Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Thoughts On FastPass+ and MagicBands

Disney recently implemented their new FastPass+ system, and thus far, it sounds like a train wreck for the most part. Sure, they say it's still in a testing phase. A testing phase that might be a total nightmare for some.

On top of that, MagicBands, the replacement for the Key to the World cards, are being rolled out to many guests staying on Disney property. I'm not going to go into detail of how to use the MagicBand or what it all does, because you can get that information on virtually every Disney travel tip website at this point. I don't feel like wasting my breath.

Next month, I will have the honor(?) of trying these new "features" out myself. I was looking forward to it until recently. It sounds as though some people are running into bugs with the MagicBands when using them for numerous things. Since it's this fancy schmancy technology, it's probably a huge pain in the butt for Cast Members to work out the issues in a timely manor. Oy. I'm seriously praying my mom and I don't have to go through this. I have faith that Disney will eventually get all the kinks straightened out and guests will learn to find MagicBands a stroke of genius.

That being said, I don't see a great future for the FastPass+ system right now. Lately, I've been going to Twitter and doing a search for "fastpass" just to see what current Disney World guests have to say about it. People are posting pictures of FastPass+ queues and they look ridiculous. Way longer than they should be for this time of year. I just have a hard time seeing Disney sticking their tail between their legs and going, "Yeah, we need a lot more time to figure this out."

I just feel like sharing my thoughts about how FastPass+ will most certainly affect guests in the parks, and also, how FastPass+ will affect Disney.

So, it's been said that a possible reason for changing from the legacy FASTPASS to FastPass+ is because guests that used FASTPASS in the past tended to have a better experience visiting the Disney World theme parks. Makes sense to me. Shorter lines makes everyone happy. FastPass+ essentially pushes more guests into using a FastPass system in some way. For some reason, there have always been a number of guests that don't take the time to understand and use the legacy FASTPASS. They must really enjoy standing in long standby lines. My question is, how are extremely long FastPass+ lines going to please guests and give them a better experience? Guests are assuming it will save them a lot of time in line, as it has before, but they will be incredibly disappointed to see that a standby line has virtually the same wait. Disney is ticking off guests left and right! They really need to discontinue use of FastPass+ until they can get this issue under control. That is, if they want to fix this "problem." Maybe they truly don't care that the FastPass+ line isn't really doing much for guests. So, backfire #1... ticking off guests with longer than usual FastPass+ lines.

What about those guests that aren't planning their FastPass+ attraction picks ahead of time, and will never have the opportunity to because they are random day guests? Why should they have a strike against them? Aren't we all created equal here? These guests are basically forced into using a FastPass+ choice on Captain EO because nothing else is left for them to choose from. Sure, I get it. Disney wants to entice potential guests to choose an on-property resort and stay longer. But, let's face it, they cannot and will not get everyone to do so.

What about guests that are older and are not tech savvy? I see SO many guests that are older in the parks. I can assume some of them don't have a smart phone or a computer. These guests will then need to go to a kiosk at the parks or their resort, and choose FastPass+ picks with the help of a Cast Member. Of course, since they had to do it last minute, they are stuck with Captain EO as well.

Disney likes making money, right? Sure! They're a business and that's a top priority. While they are trying to cut some corners by implementing FastPass+, they will be potentially losing gift shop sales. I know that if I just waited an hour in a FastPass+ line, the last thing I'd think about is buying a t-shirt. I'd be off to another attraction so I don't waste my time in the parks any more than I already have.

I'm curious if guests typical day behavior will change now that FastPass+ exists. Will less people use the Park Hopper option since they can only get FastPasses at one park per day? Will guests that typically leave mid-day for a nap or swim still do so? If those guests have limited options for FastPass+ picks, will they only use one or two to ensure that they aren't scheduling one that they know they might waste?

I'm most scared of how FastPass+ could get worse. There's a "rumor" that FastPass+ will end up adapting to a tiered system that allows guests at deluxe resorts (AKA, the people with all the money) to receive more FastPass+ choices than those staying at say, a value or off-property. I promise you that I will flip my lid if this actually ends up happening. Walt would NEVER stand for this. It's disturbing to think about guests with more money to spend on Disney property being given the option of having a more efficient park experience. It's essentially saying, "Oh, you can't afford to stay at a deluxe resort? Back of the line!"

I really have to wonder if guests will ultimately get so ticked off about these changes to their ride experience that they will just choose not to return to Disney World. Will they be pushed into the arms of Universal? Will they space out their trips a little more in hopes that Disney might change their ways? We'll have to give it more time to see how guests react to the changes.

To balance out my complaining about FastPass+, I would like to touch on what could potentially help FastPass+. Something I mentioned before, mid-day napping guests, could help guests in the standby line. If the guests that are leaving had FastPass+ "reservations" over the period of time that they will be out of the park, that possibly means that standby guests will be reap the benefits.

Another thing that might help out FastPass+ is late arrival guests. There are always going to be families that have the hardest time getting to the parks when they intend to. If a family like that had 5 FastPass+ reservations for Test Track at 9:15-10:15 but didn't make it there on time because there were running late, this means there will be 5 less people standing in front of you in the FastPass+ queue and 5 less people to compete with if you're in the standby line.

My friend, Ed, is at Disney World right now and I asked him how his experience with FastPass+ has been. He said it's been great and his family has not had to wait more than 15 minutes for an attraction. This makes me wonder if Ed's family just happened to pick great times for FastPasses, or if it's just a random thing that some guests are having to deal with long lines while others aren't.

I just did a Twitter search right now to see what I would get. Here it is 2:50pm on a Wednesday and I'm seeing someone report that the "FastPass+ app is down again today." I'm also seeing that the return time for Toy Story Midway Mania FastPasses moves ten minutes later about every 5 seconds. Whoa. It's strange, but I see that someone reported that they just made FastPass+ selections for December, while another guest said upon calling WDW, they were told that FastPass+ would not be running in December. This could cause madness if guests made FastPass+ selections and then they are taken away. One guest said that they were impressed with the Disney mobile app and MagicBand technology because it made life around the resort a lot easier. Cool!

Lastly, a valid gripe was said... "Wouldn't it be nice to know the FastPass return time, or if FastPasses are gone, before you walked across the park to get one?" Though, even knowing what the return time is for an attraction when you check from across the park is pointless because by the time you get there, it could be 2 hours from what you believed it to be since return times are increasing rapidly.

I will absolutely report back after my trip next month and let you know how it goes for my mom and I. Crossing my fingers and hoping for the best!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

January Trip Pictures

After having a real life "McAlister" moment at the airport, we were so thankful that we made our flight. Then we went from plane to Magical Express. 

This was Matt's first time seeing us on the "welcome" video that plays on the Magical Express. Back in 2008, before Toy Story Midway Mania opened, we were lucky enough to be a part of the promotional video filming. It was such a fun experience for us to ride a new attraction before any other guests!

Our first stop was Animal Kingdom. Some of the Christmas decorations were still up.

In case you didn't know, my favorite animal is buffalo.

This was from dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot. 

This was the very first car we created at the new Test Track.

My first time meeting Ariel! I was obsessed with her when I was 4 years old.

I really should have bought this beer hat. 

I was surprised to find a buffalo stuffed animal in Canada! I named him Ontario because the Cast Member that sold him to me was from Ontario.

Our first time eating at Be Our Guest was amazing!

As you can see, we were very proud of ourselves for running our first 5K. That was definitely the highlight of the trip for both of us.