RideMax is a tool that can help you avoid waiting in line at Disneyland. Here's what I have found about it while using it for my Disneyland trips.
It's sad but true. 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 reduce your wait and you can take a look at my best ideas, too, but many guests end up waiting as much as two hours for their favorite rides on a busy day.
An alternative to all the line-standing is RideMax. It not only puts a lot of the "happy" back into the "happiest place on earth," but it can save you money, too. It was created by Mark Winters, a software engineer who loves Disneyland. He's also the 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. These are my experiences.
The Biggest Challenge
On an August Sunday, I used a RideMax itinerary to enjoy 26 Disneyland attractions. It was a plan that included everything two adults might conceivably want to do, including Splash Mountain, Star Tours, Space Mountain and Indiana Jones Adventure. The park was typically packed, as you would expect on a summer weekend.
With our itinerary, my Handsome Honey and I were finished in time to watch the evening parade and fireworks, and our longest wait was about 10 minutes.
He commented several times during the day that it was as if someone waved a magic wand and made the crowds disappear.
I don't recommend such an aggressive schedule as this test for most visitors. Not only were we worn out by the end of the day, but our first hour was quite hectic.
At other times when the park was less busy, RideMax steered me and my pals to attractions when they were least busy, giving time to ride our favorites twice.
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.
Disneyland is not providing 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. That means your total wait time for the day may be longer than it was a few years ago, but RideMax will still help you spend the least time possible waiting, no matter what Disney does.
RideMax gets my vote of continued confidence, years after my first test. On a busy day, it 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.
However, as good as Ridemax is, it won't help you if you don't trust it. If you are going to second-guess the plans and abandon them because think you know better, you'd might as well save your money and not try it.
RideMax offers a web-based version for traditional desktop computers, as well as a mobile web version. They do not have an app.
In theory, the desktop/mobile device combination should allow you access to your plans no matter where you are. The only catch is that cellular data access at the Disneyland Resort can be a problem. Some carriers have low signal strength, and lots of people using their devices in a small area can slow down data rates.
To avoid those hassles, you could print out your itinerary and carry it around with you. It's a strategy that's old school, but it works just fine. I choose a slightly higher tech approach to be sure my RideMax plan is available no matter what: I do a screen capture of the plan on my phone and I have it, no matter what happens with coverage and signal strength. I can even share it with my friends by texting it to them.
How to Get RideMax
One RideMax subscription is all you need to get itineraries for both Disneyland and California Adventure.
The price is set by how long your license lasts. It costs a fraction of the expense 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.
I recommend getting started making your itinerary at least a few days before you go to Disneyland. You may want to try several before you find the one that suits you best.
Working with RideMax
Before you use Ridemax, get prepared:
Decide when you are going to visit. The day of the week is important because waiting patterns vary, especially on days when Disney offers their Magic Morning early entry.
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 how fast your group can move. Choosing 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.
Some rides may be closed for refurbishment, and RideMax doesn't take those 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 website, 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. It's also a good idea to create an alternate plan that starts 15 or 30 minutes later than your ideal time, just in case.
Allow time to get to the gate. You have to park and ride the tram, walk or take a bus from your hotel to the park, and you will have to go through a security check. All of that could take an hour or more. Think through what yo have to do and allow time so you can be at the first attraction on schedule.
Be sure you have the correct time of day. Back when I wore a traditional wristwatch, it 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 mobile device. 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.
Schedule shows, entertainment, and parades into your day. You can get the daily schedule and how long they last from the Disneyland website. If you plan those activities as breaks, start your break time 30 minutes before they begin.
Stop in Toontown for the parades (but stand near it's a small world to watch). For the fireworks, make your break in the central hub. In California Adventure, you can watch the parade near Paradise Pier, but you won't need to allow extra time before it starts.