"You're not going to take the baby, are you? He won't be able to ride anything! And then you won't be able to ride anything! You're just wasting your money!"
These were familiar refrains from our friends and family, but they were very wrong about taking young kids to Disney World. Contrary to what many believe there are no age or height requirements for most of the rides at Walt Disney World's 4 theme parks, so my son can ride plenty of rides, watch amazing shows, and get to interact with the most loveable characters without any restrictions. My family had a blast meeting characters and getting to ride all of the rides that we wanted to ride thanks to a Disney program called Rider Switch.
Some people may refer to Rider Switch as Rider Swap, Child Swap, or even Parent Swap because most families use Rider Switch to allow one parent to ride a height-restricted attraction like Space Mountain (minimum 48") while another parent waits with a non-riding child.
For example, my wife would be able to wait in the queue for Space Mountain, which has a minimum height requirement of 48", while I took my two children on People Mover. When both groups were done riding we would meet-up near the entrance of Space Mountain and my wife and I would switch places; I would now get to ride Space Mountain, while she took the kids to another attraction or to grab a snack.
The benefit of using Rider Switch is that the second person (or group up to 3 people) is able to use the Fast Pass queue to ride the attraction rather than having to wait in the Stand-by queue. For rides like Space Mountain which can have wait times above 90 minutes during Thanksgiving, Rider Switch was a definite time-saver. Depending on the composition of your party, some die-hard fans might be able to ride an attraction twice!
The process is simple:
- All members of your party head to the queue entrance for your desired attraction.
- One person in the Riding Group requests a Rider Switch lanyard from a Cast Member at the entrance and the Riding Group enters the queue
- The Non-riding Group heads off to a waiting area or to ride another attraction
- The Riding Group gives the Rider Switch lanyard to a designated Cast Member prior to boarding and the Group is given a paper Rider Switch Pass just prior to boarding
- The Non-riding group and the Riding group meet-up and switch places and exchange the Rider Switch Pass
- The Non-riding Group (up to 3 people) can now enter the attraction via the Fast Pass queue by handing the paper Rider Switch Pass to a Cast Member at the Fast Pass Entrance
- Those that have already ridden the attraction and the those that couldn't ride or chose not to ride are now free to wait or ride another attraction
A general rule of thumb is that if the attraction has a minimum height requirement then it participates in Rider Switch. Frozen Ever After is the only attraction without a height requirement that currently participates in Rider Switch. The full list of attractions that you can use Rider Switch on are:
Magic Kingdom: Barnstormer, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Tomorrowland Speedway
EPCOT: Frozen Ever After, Mission: SPACE, Soarin', and Test Track
Hollywood Studios: Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Star Tours, and Tower of Terror
Animal Kingdom: Flight of Passage, Dinosaur, Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, and Primeval Whirl
Rider Switch is a phenomenal program that has helped make our Disney vacations even more magical. Here are a few tips and tricks from personal experience.
They typically expire at the end of the calendar month (Jan 31, Feb 28, etc.) so feel free to use the Rider Switch Pass at a later time. This is particularly valuable if you have a dinner reservation or another Fast Pass that you need to get to. If you plan on spending multiple days in that specific park, you could even use the Rider Switch Pass on a different day as long as it's prior to the Pass's expiration. One of my family's favorite rides is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad; over Thanksgiving we accumulated several Rider Switch Passes for this attraction at rope-drop over multiple days at the Magic Kingdom and were able to use our Rider Switch Passes to ride later in the day with very little waits in the Fast Pass queue.
Tip 2. You can use Rider Switch in conjunction with Fast Passes to bypass the Stand-by queue completely.
For example, my daughter and I used Fast Passes for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train while my wife and son used Fast Passes for Winnie the Pooh just across the way. My family of 4 went to the entrance of Seven Dwarves Mine Train and I requested the Rider Switch lanyard. My daughter and I scanned our Fast Passes and entered the queue while my wife and son went to Winne the Pooh and used their Fast Passes there. Once we were all finished riding we met-up and swapped-places. My wife took my daughter to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for a second time using the Rider Switch Pass, while I took my son to ride the Prince Charming Regal Carousel.
Tip 3. You can use Rider Switch Passes for up to 3 people in the second group.
This allows some people to ride more than once- like my daughter riding Seven Dwarfs Mine Train twice in the example above. It's also means if you have enough people, then no one has to ride the attraction alone.
Tip 4. Split-up your Fast Passes so that the Non-riding Group can ride another attraction.
My family's strategy has always been to use Fast Passes effectively so that we're not wasting a Fast Pass for one of our kids by always choosing height-restricted attractions for our Fast Passes. This also allows us to use smaller parties to search for hard-to-get Fast Passes. As an example, my wife and I really wanted to ride the new Flight of Passage ride in Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Neither of our children were tall enough to ride this attraction, which was fine because we couldn't find any Fast Passes for Flight of Passage anyways. However, I was able to get Fast Passes for the new Navi River Journey attraction which is a slow-moving boat ride. I kept looking for 1 Fast Pass for Flight of Passage and was finally able to get one about a week before our trip. I just modified my Fast Pass from Navi to Flight of Passage and left the other Fast Passes for Navi River Journey for my wife and kids. This meant my family was able to ride an alternate attraction and not waste park time waiting for me to ride Flight of Passage, and I got to ride Flight of Passage without waiting in the Stand-by queue for 3 hours! Then my wife rode Flight of Passage while my kids and I grabbed some delicious snacks at Pongu Pongu and explored the Pandora scenery.
Chris and his wife are teachers and Annual Passholders in the Houston, Texas area. He is the proud father of 2 children (ages 4 and 1) and is thrilled to pass on his love of all things Disney to them. He enjoys scouting for the best deals and traveling to Walt Disney World whether it's crowded or not!