I 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.