What is RideMax?
RideMax is a software program, created by Disneyland fan Mark Winters, that calculates the best time to ride each ride at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure for the least amount of waiting and walking time and then creates an itinerary to fit your schedule. Mark and his family of park experts have gathered data on rides and visitor trends to create a program that can predict when the lines will be the shortest and what the FASTPASS time windows will be at any given time for each ride.
As my friend Karen, an anthropologist, remarked, "It's great to see observation of human behavior applied in such a practical context."
I tried it out for myself on a two-day visit to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure with my friends Karen and Don and their two kids, Maya, 9 and Miles, 7. After the first hour, we were all converts.
How Do You Use RideMax?
After launching the software, you choose which park and what date. Data is usually available up to eight weeks ahead, but it's best to do your final schedule close to your visit to have the most current data.
Then you select the rides you want. It helps if you prepare this in advance, but a description of each ride appears at the bottom of the page when you click on it.
In the Plan Options, you choose what time you will start and end your day. You can also schedule two breaks.
Additionally, you can select whether your group will be walking at a normal or slow pace and whether you have someone in your group willing to act as a "runner" to go get FASTPASSES for the group.
Another variable is whether you are willing to allow late FASTPASS scheduling. This means you could be scheduled to use a FASTPASS after the hour-long window printed on the PASS has expired. This is safe to do. We were informed by a Disneyland cast member that all FASTPASSES are good from the beginning of the start hour until the end of the day.
You can also schedule water rides during the warmer hours between 10 am and 4 pm.
Checking "Display tips on plan" will provide additional tips related to the rides you choose.
What Do You Get?
Running the program may take anywhere from a couple minutes on a fast computer and connection to a half hour on a slow computer. It also depends on how complicated your schedule is.
When the program has finished its calculations, a web page will appear with a timed itinerary telling you when to show up for each ride, how long the wait should be, how many minutes the ride will take and the time you need to walk to the next attraction. If you checked "Display Tips," the tips relating to your rides will be listed at the bottom of the page.
Go ahead and check Display Tips. Some are helpful hints on navigating the park and others provide interesting tidbits about specific rides.
You can print out the schedule or view it on the mobile website, no special app is required.
Does it Work?
It works like magic. We used RideMax in August on a Thursday for Disneyland and Friday for California Adventure and felt smarter than everyone else in the park. Some lines were actually shorter than projected and we sometimes walked faster than the "slow" that I predicted, so we got ahead of schedule and were able to fit in a couple extra rides.
It was incredible to see how just a few minutes before or after our scheduled time, the line was significantly longer than in that brief window when we breezed through it.
Doesn't It Take All the Fun and Spontaneity out of Disneyland?
On the contrary, it's a great stress reducer. My friends were concerned that trying to stick to a strict itinerary might be stressful for the kids. I assured them we could go off schedule any time. However, once they saw how we walked onto the first three rides without waiting at all, they were hooked.
In fact, once the kids saw that all the attractions they wanted to go on were already on the schedule, and they experienced how quickly we got on the rides, that eliminated any complaints about passing up a ride they wanted to go on. We also didn't need to waste time discussing what to do next.
We stepped off each ride and headed straight for the next one.
For more information, visit ridemax.com.
Continue to Making the Most of RideMax.
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Getting the Most Out of RideMax for Disneyland
RideMax recommends creating several different itineraries with different start times. I created an 8 am itinerary and an 8:30 itinerary, but we didn’t get into the park until 8:39. We were fortunate that the wait at the Indiana Jones Adventure was shorter than expected, so we were right back on schedule.
A weakness of the program is that it doesn’t include shows and parades, so they don’t get on your schedule.
Another problem is that you can only schedule two breaks. That’s not enough if you plan to get there by 8 am and stay for the fireworks. We wanted to take a lunch break around 11:30, go back to the hotel to rest for a couple hours around 1:30, have dinner at 6:30 and watch the fireworks at 9:25. There was no way to factor four breaks into the program.
Trial and Error: Working Around the Two Break Limit
After running a series of itineraries to see what they looked like, I noticed that the program leaves free time several times a day. I used this fact to let the program determine when we would have lunch instead of specifying it myself. I scheduled the hotel break and a break for our dinner reservation. Instead of ending the day at 11 and having a break for the fireworks, I ended the day before the fireworks. This left the time after the fireworks open. The program gave us a natural break around noon long enough to grab our sandwiches from our locker and have lunch.
The disadvantage of this, is that since we were staying in the park after the fireworks, it didn't take advantage of the program's ability to calculate the shorter lines later in the evening. We may have spent longer in a line earlier in the day, because we didn't know we could have had a much shorter line after 10 pm.
To get around this, you could run a separate itinerary for the last couple hours from 9 to 11 or 12 pm, plugging in the rides that have the longest waits on the earlier schedule to see if you can improve the wait time.
If you're totally flexible, you can start by running an itinerary with all the rides you want to do with your earliest start and latest end time and no breaks. This will give you an idea of the short wait times you can have for popular rides with no FASTPASSES at the beginning and end of the day. Since those periods have the shortest waits, the program will automatically schedule most activities at those times, leaving a break of several hours in the afternoon or evening where you can see a show, sit down for dinner or go back to your hotel to rest. If the program schedules over something specific you want to do, like watch the fireworks, you can go back and program a break at that specific time.
Every Change You Make Produces a Completely Different Itinerary.
If you switch from a "normal pace" to walking "slow," your whole itinerary will change. Entering "runner" versus "no runner" for FASTPASSES will do the same thing. It helped to print out several schedules, so that if there was a break in our main plan, we could look and see if something on an alternative program showed a short line at that time.
However, if you get behind on your itinerary, you should skip something to get back on schedule. If you stick to the lineup, but the timing is off, you'll end up waiting and being unhappy.
We began our second RideMax day at California Adventure. Our itinerary advised us to grab FASTPASSES at Grizzly River Run and keep going to the California Screamin’ roller coaster. At Grizzly River Run, the Stand-By wait was only five minutes. I heard a chorus of "Let's just go on now!"
"RideMax says we should resist the temptation," I mumbled, ready to give in myself.
"OK, we trust RideMax," Karen said without argument, and we went on to have another wait-free day.
RideMax is $14.95 for a 90-day subscription or $24.95 for a year. Both versions include access to the web and mobile web versions. There's an additional option that includes an e-book, but I haven't looked at the e-book.
This investment will drastically increase the value of your Disneyland vacation.
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