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Changes to Rider Switch at Disney World

Magic Kingdom

  • The Barnstormer
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Tomorrowland Indy Speedway

Epcot

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Test Track

Hollywood Studios

  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
  • Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (boarding group still required)
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Animal Kingdom

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • DINOSAUR
  • Expedition Everest
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Na’vi River Journey

In When Will FastPass+ Return to Walt Disney World?, we’ve noted that while the FastPass service is not presently being offered, the physical FastPass+ queues are being used for Disability Access Service (DAS) and select other guests.

One such type of “select other guests” are those using the Rider Switch service. As Walt Disney World is rumored to, ahem, resume regular use of the FastPass+ queues, they’re in the process of making some changes to the Rider Switch service…

Previously, Walt Disney World’s official policy allows everyone (Party 1) except the first waiting adult and child (Party 2) to ride the first time. After Party 1 is done, the first waiting adult may bring two guests with them on the attraction–for a total of three guests riding.

For larger families with a total of 3 or more kids–let’s specifically use the example of two older siblings and one younger one–this meant that Rider Switch wasn’t just a convenient way to wait the same amount of time as everyone using the standby queue. It was effectively a windfall for the older siblings who were able to ride twice–once with each parent.

Walt Disney World has begun adjusting its Rider Switch policy, and will only allow one other guest to accompany the first waiting adult (Party 2) on an attraction via the FastPass+ queue after Party 1 experiences it. As with other recent changes at Walt Disney World, this is being rolled out gradually over the past and coming week.

For the example family of two older siblings and a younger one, this means that both will not be able to ride a second time. However, one will still be able to accompany the parent from Party 1 each time for a second ride.

For the average United States family with 1.93 kids (let’s round up to 2 for the sake of simplicity), things are unchanged. That lucky older sibling will be able to ride with both Party 1 and Party 2, if they so desire. The perk still exists, and it’s a sensible one so that the adult doesn’t have to ride solo. Quality family time on vacation and all that.

When it comes to any type of queue or line skipping policy, any change is bound to be controversial among some Walt Disney World fans.

How you react to this will undoubtedly depend upon whether you’re a family with the demographics of the example one above. Those with two or more older kids likely won’t be fans of this change.

Unsurprisingly, we have a dramatically different perspective here. We’ve only used Rider Switch on rare occasion when visiting the parks with friends who have small kids. While it’s not something we’ve regularly used, we’re not anti-Rider Switch. We’re glad it exists as a courtesy for parents with small children.

In our view, this is something you can file under “it was nice while it lasted!” for select guests. With that said, the new policy is eminently fair. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that, when viewing the previous policy v. the new one at arm’s length, I I don’t know how you reach any conclusion other than that this is an equitable and reasonable rule change.

The prior policy was effectively a Walt Disney World-sanctioned ‘legal loophole.’ Sure, the change stinks for those who it benefitted, but it undeniably was a windfall. Nothing entitled the two older siblings (or whomever) to experience every thrill ride twice while waiting once.

Like so many loopholes Walt Disney World has closed over the years, it’s unfortunate (for some) to see it go, but the change is fair. For the overall pool of guests at Walt Disney World, the closing of this loophole is a good thing. It will improve ride capacity and hourly operational efficiency for those in the standby line.

Obviously, it probably will not make attractions more efficient and standby waits shorter by a huge degree–the number of guests previously taking advantage of this ‘legal loophole’ probably was not that high–but it won’t be by a negligible amount, either.

The quick, cynical, and lazy commentary here is that Walt Disney World is tightening up any perceived policy abuses ahead of rolling out paid FastPass. The company is probably cognizant of the fact that charging for FastPass will exacerbate utilization and abuse of current policies, and wants to minimize all of that–while maximizing uptake of paid line-skipping privileges.

There’s undoubtedly some truth to that. I suspect that Walt Disney World would not have bothered with this were it not for an overhaul of the queue system being on the horizon.

Potentially unpopular opinion (given the readership demographics here), but Disney should’ve addressed this rule regardless. This Rider Switch change is good news for the majority of guests regardless of its motivations.

It was one thing for this to be the official, unwritten policy a decade ago. During the nascent years of social media and when most Walt Disney World hacks were confined to fan forums and obscure blogs like this one it didn’t really matter. Those communities were generally pretty careful with advice that abused systems, seeing countless loopholes closed over the years as they grew too large.

That ceased to be the case years ago. Today, there are dozens of Facebook groups devoted to Walt Disney World with hundreds of thousands of members. Popular YouTube channels cover how to beat the system and get millions of views. Tips go viral in the mainstream and reach tens of millions of people. The game has changed.

If Walt Disney World has a policy that could be described as a “beneficial courtesy” intended for a small pool of guests, you can bet it won’t be long before social media finds a way to exploit that and ruin it for everyone. (One TikTokers highly questionable “free shirt hack” literally made international headlines!)

Ultimately, we can completely empathize with the example family who used this loophole sparingly and will now have to explain to their kids why they can’t ride with both parents. It’s undoubtedly disappointing, and I can understand that. It’s always nice to have a semi-exclusive perk and it sucks to lose that.

However, this change is fair. There’s no two ways about it. Anecdotally, we’ve noticed a growing number of guests passing us via the FastPass+ queue in the last several months. I don’t think that’s because Club 33 suddenly initiated thousands of new members or Golden Oak went on a construction spree. Word had gotten out about this and other ways to leverage the FastPass+ queue. Closing some loopholes is going to be more challenging than others, but this is definitely something that’s needed and overdue. I’m still holding out a sliver of hope that the potential Premier Access + Standby Pass system will be a net positive for guests like us who will never buy Premier Access, but that requires some sensible and reasonable reforms to Walt Disney World’s current queue policies (among other things).

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

What do you think of the Rider Switch changes? Are Walt Disney World’s policy tweaks in closing this ‘legal loophole’ fair or excessive? Disappointed by the change, pleased by it, or indifferent to it? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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