Ridemax: Don’t leave home without it!

ridemaxI would not go to Disneyland without Ridemax.*  I would not even go to Disneyland without Ridemax if someone else were paying.  Not everyone will like Ridemax.  For some people, vacations and regimentation are simply opposites that cannot be reconciled.  Not me.  The planning of the vacation is more fun to me than the vacation. 

I don’t worry about lack of spontaneity, I worry about standing in line.  What’s spontaneous about standing in line?  At Disneyland, if you don’t have a plan, you will stand in line.  I haven’t discovered any ride I like so much that I would wait an hour for it.  With Ridemax, you can ensure that you only ride when the lines are short.  Ridemax tells you what to expect and then you can plan accordingly. For example, if the only time you are free to go to Disney California Adventure (DCA) is at 6:00 p.m.and you hope to ride Toy Story Mania at that time, you will have to wait in line for an hour.  Because Ridemax is able to predict the wait for the date and time of day you hope to go, you can decide whether it’s worth it to you to go on that ride at that time. 

Also, Ridemax’s predictive powers made splitting up our group much easier.  With one part of the group determined to go on Tower of Terror and Mulholland Madness and the other desiring some nice kiddie rides, this was invaluable.  I was able to predict what the wait would be on the kiddie rides that time of day and plan fun stuff for the 3 yr old  to do while the others used up all the fastpasses. 

Ridemax helped me to manage expectations.  Our family was slow moving and needed to take a long afternoon break.  Most nights we couldn’t stay in the park very late, because we wanted to be at the park very early the next morning to beat the crowds. Obviously, these constraints cut in to how many rides we could ride.  Not only did Ridemax help us maximize the number of rides we could ride during our limited time in the park, it also helped me to understand  how many rides we would realistically be riding.  I could tell my family: “here’s what fits in the time we have today”–and that helped forestall possible disappointment.  

Ridemax is written by people who  understand the fastpass system and Disney strategy inside and out.  Lots of people understand how important it is to get to the park thirty or forty minutes before it opens.  But it is common for those same early arrivers to make the mistake of immediately proceeding to the ride they  like the best: Space Mountain, for example,  and to ride it while there is no waiting.  Ridemax asks you to have a little faith and to do some counterintuitive things.  Go to Space Mountain and pick up a fastpass even though there is no waiting.  Don’t ride it!  Why?  Well, if you are also planning to go on Dumbo and Peter Pan (or some other popular yet low capacity rides for which there are no fastpasses) you should ride those first–you will then be free to use the fastpass at your leisure. 

Caveat: It’s not perfect

While I would definitely buy Ridemax again, it isn’t a perfect program.  There are several ways in which the program could be more sophisticated.  On the other hand, it costs $15 for a part year subscription, and I wouldn’t want to pay more than that, so how much sophistication can I reasonably hope for?

One thing to understand is that planning your visit to Disneyland with Ridemax will require a little time and trial and error.  (If you are a planner, this process is  interesting and fun.  If you’re not a planner–well, your effort will be rewarded when you don’t have to stand around waiting in the heat.)  You probably won’t use the first itinerary you come up with.  You will want to make several different itineraries to learn what fits and what doesn’t and to see what tweaks–adding a ride here, or subtracting one there–will make your plans work better.  This is especially true if you plan to visit Disneyland and DCA over several days, because it will make more sense to plan certain rides for different days.  There are some days that are better for visiting Toontown and some that are better for visiting California Adventure, etc.  Also, you probably wouldn’t want to try to ride Peter Pan and Finding Nemo the same day.  These things become more obvious as you play with your itineraries.     

One obvious problem is that Ridemax doesn’t currently let you schedule shows or parades at Disneyland (they just added this functionality for Disneyworld) into your day.  You can schedule two breaks, but that many not be enough when all meals, shows, parades, etc. are considered.  I found that the best way of handling breaks or trying to find time to see the shows was to simply select all the rides we wanted to go on, but omit the breaks.  If my schedule didn’t end up with natural gaps in it, that meant I had too many rides scheduled.  The truth is, the best time to see the shows is during the afternoon when it is hot and the rides are very crowded.  Ridemax automatically tends to leave gaps in your schedule during this time because it is the worst time to ride the rides anyway.

