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Disney Makes Family Travel Hi-Tech


Heads up, Disney lovers—your experience at the recently expanded Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., is about to get a lot more technologically sophisticated.

The new approach, unveiled (and reported) formally earlier this month, hinges on Disney-branded electronic wrist bands. The bands, dubbed MagicBands, are part of a system that stores guests’ personal information and allows guests to wave their hands over sensors when they wish to access on-property hotel rooms or purchase something with a credit-card on file.

Like wireless toll collectors, the bands sport radio frequency identification (RFID) chips.

Overall, this system is called MyMagic+. It was met with mixed reviews earlier this month when spokespeople for the Mouse unveiled their master plans.

In one corner: Disneyphiles who love the idea of eliminating paper and applaud the notion of being able to book FastPass slots and seats for attractions electronically. In the other corner: Privacy nuts who openly question how and why the system allows the theme park to collect sensitive personal information, including names of guests both young and old, their purchasing and riding patterns and real-time location data.

One thing is for sure: The system certainly cost Disney a pretty penny.

Analysts told The New York Times that they estimate the cost of installing the system, which will impact 60,000 employees and more than 100,000 guests every day, at somewhere between $800 million and $1 billion.

Also factored into this cost was a new part of the Disney World website, called “My Disney Experience,” which makes it fairly straightforward to manage MagicBand privacy controls for each member of a family (in case you’re one of those people who might be wigged out by Disney knowing stuff about where in its parks your kids might be, and what they do there).

Personally, my biggest concern about the bracelets revolves around practical, day-to-day wear-and-tear. As we all know, kids will be kids; undoubtedly they’re going to lose or damage the bracelets over the course of a three- or four-day visit to the park. Then what?

Disney spokespeople assured me guests wouldn’t have to worry; if a guest loses his or her MagicBand, the person can report it to any Guest Services Cast Member to have it disabled and/or replaced. Apparently, with MyMagic+, guests also will have the option of disabling the MagicBand themselves through their My Disney Experience account.

What’s more, because the bracelets are water-resistant, it doesn’t matter if they end up in the pool.

Is it creepy that Disney might know from its bracelet system (and which Disney characters they run to meet) that my daughters prefer Briar Rose to Snow White? I admit, it is. But the benefits to this new system sound pretty darn cool.

Next time we head east, I’m willing to suspend disbelief for at least a day to try it out.