Rider Switch is Walt Disney World’s system that allows parents with small children to take turns experiencing thrill rides and other attractions with height requirements. In this post, we’ll cover how the service (also known as child swap, baby switch, or parent swap) works and new changes to Rider Switch at Walt Disney World. (Updated March 13, 2022.)
Let’s start with brief context for those who aren’t familiar with Rider Switch. If a child does not meet the height requirement or does not want to do a particular attraction (because it’s too scary, intense, etc.), one adult can wait with the non-rider (or riders) outside the entrance or exit while the rest of the party enjoys the attraction. When the other adult returns, they supervise the non-riding guests, and the waiting adult can board the attraction without having to wait in the regular line again.
To use Rider Switch, your entire party approaches the attraction, where they’ll find a greeter, little sandwich board, or kiosk near the entrance (basically, you’re looking for a Cast Member with an iPad). At least one adult member of your party and the guests who are not riding will be issued a digital Rider Switch entitlement by the Cast Member and asked to wait in a designated area near the exit or entrance of the attraction. This group is “Party 2.”
The other guests (“Party 1”) enter through the standby line as normal and ride the attraction first. After finishing, Party 1 finds Party 2. Then, Party 1 swaps supervision of the non-riding children–hence this being known informally as child swap. Party 2 enters and boards the attraction via the Lightning Lane courtesy of their digital Rider Switch entitlement with minimal wait.
Rider Switch is available on attractions with height requirements that have Lightning Lanes. Here’s a full list of current attractions that are Rider Switch eligible at all four Walt Disney World theme parks:
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Tomorrowland Indy Speedway
Frozen Ever After
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (Opening in Summer 2022)
Soarin’ Around the World
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
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Avatar Flight of Passage
Kali River Rapids
Na’vi River Journey
With the debut of paid Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, which replaced the free FastPass+ service, Walt Disney World has made a number of tweaks to queue procedures for other guests. Notably, this impacts both the Rider Switch service and Disability Access Service (DAS).
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 effectively allowed the older siblings to double dip and 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 Lightning Lane queue after Party 1 experiences it. 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.
As with other recent changes at Walt Disney World, this is being rolled out gradually.
Walt Disney World has updated the text of its official rider switch policy on DisneyWorld.com. In pertinent part, it now states: “Please note that if the person in party 2 waited alone with the child or non-riding Guest, the number of Guests who may join him or her and ride again is limited.”
While this policy change could be construed as even more stringent than what we reported last month, as it doesn’t mention any guests accompanying the waiting adult, that’s not what we’ve heard. Rather, the ambiguity exists in order to give Cast Members discretion over how many guests to allow on a case-by-case basis and given the seating circumstances of each attraction.
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, anticipating more with the paid Lightning Lanes. The company is probably cognizant of the fact that charging for line-skipping will exacerbate utilization and abuse of policies like Rider Swap, 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.
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. Word had gotten out about Rider Swap and other ways to leverage the Lightning Lane queue without paying for it. 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).
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!