Disney Park Hopping: Do or Don’t?

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Features, Park Wise

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Frontpagepic_parkwise

Published on October 03, 2013 at 2:00 am with 30 Comments

Both coasts offer the Park Hopper upgrade to their base tickets.  For an additional cost, you’ll have the flexibility to visit more than one park in a single day, but is it right for you and is it worth the extra cost?

Consider Park Hopping if…

1. You’re staying within view of a park.

Navigating the Disney World bus system isn’t always, well, a walk in the park, especially if you’re looking at a long line at the bus stops after hopping all day.  When staying in a Magic Kingdom or Epcot area resort, though, you could easily and quickly head over to your respective park after a day elsewhere.

pic_HOR1

2. You’re taking a shorter vacation.

If you’re looking to fit a lot into a few days, the park hopper can be a big benefit for you.  If you only want to hit a few attractions per park, you can easily hop to two or more parks each day.

3. You do Disney on a whim.

If you haven’t made many (or any!) plans, a park hopper can provide flexibility.  Your chosen park of the morning a little too crowded?  Cruise on over to your second choice and see how the wait times are there.  Snagged a last minute dining reservation at Disneyland while waiting in line for California Screamin’?  No problem!

pic_HOR2

4. You’re at Disneyland.

As mentioned in our first point, park hopping at Walt Disney World can be a little…involved.  While each of the theme parks are connected to another via some mode of Disney transportation, it sometimes feels like a little more trouble than it’s worth.  At Disneyland, though, you’re golden!  In order to park hop, you walk a few yards across the esplanade between the two parks.  That’s it.  The main park entrances are across from each other.  How’s that for convenient?!

5. There are special events at the parks.

During Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival, we tend to hop over in the evenings to grab a bite to eat before calling it a day, especially when we are staying at one of the Epcot resorts.  If you’re partial to a certain event during Star Wars Weekends, hit Hollywood Studios during that time, then maybe bus over the Magic Kingdom for fireworks. Or if Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party  has the Magic Kingdom closing early, head over to Epcot for Illumnations or whatever park has evening Extra Magic hours.

pic_HOR3

Get Park Wise: Epcot’s two major festivals (Food and Wine or Flower and Garden) also offer concerts in the evenings.  Take a look at special event schedules to decide when to hop to the park.

Consider Keeping Your Base Ticket Basic if…

1. You’re looking to save a little cash.

The park hopper option is a flat rate per ticket, so if you’re looking to cut costs somewhere, this is an easy place to do it, especially if you’ll be visiting for multiple days and have time to visit each park

2. You’re traveling with young children.

This is different for each family, but it seems like I hear over and over that when families come “home” for a pool break or just to relax, the kids are often content to enjoy the resort.  Disney is a lot for little travelers, and they may only have the stamina or attention span to visit one park each day.

pic_HOR4

3. You’re an ultimate planner.

On the first few trips for the kids, we stayed with base tickets not only because they were younger and sometimes needed the early nights back at the resort, but because I planned like a mad woman.  I knew I wanted to expose them to as much of the parks as possible because everything was new to them.  It was easy to keep to one park per day because we experienced everything we could in each park.  Now we’ve become park-hoppers because they have favorites, and we may hit their top five at Magic Kingdom in the morning then head to Epcot for lunch and shopping and catch Fantasmic! before bedtime.

4. You’re not sure what you want to do.

If you think you might park hop but aren’t 100% sure you’ll need it, don‘t purchase the park hopper option prior to your trip.  This is a non-refundable purchase, and you may find that you’re too tired to hop or that there‘s more to do in the park once you start studying your guide.

pic_HOR5

Get Park Wise: Park hopping can be added at any time during your vacation (as long as your tickets are still active).  Head to the park on your first day and see if you feel the need to hop to a second park.

5. It’s your first trip.

Like I mentioned earlier, there is so much to do in each park that you can’t possibly do it all in one trip.  If it’s your first time at the parks, consider spending your day there exclusively so you can explore everything it has to offer before moving onto the next one.

Do you enjoy Disney park hopping?  What are your reasons for hopping between parks or just staying put in just one?

About Jessica Ma'ilo

Jessica is a special education teacher by day and blogger and Fairy Godmother Travel agent by evening. When not supervising play dates or sleepovers, she can be found creating, sewing or singing. She loves hitting the Disney Parks, and she and her family escape to the World and Land as often as they can. She can be contacted at [email protected], and you can also check out her family blog, Magic, Memories, Mayhem.

Browse Archived Articles by

  • bigbrian-nc.com

    I really like the way you thought this out, often you hear folks speak for or against park hopping and the arguments for or against it either just are not made at all, or are not very well explained, nice article!

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Thank you! Appreciate your comment!

  • gboiler1

    Excellent topic! Concise and well thought out. I have done both ways and probably didn’t need to in the early days. Now I won’t spend the extra on hopping. I pick a park after checking on hours, extra hours, fireworks, etc. HOWEVER, this year is the exception. We are going down for 4 days, including travel days, so 2 park days. One will be MNSSHP and the other a park day of which I am debating adding the hopper. We’ve been enough times to experience nearly everything the parks offer but might add the hopper so we don’t have to skip something we’d like to do.
    Hmmm, wonder if we could hit all four in one day!

