We think of Walt Disney World as the purest form of escape. It’s a place where we can take a bath in pixie dust and fly above the London skyline, leaving our troubles behind.
So you might think of it as a place where you won’t use your smartphone much. Oh buddy, let me tell you how wrong you are.
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The best way to create a magical experience at Disney World in 2021 is to use the My Disney Experience app. There’s no way around it.
With it, you can do everything from enter the park, unlock your resort room, mobile order your food, and see wait times for Everest over in Animal Kingdom while downing a beer at the Germany Pavilion in EPCOT.
More than any other technology, even Magic Bands, the My Disney Experience app has revolutionized this Disney World Experience.
Everything You Need to Know About My Disney Experience—In One Place
In this article, we’ll be tackling a lot of topics. If you have a more specific question about My Disney Experience, use this table of contents to jump to exactly what you’re looking for. Here’s what we’re covering:
- What is My Disney Experience?
- How to Get Started with My Disney Experience
- Important Components of My Disney Experience
- Using My Disney Experience in the Parks
- Frequently Asked Questions about My Disney Experience
- How do I start My Disney Experience?
- How do I use My Disney Experience in 2021?
- How do I navigate the My Disney Experience app?
- Can I show my ticket on my phone?
- How do I pay with My Disney Experience?
- How do I link friends on My Disney Experience?
- How do I add park tickets to My Disney Experience?
- Is there a My Disney Experience app for Disneyland?
- How do I update My Disney Experience app?
- Is the My Disney Experience app free?
- Why is My Disney Experience app not working?
- Tips for Using My Disney Experience
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What Is My Disney Experience?
My Disney Experience (MDE) is a free resource for Walt Disney World guests, available as a desktop experience and mobile app for iOS and Android.
With My Disney Experience, you can plan every aspect of your vacation to Disney World, including gathering ideas, purchasing tickets, scheduling Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs), ordering MagicBands (when still in use), making Genie+ selections, and more.
When at the resort, you’ll use My Disney Experience on your smartphone as a digital room key, your ticket to the parks, your mobile ordering resource, and your map to find your way around. (Don’t worry; there are still paper maps for those who want that does of nostalgia.)
How to Get Started with My Disney Experience
To get started with My Disney Experience, you will need to create an account on Disney World’s website. The account, like the app, is totally free!
You can create the account on desktop or mobile, but I found it easier to do this portion on desktop. Give me all the screens!
Don’t worry: You don’t have to give away too much personal information (not yet at least). Just be ready to enter your name, mailing address, and eventually payment info.
More importantly, now is when you get to choose a character for your account. I’m team Rex, and that’ll never change, but if you ever feel like switching things up, you’re always free to change your profile character at any time.
Creating a “Family & Friends” List
I have done WDW all by myself, and I’ve got to say, it’s actually quite a magical experience. Single-rider lines for four attractions, an easy “dodge-and-weave” (D&W) game as I navigate the crowds at EPCOT, and doing whatever I want to do at all times (why yes, I will ride Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway again, and so what if I’m on my third Mickey Bar of the day?).
That said, doing WDW with friends and family is a magical experience all on its own. If you will be meeting up with extended family during your trip or just friends from out of state, you can actually link your reservation details. This is also helpful for families—it makes things like getting Boarding Passes for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure for everyone in your party much easier.
You can add each person manually, but if they have their own Disney account, you can find them easily through the platform.
Linking Your Tickets and Hotel Reservations
You can use the planning function within My Disney Experience to browse resort hotels and purchase park tickets. This makes the process quite easy.
That said, if you already have hotel reservations and/or park tickets (like from a travel agent), you will still want to link them to the MDE platform.
You must do this before making your park reservation. The only way to make a park reservation, which is currently required, is through My Disney Experience, and you must have either a pass or tickets linked to the account.
This part is very important while we are still on the park reservation system (called Disney Park Pass). Without a reservation, you cannot enter a Disney Park.
Using this functionality, you will choose which day you would like to attend which park. Assuming that there is still room available, you will be able to reserve a space for you and your entire party.
Important Components of My Disney Experience
After I’ve planned my trip on desktop, I much prefer to use MDE on mobile. It’s how you’ll be using it while on the go in the parks anyway, so it’s better to get used to it now.
This section details what you’ll see when you launch My Disney Experience on mobile as of 2021 and click the menu button in the bottom right corner (three parallel lines stacked one on top of the other).
