The Advantages of Park Hopping

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I’ll admit it right now: I’m a park hopper. Sometimes I’ll spend less than two hours in a park before I’m off to greener pastures (usually Epcot, because I want to eat) and then I visit a third park before the night is out.  A hopper lets me join friends in another park if I want or do extra magic hours in the Magic Kingdom then head over to Animal Kingdom before it gets to crowded.  Without question, it’s the most convenient ticket option, but I can understand why some people wouldn’t want to add it:  hopping takes up valuable park time and it’s expensive, at about $60 per ticket.  So is the extra cost worth it to you?

One of the biggest reasons to add the hopper option to your ticket is flexibility.  I know that this is blasphemy to say among Disney people, but I don’t want a ten page spreadsheet where I’ve planned out every detail of my trip months in advance. I want to be free to make changes as I go, based on everything from how I feel to what the weather is like that day.  I can do that with a hopper, but without one, I’m absolutely committed to staying in that one park, especially if I have dining reservations.

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Think about it this way.  Say you’re the type of guest who makes your dining reservations six months in advance. You know you want to eat at the Brown Derby, which is located in Hollywood Studios, but you also know you want to visit Hollywood Studios on a night when Fantasmic is offered. This means you can only eat at the Brown Derby on a certain night that week but as it turns out, that was the night you planned on staying at the Magic Kingdom because it was open until 1:00 am!  If you had a hopper, it’s a non-issue:  Just leave after Fantasmic and head over to the Magic Kingdom–you’ve got the best of both worlds. Without the hopper, you’ve got to choose one or the other.

Another benefit of having a hopper is that you can leave one park for another, not because you’re bored or ran out of things to do, but because it’s too crowded. I find this to be especially true on days when extra magic hours are offered in the morning. I might want to take advantage of the first couple of hours, but then leave as more guests arrive, as these days are usually high attendance days.  With phone apps that can tell you what the wait times are in another park. I can easily leave for someplace less crowded. Without it, you’re stuck and you have to rely on plans you made months in advance.

Of course, the arrival, whenever that may be, of Fastpass+ and MyMagic+ might change this equation. When you do make switch to the new system of advanced Fastpass+ reservations you’ll only be able to use Fastpass+ tickets at one park per day. So you can park hop, but you will have to ride standby at every attraction. Disney clearly hopes that you’ll be enticed to stay in that one park for the whole day while you take advantage of your reservations.

Hopping doesn’t work out for everyone, but it can be a great way to simplify your trip. What about you? Do you park hop? If so, what are the advantages you’ve found? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

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About Christina Wood

For more travel planning articles by Chris, check out her Disney travel blog, Everything Walt Disney World. Chris is also a member of the Mouse Chat podcast team and an authorized Disney travel planner with Pixie Vacations, and visits the parks about 55 days each year. To get free planning and assistance with your next Disney vacation, please call her at 919-889-5281 or email at ChrisW@PixieVacations.com. You may also fill out a quick Disney Vacation Quote form here.
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14 Responses to The Advantages of Park Hopping

  1. I’m in a love/hate relationship with park hopping. During a normal longer trip, I’ll do it as reservations require. During my (recent) super short trips, I either park hop or skip parks. So we hop and hop and enjoy the ride. It isn’t the most efficient and you do eat a lot of time doing it, but that’s kind of just how the whole booking window works.

  2. bk31 says:

    We hop all the time, especially MK to EPCOT. We have a 5y/o son with some special needs that usually require us to find cooler quarters during very very hot times of the day. If we go mid summer we tend to leave and head back to the hotel for a couple of hours in the pool during the high heat of the day and its nice to figure out which park to go back to based on crowd level, etc. He has a craniofacial syndrome accompanied by autism and absolutely loves the monorail so much that we cannot do anything in EPCOT until we ride the monorail or else we’ll have a nuclear meltdown. Lately we’ve decided its more efficient for us to park in MK and use the monorails between the parks and plan to hop if we want rather than to park at EPCOT, go through bag check, ride the monoral loop to TTA and back and go through bag check again before we ever get into the parks. After a long day it does take longer to get back to the car if we’re at EPCOT, but no worse really than leaving MK. It can be challenging to travel with him sometimes and the flexibility allowed by hopping helps enormously.

  3. Carlos Silva says:

    I understand your point of view and I think it is a great way to experience the parks when you have free time. Especificaly in my case it is a very hard thing to do since I live in Brazil and I have to plan things in advance. However, I did something similar to park hopping last year because I arrived in Orlando, did the check in and went to Hollywood Studios in the morning. At afternoon, we were very tired so we came back to All Star Movies, rested, enjoyed the pool, then came back to Hollywood Studios to watch the Fantasmic show and I think that was a very good idea! :)

  4. F R says:

    I don’t think its quite fair to make comparisons to the spreadsheet crowd. For the most part aren’t those folks one time in a long time visitors? They usually do not have the luxury of being able to visit the parks with high frequency. I love park hopping but I am in California where parking hopping means a 2 minute stroll on leaving and entering parks. How long does it take to park hope in Florida?

