Families Rider Swapping

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer

While the Disney theme parks have far more rides and attractions without height restrictions than with restrictions, from time to time families want to ride attractions that their youngest family members might be too small to ride, too afraid to ride, or that some guests might be unable to ride do to health restrictions.

Guests can use the “Rider Switch Pass” to take turns riding these attractions. While the first unrestricted group rides the attraction, the group not riding receives a pass from a cast member at the entrance to the ride. The pass allows two guests to return and ride after the first group finishes and can stay with the rider who is unable to ride. Usually the duo returning with the pass will only wait in the Fastpass line or will enter through the exit if there is no Fastpass line. The cast member explains the procedure when handing out the passes.

This week we asked our Parenting Panel: Do you use rider switch on rides? Do you have any strategies to use the rider switch program?

Jen, also known as *Nala*, is an engineer, a Disney fan, and a MouseAdventure fanatic. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two future MouseAdventurers, ages 2 and 4. Jen writes:

My 4 year old son, at just over 44-inches tall with shoes on, is now proudly tall enough for most rides at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts. He's becoming more and more interested in the "big kid" rides and is asking to try Expedition Everest on our next trip to Walt Disney World. My 2-year-old daughter, on the other hand, is 36-inches tall and would so far rather play in Goofy's Bounce House than ride Gadget's Go Coaster.

Because of this, you'd think we're perfect candidates for child swapping with a rider switch pass, but in fact we don't actually use it very often. There are a few reasons for this, the main one being that my husband and I each have different favorite "big kid" rides and are usually content to alternate. This has allowed our daughter to develop her own list of favorite rides, things she will happily ride with one of us, while her older brother goes on a height-restricted ride with the other. Maybe for this reason it has never been an issue between the kids that one is tall enough for a ride and the other isn't. Our daughter will proudly say "I big enough for Ariel ride!" while her brother goes off to Goofy's Sky School with my husband.

We do occasionally child swap when my husband and I both want to ride the same ride on a given day. Most often though we'll use it when our son wants to ride something twice in a day, as a Rider Switch pass allows the waiting adult to take someone else on the ride with them when it's their turn. At the Disneyland Resort, in my opinion, the best ride for child swapping is Radiator Springs Racers. We pick up a Fastpass for Racers early in the day, and then ask for a Rider Switch pass when we return to ride. This lets my husband and I each take a turn riding, and our son gets to go twice.

We're planning a larger family trip to Walt Disney World this fall, and I do anticipate taking advantage of Rider Switch on this trip when all the adults want to ride something height-restricted, most likely rides such as Test Track or Kali River Rapids. We'll use Fastpass+ for the majority of the group, and then request a Rider Switch pass for the remaining adult(s) to return with our son later on.

Elizabeth, who posts on our MousePad message board as eabaldwin, has been a Disneyland Annual Passholder since 2010. She and her husband have two daughters, Katie (4) and Josie (2). Elizabeth writes:

With two little ones, we absolutely use the Rider Switch passes. When our girls were younger, we would mostly just switch off riding “adult” rides while they were napping in the stroller. We would push them around the parks, and ride whatever rides we wanted while they were sleeping.

Now that our oldest daughter is above the “magical” 40 inches, and can ride so many more rides, we are using the Rider Switch even more. Our daughter definitely benefits from this system, because she gets to ride every attraction twice, once with me and once with my husband. While one of us rides with her, the other will take our youngest daughter on a nearby ride. For example, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is right next to Splash Mountain. Our youngest daughter loves to ride Pooh, and doesn’t mind (for now!) that she can’t ride on Splash Mountain because she usually gets to ride Pooh two or three times. Character meet-and-greets are another option for something to do while those who meet the height requirement are riding. We will also use that time, when we are not riding, to use the restroom or to get a snack. We try to make the most of our time so that no one is just sitting around waiting for anyone to ride an attraction.

At some/most attractions, the cast member will ask to see the child/children who don’t meet the height requirement. We usually all walk up as a family to ask for the Rider Switch pass to avoid having to wander around looking for everyone. Then, we split up to go on our respective attractions.

This is much more manageable with cell phones. We text or call after finished riding the Rider Switch attraction so that we can coordinate meeting up. Without the use of cell phones, I would recommend having a designated place and time to meet.

The Rider Switch system allows us to be able to ride attractions, while maximizing our time, because we don’t have to wait in a full line more than once.

Chris, also known as GusMan, is always planning his next family trip to the Walt Disney World Resort and loves to help others plan their trips, as well sharing his experiences. Chris writes:

I have to say that one of my favorite aspects of taking a Disney vacation is how they really try to accommodate guests of all ages. Sometimes, that means having to deal with younger and older guests at the same time. In my family’s case, my son and daughter are nearly a decade apart in age. I first thought this was going to make enjoying some of the attractions difficult because of height limitations, but, by using Rider Switch, it turns out that we were able to adapt nicely.