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      You could absolutely hit all four parks in a day! It’ll be tiring, but it’ll also be a blast!! Good luck!

  • Lord Alfred

    Another factor to consider is the temperament of the people you travel with. For example, we will usually stay at WDW for at least 4 days and dedicate a day to each park. My wife and I are perfectly content to visit Animal Kingdom in the morning, see everything we want to see, and then retire to the resort to relax and enjoy the pool in the late afternoon. No park-hopper needed. After all, relaxing is part of a vacation, right?

    But sometimes we go with my friend, who feels like any time spent at the resort not sleeping is a sin. He cannot stand to get back before 9 or 10PM, and if we do, he immediately wants to go out and do something else. If you suggest he swim or relax, he will say “I can relax at home”. We always get the park-hopper options on those trips.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Very true. I can see both sides. When we have valid APs, we’re a lot more free with our time, but when we’re using limited day tickets, we tend to want to milk our park days for all they’re worth.

  • mikedoyleblogger

    I disagree. The question really has two separate answers, one for WDW and one for DLR. Trying to put them together is confusing. Park hopping is a completely different experience on all levels at DLR. Because of its radically different geography, there are fewer concerns about park heoping and more consistent benefits at DLR, which is why most visitors do it. And they usually do it not for the benefit of going back to a hotel and coming back later to a different park, but simply to change parks one or more times in a single day. This post makes it seem like there’s no difference. Absolutely not so. The easiest way to ruin a Disney vacation one one cost is to use touring strategies that only apply on the other coast.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Sorry you were confused. There is absolutely a difference in geography, and I pointed it out in the first section. Several factors apply to both coasts, too, and I outlined what my guests, friends and acquaintances seem to find worthy of note. Thanks for adding your comments!

    • billyjobobb

      In California, it’s like different lands. Would you spend all day in Adventureland? Or might you ride a few rides, and then go elsewhere.
      You can also hit world of color or Fantasmic on nights that you had planned to be in the other park during the day. I can have reservations at Blue Bayou and not have to plan on spending the day in that park….

      In Florida, it takes so long that once you’re at a park, you’re at that park.

  • jb91

    Thanks for the advice! Heading to WDW in November and i dont think it will be as easy park hopping there, as it is walking the esplanade a couple times a day at Disneyland.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      It’s definitely more of a process to park hop at Disney World, but if you know what you’re getting into, it’s not too bad.

  • holierthanthoutx

    Being annual passholders at WDW, we don’t ever have to think about park hopping for ourselves, but when we bring people with us (or help others plan trips), we ALWAYS encourage getting the park hopper option.

    For people who don’t visit often — or have never been to WDW before — park hopping is the only way to maximize your time in the parks. Especially in the off season, parks close at different times, and some (like AK) close pretty early. Plus, in warmer weather, we only do AK in the mornings, because it tends to get stiflingly hot there, so being able to hop over to a different park in the afternoons.

    When bringing friends with younger children, the park hopper is a fantastic option, because you end up not feeling “stuck” at a park. If the child is tired of Epcot by 3:00 in the afternoon, you can hop over to the Magic Kingdom. Transportation is half the fun, anyway; a trip on the monorail from Epcot to MK or a boat ride from Epcot to DHS can be as much fun as many of the attractions.

    • holierthanthoutx

      Ph, and I agree with the above poster that DLR is a completely different beast. Park hopping is not nearly as necessary at DLR, especially if you’re only there for two or three days. You can do all of DCA in one full day — in non-peak season, at least — and there’s enough to do in DL to keep you occupied for several days.

      When we go to DLR, we park hop if we’re there four or five days, but don’t park hop if it’s a two or three day trip.

      • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

        “Park hopping is not nearly as necessary at DLR”

        I disagree. Park hopping is very much a perk of visiting Disneyland. Especially since it is so easy to do so. At Disney World, I usually recommend that folks don’t park hop unless they really need to for some reason, as you waste a lot of time jumping between parks. But at Disneyland, park hopping takes you 1 minute.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Luckily park hopping ISN’T the only way to maximize time in the parks because guests all have different ways of touring that work for them. Not park hopping helped us maximize our time in the parks when the kids were younger by eliminating the travel time between parks so we could experience as much as possible in each park. Now park hopping helps us make the most of our days by hitting the highlights earlier in the trip while we’re still fresh. Then we take our time and relax.

  • MikeBlakesley

    I would add another comment to the first section. “Consider Park Hopping if…” you have a rental car, especially if Animal Kingdom (park or resort) is involved in any way. Trying to get from park to park using the bus system can take 90 minutes or two hours of precious park time. With MK and Epcot it’s not an issue due to the monorail, and it’s easy to get from either of those to Hollywood Studios via boat — but a rental car is the fastest way in many cases.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Very good addition! We often have our own car despite the fact that we fly since my grandparents often road trip and meet us at Disney. It can save a lot of time to use your own transportation.

