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. At Disney World, there are some subtle differences, so I thought I’d write a complementary guide here!
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.
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 pass. Adult 1, who will be riding immediately, is given a large pass
- Right before Adult 1 gets on the ride, exchange large pass for a rider switch ticket
- Enjoy the ride!
- Adult 1 exits and gives rider switch ticket to Adult 2. This rider switch ticket is good for up to three guests – expiration date and time is listed on the ticket
- Adult 2 returns with up to two other guests before the expiration date of the rider switch ticket 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. They will give you the same kind of placard as above and you’ll exchange it towards the end of the line for the rider switch ticket. 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.
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.
- 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 Dwarves 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!
When do rider switch passes expire?
You don’t have to use the rider switch immediately – each rider switch pass has an expiration time and date. 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!
Theoretically, I think rider switch passes are supposed to expire the same day they were received. However, I’ve noticed that the rider switch passes I’ve received have expiration dates beyond the date they are given out (probably because they are printing these things out in batches). A rider switch pass I received on January 11th of this year wasn’t going to expire until January 31st!
Obviously, this isn’t something you can bank on before you plan a trip, but if on your first day you notice the rider switch passes have friendly expiration dates, then that opens up a world of possibilities. You can spend the first few days of your time in Walt Disney World just stockpiling rider switch tickets and then go nuts on your last day.
This would work great to give your older child one magical day in multiple parks; or you could use it to have a date night with your spouse. The bottom line is: the later the expiration date, the more flexibility you get in terms of redeeming that rider switch pass. Just something to consider.
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 other good rider switch tips to share? I’m all (Mickey) ears!
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