It’s 4:00 PM. Disneyland is jammed, and you’ve used up all your FastPasses. You really want to ride Space Mountain, but it’s a 75 minute wait. You could a) suck it up and wait 75 minutes to ride, b) find another attraction with a shorter wait (Mark Twain Riverboat, Tarzan’s Treehouse, or Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln?), c) browse Main Street and catch the Dapper Dans (which I HIGHLY recommend, BTW), or d) use the Space Mountain single rider line and get on in about 25 minutes. Wait, what? You can do that? Heck, yeah!
As a family of four with two younger kids, we were never inclined to try the single rider line in the past. Aside from breaking up our cozy little unit, I felt a bit funny about riding with (or waiting in line with) people I didn’t know, like going solo to dinner or a movie. Three family trips to Walt Disney World have come and gone, and we’ve never tried using single rider (or rider switch, which I’ll discuss later), but during our recent (and first ever) trip to Disneyland, we were faced several times with situations similar to the one I painted above. With our kids now 13 and 9 (and still hating to wait in lines) we thought it might be a good time to finally try out the single rider line.
Mind! Blown! Using single rider was like getting free FastPasses! Here’s the basics on how it works.
For some attractions (not all), seating is broken up into smaller groups for ride vehicles. Disney (and most other theme parks) will try their hardest to fill every ride vehicle, to help speed up the ride queues and minimize guest wait times. For example: filling a six person car for Test Track, where the next two groups in line may be parties of three and two, for a total of five, leaves one seat unfilled. Enter single rider. Cast Members will pull from the single rider line when needed to top off unfilled ride vehicles. It keeps people moving through the lines, and doesn’t waste precious ride vehicle space.
The nature of the single rider system is that guests are used to fill in holes and fill up the ride vehicles. So when our family of four decides to use single rider, we know going in that we will not be able to ride together (if you are lucky, you might get on a ride as a pair). Cast Members do not like to quote a wait time for the single rider line, as it is truly based on need, but they can often give you an idea of what to expect.
We successfully employed this tactic in Disneyland on Space Mountain and Splash Mountain, and at Disney California Adventure on Radiator Springs Racers and Incredicoaster. We also used single rider on Star Tours, but with an unsuccessful result – more on that later.
Like most decisions if life, your decision to choose the single rider line will have both pros and cons, as I list below.
Single Rider Pros
Shorter Wait Times
As I mentioned above, the single best advantage to using single rider is to minimize wait times for attractions. This strategy is a no-brainer for folks visiting the parks solo, but it is also reasonable if you are with a party of multiple guests and you don’t mind riding separate from the other members of your party.
Split Decision Flexibility
Single rider is helpful for groups where not everyone wants to ride the same attraction, or for groups that include smaller children who can’t or won’t ride a specific attraction. Splash Mountain in Disneyland is a good example of an attraction with very long lines, but it is also an attraction that some people just don’t want to ride. We were visiting Disneyland recently during a cooler day, with high temps in the upper 60s, and cooling off late afternoon. Our son, who never minds getting wet, was dying to ride Splash Mountain, but the rest of us, who had gotten soaked on the ride two days earlier, were not interested in repeating the experience.
My wife escorted our son through the single rider line, and he got to ride twice, with a minimal wait both times. He was happily soaked (we had packed him a change of clothes), and we were happily warm and dry. While my wife escorted our son, my daughter and I enjoyed a different attraction and shared a hot chocolate (like I said, the temps were cooling off quickly). It was a win-win for everyone.
Single Rider Cons
Splitting Your Party
The obvious single biggest con for using single rider is that you won’t be able to ride with your entire party. For our family of four, we prefer to experience the attractions together. It adds to the magic for us. This is partly why we never considered using single rider during past visits to Walt Disney World. So what we did on several occasions was to use a FastPass to ride an attraction once as a group, then use the single rider system as desired for additional rides on that attraction for some or all of us.
Riding With Strangers
The other consequence of splitting your family up is that, by definition, you are filling in spots with other parties. For a Chatty Cathy, this is no big deal, and can even add to the experience if you strike up a quick conversation with someone else in line, or in your ride vehicle. If you are shy by nature and don’t like talking or riding with people you don’t know, then this may negatively impact your experience. This leads to my next point…
Many of the attractions that offer single rider also take photos of you while riding the attraction. When your party rides together and you all appear in the same ride photo, it’s an instant memory capture. But when you are split up and you are each in separate photos, the magic of the ride photo is largely stripped away. This is another reason why we prefer to ride the attraction once together before we split up for additional rides.
On the flip side, our ten-year-old son happened to ride Splash Mountain with a group of mid-teenage ladies who wanted to make a funny face for the ride photo. Our son was invited in on the plan. He felt like quite a big shot being part of the group, and was beaming in the ride photo.
