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Disney Tech

We’re going to DisneyWorld!

I’m a big kid at heart.  And I’m nerdy about technology.  So Disney plus technology is right in my wheelhouse.  And soon I’ll get to try out some new Disney technology first hand.  MagicBands.

Wired magazine did a great writeup about the new technology in March.  I highly recommend you read it, it’s just fascinating stuff.  Basically a MagicBand is an RFID wristband you wear when you’re at DisneyWorld.  Everywhere at DisneyWorld.  In the parks, at the restaurants, at the resort, on the bus.  Disney is building their entire vacation experience around this technology, creating a ‘friction-less’ day.  No more key cards for hotel rooms.  Or paper tickets to enter the park.  No more FastPass stubs (I’ll miss those, they made great bookmarks).  Going to a restaurant?  You can peruse the menu and place your order ahead of time.  The band will automagically tell the restaurant to start cooking when you walk in the door.

So, you’re being tracked.  Everywhere you go.  But it’s being used for good, not evil (at least I hope it is!).  I don’t mind that, not at all.  Making things easier for me, that’s what technology is for.

I’ll get to experience it all firsthand in the near future.  And I’ll let you know how it all worked out.  But first I had to deal with a little reservation hiccup.

Did you know that DisneyWorld, with over thirty thousand hotel rooms available, can still sell out?  I guess that had never occurred to me.  I thought there would always be some rooms left.  Which is why I booked late (Ok, I procrastinated).  And found that (gulp) they were sold out for the time we planned to go.  Not completely sold out, but there were no rooms that spanned our entire stay.  Time to start piece-mealing a plan together!

And that’s when I lost the better part of a day.  There just wasn’t a simple way to say ‘What are my options between this day and that day’.

Imagine you’re going to fly cross country, but the airlines were sold out of direct flights.  What do the airlines do?  They show you options with one or two plane changes along the way.  Disney’s reservation system should do that, something like ‘Three days at Coronado Springs and four at Port Orleans Riverside’ – but it doesn’t.  Instead it’s on you to suss out which rooms at the various resorts are available on each day.  Type in some start and end dates, push the button, and see what comes up.  Adjust one of the dates, push the button, see what’s changed.  Over and over.  Eventually I found three rooms, each at different resorts, that when pieced together covered our trip.  Not great, not the places we wanted to stay, but I was tired of looking.

There’s an opportunity for Disney’s reservation system to present some room ‘pairings’ automatically.  Not every possible combination – that would make the algorithm needlessly complex.  But they know the dates I’d like.  And the class of resort I’m after (economy up thru luxury is possible, with several steps along the way).  Rather than showing me a list of resorts with nothing available for my dates they could show one or two options for a two-part stay in the resort level I’ve chosen.  Just like the airlines do.  Keep it focused, keep it small, but bring me some useful information.  It’s possible.

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I may have drifted into grumpy guy territory, so I won’t dawdle.  But I will note that I couldn’t even get on a waiting list for the resort we wanted.  It’s an ‘F5’ situation, you just have to come back to the site again and again, refreshing with the hope that something opens up.

We did eventually get the resort we wanted.  When reservations reach their ‘lock in’ date people begin canceling (I think it was 45 days out).  If they pass that date they can’t cancel without a penalty.  So right around a month and a half before our trip I found reservations suddenly opening up for the week we wanted to travel.  We still had to book it in two separate reservations though, because the same class of room wasn’t available at the resort for the entire stay.  Sigh.

So here’s where we come back to MagicBands.  Disney spends a lot of money to ensure you’re excited about your trip.  Once you make a reservation you’ll start receiving custom printed brochures welcoming you and encouraging you to do things like choose your FastPass rides, book restaurant reservations, etc.  All to load up the MagicBands they’ve sent you.  All four of them.

We have two reservations.  There are two of us.  They’ve sent us four MagicBands!

Yep, a second set of MagicBands arrived a day or two after the first set.  Oh boy, now what do we do?  Well, the Disney website says each band carries all of our information.  So either set should have our tickets, hotel rooms, etc.  Here’s hoping.  We’ll just pack them all to take with us.  I’m orange, and my wife is blue.

But we really didn’t need two sets of bands.  Still, I can’t wait to try them out!

I wonder if they can make it buzz when I get near one of those giant turkey leg stands…

Have you had the chance to try Disney’s MagicBands?  What sort of things could they do to make your vacation even better? (besides the turkey leg vibrating thing)

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