walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Trip Report: My Disney Experience review

"My Disney Experience" is a website, a tablet app and a smartphone app. It is available on ... many platforms. In conjunction with Disney hotels now using RFID door locks, and the RFID ticketing system, you can manage your Disney vacay soup to nuts: you can use your Magic Band to get on the coach to go to your hotel, use early check in on the website to enable you to go straight to your room, get into the room using your Magic Band (they sent you it complimentary in the mail before your vacation), find your bags that were delivered separately, head out to the parks and go right in (assuming you have purchased and attached tickets or passes -- and you can buy tickets on your mobile device through the app), buy popcorn with your Magic Band, sail through FastPass lines with reservations you made 2 months in advance for popular attractions like Midway Mania or Space Mountain. You _can't_ (yet -- see date of posting if you're thinking, but you can! Because I bet you will be able to someday) use it to get on the coach back to the airport at the end of your trip. You can make and track and cancel dining reservations through any of the versions of My Disney Experience. You can view menus for most dining locations (whether they take reservations or not) as well. The menu information is still limited, so if you're looking for allergy info, you may be SOL.

The iOS phone app is a hybrid design. Some of the functions are accessed from the default screen with a menu bar across the top with icons and words which you can scroll right to left. Other functions are access from what one of my web design friends calls (somewhat contemptuously) "the burger": three short horizontal lines stacked on top of each other. The menus available via the burger or via the website menu labeled "My Disney Experience" (in Disney Font), are similar but not identical. For example, on iOS mobile devices, you will find "My Plans" whereas on the website the closed equivalent is "My Itinerary". The website shows three days, separated by location. The mobile device version shows only one day, and organizes by time. All happily munge together your information with your friends and family's plans, which can make for quite epic confusion; I suspect some of this is modifiable via Profile selection, but that is buried enough that I just suffered through it.

On the iPad version of the app, under "Explore" (first menu segment under the burger), the options are "Park Hours Wait Times FastPass+ Things To Do Characters Today Dining". The iPhone version of the app does not have "Characters Today" or "Things To Do".

The default screen on the tablet is a swipable set of beautiful photo screens, one per park with park hours. The default screen on the phone is My Plans.

If you have a fast pass that is for a ride or attraction which is unavailable for some or all of the period of the fast pass and that prevents you from using it (generically: if the ride is down the first fifteen minutes of your hours), you will receive a replacement fast pass for that ride and a group of other rides deemed of comparable value. If your fast pass wasn't for Mine Train, for example, you won't get a fast pass for Mine Train. I don't know the exact algorithm; maybe you can find it somewhere else. In any event, you will receive an email to your My Disney Experience registered email, and you will also see the description of that FastPass change under My Plans/My Itinerary. You will also receive an entry in "My Notifications".

There are a few spots in the parks where wi-fi coverage is limited or non-existent. As your device attempts to switch from wi-fi to wi-fi, it will run your battery down. You can often see people in the park along a hallway to the strooms or similar, plugged in and recharging.

Obviously, wi-fi service is subject to greater demand than it was engineered for. When the park is busy, wi-fi service can become erratic. Because the My Disney Experience web 2.0 layer is built _on top of_ many existing legacy computer systems (dining reservations systems, hotel reservation systems, etc.), an outage or high demand on the underlying systems can result in excessive waiting times for information to load.

When the parks are busy, fast passes for many rides may all disburse relatively early. As in, Mine Train and Anna and Elsa meet and greet are often booked 60 days in advance by people staying on property. By the time you _can_ book (30 days if you have ticket media but are staying off property -- or worse), you are booking from a highly reduced universe.

Fast Passes have a lot of underlying rules that can result in error messages indicating a conflict that prevents an available Fast Pass from being issued. If you get one of these, good fucking luck. They are all a little cryptic, and quite often even if you do go find a Cast Member to research it for you, you may or may not ever understand what went wrong.

If you buy MemoryMaker, none of your friends and family need to buy it also, as long as you (or the person who bought it) is willing to transfer the downloaded .zip files along.

