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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.