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Image: Disney

Technology has always played a role in the Disney parks experience. From the beginning, innovations like audio-animatronics, complex ride systems, and an emphasis on the world of tomorrow have helped make Disney magic possible. As the world has grown more digitally connected, the Disney vacation experience has naturally evolved to integrate new technologies not only into the parks themselves but also to place that tech straight into guest’s hands.

By the 2020s, we’ve reached a turning point where use of personal technology isn’t just a convenience for guests visiting Disney parks—it’s now become inescapable.

Use of tech has become essential to planning a vacation to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Smartphones have become an all-in-one replacement for cameras, park maps, tip boards for queue times, even your park ticket. Apps like My Disney Experience and Disney’s park websites have made the vast majority of guests services available online for everything from resort and dining reservations to purchasing ride photos.

How much is too much, though?

The intersection between technology and vacations can be a deeply personal and often-heated subject. For some guests, even the usage of an app to manage a vacation is too much stress. For others, the shift doesn’t become irksome until bugs and badly designed systems come into play. Whatever camp you fall in, there’s no question that trying to plan a Disney Parks vacation without significant use of a smartphone or computer is becoming nearly impossible, and it is definitely having a tangible effect on trips overall.

Is too much technology ruining the traditional Disney vacation experience? Here are some pros and cons to consider…

1. Pro – Much easier to access information

Screenshot of wait time for Animal Kingdom in My Disney Experience
Image: Disney (in My Disney Experience app)

If there is a significant upside to Disney’s push for integrating apps like My Disney Experience into vacations, it is convenience. There is no question that it is significantly easier to gather information to improve your park visit than it used to be.

Gone are the days when you needed to carry a guidebook, a park map, and printed copies of reservations. You no longer need to plan long treks across the park just to learn what queue waits are, and phone calls with painful hold times are no longer necessary to make dining and resort reservations (in most cases… we’re looking at you, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser).

Disney has made it easier than ever to access helpful information like attraction details, restaurant menus, queue wait times, resort and park maps (with detailed navigation), and current closures on My Disney Experience and their websites. Being able to find all of these things in one location has really made smart vacation planning much easier, especially when you need to look things up on the fly within the parks. In this aspect, increased integration of personal technology has definitely provide some plusses.

2. Con – Convoluted (and unnecessary) systems

Disney Genie logo
Image: Disney

The base idea of apps like My Disney Experience is to increase convenience for guests. This brings us to one big problem: some of Disney’s systems are painfully convoluted.

My Disney Experience suffers from a serious case of being overstuffed with marketing fluff and extraneous features that don’t actually offer much except confusion to the average guest. The presence of all the extra junk can make the app difficult to navigate and prone to bugs, sometimes causing more aggravation than it resolves.

A perfect example is the Disney Genie feature of My Disney Experience—a service that has almost nothing to do with the Genie+ service (aka paid Fastpass+) except perhaps as a dodgy marketing tool. In theory, Disney Genie is designed to offer guests real-time suggestions on which attractions to visit throughout the day based on wait times—sort of like an in-house version of Touring Plans built directly into My Disney Experience.

As we’ve explored in the past, Genie’s recommendations are often terrible, placing far too much emphasis on proximity rather than using actual good sense. The service’s name only adds to the confusion since it is easily confused with Genie+—indeed, we’ve theorized Disney may have made these names (and the service) purposefully convoluted to encourage impulse purchases of Genie+ and Lightning Lane in the midst of the mess.

Even many of Disney’s in-app services where intentions to improve guest experience appear more sincere (such as Mobile Order, Friends and Family, and Virtual Queues) often get bogged down with layers of digital hurdles that cause massive headaches for guests who don’t want to spend extra time fiddling with technology. While some of these systems have improved over time, many still miss the mark on being completely user-friendly.

3. Pro – Making reservations is much easier than it used to be

Couple taking selfie with Minnie Mouse at Topolino's
Image: Disney

This one may hinge on how you feel about phone calls, but I must say, Disney’s shift towards moving dining and hotel reservations online has been a very welcome change.

It comes back to ease-of-access: it is much easier to make an informed decision about a dining or resort reservation if you can compare options without someone on the phone having to list them off for you. Just having the choice to browse Disney’s full range of reservation ability online has proven a game-changer for trip planning, especially in cases when you are already in the parks. More than once, we’ve been able to score day-of reservations to some of Disney’s best restaurants and experiences thanks to My Disney Experience.

That isn’t to say Disney’s online reservation system is without fault—it definitely can cause some frustration when it doesn’t work correctly. However, when it works properly, online reservations have overall proven a win for us.

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