All about the Rider Switch Pass (aka Rider Swap)

stevenmilz

josh's date at akershus
All about the Rider Switch Pass (aka Rider Swap)

If you're a guest at Walt Disney World with small children, one important perk you need to be aware of is the "Rider Switch Pass". This is often referred to as a "rider swap", "child swap", or just a "swap". In a nutshell, it allows a family with children too small (or unwilling) to ride one of the height-restricted attractions to be able to more easily experience the attraction. Throughout this post we'll refer to the Rider Switch Pass as a "swap" for simplicity. Also, we'll call the child who's too small or unwilling to ride the "non-rider".

How does a Swap work?
Basically a Swap is a paper pass, similar to the old FASTPASS tickets, that you get from a CM at a height-restricted attraction. It allows part of your party to remain behind with the non-rider while the rest of your party goes on the attraction (using either a FP+ or the standby line). When the original riders return, the person who stayed behind with the non-rider can then experience the attraction using the Swap via the FP+ line. This allows the entire party to experience the attraction with minimal wait.

As we discuss Swaps in this post, it'll be much easier to explain using an example. So let's follow an imaginary family of five - mom, dad, and three kids ages 10, 7, and 3. The 10 and 7-year olds are tall enough to ride everything, but the 3-year old is only 37-inches tall. That's too small to ride most of the height-restricted attractions.

How do I get a Swap?
Part of your party needs to experience the attraction via either the FP+ or standby lines. There is a misconception that Swaps are only available when using FP+; that is not correct. To get the swap, approach the CM at the ride's queue entrance and ask for a Swap. This is where your mileage will definitely vary because the process of distributing Swaps isn't very standardized. Some CMs will definitely want to see the part of your group who's going on the attraction to ensure you're "eligible" for a Swap (you can't just request one whenever, it's supposed to be in conjunction with guests riding via FP+ or standby). Some CMs will definitely want to see the non-rider. Other CMs will just give you a Swap if you ask for one without any questions. It typically varies by attraction, and some attractions aren't well set up for the "typical" Swap process. For example, take Soarin'. The attraction is downstairs in EPCOT's The Land pavilion. Strollers aren't allowed in The Land. So if the non-rider is asleep in the stroller when the party's FP+ window opens, you're not going to have to wake up the non-rider and haul him or her all the way downstairs just to get a Swap. The CMs at the Soarin' queue or desk will just give the people going on the attraction the Swap when they ask. They might need to explain the whole kid-asleep-in-the-stroller situation, but experience shows that the CMs aren't going to deny you the Swap. Basically, even though your experience getting a Swap may differ quite a bit over your vacation, you're not going to be denied a Swap if you're eligible.

How and when do I use a Swap?
This is where Swaps are really nice - they have a lot of options for being used. When you use the Swap, it's good for up to THREE guests. That means depending on your situation, some of the initial riders may be able to ride again. Taking a look at our example family, let's say that dad and the two older kids ride Space Mountain using a FP+; mom gets the Swap and takes the 3-year-old on PeopleMover. When dad and the older kids get back, mom can ride Space Mountain while dad stays with the 3-year-old and the two older kids can ride again with mom because her Swap is valid for three guests.

So when can I use a Swap?
There is a lot of flexibility with a Swap. Historically a Swap has been valid for the entire day on which it was received. That means that the Swap could be used right away or anytime until the park closed. Back to our example family, mom could use her Swap to ride Space Mountain right after dad and the two older kids got off SM, before the family left Tomorrowland. However, let's say the family had other FP+ to use, or had a lunch reservation. They could hold onto the Swap and come back to use it later in the day. Another additional perk that has come about with the change from legacy FASTPASS to FP+ is that the Swaps are usually valid for the entire MONTH during which they were received. So let's say our family got their Swap for Space Mountain on Tuesday June 17th. Their Swap is probably going to be valid until June 30th. Let's say the 3-year-old gets sick and they need to leave MK before using their Swap, but they plan on coming back to MK on Thursday. They'll still be able to use the Swap then.

Do I need to exchange a FP+ for a Swap?
In the past, one of the inconsistencies with the Swap process was that some CMs would force you to exchange a legacy FASTPASS ticket before issuing a Swap. In our example family, that means mom would have had to possess, and give up, a FASTPASS to Space Mountain to get the Swap. That said, probably 90% of the time that did NOT happen - the person getting the Swap did not need to exchange a FASTPASS. Why? Because remember Swaps are also valid if the first part of the party is experiencing the attraction via standby. In the new world of FP+, you don't have paper FASTPASS tickets to exchange for a Swap anymore. So as part of your vacation planning, you can set up your FP+ reservations figuring Swaps into the mix. For our example family, dad and the two older kids could have FP+ for Space Mountain while mom and the 3-year-old might get FP+ for a character meet-and-greet or a non-height restricted ride. As you can imagine, this greatly expands your touring ability.

