Aug 032008

I first heard about RideMax software in January while researching Disneyland information prior to Z’s birthday trip there with her mother. My early impressions were both positive and exciting – software to schedule your day at the Disneyland Resort (Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park) in such a way to maximize the number of rides while minimizing the wait time. All based on historical data gathered over the last six years. Absolutely brilliant! However, I also knew that it wasn’t going to be useful to X on their trip, so I simply filed it away for when Z and I visited the “Happiest Place On Earth” ourselves.

That time came about a month ago as we neared our July 20th visit to Disneyland and California Adventure as the last stop on my California CoasterQuest.  Although the $14.95 price for a 90-day subscription seemed pretty reasonable, we needed every free cent for our trip so I did more research before actually plunking down my cash. Whenever I’m researching a new (to me) product or service it’s always the negative reviews that I seek out the most.  People who are happy with a product typically gloss over any problems it may have.  For RideMax, however, I couldn’t find a single negative review, no matter where I looked.  So, I visited and ordered the software.

It installed easily enough, but I was immediately struck by what would become my biggest problem with the software.  You can schedule your day at Disneyland or your day at Disney’s California Adventure, but not both, simultaneously.  Given the proximity of the two parks and the ubiquitous nature of “park hopping” passes, this makes absolutely zero sense to me.  We weren’t just visiting one park, but both and had “absolute must” rides in both.  But apparently we had to decide in advance what times we would be in each park instead of taking true advantage of the data at hand and hopping back and forth as necessary.

But this wasn’t actually the first problem I had with the program.  No, that was brought to my attention by the following blurb on the official website-

Planning a Sunday Visit?

We’re still just a small, family-owned business, and have made the personal decision not to gather wait time statistics on Sunday, so you will not be able to select a Sunday visit when using the RideMax software. For planning a Sunday visit, you should be able to select the previous Saturday when creating your itinerary. Just be sure to change your plan’s starting and ending times to correspond to the actual park hours if they differ from Saturday.

We apologize for this inconvenience!

Unfortunately, we were visiting on a Sunday.  Frankly, the “small, family-owned business” excuse just doesn’t hold water for me.  if you’re going to charge for a product that you advertise with lines like “[t]his schedule is tailored to the expected crowd patterns on the day of your visit, for the attractions you want to ride”, then it should actually be able to create a schedule based on the day I wish to visit!  All of the reviews I could find that mentioned this (serious) flaw in the program mentioned that they wound up ahead of schedule when using Saturday data for their Sunday visit.  Personally, I don’t see much difference between waiting in line for a ride and waiting in the park for my itinerary to get back on schedule – either way we’re waiting.

Speaking of unnecessary waiting, that brings me to my third problem.  Take a look at the screenshot to the left.  It’s the output when selecting Toy Story Mania in California Adventure. At first glance it seems like Toy Story Midway Mania should be the first stop on our visit to DCA as the wait will only be 25 minutes at that point. However, the mentioned tip reads as follows-

1. In order to board Toy Story Mania with minimal waiting, we recommend arriving at the front turnstiles no later than 9:10AM. When the turnstiles open at 9:30AM you should then be directed to a separate waiting area for this attraction, which should open with the rest of the park at 10:00AM. If you arrive late enough to find the line already too long for your liking, and you’re willing to be separated from the rest of your group, we recommend asking the Cast Member at the attraction entrance if you may use the “single rider” line. This may help reduce your wait considerably. For more details please press the “Tips & Hints” button in RideMax, and review the page titled “Toy Story: The Mania!”

In other words, RideMax recommends that you be in line nearly an hour before the park opens for the day.  But, somehow this isn’t counted as waiting time!  If you follow RideMax’s advice you’ll actually end up waiting (at least) 75 minutes for your first trip on Toy Story Mania, rather than the 49 minutes it lists for later in the day.  For our itinerary the wait time was listed as 15 minutes in the first slot (65 minutes total) and 40 minutes throughout the rest of the day.  How, exactly, is this saving us time?

