When I took my family of four to Walt Disney World for the first time, I vowed to make the best use of our time – and we did just that using techniques I outlined in a previous post. Part of my strategy was based on what my friend (and Traveling Mom) Leslie from Trips with Tykes spoke to me about the wonders of rider switch. She’s written THE definitive guide for rider switching at Disneyland. But did you know Walt Disney World rider switch just went digital? Here’s what you need to know about how to use rider switch and how it can still save you a ton of time in the parks!
How does rider switch work?
The concept of rider switch is pretty easy to explain. Imagine you are a three person family: two adults and a baby. You want to ride Space Mountain, but the baby obviously can’t go. In order for both adults to get on the ride, you ask for a “rider switch” pass. Parent 1 rides the ride while Parent 2 stays outside and watches the baby, then Parent 2 takes the rider switch pass, a physical pass Parent 1 has received from the cast member manning the ride, and goes straight on the ride through the Fastpass+ lane. So the idea is nobody gets punished for being a good parent!
Up until 2018, rider switch involved receiving physical paper passes, but now Disney World rider switch has gone completely digital! Here’s how it now works.
Pretty much every ride in all four parks that have height limits offers rider switch. The way it works is this:
- Two (or more) adults walk to the entrance of the line with baby in tow
- BEFORE getting into line, request a rider switch. Adult 1, who will be riding immediately, enters and enjoys the ride!
- Adult 2 will scan their magic band or ticket – the rider switch will be added to Adult 2’s band/ticket. At this point you can explain how many people will be riding later (up to 3)
- Adult 2 will be given a return time. They have up to an hour after the return time to scan their magic band and ride the ride.
- Adult 2 returns within the return time window and enters the ride through the Fastpass+ line
- Adult 2 enjoys the ride!
Can rider switch work with Fastpass+?
It most certainly can! Plus, Disney World has an added benefit over Disneyland: you can make your Fastpass+ reservations online beforehand (or even while you’re at the park in the mobile app).
When you enter the Fastpass+ line, swipe your Fastpass+ as you normally would but before you enter the queue, just ask the cast member by the Fastpass+ machine for a rider switch ticket. The procedure then works exactly as above. Of course, since you’re going through the Fastpass+ line you’ll be out much faster than if you were sitting in the regular line.The only thing better than skipping the long line at Seven Dwarves once is skipping it twice!
That’s when rider switch starts getting really powerful. Let’s say you are a family of four with one baby (Adult 1, Adult 2, child, and baby). It’s possible for you the child to ride the thrill attractions more than once with very little wait using Fastpass+ and rider switch. A strategy like this can get them on every big ride twice. Make sure you tell the cast member adding the rider switch to Adult 2’s magic band that the child plans to ride again (they’ll be cool with it!).
- Adult 1 and child reserve Fastpass+ for three height restricted attractions (e.g., Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain).
- Before entering the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Fastpass+ queue, Adult 1 and child grab a rider switch for Adult 2 (make sure Adult 2 and the baby are there and visible before they go off and do their thing!).
- Ride and enjoy the attraction and then leave with a rider switch ticket in hand
- Adult 2 and child use rider switch ticket to go right through the Fastpass+ line again
- Rinse and repeat for the other two rides!
Will I make it back in time for my rider switch window if I need to wait in the standby line?
One concern with this new system is, if you request a rider switch and wait in a standby line, will Adult 2 make their return window. Quite simply, yes. The cast member issuing the rider switch to Adult 2’s magic band is supposed to take into account wait time. If for some reason your ride has a 90 min wait and the cast member assigns a rider switch return time for 60 min later, just kindly ask them to please extend the time and point out the current standby wait time. It shouldn’t even come to that.
Also, cast members are pretty amenable to logic, so if the ride breaks down or something happens, when you go back to use your rider switch just explain the situation and you should be okay. You also get a 10 minute grace period so your window is basically 1 hour and 10 minutes (like Fastpass+).
When do rider switch passes expire?
You didn’t have to use the rider switch immediately in the past – each rider switch pass had an expiration time and date. It was awesome that you could “save” the three rider switch tickets from the morning and then take your child to ride the rides again in the afternoon after naptime back to back to back!
Unfortunately, now rider switch passes expire whenever the return window ends. Again, you have the ten minute grace period and you can probably talk your way in if you have legitimate extenuating circumstances (I still think one hour is a short return window given the unpredictability of babies). However, you basically need to think of your rider switch pass as a Fastpass+ return time now, which makes it less powerful than it used to be.
To be honest, we didn’t maximize these strategies as much as I would have liked on our trip. The reality is, as all traveling dads and moms know, when you have a baby, it’s tough to predict anything! Still, even grabbing one rider switch pass can help make your Disney experience that much enjoyable, so make sure you familiarize yourself with how to use them before you get into the parks. Any time saved at Walt Disney World is money saved! Any other good rider switch tips to share? I’m all (Mickey) ears!
All other images courtesy of author