Theme Park Insider

Save Time When You Go Solo, with Single Rider Lines at Disney and Universal

October 18, 2015, 9:51 PM · These past 18 months, I have been fortunate enough to visit the theme parks in California on three different occasions and in the Orlando area once. And three of these times, I found myself in a situation most people frown upon in mostly any given moment in their lives — I was utterly by myself, spending my days alone while enjoying the theme parks.

If you are one of the many people that flinch at the thought of being by yourself, this is definitely not the experience for you. But if you are open to the idea, then being alone at a theme park could go to the top of your "To Do List." The freedom of choice in a place with so many options is an intoxicating feeling. You can choose your best route through the park, stop to eat or take a break whenever you want, and go over and over on the rides you like without compromising with anyone else. (Eight consecutive times at Men in Black Alien Attack is my personal record.)

Naturally, theme parks are well-aware of this and have created a concept that is not strictly for our use, but does serve us perfectly well — the Single Rider line, a resource so important for "loners" as a Fastpass or Universal Express.

Radiator Springs Racers
The Single Rider line at Radiator Springs Racers in Disney California Adventure can save you a lot of time over waiting in the standby queue.

Life is definitely not the same when you are a Single Rider at Disney or at Universal, however. It might not seem so at a first glance, but it is shocking how much more we are respected and even appreciated at Universal theme parks when you chose the Single Rider option.

At Universal Orlando Resort, for example, there are nine official Single Rider lines, including most their top attractions. And other rides, such Jurassic Park River Adventure and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, sometimes accommodate Single Riders during their busiest times. In Walt Disney World's four theme parks, only three attractions offer Single Rider lines. (In California, Disney’s selection is a bit bigger, due to Disney California Adventure.) It’s a big difference, one that you can feel when being alone at the parks.

Here’s a quick rundown of the Single Rider options offered at Disney and Universal parks in the United States:

In Central Florida

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Epcot

Universal Studios Florida

Islands of Adventure


In Southern California

Disneyland Park

Disney California Adventure

Universal Studios Hollywood

I dare say that, after these recent trips, I’ve gotten the feeling that Universal treats the Single Riders in a slightly better way. No, Disney can never be rude to its guests. But when I’m using the Single Riders lines at Universal I feel like I am in a win-win situation. “Hey I’m all alone here. Why don’t you help me go through this line faster, since I’ve got no one to talk to while waiting, and I’ll help you out by filling in this empty seat that nobody was going to use anyway?”

It may sound silly at first, but this thinking leads to better and faster Single Rider lines. I’ve never seen a Universal employee think twice before loading one or even two people from these lines onto empty seats at, say, Revenge of the Mummy or Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit. And I've definitely seen, over and over again, cast members at Disney desperate to find a couple anywhere in line at rides such as Matterhorn Bobsleds instead of choosing two Single Riders – even if it means getting someone from way, way down line, near Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage! There were at least two occasions in this attraction in which guests who entered the regular line at the same exact time as I did got into the roller coaster first, rode it and left waving goodbye to me while I was still there, waiting for my turn at the Single Rider line.

I do know there is a matter of how many seats the attraction has - people in theme parks tend to travel in group with even numbers, so rides with three seats per row usually need more Single Riders. And let's not forget the matter of physical space, since one has to open up space to provide for Single Rider lines. But why can't Disney provide better service in the rides where it already offers this option?

Disney is surely powerful enough in this business to create its own standards. So why follow a trend that they obviously do not care for? Even though I’m a hardcore Disney park fan, I’ve found myself on more than one occasion leaving Disneyland Park or Magic Kingdom feeling that I could have done so much more if they provided better Single Rider options. This is an area in which, for me, Universal definitely has gotten the upper hand. By far.

Replies (14)

October 19, 2015 at 12:27 AM · I have to completely agree with you on this one, Renata. Universal certainly treats its single rider guests better than Disney.
I just visited Disneyland and USH last month and the difference in the single rider treatment is overwhelming. Universal never hesitated to put single riders into empty seats, even when that number was up to two. I went during the low season (mid september) so lines where not that long, but the single rider line was indeed a winner. I got on Revenge of the Mummy 10 times in a row using the single rider line and all the wait I had to do was the walk from the entrance to the loading station. The employees were just spot on when it came to filling in those empty seats. This goes for Jurassic Park River Adventure and Transformers too. Regular wait times were around 25 to 30 minutes but single rider guests only waited about 3 to 5 minutes in total.
Disney on the other hand left me with mixed feelings on their single rider option. Attractions like Splash mountain and Radiators Springs Racers have to be the fastest moving lines for single riders. They easily helped me save up to an hour or two of wait times. The Matterhorn though was just aweful. It even got to a point when it became frustrating because the line would just not move for 10 minutes straight. Disney cast members would give preference to couples or parties of three than to let a single rider fill in a seat. I probably waited about the same time in the single riders line as if I had queued on the regular stand by line. Very Dissapointing.
October 19, 2015 at 3:59 AM · I'm just back from a solo trip to Orlando and I had an amazing time! Universal and IOA are on top of their single rider game. They were so efficient and the single rider was a huge positive for me.
Disney let themselves down a little and there are loads of places that single rider could work so well but they just dont take advantage of it, which is a shame really.
October 19, 2015 at 4:26 AM · Yeah, I myself have been planning to do a trip by myself to Disney and/or another theme park. Don't get me wrong, I love my family and traveling with others can be fun, but traveling alone has a multitude of benefits outside of Single Rider lines.