  • TheBig2na

    I like to do what I want when I want and we make a lot of spur of the moment decisions so the park hopper definitely works for us. This is also the reason why I am not looking forward to fastpass+. I don’t like being hemmed in for such a long time. I see some benefits right now in that getting a fastpass+ for toy story mania for instance is easy. But in a year it will be like dining reservations. I hope I am wrong. looking forward to the rest of MyMagic+ though.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      I feel similarly. We tested FP+ this past week, and it was nice to schedule in advance, but I know I’d miss being able to park hop and use FastPass. Luckily we were still able to use traditional FP this time. I’ll be waiting with anticipation to see the final product.

  • DLRXMonorailPilot

    I say PH in WDW is essential if you are at a resort hotel. First off so many people don’t park hop that on the days there are extra magic hours the park that has them is packed all day. So I like to go the other parks and hop over for the EMH (or start there and leave depending on the morning or night). You can often find long waites all day in a park with EMH and if you only have the base ticket you follow the crowds or miss out on the EMH bennifit. I super plan all of my trips and I find that I would feel I missed out on a lot without park hopping. Now that I am a CM (at DL) I don’t have to worry about the cost but all the years that I was not I always paid for PH and even for the extra tickets I have to buy I add it as well.

    In Disneyland I think PH is the only way to go to maximise your time. First off neither park can be done in only one day anymore. Second with the parks so close togther you can really take advantage of the FP system. Since the two parks don’t talk you can have a FP for an attraction in DL and DCA for the same time frame. Its a little extra walking but you never wait for the FP attractions.

    At the end of the day its not that much more and there really are great bennifits at both resorts.

    • CCS

      I am under the impression that D-land and Cal Adventure DO talk to each other — well, at least their computers do. I do not believe you can have in hand two FastPasses for the same time period, in either park. Can someone in the know please chime in on this. Thanks.

      • RatherBeAtDLand

        They do not. You can hold both at the same time. Not much use now (except for Radiator Springs Racers) since they are enforcing return time windows, but we would always use this and just get FPs for both parks.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Lots of interesting thoughts and opinions! Thanks for weighing in on park hopping!

  • Big D

    For me personally, I would always get a park hopper with DLR. With WDW I do but I also always get a rental car specifically so that it’s easier to park hop. There is an Alamo on property at the Car Care Center and also another one inside the Dolphin hotel. Also, with WDW, if you’re not sure if you want a park hopper or not, buy just the base ticket, and then once you’ve been there a few days, if you decide you want a park hopper after all, you can go to any ticket booth and upgrade it to a park hopper on the spot.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Great thoughts!

  • Tielo

    I think park hopping is brilliant!
    All that time spent not in the park, waiting at bus stops and getting to your next ride is so much fun for people who stay in the park and not have you standing in front of us.

    But seriously, some of the comments are horrible. Telling first timers to buy a hopper pass is the worst advice you can give anyone. The best advice for them is come early, stay late and take your time to soak in the park, the details and the atmosphere. Even the so called half they parks are great places to explore. I’ve seen adults running trough AK to the next ride while the kids wanted to stop and watch the birds and the turtles but NO they needed to be there at a certain time.
    You can better do 1 thing good than a lot of things half.

    • billyjobobb

      I think it’s funny, but the park before noon and after the parade are the best times.

      When we go to California we get up early and hit the park. We leave for lunch, hit the pool at the hotel and come back in right after dinner. We save by not buying either meal in the park, and for the last few hours there are often NO LINES. I’ve had the pleasure of being allowed to stay seated on quite a few rides and just go again and again because there was nobody waiting.

      Imagine riding Indy 4 times without having to go through the line. Space Mountain back to back to back…… It often happens at 1130 on those night that the park closes at midnight! In February at WDW we were allowed to get off the wrong side of Big Thunder so that we could get back in line without going through the que. We must have rode it 10 times in a very, very short time.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      I don’t know that it’s the WORST advice, but it may not work best for everyone. I definitely agree that first timers should really take time to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the details.

  • Streamliner

    Good article. For a frugal visitor like me, Park Hopping is low on my radar. With an Annual Pass, I’d do it at Disneyland. With the parks being so close, this was logistically not a problem. But both parks offer a full day’s worth of entertainment, so I wouldn’t do it unless you want to cover both parks and only have one day to do it.

    Disney World was too spread out when I was there, I’d hate to waste time in between parks. But it seems like each park is a day’s worth of entertainment, so I wouldn’t

    The only time I bought a Parkhopper was at Disneyland Paris a couple weeks ago. They had a special deal (Parkhopper for $75 USD!!), which was cheaper than a single park ticket. Moneywise a no-brainer, and the resort logistically/geographically similar to Disneyland Anaheim, so commuting between parks was a breeze. Also, sad as it is, Disney Studios is not nearly a full day experience, so spending an hour and a half there was enough.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Thanks for your comments. It’s definitely an easy way to save enough for a meal or two if you’re looking for ways to cut costs.