Vote of the Week: To park-hop or not to park-hop?

May 30, 2014, 9:18 PM · Walt Disney World offers several options on its Magic Your Way tickets. The first, obvious question is the number of days you wish to buy. Beyond, that, do you want to ask for the now-unlisted "no expire" option on those days, which locks in your price for a future visit, but at a much higher price per day? Do you want to add the water parks to your ticket? But the big one, the most popular add-on option is the park hopper.

Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom
Some fans like park hopping, so they can visit another park after Disney's Animal Kingdom closes for the day, for example.

Without the park hopper, you can visit only one Walt Disney World theme park per day. But with the park hopper, Disney World's entire four theme parks are yours on each day of your visit. Adding that option might sound like a no-brainer, but let's remember that Walt Disney World isn't Disneyland or Universal Orlando, where the parks stand within walking distance of each other. Traveling from park to park at the expansive Walt Disney World Resort requires getting into a car, a bus, a boat, or a monorail, and spending that time to go between. (You can walk between Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot, but it's a long haul.)

It's much easier for first-time visitors (and many long-time fans) to just go with the one park per day. There's no hassle with and loss of time going between parks, or need to return to another park at the end of the day to retrieve your car, if you drove and used Disney transportation to switch parks. You can just be where you are and not have to worry about crowd patterns in multiple parks in enjoying your day.

But many repeat visitors have learned to find the value in park hopping. With the park hopper option, you can extend your day by visiting a park that's open later after another closes for the day. If you're only visiting for a day or two or three, park hopping allows you sample from all the parks, rather than missing one or more on a visit. If you're trying to get the most from a Disney Dining Plan, having the ability to visit Epcot's abundant table-service restaurants, even on days when you're playing in other parks, helps many families feel like they're getting a better deal.

We've recommended that visitors looking for the lowest price and least hassle in a Disney World vacation skip the park hopper. But for other families, who are willing or able to spend a little more and to put a bit more advance planning into their trip, adding up to $60 per person for the park hopper can become a great investment in unlocking extra value from a Disney World visit. (It's currently $60 to add the park hopper to tickets of four to 10 days, $49 for two- and three-day tickets and $40 for a one-day ticket. That's per ticket, not per day.)

So, what do you and your family do? Are you park hoppers? (Note that we are limiting this question to Walt Disney World. With theme parks much closer together at other multi-park resorts, as well as with other pricing levels there, the value proposition is different at other resorts.)

Please tell us your thoughts about and strategies for park hopping, in the comments. And, as always, thank you for being part of Theme Park Insider!

Replies (29)

May 30, 2014 at 9:32 PM · It's just took expensive for families to buy a pass let alone get Hopper tickets. I love Disney, but it's not worth it for families esp on a budget.
May 30, 2014 at 9:47 PM · The only park it's viable at in the entire resort is between Epcot and Magic Kingdom with the monorails. It's faster to walk as opposed to the boats between Epcot and Hollywood, but it's an extremely long walk. Hollywood to Magic Kingdom has no decent option. Animal Kingdom has no quick easy options either.

So no unless someone else paid for the option for me! :)

May 31, 2014 at 12:21 AM · There's a bus that runs from the front entrance of Epcot to Hollywood Studios, and bus service between the other parks as well (when I was last there, the Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom buses were actually running from the Magic Kingdom bus depot instead of the TTC), and they're fairly quick.

Certainly not as fast as walking at Disneyland, but it's not bad either.

May 31, 2014 at 12:38 AM · When we went to WDW I never got it why people bothered to park hop. I went once every 5 years and then all the parks had at least 1 new ride and/or show so we always checked out the new stuff, visited the older rides we loved to much and enjoyed the park and our day was over.
I saw parkhoppers standing at bus stops waiting to get on a bus to another park wasting hours in their day for a premium price but that was before I heard 90% of the visitors are coming to WDW 1 or 2 times a year. The only reason I can think of for the hopping is that people are bored at the park and only want to soak up the highlights. With only a few per park hopping would be an option.

Whenever Disney gets it's act together and changes in the resort I once loved I will not visit them but when they change I won't use the hopper option.

May 31, 2014 at 12:44 AM · We always take the park hopper option, but then travelling from the UK you can get some very good deals on the multi-park, multi-day passes.

