Prior to this trip, we were last in Walt Disney World in October 2015. Obviously there have been some big changes – Frozen Ever After, Pandora, etc. – that I’ll cover in individual blog posts, but there have also been some minor changes that are worth noting. Both are positive.
First, the bus depots at the parks have been expanded. This seems to mean that buses are less often shared between resorts. (It was an observation. Nobody could actually tell me this with certainty.) What it certainly means is that the buses are less crowded. Only once did I not get on the first bus that arrived and that was because I had sleeping children with me and we would have had to stand. I opted to wait so we could have the first choice of seats. Frankly, very few of the buses we were on had anyone standing, except by choice.
The second big change worth mentioning is to the Rider Swap option. For those who are not aware, Rider Swap enables a party to split in two for a ride so that an adult can stay with the non-riding small children, but not have to wait in the full line twice. It used to be that at the entrance you were offered a paper card that entitled three riders (the waiting adult + two companions) onto the ride later in the day. You still get that paper card eventually, and it still allows three riders, but it is a bit different. And, we goofed it up the first time so here goes.
Instead of getting the paper card at the entrance (FastPass+ or regular line), you will be given a lanyard. The party entering the ride keeps the lanyard and turns it in to the second attendant (normally where the FastPass+ line meets the regular line) exchanging it for the paper card. At this point they are deep in the bowels of the ride. They go on the ride. After they exit they give the card to the waiting adult who then goes through the FastPass+ line. I suspect they may have had an issue with folks collecting Rider Swap cards so they could go through the FastPass+ line, but not actually choosing to go on the ride that first time through the regular line. They are still super nice about giving them out, the waiting party just has to be visible to the attendants at the entrance – you don’t necessarily need to fight all the way there with your stroller and/or small children.
I had been warned that if you had fast passes initially all members would need to scan theirs to get a rider swap, but that was not the case on our trip. So, if you have small children you can still get an extra ride from time to time if you get there are the beginning of the fast pass window so that a second group can get in during the same fast pass window. The paper cards themselves are now dated to expire any time from the same day to a week plus out. I don’t know if that varies by ride/park or if it is somewhat random based on when you ask vs when they last happened to run the cards for that ride, because the paper cards are ride specific.
Once you figure it out (do not leave the lanyard with the waiting party!), its a perfectly fine system. And, if it prevents some folks from gaming the system to get in more rides (thereby choking up the FastPass+ lines), I’m all for it.