Do Swaps only apply to too-short guests?
This is another misconception about Swaps. While most of them are used for the "too-small children" situation, technically Disney World's policy allows for Swaps "either because they do not meet the height requirement or simply do not wish to ride". This is spelled out on WDW's Rider Switch website (see the link below). So if you have a timid child who doesn't want to ride, even if they're technically tall enough to ride, you should be allowed to get a Swap. Many CMs don't realize this, and this is definitely a situation where your experience is going to vary when requesting the Swap. It's advisable to print out the information at the WDW website and show it to the CM if you encounter any issues. You can always request to talk to a supervisor or visit Guest Services if you experience a lot of pushback.

Where can I find the "official" information about Rider Switch (Swaps) on Disney World's website?
Here is a link to Disney's Rider Switch information page - https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/rider-switch.

What attractions offer Swaps?
Any attraction that has a height-restriction will offer swaps. You can find the "official" list of attractions on Disney's Rider Switch information page - https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/rider-switch. Keep in mind that as new attractions open, this page might not be immediately updated. For example, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train has been open for a number of weeks as of this post's writing and it still doesn't appear. Always remember a height-restricted attraction typically will offer Swaps.

At Magic Kingdom, the following attractions offer Swaps: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train , Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Stitch's Great Escape, The Barnstormer, and Tomorrowland Speedway.

At EPCOT, the following attractions offer Swaps: Mission: SPACE, Soarin', and Test Track.

At Disney's Hollywood Studios, the following attractions offer Swaps: Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Star Tours, and Tower of Terror. Toy Story Midway Mania does NOT offer Swaps since it's not height-restricted, even though you
probably don't want to take really small babies on it due to the spinning.

At Disney's Animal Kingdom, the following attractions offer Swaps: DINOSAUR, Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, and Primeval Whirl.

How about an EPCOT example?
Both of the "big" attractions at EPCOT - Soarin' and Test Track - are Tier 1 FP+ attractions, meaning you can't get FP+ for both on the same day. Let's assume our family splits their FP+ reservations - dad and the 10-year-old get FP+ for Soarin', mom and the 7-year-old get FP+ for Test Track. Dad and the 10-year-old ride Soarin' using their FP+, getting a Swap for mom in the process. Mom can then use her Swap later in the day to ride Soarin', taking the two older kids along with her (remember, the Swap is good for three guests). When it's time for Test Track, mom and the 7-year-old ride TT using their FP+. The 10-year-old is comfortable enough to use the Single Rider line, so he goes on at the same time mom and the 7-year-old use their FP+ while dad stays behind with the 3-year-old. Dad gets a Swap. Later in the day, dad uses the Swap to ride TT, taking the older kids with him.

One more example please...
Now our family is back at MK and is going to ride Barnstormer, another height-restricted attraction. However, the height requirement is only 35-inches and our 3-year-old is 37 inches - tall enough to ride! If the 3-year-old rides Barnstormer, you're not eligible for a Swap and the CM isn't going to give you one if the entire party enters the queue. But if the 3-year-old is tall enough, but too scared to ride, technically following the official Disney Swap policy you should still be entitled to a Swap.
 
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kohlby

New member
My experience is that the tall enough child will not get a swap, no matter what. However, they can have you do swap a different way in this case, all go into the ride and then trade off inside of the ride. They even went as far as making my barely 40" child get out of the stroller and measuring him just so they could refuse giving us a swap on the outside of the ride.

I would be very interested in knowing if anyone has managed to get a swap in the traditional way, outside of the ride, with a young child who was tall enough by printing out the policy.
 

ernierich

New member
Although it's not on Disney's list I thought I'd read somewhere around here that SOAT at EPCOT DOES offer child swap? I copied it down on my cheat sheet. Is this not true and more a case of wishful thinking?

I've looked for the original thread and can't find it.
 

mrsducky

New member
Thanks, I've always wondered about how this worked but never needed the information.

I am surprised; I would have thought that all parties would need a Fastpass if the first rider used one - i.e. in your example, if Dad and 7YO ride with a FP+, I guess I'm surprised that when Mom asks for the rider swap to ride it later, they don't check and see if she has one as well - at the point of entering the FP+ line, anyway. Do you think they will change this policy? and require everyone riding to have a pass?

