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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. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Chris, this was a very interesting column.

    Deciding which ticket to get is always difficult for me. I always struggle over getting an annual pass, ticket for the day I arrive or leave, need for park hoppers, etc.

    It seems that I always opt for the park hopping tickets just in case I need to change parks in the middle of the day.

    Honestly, Epcot and Magic Kingdom are full day parks for me, but Animal Kingdom and the Studios aren't. That means that I almost always want to hop on the day I visit the Studios in particular. So I end up paying more for my tickets because Disney made and inferior park. Seems unfair, but I'd rather pay extra than get stuck in that dog of a park all day.

    The other reason I almost always pop for the park hopping tickets is Dining. Because Epcot has the best dining in the resort, we end up there for many of the evenings regardless of where we spent the day.

    I do think it is absolutely ridiculous that Disney has created such a complicated ticket system with so many fees and rules. But we are lucky to have folks like you to help us sort it all out.

    Thank you,
    Updated 05-10-2012 at 07:21 AM by Park Wise
  2. JeffHeimbuch's Avatar
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    Ah yes, the eternal conundrum of getting a park hopper or not...

    People always fight with me on this when I'm telling friends and family to not get the park hopper until they are sure they will use it or until they actually get to Disney. This definitely articulates my reasons much better than I usually do, so I'll be passing this along from now on!
  3. BC_DisneyGeek's Avatar
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    Good advice on waiting to upgrade tickets after you get there. Last time I paid for the water parks & more add-on and didn't end up using them.

    I do always get the park hopping option. Same as Dusty, I often end up at Epcot for dinner regardless of where I spent the day.

    Even if you consider Animal Kingdom a full day park, if they close at 5:00 or 6:00 that still leaves enough time to do a few things in Epcot afterward. If a park is offering Evening Magic Hours, there's even more benefit to hopping.

    Park hoppers are huge if you're taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours. A common strategy is to take advantage of that early hour, and then head to another park since the one with EMH will be crowded.

    The flexibility is nice too. Turns out you're not a fan of the Studios? Salvage your day and head to the Magic Kingdom.

    I can't imagine not taking advantage of the opportunity to hop between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom via Monorail.

    Having dinner at the Contemporary or another resort hotel near a park? It would be a shame if you didn't have the option to pop into the nearby park, if only for an hour.

    Considering how many extra hours of theme park time the park hopping option can gain you, it's more than worth it.
  4. bkeyes19's Avatar
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    My Wife and I have had the premier pass for three years now and it solves this problem very nicely thank you! My Dad lives in Florida so we visit at least twice a year. Not only do we get the park hopper issue out of the way, but we also save on hotel rooms and merchandise. Add in the discounted Tables in Wonderland card and we save on food. We usually visit D Land at least once a month so we figured early on the Florida part of the Premier pass pretty much is free for us. I would recomened it to anyone who visits WDW at least once a year. Or vice versa for those poor souls you live in Florida.
  5. Park Wise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dustysage
    Chris, this was a very interesting column.

    Deciding which ticket to get is always difficult for me. I always struggle over getting an annual pass, ticket for the day I arrive or leave, need for park hoppers, etc.

    It seems that I always opt for the park hopping tickets just in case I need to change parks in the middle of the day.

    Honestly, Epcot and Magic Kingdom are full day parks for me, but Animal Kingdom and the Studios aren't. That means that I almost always want to hop on the day I visit the Studios in particular. So I end up paying more for my tickets because Disney made and inferior park. Seems unfair, but I'd rather pay extra than get stuck in that dog of a park all day.

    The other reason I almost always pop for the park hopping tickets is Dining. Because Epcot has the best dining in the resort, we end up there for many of the evenings regardless of where we spent the day.

    I do think it is absolutely ridiculous that Disney has created such a complicated ticket system with so many fees and rules. But we are lucky to have folks like you to help us sort it all out.

    Thank you,
    Dusty,

    Thank you. I sometimes wonder if there are crowd control reasons for not just making all tickets hoppers, because it does create a lot of stress for people. I'd love to know the reasoning behind it.
  6. calsig31's Avatar
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    Another option for Disneyland Premium Passholders is to upgrade to the Premier Pass. We did that for our recent weeklong Disney World trip. We basically paid $250 for seven days of park hopping and all the discounts that we would normally enjoy with our annual pass in CA.
  7. Park Wise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BC_DisneyGeek
    Good advice on waiting to upgrade tickets after you get there. Last time I paid for the water parks & more add-on and didn't end up using them.