Our final major problem with the RideMax program is really the reason I’ll be taking advantage of their 30-day guarantee and asking for a full refund.  After running about 50 different scenarios for the day of our visit I started to notice a pattern – the “big rides” had the exact same wait time throughout the afternoon and evening.  What are the odds of this being realistic?  And even if it is, then I certainly didn’t need to pay someone to find this out.  The first piece of advice given to anyone visiting an amusement park is to hit the E-ticket rides early in the day as the lines just get longer after lunch.  I’ve used California Screamin’ in the example screenshot at right, but it held true for the vast majority of major rides at both parks.

Those four problems were the reason this software gets a failing grade from me.  All of them can be resolved rather easily by the programmers if there’s a genuine will to do so.  While their at it they might also want to make the program far less clunky, add shows to the list of attractions one can select, allow multiple break times (to mimic shows and parades that aren’t included), permit schedules to be made without FastPasses, and write up a little documentation to guide people through the best use of the program.  Unfortunately, despite all the rave reviews on the web and my personal excitement over the program, RideMax was a complete waste of money.  Even though I hadn’t been to Disneyland in more than a decade and never been to California Adventure I was able to schedule our time much more efficiently on the fly at the park then any of the itineraries generated by RideMax.

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  15 Responses to “RideMax Software For Disneyland Resort Is Sorely Disappointing”

  1. […] Philaahzophy Copyright © tax sc_project=3641399; sc_invisible=1; sc_partition=43; […]

  2. I too think RideMax is a waste of money. People gush over it because hey, you end up having a nice day at Disneyland as most people do, and the software doesn’t actually make your visit worse.

    But people had fun at Disneyland before RideMax and they will have fun without it. I doubt the average family has a better time at Disneyland with this software than without. An overpriced program will never replace doing the research before your vacation.

    There are tons of people in the Disneyland community that will gladly help you plan your trip FOR FREE. Any information that this software can give you is already out there and this company is simply taking advantage.

  3. Welcome, Spokker!

    While we agree on the value of RideMax (little to none), I think that saying “this company is simply taking advantage” is pushing things a little too far. The people behind RideMax have clearly put a lot of work into it.

    $15 isn’t a lot to pay for a piece of software these days and receiving my refund (as promised in their guarantee) was quick and simple. So the company itself receives high marks from me. The program, however, could use some serious work.

    What would be truly wonderful would be if they were to drop the code out as open source under some sort of GPL license. They could still charge for the data service, but allow interested programmers to make the software run that much better. And I’m sure they could find reliable volunteers in the online Disney community to help supply the data for Sundays. All they’d need to do is ask.

  4. Maybe taking advantage is a little much, I admit. But there are plenty of people online who live for giving Disneyland advice. Some Disney fan communities are better than others.

    There is something in the book Designing Disney by Imagineering legend John Hench that goes against the whole concept of RideMax. He says that Disneyland is (or was) designed to facilitate decision making, and that wide open spaces were developed for families and friends to huddle together over a park map and decide what to next. That kind of spontaneity and anticipation is part of what I loved about my first visits to Disneyland in my youth.

    To be honest, RideMax’s appeal is helped by the concept of the all-day unlimited pass and Fastpass. During the days of ticket books, you could take as little or as long as you wanted to meander through the park, deciding what to do next. In fact you could decide to do nothing at all, as the modest entrance fee at the time left you feeling satisfied if all you did was smell the roses. You could save your tickets for another day. Today, it’s a race against the clock (until your all-day pass expires at closing, that is)!

    Fastpass now adds another element of confusion and frustration to your day. Now you’re planning your day around these little tickets. It’s a constant struggle to get in the most rides, acquire the most Fastpasses, and zig zag around the park like a maniac. Fastpass was designed to get people out of lines and into shops and restaurants, and now the park feels more crowded and chaotic because of it.

    If you want to meander and not take advantage of Fastpass, you are now at a disadvantage because you have to wait in longer standby lines. You HAVE to use Fastpass when you visit Disneyland or you’re one-step behind everybody else the moment you enter the park.

