Disney World Park Hopping FAQ

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With so many options, buying Walt Disney World theme park tickets can be an overwhelming process for first (or second or third) time visitors. I’m here now to demystify one aspect of the ticket selection process: The Park Hopper.

What exactly does Park Hopping mean?

In Disney-speak, Park Hopping means that you visit more than one of the four Walt Disney World theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios) in one day. If you want to go to more than one of these parks in a single day, then you need to have the Park Hopper add-on for your Disney theme park ticket.

Some folks consider the Animal Kingdom to be a "half day" park and want to spend the rest of their time at a different park. You need a Park Hopper to do this.

Some folks consider the Animal Kingdom to be a “half day” park and want to spend the rest of their time at a different park. You need a Park Hopper to do this.

Do I need a Park Hopper if I’m going leave and return to the same park during the same day?

No. With a Disney base ticket, you’re welcome to leave and re-enter the same theme park as many times as you like during the same day. So, if you want to visit the Magic Kingdom in the morning, go back to your hotel room for a nap, and return to the Magic Kingdom for the evening fireworks, then you do not need a Park Hopper ticket. However, if you visited the Magic Kingdom in the morning, went back to the room for a nap and then went to see the fireworks at Epcot, then you would need a Park Hopper.

Do I need to get a Park Hopper if I’m just going to pop into a second park to eat or shop?

Yes. Any time you want to set foot in a second park during the same day, you’ll need Park Hopper (with one type of exception which I’ll get to in a sec). There is no “just eating” or “just shopping” or “just seeing the fireworks” way to avoid needing a Park Hopper. The Hopping has nothing to do with going on rides, it has to do with entering the park turnstiles (which are not actually turnstiles any more, but I digress).

Why would I want to Park Hop?

Lots of reasons. Some might be:

  • You’re at Walt Disney World for just a few days, but want to go to all the parks.
  • You want to add variety to your vacation days.
  • You’d like to remain flexible in case weather or illness forces a change in your plans.
  • There’s a park you only want to visit for part of a day.
  • You particularly enjoy one part of a park (a certain ride or show perhaps) and want to revisit just that area several times over the course of your trip.
  • You like to dine at one park more than the others.
  • You couldn’t get all your preferred dining or FastPass+ reservations scheduled for the same day.
  • You’re visiting at a time of the year when some of the parks close quite early and you want to expand your entertainment options in the evening hours.

Will I be missing out on something if I don’t Park Hop?

Not necessarily. It depends on your touring style, the composition of your family, and your ability to plan.

Guests who are traveling with very young children may find that more than one park per day is too much stimulation. Guests who are staying at Walt Disney World for a longer period of time may be able to arrange multiple visits to each park without needing that to happen during the same day. Guest who are visiting during peak times (Christmas to New Year’s Day, July 4) may find that park closures due to crowd levels will impede their ability to hop.

Sometimes you want to eat at a different park than the one you're touring. You need a Park Hopper for this.

Sometimes you want to eat at a different park than the one you’re touring. You need a Park Hopper for this.

How much does a Park Hopper ticket cost?

Prices can change, but currently the Park Hopper add-on costs $59.00 per person, plus tax. This is the price to add the Hopper option on to any ticket, regardless of whether it’s a one-day base ticket or ten-day base ticket.

Is there a different price for kids or seniors?

Children under the age of three get free admission into the parks, so they don’t need a Hopper (or any other ticket). The Park Hopper price is the same $59.00 for everyone else, regardless of their age. (There used to a child price for the Hopper, but this disappeared a few years ago.)

I’ll be at Walt Disney World for six days, but only want to Hop on two of those days. I can’t buy just a two-day Park Hopper for a lower price?

No. The Park Hopper add-on is a flat fee item. It’s the same rate to hop for one day or for ten.

If I decide that I want to Park Hop during the middle of my trip, can I add the Park Hopper option then?

Yes. You can add the Park Hopper option to your ticket up to 14 days after the first use of the ticket, assuming that there are still remaining admission days on the ticket.

