Rider Switch Inconsistencies for Walt Disney World?

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:

  1. First check with a Cast Member to see if Rider Switch is offered at the attraction in question.
  2. 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.”
  3. The other party members (“Party 1”) ride the attraction.
  4. After riding the attraction, Party 1 locates Party 2. Then, Party 1 takes over supervision of the non-riding children or Guests.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel at DisneyWorldMoms.com, a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obession - Broadway theater. Erin can be reached on Twitter @MsErinFoster.

4 thoughts on “Rider Switch Inconsistencies for Walt Disney World?

  • December 5, 2018 at 3:11 pm
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    In our experience (one week in September):
    1. There was ALWAYS a 1-hour return window for the second party. I have never heard of there not being a 1-hour return window. “Additionally, the digital rider switch passes expire at the end of the day.” — Unless something has changed recently, they expire at the end of the 1-hour window attached to them, plus the same 15-minute grace period for regular FP+. My impression talking to the CMs, though, is that they can be more flexible if you miss the return window by a bit.
    The start time for the return window does appear to be tied to a rough guess of when the first party will be done, which is often 10 minutes in the future if the first party uses FP+ and tied to the posted wait time if not. Flight of Passage is different just in that even when using FP+, the return window will start closer to 30 minutes than 10 minutes in the future, presumably due to the longer time it takes to do it even when using FP+.
    2. I have never heard of an actual designated waiting area or the second party having to go through the lines together. Once you get the RS entitlement, it is on your MDE and functions more or less like an extra FP+. If there are designated waiting areas, that is a very recent development.
    3. Yes, usually there is only 1 CM doing Rider Switches and you may have to wait a few minutes to get help. They are usually (but not always!) standing right next to the FP+ queue entrance.
    4. We haven’t tried to get a RS under the new system when everyone was tall enough to ride, but it certainly was the case under the old system that you may or may not get it. I’m guessing the theory is that, most of the time, if you are tall enough to ride, you are old enough to wait by yourself.

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  • December 6, 2018 at 10:25 am
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    We just had a positive experience using Ride Switch, mostly combined with Fast Pass Plus.
    As a point of reference, we’re a family with two adults and three children:
    Child A: +44″, could ride everything we wanted to ride
    Child B: 40″ with shoes on, could ride a lot of things (after long measuring sessions – stand tall kid!)
    Child C: >30″, could only do “any height” rides and being less than 3 didn’t have a ticket

    To get our Rider Switch, we usually had to wait in the FP+ pre-scan-in line (that line where everyone is confused as to why FP people are waiting in line and standby are walking in to their line – the fast part comes after that scan in!) and when we got to the scan post we usually stepped to the side and had the RS added. A few exceptions to this was for Slinky Dog Dash, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Flight of Passage. For those rides there was a cast member standing off to the side setting up RS. This off to the side set up was great.*

    To get the Rider Switch, the “riding second” group (up to three people) would present their magic band and have them scanned. This RS would appear similar to a FP+ on the My Disney Experience app. The main difference is that it would have a start time which was about the duration of the standby line later (so when we got in the standby line for Alien Swirling Saucers around 9:30am, the RS was only valid starting at 10:30am). When our first riding group had a FP+ for the ride, we let the cast member know and they would modify the start time so that it would start much sooner (usually within 10min).

    A major consideration to the new Rider Switch system, is that you can only have one RS at a time. This was a hiccup for us with the Alien Swirling Saucers ride since we had a FP+ starting at 10am for Tower of Terror. In order not to run like crazy people across the park** we rode ToT before using our RS for AS2. Since we would need a RS for ToT as well, getting that would have removed our RS for AS2. Luckily the cast member who set up the AS2 RS noticed this problem and was able to give us a paper RS valid for the day. She mentioned that some rides still had this as an option – I wouldn’t rely on this being available, but as of now it can still happen.

    For some rides, out of an abundance of caution, I did not “split” of FP+ reservations and made sure that everyone in our party had a FP+ (rides such as Slinky Dog Dash, Flight of Passage, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train). This proved to be unnecessary. Although the “riding second” group bands were scanned, this was to add the Rider Switch, not to redeem our FP+. The first group having a FP+ is what gave us a “sooner” return time. What this usually meant was that after everyone had ridden (adults once each, children once or twice depending on their disposition) we usually had some “experiences” leftover on the My Disney Experience app (as in the second adult redeemed their initial FP+ instead of their RS). Knowing this, I now wish I had made FP+ reservations for Na’vi River for myself and child B, instead of “wasting” one of his FP+. Oh well, exploring Pandora with children is awesome!

    Having experienced the old version of Rider Switch, this new system definitely changes the strategies, but I have to say I like it. The biggest difference is that you need to use up the current RS before getting the next one. So when “splitting” FP+ reservations, you need to leave more time between the two FP+ rides so that both groups will have ridden the first experience before moving on the the second one. I actually see this as a feature since it helps us stick together as a family more (rather than splitting up to get to different sides of the park).

    And of course I look forward to the day when we’ll all be tall enough to ride together, but for now I’m really happy that Disney offers us this option to enjoy the park as a young family. And really, there is something unforgettable about your three year old insisting on getting out of the stroller and skipping along during Toy Story Land rope drop craziness 🙂

    *why was getting Ride Switch off to the side great? it meant that if there was a long line for FP+ entrance, the non riders didn’t have to wait in it. When it was time for our Everest FP+, the ride had been down earlier in the day and the line to get into FP+ was over the bridge towards the Nemo theater. We would have had to everyone together wait in that line in order to get to the point that we could have gotten our RS. We skipped the ride!

    **who am I kidding, we always ran like crazy people across the park

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  • December 7, 2018 at 10:26 am
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    Good overview and comments. One more nuance to keep an eye on: if there is another available FP on your band for an attraction, the new system will pull it, before it pulls your rider swap. Example: we had FP windows for Tower of Terror and RockNRollercoaster. We rode Tower, collecting a riderswap as we did. The plan was then to ride RNR after grabbing a bite. When we went to RNR, it was down, so the system converted that FP into an “any attraction” FP. While waiting for RNR to reopen, we went to use our riderswaps on ToT. After exiting ToT, RNR was back up. And only then did we notice that the second ride on TOT had consumed the “any attraction” FP — and not the return leg of the riderswap. And, thus, we were without a RNR FP. My oldest were not too happy with that . . . . what they thought would be two rides on ToT and two rides on RNR, turned into three rides on TOT.

    After four kids and multiple trips, we are about 1.5 inches from never having to worry of rider swaps again. We loved the ease and flexibility of the paper system. Very glad I don’t have plan around this latest iteration.

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  • December 7, 2018 at 11:28 am
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    I hop Disney tries to move in the direction of letting parties stay together as long as possible (and inversely, being separated for as short as possible). Rider switch is actually one area where I’d say Universal does it much better than Disney, as many of their headliner rides have lounges (with IP-appropriate toys) directly between the load & unload areas where a parent can stay with the non-riding kid(s). The whole family stays together until they reach the load station, and only then does one parent head into the lounge while the other rides. As soon as the first riding parent gets off the ride, they go into the lounge and the second parent can hop right onto the ride.

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