Buying Disney World tickets can be a complicated, expensive endeavor. Along the way, you'll encounter lots of different options, including the "Park Hopper" option. In this post, we explain Park Hopper and discuss who should and should not purchase this add on.
What Is Park Hopper?
When you purchase tickets for Walt Disney World, you'll be given the option to purchase tickets with or without "Park Hopper" (and "Park Hopper Plus"):
Without Park Hopper, you can still visit all four parks, as long as you are at Disney World for at least four days. Tickets without Park Hopper are good for one park each day. You can choose the park. So you could visit all four parks in four days, or you could visit one park four times in four days.
If you have Park Hopper, you can leave one park and go to a different park. With Park Hopper, you can go to each park as many times in a single day. We've done all four parks in a single day multiple times, and we've even done days where we start at a park, visit the other three, and then finish at the same park we started.
If you purchase Park Hopper, it is valid for the length of your ticket. So if you have a five day ticket, you can hop between parks all five days.
Even without Park Hopper, you can leave a park and come back, you just can't go to a different park.
As always, keep in mind that Universal Studios is not a part of Walt Disney World. If you want to visit Universal Studios, you'll need to buy a separate ticket from them, completely unrelated to you Walt Disney World ticket.
What are the downsides to Park Hopper?
The only downside to purchasing Park Hopper is the extra cost. On tickets for four days or longer, Park Hopper is a $75 add-on for adults and children. For tickets for less than four days, Park Hopper (mostly) costs $65 to add. Those are the total add-on costs, not per-day.
Some people look at that cost and the overall cost of their ticket and think it's an easy decision to add on Park Hopper. But you should ask whether you really want to plan to park hop. There are downsides to hopping between parks.
Park Hopping Takes Time
Whether you drive or rely on Disney transit, getting between parks takes time. While you could conceivably get between two parks in 15 minutes, it can also take over an hour. If you're relying on Disney's internal bus/boat system, you'll definitely have a few unexpected delays waiting for the buses and boats to arrive.
Time is money at Walt Disney World, and with Park Hopper you could wind up spending more to have less time in the parks. If you take advantage of the earliest park opening and the latest closing, you might avoid this, but some days you'll be losing time.
You Might Mess Up
There's also a danger of over-planning. Sometimes people think they can plan the perfect day with park hopping, but crowd levels and broken rides get in the way. You might leave a park where you had plenty of good options and wind up at a park that is packed to the brim.
Park Hopping Can Be Tiring
Related to the above two points, park hopping can be exhausting. Families with smaller children or older adults may find it much easier to be in a single park all day.
This is especially going to be true if you're hopping parks trying to cram in rides. If you're not taking the time to relax at a restaurant or sit and watch a parade, you're more likely to get tired. Park hopping often (but not necessarily) includes walking from ride to ride or character greeting to character greeting trying to fit as much as possible into a single day.
Park Hopping Usually Isn't Necessary
Every Walt Disney World park really is a "full-day" park. Hollywood Studios is the closest to a "half day" park, but you could still fill in about eight hours there. The other three parks all can easily fill a day.
If you focus too much on park hopping just to get in as many rides as possible, you'll miss plenty of top-notch entertainment and scenery. There is so much detail and so much story in every Disney park, you just have to take the time to see it.
What are the upsides to Park Hopper?
Before we became Disney World annual passholders, we always purchased Park Hopper. The flexibility in planning goes much deeper than might seem obvious at first glance. We'll cover a few ways Park Hopper can make planning your Disney World trip easier.
A lot of the upsides to Park Hopper involve being able to fit more visits to a single park into your trip. Keep in mind that even without Park Hopper, you can always come back to a park one day after another, you'll just be "stuck" there for the entire day if you don't have Park Hopper. So while technically some of these upsides are achievable without Park Hopper (some aren't), they're much more feasible with Park Hopper.