If you’re visiting Walt Disney World for eight days and you decide on day three that you want to Park Hop, just go to any park ticket window, guest relations office, or resort concierge desk and they’ll hook you up. Of course, adding the Hopper option mid-trip means that you’ll have fewer days of hopping flexibility.

Is there a price difference if I add the Hopper late in my trip?

No. The price is the same $59.00 flat rate per person no matter when the option is added. If you’re pretty sure that you’re going to hop at some point during your vacation, then it makes the most sense to add the Hopper option as soon as possible. This way you’ll have the more ability to hop should circumstances warrant. For example, I find the Animal Kingdom somewhat inhospitable in the rain. If I was at the AK and it started to pour, with the Park Hopper I’d just head on over to Epcot to enjoy some indoor attractions. Without the Hopper, I’m sort of stuck with a wet safari.

Sometimes you just need to go back for one more spin on Dumbo. If you've been to Epcot earlier in the day, you'll need a Park Hopper to visit the Magic Kingdom.

Sometimes you just need to go back for one more spin on Dumbo. If you’ve been to Epcot earlier in the day, you’ll need a Park Hopper to visit the Magic Kingdom.

It looks like it’s cheaper to add an extra day to my ticket than to add the Park Hopper option. Can’t I just do that and use two different “days” to get into two different parks?

No, no, no, no, no, no. And a little more no after than.

Seriously, this is perhaps the biggest area of Disney ticket confusion out there. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen guests use extremely foul language and nearly come to blows with guest relations cast members who informed them that they could not use a base ticket at two parks in one day.

Don’t do it. Don’t try it. It won’t work. The entrance reader will reject your ticket; people will be called over; someone will get upset. Save yourself the trouble and just put this idea out of your mind.

You simply cannot scan the same ticket (MagicBand, RFID, whatever) at two parks on the same day without having the Park Hopper add-on.

Really?

Yes, really.

I totally understand your logic. The price difference between an 8-day base ticket and a 9-day base ticket is only about $10. You’d rather spend $10 and swipe twice than spend $59 for the Hopper. I get it.

And I know that the next question that usually comes up is, “But why?” The answer to that it is simply, “Because Disney said so.” They’ve structured the ticket pricing to be more financially advantageous for them than for you. That’s just the way it is. Time to move on.

Can I go to more than two parks in a day with the Park Hopper?

Sure, knock yourself out. I’ve used Park Hopper tickets for three-park days several times, and once for a very tiring four-park day.

Does Park Hopping include admission to the water parks?

No. Admission to the water parks are not included with Park Hopper tickets. To enter a water park (Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon) you’ll need a single-day water park ticket, a multi-day water park ticket, or the Water Park Fun & More add-on for your base theme park ticket.

I’m driving to the parks. If I Park Hop, do I have to pay for parking more than once?

No. You only have to pay for theme park parking once per day, no matter how many parks you visit. Just save your parking receipt from the first park you visit. (You got a receipt, didn’t you?) Show the receipt at your second park and they’ll wave you through without having to pay again.

You do not need a Park Hopper ticket for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

You do not need a Park Hopper ticket for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

And remember, if you’re staying at a WDW resort hotel, you don’t have to pay for parking at all.

If I’m using MagicBands or MyDisneyExperience and am Park Hopping, can I make FastPass+ reservations at more than one theme park?

Not right now. During the current testing phase (fall 2013), guests are only allowed to make FastPass+ reservations a one park per day. There’s a decent possibility that this will change in the future, but we don’t have any real idea about when this might happen.

A strategy that I’ll be employing is that I’ll use a regular Touring Plan for my first park of the day, and save my FastPass+ reservations for the headliner attractions at my hop park (my second park of the day). This way I’ll be able to go on something like Toy Story Midway Mania in the late afternoon without a hideous wait. I’m not yet willing to proselytize that strategy because FastPass+ usage is still so new, but that’s what I’m going with for now.

Is going back and forth between parks a time waster?

It depends a bit on where you’re staying and where you’re going, but probably not.

