A new version of the official Walt Disney World web site has launched in a beta test form, available in a slow roll out for some visitors to the page. Those who sign up can get a glimpse at the future of vacation planning and theme park interaction by way of radio frequency cards and devices, allowing Disney guests to use one card to enter theme parks, pay for meals and merchandise, and provide access to skip lines. The new site will offer a chance to plan itineraries and even order food in advance of arriving to theme park restaurants.
“My Disney Experience” is the name of the section of the newly redesigned Walt Disney World web site, sharing a name with the mobile app that launched in August 2012. The goal of both the site and app are the same: to give Disney theme park guests more information and control over each day – sometimes down to each minute – of their trips.
The My Disney Experience web site and app will be easily accessible to all who visit Walt Disney World with networked devices – computer, cell phones, tablets – as free Wi-Fi is now available at all four theme parks, Downtown Disney, and resort hotels.
Beyond basic information such as park maps, attraction descriptions, and park hours, when fully rolled out the My Disney Experience web site will offer the ability to plan meals and instant access to rides, shows, and other attractions, scheduled in a personal, shareable itinerary.
The ability to pre-plan specific times to enjoy attractions is called FastPass+, currently on its third round of testing at Walt Disney World, which first began in May 2012. With the launch of the new “My Disney Experience” site, Disney has revealed details of how the FastPass+ system will work when (soon?) made fully available.
Disney’s official description of FastPass+ reads:
“Once available, Disney FastPass+ service allows you to select an arrival window to experience certain park attractions, character meet and greets, and quick-service restaurants, and to arrange a viewing location for certain entertainment such as fireworks, parades and shows.”
By planning a trip to the parks ahead of time, guests will have the opportunity to schedule times to take part in a variety of attractions. Disney notes the availability of FastPass+ times and access depends on a variety of factors, including “the theme park you are visiting, the attraction or entertainment experience, the time of year and the day of the week, and prior demand.”
Much like Disney’s existing FastPass system, each guest will need their own access to attractions by way of FastPass+. But planning ahead will no longer require running around the park with a handful of tickets, individually inserting them into machines, hoping for a good return time.
Instead, new radio frequency-equipped cards will link to attraction reservations made online prior to arriving at the park. A simple tap against a Mickey head-marked post will make the connection and offer preassigned access, such as the one installed at Peter Pan’s Flight and The Haunted Mansion in the Magic Kingdom shown below.
Though the “My Disney Experience” site, guests may manage groups of friends and family members, setting up FastPass+ selections for entire parties at once. The number of FastPass+ reservations available to each guest is limited, spanning across an entire group.
In addition to reserving ride and show times, FastPass+ will also allow assistance with dining, by allowing guests to order a meal prior to arriving, simply selecting the time at which they’ll want to eat.
According to the rules posted on the new site, FastPass+ selections will be available for one park per day, available for each attraction, entertainment or restaurant experience just once per day as well. That is, for example, guests cannot pre-book multiple trips aboard Space Mountain, though are certainly free to join the Standby line as many times as they want once in the park.
FastPass+ reservations may be changed online up to the point when the first is redeemed or expires for the day. Unredeemed FastPass+ experiences can be changed throughout the day, so guests who want to stay flexible while in the parks can simply skip a time they chose and go online via a mobile device to make modifications to the itinerary if needed.
Guests purchasing Magic Your Way tickets can begin planning FastPass+ times 60 days prior to using the ticket. The selection window for other ticket styles, including annual passes, is yet to be determined.
Existing ticket holders, including annual passholders, wanting to participate in FastPass+ will be able to “convert” paper tickets to a “paperless” variety, via “My Disney Experience.” A new RF-equipped ticket will replace the old, allowing access to all of the newly-enhanced planning opportunities. The old FastPass system will no longer be accessible for those who switch to the paperless option. Likewise, old paper tickets will no longer work for theme park admission, requiring the new tickets to enter.
Annual passholders will need to hang onto their paper pass, for now, to verify passholder benefits, such as merchandise discounts.
Touch to Enter and Touch to Pay
The RF-equipped cards will be used for much more than just FastPass+, also allowing guests to enter theme parks without passing through slow-moving turnstiles. Testing of this technology began at Epcot back in November 2011 and is currently being installed at all Walt Disney World theme parks.
Guests staying at Walt Disney World hotels will also be able to use RF-equipped entry into their rooms, with a quick tap of the card offering access inside. Online check-in will be linked to the system as well.
Likewise, guests may store credit card information with the new RF system, allowing quick touch-to-pay access at merchandise and dining locations throughout Walt Disney World theme parks, hotels, and restaurants. A PIN is required for purchases over $50, otherwise a simple tap of the card against a glowing Mickey Mouse head will complete the transaction.
The same enhanced RF cards will be used at a variety of Disney attractions in the future, currently including the new Test Track, which allows the saving of car designs created in its queue onto these same cards.
Looking ahead, Disney will be uniting all these experiences under a single system, though the RF-equipped device won’t be limited to a plastic card. Wristbands will also be made available to offer more convenient use of the new technologies and opportunities.
Disney understands the potential risks behind storing so much information on a simple card, particularly one based on RF technology which is notoriously insecure. On the new “My Disney Experience” web site, they offer a few notes about the new system, complimenting its usage with the caveat, “You are responsible for keeping your RF Card safe and secure.”
With the new RF system, Disney plans to “identify the individual using the RF Device and the benefits associated with that individual.”
Disney offers a description of the technology:
“The RF Devices use technology similar to the radio and computer technology in smart phones, video game controllers, credit cards and “easy pass” toll payment systems. Many of the features enabled by your RF Device will be accessed by “touching” your RF Device to touch points located throughout our Resorts. (For security purposes, you may also be required to provide additional authentication information to enable certain functions, such as a biometric read or PIN.) Other features are triggered automatically when readers located throughout the Resort recognize your RF Device when you are within the vicinity of the readers.”
It’s no secret that RF-enabled devices have been cloned, or duplicated, quite frequently in the past, sometimes far too easily. Moreover, a guest could certainly drop their card somewhere in the parks and anyone who finds it could potentially gain access to hotel rooms and shopping accounts. Because of this, Disney adds on their web site, “We are not responsible for any unauthorized use of RF Devices. If your RF Device is lost or stolen, contact Guest Services at 407-WDISNEY (407-934-7639).”
The new “My Disney Experience” web site allows easy access to all aspects of World Disney World on any device, whether a computer, iPad, or mobile phone. No plug-ins are required to navigate from the broadest view of all Walt Disney World offerings down to specific attractions and restaurants.
The full rollout of these new technologies is well underway, with RF-equipped scanners now showing up at theme park entrances, ride and show queues, and merchandise and dining locations. FastPass+ is currently testing among a select group of guests and is expected to be officially launched soon.
In the future, theme park guests can expect a new level of interaction as Disney moves even beyond these reservation capabilities, utilizing RF technology to facilitate unique experiences in and around attractions targeted toward specific guests, all under the banner of “NextGen.” But for now, vacation planning is in the midst of being revolutionized, reducing time spent waiting in long lines, instead offering a set of handy high-tech tools to better enjoy a visit to Walt Disney World.