The website and the mobile apps are undergoing constant revision. When we first used the app, for example, the Copy fast pass function was nominally there, but never, ever, ever worked. On the second trip, it worked fine, every time. By the third trip, we were running into fast passes that were so exhausted that they wouldn't copy for that reason -- and wouldn't really _tell you_ that that was the reason why. Sometimes, Cast Members can override that. But not always.

There are park maps in the app. You can display the wait times on the map, which is nice. But as near as I can tell, you can't get directions from the app. I can't find any obvious way to delete entries from "My Notifications".

I'm a little unclear on exactly who gets freebie Magic Bands mailed to them, however, if you have someone join you mid-stay, they can't get a freebie even at the front desk, the way you can if you lose yours. But they aren't that expensive to buy. There are decorative things you can attach to your band as well (either slip onto the band or sit poked into the holes that allow the band to close). If you buy a bunch of bands, or visit numerous times and receive them by mail, they tend to build up in your account. You can deactivate and reactivate them via the app. Somewhat disturbingly, if you have shared planning with friends and family, you may find that you have the ability to deactivate other people's cards (like, your friends' kids' cards). Don't be mean.

In your profile, you can add Affiliations. The purpose given is "to receive special offers, other benefits or renewal reminders". If you want DVC to show up, you have to use the same email address for DVC as you do for the My Disney Experience app.

If there is a way to look at your MemoryMaker/PhotoPass/ride photos via the app, I haven't found it yet.

I did not engage in this level of analysis months ago when I first started using the apps. They were obviously broken and incomplete in many ways (and I was by no means an early adopter on this stuff -- there was a whole other mobile app before My Disney Experience). The apps and website have now stabilized well, and while I can hear in my head, imagined voices of my web design friends complaining about hybrid design and relying on "the burger", and while many of my traveling companions have complained vigorously about crashes, slow loads, confusing menus and poor display choices, the amount of time my companions are spending at concierge desks and kiosks working with Cast Members to unravel horrifying bugs with potentially expensive costs in time or money (where'd my annual pass go!!! type of thing) has fallen into what I view as way above average [ETA: for clarification, LESS TOTAL TIME] for customer service in theme parks and vacation destinations in general. I will probably continue to bring along my three ring binder with printed out _everything_, but I'll say this: I didn't even pull it out of the bag on this trip. Given another year or two, I may stop bothering.

I have a couple suggestions that I'll toss out into the ether. In addition to how nice it would be to have directions available in the app, or access to ride photos, I do recognize those are phenomenally difficult to implement and/or bandwidth taxing. But here's one that I _think_ might be do-able and might save Disney a ton of ... something or other. I'd like e-receipts to be delivered to the account. I believe that all the receipts are kept internally (because I've requested and received images for all of them from my November 2011 trip) as pictures, altho I don't know for sure that they are relying upon the pictures versus keeping prints -- when they generate a receipt for me, there's a second one that they keep as well. But if they reach a point where they can legally rely upon the digital receipt internally, and trust the process well enough to do that, I'd like the option to receive the receipt through the app as well. As it is, the primary purpose being served by my three ring binder on these trips is as a receptacle for all those pieces of paper.

ETA: I've used two other theme park apps (Hershey and Santa's Village); neither does anywhere near as much as the Disney app, altho at the time, Hershey had menu information before Disney did, IIRC.


I haven't downloaded it nor have I been to Universal Studios at all, but their app apparently _does_ provide directions. Has anyone used it? Any integration with on property hotels?

The Disney app will let you make reservations at some restaurants within the app (given a party size and time frame, it'll check a variety of restaurants defined by a filter, even). The Universal app just gives you the phone number to call for reservations. They do the same thing for making a hotel reservation, altho to be fair, I don't _think_ you can make a room reservation in the phone app via Disney, either.

Universal app has a spot where you can put a parking reminder (Section, Level, Row and notes where you parked).

I can't find a spot to buy tickets on the Universal app.

So far, all of the above is the iOS PHONE app; I haven't checked to see if they have a tablet app that does something different.

2nd click required to access the inches number on the height limit -- there's an icon on the main ride page. Why make you click through for the number? Altho future ride views will leave the ride details subsection open until you explicitly close it, so this actually is fine. ETAYA: No, it doesn't. Behaves sort of randomly.
Tags: disney, trip report
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