My family often stays at the Beach Club Villas and we love dining at Epcot. When we stay at BCV, we will often visit the Magic Kingdom in the morning, go back to the room for an afternoon nap or swim, and then eat at Epcot in the evening. I feel like this ultimately saves us time rather than wastes it.

Do I need a Park Hopper ticket if I’m going to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party?

No! This is that exception to the Park Hopper rule that I mentioned earlier. MNSSHP, MVMCP, Night of Joy, and a few other experiences are called “Hard Ticket” events. You need a dedicated ticket to enter that’s unrelated to your regular theme park ticket.

So, if you only have a base park admission ticket (one park per day) and you visit Epcot during the day, you’re still welcome to go to the Magic Kingdom in the evening without a Park Hopper if you use a Halloween Party of Christmas Party ticket to get in. The Party tickets do not impact your regular tickets.

I’m coming from far away and planning a long visit to Walt Disney World, do you think I need a Park Hopper ticket?

If you’re coming to Walt Disney World for eight days or more, the most economical ticket option for you may be an annual pass. The Walt Disney World Annual Pass includes Park Hopping, there’s no need to buy an extra add-on for this. You should factor this into your decision making process.

I’ve got a family of five. For us to add Park Hoppers to our tickets would cost more than $300. Is it worth it?

Ahhh, the most vexing question of all: Is it worth it? Only you can make this decision based on your unique situation. Some things to think about as you decide are:

  • What is my total vacation budget and what percentage of my budget would be consumed by Park Hoppers?
  • Is this a lets-relax-and-be-luxurious vacation or a save-every-possible-penny vacation?
  • Are you traveling with guests (children, infirm adults) for whom Park Hopping might be physically or emotionally challenging?
  • Are you a good planner? Are you sure you’re going to be able to accomplish everything you want to in a park during a single day?
  • What else could/would you do with the money during your Disney vacation? More souvenirs? Better dining? Backstage tour?
  • What else could/would you do the money at home? Ballet lessons for little Susie? New iPhone?

So Frugal Friends and Hopaholics, what’s your strategy? Are you a one-stopper or a multi-hopper? Does your hoppiness change based on who you’re traveling with, the length of your visit, or any other factors? Are there any critical questions that I missed? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted on September 18, 2013

38 Responses to “Disney World Park Hopping FAQ”

  • I’m a big fan of park hopping. For one, it gives us a hard stop at some point in the day when we retreat to our hotel for a little break. It’s also great for making use of Touring Plans’ best park recommendations. We visit the best park for the first half of our day (which usually extends to late afternoon), take a break, then go to whichever park is open latest. Finally, it gives us the opportunity to visit those parks we don’t consider to be “full day” parks (ahem…I won’t mention names) for evening activities.

  • We always visit in January, and we always buy park hoppers. We love January because the weather is great and the crowds are low, but the trade-off is limited park hours and evening fireworks displays. Park hoppers give us the flexibility to overcome those limitations.

    • That’s a really good point. In the off-season, Park Hoppers could be quite beneficial.

    • Interesting, I’m actually the opposite. If I’m going when park days are short, I’m much more likely to skip the afternoon break (instead going with a low-key afternoon in the park or a leisurely lunch at a nearby hotel), so park hopping eats too much of my day. But if park hours are long, I like splitting my day into a morning park and an evening park, for a change of pace.

  • So glad you posted this! I am really on the fence about the park hopper and this helped clear a few things.
    I do

    Jenn

  • Another thorough, researched and well-written article. Thank you!
    To each their own. We’ve done both and we prefer one park, one day.
    We take a break, but we just like the idea of opening and closing a park

  • Absolutely LOVE Park Hopper! Wouldn’t do a Disney Vacation without it. My kids are older now so it gives some variety to go to another park on the same day, eat at favorite park restaurant and/or just get the most out of each day of our Disney Vacation. Really enjoy the best of all!

  • I would NEVER book my Disney vacation without park hopper. We are a family of 4 and go to Disney every 3 years for 6 days. Even though I planned Magic Kingdom for the day my kids might just feel like going on Tower of Terror, so over to Hollywood Studios we go. I believe it’s a small price to pay to be able to please everyone.

