In June of 2018, Walt Disney World changed its procedures for guests wanting to use rider switch at attractions with height requirements, converting from paper rider switch “tickets” to digital rider switch passes linked to your MagicBand or other RFID media.
As a refresher, Rider Switch (also known as rider swap, baby switch, baby swap, and a bunch of other related names), comes into play when a family visiting Walt Disney World includes a younger child that’s too short to ride a particular attraction. Since children cannot be left unattended in the parks, without the rider switch, if (for example) two parents both wanted to ride Space Mountain, they’d have to wait in line twice: First Parent A stays with the baby while Parent B waits in line and goes on the ride, and then Parent B stays with the baby while Parent A goes on the ride. The aim of rider switch is to eliminate the double wait, allowing the second adult to bypass the queue and skip the line.
The official rider switch instructions on the WDW website state:
To Use Rider Switch:
- First check with a Cast Member to see if Rider Switch is offered at the attraction in question.
- Once at the attraction, approach the greeting Cast Member with your entire party. At least one adult member of your party and the Guests who are not riding will be issued a Ride Switch entitlement by the Cast Member and asked to wait in a designated area (usually outside of the attraction). This group is “Party 2.”
- The other party members (“Party 1”) ride the attraction.
- After riding the attraction, Party 1 locates Party 2. Then, Party 1 takes over supervision of the non-riding children or Guests.
- Party 2 enters and boards the attraction without having to wait in the regular queue a second time. The Rider Switch entitlement must be validated by a Cast Member at this time.
- If the person in Party 2 waited alone with the child, he or she may bring up to 2 other Guests back to ride the attraction with him or her. Please note that only 3 Guests are allowed per Rider Switch Pass.
While this may be Disney’s official plan, we’re finding that in practice guests are experiencing several variations on the execution of rider switch. These have included:
- Guests are given specific rider switch return time, often close to the wait time posted at the attraction. We’ve heard this happening most often at Flight of Passage in the Animal Kingdom.
- The “Party 2” group may be asked to all go through the attraction queue together. While “Party 1” rides, Party 2 is required to wait near the attraction loading zone. This may prove problematic if, for example, the non-riding child really wants to ride but is just slightly too short; he/she may be upset having to watch older/taller siblings ride. Additionally, the ride load area may have noise, lights, or other features that are overstimulating for some guests.
- Some attractions may have only one or two cast members on staff at any time with the authority to issue rider switch passes. These cast members might not be immediately available to assist you.
- Rider switch passes are always granted to guests with a party member too short to ride. Passes for parties where the child is tall enough, but too frightened to ride are granted on a case by case basis. While this situation is often accommodated, this does not always happen.
Also note that only one rider switch may be active at a time, which is a change over the old paper switch passes. Additionally, the digital rider switch passes expire at the end of the day, where the old paper passes could sometimes be carried over into future days.
If you’re planning on using using rider switch, you may want to build room for some uncertainty about procedures into your expectations. And if you do encounter anomalies, please let us know.