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Disclosure: On our recent trip to Orlando both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando provided me with two free press tickets each. These tickets allowed us to move between parks and the Universal tickets came with an Express Pass. There was no agreement as to what I was going to write about regarding my experiences. These words and ideas are my own.
Walt Disney World Rider Swap Issues & Needs for Improvement
My family and I love theme parks including everything Disney. In fact, we have been to every Disney Resort around the world and I will be visiting each one this year again. About a year ago we had a beautiful baby girl, who also loves Disney, but there are of course some rides she just isn’t tall enough to go on. In comes “Rider Switch” or Baby Swap or whatever you want to call it.
The basics of a Rider Switch are simple. One adult waits in the line and rides while the other adult stays with the child. They are given a ticket (either at the entrance or when they get on the ride) that allows the second adult to “skip the line” (along with one or two others) and ride while the first adult watches the child. It seems like a great solution, but at Walt Disney World it really is failing.
Better Policies Exist
Child swap passes at Walt Disney World allow the second adult to “skip the line” by using the Fastpass queue. While this sounds good, sometimes the lines for Fastpass are quite long themselves. This means that often it takes twice the amount of time to complete the swap. This might be acceptable if there wasn’t another way, but there is.
On this recent trip to Orlando we also visited Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure. Instead of having rider switch passes, Universal has actual child swap rooms near the ride entrance where a parent can wait with the child. Once “Adult One” gets off of the ride, “Adult Two” walks right up and gets on. This is a much better solution for a few reasons.
First, the entire family can wait in the line together in most cases. The child swap rooms are near the actual ride stations so we were able to wait in the queue together before being split up. This made things so much easier for us. Second, there is no “Fastpass” or other queue. The switch is instant. “Adult One” gets the child and “Adult Two” walks right on the ride. The way it should be.
Disneyland Paris Does It Right Too
Now some will argue that Universal has a lot more height restricted rides which in turn means they need a better policy (perhaps somewhat true), so let’s look at another Disney Resort that does it the right way. Back in March we visited Disneyland Paris for baby Ellie’s first birthday. It was a magical day and one that was made so much easier by their “Baby Switch” program.
At Disneyland Paris “Adult 1” would wait in line and get the switch pass when they reached the front. After getting off the ride, “Adult 2” would use that pass to go up the exit and get on the ride immediately. It basically worked like Universal’s system in that it didn’t punish parties doing a swap. If Disneyland Paris can do this, then surely Walt Disney World can do better than they do now.
A World of Its Own
I understand that Walt Disney World is a unique place and that things are a bit different with Fast Pass+, etc., but the truth is that families are being punished by this policy. In some cases the wait is almost double what it would normally be, because the swap takes a lot of time. We ran into this for example at Test Track where it took my wife 25 minutes to get through the Fastpass line after I had already waited and rode.
To be honest I don’t know what the exact solution will be to this problem because Walt Disney World is operated at a huge scale, but I do know that this policy is failing. In the Test Track example, we lost almost 30 minutes of our day that we shouldn’t have. At other rides it was 10 or 15 minutes. That adds up over the course of the day.
In the end we enjoyed our day at Walt Disney World and still had a wonderful time, but there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to Rider Switch. Perhaps their policy wouldn’t have stood out to me so much if we had not visited Disneyland Paris or Universal Orlando as well, but we did. To me, Universal’s policy and facilities are top notch, while Disneyland Paris does a good job as well. The bottom line is Walt Disney World can and should do better.
What do you think? Does Rider Switch at Walt Disney World work just fine or should they implement a similar program to what we see in other parks like Disneyland Paris? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
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