Single riders will almost always ride much faster than they would using the standby line, but sometimes, depending on the attraction, the need for single riders is not as great depending on the ride vehicle configuration. This is the case for Star Tours in Disneyland. The tour shuttle pods can accommodate around 40 guests in a shot. That means one or two single riders (if needed) can jump into a pod of up to 40, as opposed to one or two single riders per carload of six on Test Track or Radiator Springs Racers. With this decreased need for single riders, the single rider line can move very slowly. For Star Tours, we waited over 30 minutes in the single rider line, whereas the standby wait time was posted at 35 minutes. We essentially broke even on this attraction time-wise, and lost out on being able to ride together. I do not recommend riding Star Tours as a single rider, primarily for this reason, but also for the next reason listed below.
Theming and Queue Interactivity
With the construction of every new attraction (or refurbishment of an existing attraction) Disney is getting better and better at improving the guest experience in the standby queue lines. When guests ride using FastPass or single rider, they are giving up a certain amount of the attraction experience for the benefit of getting on the ride more quickly. This is even more the case with single rider than it is with the FastPass line. The single rider lines often enter through a side door, as is the case with Star Tours in Disneyland, or wind in through the exit, like Space Mountain, joining the standby queue line near the vehicle loading area.
Single riders on Test Track will not be able to design their own car, and single riders on Star Tours will see none of the queue line’s entertaining robotics and animatronics. These queue experiences are no big deal if you’ve done the attractions before and are looking for a quicker hit, but if you want the full attraction experience, you will lose some of it when you choose single rider.
Below are the lists of attractions for Walt Disney World and Disneyland parks which feature dedicated single rider queue lines.
Walt Disney World Attractions With Dedicated Single Rider Queue Lines
- Test Track
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Rock ‘n Roller Coaster
- Expedition Everest
Disneyland Attractions With Dedicated Single Rider Queue Lines
- Splash Mountain
- Space Mountain
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Star Tours
Disney California Adventure:
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Grizzly River Run
- Goofy’s Sky School
Note that aside from these attractions listed, there are other attractions that will offer people in the standby queue lines the option to split off as single riders and skip the remainder of the standby line, but these are not official single rider lines. Space Mountain and Splash Mountain in Magic Kingdom both offer this alternative when the situation presents.
An alternative for those traveling with small children (or dependant adult guests who are unable to ride certain attractions) is the rider switch system. This system allows multiple members of the same party to ride an attraction one after the other in succession, while trading responsibility for other guests in their party who are either too young, too little, too nervous, or aren’t healthy enough to ride select attractions and be left alone.
To use rider switch where it is offered, the entire party needs to visit a Cast Member in line. The Cast Member will provide the adult members of the party with two rider switch entitlements (either a physical pass card/ticket, or a designation within their MagicBand account), and will be directed to a designated waiting area. The first adult guest will present their entitlement to the Cast Member, and ride the attraction (with up to two additional members of their party), and upon completion of the attraction will return to the other adult guest and trade out supervision of the non-riding guests. The second adult guest may now present their rider switch entitlement and ride the attraction (with up to two additional members of their party who have not yet ridden the attraction).
Note that up to three guests are allowed per Rider Switch Pass. This includes the guest responsible for supervising the non-riding members of the party, and up to two additional guests. The intention here is to allow as many members of one party as possible to experience the attraction; not to allow guests to ride multiple times using the same rider switch occasion. With the use of the MagicBand system, Walt Disney World is able to place entitlements on the MagicBand, and thereby track the use of the rider switch entitlement to allow guests one ride per use of the rider switch pass.
We chose not to use rider switch during our time in the parks when our children were younger. I felt a little guilty about the notion of trading off our kids so we could ride attractions without them. Since Disney parks offer so many experiences for families to share together (which is exactly what Walt Disney himself always intended), there was always plenty else to do that everyone in our party could experience together. I can see much more benefit to using a rider switch system in parks like Universal Studios, where the range of attractions caters to a much wider audience, and there are fewer experiences that full families can enjoy together.
There are many more rider switch opportunities at Walt Disney World and Disneyland than there are single rider opportunities, so I will not list them all here. The Disneyland website offers filters for both single rider and rider switch attractions, so you can easily plan those ideas ahead of your visit. Walt Disney World’s website does not offer the same attraction filter on their website, but you can do a quick internet search and find several posts listing these opportunities.
So there you have the basics on the single rider and rider switch systems. Let’s do a roll call. Have you used either of these systems in your visits to the parks? If so, what were your experiences? Please let me know with a comment here on the blog, or feel free to send me a direct message via our Facebook or Instagram pages.