Don’t forget that you can create as  many itineraries as you need.  This is useful not just for envisioning what your day will be like if you enter at 8:00 vs. 8:15 (it’s very different!), but also if you want to parkhop.  Simply start your itinerary at the other park at the time you plan to be there and then you will know what to expect in terms of lines and fastpass return times when you arrive.  Also, if you end your first itinerary early, to eat dinner or see fireworks, you can then make another itinerary that starts after dinner ends  and continues until the time you’ve chosen to leave.  Also, if you want to go on Space Mountain three times, just add it to your list of desired rides three times.  Ridemax will calculate the most time efficient way for you to satisfy this desire. 

Ridemax is not as flexible as would be ideal.  For example, there isn’t a way to schedule time for the second parent to ride if you are doing a parent switch in which one parent rides with older children while the other parent waits with the younger (or shorter) child.  This isn’t a game ender, even if you plan to do lots of parent switches.  You have a few options: plan to use the parent switch fastpass at the beginning or end of your breaks, or have one parent use the fastpass while the other parent takes the other children to the next ride on schedule (with the parent using the fastpass skipping that ride).     

Another area in which the program seemed to lack flexibility was in scheduling the runner.  Ridemax allows you to indicate that you will be using a runner, someone who is willing to run to another location with the groups’ entry tickets in order to get fastpasses for everyone.  Having a runner saves a lot of time.  It saves even more time, however, if the runner is okay with the rest of the group going on a ride while the runner gets the fastpasses.  However, Ridemax always assumes that the group will wait at the next ride until the runner gets there.  If the runner is the Space Mountain person in the family, and everyone else is just standing there waiting and watching the line for Dumbo build, that doesn’t make sense.   However, this is another problem that is easy to overcome: just ignore the fact that Ridemax thinks you will wait for the runner and go ahead and get on the ride.  The great thing about Ridemax is that you have the rides you plan to go on all mapped out and a predicted time for each one–this makes it much easier to plan how and when you will reunite with your runner (although you will still want your cellphone!) 

Thanks to MaryAnn and Sharon whose blogs convinced me to fork over the money for the program.  It seemed like an expensive luxury for a single Disney visit at the time, but now I understand that it was  an investment in getting full enjoyment out of my parkhopper pass (I did).  If you are interested in other positive comments from the web about Ridemax, see here and here

Look here for more tips on how to get the most out of Ridemax  (very helpful).  Negative reviews of ridemax are here and here .  I  think these reviews are mistaken on several points.  For each problem they raise, there is either a good response, or at minimum, a reasonably effective workaround.  If you have questions about Ridemax or about the points made in the negative reviews, please raise them and I’ll try to answer below. 

*I am not affiliated with Ridemax in any way.  I paid full price for my use of the program, and I have not received any financial or other advantage from reviewing it here.

5 thoughts on “Ridemax: Don’t leave home without it!

  1. Nice review, and thanx for the link. I’m glad you found RideMax worthwhile. However, I have a problem with a statement in your penultimate paragraph, where you state:

    “For each problem they raise, there is either a good response, or at minimum, a reasonably effective workaround.”

    I listed four major problems I had with the program, none of which have I seen either a “good response” or a “reasonably effective workaround” for either in your review or elsewhere-

    1) Inabilitiy to schedule both parks on the same itinerary. The parks are literally across from each other and walking time between some attractions spread across both parks is quicker than walking time between some same-park attractions. So, why no ability to schedule both parks? You mentioned your park hopping passes in your review, but not that RideMax is useless for these passes. What’s the response or workaround for those only having one day to visit both parks?