In a group, not only do you have to pay for your admission and meals, but you also have to pay for other people's admission and meals.
By yourself, you only have to pay for your admission and meals.

In a group, you have to compromise between what you wanna do and what everyone else wants to do.
By yourself, you only get to do what you want to do.

In a group, you have to pack extra stuff to suit everyone's needs.
By yourself, you only pack what you need.

In a group, if other people have important commitments the next day, even if you don't have any yourself, you can't stay out too late so that they can get enough sleep.
By yourself, if you don't have any important commitments the next day, you can stay as late as you want (until the park closes, that is.)

The guy from the Forever Alone meme doesn't know how good he has it.

October 19, 2015 at 4:47 AM · I've never understood people who cant go places alone. Although I love sharing my experience with loved ones, I also enjoy doing things alone. It's quite liberating doing only what you want and not checking with anybody else.
October 19, 2015 at 6:03 AM · I couldn't agree more with this article. I am constantly traveling solo (by choice!) Andy love it, so when I am in the theme parks, i feel as if I am getting on rides much more efficiently at Universal than at Disney My record on HP and the forbidden Journey is 9 times within 90 minutes!!!!

I do wish more Disney attractions utilized the single riders lines - Pirates, BTMR, SDMT, Space Mtn, Soarin, Dinosaur, etc.

One thing that really irks me is when parties of 4 or more utilize the single riders line to try to minimize their wait, when people like me now have to wait longer because I am truly a single rider!!

October 19, 2015 at 8:42 AM · I agree with the writer on single riders. We don't use it at Universal much since we usually have hotel express, but we do it on Gringott's, which doesn't have express lines, and we're usually on the ride in a few minutes. It's great for repeat rides. We used the single lines at WDW during the past two weeks since they have their wacky tiered fast pass system that limits fp's for most of the good attractions at Epcot & DHS. We rode Test Track (which I like "way" better than the former version) six times, and Aerosmith three times. While it helped shorten the crazy long lines at those attractions, it still was a fairly long 30 minute wait. Even fastpass lines were usually pretty long on most attractions during the past two weeks. For those who may think that October is a slow month at WDW, rethink it. Lines were comparable to summer & Christmas season. Touring Plans recorded the first series of Level 10 crowds outside of Christmas/Easter/Summer since they've been doing the crowd levels. Magic Kingdom & DHS (front area since the back area is nearly empty of people)were almost impossible to walk through between the crowds, strollers and electric vehicles. Looks like there are no more slow seasons.
October 19, 2015 at 8:51 AM · Yes, Universal is great on this. Rode Forbidden Journey five times in 45 minutes during a busy time, but please stop telling people. Actually, forget what I just said. Please look at this watch...you are getting drowsy...there is no single rider line...there is no single rider line...
October 19, 2015 at 9:25 AM · One time I saw the single rider line for Jurassic Park, and it was longer than the regular line, The best line is probably the studio tour's two person line
October 19, 2015 at 10:00 AM · I couldn't agree more with matterhorn. I waited probably a half an hour when I was only 3 people bach in line. I was annoyed for sure. The other single rider lines where no problem though.
October 19, 2015 at 10:37 AM · In Anaheim, the Matterhorn and Soarin' single rider queues are notorious for being slow, sometimes even slower than the standby line. Cast Members would definitely choose a party of two over single riders, even if it means pulling them from somewhere far from the end of the line.
October 19, 2015 at 10:56 AM · Single rider works great for couples also, I mean once you get on the ride how much time are you going to have for talking?

We've also been caught in the single rider hell that is Disney's Matterhorn. It's like they are challenged to fill the seats without using the single rider line.

Over all I have to say Universal see's single rider as a crowd management tool while Disney doesn't seem to know how to use or manage it.

Disney has so many rides that a single rider option would help them speed things up but they just can't grasp the concept. Of course they think FastPass and Magic Bands are the answer to all of their crowd management problems.

At DCA they had a single rider option the Monsters Inc. ride that got to be so popular that instead of managing, expanding and using it they closed the option down!