Double Up on Rope Drop
When it comes to getting on rides without FastPass+, nothing beats rope drop, and you absolutely need Park Hopper if you want to visit multiple rope drops on the same day.
Even if the posted opening at Park A is just one hour before the opening time at Park B, you might be able to visit rope drop at Park A (arrive 30 minutes early), get one or two really big rides in, and then hop over to Park B for another rope drop. Theoretically, by 10AM on your first day, you might have four of the top 10 rides at Walt Disney World done.
Double Up On Park Closings
Just like with rope drop, parks tend to be less busy at close. Hopping from an 8PM close to a 10PM close allows you to double up on these small crowds.
This is especially valuable on days when one park has a special event that you’re not able to visit. For example, if you go to Magic Kingdom before Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party, you’ll have to leave at 6PM. The same is true of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Park hopping allows you to spend the morning at Magic Kingdom on party days without having your day cut short.
Park Hoppers Have More Dining Options
This is a pretty underrated aspect of planning with Park Hopper. Since some restaurants are located in the parks, you need park tickets to dine at those locations. Without Park Hopper, you're forced to dedicate an entire day to a park if you want to dine at any of its restaurants.
This idea extends to restaurants outside the parks, as well. If you want to have breakfast at the Polynesian one day and dinner at the Grand Floridian another day, it makes sense to be able to swing by Magic Kingdom on both of those days without having to spend two full days there. (Obviously you don't need admission to a park to eat at these restaurants, it's just convenient for planning purposes.)
Magic Kingdom Made Easy
Park Hopping makes it easy to split up Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is a true beast of a theme park. Even with great Magic Kingdom Fastpass+ planning, it is difficult to see all of Magic Kingdom in a single day.
Splitting Magic Kingdom over two days—even two half days, if you visited at rope drop twice—is the best way to tackle the park. You can split Magic Kingdom over two days without Park Hopper, but you'll need to commit two full days and possibly skip one of the other parks on shorter trips.
Park Hoppers Can Really Leverage Extra Magic Hours
Extra Magic Hours (EMH) are extra park hours offered to guests of Disney resorts at select parks on select days. EMH is often in the morning, meaning the park opens an hour early for Disney resort guests.
If you're a Disney resort guest without Park Hopper, you face a tough choice. Visit the park in the morning for EMH, and you're going to be at a park with above-average crowds all day. Skip EMH and go to a different park, and you'll miss out on an awesome perk of your Disney resort stay.
If you have Park Hopper, you can visit EMH and then leave the crowds behind, possibly to visit another rope drop. This is typically how we approach our days at the parks.
The Little Things
Finally, there are the little things that nag at you. If you have Park Hopper, you can come back to a park for a piece of merchandise you decided to buy, or for a snack you forgot you wanted to try. If a park just isn't doing it for you one day, you can just go to another one.
So Should I Get Park Hopper?
The above list has more "pros" than "cons", but that is not the end of the issue. This question is one that will depend not only on what kind of family and traveler(s) you are, but also whether this is your first or tenth trip.
If your family takes it slow, you won't need Park Hopper. You can take it slow in one park each day and accomplish plenty.
Similarly, if this is your first trip, feel free to skip Park Hopper. This will allow you to truly savor each park to its fullest without the stress of hopping.
If you're planning a return trip, or if you're someone who can get up at 6AM and be moving until 10PM, then Park Hopper is a great option. The only time we've come close to skipping park hopper was on a trip with a first-timer. We are usually up and running around all day at Walt Disney World, hopping between parks, resorts, and restaurants all trip long.
A final caveat—if your trip is fewer than four days, the only way you can see all four parks is with Park Hopper. We would consider that essential and worth the extra cost, but plenty of families could skip a park (probably Epcot or Hollywood Studios, in our opinion).
All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way. If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.
Don't forget to master your Disney World FastPass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks! We've got park-specific guides as well: Magic Kingdom FastPass, Epcot FastPass, Animal Kingdom FastPass, and Hollywood Studios FastPass.
Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.