    2) No Sunday data. As I pointed out, the suggestion of using the Saturday schedule simply doesn’t work, as pointed out by many who love the program. And, I’m sorry, but “we don’t want to give Sunday data” isn’t a “good response” in my book.

    3) Not counting “pre-opening” waiting time as waiting time for Toy Story Mania. What’s the workaround for this? Other than ignore what RideMax tells you, of course. But if I’m better off ignoring its advice then why should I give them my money in the first place?

    4) RideMax shows no time difference for E-Ticket rides in the afternoon or evening. What’s the response or workaround for this? The wait times for these rides DO vary throughout the later part of the day, but RideMax ignores that fact.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-Ridemax. I’m sure it is wonderful for many people. And the company gets an A for customer service in my book as they quickly and easily honored their 30-day guarantee (as I noted in a comment on my own post). So if anyone’s considering buying the program, go for it. Just make sure you know when it’s too late to get your money back if you’re dissatisfied as I was.

    .-= Aahz´s last blog ..Where Have I Been? Seeking Dinner Ideas! =-.

  2. Aahz, I’m so glad you took the time to reply here. I wanted to reply to your specific criticisms in my post, but didn’t because it was so long already. Since you ask, though:

    1) I don’t see the lack of ability to schedule both parks in a single itinerary as an important shortcoming of the program. I believe that given the necessity of waiting to have your hand stamped upon leaving the park, and then having to go through entry at the other park, plus the distance between the two parks, means that very frequent parkhopping would not be worthwhile for most people.

    Although Ridemax is willing to send a runner crisscrossing across a single park, underneath it all the program is trying to minimize walking time because time spent walking is also time spent not riding. This isn’t to say that parkhopping within a single day doesn’t make sense, it’s just to say that I don’t think anyone will do it repeatedly. For example, one morning we went on all the low capacity kiddie rides in Fantasyland at Disneyland (for which waits would be much longer later in the day) and then left Disneyland in order to be some of the first to arrive at Disney California Adventure (which opened two hours later than Disneyland). This sort of plan can be easily accommodated by creating two itineraries: one that plans a 90 minute visit to Disneyland scheduled to start at Disneyland’s opening, and a second itinerary that plans for the family’s arrival at DCA’s opening time. It worked great.

    2) I think your second criticism may be your strongest point–at least for people who hope to attend the park on Sunday. As you noted in your review, this isn’t a gotcha type problem. Prospective purchasers of Ridemax are warned about this prior to purchase. Ridemax suggests using the Saturday program for Sunday. This sounds like a reasonable (although not perfect) workaround to me. I suppose if you ended up ahead of schedule, you could just jump on an extra ride and say yee-hah! However, if the data for Saturday proved to be very, very different from Sunday, it would be a big drawback for Sunday attenders. I don’t know if that is the case. In any case, I am impressed with the family’s courage in following their conscience. I understand why it could be a problem though for the many who don’t share their views. As you note, their satisfaction guarantee is generous, so if someone discovered that Ridemax’s Saturday schedule didn’t work well on Sunday, he could at least get his money back.

    3) Your third point is mistaken. The mistake lies in focusing on the total wait time for the very first ride you go on. No one goes to Disneyland just to ride a single ride once. So, it is important to look at the wait times for your entire itinerary. Arriving thirty minutes early allows you to hurry on to a ride like Toy Story Mania that will have a much longer wait in just thirty minutes. If the thirty minutes early arrival time were just for TSM, it might not be worth it. However, consider what happens when you get off TSM at 10:10 vs. for example, 10:40. By the time the park has already been open 40 minutes, the fastpass return windows are later and the waits for rides without fastpasses are substantially longer. Also, the wait times start to snowball. If you wait is longer for ride #2 at 10:40, the wait for ride #3 is then even longer than it would have been and this builds until the park is full at 11 or 12 or whenever (I’m not Ridemax so don’t know the exact figures!) You have to add up all of those individual longer wait times. If you do that, it becomes clear that arriving early saves time in the long run.

