UPDATE June 14th, 2018: BIG CHANGES TO RIDER SWITCH! Rider Switch is going electronic! We don’t have complete details yet, but now instead of getting the Rider Switch pass ticket, they will scan your MagicBand or card and add the Rider Switch entitlement to your group. The entitlement will have a 1 hour return window that will start some time after the current time presumably to allow the first group to get through the ride and back again. You will no longer be able to accumulate Rider Switch passes to use at the end of the day, or another day.
Another potential but unconfirmed change is whether all members of a party will be required to have a Fastpass if anyone is going to use the Fastpass line the first time. Officially WDW Communications says everyone who will ride the attraction, including the one staying behind, will need a Fastpass. Anecdotal reports so far, prior to going electronic, is that there were an increase in CMs requiring it, but still spotty, and we have at least one report since starting the electronic version of it not being enforced. We, as always, will be monitoring the situation.
Note: The official WDW page on Rider Switch has had a number of innacuracies over the years…at the current time, it is correct for the general case but actual handling can vary depending on the situation.
What is a Rider Switch Pass?
Sometimes called a Baby Swap, Child Swap or Rider Swap pass, this is a special form of FASTPASS that can be obtained from a Cast Member when there is a young (or otherwise cannot be left unsupervised) guest who can’t go on a FASTPASS/FastPass+ attraction. For the rest of this section, call that person the “ineligible” person, and the person who is staying behind the “stay behind” (I welcome a better term) person. What makes a person “ineligible” is vague – certainly anyone who doesn’t meet the height or age requirements (if any) of an attraction. A person who does meet the requirements but simply is unwilling to ride does not make them ineligible, but it is up to the Cast Member, and some are more flexible than others. For the most part, the only guaranteed way to get a Rider Switch pass is to have a child who does not meet the height requirement, and the Cast Member may require them to be measured, and will definitely need to see them.
In general, a Rider Switch pass is only available at FastPass+ attractions that have a height requirement – see below for exceptions, however.
You can obtain one Rider Switch pass per ineligible/stay behind pair – i.e. one person staying behind but supervising two children can only get one pass, and two adults staying behind for one child can only get one pass, but one pass allows up to three guests to ride.
Also note that a Rider Switch Pass may not be available on a particular attraction, even one that has FASTPASS/FastPass+. Check with a Cast Member to be sure. They may accommodate the situation differently at the attraction.
To obtain one, you speak to the Cast Member at the entrance (the Greeter). Show them you have a ineligible guest (you must actually show the child, and they may be measured), and they will scan a person’s MagicBand to add a Rider Switch entitlement electronically, or hand someone in the party a physical Rider Switch pass. Usually they hand it to one of the guests going in the first group, who would then bring it back to the stay behind guest when they return, but sometimes they will hand it to anyone in the party. The remaining guests MUST proceed into the Standby queue immediately, or the FastPass+ queue if you already have a FastPass+ reservation and the Return Window is open.
Walt Disney World has also tested a method to insure less abuse of the system, where a member of the party entering the attraction first is given a green card, which is handed in later in the attraction and they are given the Rider Switch pass. This does not appear to have become common practice.
When the first guests return, the remaining guest and up to two others (so the stay behind person doesn’t have to ride alone) can then enter the FastPass+ queue, turning in the Rider Switch pass.
A Rider Switch pass can be used any time the same day it is obtained, actually – you do not need to use it right away. Use it any time that day at your convenience. In fact, they may have an expiration date several days in the future, and could be used on another day – but they are meant to be used on the same day – the future expiration is more a matter of printing convenience.
I know of three exceptions to how Rider Switch may be handled at some attractions:
- Mission: SPACE: On rare occasions, you get the Rider Switch pass at the exit from the simulators to the arcade-like area and gift shop. This may necessitate that the waiting adult wait near the inside doors where the riders exit in order to be able to show the child. This appears to be somewhat rare.
- Space Mountain: Since the 2009 refurbishment, you can still get the Rider Switch pass at the entrance, but you might be able to optionally have the entire family enters the queue together. When you reach the merge point of the FastPass+ and Standby queues, you show the Cast Member the Rider Switch pass and they will direct those that are waiting to the “Omega Lounge” (the unloading area) to wait. When the others return, your head back to the loading area with the Rider Switch pass. There may be variations as to how this is handled as well.
- Star Tours: For a time, children were swapped physically at the simulators, but recent reports show that they are using Rider Switch pass again, but not necessarily all the time. Ask a CM for details if you are not sure.
The Rider Switch pass does NOT entitle the first set of guests automatic access to the FastPass+ queue – only for the stay behind guest and up to two extra guests.
For a group with a couple of older kids and a younger one who can’t ride, this is a great advantage for the older kids – they can ride multiple times. For instance, a family of 5 with two adults, two eligible kids and one ineligible kid, the two eligible kids can ride twice, once with each parent, with the second ride being a shorter wait (unless they use FastPass+ for the first ride).
Rider Switch passes may also be given out in certain circumstances by Cast Members in compensation for certain reasons (stuck on ride, etc.)
There are also special Rider Switch-like FASTPASS tickets called Attraction Re-Entry tickets that are good on any FASTPASS attraction, also sometimes given in compensation, but they seem to be rare these days.
What if my child is tall enough but doesn’t want to ride?
This may be up to the Cast Member. In some cases, the child will be allowed in the queue, but may exit to a waiting area while the rest of the party proceeds. If the child needs to be attended, an adult may wait with them, then swap with another adult and ride. In other cases the Cast Member may provide a Rider Switch pass anyways. Each attraction is a bit different on how it can handle such things, so you need to ask the greeting Cast Member as to how it can be handled with your situation. Do NOT expect a Rider Switch pass, however. The only guaranteed way to get one is to have a child under the height requirement – otherwise the passes would be easy to abuse.
What about attractions without a FastPass+ queue/height requirement?
Some non-FastPass+ attractions, or FastPass+ attractions without a height requirement may also offer some form of “child swap”, which usually entails a physical transfer of a child at the loading area or some other location but may also offer a similar pass. Each attraction is different so check with a Cast Member for more details.
Can I use Rider Switch and FastPass+ at the same time?
In general yes. If you have FastPass+ reservations, the first group can use the FastPass+ line instead of the standby line.
However, there is confusion about how many of the guests should have a FastPass+ reservation. Since the inception of FASTPASS, in general only each person entering the FASTPASS/FastPass+ queue has needed to have one to enter. The person staying behind did not, and would use the Rider Switch pass later. But every so often there are reports that a Cast Member required the person staying behind to also have a FASTPASS/FastPass+ if the first group were going to use them, and would trade it for the Rider Switch pass.
Since switching to the electronic Rider Switch entitlements in 2018, it now seems that officially all riders including the stay behinds need to have a FastPass+ entitlement if the first group of guests intend to use the FastPass line, but this still doesn’t seem to be largely enforced. Reports as of December 2019 indicate that it is most often enforced at Flights of Passage and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.