Disney Theme Parks Make Another Change That Will Cost You

Walt Disney keeps finding additional ways to charge its theme-park visitors.

Disney World annual-pass holders and hotel guests used to get free MagicBands. Simply for joining the annual-pass program or booking one night or more at one of the company’s on-property hotels while also buying tickets to one of its four Florida theme parks, you got a free watch-like bracelet that served as your admission ticket, room key, and a few other things.

This neat perk kept park visitors from having to keep track of a physical credit-card-like ticket or to regularly pull their phones out. 

In January 2021 Disney discontinued the free Magic Band program. And it moved many of the MagicBand features to its mobile app.

That may seem like progress as it requires park and hotel guests to keep track of one less thing, but Disney has never addressed the challenge of keeping your phone charged during a long day at Disney World. 

The four parks have few places where charging a phone is easy or even possible. Guests run down their batteries by taking photos, checking social media, and doing all the other things they use their phones for.

In 2021 the company did not eliminate MagicBands; it simply stopped giving them away for free.

“Disney Resort hotel guests will still be able to purchase new MagicBands at a discounted price, and Disney says they will continue releasing new MagicBand colors and designs. These will continue to be sold at retail locations as well as online,” Disney Food Blog reported in 2021.

Now, Disney has a new version of its MagicBands, and as you might imagine nobody will be getting one free.

David McNew/Getty Images)

Disney Is Selling MagicBand+

Disney has tried a variety of different ways to create app-based experiences to make its theme parks more interactive. These have not been overly successful, perhaps because customers don’t want to play phone-based games while at a theme park and/or because people are worried about running down their batteries.

Now, Disney has created MagicBand+, which does all the old MagicBand things — theme-park and guest-room entry, Disney PhotoPass service, and a few other things — as well as a bunch of new stuff.

“The next-generation MagicBand+ will retain those popular features and add new functionality to unlock experiential moments of magic throughout the Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts,” the company said in a news release. 

“After a guest enters a theme park, MagicBand+ will come alive at various times with color-changing lights, haptic vibrations, and gesture recognition, enhancing the environment’s storytelling. The wearable will allow guests to engage with favorite Disney moments in new ways and discover new interactive experiences.”

The new features include a scavenger hunt tied to Disney’s 50th anniversary and a new bounty-hunter-based experience at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

MagicBand+ goes on sales July 27 with annual-pass holders and resort guests getting a break on its $34.99 price.

Disney Wants Every Dollar

Over the past few years, and particularly since the pandemic hit, Disney has focused on optimizing monetization at its theme parks. This effort has included moving to demand-based pricing, where tickets cost more at times when demand is higher, and dropping the free FastPass+ system in favor of the paid Genie+ and Lightning Lane services.

This is Disney understanding that its theme parks are a premium experience and the company can command more money for that. 

When you have already paid thousands of dollars for admission and your hotel room, these added charges may be annoying, but you’re not going to skip them if MagicBand+, Genie+, or Lightning Lane might enhance your vacation.

Disney understands its customers. People, at least some of them, may not like the added charges, but they’re still going to pay them.     

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