    4) I’m not sure what you mean by e-ticket. Is that another word for fastpass? As I understand it, Disney castmembers are supposed to feed more and more fastpass holders through the ride in front of the standby line to keep the fastpass return wait consistently short. I found the Ridemax predictions for all the rides we went on to be surprisingly accurate. We got ahead of schedule a few times and rode an extra ride and behind once and had to skip something, but all in all it was great. I didn’t expect that their predictions would be correct to the minute–so many variables affect one’s wait.

    Perhaps your claim is that the standby line times for fastpass rides are not accurate. That could be true, but for us, thanks to Ridemax, it never came up. With Ridemax’s help, we always had fastpasses for the fastpass rides. It was awesome! and that is why I was very satisfied with Ridemax.

  3. well I do love passionate arguments…so I have to put my 2 cents in on point #3.

    This was exactly the point I made to Pmom when she first showed my ridemax. I said, ok so it says here that I have to be in line early so I can be in first, but if the program really is trying to reduce my wait time I maybe am better off showing up 5 min after the park has opened when they have gotten through the big gate line and I can proceed in a flash through that to the first ride. But she convinced me I was wrong (as she usually does).

    There are 2 reasons I was wrong:
    1) It is always is less waiting if you arrive at the park a bit before it opens. This was Pmom’s point to me (same as her point above to you) and here’s how she proved it to me. First off we created 2 schedules with the same rides in them. One for starting when the park opens and one for starting 10 min after the park opens (I assumed that was how long it takes me to get through the long gate line because I didn’t arrive early) and what we saw was that the extra wait time on the second one was substantially longer than 30 min. So even if I arrived 30 min early I was still better off than if I showed up just as the park opens. Someone with Ridemax can test this out on their own of course. Or you can take a friend to the park on the same day and have them show up just as the park opens and you show up early and you can see who waits longer doing all the same rides. That would be a fun experiment. We didn’t try it though. With Pmom showing me the two ridemax schedules and her also saying that the unofficial guide said it always makes sense to arrive early, we just did that.
    2) maybe it depends on the person but the way I think about it this program is all about helping you with the really hard stuff–the stuff you really can’t figure out on your own–trading off stuff…should I walk over and get a fastpass for something on the other side of the park or should I wait in the line right next to me for a ride I also want to do and get the fast pass later or …. there are a million scenarios–which is a better use of my time? Now, for waiting before the park opens, what is the trade-off? you can’t ride during that time, you can’t get fast passes during that time. you can only do one thing during that time as far as the park is concerned–wait. Now what would be nice is if you tell ridemax what time you actually arrive at the park and it calculated what that means. For example: if I said I will arrive at the park 10 min before the park opens it would spit out a schedule showing how long I wait in line for nemo–my first ride. If I said I will arrive at the park 30 min before it opens it would show a schedule with less nemo wait time because I am at the front of the gate line. That would be nice. Not sure though that it is possible to come up with an accurate estimate. In our experience (only 5 days) we could see that not all of the gate lines push people throuh at the same speed and then a lot depends on how much someone jostles between the gate and the line up on main street. Then once they allow you past main street there’s the dash to the first ride. So there’s a lot of other factors than just what time you get to the gate line so I don’t think it is predictable on gate time arrival only.

    With all that said, I think it would be a nice addition to have a recommended arrival time for any schedule which starts at the same time as the park opens. If you tell ridemax you want to start when the park opens then it shows a statement right before your schedule saying that if you want to start on schedule you should arrive to the park X minutes early.

    • I regret that I didn’t see this sooner. It is true; Ridemax won’t let you plan your Disneyland schedule far in advance. You need to wait until 30 days before your trip to activate it. That said, I think if anyone had the problem of having bought access to it too early, they could probably contact Ridemax and ask for help. They offer a satisfaction guarantee, after all. I’m guessing they’d probably be willing to help.

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