Here is the easiest way to save money on a Disney vacation

February 23, 2024, 8:03 PM · Thinking about a family vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida? Have you been pricing tickets, hotel and travel… and wondering how you could afford this trip?

You’re not alone. The price of visiting Disney has been outpacing inflation for decades - and certainly blowing well past average American wage growth. But you do not have to be wealthy or willing to go in debt to visit Disney World. You just need to find the right places to save on your trip.

I will be writing about several of those strategies, so please subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media to get those tips. But today I would like to start with what I believe is the easiest way to save money on your Walt Disney World theme park tickets.

Don’t buy the Park Hopper upgrade.

Park Hopping at Walt Disney World is not like going in between parks at Universal Orlando, Disneyland or other major, multi-park resorts. The Disney World parks stand far from one another - sometimes miles. Each has its own security bubble, meaning that you must be rescreened each time you park hop. Whether you drive yourself or queue for Disney’s transportation, you can expect to miss at least an hour of potential attraction time each time you change parks.

Sometimes more.

Park hopping is doing Disney on hard mode. Sure, there is reward to be had there, but only for advanced players. If you are a first-time or infrequent Disney visitor, do yourself a favor and plan to spend a full day at each of the four parks.

It’s easier to focus on a park without thinking about the other parks. You won’t waste time moving in between parks. That allows you to get in an extra attraction, or two, or maybe even three. And you will save the $95 per ticket that you would have spent to add the Park Hopper option for each person in your family.

If that money is just burning a hole in your pocket, spend it instead on either the daily Disney Genie+ upgrade, or an Individual Lightning Lane. That will allow you to visit even more popular attractions than you would have been able to visit if you’d spent that cash on Park Hopping instead.

Park Hopping isn’t a bad idea at Disney World. It’s just not worth the cost for inexperienced visitors who are there for less than a week. Park Hopping is included with Walt Disney World’s annual passes, so there’s no financial savings in sticking to one park per day if you have one of those. (Though there are potential logistical and time savings.) The cost of adding Park Hopping drops to under $10 a day if you buy a 10-day WDW ticket, and if you’re staying that long, you’ll be ready to play on hard mode by the second week of your trip.

So it’s great that Disney offers the option of Park Hopping. But don’t forget that’s all it is - an option. You don’t need it, and skipping it can save you some cash without harming the quality of your visit.

Indeed, for some families, not Park Hopping might even make your Disney World visit better.

* * *
To keep up to date with more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter.

For more ticket deals, as well as our reader rankings and advice on visiting Disney and other top theme parks around the world, please visit our our Theme Park visitors guides.

Replies (3)

February 24, 2024 at 12:11 PM

Good mention there as I am someone who likes trying to fit two parks in a day but as you say if you're only planning one a day, going for separate tickets is better.

Me, I go for smaller touches here and there like buying one bottle of water and just refilling it over the day rather than buy new bottles over and over. Plus, quick counter service meals over some huge dinner helps. Of course sneaking in your own snacks is a nice one.

February 24, 2024 at 12:13 PM

I agree. I can’t see the value of it. Universal was clever and tied an experience they knew would be popular to it, but even at universal if you can skip the express, don’t get it.

February 24, 2024 at 2:25 PM

My general rules of thumb when it comes to park hopping at Walt Disney World...

-If you're visiting for 3 park days or less, only buy park hopping if you plan to visit more parks than you have days (this one is pretty obvious).
-If you're visiting for 4 to 6 park days, don't bother with park hopping. Other than perhaps Animal Kingdom, you can spend a full day in any of the parks without running out of stuff to do, and some of the parks (namely Magic Kingdom and Epcot) can fill two full days if you're trying to take everything in.
-If you're visiting for 7 or 8 park days, park hopping may be a good idea depending on your preferences. By this point, most are going to start wanting to run around to revisit their favorites, which makes hopping useful, but for those who do a longer visit because they don't like spending full days at parks, it might not be necessary.
-If you're visiting for 9 park days or more, just spring for hopping for the convenience. At this point, it's a relatively small upcharge, and if you can afford to spend over a week at Walt Disney World in one trip you probably don't need to worry about cutting costs.

Personally, I've only used park hopping on one of my three trips to Walt Disney World, and I probably wouldn't get it again unless I really wanted to visit all four parks in less than four days. Even when parks are connected by the Monorail or Skyliner, you're still looking at a half hour or more to make the connection, which is a decent chunk of time (especially since I sometimes attempted three parks in a day).

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive