In the great race between the Walt Disney World theme parks and Universal Studios, one place where Disney has had an edge is with the MagicBands program.
For years, Disney MagicBands served as room keys for any Walt Disney World Resort Hotel and as tickets to get into the park and lightning lanes.
They can also replace debit or credit cards in the parks, Disney Springs or on the property for Disney Resort Hotel guests.
The bands are water safe and no more uncomfortable than a watch. Additionally, they pair nicely with the Play Disney Parks App, the My Disney Experience app available to almost any mobile device.
They are convenient, secure and safe.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
To see a list of current area deals, discounts and offers!
Universal? They still use a paper ticket which has many of the same functions as the original MagicBand, aka the regular MagicBand. However, the ticket is decidedly less secure and certainly not water resistant.
And it doesn’t save you much money because almost everyone buys a lanyard to hang their ticket around their necks. Notably, a Universal-themed lanyard is not exactly cheap.
But before Universal could even begin to play catchup, Disney took the next step, offering an upgrade to the current MagicBands with Disney MagicBand+.
What is the new MagicBand Plus?
Launched in July of 2022, the Disney MagicBand+ came with a handful of available interactive experiences.
The concept aims to enhance the park experience when used with the Play Disney Parks app and/or the My Disney Experience account.
The most interesting new feature may be located in the Star Wars section of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Visitors to the Black Spire outpost can join the Batuu Bounty Hunters Guild in Galaxy’s Edge. If you visit the Bounty Hunter home base and put your Magicband+ inside the scanner, a figure will appear and give you one of the numerous virtual bounties to hunt.
Your Magicband+ will use vibrations and different colors to tell you if you are getting hotter or colder.
When you find your bounty hiding behind one of the park “doors”, use the Disney Play App on your phone to help capture the bounty.
Return to the Bounty Hunter Guild Home base to turn in your bounty. Next, collect your galactic credits and – if you choose – accept your next assignment.
The MagicBand+ 50th Anniversary enhancement
The second Disney enchantment with the MagicBand+ is tied to the 50th Anniversary celebration. Spread throughout the parks are 50 golden statues featuring famous Disney Characters like Tinker Bell or Minnie Mouse.
The figures are built with gesture recognition so that if you wave at the character it will create an “interaction.”
For example, the statue will play music or speak dialogue from the movies. If done in conjunction with the Play Disney App, the augmented reality feature will allow you to track your character collection.
Each character that you wave at and get a response from is cataloged. The goal is to collect all 50 from the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. It all adds a bit of Pokemon Go-style fun to your Disney World vacation.
Finally, the MagicBand+ comes with lightning effects. The effects, as mentioned previously, help with the bounty hunter challenge. They also glow and light up in synchronization with the park closing events at the Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth and the Tree of Life.
Honestly? The Disney fireworks and lighting shows are so impressive, I can’t imagine watching the minor lights twinkle on your MagicBand is going to enhance much of anything, but there it is.
What is the difference between MagicBand and MagicBand+?
The original MagicBand performs all of the major functions needed to navigate the park, but it doesn’t have all of the cool, new features listed above.
It can get you into your Disney Resort Hotel room, pay for stuff in the park, work for tickets and lightning lanes. But you can’t collect characters, can’t play the bounty hunter game and can’t watch the coordinated “light” show without MagicBand+.
Presumably, MagicBand+ will gain more features over time and the old MagicBands will be phased out eventually.
The old MagicBands do not need to be charged and will not run out of juice.
A portable charger – and the right MagicBand cord – is a good idea for the MagicBand+. Once fully charged, the MagicBand+ does seem to have strong battery life.
Where can I buy a Magic Band or MagicBand+?
I’ve always preferred to get my MagicBand before arriving at the resort. You can buy them at the hotel gift shops and in the theme parks. But with the charging issue, it’s better to get them ahead of time.
The Walt Disney World website has a small collection of Magicband+ and regular MagicBands to choose from. Pay attention, however, when ordering. It is easy to think you’re getting a MagicBand+ and order an original MagicBand by mistake.
I was very interested in the Darth Vader option, but luckily I realized it wasn’t available in the MagicBand+. There are more styles to choose from in the parks.
I saw someone online recommend buying from Amazon as you wouldn’t have to pay shipping with an Amazon membership.
But the search results were absolutely mystifying. Specifically, there were dozens of off-brand wraps and wristbands designed to hold the little oval MagicBand center. I got three or four pages deep into my search and hadn’t seen a MagicBand+ yet. Use caution when buying from a third party.
How much does a MagicBand cost?
The most basic of MagicBand models cost $19.99 on the Disney World website. The basic model of MagicBand+ will cost you $34.99. More specialty MagicBand+ options, such as those that say Disney Mom and Disney Dad, are available right now for $44.99.
Themed versions of the newer MagicBand or MagicBand 2 range from $28 to $58 on the Disney Website. However, they will occasionally be marked down.
Prices are subject to change.
I got JP a Han Solo-themed one last year for $9.99.
Do I have to have a MagicBand?
No. You can use your phone to access Disney MagicMobile services to perform almost all of the MagicBand functions. It’s a free download for iPhone and Android users.
The Disney World website offers an app vs MagicBand checklist. And the only two things your phone won’t do is unlock the enchanting interactions available through the MagicBand+ and possibly not be waterproof.
You can access your room, enter the parks, manage lightning lanes and more all with your mobile phone.
Do you use a MagicBand at Disney World? What do you think? Let us know in the comments!