    I do always get the park hopping option. Same as Dusty, I often end up at Epcot for dinner regardless of where I spent the day.

    Even if you consider Animal Kingdom a full day park, if they close at 5:00 or 6:00 that still leaves enough time to do a few things in Epcot afterward. If a park is offering Evening Magic Hours, there's even more benefit to hopping.

    Park hoppers are huge if you're taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours. A common strategy is to take advantage of that early hour, and then head to another park since the one with EMH will be crowded.

    The flexibility is nice too. Turns out you're not a fan of the Studios? Salvage your day and head to the Magic Kingdom.

    I can't imagine not taking advantage of the opportunity to hop between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom via Monorail.

    Having dinner at the Contemporary or another resort hotel near a park? It would be a shame if you didn't have the option to pop into the nearby park, if only for an hour.

    Considering how many extra hours of theme park time the park hopping option can gain you, it's more than worth it.
    BCDisneyGeek,

    Thanks. The waterpark option is another waste and since it automatically defaults to the hopper and waterpark option when you price a package, people often don't know to take it off. Especially in January, I always want to say, don't add that unless you're from Alaska!

    I agree that it's worth it, but I can be pretty flexible. For those who can't be, it's just better to wait and see. And since there's no penalty, it's a no-lose situation to wait.
  8. Park Wise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffHeimbuch
    Ah yes, the eternal conundrum of getting a park hopper or not...

    People always fight with me on this when I'm telling friends and family to not get the park hopper until they are sure they will use it or until they actually get to Disney. This definitely articulates my reasons much better than I usually do, so I'll be passing this along from now on!
    See Jeff, this is why you're going to make a good travel agent.
  9. Park Wise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by calsig31
    Another option for Disneyland Premium Passholders is to upgrade to the Premier Pass. We did that for our recent weeklong Disney World trip. We basically paid $250 for seven days of park hopping and all the discounts that we would normally enjoy with our annual pass in CA.
    So you have a pass for both parks? I have been planning a trip out there forever and will likely upgrade my WDW AP to this. Thanks.
  10. Park Wise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bkeyes19
    My Wife and I have had the premier pass for three years now and it solves this problem very nicely thank you! My Dad lives in Florida so we visit at least twice a year. Not only do we get the park hopper issue out of the way, but we also save on hotel rooms and merchandise. Add in the discounted Tables in Wonderland card and we save on food. We usually visit D Land at least once a month so we figured early on the Florida part of the Premier pass pretty much is free for us. I would recomened it to anyone who visits WDW at least once a year. Or vice versa for those poor souls you live in Florida.
    Thank you. I am slightly jealous. :-)
  11. PeaJay18's Avatar
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    I look at the ticketing options for US visitors to WDW and thank goodness for the (limited) options we get here in the UK.

    eg:
    Disney's 14 Day Ultimate Ticket
    Disney's 14-Day Ultimate Tickets give you 14 days of unlimited access to:
    4 Walt Disney World theme parks
    2 Walt Disney World water parks
    Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex
    DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive theme park
    Disney's Oak Trail Golf Course
    with all the park-hopping you'll ever need
    for £236 per adult, £209 per child

    There are also 7 and 21 day tickets available.
    But these are the only options - all or nothing.

    I've never sat down and done the math to see if we'd better off buying a US ticket with, and without, the various options, mainly because it looks too confusing!
    Updated 05-10-2012 at 07:54 AM by PeaJay18
  12. Athlonacon's Avatar
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    This was a really great article, I just assumed I would never need park-hopper tickets since I want to spend as much time in the parks as possible (being a first time), but I never considered the fact that some parks, especially DAK, close super early in the day, leaving you with half a day to do nothing, unless you have a park hopper. I also didn't consider eating every night at Epcot, which seems to be the bona fide winner for food, but this makes sense to get a park hopper to eat there.

    It looks like the cut-and-dry decision to not get a park hopper is not as cut and dry as I had previously assumed. That's why I love these articles, it gets me thinking about stuff that I had never even considered. Now I know how all the Disneyland newbs feel once they get here. For us it's like second nature, and even more natural than that, to navigate Disneyland and its unique offerings, but there are definitely people who are completely dumbfounded by how to get through the "simplest" things.