    I’m not saying we should go back to ticket books, but I do lament the addition of Fastpass to the parks. I wonder how much time we are really saving at all, and if the value they provide is just an illusion. You can’t create capacity out of nothing after all. Space Mountain still takes in and spits out the same number of guests before and after Fastpass.

  5. The application is horrible slow and does not have Sundays. Also everytime comesback after 5 min, you have selected more stuff. How I know how many is right at least should give options at the time of adition.

  6. I haven’t tried Ridmax yet. I am just trying to get information about it. Thus this review.
    To me it seems like once the bad came, you just wanted to keep on rolling with it.

    I don’t have a problem with them not getting data on Sunday. That is there choice. They let that be known from the start. Yes I would think they could pay somebody to get some sunday data, but be it as it may, its known when you buy the software.

    It is strange that they don’t have both parks together. I’m not sure how close they are. But I will say the point of this software is to avoide waiting time and walking around or walking back and forth. I can see why that isn’t a major concern for those wanting this problem (Probably mostly those with little kids, that you don’t want to be taking them back and forth).

    As far as telling you to get there early. I don’t see the problem with this? From what it sound like you just wanted the program to tell you what time to get in line for the Toy story ride, and you figure out the rest! (Which I’m sure if it did, you probably would still not like it) But because the program figured this out for you, you want the program to take a hit against waiting time? From there website
    “Arrive early.
    Have a basic “game plan” in mind of which attractions you want to visit, and some idea of the order you will visit them in.
    Take maximum advantage of FASTPASS.
    While we can’t help you kick yourself out of bed for that early opening time, RideMax can help you with the other two important tips!”

    At least they are trying to help you get there on time! I would find a bigger flaw in the program if it DIDN’T do this.

    The biggest problem with this review is you don’t even explain if you even used the program.

    Did you follow it for a day, half a day?
    Its seems like because the program was some how flawed (didn’t have sunday data) there was no reason to even try it out?

    I do agree Ridemax is probably not for everybody. I haven’t even tried it yet. If and when I do try it, I’ll keep these consernces in mind.

  7. Thanks for this critical review. It’s nice to see someone share this!

  8. Funny I got an e-mail responds about comments posted here. I was just talking to somebody today about this program. I did end up paying for it last year when I went to Disneyland.

    Really quickly here is what you need to know.

    If you have been to disneyland recently, you probably have enough knoweledge to know how navagate the rides.

    If you haven’t been to disneyland for some time, ridemax does a good job of getting you started. Really you aren’t paying for just the ride layout, but also the little suggestions and tips the program gives. These are probably more helpful long term then then really the actually program.

    The bad is, after you have figure out how Disneyland works with the fast pass and the early morning days, you kind of know what you are doing and Ride max ends up just staying in your backpack. For example when I was going, because California Adventure opens an hour later then disneyland we decided to go to Finding Nemo ride that hour. This was a smart move and something ride max never would think about. Its really just being smart with your time.
    Also for me, going on an early day, I was able to do way more rides then ride max had figured I would be able to complete. I had done so many rides by even 2pm that I had enough time to go over to California Adventure and ride some of those rides again.

    So the question is, would I buy it again. I wouldn’t because I already know the little tips and have been to disneyland. If you haven’t been, I do think its a good starting point. with that said, just know
    1. Always have some fast pass ready. For most part you need to know which rides you can go on fast pass with.
    Also know that even your kids can’t go on the ride, the fast pass for them can be used by anybody. This does alow for more in your party to go on the same ride twice really quickly (especially if you use it with the parent swap pass).
    2. For the most part have a plan. Warning the park is not a good use of time.
    3. The earlier in the day the less people are in the park. This is kind of a no brainer. But this means you can get through a lot of rides if you know what you are doing. (If you don’t, ride max can help). Also if the ride was really fun and the line is still short, go on the ride again. Ride max told us to go on the Rapids ride in California Adventure in the morning. You do get wet, and thus not many people are thinking of going on this ride. We did it, it was fun, and the line was still pretty short so we did it again. It was worth it.

