By Kristi Kingston, UndercoverTourist
There is no shortage of fun to be had on a Walt Disney World Resort vacation, no matter when you visit or where you stay, but it’s hard not to have a great time when it’s fall and you’re attending the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival! This year, we also had the opportunity to test out Disney’s new vacation planning tool called MyMagic+.
The key pieces of MyMagic+ are the MagicBands, RFID-enabled bracelets that serve as room keys, theme park tickets and charge cards all in one, and FastPass+, a new reservations system that allows guests to book times for their favorite theme park attractions up to 60 days in advance.
If you’re asking yourself why in the world you would want to book a ride 60 days in advance, then it’s time to start planning your first Disney World vacation! While the system is still in testing, and no official start date has been announced, Disney has been steadily rolling out the service — albeit in test — to some guests staying at participating resort properties.
We made reservations at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside, a true Louisiana Southern Belle, whose rooms are tucked among the towering Magnolias along the banks of the Sassagoula River or alternately nestled among the tropical flora of the Alligator Bayou. The bayou rooms have the added bonus of a murphy-style bed, perfect for the family of 5.
Thanks to a little bit of Disney magic, the moment the Mickey on our MagicBand connected to the sensor on the door, we stepped inside our “The Princess and The Frog”-themed “cottage” on the bayou.
The rustic lodge setting, and Remy the Alligator, made us feel right at home, and we slept well that night. The next morning we put our MagicBand to the test again at breakfast, where we faced a myriad of options at the Riverside Mill & Market, a food court that features made-to-order omelets, fresh-baked goods and the must-have Mickey waffle!
When it was time to pay, I didn’t need to reach for my wallet, and instead again touched my band to the sensor at the register and entered the 4-digit pin I set up at check-in. Magic!
Before we left home, I had booked FastPass+ reservations for our days in the parks, starting with Epcot, which was hosting its annual International Food & Wine Festival that runs daily through Nov. 11 and is included with theme park admission. Guests are encouraged to try a little bit of the dishes and drinks from every country and to add a stamp to their “passport” at each of their stops. Smaller portions ensure that guests don’t fill up too quickly, but we do recommend visiting on an empty stomach!
Because the booths, scattered among the countries of World Showcase, get more crowded as the day progresses, we planned on dining earlier in the day, and I booked our FastPass+ times for Soarin’, Test Track Presented by Chevrolet and The Seas with Nemo and Friends Attraction for the late afternoon.
We started off in Scotland, which is making its festival debut, because I had my heart set on the Scottish Banoffee Tart with Bananas, Scottish Whisky Toffee, Walkers Shortbread Crumbles and Sweet Cream. I ordered a glass of the Möet & Chandon Impérial from the nearby Desserts & Champagne kiosk,so that I would have something elegant to wash it down. While I am not a huge fan of the texture of bananas, I found the tart silky smooth and sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.
The bubbly set the tone for the rest of our journey, where we would sample delights from France, Belgium, Florida Local and Australia, although it became clear halfway around the world that we would not make it back in time for Soarin’. With Fastpass+, you choose three attractions or experiences per day and are given an hour-long block of time to visit each one. You can modify the selections at any time with the use of the My Disney Experience app or by visiting any of the Fastpass+ kiosks in the park, although as the day goes on your windows of opportunity diminish. It’s worth noting that your FP+ times cannot overlap, so you should make your selections based on priority.
While I was able to modify our Soarin’ time, because I had scheduled our other attractions back-to-back, the only available time slot was a few hours later in the evening. Now I know we all wish we had a little fairy dust to transport ourselves instantly to our favorite attractions, but before FastPass+, our most likely option this late in the day would be to stand in line for Soarin’ , which routinely tops 120 minutes! No matter the wait, it’s is a must-do attraction. High above the treetops, the views of California’s rugged coastline, wine country and deserts are absolutely spectacular.
Back on firm ground, we set off for an underwater adventure on The Seas with Nemo and Friends Attraction and then hit speeds up to 65 mph on my loop around Test Track Presented by Chevrolet before making my way to back to World Showcase plaza to watch IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth and calling it a day!
(Kristi Kingston is content manager at UndercoverTourist, a leading supplier of discount tickets to theme parks and attractions in the Orlando, FL area)