    I'm not planning a trip to WDW any time soon, but I am definitely building up my mental database with all this information so that when I do go, years from now, I will be more prepared. I how no doubts it's going to be a learning process upon arrival no matter what, but at least I won't be *completely* clueless about how they do stuff out there compared to how we do our stuff at Disneyland.
  13. marnie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffHeimbuch
    Ah yes, the eternal conundrum of getting a park hopper or not...

    People always fight with me on this when I'm telling friends and family to not get the park hopper until they are sure they will use it or until they actually get to Disney. This definitely articulates my reasons much better than I usually do, so I'll be passing this along from now on!

    I agree with you , no one has taken my advise on this yet. Even all of the families Ive known that are taking their first trip - they always buy the hopper , I always advise against it- there is enough to do in each park to have a full day there, why run from park to park? Spend the whole day do as much as you can do so you dont miss out. Even though we usually stay 7 or 8 days we always just stick to one park per day- look at the schedule of events for each park and schedule your days accordingly so you can see any special attractions that might not be daily .
  14. Park Wise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeaJay18
    I look at the ticketing options for US visitors to WDW and thank goodness for the (limited) options we get here in the UK.

    eg:
    Disney's 14 Day Ultimate Ticket
    Disney's 14-Day Ultimate Tickets give you 14 days of unlimited access to:
    4 Walt Disney World theme parks
    2 Walt Disney World water parks
    Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex
    DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive theme park
    Disney's Oak Trail Golf Course
    with all the park-hopping you'll ever need
    for £236 per adult, £209 per child

    There are also 7 and 21 day tickets available.
    But these are the only options - all or nothing.

    I've never sat down and done the math to see if we'd better off buying a US ticket with, and without, the various options, mainly because it looks too confusing!

    PeaJay, are these non-expiration tickets or do they have to be used in a number of days?
  15. Park Wise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Athlonacon
    This was a really great article, I just assumed I would never need park-hopper tickets since I want to spend as much time in the parks as possible (being a first time), but I never considered the fact that some parks, especially DAK, close super early in the day, leaving you with half a day to do nothing, unless you have a park hopper. I also didn't consider eating every night at Epcot, which seems to be the bona fide winner for food, but this makes sense to get a park hopper to eat there.

    It looks like the cut-and-dry decision to not get a park hopper is not as cut and dry as I had previously assumed. That's why I love these articles, it gets me thinking about stuff that I had never even considered. Now I know how all the Disneyland newbs feel once they get here. For us it's like second nature, and even more natural than that, to navigate Disneyland and its unique offerings, but there are definitely people who are completely dumbfounded by how to get through the "simplest" things.

    I'm not planning a trip to WDW any time soon, but I am definitely building up my mental database with all this information so that when I do go, years from now, I will be more prepared. I how no doubts it's going to be a learning process upon arrival no matter what, but at least I won't be *completely* clueless about how they do stuff out there compared to how we do our stuff at Disneyland.
    Thank you! I appreciate it. I have never been to DL so I know I'm going to feel completely lost.
  16. Park Wise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnie
    I agree with you , no one has taken my advise on this yet. Even all of the families Ive known that are taking their first trip - they always buy the hopper , I always advise against it- there is enough to do in each park to have a full day there, why run from park to park? Spend the whole day do as much as you can do so you dont miss out. Even though we usually stay 7 or 8 days we always just stick to one park per day- look at the schedule of events for each park and schedule your days accordingly so you can see any special attractions that might not be daily .
    Marnie, I wonder if they don't take your advice because they don't know they can always add it later? I find, once people know that, they rarely add it unless they're frequent park-goers who know they'll use it.
  17. StevenW's Avatar
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    [QUOTE]Are on a short trip with less than four days in the parks...

    Are on a longer trip of seven or more days.[/QUOTE] There is a gap that should be addressed.

    I would change it to 5 days or more; however, I would also distinguish if you plan on staying 5 to 7 days and only need a 5 day pass especially if you intend on visiting non-Disney theme parks. If you're traveling with a family, that savings of $58 per person adds up to a lot of money. It is a good idea to plan your trips for visits of at least 5 to 6 hours a day per park. Families require a lot of planning to get through a day and leaves no time to return to the park later in the day. Couples or singles have more flexibility.
    Updated 05-10-2012 at 09:57 AM by StevenW
  18. StevenW's Avatar
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    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.
  19. danyoung's Avatar
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    Excellent article, Chris. I just want to point out one thing that might be confusing. You said -

    Say you get there and realize that you'd like to take advantage of extra magic hours 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.
    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!).
  20. steenbag's Avatar
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    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.
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