Home » 8 Things to Know About Disney’s Rider Switch vs. Universal’s Child Swap

    8 Things to Know About Disney’s Rider Switch vs. Universal’s Child Swap

    Height Sign

    If you’re travelling to Walt Disney World or the Universal Orlando Resort with a small child, you’ll inevitably come across the question of what to do when the child is too small for an attraction but the rest of your party wants to ride. This problem pops up so frequently that both parks have specific plans in place to assist you. These are designed to allow everyone in your party to ride with minimal disruption to your day, despite having to take turns waiting with the wee ones.

    What’s confusing for many Orlando visitors is that Disney and Universal approach the issue in completely different ways. If you’re traveling with a child who may be too short to ride certain attractions, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with these policies ahead of time so you can make the most of the options available to you.

    1. Disney won’t allow small children in the queue

    Height Sign

    If you have children in your party who are too short to ride a particular attraction, they won’t even get past the entrance at Disney. If they can’t go on the ride, they can’t go in the queue. It’s important to set up your rider switch before you get in line because Disney’s system is designed to let the child who isn’t riding go enjoy something else while the first half of the party rides. The party members who aren’t riding receive rider switch passes that work like FastPasses when they return.

    One person in the party can also ride twice. This means that if Mom and Dad have Big Brother who can ride Dinosaur and Little Sister who’s too short, Mom can ride with Brother while Dad waits, then Brother can go again with Dad while Mom waits. This way no one has to ride alone.

    2. Disney’s Rider Switch tickets have no time limit

    Rider switch passes look much like the old FastPass tickets. The benefit for these is that there’s no time limit on them. If the guests who aren’t riding head across the park to do something else and don’t want to come back and take their turn till a little later, that will work just fine with this system.

    3. Universal asks you to wait in line together

    At Universal, your entire party has to wait together. This means that even small children who can’t possibly meet the height restriction will go through the entire queue with you. If you don’t have an Express Pass and you want to take turns riding Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts when it has two-hour wait, you will all be waiting in line alongside the impatient toddler who won’t even ride. This system keeps your party together, but it can present some challenges when you’re in the queue with children who won’t get much of a reward at the end of the wait.

    4. Universal provides child-friendly waiting areas during the ride

    Since children have to wait in line with you at Universal, there’s a handy waiting area for them to sit in while the rest of the party takes turns riding. On some attractions (such as the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man), this is a spacious room with chairs and televisions. However, some are so crowded even the amenities can’t make them comfortable (such as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey). Others, like Bluto’s, don’t have much more than a few outdoor benches.

    5. Both parks ask children to be present

    At both Universal and Disney, you need to have your child with you when you set up the switch. Universal obviously requires you to keep your child with you all through the queue. However, even at Disney you will need to take your child up to the entrance when you get your rider switch pass. This option is only available for parties with a child who is too short to ride, so you can’t ask for a rider switch just so you can take turns and allow the second half of your party to bypass the line.

    6. Rider switch and child swap don’t work on all rides

    Journey of the Little Mermaid

    Since the rider switch and child swap options are designed to accommodate parties with children who are too short to ride, these systems are only available for rides that have height restrictions. You cannot do a rider switch for Aladdin even if the baby is sleeping because technically the baby is welcome to ride.

    7. If you have a FastPass+ reservation the system is useless

    Toy Story Midway Mania

    You don’t need a rider switch pass if you have a FastPass+ reservation because all the rider switch will do is send the second half of your party through the FastPass line. If you have a child who is riding twice, he can even use his FastPass twice as long as you explain to the Cast Member that you’re doing a rider switch with him.

    8. Sometimes it’s better not to bother

    Understanding how the rider switch and child swap systems work is handy because it will also help you decide when they’re not worth the trouble. At Universal in particular, it’s often better to just split your party up and take your child somewhere else while each half of the party rides. Many Universal attractions have single rider lines which offer a quick way for the second half of your party to hop on the ride even without an Express Pass. If you have a baby sleeping in a carrier, however, Universal’s system may work wonderfully, allowing everyone in the party to keep each other company throughout the queue, even with the baby sleeping on your chest.

    Every case is different, so use these tips to help you decide how rider switch and child swap can best work for you.