That said I'd always want the hopper option. If you have a limited time to spend at the parks it may be better to simply concentrate on one park per day but if we are staying for 14 nights we want to be able to just 'dip into' a park sometimes. We'll schedule a full day in each park but after that we'll revisit favourite rides, maybe just head into Epcot to chill out round the lagoon... It's about flexibility and freedom so for us the hoppper option always makes sense.

May 31, 2014 at 1:03 AM · We always have the 'park hopper' option included in our tickets as we purchase them in the UK, prior to arrival. Buying before travelling is the best, most cost effective option for us as generally there is an offer in the UK where if you buy a 7 day pass, you receive 7 days free. We use the park hopper option only if we wish to visit a theme park / water park during the day and after a rest (or a swim!) watch the evening entertainment at a different park.
May 31, 2014 at 2:10 AM · Before we became annual pass-holders we would go to EPCOT, park the car and make dinner reservations then go to the Magic Kingdom, spend the day and finish the evening with dinner at EPCOT.
May 31, 2014 at 4:05 AM · Not a chance. There is more than enough to do in every Disney park to keep my family busy without having to hop to another great park and short change the experience.
May 31, 2014 at 5:07 AM · The last few times we went to Florida, we have stayed on the property at one of the Disney Hotels. So, our typical plan was to go to a park for the morning/early afternoon, then go back to the hotel for a swim sometime after lunch. Then, quite often, my wife and I would split with one kid each, and let them pick where they wanted to go. They've been to all four parks, so each one has a special thing they want to do with each parent, and get to "pick-a-park".

Of course, for some reason, both boys wanted to go on the Star Tours ride with me, every time. I love the ride, think I've seen all 54 different ride combinatons.

Next time we go, it will be "pick-a-park-that-isn't-Hollywood-Studios-if-you're-going-with-dad" in the evenings.

For us, the Park Hopper just broadens the activity options.

May 31, 2014 at 5:22 AM · Park hoping was great for Animal Kingdom, which I believe closed around 5PM, and you could jump to another park for the evening festivities, parades and fireworks shows. But you do have to be careful because "hopping" from one park to another isn't exactly instantaneous. You can easily waste 2 hours or more in travel time waiting for buses and making the switch.
May 31, 2014 at 5:46 AM · Just finished 5 days of Disney with PH. Worth every cent. You can start every day at 8 and still be going till 3am on some days. That gives you plenty time to transfer between parks and get in a nap (as we always stay in the Epcot Resort area)
Now we are at US with park to park and will get the most out of those as well.
May 31, 2014 at 6:59 AM · We love park hopping. Afternoons are hot in Florida, even during spring & early fall, times of the year we visit. Quite often we'll drive to one of the parks in the morning, go back to the pool for the afternoon, and check out a different park for a few night rides & the night show. We stay for ten or more nights so we'll usually do that routine for about half of the ten day park ticket. The other days, that we don't park hop, we'll go early morning till about 2 or 3, or we'll go 4 or 5 till closing. We never spend full days at any theme park, Disney or Universal. It takes too much out of you and makes for a miserable day. We did full days a couple of times on our first trip, but never again. Vacation to us is about leisure & fun combined moderately.
May 31, 2014 at 7:28 AM · Survey needs a "passholder" response. Park hopping is one of the most valued benefits of the pass. (Advance registration for runDisney events is THE most valued.) I live a long way away, in another country, even, but find it worthwhile to have a pass. The pass allows a quick visit for dinner, a ride, a walk around, while in the area for other business.
While actually onsite for the full day, with no other business, I tend to find it hard to stay at one park all day. My first few visits to the World were scheduled with military precision and do-it-all frenzy. It's much more enjoyable now that I don't feel the need to do it all. I can enjoy being near Space Mountain without actually going on Space Mountain. By some point midway through the day, I've done everything I want to do where I am and the grass starts getting greener at another park. I'm not a "go to the resort and lounge by the pool" person, but a leisurely connection to another park is nice. You have to treat the transit as part of the experience. Driving from park to park is not my top choice. The bus drivers are nice, but not really attractions, however the boats and the monorail can be nice when not crowded.
May 31, 2014 at 7:46 AM · I think there is an important point being missed:

If you are touring a Disney Theme Park properly are you not supposed to arrive as the park opens, then leave around 2pm or 3pm back to your hotel as the crowds are at their heaviest. Then return to the park in the evening as the crowds drop again (hopefully).

