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Park Wise

Should You Buy a Park Hopper?

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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 o
ption 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.

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.
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.

What about you? Do you get the park hopper?

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Updated 11-13-2013 at 08:09 PM by Dustysage



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  1. Park Wise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevenW
    I should add that if you intend to visit the park for 7 to 10 days, it might be a good idea to add the park hoppers regardless since the per day addition is much less substantial.
    Good points, StevenW. The reason I said you might not need it on a longer trip is that you have so much more flexibility, but you make a valid point on the issue of cost per day.
  2. Park Wise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung
    Excellent article, Chris. I just want to point out one thing that might be confusing. You said -

    When I first read this it looked like taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours was a benefit that you could purchase. I'm sure you meant that someone might be, say, visiting DAK and would want to then do the Extra Magic Hours at the MK, for which they would need to have the park hopper add-on.

    I'm a longtime AP holder, and can't imagine what it would be like to be limited to just one park, especially when that park closes at 6 or 7pm. The whole evening is in front of you, and you can't take part in it cuz you can't park hop? No way (at least for me!).
    Good point--I'll make that a little more clear.
  3. Park Wise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steenbag
    Good advice. Typically when we go, we add the park hopper option, just because we will us spend one day doing MGM / AK, and then a day at MK and a day at EPCOT. What we also usually do is we will buy a 7-day ticket with the no-expiration option, and we will only use 3-4 days on a given trip, then next trip we have 4 days left, and given the ticket increases, it endes up being cheaper to buy the 7 day than a 3-day and 4-day a few years later.
  4. PeaJay18's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Park Wise
    PeaJay, are these non-expiration tickets or do they have to be used in a number of days?
    From the WDW UK website : Disney's 14-Day Ultimate Tickets expire 14 days from first day of use.
  5. Aznjeff11's Avatar
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    This was such an awesome article to read, definitely provided info I could have used on my 6 night/7 day trip this past January. It was my first trip ever to WDW, and I just happened to be going solo. I had done a lot of planning, but things obviously fell apart, and spontnaeity got the best of me. I actually found the park hopping to be very useful from the very start of my trip and it provided the ultimate flexibility. Also, since there was free dining at that time, I thought that the difference I was saving would be paying for the parkhopper and then some.

    I came in late to MCO from LAX at around 3:30 and "ready for the parks" at around 5:30. I had originally planned to spend my first night enitrely at MK. The lack of crowds during that time of year allowed me to get all the attractions done in Tomorrowland in less than an hour. I headed to Epcot effortlessly via the monorails. I was surpised at how quickly I went between the two parks. I can only imagine how long the commute could be during the peak seasons.

    I also made a ton of Dining Reservations. Some of the "must-do" restaurants had very limited availability and were only available during certain days of the week. For example, I had one for the Dine with an Imagineer lunch. The lunch is only available three days out of the week and happens only once each of those days. With it being one of the things I HAD to do, having a park hopper came in handy if I didn't want to spend an extra full day at Hollywood Studios.

    Another thing about dining that seemed to work out was when I had a reservation at a resort. On some days, I would spend the first half of my day at one park, head to a resort for a late lunch, and then decide if I wanted to head back to the same park or check out another.

    On one day, I actually found myself hopping between all four parks, taking a mid-day nap at my resort and watching Hoop Dee Doo. On that particular day, I got the most out of my park hopping.

    Having had a park hopper, I was free of stress and had a lot of flexibility. I think moving between parks in one day kind of kept things fresh and prevented me from getting tired of the same park towards the end of the day. I also found it handy to spend part of one day at a less busy park, avoiding the crowd that had formed during the day at another park for its vening EMHs. I'd then show up for the EMHs and it seemed like those people who planned on spending the whole day from opening to the end of that night's EMHs were on their way out from being tired.