    Last, if you really want to go on the small world after all ride, go on it in the morning. If you wait later in the day, its pretty long wait (an hour) and probably not worth it.

  9. […] 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.  […]

  10. Sounds like an interesting idea, but seems to be some pretty fundamental flaws with the software, using different data and making assumptions. No matter what happens inevitably you’re always going to have to queue for a large portion of the day, that’s just the way it is at Disneyland unfortunately.

    Hitting the park early is a must, especially if you’ve got little ones in tow.
    .-= Moonbadger´s last blog ..Orlando – Home of the Theme Park =-.

  11. I have used Ridemax several times now for both Disneyland and Disneyworld. I have also helped my friends use Ridemax and helped them plan their itineraries. I think if you don’t get the philosophy of Ridemax you won’t benefit from the program. Their premise is that you must arrive early to the park in order to get the best wait times later. I found that our only wait was to be first into the park. I would much rather wait at the turnstyles in the morning than wait two hours later. Also, Ridemax is about planning the best plan. I don’t think park hopping between the two parks a bunch of times is the best use of one’s time. However, you can just tell Ridemax the times you want to be at each park and plan your day accordingly. This is possible by scheduling breaks at one park and printing a second itinerary. Also, I have never had a problem visiting on Sunday and using a Saturday plan. I have always ended up ahead of schedule with my Ridemax plan which I think is awesome and a credit to Ridemax. I had more time to squeeze in extra rides, get a snack, or shop a little. In addition, Ridemax gives great tips for parades, etc. I walked by so many rides later in the day that had huge wait times and I was thankful for Ridemax. To make Ridemax work well you do have to put in some effort ahead of time on your home computer to figure out the best scenario for your itinerary. I would much rather do this ahead and make the most of every minute I am in the park as these trips are expensive and I want to enjoy as many rides as possible. I can guarantee that our family gets to enjoy more rides and shows than a non-ridemax user. Some people enjoy wandering around and being spontaneous and that is great! However, we save every penny to go on our vacations as well and I want to spend as much time on rides and shows as possible and little or no time waiting in lines in the park. We had 7 people with us for one of our trips and not one person complained or argued about having a plan or what we should do next. We even knew when the best times for lunch and supper were and did not have long waits for our food. One of my favorite parts about going to Disney parks is planning our itinerary on Ridemax and getting excited even before our trip begins! PS I do not work for Ridemax lol!

  12. I know that this is an old post and you’re probably sick of seeing comments come in, but your post comes up pretty high in the Google search results, and I have some strong feelings regarding the product.

    So that you know where I’m coming from –
    – I used the product once for a 3-day ParkHopper trip the SAME week you did in 2008.
    – I had not been to Disneyland for about 8 years, and had never been to California Adventure.
    – I am a software and web developer.

    1. Happy customers gloss over problems and there are no negative reviews –

    I agree that people that are happy with a product will gloss over the problems. On the other hand, I think that angry customers tend to be more vocal than satisfied ones, so I think that the overall online attitude toward this product is pretty accurate – that the vast majority of users have a positive experience with it.

    2. No simultaneous scheduling for both parks –

    It is true that the software will not let you include attractions from both parks to a single plan.

    I felt that the instructions for using the product for both parks on the same day were VERY clear. They stated that you simply make 2 plans. One for the morning, and one for the evening on the same day, constraining the planned starting and end times for each plan.

    This is admittedly kind of a ‘hackish’ way to deal with a common scenario, but as a software developer, I can see how this would be a complex problem to deal with in the algorithm, so I can understand the developer’s choice to keep the 2 parks separate.

    The whole point of the software is to MAXimize the RIDEs that you can enjoy on your visit, so I echo a very helpful RideMax recommendation that you plan to visit one park, and then the other, rather than wasting time by ‘hopping’ back and forth repeatedly.

    But even there, RideMax had some handy tips that if you are planning an afternoon trip to California Adventure, to send a runner over for FastPasses earlier in the day.

