As a resident of Orlando, I’ve become pretty proficient in maximizing my day at a theme park without going broke or having a heat-induced meltdown. Of course, I bring the three items necessary for basic human survival – water, snacks, and sunscreen. However, beyond these physical essentials, time management skills are critical. The theme parks have an almost supernatural way of demanding an entire day’s worth of time to take in the plethora of activities.
With the purported purpose of “making your vacation better than ever, ” Disney World unveiled their new Fast Pass Plus system, which allows guests to schedule Fast Passes for certain rides days in advance through the My Disney Experience mobile app. For instance, I scheduled three rides (and dinner reservations) at Epcot a week before I was actually visiting the park. The pro of Fast Pass Plus is that you can walk into the park, already knowing that you will get to go on your favorite ride. Knowing the ride times also helps plan the rest of the day’s activities. Still, it’s easy for things to get chaotic once in the park (especially if children are involved), and trying to remember and coordinate the various ride and dining times can make obsessive-compulsive planners like me slightly insane.
One emerging technology that could facilitate the theme park experience is the Pebble smart watch. The Pebble lets you check the time and view notifications that are sent from your phone, such as text messages and Facebook. The Pebble app (available on iOS and Android) integrates with some apps typically found on the phone, one of them being My Disney Experience. The MyDisneyExperience for Pebble app, developed by Logical Pixels, allows users to quickly access and view Fast Passes and dining reservations on the Pebble watch.
I wore the Pebble watch during my last trip to Epcot. Below are the top three benefits I found:
1. Quickly check the time: Since I don’t wear a watch, I rely on my phone to check the time. While usually not a big deal for me, time is critical at a theme park – I don’t want to miss my Fast Pass ride times or dinner reservation. So this means that I have to pull my phone in and out of my purse countless times throughout the day. When I check the time, I also inevitably see the various notifications I have received since the last time I checked – emails, text messages, Facebook comments. Like any person born after 1975, I get distracted, and next thing I know, I’m watching a silly video on Facebook instead of noticing Pluto walk by. So just like any other watch, Pebble allowed me to simply quickly check the time and move along.
2. Only use the phone when you need to: The main benefit to having the Pebble watch is that I only took out the phone when I knew I had notifications I needed to respond to – no random, obsessive checking when I should be having fun in the moment. For instance, I got a notification when my best friend texted me, and quickly read the message on the watch. I made a mental note to text her when I got home, and continued with my day. When I saw my husband text messaged a direct question, I immediately pulled out the phone to respond. If I had not been wearing the Pebble watch, I may have not checked the phone for awhile and so I would not have responded so quickly.
3. Stay hyperaware of my scheduled times: In my past visits to a Disney park, I would have to pull out my phone several times throughout the day and access the My Disney Experience app just to make sure I had the Fast Pass times right. With the Pebble watch, it was just a quick check on the wrist. Having the times this accessible made me feel more informed and in control about managing time, and as a result, I stressed less.
It is important to note that the Pebble watch relies upon the Pebble app on the phone to display information from My Disney Experience. This means that if you have Fast Passes displayed on the watch and then switch to another task (say, to change the watch face or read a notification), when you switch back to My Disney Experience, the watch has to reestablish communication with the Pebble app on the phone. If the wireless connectivity is not strong, or if the Pebble app is set to a suspended state on the phone, then the connectivity between watch and phone may be lost. This happened to me a few times during the day – I would attempt to pull up My Disney Experience and the Fast Pass times would not load on the watch. To rectify, I had to restart the Pebble app on my phone. Note that system notifications (Facebook, Twitter, SMS) never lost connectivity, since they did not rely on the Pebble app to run.
Overall, I believe that wearing the Pebble watch enhanced my visit to the theme park. Originally, I thought the true value would be the ability to keep better track of time, but rather, it was in the simpler things – keeping my phone in my purse, and enjoying the theme park that was in front of me.