counter service locations free of charge, though, to be honest, the water isn’t always that great. Consider getting some bottled water to keep in your room, and keeping it chilled in your in room fridge if you have one, or an ice bucket. 
This isn’t exactly what I meant by “stay hydrated.”
Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours
Whether you use them in the morning, in the evening, or both, these can be a lifesaver during the summer. Roughly 70% of all park visitors don’t take advantage of the morning EMH, so if you’re a morning person and can get to the parks, go! Not only will it be cooler before the heat of midday starts to set in, but you’ll get a lot accomplished in the early morning. And if you’re a night owl, you’ll love summer and the late park hours -imagine being able to stay in the Magic Kingdom until 2 or 3 a.m!   So if your group has the ability to stay out later,  you might relax during the day and hit up the parks at night. Not only will the temperature outside be much more comfortable, but experiencing attractions like Jungle Cruise, Tower of Terror, Test Track or Expedition Everest at night is really different.
Night time is a great time to be in the parks! 


Leave the parks
Regardless of how you tour, you should plan on taking a break during the midday. From about 1-4 p.m., the sun will be at its hottest. It’s no surprise that the hot weather makes people cranky and they start to snap at one another. Don’t let this be you. Go back to your room for a few hours, and take a siesta, or swim in the pool. Then maybe have a nice dinner and head back to a park for the evening. An even better idea? Take a day off from the parks (about midway through your trip) and spend it relaxing poolside, or by visiting one of the water parks. I guarantee you’ll feel better the next day!
Doesn’t that pool look inviting? If the scary clown doesn’t eat you, I mean.

Use Fastpass and a touring plan
No one likes waiting in line for things, and that’s especially true when it feels like it’s 95 degrees out and you’re baking in the sun. Make sure you use Fastpass for the popular attractions whenever you can, and if you aren’t using a touring plan, get one. I can  tell you from experience, they work very well, and can greatly reduce the amount of time you spend in line. 
Better get a Fastpass, or be prepared to wait to ride!
Go for the “cool” attractions
No, I don’t mean cool as in awesome. Do kids even say awesome anymore? I feel old. I mean attractions like Philharmagic, Haunted Mansion, Muppet Vision, It’s Tough to be a Bug, and yes, even the Hall of Presidents. They’re large, air conditioned attractions where you can get out of the sun for a bit. Plus, you can sit down in them, and you can probably even take a long nap without anyone bothering you in that last one. Another good place to come in from out of the heat? The shops. Suddenly, paying $28 for a t-shirt seems reasonable if it means not having to go back outside for 10 minutes.
Bring a poncho
 Summertime in Florida means rain (well, usually). Typically, these storms happen in the afternoon and although they are impressive, strong storms, with thunder and lightning, and can often deliver several inches of rain in a short period of time, they also don’t tend to stick around. Here’s a tip, too -they’ll be lots of people who will leave the parks once it starts to rain; chances are though by the time they get back to their resort, the rain will already be on its way out, so use this time to shop, eat a snack, or experience an indoor attraction. You may just find a much more empty park to enjoy when the sun comes back out.
Serious downpours are part of summer!
What are some of your favorite ways to stay cool in summer at Disney? 

Are Changes Coming to Walt Disney World’s Fastpass System?



Our good friends at Touringplans are reporting that cast members at Walt Disney World Resort have been informed that beginning March 7, 2012, return times on Fastpasses will be enforced for all guests. Whereas in the pasts, guests could get a Fastpass for a scheduled return time and then save it for later in the day (so long as it was used the same day), guests using a Fastpass will reportedly be given only a small window in which to use the pass. Guests will be allowed to present the Fastpass 5 minutes prior to or up to 15 minutes after, the return time printed on the ticket. Guests presenting Fastpasses after this time will be denied admittance.
Why the change in policy? That is unknown to us at this time. Perhaps it is due to the fact that because people often save Fastpasses for later in the day or evening, the result being that Fastpass lines can have 20-30 minute waits, thereby defeating the purpose of the system itself.  Alternatively, this may have something to do with the rumored introduction of X-Pass coming to the parks later this year, with Disney looking to streamline the process so as to guarantee X-Pass holders immediate entry onto attractions.
I suspect this isn’t going to go over well with park guests, many of whom are used to saving up Fastpasses during the day and then using them all at once. I would hate to be a cast member at the parks when this rolls out. Hopefully, Disney starts to publicize this change immeditely to give people time to adjust to the new policy.
Whatever the reason for the change, I do think it’s interesting that the policy is currently only going in effect for Walt Disney World, and not Disneyland Resort at this time. 

What do you think? Is this change long overdue? Or should Disney let park guests use Fastpasses however they choose? 