    The RideMax developer didn’t simply ignore the fact that people would want to visit both parks in the same day – I feel he addressed it thoroughly and gracefully, with helpful, proactive tips on how to do it effectively.

    3. No Sunday Plans –

    I am going to speculate a little on this one. The developer has stated that they have ‘personal’ reasons for not working on Sunday, and I am assuming that it is probably for religious reasons.

    I don’t work on Sunday for religious reasons, and so I can understand their choice not to work on Sunday, whatever their reasoning is.

    I can also understand that they may have been reluctant to just state that up front – that it is for ‘religious’ rather than ‘personal’ reasons. They didn’t want to ruffle any potential customers’ feathers by pulling the religion card. ‘Nuff said. This ends my pure speculation.

    Depending on the algorithms that are used, the lack of Sunday data may or may not have a huge impact on ride times. I tend to think that the differences are probably pretty minimal between Saturdays and Sundays.

    I admire their openness and honesty in admitting that they don’t collect Sunday data because I’m sure they could’ve just silently plugged in Saturday’s data for Sundays and not said anything about it.

    4. Toy Story Mania –

    I agree that the software algorithm couldn’t help with the long wait times for Toy Story Mania. This is because the software relies heavily on the FastPass system, and at the time you used the software, Toy Story Mania was not on the FastPass system, and the ride was brand new.

    This was the single longest line we had to wait in the entire day – by far – at about 45 minutes.

    I think the developer gave about the best tips that he could for visiting Toy Story Mania with the least wait possible.

    5. Identical ride time data for afternoon rides –

    I didn’t notice this, but it makes sense, particularly if the RideMax algorithm is as simple as I suspect.

    Because the ride time data and algorithm used by the developer are a ‘black box’, I can only speculate as to exactly how it works, but I tend to think the algorithm is simple, relying on the FastPass system and ‘slack’ in certain lines throughout the day. My guess is that there just isn’t that much ‘slack’ in the afternoon on any of the rides.

    Here’s the thing, though. I’m not exaggerating when I say that other than the 45 minute wait for Toy Story Mania, we NEVER waited more than 20 minutes in a line for ANY ride during the entire day – and this was during a busy summer weekend the same week you went.

    6. Other little annoyances –

    I agree/disagree with some of your points here. I just don’t think the developer could’ve addressed every possible contingency in the actual program design, but I sincerely feel that he did a great job addressing or at least explaining(in the accompanying documentation) every contingency that I could think of.

    His reasons for including or not including particular features are well-thought out, and I don’t think it is a case of laziness on the developer’s part as much as I don’t think a programmatic algorithm can handle the complexity of all of those corner cases. That’s where his tips and hints came in super handy.

    For example, without his supplemental hints, we probably wouldn’t have visited the Aladdin stage show, which ended up being awesome. We would have wasted time lining up too early in the wrong spot for the parades, and we would have spent way more time waiting in line for Finding Nemo, which we literally walked right onto.

    And I truly feel that we wouldn’t have enjoyed the day as much without the plan and tips the software provided.

    Thus far, I’ve given a pretty glowing recommendation, but I didn’t think the software was without its problems. One of the biggest issues for me – almost a dealbreaker was that an internet connection was required to use it. Our hotel wifi was so sketchy, that it almost killed it for us.

    I think this program would work well as either a standalone – with data cashed on the local machine, or especially well as a web application – but it was ridiculously kludgy to have to use the desktop-with-internet-required model.

    I want to use this on my iPhone or other mobile phone with a browser, so that everyone in my party can access the plan online, or at least be able to come back to a hotel with no internet and modify the next day’s plan if needed.

    I feel like RideMax was one of the best purchases we made for our trip, and even being a relatively intelligent software developer, having not been to the park in years, I don’t think I could’ve done a better job on my own of planning the finer logistics of our visit.

  13. Ridemaxfan- is there a way I can contact you with specific questions about an upcoming Disneyland trip? You seem quite knowledgeable. Thank you!

