walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

A Few Remarks about the Disney IT upgrade

Disney has never been behind when it comes to tech; they have, on occasion, gone down some real ratholes in their efforts to adopt Wonderful New Stuff Early. But this particular round of tech upgrade has been very customer-visible.

Here is what someone sees now when planning a trip and visiting the Mouse:

1: a unified account system where you can view your on-property lodging reservation, dining reservations, fast pass reservations and a few other odds and ends, like photos

2: wait times: They've expanded the line timing to FastPass lines as well, amazingly. I was wondering about this, and offered every time I passed a CM with line timing lanyards if they needed a timer, so I got a ton of them over the course of this past visit. The one time I got a FastPass timer was for Barnstormer, and I asked about it -- it's apparently pretty normal to the CMs). TouringPlans.com had an app that offered this, but Disney's seems to me (1 point of anecdata) much better.

3: detailed management of fast passes: You used to have to do significant pre-planning and careful execution to maximize fastpass. Now, Disney will send you email to remind you to set up your fast passes before your vacation. Once you are there, you can modify them on the fly -- change the time, the experience, copy them other members of your touring party, etc. A lot of long-time fans worried that this would benefit pre-planners disproportionately, and it probably does for those people willing to hover to pick up the Anna and Elsa fast passes 30 days or whatever in advance for the few seconds they are available. But you can start from a blank slate the night before many days and avoid having to make agonizing decisions about whether to run for Space Mountain or Splash Mountain at park open and not have to wait in line (much) for either of them and be sure of getting to ride both. Will this last? Time will tell. But as long as some people entering the park decide to use their fastpass on a morning ride on it's a small world, we'll all be in great shape.

4: marketing! Or project management -- you decide how to frame it. If you bought a guide book for Disney, just like any other major vacation destination, it suggested that you make your lodging, dining and other reservations so many months in advance. But once you've made that lodging reservation on property, Disney will notify you when each of the windows for doing something begin: when you can make dining reservations, when you can make fastpass reservations, when you can checkin online, etc. They'll send you a packet in the mail also, and notify you when you must customize your MagicBands by to receive them at home vs. picking them up when you arrive. The mail (snail mail) packet will include a little magnet with the dates on it so you can put it up wherever you put magnets (typically a fridge, but sometimes a board) to remind yourself what you need to do for your trip. On the one hand, the benefit to Disney is clear (you'll dine at table service more often if you plan ahead and can get something that meets your needs; checkin goes much more smoothly if you supplied a credit card before arrival, etc.). On the other hand, it's pretty amazing for a customer who is already trying to remember all those dates. Perhaps in the past this was always handled by travel agents; I never used them (mostly true) so I wouldn't know.

Overall, the IT upgrade has been absolutely amazing. Was it a little rocky in beta test last November? Sure! But even then, being able to check in for the bus using a band (versus digging out the little paper booklet) was super cool. With more detailed management of fastpass now functioning, and Disney sending out reminder emails to help you plan your vacation in a functional way (as opposed to just blitzing you regardless of whether you could take action on it at that point in time or not), it is one of the most magical forms of computerization I've encountered in my life.

I'm looking forward to future developments.
Tags: disney, our future economy today, trip report
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