Rider Switch???? You’re in Good Company
I asked my other Disney obsessed mommas what I should blog about. I asked it a bunch. Every time Rider Switch (sometimes called Child Swap) came up. I heard variations on “I don’t really understand Rider Switch and how to best use it. That would be nice to be able to read.” I share that to say- do not feel alone if you don’t completely understand Rider Switch. I’m going to spell it out for you. AND if you still have questions, please email me at LJ@smartmomsplandisney.com (Also totally email me if you have any blog ideas you’d like to read about.)
I consider myself a Rider Switch Ninja. I use it to capacity. Because of Rider Switch, we pretty much ride all the rides with Fastpasses. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself so let me back up.
What is Rider Switch (Child Swap)?
Put simply, Rider Switch is a little love from Disney for parents. You know as well as I do that parents at Disney are a little….shall we say, “burdened.” We can’t get as much done in a day as a couple with no kids. We have to stop to pee and change diapers. Disney realizes that and helps out. Rider Switch is a little card that allows one parent to wait with a child while the other parent rides. Then they switch. Get it? Rider Switch!
Best part? It’s FREE!
The Basic How-To
This part is pretty easy. First, discuss where you’ll meet when the ride is over. When you’re ready to ride, go to the entrance of the line and tell the Cast Member there that you need a Rider Switch (or Child Swap, or Rider Swap or Child Switch. They’ll know what you mean.)
The Cast Member will need to see three things:
1. an adult who is riding
2. an adult who is not riding
3. a child staying with the adult who is not riding
The Cast Member will usually give the Rider Switch ticket to the adult who is riding. They may even give the adult who is riding a plastic card to give to the next Cast Member. That second Cast Member will then give the riding adult the Rider Switch ticket. It is a small pass that looks exactly like the old paper FastPasses. Here’s a photo:
The riding adult rides and then comes back and meets the non-riding adult. Family reunion! Now the magic happens. The non-riding adult gets to take their turn to ride, going directly into the FP line and skipping the stand-by line, AND they are able to take two people with them! So if Dad rode with an older child (or two) first, now Mom can ride and take the kids again. The kids get to ride twice and Mom doesn’t have to ride by herself. Disney, you are geniuses!
When I learned to effectively use Rider Switch it was an absolute game changer for us. Divide and conquer they say, right? This is dividing and conquering. “You take the big kids on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, I’ll grab food and meet you at Friar’s Nook. You want Pot Roast Mac and Cheese, right?” Bam. Grab the rider switch ticket, I get food while he rides, he comes back and we eat and then I ride. Or maybe the baby needs changed. “I’ll take the big kids on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, you change the baby and meet me over at the play area by Splash Mountain.” (Notice how I got food, and he changed the baby? I’m reluctant to change diapers even in hypothetical situations.) Parent A can take care of business while Parent B rides, then they switch. Sometimes magic isn’t princesses or fireworks, ya feel me?
The Rider Switch ticket is usually good for the entire calendar month so if you get it July 8, it’s good until July 31st. If you get it July 31st, it’s good until July 31st. This means you can let one parent ride, go catch the parade or your ADR and then come back and let the other parent ride. You can usually even use it later in the week as long as the month doesn’t roll over.
Using Rider Switch with FastPass+
Ok, I know families are sometimes not Mom and Dad. But for these next two sections, let’s just use Mom and Dad for the sake of not making our brains hurt more. Deal? Deal. Just know that this can be done with any two adults.
Now That That’s Out of the Way
Let’s say your family is you (Mom), Dad, and three kids: two riding age, one too little. I see a lot of travel agents just booking FastPasses for everyone on the same thing regardless of height or Rider Switch. So let’s assume you have FPs for Splash Mountain for all 4 of you (little guy doesn’t get one if he’s under 3.). Everyone goes to the FP line and Dad gets a Rider Switch ticket. Ok, Mom takes the little guy and goes under the Railroad Bridge to the play area, while Dad takes the two big kids on Splash. Then Dad comes back and watches the little guy while Mom takes the two big kids on with the Rider Switch ticket. Mom’s FP never gets used.
Yeah, but Who Can Use One FastPass?
Well, maybe next time with Big Thunder Mountain, Dad’s FP never gets used. Now those two could be changed to something useful like Space Mountain for Dad and one of the big kids (the big kid can just wear Mom’s band to use her FastPass.) AND when Dad goes to get on, he can ask for a Rider Switch for Mom to ride. Then when he comes back, Mom can ride with the two big kids. Bam! You just Fastpassed an extra ride!
This works the exact same with two kids: one riding age, one too little. Or with any number of too smalls (I have four, two that can ride, two that are too little.) If you have more than two “big kids” that can ride, obviously, it gets more complicated because there will be turn taking on the second ride through. And my big son loves Space Mountain and wants to ride that twice, while my daughter wants to ride Splash twice, so I’m always sorting that out. I trust you can work that out (or email me if you need help!)
Ok. Here comes the Ninja part. Stay with me!