  • When my wife and I were on our honeymoon we enjoyed using Park Hopper to go to World Showcase in the evenings and thought it was worth it. Now that we have a young child I’d rather save the money since one stint in a park per is usually enough. Or if we do want to go back to a park we just go to the same one.

  • We did the Park Hopper once, and we won’t do it again (at least not until our kids are older). We find that, in a typical 5-day visit, we might use the Park Hopper once or twice…and it’s just not worth the expense. We find that there’s more than enough at any one park to keep us busy all day. If we do happen to finish a park early one day, there’s SO much else to do outside of the parks: swimming at the resort, Downtown Disney, Disney’s Boardwalk area, monorail resort hopping, etc. We can always find something to do.

  • FYI, you write, “It’s the same rate to hop for one day or for ten”, but in fact the Park Hopper add-on price of $59 you mention is for 2-day through 10-day tickets. The add-on for a 1-day ticket is much less. ($95 for 1-day base, $34 to add hopper. $184 for 2-day, $59 to add hopper, etc.)
    Excellent and thorough article, as usual, Erin! Thank you!

    • You are correct. I apologize for the error.

      To further clarify, you won’t get a reduced price if your original base ticket is for any length longer than one day. For example, if you have an 8-day base ticket and decide on day 7 that you want to hop, they’ll still charge you the $59, even though you only have one day left to use the hop feature.

  • We do NOT park hop. I have visited 7 times – and find that even with afternoon naps, we are content to go back to the same park that we just visited. We can then use that $250 for a cool experience like a character meal or a pirate cruise.

    However, I can see how adults or teenagers, especially those spur of the moment kind of people would find it fun and refreshing. Or how those going on a low-crowd time would find it necessary to be able to see the parades and fireworks.

  • We always park hop! Of course, when you’ve been many times like we have, we hop to each park and do our favorites. But for one trip we may not do it because I feel like we are on “auto” and aren’t enjoying other things the parks have to offer.

  • Please tell me about the one time you did all 4 parks on 1 day…

    • Ha! I wish I had a better story to tell, but mostly it was just research for blog posts.

      There are however, many guests that do this who set up specific challenges for themselves. For example, they have to have one iconic meal/snack, watch one show, and go on three rides in each park. Or see the same character in a different costume in each park. Let us know if you have an idea for a creative challenge.

      • Well my husband and I are visiting in December and we’ve created 4 personalized plans (using this site & our existing knowledge) to do 1 crazy Disney day. The plan is 1 show, 1 outdoor attraction, 1 food, 1 indoor attraction, 1 thrill ride, 1 transportation, 1 pin trade, a photo pass photo in front of the park icon and 1 encounter per park. Yep, we nuts.

      • I’ve spent as long planning that one day than the rest of our 2 week trip put together…

  • I’m a sometimes park hopper. Every group, and every vacation, is different. Every park has its own evening charm, but I think a lot of park-hoppers tend to gravitate toward Epcot in the evening, and miss out on seeing the other parks in different light. Sticking to one park per day can be kind of nice.

  • We get the hopper every trip. We also like to stay in the Boardwalk area, do a park in the morning, go back to swim or rest, eat and go to Epcot in the evening. It’s so fun to pick up my son at the Sandcastle club and say, “do you want to go see Illuminations? ” or “how about another ride on Test Track?”

  • I plan to have park hopping on 23rd and 24th December. Do you think that I can enter the second park in the afternoon? As I worry the park will be closed due to high crowd levels =(

    • I honestly think that you will have a hard time with park hopping on these particular dates. The 23rd MIGHT be workable, but I would definitely not chance it on the 24th. Such high crowds!

      • I’ve was at WDW during those dates in 2010 and 2012. In my experience, the crowds were high, but not as high as they were two day later. No promises, but I think hopping will be possible, depending on where you want to go. During these days, if you’re hopping, make the MK your morning park – that’s the one that will fill up first. It’s extremely rare that Epcot will fill, so you’re quite likely to get in.