    I feel that I lucked out having gone to WDW during one of its less busier times of the year. I could only assume that as it gets busier, the transportation between parks takes away from overall value of your parkhopping since you're spending time that could be spent in a park waiting in lines for transportation. I can honestly say that I had no regrets in spending a little more for park hopping. Like others have said, when you break it down to daily costs, it's actually not that bad.
  6. 20,000 Sheets to the Wind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steenbag
    What we also usually do is we will buy a 7-day ticket with the no-expiration option, and we will only use 3-4 days on a given trip, then next trip we have 4 days left, and given the ticket increases, it endes up being cheaper to buy the 7 day than a 3-day and 4-day a few years later.
    We used to do this, too...well, I did it once for our trips in '08 and '10. It worked great, and was much cheaper than buying 2 3- or 4-day passes. WDW has really jacked up the prices for the no-expiring option so that it's hardly a good deal anymore. For our trip this fall, I opted out of it for a few different reasons, but the primary one was the lack of difference in price. However, the benefit will increase the longer you hold onto your tickets, as prices ain't going down any.

    Hope all here can find their own Laughing Place when it comes to WDW ticket prices. Mine is in a room with rubber walls. I just have to close my eyes, click, 'buy,' and pretend it never happened!
  7. Buffett Fan's Avatar
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    Actually, I think the Park Hopper option is great if you are traveling with small children. It gives you the opportunity to visit a park in the morning, go back to the room and rest, then hit another park in the afternoon.
    Also, if an attraction has too long of a line/is out of FastPass, you can skip the attraction, then come back another day. Less time in line=happy kids!
  8. originaljahwoo's Avatar
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    Probably going to be a long time before I finally make it to disneyworld ((been dreaming of going for a good 20+ years now...had two false starts once after I graduated high school I had planned on going and a few years back I was planning a trip around xmas...)) Whenever I go to any amusement park (or any amusement anything) I like to go from opening to closing...get my moneys worth or at least get all I can out of the time they provide you. Long point short being...I had always assumed I would want the park hopper option; Especially knowing the weird hours one park may have that, as other people have said, leave you with a half a day still where you're standing and wondering what to do (((not that there's any shortage of things to do in orlando or on the disney properties in orlando))). Granted I'm not a family so I wouldn't have to spend $58 times however many people more for the hopper option...BUT...I do now think when I finally make it there I might take the advice of waiting to add the hopper option until I'm there....although that would then take away some of my precious time I have to explore the park(s) maybe this won't actually cause me to think any differently and I'll automatically go park hopper...BUUUUT if somehow I end up going with a group of people or my family or something...I'll try and point out to them that HEY maybe you don't want to pay extra for that feature you're not going to use

    and oh hey a question on this matter. The one time I had a park hopper ticket for disneyland and cali adventure; after cali adventure had closed and I walked across the way to disneyland they initially told me I couldn't come in because I hadn't been in disneyland that day; Does such a policy in orlando exist? Like you have to enter the other park before six pm or something weird? I did end up getting into disneyland....just in time to see MOBS of people waiting for fireworks..I think I got to ride space mountain and watched honey I shrunk the kids in my barely 2 hours...actually space mountain the lights were on..but that's it's own adventure. thanks ((I think I got to ride twice?...and the lights were off the second time...was ten years ago sadly I didn't seem to document it to well...despite my ocd tendendies of documenting * ratings for rides in the

    (((sorry for an overly long response and the rambling that has nothing to do with the subject at hand)))

    ****oooh one more thing. In the opnion of those of you who have gone there a ton of many days would be requird to fully expereince as close to every aspect of the orlando properites that one could without being there for a month? Including say water parks, down town disney, the resort activies that are open to the public, and of course the parks themselves; Further on that note...would I need to spend a month in orlando going somewhere every day to get all that can be got out of disney, sea world, and universal? Or would that be way to much time...or to little time? I'm a bit all or nothing so as it already is I feel like I need two weeks in orlando to be able to see most of the stuff between the 3 enttieis. thanks again
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