If you follow this plan doesn't it make the lost transportation time a moot point .

May 31, 2014 at 8:31 AM · Parkhopping makes sense to me. Normally each year, I only spend one day at Disney World in October, so I park hop to hit all the major attractions at each park in one day. It works out pretty well. I'm really curious how this will work going forward with the new fastpass system though.

To me, there is simply not enough attractions to visit at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios to spend the entire day at either one. Plus, both of these parks close early and I would like the opportunity to hop over to Epcot or Magic Kingdom to continue visiting for the rest of the day.

I have to give a shout out to Robert for something he wrote a few years ago about driving your car to each park in order to park hop. This is the best thing I've ever done. Previously, I would ride the buses from park to park, but now it seems like the bus schedule is much slower and infrequent. I spend less time walking to my car and driving it to the next park rather than relying on Disney's poor transportation methods. On top of that, I get a bit more exercise walking.

May 31, 2014 at 9:52 AM · I always have, because like you said Robert, I can maximize my day by going from closing at Animal Kingdom, to adding three hours at Magic Kingdom where the crowds will be very light. I am always a full day park person. Does it leave me feeling exhausted at the end? You bet. Would I have it any other way? Not a chance.
May 31, 2014 at 10:20 AM · Our family purchases admission with the Park Hopper option because of the flexibility that it provides. We normally purchase Five (5) Day PH’ers and find that the extra cost for the PH extremely worthwhile, sort of a low-cost “vacation insurance policy”. If we find that the park we’ve initially selected has reached an overwhelming crowd level, we can simply drive to another. My wife and I agree that simply knowing that if we encounter a reason to leave one park that we can simply adjust our plans without additional cost.

We may be incorrect on this, but we believe that if you have a one or multi-day, single park ticket (Magic Your Way) and you wish to visit a second WDW park on the same day, you’re in for a problem. We think Disney policy prohibits using a non-PH’er ticket more than once a day. In other words, you’d either have to purchase a separate, one-day single park ticket or upgrade your existing MYH ticket to PH level. The costs associated with doing the former are currently $94 - $99, depending on the park; the latter will cost between $35 - $49, depending on the number of days upgraded. Please let me know if we are incorrect on this policy and fees.

Regarding my comment about driving to the second park - in our opinion, as the overall quality and convenience of using WDW transport has severely declined in recent years, using our own vehicle is the only way around the World.

As the previous users have commented, what works best is a realistic evaluation of your family’s age-makeup, park preferences and economic circumstances.

May 31, 2014 at 1:01 PM · Park Hopper is only for the hard core traveler. You should consider buying a park hopper pass: if you can endure 16 hour days at the parks; if you are pressed for time and want to experience the main attractions and skip the minor attractions; if you don't enjoy shopping or lounging at sit down restaurants; and most importantly, only if you've done your homework and have planned a schedule.

The best way to park hop is to visit Animal Kingdom, Epcot or Hollywood Studios during the day and switch to Magic Kingdom after dinner when the crowds aren't as bad. You will still need to buy a multi-day pass, if you want to see all of the best attractions. There is no way to see all the best attractions in one day, and even two days is near impossible.

May 31, 2014 at 1:38 PM · love to park hop. just enjoy it all everyday!!!!!!
May 31, 2014 at 1:43 PM · ^^^ Correct, on a (say) 5-day WDW Magic Your Way Ticket with one park per day (non-parkhopper)ticket you get admission to only one park per day on five separate days. On one day, you can not use day 4 in the morning at Magic Kingdom and day 5 in the evening at EPCOT.

The only way around this is if you have two completely different tickets and use one day from Ticket A in the morning and one day from Ticket B in the evening. However, with the new FastPassPlus, you cannot reserve attractions unless you make two completely different My Disney Experience accounts for each ticket and make sure you know which ticket is which. But doing this makes multiple person-linked FP+s extremely difficult and time consuming.

