In early 2013, Disney Parks fans first heard about the MagicBand. It promised to enhance your Walt Disney World vacation, as the wristband would act as your park tickets, room key, PhotoPass, credit card and more.
Up until recently, guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel received a free MagicBand as part of their vacation package. On Jan. 1 of this year, however, that perk is no longer available. So, if you’re a first-time visitor to Walt Disney World, is it worth it to buy a MagicBand?
First off, I should make it clear that you don’t need a MagicBand when visiting Walt Disney World. Since so many guests do wear a MagicBand, I think a lot of first-timers just assume that they’re required; they’re not. If you choose not to buy a MagicBand, you will be given an RFID card that functions in the same way – it’s simply not attached to your wrist. It’s more like a credit card you’d carry with you.
Having said that, I do think getting a MagicBand is worth the one-time fee. Full disclosure, I’m saying that as someone who has never purchased one, though I have quite a few of them from the times they were included with my resort stay. Basic MagicBands can now be purchased for around $14.99, while other more unique designs vary drastically in price. The best time to buy is before your trip, as they do offer discounted pre-arrival pricing. Be sure to save them after your vacation, as they can be reused the next time you visit.
I suggest buying them for one very simple reason: Ease. You will use your MagicBand a lot during your vacation. You can use it to get into your room, to enter the parks, to make a purchase. You can use it for PhotoPass purposes and for FastPass+ (when available). You can use it when going to a dining reservation and more. Based on all of its functions, consider for a moment how many times you would be tapping your MagicBand throughout the day. It’s a lot, probably more than you might guess.
If you didn’t have that MagicBand conveniently attached to your wrist, you would be doing one of two other things: You would be pulling the RFID card out of your pocket, wallet, or bag; or you would be unlocking your phone, opening the Walt Disney World app and navigating it to find what you’re looking for. Are either of these options the end of the world? Absolutely not. But could it be annoying to need to do this repeatedly throughout the day. It would for me, so I think it’s worth the $14.99 (or even less) investment.
One concern people may have is that since Disney is no longer offering the free MagicBands, does that mean that Disney is slowly discontinuing them and that your new MagicBand investment won’t be good for future visits? Although this is a possibility, my guess is no – at least, not in the near future. Even though a lot of MagicBand features can now be taken care of in your smartphone, the physical product is still beneficial to The Walt Disney Company.
First and foremost, MagicBands have become as collectible to some guests as pins. That means that a lot of money is being made on the different design options and limited editions regularly rolling out. Just doing a quick search on shopDisney, some are currently selling for $58.00, which is a pretty spectacular profit margin. I think the sales alone are reason enough to keep MagicBands around.
But it’s not the only reason to believe they’re here to stay. It was recently announced that Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii would soon be getting the MagicBand technology rolled out at the resort. That financial investment wouldn’t be made by the company if there were any thought of it going away.
In addition, I’m sure Disney loves the brand recognition the colored band around your wrist presents all over Orlando. It’s not uncommon to see guests at Universal Orlando and other Florida tourist destinations outside of Walt Disney World wearing the immediately recognizable MagicBand. For a lot of Walt Disney World guests, they get used to using their MagicBand to unlock their hotel room. Humans are creatures of habit, so this instills the feeling that the MagicBand is “needed” to unlock your room, and therefore, you always need to have it with you as if it were a set of keys. As a result, it usually stays attached to your wrist for safekeeping regardless of where you are on your vacation.
As The Walt Disney Company continues to add more features to your smartphone and stops giving away MagicBands to guests, I don’t think the technology is going away any time soon and I personally feel the convenient device is worth the initial investment. What do you think? Do you find the cost to be worth the convenience? Do you collect MagicBands for the different designs?
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.