  14. Absolutely, under no conditions, go to a Disney park without using RIdemax. If you are a seasoned pro at navigating the happiest place on earth, then you wouldn’t be reading this article to begin with. But since you are here you are doing your research (good) and looking for honest answers.

    This trip out to Disney World I subscribed both to Tour Guide Mike and RIdemax. Tour Guide Mike was valuable but a lot of reading and the owner (Mike) has either retired or ill or something so the site was not up to date on a few things. Ridemax, on the other hand, I had used before and it has totally upgraded itself. It now includes Parade and Show times to stick in your schedule. You can also access it from your iPhone easily so if you have to make a new schedule on the fly, no sweat.

    As far companies go, they are a stellar bunch of people. We got a late start to Epcot so we had to redo our plans. Unfortunately, their server was down that day so there site wasn’t working. Fortunately I had made a hard copy of the original plan and we muddled through okay. I complained to the Ridemax site, which was running the next day, and they explained what happened, apologized for the inconvenience, and refunded my money completely.

    Bottom line: you are spending a chunk of change at these parks; plunking down $15 to $17 more will insure that you don’t have to wait in long lines. And if Ridemax is wrong (or they screw up somehow) you will get a full refund. It really works.

  15. First, some background info. I am technical by trade and enjoy planning and have a decent smartphone for use on the run-so using and even updating RM plans on-the-run while at a park is something I was comfortable doing as situations changed (lines turned out shorter than planned, we wanted to change plans, etc). I first bought the 3-month version in RM for Anaheim, then bought the annual for Anaheim and finally the 3-month for Orlando. I used RM at DP and CA in Anaheim and MK and Epcot in Orlando. For the Anaheim location, I used RM in conjunction with an annual Disney Pass, which meant visits over Thanksgiving week (twice), Spring Break week, and July 4th week. For MK and Epcot in Orlando, only used RM one day per park.

    RM is absolutely a huge help in the before-visit planning. The historical data behind the engine helps you maximize use of FastPass system and proven human behavior based on your behaviors (how fast or slow you plan on walking, how many breaks, etc ) and wants (what shows to watch or rides to go on, how long the lines you willing to wait before altering your RM plan, etc). The various tips both general and once specifically based on your input are also worth every penny of the software. Even for experienced Disney vistors, RM can offer some useful info from the tips.

    The RM plans worked very well on most days we used it. I still remember the one time in DP during one holiday weekend I almost had an out-of-body experience where about an hour into the Plan, as our family was going between rides (which up to then we only had less than 2 min waits per ride) I literally witnessed a wave of people rushing to the rides we just finished! It was a bit scary, actually. But we continue to our next rides which again had lines shorter than 2-3 min range.

    I remember on July 4th, the RM plan was so far ahead of schedule (due in part also to our family sticking to the plan) we even doubled back to a few rides after we got off! I decided to start counting the rides we went on. Well, I stopped counting at 15 by the time we met my SLOW sister and hubby at the Pirates of the Caribbean at around 1045AM (they had decided to meander at the resort in the morning instead of joining us at rope drop). We slowed down the rest of the day because 1) the crowds really started to build by then (again, it was July 4th) 2) my sister hates rushing ride-to-ride and 3) we were a little tired from hitting so many rides already! That day we ended leaving the park early afternoon for a resort break and coming back.after dinner. We saw over 30 attractions that one day alone! If this instance is not proof RM works if used successfully, then I do not know.what is.

    Now, there were just a small handful of days where things did not planned, the most recent was Epcot. But.I attributed that to having our 75 year old mother in law with us and we really got bogged down with adhoc, off-plan things like shopping and eating. Plus the summer heat and several broken down venues proved too much to overcome.

    In a whole, we have successfully used RM and highly recommend to friends and coworkers. Now, with the new bracelet and fastpass+ system coming, I am unsure how effective RM will be.

  16. One thing forgot to mention. We are a family of 4, including two kids around 7 years old at the time first started using RM.