Taking Rider Switch to the Next Level
At some point I realized I should be scheduling my FastPasses to take optimum advantage of these “left over” Fast Passes. This is seriously, Rider Switch 200 so if you think it’s too complicated, don’t do it. You’ll be fine, you’ll have fun. You’ll just wait longer.
Back To Business
To take advantage of the left over FPs, I now break my party into two groups. I’ll use names here to keep this understandable. We are a family of 6, four over 3 (under 3 never needs FastPasses): me, hubby (Mike), Seth, 7 and Ezra, 5. My other guys are Asher, 2 and Cyrus, baby.
I choose groups to keep together for all the Fastpasses for that day. I usually do girls (me and my daughter, Ezra) and boys (Mike and Seth.) Whatever I choose, I keep it for the entire day of planning.
I choose two rides with height limits that will work together. Let’s take Splash and Big Thunder Mountain because they are close to each other. I keep these in my mind as a pair. Let’s say this day I’m booking the girls together and the boys together. I’ll book Seth and Mike on BTM and Ezra and myself on Splash Mountain.
We all go to Big Thunder Mountain in the boys’ FP window and get a Rider Switch. Seth and Mike ride BTM and I take care of the little boys and Ezra. When they come back, Ezra, Seth and I ride Big Thunder on the Rider Switch Ticket (remember it’s good for three so Seth gets to ride again.)
Then we all go to Splash Mountain during the girls’ (Mommy and Ezra) FP window. Get the ticket, Ezra and I ride, then give the ticket to Mike and he takes Seth and Ezra on with the Rider Switch Ticket.
Two Headliners. One set of FastPasses.
The Rest of the Day
In order to maximize our day, I like my FPs close together so that we have them when we need them and then I can book more. I like to be able to just move at our own pace, and have the FP line up with our mosey-ing. I don’t want to rush to FPs or to wait for them. Let’s say, after we do Splash and BTM, we’re heading to Haunted Mansion. We all need a FP there because there’s no Rider Switch. Because my pair of rides (Splash and Big Thunder Mountain) don’t contain the same party, I can choose overlapping times if I want to do so.
Big Thunder Mountain is a pretty quick ride with a FP so I’d probably book them overlapping. Let’s say I also wanted to FP the Haunted Mansion. I’d set up BTM for the boys at say 1pm. Splash for the girls starting at 1:30pm since a half hour is certainly enough time to ride BTM (and if there’s a delay, we’d still have until 2:30 to make our FP window…2:45 with the 15 minute grace period that we aren’t supposed to know about.)
In this scenario, I’d book Haunted Mansion for all of us at 2:30. This is the soonest I’d be allowed to since the girls’ Splash window was 1:30-2:30. Splash is a pretty long ride and remember, we have to go through twice. And there’s that place in Frontierland that has super lemonade slushies that we like to hit on the way by. Haunted Mansion’s FP window would be 2:30-3:30 and we’d likely make it over by around 2:45-3:00. So if we book another FP for immediately after (say 3:30-4:30) we’d be fine, but I’d probably leave a margin for error there. I’ve told y’all how I feel about rushing.
I find that I like to use the same or almost the same ride pairs all the time because they just make sense. BTM and Splash work great. I usually pair Space Mountain with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Also in Magic Kingdom, you can pair the Speedway with Barnstormer.
At Epcot, we (obviously) pair Soarin’ and Test Track.
In Hollywood Studios, I pair Rock’N’Roller Coaster with Tower of Terror. Another good option here if you need it is to have one adult go by themselves through the Single Rider Line at RNRC, getting a Rider Switch pass of course. Then the other adult rides with Seth (Ezra is too little.) Now that Seth is seven, both he and an adult can go through the Single Rider Line. They won’t ride together but can stand in line together.
In Animal Kingdom, we do Expedition Everest paired with Kali River Rapids if it’s hot, Primeval Whirl if it’s not. You could also do Dinosaur, but I’m still a little scarred from that one and the kids don’t love it either. (It’s somewhat horrifying.)
The Party Line
Because I envision a lot of “are you allowed to do that” type comments, let me add in here what Disney thinks of all this. They get to set the rules after all.
So here are the rules: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/rider-switch/
Note that the child does not have to be under the height limit to use Rider Switch (so even if one of your kids is tall enough, but not brave enough, you can use Rider Switch.)
Also note that on this link it says only one person can return with the second adult, but see the ticket below which clearly says, “Valid for up to (3) Guests”. I’ve never had an issue with this in any way.
Also, see below for additional rules which you’ll find on the back of the card.
So nothing I’m suggesting is against the rules. I’m guessing it’s not become a problem, because it’s complicated and hard to manage. People aren’t nutcases like I am.
I make out a specific plan for our days when we do this and I’m sure to note who has which Fast Passes, so I don’t get confused. See part of my plans below. I print this out and stick it in my back pocket so it’s easy to grab. I also take a photo of it and set it as my lock screen so that I don’t waste my battery pulling it up over and over.
Hope this helps you!
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