Waiting in line can tarnish the Disneyland experience, despite Disney's efforts to shorten your wait with the FASTPASS system. Guidebooks offer all kinds of ideas about how to shorten your wait and you can take a look at our best ideas, too, but many patient guests end up waiting almost two hours for their favorite rides on a busy day.
An alternative to all the line-standing is Ridemax. It will not only put much of the "happy" back into the "happiest place on earth," but it can save you money, too. It's the brainchild of Mark Winters, a software engineer who loves Disneyland, and father of some of the happiest kids around because they help him collect the wait time data that feeds Ridemax's scheduling program.
Since first trying Ridemax in late 2000, I've tested it many times.
The biggest challenge was on an August Sunday, using a RideMax itinerary to enjoy 26 Disneyland attractions (an itinerary that included everything two adults might conceivably want to do, including Splash Mountain, Star Tours, Space Mountain and Indiana Jones Adventure). With a Ridemax itinerary, we were finished in time to watch the evening parade and fireworks and our longest wait was about 10 minutes.
At other times when the park was less busy, Ridemax steered us to attractions when they were least busy, giving time to ride our favorites twice.
I don't recommend such an aggressive schedule as my first Disneyland adventure for most visitors. Not only were we worn out, but our first hour was quite hectic. However, a family of four could easily use RideMax to help them see all the park's attractions in one or two days instead of three or four, saving money on tickets and spending their extra time somewhere else.
As we enter an age of smart phones, Ridemax has developed a web-based version for traditional computers, as well as a mobile version. In theory, this combination should allow you access to your plans no matter where you are, but depending on your carrier, data access in the park can be problematic. Our simple-minded solution to be sure our plan was available no matter what: use your phone to photograph your plan on the computer screen and you'll have it, no matter what happens with reception and signal strength.
However, Disneyland is choosing not to provide FASTPASS options for some of its newer attractions and not even Ridemax seems to be able to keep you out of a long line at Finding Nemo.
With these new developments, we give Ridemax a tentative vote of continued confidence. On a busy day, Ridemax can save you a lot of time, but nowadays, it's far from the only tool a Disneyland visitor can use. See our review of mobile websites and iPhone apps to find out whether they might work better for you.
How to Get Ridemax
Ridemax is available for both Disneyland and California Adventure. The price is set by how long your license lasts, and it costs a fraction of the cost of a single Disneyland ticket, so you don't have much to lose. You can pay online and access it right away from their website.
Working with Ridemax
Before you use Ridemax, get prepared:
- Decide when you are going to visit. The day of the week is important as waiting patterns vary, especially on days when Disney offers their Magic Morning early entry to some ticket-holders.
- Pick realistic start and end times for your day, but start as early as you can because it will save waiting time. In tests, an 8:15 a.m. start saved almost an hour of waiting compared to starting just 15 minutes later, motivation enough to get out of bed when the alarm rang.
- Pick the rides and attractions you want to visit. Consult our Disneyland or California Adventure ride guides to help you choose. Also decide whether you want to schedule water rides only during daylight hours and whether you want to ride anything more than once.
- Decide whether your group will move at a normal pace or more slowly. Normal pace will take you across the park more often, sometimes walking very briskly. Slower pace is better for large groups, people traveling with small children, busy photographers, gawkers and slow walkers.
- Ridemax doesn't take refurbishment schedules into account. Check the Disneyland schedule to see if any rides will be closed when you visit. That way, you won't waste time in your schedule for them.
- If you and your travel companions are sharing the same Ridemax subscription, be sure to label your plans with a unique name and that you aren't working on the same plan at the same time. Otherwise, you'll be tripping all over each other.
Besides the tips at the Ridemax web site, which you should read and follow as closely as possible, I found a few more things helpful:
- Start on time. Tell the kids they will have to skip rides to get on schedule and they'll be motivated to help you do it, but it's also a good idea to create an alternate schedule that starts 15 or 30 minutes later than your ideal time, just in case.
- Remember that you have to park and ride the tram or take a bus from your hotel to the park, and you may have to buy tickets before you get in, all of which could take an hour or more. Allow time for all that so you can be at the first attraction on schedule.
- Be sure you have the correct time. My watch was a few minutes slow, and we fell behind. It was easy to catch up by skipping a ride and coming back later during free time, though.
- Pick up a Disneyland map at the gate and keep it handy or install one of our favorite Disneyland apps on your smart phone. Your Ridemax schedule will lead you back and forth across the park, and it's easier to get to your next destination on time if you know where you're going and can start walking right away.
- Trust the itinerary. We were tempted to stop at Haunted Mansion during scheduled free time when the wait was 15 minutes, but when we came back at our Ridemax-scheduled time, there was no wait at all.
- Ridemax doesn't allow you to schedule shows into your day. If you want to see them, get the daily schedule and how long they last from the Disneyland web site and fit them into breaks in the Ridemax schedule you get - or create a forced break if the show is really important to you. For the parades, schedule your stop in Toontown (but actually stand near it's a small world) and for the fireworks, schedule the break at the central hub. Fantasmic is near New Orleans Square. For these popular activities, schedule your break to start a half hour before their scheduled time. In California Adventure, you can watch the parade near Paradise Pier, but you won't need to allow extra time before it starts. Allow a half hour ahead of World of Color, though.
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