October 19, 2015 at 11:25 AM · Good article! I usually go to parks alone for some of the reasons you mention, such as the freedom to follow my own agenda; not many people would want to ride El Toro 10 times in a row, which I have done. I think that single rider lanes are great but find that they vary considerably in terms of the wait time and do not always guarantee being able to get on a ride quickly. The quickest I've experienced were those for Impulse at Knoebels and Maverick at Cedar Point. The slowest thus far has been the single rider lane for Wicked at Lagoon. Most of those waiting in the regular queue were in groups of 2 or 4 so that there weren't a lot of seats to fill in. I didn't have to use the single rider lane for Cannibal b/c the park extended me every possible courtesy for this ride but b/c Lagoon's policy for all rides is that single riders may not ride in the first or last row of any ride, a single rider would have to wait until there was an empty seat in the 2nd row. (Cannibal's trains have 3 rows.) While the single rider lane does expedite access to Zumanjaro at Six Flags Great Adventure, I have on occasion had to wait for half a dozen rides to be completed before boarding b/c the ride ops tend to load from the main queue and will usually pick only one person - more if there's an empty seat to be filled - from the single rider lane.
October 19, 2015 at 1:33 PM · Every theme park in the world should utilize single rider lines on any attraction that has the ability to facilitate it. As noted above, the single rider line for Men in Black is one of the best, and those "in the know" can expedite their way back to the loading area even faster without having to walk back through the full line (assuming the crew are cool with it - I've run across some crew members that get upset and will deliberately make you wait before going down the stairs if they know you're taking the "short-cut"). For me, the Gringott's line was one of the worst. Part of that might have been technical issues with the attraction when I was visiting last fall, but much of it is that many many people know about that particular line (more than any other one) to avoid the 75+ minute standby line. I waited over 45 minutes in the single rider line once for Gringotts last October. On the other hand, the Forbidden Journey single rider line is great (and a bit of a secret because you go up an unmarked stairway that many don't know even exist. Best of all, if you don't want to miss all the amazing stuff in the standby queue, you can ask a crew member to give you the "tour of Hogwarts", which is a queue next to the standby queue that goes through all of the rooms for you to see without having to stand in the standby line (great way to pass the time on a hot day too, btw).

I think the difference in the way Disney and Universal approach single rider lines has to do with the types of rides each resort has and the way the attractions are designed. It also has a bit to do with the guests. It wasn't noted here, but Toy Story Midway Mania at DCA used to have a single rider line, but the way it was facilitated was a bit strange. If the empty seat was next to a child, cast members would typically let the set remain empty. Sometimes they would ask a parent/guardian in the group to see if they were fine with a single rider sitting next to the child. While I can appreciate it considering the design on the TSMM vehicles (flat bench seating with no divider between the seats), it was rather annoying, and led to ebbs and flows in the single rider line. I've seen cast members do the same thing at both Radiator Springs Racers and Test Track, but not as consistently as they used to at DCA's TSMM. I also find it odd that DCA can pull off a single rider line at Soarin', but EPCOT cannot. Maybe the cast members at EPCOT are super efficient at loading, and rarely leave any empty seats, but there's certainly room in the queue for a single rider line. Both theaters in Florida have two load lines, one for disabled guests and the other for pre-loading, just like in California. All they need to do is send the single riders down the disabled guest lines as needed to fill empty seats during the pre-show.

As far as I'm concerned, if you're going to design an attraction with an odd number of seats per row, you should ALWAYS have a single rider line. Also, if you have attractions that regularly operate with 45+ minute waits and run more than 50 empty seats per hour, you should have a single rider line for that attraction. It doesn't have to always be open, but at least have the queue there for guests that are willing to fill those empty seats when standby lines get long.

Heck, if Six Flags can pull it off, every park should be able to do it. I just got back from Six Flags Over Texas, and their single rider line for Justice League was extremely efficient, and appropriate for an attraction with vehicles seating in 2 rows of 3. Other Six Flags chain single rider lines are not nearly as good - as Bobbie noted, the Zumanjaro line can be hit or miss, as well as the Green Lantern line (both Magic Mountain and Great Adventure). It upsets me to no end to see seats going empty on rides when I'm either in a park by myself or with my wife when we're more than happy to ride separately if that means we get on that much faster. There's no excuse for parks to run vehicles with numerous empty seats and overflowing lines.

October 19, 2015 at 2:03 PM · As a frequent solo visitor, I tend to use Single Rider lines a lot (particularly at my local So Cal parks). While they are a great benefit in 9 out of 10 cases, it is really interesting to see how different implementation can be. As stated in the post, USH seems to do the best job with them in my experience, and even on days where regular lines are over an hour I've never waited more than 20 minutes in single rider at this park (and it's usually under 10). They are definitely very liberal about pulling from the single rider line and it is rare to not have at least one in each ride vehicle.

Disneyland, on the other hand, is a mixed bag for single riders. Some rides (particularly Radiator Springs Racers and Splash Mountain) do an excellent job with it. Others are not so good. However, I understand why this is: Disneyland has many hidden policies on the use of single riders. While I don't know what they are, I'm sure some of these are to prevent problems with other guests (hence why single riders generally won't be seated next to young children) and to minimize abuse of the single rider line (hence why they make every effort to seek out small parties instead of loading multiple single riders together). I still rarely have found a single rider line to take longer than 30 minutes and have never waited longer for it than the regular queue, but I've found the time savings at Disneyland are usually small if the regular line is much shorter than a half-hour (particularly at Goofy's Sky School, Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Soarin' Over California).

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