        Another thing to consider is transportation. While the Disney transport methods will be crowded, my gut tells me that this will be a better option than driving between parks.

        • Thanks for the advice. If I go for a park hopping, what time should I leave the first park? I plan to go to Animal Kingdom then Hollywood Studio on 23rd, and Magic Kingdom then Epcot on 24th.

          I am a huuuuuuuuuuuuge disney fan and it is my first time (also my dream) to come to WDW. I really hope that I can visit all parks at last 2 days of my trip :) Thanks!

        • Besides, would CM of one park know about the crowd levels of other parks?
          Can I ask them before leaving the first park?

          • Yes, the cast members at Guest Relations should be able to tell you about the crowd levels at the various parks. That’s really your best bet on how to determine whether you’ll be shut out of a hop.

            Just a word of caution, unless you’ve been to WDW before, it’s somewhat difficult to really understand the scope of the place. Disney is HUGE. You may be able to pop in to four parks in two days, but you should come knowing that you’ll really only get a taste of the place, not the full experience. Consider this a first step and plan to come back for a longer visit later where you’ll be able to really dive in to all the parks have to offer.

    • Sorry for all the typos. Phone typing is not my friend.

  • When we went back in April for our honeymoon, my husband and I became Annual Passholders. If you are someone that likes to play sorcerers of magic kingdom, then you can make a quick trip to MK at some point in the day to get your cards and then continue with the rest of your day. For our trip this coming February, we have already factored that strategy into our plans so that we can get our cards early in the morning and then head to another park or make a quick stop at the end of the day to get the cards and then head back to the hotel.

    • I hadn’t considered this reason to hop before. It makes perfect sense. If you’re a gamer than the daily quick pit stop in the MK can really help with your card collection.

  • Erin, I just love your articles! On our honeymoon, we had the park hopper in October, which had earlier park closings, and we ate every night at Epcot.

    But now with 3 very little ones, we have chosen not to do the park hopper. I am a big planner, and my kids love to know what they are doing, they love hearing ‘the plan’. But there are ALWAYS variables, and while I ‘planned’ to watch ‘Dream along with Mickey’, I DIDN’T plan the rain. But telling my kids, “no worries! We’ll watch it when we come back after nap…” is good enough for them! This has happened when Pirates of the Caribbean was having technical problems, when we cut it too close to our CRT reservations to see Tinkerbell, at least one needs to be ‘adjusted’ everyday of our trips. I plan my after nap park time a little more loosely to get to anything we missed in the morning.

    If I park hopped, it would be too much pressure to actually ‘hop’ since we payed for it, and fitting in all the things everyone really wanted to do with no ‘fall back’ extra time would be stressful. For my kids, ‘we’ll do it after nap’ is attainable while ‘we’ll come back tomorrow’ feels like an eternity!

  • Thanks for the information on the fastpass + in only one park per day- that is helpful to know. My suggestion for disney newbies would be one park per day may be enough for you. I find that when I start planning vacations for people who have never been and start talking about doing a morning park and a different park later I overwhelm them. Park hoppers are great for disney people who know what they are doing and what they are in for. If this is your first time, you may want to just stick to one park and use the money you save for something else.

    • Amen! There is PLENTY to do in 1 park per day for first timers! (And even 2nd & 3rd timers!) In my opinion, park hopping is most called for when there is limited time (like the 2-day trip above) or for seasoned vets who’ve “seen it all” already, and just want to hit some highlights or switch parks for a meal. Also, if a park closes early, and you’re not ready to call it a day. I agree with Rosalie, though: having the hopper forces you to hop, so you rush through the park you’re in, just so you can hop out of it.
      In addition, those new at hopping must realize it can take looong time to get out of one park and into another park, practically an hour or more if using Disney transportation and/or toting kids, strollers, etc. It takes especially long, for example, if you are deep in the back of Epcot when you decide you now want to go on the Safari at Animal Kingdom. It’s a long walk out to the Epcot buses, then a long ride to AK (do Epcot buses even go to AK? I think some parks don’t even have direct routes between each other), then all the way to the back of the park to the Safari.

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