“Is this ride scary?” It’s one of the most common questions we hear in line for the Harry Potter rides at Universal Orlando. “Is it too intense for my child?” The answer, of course, is it depends. And no stranger can tell you if your child will be scared or not. Don’t let a bad experience ruin your day at the park. Universal’s Child Swap program is a super-efficient way to preview a ride before your kid. Here’s how to do it.
Universal Orlando Child Swap
Child Swap is available on all of the Universal Orlando attractions. It allows children in your party to wait, with an adult, near the ride’s loading area while other adults in the party ride the attraction. Think of it as a tag-team approach that allows every adult in your group to ride even if the kids can’t or don’t want to.
One of the best uses of Child Swap is for one adult to ride the attraction first to find out if it’s suitable for the kids in the group. You’ll get a complete picture of what the children will experience on the ride, so you can make an informed decision about whether this attraction is right for them.
Whether they ride or not, kids get the entire queue experience
At both of the intense Universal Orlando Harry Potter attractions, the Child Swap waiting areas are located directly next to the ride loading area. So anyone participating in Child Swap will walk through the entire ride queue as if they were riding the attraction.
This means kids who don’t actually get on the ride will still see the inside of Hogwarts Castle. The Escape From Gringott’s ride queue takes you right through the Gringott’s lobby and even on a sort of a ride before you get to the main ride. This may be enough to satisfy your young Harry Potter fan, even if the main attraction proves too scary.
How Child Swap Works
When you get to the front of the queue at the loading area, tell the attendant that you’d like to use Child Swap. Non-riding adults and kids will be directed to a nearby waiting area. Riders can go there too if you need to help settle your group. Just let the attendant know when you’re ready to ride.
The first adult to ride should be the best judge of what your kid will think of the ride. (Sounds obvious, but give it a little thought before you send your 14-year-old son to decide if his 7-year-old sister will or won’t be scared). Go for the ride. Have fun. Try to pay attention to whether you think this is too much for anyone else in your party.
Rather than heading out the exit at the end of the ride, the first rider will meet up with the rest of the family in the Child Swap area. Talk over what you experienced and make your informed decision about who else should get on the ride.
Once the first rider has finished, anyone else in your party can immediately get on the ride. This might mean that your whole family jumps on, or if you’ve decided it’s too intense for your youngster, this is the chance for any other members of your group to get on the ride with no further wait.
I have heard many stories of kids who won’t ride anything else all day because they’ve been so traumatized by the Harry Potter ride. When you take advantage of Child Swap, you can really reduce this risk. Plus you still get to ride even if your child doesn’t.
A few other tips for riding Escape From Gringotts and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey with kids
Watch all of the movies before you take your trip to Universal. You should assume that anything you see in any of the movies could seemingly come to life on the ride. Anyone that’s really scared of a character, creature, or scene from any of the Harry Potter movies could have a very unpleasant experience on the ride. This goes for both Escape From Gringotts and the Forbidden Journey attraction, and is another really good reason to have someone in the group ride first before everyone jumps on.
These attractions are really amazing but there are also a ton of incredible experiences in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Even if you don’t get on the big rides, the magically immersive world of Hogsmeade Village and Diagon Alley is really the main attraction. Do your research ahead of time so you have a good idea about all the things to see and do (and eat!) that don’t involve scary rides.
The best time of day to ride the Harry Potter rides is FIRST thing in the morning. Neither of these rides is included in Universal’s Express Pass program, so the only way to beat the crowds is to literally beat the crowds. Guests who stay in any of the Universal on-site hotels receive early admission to the parks – usually just one of the parks each day.
Check out my posts about how to use this early admission to maximize your time in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter:
Child Swap – It’s not just for children and it’s not just for Harry Potter rides
It’s not just kids who get scared on the Harry Potter rides. If you think your mom, cousin, or boyfriend might not like the intensity or motion of the ride, they can wait in the Child Swap area while you take a spin and give it a preview.
A lot of the rides at Universal Orlando are very intense. And unlike the Hulk coaster, most of them are hidden inside buildings where you can’t see what the ride looks like until you’re on it. Use the Child Swap to preview anything where you’re uncertain about suitability for your kid. A good guidebook, like the Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, can give you a sense of which rides you should be most mindful of.
Here’s my post that lists all the movies that inspire rides at Universal Orlando. If you see something on the list that’s iffy, take the time to re-watch the movie before you go. If the movie’s too intense for your kid, you may want to skip that ride.
Rider Switch at Disney World
Yes, you can also preview rides at Disney World using Disney’s Rider Switch option. Disney’s Rider Switch is a bit different than Universal’s Child Swap, but it also allows riders with kids to tag-team a ride without extra time waiting in line. Here are Disney’s instructions for using Rider Switch.
Park Hacker Tip
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