The New XPass: What Does It Mean for You and Me? By Bob Angelo.

Recently, the online Disney community has been aflutter with rumors that XPass may be introduced at the Walt Disney Parks as early as 2012 (see Kevin Yee’s excellent article here). No, it’s not part of the new Fantasyland Expansion, but it may be as big a story. What exactly is it, and why should you care?

XPass is a next generation technology; a sort of enhanced Fastpass system that guests would pay for, and would allow them to plan out their entire Walt Disney World vacation; from what rides and attractions they want to experience, to character greetings, weeks or months before they even set foot in a Disney park. Once they arrive and get to a park, the guest would then just follow the specific plan they created, show up to an attraction, waive the XPass and bypass the other guests waiting on line. Guests utilizing the system would also be given special seating/viewing areas for parades, fireworks, and nighttime entertainment such as “Fantasmic.”

A project that is near and dear to Disney CEO Bob Iger’s heart, the idea gained more attention earlier this year when Chairman of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Tom Staggs, commented that the company was working on a version of Fastpass for a guest’s entire Disney vacation. To further muddy the waters a little, Jim Hill Media has reported that XPass would not be available for purchase by all guests; instead, only those guests who book a deluxe resort would be afforded the opportunity to partake.

Assuming this project is real, and these rumors are true (and I should stress again that all of this is just a rumor at this point, and nothing has been officially announced) I think it raises a number of concerns. First, since XPass guests would presumably be using the Fastpass entrance at attractions, in order to keep the flow of traffic moving, it’s reasonable to assume that Disney will reduce the total number of Fastpasses available to other guests on any given day. I also have concerns about how Disney will handle guests using XPass at attractions or experiences that don’t normally have them, such as at character greetings. Will guests be split into two separate lines? Will “normal” guests have to wait longer each time a guest with the pass decides they want to meet Mickey? And exactly how does Disney intend to respond to the backlash that is certain to occur from guests who don’t have XPass or are not familiar with it, and don’t like the idea of people “cutting” in front of them? After all, more than 10 years after its introduction, there are still people who don’t understand the Fastpass system, and get upset when people walk by them and directly onto attractions.

Second, I don’t like the idea of a caste system at Disney(or any theme park for that matter). It’s bad enough that people who are willing to spend more money would get to seemingly have an easier, more enjoyable vacation, but to limit the purchase of the XPass only to those guests staying in Deluxe resorts isn’t fair at all. Whether intentional or not, it sends the message that by staying in a deluxe resort, you are somehow better than everyone else, which simply isn’t true. I have talked to many clients who could easily afford to stay in a deluxe resort, but for a variety of reasons, do not – they tour all day and aren’t at the resort enough to enjoy it; they have young children who enjoy the theme of the value resorts better, or they like the fact that staying at a value gives them the option to stay for a longer period of time than staying at a deluxe would. And what about guests who choose for one reason or another to stay off-site? What about locals who have no reason to stay on or off property? If people’s money isn’t good just because they choose not to stay in a deluxe resort, maybe they start spending that money elsewhere.

Lastly, this just isn’t the Disney way. To be fair, this whole idea isn’t new; a certain other park just up the road from Walt Disney World where a famous boy wizard hangs out has (and has had for years) a similar system in place for on-site hotel guests and those willing to fork over extra cash on top of the base ticket price for the chance to bypass the lines at many of the popular attractions. And our friend Jim Hill, of the aforementioned Jim Hill Media, would remind me that if I said such a thing to Disney’s board members, I would be quickly told “Well, maybe that wasn’t Walt’s way, but Walt’s not around anymore, and this is how we do things now.” But when Disneyland first opened, it opened with the idea that it was a place where all families could go and have a good time together. Believe it or not, in its early days, there was even the idea in place that a guest should leave with money in their pocket at the end of the day because it would build brand loyalty. Clearly we aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.

That doesn’t change the fact that Disney ISN’T that park with the boy wizard, and the Disney parks are STILL a place meant for families of any shape and size to go and have a good time. The minute Disney starts putting in place systems that reward people with specialized attraction access, priority character meet and greets, and VIP viewing spots for parades and fireworks if they spend more money, they lose that. The minute guests are essentially categorized based on where they choose to put down their head at night, they risk isolating a segment of those same guests. Where Disney has always excelled is in the fact that they were different; there is no place you can go that is quite like Walt Disney World -not even Disneyland. What has always made it special for me is that no matter how many times I visit the parks, I can always find the magic somewhere, and all around me, I can see guests finding that same magic. I’d hate to see a system put in place where the level of magic you can find is dictated by your credit limit. Say it ain’t so, Disney. Say it ain’t so.

Thanks to Bob for his thoughts on this issue.  What do you think?