Tickets and Passes
As a result of COVID-19, Disney implemented a park reservation system. Even with an Annual Pass, you need to reserve days to attend the park so that Disney can manage capacity. You can use this portion of the app to view availability in each theme park and water park, purchase your tickets, and then make a reservation via the Park Pass System.
If you have already purchased your tickets (or have an Annual Pass) and made your reservations, you can simply use this section to access your tickets or passes.
The organizer in me loves this part of the MDE app. Here, you can see all your upcoming plans, including resort stays and days in the park. If you are DVC and staying at a few different resorts for a particular trip, this will help keep you organized so you know where you’re staying on which nights.
This is also helpful for keeping straight which park you’re attending on which day.
And if you’re lucky enough to be someone who visits the parks regularly, this resource is super helpful in coordinating all your upcoming trips.
Starting Oct. 19, 2021, guests can use Genie+ to make Lightning Lane reservations, allowing them to skip the standby line. Unlike the now discontinued FastPass system, you cannot do this ahead of your visit. Instead, you will make your Genie+ selections the day of your visit. You can make one selection at a time.
You can make these Genie+ selections via the MDE mobile app or by visiting any Genie+ kiosk in the park or a Lobby Concierge at your resort.
Genie+ severely reduces your wait time for specific attractions. Rather than standing in line, you arrange for a specific time to experience an attraction or show, then arrive at that time and enter the much shorter Lightning Lane.
However, the parks’ most popular attractions are not included in Genie+ at all. Instead, you will need to pay for Individual Attraction Selections. The price of these varies by ride and by day. Get the full list of Individual Attraction Selections at Walt Disney World here.
For a long time, Rise of the Resistance in Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios utilized Boarding Groups. While those have been discontinued, Disney added this process for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure instead. You can only try for a Boarding Group via virtual queue on the day of your visit to EPCOT for Remy (and you must have a valid park reservation).
At 7 AM, you and everyone else with a park reservation will be on My Disney Experience refreshing to try to get a Boarding Group to go on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. If you miss it, you can try again at 1 PM.
Still confused? We’ve got a complete guide on how to get a Rise of the Resistance Boarding Group. While RotR is no longer a virtual queue ride, this guide largely applies to the strategy you’ll use for Remy.
Viewing your on-ride and in-park PhotoPass photos is easy and can be done on the go. I actually like to look through these while standing in a long line, especially one that doesn’t have an interactive queue.
After rides or at various PhotoPass stops, just scan your MagicBand or your MDE app to have photos added to your account. If a PhotoPass photographer catches a magical moment for you (especially a Magic Shot), have them either scan your PhotoPass card or the QR code in your app.
Hint: Take a screenshot of this QR code so you can always have it ready.
They can also scan your MagicBand.
You can also use this portion of the My Disney Experience to purchase a daily PhotoPass or Memory Maker (just remember to purchase Memory Maker at least three days ahead of your trip as it takes three days to kick in!).
When you have a reservation at a resort, you can find information in this section. Use this to arrange for contactless check-in and check-out and to find transportation times from your resort to each park and other area of Walt Disney World Resort.
The next evolution of MagicBand technology, Disney MagicMobile is how you can enter theme parks and your resort rooms digitally. After linking your tickets and reservations, you’ll set up the Disney MagicMobile pass and choose your favorite style.
Currently, you can use MagicMobile for park entry, PhotoPass, and joining a virtual queue. Coming soon, you will be able to make charges to your hotel folio, much like you do with your MagicBand.
Mobile Food Orders
This is a feature that started in 2017 but that has been especially useful since the onset of the pandemic. With mobile food orders, you can browse menus of restaurants in the parks and at resorts, then select what you would like and arrange for a pickup time.
Play Disney Parks
Disney games are the newest way to stay entertained while in the parks, especially when you’re in a long line for Slinky Dog Dash or Peter Pan’s Flight. While there is a link to it via the My Disney Experience app, Play Disney Parks is a separate (but still free!) app that you will need to download.
The Play Disney Parks app has several in-queue Disney games to keep you occupied, as well as interactive experiences that bring different areas of Disney parks to life. In addition to Disney games, the app offers Disney trivia and magical achievements.
As of 2021, Play Disney Parks offers Disney mobile games for the following attractions:
- Tree of Life
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Conservation Station
- Space Mountain
- Toy Story Mania!
- Maharajah Jungle Trek
In EPCOT, you’ll find interactive experiences via Play Disney Parks, including Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure and the Soarin’ Challenge.
My favorite, less-talked about feature is the music. With the app, you can listen to your favorite Disney songs via Apple Music.