Just interesting, that's all. :) Thanks for explaining.
 

stevenmilz

josh's date at akershus
I am surprised; I would have thought that all parties would need a Fastpass if the first rider used one - i.e. in your example, if Dad and 7YO ride with a FP+, I guess I'm surprised that when Mom asks for the rider swap to ride it later, they don't check and see if she has one as well - at the point of entering the FP+ line, anyway. Do you think they will change this policy? and require everyone riding to have a pass?
They can't, because when mom returns later they have no idea whether the Swap was issued in conjunction with the first part of the party riding using FP+ or riding standby. Remember, Swaps are not limited to use with FP+.
 

jon3b

New member
They can't, because when mom returns later they have no idea whether the Swap was issued in conjunction with the first part of the party riding using FP+ or riding standby. Remember, Swaps are not limited to use with FP+.
Stevenmilz, thanks so much for the thorough explanation! I'm wondering if you've had experience using Rider Swap with FP+, or if others you've talked to have used it? I understand that they wouldn't check FP+ when the second party comes back with the swap ticket, but it seems to me that they'd want mom (or dad) to scan their FP+ before they gave her (or him) the swap ticket and let the first party in. If you (or someone) can confirm you're right, this will DEFINITELY change how I schedule FP+ for my October trip! Thanks, again!
 

keeks

New member
We were there last November and used rider swap quite a bit. We did not always have FP+ for everyone, and they didn't ask us to see any FP's. I think the whole point of the swap is that the second person doesn't have to wait in a long line again...otherwise there'd be no point to the swap since that person would just go into the standby line like everyone else.

So, in our example, DH had FP+ for Expedition Everest, I did not. We got a rider swap. Nobody asked to see any FP's. I don't like EE, so DH used the rider swap ticket later that day to ride it again through the FP line.
 

Anne

Well-known member
Thanks so much for this wonderful explanation!!!! I've read several other explanations and never quite understood how you could end up with extra rides using the swap but your explanation makes it all so clear. Although sadly I just saw the other thread about the recent change in the swap policy :-(

Please keep us posted if you hear any confirmation that the new policy is consistently in use. I just dread having the non-riding party have to wait in a "designated area" while his older brother gets to ride twice. That just seems cruel so I'm hoping they won't enforce that part.
 

Anne

Well-known member
Oops. I missed the second page of that "change in policy thread". So really no change in policy probably?
 

cynthiap

New member
I have not seen any reports of issues or changes from the way it was. Here or on disboards. I've been monitoring as my touring plan includes several swaps.
 

ontheuptick

New member
Question! Let me give you my families scenario.

Me, Wife, 7, 4 (tall enough), and infant. I want to take advantage of the swaps, but my wife won't want to split up (that's just how she rolls). So, the idea of me and 2 big kids going into the ride, while her and the infant stay outside is less than ideal.

Can we all go into the queue (even infant, who is to small), have them wait in line with us just to be with us, but then not ride when we get up to the front? Can they do that all while still getting swaps as well?

I think I know the answer, but wanted to make sure.
 

Micah008

New member
One more note I would recommend adding, based on my experience: It is possible that CMs will refuse to give you a Rider Switch Pass when the normal standby line is very short and the ride is a walk-on. This is very uncommon but has now happened to us twice over the years of using the Switch Pass.

We were at BTMRR and Splash Mountain at RD on Friday, we got a Pass for BTMRR with no issue, and then when we went to Splash the CM refused to give us one "because the wait time isn't up to 10 minutes yet", when I nicely mentioned that this was not how things were normally done it was clear he didn't care and said "you aren't supposed to use them later anyway, you are supposed to use them right now and you can just get back in line.. so you don't need it". The story turns out well though... I asked a different CM later at the FP+ merge point... and he quickly handed over a pass no questions asked, and he hadn't even seen the child!

I think this was just the case of a grumpy CM, but we had this same type of thing happen at Mission Space a few years ago, also right at RD ... so you never know.
 

williejr

New member
Disney's site says:

If the person in Party 2 waited alone with the child, he or she may bring one Guest back to ride the attraction with him or her. Please note: Only 2 Guests are allowed per Rider Switch Pass.
Despite what it says, are Ride Switch passes still valid for up to three guests, or has there been a change?

EDIT: Just found this thread, which says the site has always read this way, but the passes have always been good for three people:
http://www.easywdw.com/forums/showthread.php?21684-Rider-switch-changes/page3
 

kohlby

New member
Update - I'm here now and they ARE letting my 45" child count for us to get a rider swap pass, even when he's over the minimum height! We have done three days and zero issues so far! (Star Tours twice, RRC, Test Track, Soarin). This is so much different from our experience in Nov of 2012 where they wouldn't give us one on several occasions since he was barely over 40". His sensory issues are acting up in full force, but I haven't had to explain that, they just give me one when I ask and say he's too scared to ride. We have not had to wait in the ride - we can come back like the way it was before. The only difference is that it's not limited to the day but the month, giving us until Sept 30th to use them.

They do still say good for 3 people total on them. And the CM also tells us that when they hand them to us.
 

cynthiap

New member
So glad to hear things are only better this trip with your experience with rider swap! Very relieved that nothing has changed for the worse.
 
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