When planning your Disney vacation, one of the first decisions to make is whether or not to add the Park Hopper option to your park tickets. There are pretty much two types of people, those who park hop and those who don’t (and maybe a third group who doesn’t know the difference; if that’s you then keep reading!) Lately, it seems, I have worked with numerous families who said they NEVER get the Park Hopper because they ”don’t need it” or “won’t use it” who end up needing and using the Park Hopper option. I have also had families insist on the Park Hopper and never even use it. So, let’s explore the Park Hopper Ticket option and look at some reasons why you might or might not want to add the option on to your next Walt Disney World ticket purchase.
What is a Park Hopper?
A Park Hopper gives you same-day access to all 4 Walt Disney World parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios). It is an add-on option to a “base” ticket which ONLY gives you access to a single park each day. When purchasing tickets, you will choose the number of days you want on your tickets. If you add the Park Hopper option, it is added on to all days on your tickets. So, if you have a 4 Day ticket with the Park Hopper option, you have access to all four parks for 4 days total.
As of today, the Park Hopper add on is $50 per ticket for a 1, 2, or 3 day ticket and $64 per ticket for a 4 day -10 day ticket.
Why add-on the Park Hopper option?
Flexibility! This is the obvious, and to me, the most important reason. If I could sum up the Park Hopper in one word it is FLEXIBILITY. When I am at Walt Disney World, I want flexibility. I like to start at one park in the morning then take a midday break and hit another park at night. I don’t like to have every minute planned out so the flexibility to go to multiple parks each day is high on my list.
· Flexible Dining – If you have the dining plan, consider the Park Hopper option. If you are eating table service meals (including character meals) you really need to plan those meals as far advance as possible. Advanced dining reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance and select locations do fill up that early. I don’t know about you but I rarely know where I will eat next week, let alone 6 months from now. I like having the Park Hopper when I have advanced dining reservations because I don’t have to plan my days all around my meals. Let’s say I make a reservation for Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom 180 days in advance. When I get to the parks, I find that Magic Kingdom is very crowded on the day of my reservation and I would rather spend that day at EPCOT. All I have to do is head to EPCOT and about 45 minutes before my dining reservation I can hop on the monorail to the Magic Kingdom and still enjoy my special meal at the castle. Even those of you who DO like to plan every step of every day, Park Hoppers allow you to plan meals in different parks each day.
· Extra Magic Hours – When you stay at a Disney resort hotel, you have access to Extra Magic Hours each morning and/or evening. It often makes sense to start at one park first thing in the morning and then, hop to another park later in the day. Usually by the second half of a week-long trip, Park Hoppers really come in handy as you can start hopping back to parks you have already visited to experience your favorite attractions a second or third time.
· Short Trips – If you happen to be on a shorter visit to the World, the Park Hopper lets you still hit the highlights in each park. Multiple times my husband and I have taken quick trips and done 2 parks each day for 2 days. We can hit all our favorite spots in a limited amount of time.
· Crowded times (SUMMER AND HOLIDAYS) – If you must visit during peak seasons where crowds are heaviest, the Park Hopper allows you to avoid the most crowded parks and even change plans mid-day if the park you are in is just too crowded. Use the My Disney Experience App to view wait times at all attractions in each park. We have often hopped to another park when the park we are at is just too crowded but we see lesser wait times at another park.
When to stick with the base ticket:
I would say the main reason most people lean toward the base ticket is money. So, if you are trying to save money, the base ticket is a good way to do that, especially if you have more than a few people in your party.
Saving money along with these scenarios below might be reasons to stick to the base ticket:
· Long Trips – If you are spending 6+ days in the parks, you could plan on doing a different park each day for the first 4 days and then the remaining days could be spent at whichever parks your family enjoyed the most. If you have time on your side and want to save $64/person, this would be a good way to do that. I personally still get the Park Hopper on the long trips because the flexibility each day is that important to me.
· Planners – If you enjoy having each day planned out in advance and like to stick to one place each day, then the base ticket might work just fine for you.
· Traveling with small children – I will be taking my infant daughter to WDW for the first time very soon. So, as of this writing, I have yet to travel with children. My friends and clients who do often prefer the base tickets to keep it simple each day. Even when you go on the “park, nap, park” schedule, visiting one park per day keeps everything a little more planned out and simple.
· Taking it slow – this goes hand in hand with traveling with small children who pretty much force you to go slow. But, some guests really enjoy taking it all in and not rushing around. If this is more your style and you want to save a few $’s consider the base ticket.
Your travel agent can speak to you about your family and your expectations and help you decide on the best ticket option for your family. I would love to help you plan your next or first!) Disney adventure. Contact me today!
Aleshia Sokoloski, Travel Planner affiliated with Travel with the Magic
Specializing in Universal Resorts and Disney Vacations including Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Adventures by Disney, and Disney Cruise Line.