After the first couple of trips, we did come up with some good strategies on how to best use this feature:

  • Plan your timing so that those who are waiting still have something else to do. Since even with a rider swap, you will still have to wait in a standby or Fastpass line, those left behind still need something to do to pass the time. Consider the rides, the location, and alternative attractions for those not riding. As an example, my wife and son used to love to ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA)while my daughter and I rode Space Mountain. When we came back, my wife went on Space Mountain with my daughter while my son and I enjoyed the TTA.
  • Consider an exact meeting place after a certain period of time. Nothing can waste time like wandering around the parks looking for the rest of your family. Instead of saying “meet us back in Frontierland” you can give a specific area and time window. This will also allow the group waiting behind to have a bit of spontaneity to enjoy things that come up without notice.
  • Speaking of meeting place – consider having the meeting spot be in the general area of the ride being enjoyed to avoid swapping delays. Events such as parades or other shows can slow down your commute between different areas of the park. Simply plan accordingly and allow extra time if needed.
  • Texting can be your friend. Having the ability to let the waiting group know that you are about to board a ride or that you are ready for the Rider Switch can really help in making a quick swap. Keep in mind, though, that some attractions are prone to being dead spots for cell service within certain attractions, so you might have to give this one a bit of trial and error.
  • Make sure that those who are not riding have the ability to purchase items like snacks and water. This may seem like an odd suggestion, but there have been times where we were using our Disney gift or rewards card for in-park snacks only to not give it to my wife who was waiting with my son. Granted, it is a bit easier to charge things to the room these days, but depending on how you like to keep track of expenses, this may be something to consider.
  • Share the experiences when you are reunited. Tell stories of what you did while waiting. Don’t forget to take pictures of what you do while waiting. Maybe even get some special shots done by a PhotoPass photographer.

I know that splitting up to enjoy attractions at different times may not seem like the most magical thing to do. However, it gives another option for everyone to enjoy certain attractions. Personally, I consider the one-on-one time with my kids really special and it provides me with a chance to make special magical memories.

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!



  1. By Mermaid

    Nala- your kids sound just like mine! We are going to DL in Feb and my almost 4 year old is 42+ inches with shoes and pretty brave- he did Atlantis in Sea World this summer twice using rider switch. My daughter is more average height (2.5 next week) and more timid anyway.

  2. By clonetopia

    We have 4 kids (ages 12, 10, 7, 4). Our youngest is 42 inches and is not able to ride a few rides (Everest, Rock 'n' Roller, Space Mountain). The trouble we have is that the Child Swap voucher only allows for two additional riders, so we have to flip a coin to find out which of our three older kids misses out. Disney has never made an exception for us and let the third kid ride.

    However, during our trip last week we used FastPass+ for these rides so there was an "extra" FastPass available for my child that couldn't ride. One of the workers at a kiosk mentioned that I had an unused FastPass in my party and she told me to "Go ahead and let another family member use the FastPass. Just exchange MagicBands." My wife would go with our three older kids while I waited with my youngest child. Then I would go back through with the Child Swap voucher and 2 "guests" while my oldest child would wear my youngest child's MagicBand.

    Frankly, the Cast Members didn't care as long as the FastPass light "goes green". The only thing (currently) displayed on their monitor is the first name on the MagicBand. For us, it saved some tears and I was able to ride the rides with all three of my eligible kids and not just the lucky two that won the coin toss.

  3. By adriennek

    What a great tip, thanks clonetopia!

  4. By 3Princesses1Prince

    That's what we do with the paper FPs at DL.

  5. By currence

    Does that work at the rides where the FP return and rideswap return are at different places? I'm thinking of places like SM at DL.

    Has the DL ride-swap changed recently? We were at DCA with friends last month and I thought that the ride-swap for Soarin' (at least, now pretty sure it was Soarin') has switched from the colored paper card to a smaller card torn off a pad of paper with that day's date on it. It limited the ability to store up Rideswap returns over multiple days, but I also thought it was good for more people. We didn't go back to use it and I'm not sure where it is now so I don't have more details. Since I didn't know how long ago things had changed, I opted against posting anything at the time.

    Can you tell my kids are now tall enough to ride everything?

  6. By 3Princesses1Prince

    We've always used the FP entrance for rider swap even on SM. The rider swaps did change. They are dated and good for 3 people total now, instead of just 2.

  7. By Drince88

    SM? Are you guys talking about the same attraction - cause it could be Splash or Space Mountain.

  8. By 3Princesses1Prince

    Quote Originally Posted by Drince88 View Post
    SM? Are you guys talking about the same attraction - cause it could be Splash or Space Mountain.

    Either way I've used the FP entrance. But I think some have used the rider swap on Space and entered through the exit.

  9. By currence

    Back when they gave out the colored return cards for Space, the instructions were to enter through the exit. You basically checked in with the person handling the disabled guests and then skipped all of them to walk to the loading area. I don't know if that has changed.

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