Clicking on this functionality within My Disney Experience will actually navigate you out of the app and over to shopDisney. This is a nice way to compare online prices to in-park prices for specific merch you might be interested in.
Did you know that WDW Magazine has its own collection of merch? You can shop for merch anytime via the WDW Magazine store.
Park Hours & Info
This section of the MDE app is actually really helpful. Look for up-to-date park hours so you can make your rope-drop plans, see when you can start park hopping, see what attractions are currently closed, and get showtimes for fireworks and nighttime spectaculars, parades, and other performances.
This aspect of the My Disney Experience has been immensely helpful on multiple occasions. If there’s ever anything you can’t figure out in the app or just a general question you have about your stay, you can talk with a live Cast Member, and the interactions are always pleasant.
I’ve asked about bus schedules, what to do about picky eaters, and troubleshooting my MagicBand, and each time, the Cast Member has exceeded expectations.
Using My Disney Experience in the Parks
Having My Disney Experience on the go totally transforms the experience on Disney Property. Whether you’re placing an order at Ronto Roasters, figuring out what time the Skyliner opens, or just finding the nearest bathroom, the MDE app is an invaluable resource.
On the bottom white bar of the app, you’ll see one of my favorite functions: the location icon (second from the left, between the home and plus icons). This gives you a map view of the entire resort.
But you can toggle what kinds of locations this Disney World map shows you:
- Wait Times
- Events and Tours
- Guest Services
- Resort Hotels
My favorite view in the map portion is the Wait Times. The times displayed for each attraction tend to be pretty accurate, and it makes planning your next move much easier.
For example, if you’ve just gotten off Splash Mountain and are considering making your way over to Tomorrowland for Space Mountain, you can check the app and see … woof, 145 minutes for Space Mountain. But look, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is only 45 minutes!
And just like that, you can change your plans on the go, chasing down rides with lower wait times (or figuring out if you should use the restroom and grab School Bread before queuing up for Frozen Ever After).
You can even see wait times in other parks to get a feel for if it’s worth park hopping to Animal Kingdom or just staying put on Hollywood Studios for the day.
Another helpful resource on the go is Showtimes. Access this through the Park Hours & Info previously mentioned. Choose the park you’re visiting to see a full list of showtimes.
I like to see what’s scheduled for some of the busier parts of the day. Taking a break from standing in line to enjoy the Voices of Liberty is a great way to spend the afternoon.
An important part of every trip to WDW is the shopping, whether at Disney Springs or in the parks. If you’ve got merch to purch (am I the only one who enjoyed that rhyme?), you’ll want to check the store hours for the shop that you intend to visit.
Seeing what time transportation starts and stops is important. On my last trip, I went out for drinks over at Abracadabar at the BoardWalk after a day at Magic Kingdom. I assumed I could take the Skyliner back to Pop Century after last call; had I checked the app, I would’ve known I was wrong.
Luckily, two amazing Cast Members got me home safely. A wonderful CM inside BoardWalk called up a private bus for me, and the bus driver, who was supposed to take me to Disney Springs so I could catch a bus back to Pop, just took me straight to Pop.
The bus read “Magical Moment” on its destination screen on the front, and it was a magical moment for sure.
However, I don’t want to take advantage of kind Cast Members. In the future, I’ll remember to check transportation times via My Disney Experience and plan accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions about My Disney Experience
My Disney Experience does a lot of things—and more is coming by the end of 2021. It’s totally reasonable to feel overwhelmed. That’s why we’re here (and the Cast Members via Chat, don’t forget!).
We’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions regarding My Disney Experience. See if we can answer yours.
How do I start My Disney Experience?
To use My Disney Experience, you will need to create an account with Disney. Once you’ve done this, you can access MDE via your account on desktop, though I highly recommend downloading the mobile app, especially for when you’re actually on Disney Property.
How do I use My Disney Experience in 2021?
This year, things look a little different on My Disney Experience. While you can still use it to manage your plans, check the map, and enter your room, you’ll especially want it for mobile ordering your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you’ll need to use it to make park reservations. It’s the only way you’ll be able to enter the park.
In addition, you’ll notice that Virtual Queues are limited to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
How do I navigate the My Disney Experience app?
At the bottom of the app, you’ll see a white bar with five icons:
- Click this to be taken to the home screen.
- Click this to access the map. From here, you can filter by attraction, wait time, shows, transportation, and more.
- Clicking this launches food orders, Memory Maker, and tickets. Essentially, use this button for purchases.