May 31, 2014 at 8:30 PM · Park Hopping is really just not worth the added expense that is. However, you know what really is not worth the added expense to me? The Water Parks feature. Add that on as an option for a 5 day ticket and get an upcharge for each day for the water parks..... and you may have been better off just buying a separate ticket for a water park at the gate. It sometimes seems like maybe some people don't do the math on how much per day this add-ons add up to be in total. Maybe, though, some people just don't have to be as budget minded so the add on is not a big deal. I really just have a hard time seeing paying that much to run myself ragged trying to get theme park time in every possible hour of the day though. It's nice to be leisurely while on vacation, and visiting more than one park in one day that requires you to park and ride a tram in or take a bus or whatever.... it just does not seem very leisurely.
June 1, 2014 at 4:18 AM · 50+ times to Disney World....article is spot on...park hop is must add. Go to which ever park is open earliest/has am extra magic hours...hit big rides w/no wait...go back to resort and relax in pool...head over to Epcot for dinner...boom. Love the hopper and we use it every trip there, have never stayed in the same park all day..also it's a recipe to have your kids melt down
June 1, 2014 at 5:50 AM · Growing up in Florida has ruined my theme park patience. Disney has become an exhausting experience. 1 park is more than enough.

With my Universal pass, I can actually visit both parks, do a ride or two in each, the pop out to CityWalk in about 2-3 hours.

At WDW, to visit 2 parks and downtown would take 2-3 hours of buses/parking hassels. Especially for Magic Kingdom omg. When the fireworks end, forget it. Whether you paid $17 to park, or $1000's to stay at Polynesian or GF... cannot walk!! You have to take a bus, boat or monorail to TTC, then the tram out to your parking lot section. That is a 1-2 hour experience when the fireworks end.

Also, remember when WDW had slow days? Like, actually slow days? When you could walk onto every ride... I miss that. Disney's 'slow' is everybody else's 'medium.'

June 1, 2014 at 7:09 AM · $60 park hopping add on is way too expensive for a family. It is also too complicated to arrange for a family with young kids. I stuck with one park per day. I think going back to the resort mid-day and returning to a different park to be a waste of time. I rather enjoy the resort activities in the morning and then hit the park later with the ease of using Fastpass+.
June 1, 2014 at 1:10 PM · While it use to be a must during the slower times of the year, October, early December, January, February, May, etc., as I could see two parks in a day and walk right on most rides. Never will happen again, so why bother with the park hopper?
June 2, 2014 at 5:40 AM · I have friends that have park hopped all 6 Disney parks in this country in one day...
June 2, 2014 at 6:05 AM · Our family wouldn't even consider a vacation to Disney without the park hopper option. The thought of staying in one park all day, from open til close, horrifies me a bit. The afternoons get so crowded and hot, and it's just not enjoyable to be there anymore. That's always the point where a break to nap/swim/rest at the hotel is desperately needed. Aside from that, we don't want to locked into dining options at a particular theme park. We love dining at both Epcot and the different resorts, and the freedom to move about wherever we please is very much valued.
June 3, 2014 at 1:42 PM · I was really hoping that there would be more discussion about the value of a PH under the new Fastpass+ system. It seems much less valuable under the new rules. Though there is some relief from the strict one-park rule with the newly added extra fastpasses, there really isn't encouragement to for anyone hop under this system.
June 3, 2014 at 5:44 PM · Considering I'm a young adult, and I mostly visit with friends since I'm a local, I love to park hop. And my system gives me the most bang for my buck. Every park opens at 9 and Magic Kingdom at the earliest closes at 12, so thats at least 15 hours of park time divided into almost 4 hours a park. What I do is park at Downtown Disney, walk to Saratoga Springs (right next door) by 8:30 and catch a bus to Animal Kingdom. AK is first because the safari ride is best in the morning (the only time I've ever seen lions active). Plus its the most hassle to get to another park (bus). After that I go to Hollywood, after that I take the boat to Epcot (its a nice break) then take the monorail from Epcot to magic kingdom, when I'm done for the day at MK I walk to contemporary and take the bus to downtown Disney and pick up my car (free parking!). I can get through all 4 parks and experience most of the attractions. That essentially makes my 121 dollar ticket 30 bucks a park and I did it in only a day.

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