For those fortunate souls who are unfamiliar, Disney offers a “Rider Swap” option to parents of small children who are not tall enough (or are too scared) for certain rides. I only recently became familiar with this program, as my son is currently 2.5 years old and we have visited twice with him thus far, but I’ve done extensive reading on how it USED to work, and it sounds like it used to be pretty awesome. I am in the minority and still think it is pretty awesome, but that may be because I never experienced the old version.
Apparently back in the day, before Fastpass+ was all done on Magic Bands and whatnot, parents used to go to the Fastpass kiosk, get a Fastpass for one of the parents, go up to the front of the ride, talk to a Cast Member, and they’d be given a Fastpass for the other parent to return and ride the ride (with up to 2 other people) for ANYTIME IN THE NEXT 30 DAYS!! Say what?! That’s crazy bananas. That is like the golden ticket to that ride. You can just come back any time on your trip and ride it when you see fit. Granted, you don’t ever get to ride with your significant other (unless you find a babysitter for another day, and then your significant other can be one of your 2 other guests that ride with you when you return), and you always have to come back to rides later and wait on the Fastpass line again after another member of your party already waited on the Fastpass line once before. So for everyone claiming that parents were “working the system” and “getting double Fastpasses”…. I think they just need to calm down and recognize that Disney was just throwing a bit of a bone to parents of toddlers who inevitably were dealing with quite a bit of stress in the parks every day and never get to ride any of the “grown up rides” as a couple/family. Disney obviously wants parents of little kids to keep coming to the parks, so they have to offer them some sort of solution….
So back to the present situation… now Disney uses Fastpass+ and Magic Bands, rather than paper Fastpass tickets. Once this switch was made, the Rider Swap system started to evolve to its current state. The strategy that most sites recommend is still for one parent to get a Fastpass for the top rides (those with height restrictions) and then the family speaks to a cast member at the entrance to the line for the ride and the other parent will be given a Rider Swap return time on their Magic Band. This functions the same as a Fastpass. You are given a time to return and use the Fastpass line. A lot of people on social media get very heated about this topic and say both parents are required to have a Fastpass in order for the second parent to be given a Rider Swap return time and be authorized to use the Fastpass line when the first parent is done, but this simply is not true. Disney does want both parents to get Fastpasses for the ride, but if you do not both get Fastpasses, the worst thing that can happen, is that the cast member that you speak to will give you a return time that is a little farther in the future than you’d like. For example, if you go to Flight of Passage as a family of 3 (2 adults and a toddler) and say “hey my husband has a Fastpass, can I get a Rider Swap ticket because our son is too small for the ride?” in a perfect world, they will scan your Magic Band and tell you that you are able to come back in 10 minutes (or any time for the rest of the day) and enter the line. That way, your husband enters the Fastpass line, waits a bit, rides the ride, then comes out, and you can enter right away. However, some cast members allegedly might say, “oh you don’t both have Fastpasses? Well then I have to give a return time that is after the length of the current standby wait-time” aka your husband rides the ride, then you still have to wait another hour or two before your Rider Swap/Fastpass is active and you are allowed to enter the Fastpass line. You still get access to the Fastpass line without having used a Fastpass, you just have to wait a little bit and do some other rides in between. I personally have never experienced this second option, but numerous vocal social media posters have posted rants about needing two fastpasses as parents using Rider Swap, but then cast members have chimed in saying “yes, if you don’t both have them, you’ll have to return after the length of the standby wait”….which isn’t really the end of the world to me and doesn’t merit wasting another Fastpass.
Regardless of all of this ranting on social media, in our two trips in 2018 and 2019, I did not have any difficulties with Rider Swap on any ride. These were our experiences:
November 2018 trip:
-We used Rider Swap on Splash Mountain as our first experience with it. I had a Fastpass and DF did not. We spoke to the cast member at the entrance to the line and then scanned our Magic Bands. I entered the ride’s Fastpass line then and rode alone. Then the app magically showed that DF had a Fastpass to ride Splash Mountain starting 10 minutes later through the end of the day. We both got to ride (alone – which is such a bummer, but hey, that is life in Disney World with a 1 year old).