- Magnifying glass. This is your search functionality.
- Parallel lines. On the bottom right is the menu button, and it leads to the most functionality. From here, you’ll be able to navigate to:
- Tickets and Passes
- My Plans
- Virtual Queues
- Resort Hotel
- Disney MagicMobile
- Mobile Food Orders
- Play Disney Parks
- Shop Merchandise
- Park Hours & Info
Can I show my ticket on my phone?
Yes, once you have linked your ticket to your account, you can use your phone (or your MagicBand) to access your paperless ticket. Just create a Disney MagicMobile pass, and you’ll scan this upon entering.
How do I pay with My Disney Experience?
If you go to your profile, you can set up a payment method. If your MagicBand is linked to this account, then you will be able to use your MagicBand to make in-park and on-property purchases (most Disney Springs locations accept them too). You can then pay for your entire resort folio with the My Disney Experience app.
However, Disney soon intends to make it possible to use your phone for purchases, much like you can with your MagicBand.
How do I link friends on My Disney Experience?
To add a friend or family member to your My Disney Experience account, simply open your My Family & Friends List within the app or on the desktop platform. From there, click or tap Add a Guest. You can choose to add a guest in one of three ways:
- Find through your connected guests
- Import from a hotel reservation
- Enter their name and age
How do I add park tickets to My Disney Experience?
To add park tickets to My Disney Experience, on desktop, simply go to your planning page and select Link Tickets under the Park Tickets option.
On the My Disney Experience mobile app, you can add park tickets by going to Tickets and Passes, then clicking the plus icon in the upper righthand corner. From here, you can link tickets.
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Is there a My Disney Experience app for Disneyland?
My Disney Experience is an app exclusively for Walt Disney World. However, Disneyland has its open app, called the Disneyland Mobile App, which you can download for iOS and Android.
How do I update My Disney Experience app?
Updating your My Disney Experience app is just like any other app on your phone. If your phone is set to automatic updates, you won’t ever need to worry about this. If you prefer to manually update apps, do this the same way you would update any other app on your smartphone.
Is the My Disney Experience app free?
Yes! The My Disney Experience app is free in the App Store and on Google Play, and creating an account on Disney’s website is absolutely free. Pretty much everything else on Disney? Not so free.
Why is My Disney Experience app not working?
If you are having trouble with your My Disney Experience app, try a few simple IT hacks. Close and restart the app; restart your phone; and even uninstall and reinstall the app.
If after that, you’re still having issues with the My Disney Experience app, you can call My Disney Experience support at (407) 939-4357.
Tips for Using My Disney Experience
Are you new to using My Disney Experience? There is so much to learn and so many great hacks to take advantage of, but here are my top four tips for using My Disney Experience:
1. Get familiar with the app before your trip.
You will be using the MDE app quite a bit on your vacation. To make sure you don’t waste valuable Disney time troubleshooting, get comfortable with how the app works now. This is especially important if you’ll be racing other guests to get your Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure Boarding Group.
2. Bring a phone charger and power bank.
My Disney Experience will drain your phone battery. It’s inevitable. I most recently went to the parks with a phone not much more than a month old, and I still struggled with battery life. Bring a power bank so you can charge it on the go.
Hot tip: Disney offers portable phone charger kiosks around the parks and at various resorts. For $30, you can get one of these babies and the appropriate cables you’ll need.
Even cooler? When the charger itself is drained and you’re in the parks, you can swap it (for free!) for another at a kiosk, instead of waiting for the portable charger to recharge.
3. Mobile order before you’re at the restaurant.
Placing mobile orders for food and beverages makes dining on the go super easy. While I do recommend everyone take their time at a Table-Service meal, your Quick-Service restaurant experience should be fast so you can take advantage of more of the parks.
Do this by placing your order for a restaurant well before you’re actually there. While you walk to the restaurant, your food will be prepared, and, if all goes according to plan, it’ll be waiting for you when you arrive. No need to wait!
4. Don’t chase down short wait times all day.
If you are using the Wait Times feature of My Disney Experience, be warned: Everyone else probably is too. So if Tower of Terror is suddenly showing a 15-minute wait time, everyone is probably making a mad dash over there.
Instead, I use this to watch trends. If Tower of Terror previously said 75 minutes but now says 65 minutes, it might be going down. I’ll start moseying over that way so I can keep an eye on it, and when it drops to something reasonable, I hop in line right away.
Have more questions about My Disney Experience? Ask yours on our Facebook page with a comment, and we’ll be happy to answer!