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Recently, on a walk around town with my husband, we were discussing how our trips to Walt Disney World have varied over the years and how we tailor our plans depending on who we are traveling with. One thing, however, that has always remained a constant is our desire to park hop. That got me thinking… how many people actually pay the extra money to park hop and why do they opt to do it?
For us, we really like utilizing morning Extra Magic Hours but we don’t always like to stay in that park the rest of the day. Most of the time we travel in Disney’s off-season so we don’t have to worry about following TouringPlans.com’s Crowd Calendar perfectly every day. Something I realized is that I let our Advanced Dining Reservations lead my planning. If I can’t get into Le Cellier for lunch on Tuesday but I can on Thursday then I’m going to make sure we spend our morning at Epcot on Thursday and then possibly hop wherever we want to end up for a nighttime show or other activity. When I do my planning I only make note of what park I want to start my day on and leave my group room to decide where we’d like to end up. This is great when we come to the last days of our trip and realize we missed a few attractions at a park.
Park hopping provides guests with the ability to travel from one park to another on the same day. This brings variety and spontaneity into the trip, I think. You can make more decisions on a whim without having to stay in just one park. I think about guests new to Walt Disney World that experience a park for the first time and around 3:00 p.m. they realize they’re out of things to do (*cough* Animal Kingdom *cough*) and aren’t as impressed as they might be. With a park hopper, they wouldn’t feel obligated to stay at that park all day. They could just move on to another park that interests them more.
Another benefit of park hopping is specific for guests that are spending fewer days in the parks. They can get more done in less time and focus on the attractions that the really want to experience. It’s always a stress on short trips to feel the pressure of getting everything in. When this is you, I suggest using a customized itinerary from TouringPlans.com or mix and match the morning and afternoon specific touring plans. That way you can make sure you’re hitting everything you want to.
Let’s say you have a short trip, two full days, at Walt Disney World and you want to hit each park. This is how you might lay out your itinerary.
Eat breakfast at the hotel and start your morning at Animal Kingdom following the Animal Kingdom Morning Touring Plan. Try and eat an earlier lunch before you leave the park.
Hop to Magic Kingdom for the afternoon and evening and use the Magic Kingdom Late Arrival One-Day Touring Plan. Be sure to exclude any attractions that don’t interest you and fill in things you’d like to do with shorter lines.
Start off your day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and follow the Disney’s Hollywood Studios Morning Touring Plan.
After lunch, hop to Epcot via bus (for time saving reasons) and start on the Epcot Late Arrival Selective One-Day Touring Plan. Again, skip attractions you don’t care to experience and proceed on with the plan.
Personally, I don’t think that park hopping is suitable for everyone. Those traveling with small children should take caution. It’s worth remembering that one of the top things that kids hate is traveling. They don’t want to be stuck in line waiting for a bus, on a bus, or in a car. They want to be doing something or seeing something that interests them. You may be sacrificing your sanity just to park hop. Knowing your children and their irritability level will be helpful when deciding whether to park hop or not. Speaking of traveling… park hopping tends to eat up some time when you have to move to a different park. This is especially true if you are without a car and are using Disney transportation which is known to be slow at times. You have to leave the park, walk to the bus stop, stand in line waiting for a bus, get on the bus (this moves slower sometimes than you can imagine), wait until the bus arrives at your new destination, get off the bus, walk to the entrance, get through the turnstiles, and then you know that by the time you get there someone in your party is going to have to use the restroom right away. See? It takes a while to park hop.
What might be the deal breaker when deciding whether or not to park hop is if it fits into your budget. For a family of four, two adults and two kids, it costs $966.00 total for every person to have a five day base ticket without park hoppers. That family would end up spending an added $220 to allow everyone to add the park hopper option for all 5 days. A family on a budget probably needs to think about if their funds allow them to indulge in park hopping. I like to think about what they could do with an extra $220. The family could book a tour, schedule a few more table service meals, come home with more souvenirs, head to a water park for a day, or even enjoy water sports activities.
For every family planning a trip to Walt Disney World, you’ll have to decide what works best for you because the answer isn’t the same for everyone. How many of you dish out the extra dough to park hop? Who of you don’t find that it works for your family and why?