Should You Buy a Park Hopper?
by, 05-09-2012 at 07:51 PM
Tickets are one of the most expensive parts of a Disney vacation, often costing more than the room itself, but you can cut costs by not purchasing ticket ďadd onsĒ such as park hoppers and water park options. Since park hoppers are one of the most confusing subjects, hereís everything you need to know about them so you can make the best decision for you.
Whatís a park hopper?
First letís talk about the base ticket, which is Disneyís standard park admission. This ticket allows you to visit one park per day. Itís that simple. You can leave and reenter that park as many times as you wish, but you canít visit another park other than the one you originally entered that morning. Other than that, your base ticket gives you a ton of flexibility. So say you have a 3-day base ticket. You can go to the Magic Kingdom three days in a row or you could go to Epcot the first day, then Hollywood Studios the second day, and on your final day, go to the Magic Kingdom.
A park hopper is an add-on to your base ticket that allows you to ďhopĒ between parks. In theory, you could visit all four parks under one dayís admission. The hopper option is a flat rate, so the price is the same whether youĎre adding it to a 2-day base ticket or a 10-day base ticket. You wonít save money by adding the hopper on day four of a 7-day ticket; the price is the same regardless. Right now, adding a hopper costs $58.58 (including tax) per person regardless of age. A 3-day base ticket will cost you $247.08, but if you add the hopper, youíll pay $305.66. Thatís a substantial jump in cost, particularly when youíre talking about the average family of four.
Get Park Wise: Take the same hypothetical three-day base ticket. Obviously, itís cheaper to upgrade from a 3-day ticket to a 4-day ticket than to add the hopper, so a lot of guestsattempt this in the hopes that they can use that extra day to park hop. Sadly, it doesnít work that way. Your dayís admission is good from the first parkís opening (regardless of whether or not you go to that park) until the last park closes. In other words, you canít spend day three of your ticket at Epcot and then try to use day four that night during extra magic hours at the Magic Kingdom. The computers wonít allow it.
Walk past the Picture Spot sign and you will be at the Animal Kingdom turnstiles.
Who needs a park hopper?
Well, the reality is that with careful planning, no one actually needs a park hopper. In fact, itís the first thing I suggest that people drop if theyíre trying to cut costs. By not getting a hopper, the average family of four saves a total of $234.32. Thatís a nice sit down meal in a restaurant, a few snacks, and a couple souvenirs for the kids. If you still want to explore hopping, here are a few thing things that might help you make up your mind:
Consider getting the park hopper if you:
- Want a lot of flexibility.
- Are traveling as a couple or in a group of adults.
- Are on a short trip with less than four days in the parks, since youíll want to see as much as possible. Itís a lot easier to go completely commando on a shorter trip than on a longer one.
- Are going during a busy holiday week like Christmas or Easter, since hopping will allow you to leave a busier park for a less crowded one.
Considering skipping the hopper option if you:
- Are traveling with small children who are often too tired to take advantage of the longer hours park-hopping affords or who may tire more easily if traveling from park to park.
- Are a first-timer, since youíll want to devote more time to each park in order to maximize what you experience.
- Donít want to waste time (up to an hour or more) hopping from park to park.
- Are traveling with a multi-generational group with different needs and physical abilities.
- Are on a longer trip of seven or more days.
At least you can look at Spaceship Earth while you are waiting to enter the park.
Adding the park hopper option:
As long as you purchased your base ticket from Disney (or a reputable discount broker), you can upgrade your base tickets once youíre in Walt Disney World. For this reason alone, you should always buy the least amount of ticket you need because itís much easier to upgrade than to downgrade. In fact, if you buy a package and want to downgrade your tickets less than 45-days prior to travel, youíll pay a $50 change fee.
Once youíre in the parks, go ahead and add days, ticket options, or even upgrade to an annual pass. I always use the hopper option, but if youíre on the fence, waiting a day or two can give you the opportunity to see if youíll actually use it. I often hear from guests, especially those with younger children, that they didnít use them at all.
Visit Guest Services to add the Park Hopper option or to upgrade to an Annual Pass.
Now, hereís the interesting part and another reason why itís often better to wait. When you purchase a package from Disney, everyone under that reservation has to have the same type of tickets and dining plan, but itís a little different once you get to Disney World. Say you get there and realize that you'd like to take advantage of extra magic hours, a benefit for all on-site guests, but everyone else in your group is too tired at the end of the day? Well, just add the option for yourself and the rest can stay with a base ticket. Thereís just one caveat: Upgrade at your resort if everyone is getting the same upgrade. Otherwise, upgrade at any ticket booth and you can pick and choose who gets the hopper. Iím not sure why thereís a difference between the resort computers and the park computers, but donít question the magical wall between the two systems! Just use it to your advantage.
If you decide not to get the hopper, make sure you make your dining reservations for the park you'll be in that day. It's easy to do since Disney announces park hours prior to the 180-mark for making dining reservations, so you'll know which park is having extra magic hours and any special events well in advance.Get Park Wise: In order to upgrade a ticket, you must have at least one day remaining left on your ticket. This is to cut down on scams from off site ďdiscountĒ ticket sellers who purchase used tickets and resell them. While some cast members may override this rule for you, itís not worth the chance that they wonít, so just remember to upgrade before you reach this point.
What about you? Do you get the park hopper?