    • Holly says:

      Park hopping in WDW can be quite a challenge. While there are often multiple transportation options including bus, boat, monorail, and car; all require substantial travel time, waiting time, and walking time. In a best case scenario, maybe you’re leaving from Spaceship Earth at EPCOT and trying to get to Main Street, USA. If you don’t have to wait for the monorail at EPCOT or at the Transportation & Ticket transfer point, you could potentially make it in 20 minutes, but let’s say you’re at Animal Kingdom at Kilimanjaro Safaris and you decide you want to ride Dumbo at Magic Kingdom. It could take an hour or more–especially if you just miss the Magic Kingdom bus and have to wait for the next one. We typically take a pool break at the resort in the afternoon, so park hopping works well for our family because we are already “wasting” travel time to/from the resort. I’m looking forward to our first visit to Disneyland (2015!) partially because I can’t wait to see how the experience works when the parks are next door neighbors…

  5. Heather says:

    We park hopped on our first family trip (when our boys were 5, 8, and almost 9). I felt like we wasted a lot of time on buses when we could have been having fun in the parks. For our next 3 trips, we didn’t do the park hopper. For the most part, it was fine, but as the boys got older, they started to have their own priorities, rather than wanting to go along with the itinerary I’d made up months in advance (yes, I’m a planner!) So, for our most recent trip, we went back to the park hopper. This let us go in different directions when necessary (I make it a point to help the boys check everything off their must-do lists), meeting back up for dining reservations. Plus, with all the running around following my boys, I didn’t mind sitting on a bus or monorail in air conditioning for a while. :) I think we’ll be park hoppers from now on!

  6. Mark says:

    My favorite park hopping memory was the year my wife and I went with our young children and her parents. After a few days in the parks spent on attractions both our children and parents would enjoy, just my wife and I took a day to hit all the thrill rides they couldn’t go on. One day, four parks and every one of our favorite attractions. Unforgettable.

    We continue to get park hoppers because we want that flexibility to go to any park or attraction we want, when we want.

  7. Antony says:

    I understand park hopping is a good way to see certain things in different parks, but the two times we’ve been to Disneyworld, we’d want to make the most of our day as we’re not going to be coming back for a while. Being from a different country, a whole day spent in one park is still not enough time for us to visit everything, and it turned out to be 10 years later until we next went. So for us, making the most of one park a day was enough.

  8. Greg says:

    My wife and I use to park hop… But then we had kids. The idea of going to more than one park with two kids in tow is not a pleasant one (they’re 7 and an infant). When they’re older we’ll park hop again.

  9. Mike Conrad says:

    I am a park hopper. One big factor is the crowds! I utilize extra magic hours then hightail out of that park. Most parks are extra busy on extra magic hour days. I have always thought of Animal Kingdom as a “half day” park. Being a DVC member at the Boardwalk, it’s nice to be able to walk to both Hollywood Studios and Epcot so I often do those two parks in a day. Trying to plan out every minute is too much. I will say if I am leaving a park early and have fastpasses for later in the day, I always give them to someone just entering the park. Just my little magical moment.

  10. Donna Angelo says:

    We’re big believers in park hopping at WDW. It’s a HUGE property and weather, moods and crowd size can change in just a few hours. Going to the parks, whether it’s for the day or a week, is supposed to be fun and relaxing. Having that flexibility to come and go at your leisure is essential. Getting around can be time consuming; waiting 10-20 minutes for a bus, boat, monorail or tram, another 10-20 minutes for the ride there, bag check line, turnstile line and THEN you are in the park. If you make the journey part of the adventure, it can be fun! Disneyland is another story; both parks are approximately the walking distance between Aventureland and Tomorrowland. NICE!

  11. Jay says:

    I don’t think pre-planning and park hopping are opposites. Especially with all the dining reservations being made 180 days out. Only though park hopping could we hit Tusker House breakfast and Le Cellier dinner. My spreadsheet is color coded for each park, usually two per day.
    I truly was sold on Park Hopping the second time I visited when as soon as Illuminations ended I scooted over to the monorail and caught Wishes in the same night. I can’t imagine visiting the parks any other way.
    Sure, you may lose a half hour in bus transit, but if Animal Kingdom closes at 7 and Magic Kingdom is open til midnight? That’s a lot of bonus hours of park time non-hoppers miss out on. (True, I’m not dragging a toddler around, so your mileage may vary)

  12. Troy says:

    If I’m only doing Disney World, then no, I don’t do any hopping. Just a park a day. If I’m spending most of the time at Universal and only doing a day or two a Disney World, then yes, I’ll get the hopper and do 2-3 parks a day.

    It’s definitely more relaxing to just to one park, especially if it keeps me off a d*mn Disney bus. :)

  13. Tim Gleason says:

    We love park hopping. My kids are young enough that we often head back to the hotel for a rest or a swim during the afternoon. We love the flexibility that park hoppers give us to go to whatever park we want when we head back out. Also, we are night people rather than early risers, so we generally end the night at whatever park either has nighttime Extra Magic Hours or is at least open the latest. There are many, many days that we have been at one park until closing time and then headed over to another park that is open later (sometimes as much as 4 or 5 hours later). Why lock yourself in to days that have to end to 7 or 9, when you can extend it until the wee hours of the morning?

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