Invasion of the Large Family: Using a 'Runner'by Joe Needham, contributing writer
By Joe Needham, contributing writer
When touring with a larger family or group, you usually have a high degree of variability in stamina levels. If you have a group that wants to try and stay together as much as possible, then employing a strategy that utilizes a “runner” is a good way to save a few steps for the group.
A runner is someone who goes ahead of the group and gathers Fastpass tickets or checks on wait times. While actual running is not required (and for safety reasons, we don't advocate running in the parks), the ability to walk a little faster than the rest of the group is a good asset to have. When deciding on the best candidate to be your runner, ask yourselves if the person:
- Has extra stamina – Your runner should have a higher level of stamina than your average person, or at least in your group. This person might change from day to day, depending on how tired everyone gets as the vacation continues. I’ve heard that the average person can put in as much as five miles a day in the parks. If that is so, then the runner will definitely put in that much if not more.
- Is familiar with the park – Your runner should know the park or at least be able follow the park maps with ease. An inability to follow a map or lacking a good sense of direction, could mean your runner will be in for even more walking than necessary.
- Can log more miles – Your runner should be willing to log a few extra miles than the rest of the group. If you don’t have a willing participant, then they won’t do as good of a job, and in the end they won’t be much of a benefit.
- Is dependable – Your runner will be holding onto a good number of (if not all) of the park tickets for your group, so make sure you can trust that they won't get lost or misplaced.
- Understands Fastpass – Your runner can keep up with the times and make a plan for the order in which to get the Fastpass tickets, making it possible for your group to go an entire day and never wait more than 20 minutes or so for a single ride, even when crowded.
Once you have identified your runner, then here are a few tips:
- Once your group gets to the park and gets through the turnstiles, everyone should hand their admission media to the designated runner, freeing the runner to go on ahead to the first Fastpass dispenser. The rest of the group can follow at a slower pace, head to a different attraction, or wait.
- Before the runner leaves the group, plan what the group will do, whether this means following at a slower pace, heading to a different attraction, or waiting for the runner to return. This way, the runner knows where to find them.
- Always note the times listed on the Fastpass tickets that indicate when you can obtain the next Fastpass. This provides the cue for the runner to know when to break away from the group and get another set of Fastpass tickets.
- Be willing to reassign another person to be the runner as fatigue sets in or willingness changes.
- Before getting into an attraction queue, check the time and send the runner off to obtain another set of Fastpass tickets. This takes advantage of the Fastpass system, which opens up your ability to go and get the next Fastpass once you are in the time window to use your current Fastpass.
- Note which attractions are using the Fastpass system that day, as well as which ones are near your current location. The park maps identify Fastpass locations, so have one handy.
Note: Historically Walt Disney World has been lenient by allowing Fastpass holders to enter the Fastpass line even though the time on their passes have expired. This has changed recently, with cast members being stricter about the return time. This means that groups have to be more regimented in following behind the runner and showing up within the specified time limits.
Assuming your group starts the day at rope drop (when Disney allows park guests into the ride area of the parks), consider these options to best utilize the runner system.
For the Magic Kingdom, choose a runner who doesn't mind not riding The Magic Carpets of Aladdin in Fantasyland. This strategy is designed to allow your large group to enjoy upwards of five attractions in the morning.
- Once through the turnstiles, send the runner off to get Fastpass tickets for Space Mountain.
- In the meantime, the rest of the group heads to Adventureland and rides The Magic Carpets of Aladdin.
- Once the runner catches up, the group rides Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean.
- By this time, the Fastpass tickets for Space Mountain are probably ready. The entire group can head over to Tomorrowland and first grabs Fastpass tickets for Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin before riding Space Mountain.
For Epcot, this strategy has the group following behind the runner instead of going on another attraction, and allows you to go on three different attractions in the morning (including a second ride on Soarin').
- Once through the turnstiles, send the runner to get Fastpass tickets for Soarin’.
- The rest of the group can follow along at a slower pace, and meet the runner at the entrance of the standby line for Soarin’. Everybody then rides Soarin' as standby, including the runner. At this time of day the wait will be around 20 minutes.
- Once you are off Soarin', ride Living with the Land. Your Soarin’ Fastpass tickets are probably ready; go on it a second time.
- After your second ride through Soarin', send the runner to Test Track.
- Alternatively, if you have a member who doesn’t care to ride Soarin’ twice, that person can then become the runner. Send them to the Fastpass dispenser for Test Track.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
At Animal Kingdom, this strategy can help your group enjoy four attractions.
- Once through the turnstiles, send the runner to get Fastpass tickets for Expedition Everest.
- The rest of the group can head over to Kilimanjaro Safaris. Once the runner catches up, everyone can go on the Safari using the standby line.
- Once finished, head towards Expedition Everest.
- If the weather is hot, pick up a set of Fastpass tickets at Kali River Rapids before riding Expedition Everest. Otherwise, get a second set of Fastpass tickets for Expedition Everest before riding using the Fastpass tickets your runner got at the start of the day.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
At Hollywood Studios, it is possible for your group to ride Rock 'n' Roller Coaster without the runner; make sure your runner doesn't mind this.
- Once through the turnstiles, send the runner to get Fastpass tickets for Toy Story Mania.
- The rest of the group can head to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Here, it is possible for members of your group to go ahead and ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster using the standby line, and maybe even getting in a couple of rounds by the time the runner catches up.
Utilizing a runner and the Fastpass system can go a long way in making your trip more enjoyable. It is a great way to save energy for those in your group who have little to spare. It also brings enjoyment to the runner, who gets a sense of pride in being able to shepherd the group through shorter lines and wait times. I have also found that if you have an actual runner or jogger in your group, they usually relish the job, as they see it as a way to get a little more exercise in while on vacation.