-We used Rider Swap on Expedition Everest in a slightly more strategic way. Since my mom and stepdad were traveling with us and they were in AK with us that day, I asked my mom to book a Fastpass for Everest for herself since she wasn’t using any Fastpasses that day besides the Safari (she is weird and doesn’t do too many rides). We then went up to the Cast Member at the entrance to the Everest line with my mom, me, and my son, and asked for a Rider Swap ticket for me. I was given a Rider Swap ticket that showed up on the app allowing me to return 15 minutes later. This allows you to return with 2 other guests and use the Fastpass line. So my mom actually didn’t even ride Everest, since it makes her sick, and then 15 minutes later DF and I both rode Everest together without either of us wasting a Fastpass on it. Some may say this is “cheating” and we got a 4th Fastpass for the day which isn’t fair, but no one was hurt by this. I am very anti cheating the system if it hurts someone else. However, my mom used a fastpass of her own. She should have been in the fastpass line, taking up a space, but instead we basically took her space in the line since she didn’t ride. Also, if all three of us used fastpasses for Everest that day, there would have been 2 other people who did NOT get their fastpasses for Everest that day because of us. So we actually enabled 2 other people to get fastpasses that day. So basically we are good samaritans (lol).
I don’t think we used Rider Swap on anything else during this trip. This trip was primarily about riding the little kid rides with our kiddo and soaking up every moment with him. We had a few instances where one of us could get away and ride a ride alone like Test Track or Aerosmith in the single riders line, but mostly our fastpasses were used for kiddo-friendly rides.
November 2019 trip:
-Slinky Dog Dash – DF had a fastpass for Slinky Dog and I did not. I debated getting both of us a Fastpass after all I had read online about cast members being more strict about wanting both parents to have fastpasses, but then I said, what is the worst that can happen? They make me come back 2 hours later? To me that was worth using our other Fastpass for something our son would enjoy with one of us. We spoke to a cast member at the entrance of the line. He referred us to a specific cast member under an umbrella with an iPad. She actually had a line waiting for her (a short 5 minute line). She seemed to exclusively be handling Rider Swap situations and accessibility situations (helping people with disabilities access the ride). We told her we had one Fastpass for the ride and needed a rider swap ticket. We did not ask for a specific return time. Low and behold, we checked the app, and I was given a return time 10 minutes later. So even cast members whose sole job is to handle Rider Swap don’t seem to be following this alleged rule that people keep preaching about on social media, so I really don’t think anyone should stress too much about it honestly. 20 minutes later we were both done riding and our son was thrilled to have watched us both ride the “doggy choochoo!!”
-Flight of Passage – We rode Flight of Passage together earlier in the week while my mom watched Copper because I get extreme motion sickness and really did not want to ride it alone (we’ve never ridden it before!! yay for new rides!) DF loved it SO much and immediately declared it his new favorite ride in WDW, so later in the week I seized the opportunity to ask my mom if she would help us get him on it again. My mom and stepdad had Fastpasses for early one morning, so we all went to AK together that day. We went to FOP, told them that my mom and step dad had fastpasses and we needed a rider swap for DF. This cast member specifically asked if he also had a fastpass. She then asked “did you already wait on the standby line??” to which I responded with a confused blank stare, like why would we be talking to you right now after waiting on that insane line that goes all the way out of Pandora? So at this point I was sure this would be the first time someone told us we all needed fastpasses to do rider swap, but nope, she scanned the Magic Bands, and he had a return time 25 minutes later, because the FOP fastpass line plus riding the ride does take a little while. They do their best to estimate how long it will take Parent #1 to complete the ride, and then that is when Parent #2’s return window starts typically. This was with a standby line of 2+ hours, just for reference. So still, no evidence of any issues with not having fastpasses for every member of the party. This was even with me obviously there able to watch our son while my mom and stepdad rode the ride also (so common sense would indicate that DF did not need a rider swap ticket). They don’t seem to be huge sticklers. As long as you have a child with you who cannot ride, they will give a rider swap ticket.
Again – we only used rider swap twice on our 9 day trip. People seem to think it is a big strategic advantage that people are going to take advantage of to cheat the system and screw other people over, but really, when you are traveling with a young child, you don’t have too much time to prioritize adult rides that you want to go on. You definitely don’t have a ton of time to wait for each parent to ride a ride separate one after another. So the situation doesn’t really arise too many times throughout the trip. I can see how it becomes a lot more relevant when you have more kids, and you need to bring your bigger kids on rides, while the other parent waits with the baby. Then apparently the bigger kid gets to ride a second time with the second parents who uses a rider swap ticket. So it is an awesome deal for the bigger kid in the family. If anyone has a problem with a kid in Disney World getting access to more rides after dealing with his/her parents tending to a baby 24/7 and he/she never getting to ride on fun rides with both parents together, they should probably go get a dose of Disney magic and calm down with the negativity. Everyone should soak up as much magic as they can, and rider swap lets parents/families do that, as far as I can tell.