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Do You Need a Park-Hopper Pass?

When you buy your tickets to Disney World, you’ll have the choice of adding a park hopper option.  A regular base ticket allows you to visit one park per day.  You may re-enter that park as many times as you like during that day, but you won’t be able to visit another park if you use that same ticket.  You also won’t be able to use another day’s park admission for that day in order to gain admission to a second (or third) park no matter how many days you have left on that ticket.  The solution to this problem is to add a park hopper option to your ticket.

A park hopper is exactly what it sounds like:  It allows you to “hop” from park to park, all in the same day.  It costs an additional $52 per ticket and is good for all four major parks.  It’s valid for the length of the ticket, so the longer your visit the cheaper its daily use becomes.  When you add up the total costs for a Disney vacation, adding $52 to each ticket seems like a fairly small amount, but these days a vacation is a luxury for most of us and saving money where you can is important.  If I cut something from the vacation budget, it’s the first thing I cut.  Before you automatically get the park hopper option, think about how you visit the parks. 

A park hopper might be for you if you:

  • are the type of person who tours the parks “commando style” from morning until night.
  • are staying off-site and can’t take advantage of extra magic hours.
  • are on your first trip and want to see everything.
  • are on a short (less than 4 nights) trip.

 A park hopper might not be your best option if you:

  • have young children and won’t be spending a lot of time in the parks.
  • take a slower approach to the parks.
  • don’t stay in the parks late.
  • are on a longer trip and can tour at a slower pace.

Having the park hopper option doesn’t just mean you can change parks on a whim; it makes your planning easier.  For example, if you make a dining reservation for a restaurant located in a park, you can visit other parks that and not worry about it.  This is especially important when making your advanced dining reservations since park hours and extra magic hours (EMH) usually come out later than the 180-day mark. Without a park hopper, many guests schedule their park days around which days have the longest hours and/or EMH, giving them the most park time for their money.  Since you’ll likely be making dining reservations before you know what park hours will be, it can be a guessing game if you’re making a dining reservation in the park. 

If you don’t add the park hopper option, you’ll simply need to do a bit more research before your trip to ensure that you get the maximum use out of your ticket.  Don’t hesitate to make your dining reservations as soon as you’re allowed.  You an always change them later without a penalty, but if you’re trying for an especially difficult reservation (Cinderella’s Royal Table, Le Cellier to name two of the most difficult to get) don’t change it until you know you can get another one.  I’d probably lose some time in the parks before I’d give up a reservation I really wanted.  If you’re really concerned, search historic park and EMH hours online to give you an estimate of what you can expect and then make your reservations.  Finally, once you get official park hours from Disney, you can plan your trip to give you the most hours in the parks based on regular operating hours and EMH, if you’re staying on site.

A park hopper is definitely not a necessity.  It’s something that’s nice to have.  If you’re cutting costs, it’s probably the first thing you should think about.  The great thing is that you don’t have to add the park hopper option to your ticket when you purchase it.  If, after a day or two in the parks, you find yourself needing one, you can add it at your resort concierge desk or once you get to the parks.  If not, you’ve saved yourself a nice amount of money, enough to treat you and your family to a nice meal in one of Disney’s better restaurants.

4 Comments

  1. I <3 my park hopper. I’ve always been one to hate restrictions, so being able to not worry about what parks I wander into and out of is always nice. Also, when we’re booking meals, we usually do breakfast/lunch in one park and dinner in another, so the hopper comes in very handy for that. Lastly, we take a very casual approach to park touring — having the hopper means we can be in DHS, get a whim that we need to ride Mission:Space right this minute, and be able to do so. Pretty great.

    Remember when Disney had that guy in a big rubbery yellow park hopper costume explaining the park hopper perk on Disney resort TV? That was awesome.

  2. On a normal trip, we are definitely park hoppers – no question. For our shuttle launch trip, we just have a one day, no hopper ticket. I’ve never done that before…

  3. AJ, I haven’t seen the big yellow guy. When did they have him?

    We have a similar approach to visiting the park. I’d be hard pressed to do one of those ultimate touring plans (although, I kind of want to do one).

    Off to go find the big yellow park hopper guy on you tube. . . .

    Blondie: I’ve done it a few times and it wasn’t a big deal.

  4. My family goes to Disney for an 8 day vacation each year. We never do the hopper pass. We just plan one park per day and see/do everything there is. Our thought is that it wastes time coming/going to each park. With great planning for events/dining there really is no need to buy a hopper pass, unless, like you said, you’ve only got a couple of days to see it all. Can’t imagine only 2 – 3 days at Disney!!

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