Rider Swapping at Disney World

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No, you can’t take your infant with you on Test Track, but there is another way!

By Sarah DeMare

Walt Disney World is a great vacation destination for both big kids and small kids. But what happens when one of those small kids is too small for some of the height-restricted rides, like Space Mountain or Expedition Everest? Or, perhaps, your child meets the height requirement, but is a bit too timid to ride. Well, Walt Disney World has thought of everything: enter the rider swap, also referred to as parent swap or child swap.

What is the rider swap and how can I make it work for my party? Simply put, the rider swap allows one adult member of your party to wait with the child who is too small to ride, while the rest of your party experiences the attraction. When your party is finished riding, the person waiting with the child is allowed to ride the attraction without waiting in line, and they can take up to three other people with them.

Here’s how the rider swap works in principle. Your entire party approaches the cast member working the ride. You show the child who is too small. The cast member will hand a rider swap pass to the adult who is waiting with the child while the rest of the group gets in line. After the group rides, the adult who waited with the child returns to the cast member (bringing up to three additional riders with them) and hands them the rider swap pass. The group is then allowed to enter the ride via the Fast Pass return line (if the ride is FP enabled) or they are ushered to the front of the line (for the non FP enabled rides).

Let’s look at how this works in action. I’ll use my family as an example. We are two adults and two children (one four year old, tall enough to ride Big Thunder Mountain, and a one year old who isn’t). We had obtained FASTPASSes earlier in the day and were returning to use them. All four of us walked up to the FP entrance and I told the Cast Member we would like a rider swap pass. They took a quick look at my one year old and handed me the rider swap pass, allowing my husband and four year old to enter the FP line. My little one and I played in the play area under the train station (an excellent place to wait if you are rider swapping either Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Splash Mountain) until they returned.

The nice thing about the rider swap passes is that they don’t expire that day. You typically have three days to use them- check your pass/card for its expiration date. We would usually ask my four year old if he wanted to ride again. If he didn’t, and we knew we were returning to that park within three days, we would store the rider swap pass and use it later. But the rider swap pass really comes in handy when you have that extremely excited child getting off a ride who immediately says “I want to go again.” You can look at the 90-minute standby line and think to yourself, “Thank heavens we have the rider swap pass.” It helped avoid more than one meltdown.

The way the rider swap pass works at every ride has its distinct nuances, and I’ll attempt to explain the ones I encountered. First off: Star Tours. Star Tours doesn’t offer a rider swap pass in the sense that I just explained. For Star Tours, everyone in your party enters the line (whether it be the standby line or FP line if you have FPs). There are benches outside the simulators where the too-small child and parent wait while everyone else experiences the attraction. Once the ride is over, your party waits in the simulator. The parent and too-small child enter the simulator and the waiting parent hands off the too-small child to the other parent who has just ridden. They then exit the ride and the other parent gets to ride, in our case, with our four year old.

Another odd situation we encountered was at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We went to ride at around 9:30 am. We went to enter the standby line and I asked for a rider swap pass. I was told that they don’t begin giving out rider swaps until the first FP return times come up, which is usually around 10:00 a.m. I’m guessing their thinking was that since there wasn’t a long standby wait at that time, we could just hop in the standby line again and ride with no wait. That, however, didn’t sound right to me, since the rider swap passes don’t expire for three days. There is no need to use it right away, so whether or not there is a standby wait shouldn’t affect your ability to obtain one. But I didn’t press the issue.

I noticed at Test Track that our rider swap pass didn’t expire until February 28, and it was obtained on February 7. So in that case, if we were lucky enough to have had a three week trip, we could have come back any time and used it.

TheMouseForLess member Nancy S. shared one of her unusual experiences with rider swapping. “Most of the time, our rider swaps were uneventful. I do have one story, though. My husband and I went to Expedition Everest to set up a rider swap. The cast member told us it would be much quicker just to utilize the single rider’s line and that we didn’t need the rider swap pass. OK, sounds reasonable, so I left my husband and took the kids to play in the Boneyard. About 30 minutes later, my husband shows up to watch the kids and I head down to EE. I ask the first cast member I see where the single rider’s line is. Apparently, they were just trying it out and decided they didn’t want to do it anymore, so the line was closed. I’m exhausted after five days at the parks and practically start to cry at the thought of a long line-which would mean missing other attractions since it was almost closing. I hold it together and with my sad puppy eyes, explain to him what happened. No husband and no kids to prove my point, he seems a bit confused at first, but he believes me and goes to hunt down a rider swap pass. I hopped in the FP line (and still had to wait about 20 minutes). EE was awesome. Thank you friendly cast member!”

Lastly, a word about FPs and the rider swap passes. For my family, only three of us had park tickets, since our youngest is one year old, so when we obtained FPs we would get three at a time. However, for every ride that we utilized the rider swap option, we only needed to use two of our FPs (for the first parent and 4 year old to ride). They never took the second parent’s FP. I’m not condoning only obtaining enough FPs for the members of your party that will ride first, because you may come across a cast member who holds to the official procedure and requests FPs for all members of your party, even the waiting parent, before giving you the rider swap pass. However, should you find yourself with some extra FPs, you can either use them, or, as I prefer to do, spread a little pixie dust and pass them along to someone about to enter that 90 minute standby line for Soarin’.

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