By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor







Park Hoppers and Hopping at Walt Disney World



By Dave Shute

(This page is one of a series explicating Walt Disney World lingo, abbreviations, and FAQ for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.)

TO PARK HOP AT DISNEY WORLD OR NOT?

The itineraries on this site are designed for first time visitors who may never return, and as much as possible don’t include the “park hopper” ticket option.

The park hopper option lets you go to more than one of the four main theme parks in a day.

There’s nothing wrong with park hoppers.  Rather, it’s that on a long enough visit, most of the time you can make everything work without one, and avoid the extra cost of more than $200 for a typical family.   While this site is not shy about spending your money, I do try to eliminate avoidable expenses.

But there are some perfectly good reasons why a park hopper may make sense for your family. Almost all of these reasons come down to simply adding flexibility to your choices.

But be warned: once you’ve been on a visit with a hopper, it’s hard to be at Walt Disney World without one!

PARK HOPPERS AND DINING

Some of the best-loved dining venues at Disney World are in the parks themselves.

Without a hopper, you can indulge in one of these only if that’s the only park you go to that day.

Adding a hopper lets you separate where you dine from where else you might go that day, and can be a big help if the restaurant you are targeting is sold out the day you plan to be in a park.

PARK HOPPERS AND EVENING EVENTS

Much of the year, the key evening events–the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes at the Magic Kingdom, Illuminations at Epcot, and Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios–are on pretty much every night, and thus don’t influence hopping.

But certain times of the year because of either special evening parties or lower demand they aren’t on every night.  This makes it harder to fit them into an itinerary–and also typically means that the parks are more crowded on days they are showing.

A hopper can make them easier to see, because you can see them any evening they are on without worrying about where else you are that day.

PARK HOPPERS AND EXTRA MAGIC HOURS

With some exceptions this site avoids Extra Magic Hours. Morning Extra Magic Hours (“EMH”) themselves are great, but by around lunch the park with morning EMH will be more crowded than it is on non-EMH days.

Evening EMH times often begin not much less crowded, and although crowds diminish the later they go, they can keep you up so late as to make you miserable the next day.

(I do like morning EMH at the Animal Kingdom on days it closes at 5p, and evening EMH at Epcot and Hollywood Studios the nights you are seeing Illuminations and Fantastic.

In the Animal Kingdom case, it can be hard to see the park between only 9 and 5, and for the Epcot and the Studios, it’s nice to not have to leave the park at the end of the show along with 10,000 other people.)

If you plan to take the afternoon off anyway, hoppers really help take advantage of EMH.  You can visit a park during morning EMH, leave for a nap and a swim at the hotel when it gets too crowded, and head to a different, less crowded park later that day.

Similarly with a hopper you can see evening shows on nights a park has evening EMH without committing to that park the rest of your day.

HOPPERS AND HALF DAY VISITS

If your visit is short or your kids are young, some parks may be worth only half a day, but you may be unwilling to take the rest of the day off. Hoppers make this possible.

Young kids, for example, don’t get much out of Epcot, but are the perfect age for Turtle Talk with Crush, the Seas with Nemo and Friends, and, if they are tall enough, Soarin.  Illuminations is also a hit with the part of the younger set that’s not overly fearful of fireworks.

A hopper lets you begin your day at Epcot and see everything little kids love there in a couple of hours, return that night (or another night!) for Illuminations, but spend the middle of the day at another park.

HOPPERS AND DARK, CONFLICTED, FILMS

A park hopper won’t help much with building a film like Blue Velvet, but a dennis hopper will.

RELATED STUFF

20 comments

1 Kathleen { 07.17.12 at 12:07 pm }

Hello, again! Still getting great info from your site for our Sept 29th visit!

In the same vein as your “Half DayVisits” use for park hopper, we are using ours to visit Epcot over several days. Since we are staying at the Beach Club, we plan to use bits and pieces of leftover days (after Animal Kingdom closes, after dinner on our day off, etc.) to see Epcot’s World Showcase. We hope that the multiple, short, but well planned, visits will keep our 8 year old interested so we are able to see each country without feeling rushed.

Thanks, again, for the enormous effort you put into keeping us all on track and informed!

2 Dave { 07.17.12 at 1:50 pm }

Hi Kathleen, thanks for the kind words, and your plan sounds great!

3 Allison Jones { 07.19.12 at 11:55 pm }

Great tips on the Park Hopper options. It is an added expense, but you are right about allowing you more flexibility during your vacation!

4 Dave { 07.20.12 at 10:40 am }

Thanks Allison!

5 Tom { 07.26.12 at 9:49 am }

I haven’t been much of a hopper myself and I say this after 3 visits in the past 3 years. I consider it an alternative if you do not have much time but I like to take my time at WDW and not fond much of “running” and following timetables while on vacation, so I tend to skip park hopper.
However, if you prefer to avoid afternoon peaks of people while taking a nap or catching a swim in the hotel’s pool, then it might suit you well. But for my case, I think the over price is not worth it.

6 Troy { 09.28.12 at 11:22 pm }

Love all the info on your site – thanks for all you’ve done!

I do have a question about the park hopper, which I may simply be misunderstanding. On the intros to the itineraries, you speak how you try to save the reader money by not needing hopper passes. However, in the itinerary, there’s multiple days where two parks are visited in the same day – which seems to be something that you can only do with a hopper pass. Am I missing something?

7 Dave { 09.29.12 at 1:37 pm }

Hi Troy–my itineraries avoid hoppers where they can, but can’t always. However, I don’t have any with “multiple days where two parks are visited in the same day”–unless you are thinking about days when the same park is visited twice–which does not require a hopper…

8 Troy { 09.30.12 at 12:35 pm }

Hey, Dave–

Yeah, I guess you’re right. Sorry about that. On the Autumn, spring… itinerary, I only see Sunday where you’re in 2 parks. I think I saw on Wednesday where you go to DTD, and quickly looking at that, I thought that DTD was a different park. But it’s not. 🙂

Considering it’s only one day, I don’t think it’s worth it to get the hopper pass. I want to just “follow your instructions,” but I think we might amend it so we don’t have to pay more for the hopper.

Thanks, and sorry for the misunderstanding!

9 Dave { 09.30.12 at 5:58 pm }

Yes, Troy, you can amend it! Easiest way to do it is to try to fit all Studios into one day…

10 Marcia { 10.29.12 at 8:30 pm }

Hello, first off thank you for sharing such a great website! I have been to Disney World twice; I will be going back in 2013 with my boyfriend; both almost 40 years old. It will just be us two; I have no idea where to even start. We would like to go when the weather is at it’s best and of course the crowds are not that bad; I/we can deal with crowds more so than rain every other second. We will be on somewhat of a budget; I think staying at a value hotel would work or one step up would be ideal for us as we will not be at the hotel much; just for sleeping. Do you think we should have a rental car; we would like to visit SeaWorld too. I am not sure what the options are for transportation to and from SeaWorld. Your advice/suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!!!!

11 Dave { 10.30.12 at 7:52 am }

Hi Marcia–the short version is to start on the home page and work your way thru! See http://yourfirstvisit.net/ My stuff is for families wiht kids, but just cut back on character meals and add evenings at Epcot and you’ll be fine. Go in late October–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/09/19/2013-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/ ..and on rental cars see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/02/28/renting-a-car-at-walt-disney-world/

12 Steve { 01.08.13 at 1:18 pm }

Hello…first off, love this site. This will be our first family trip to Disney and I am thinking of getting a Hopper pass and have a question about parking. We will not be staying onsite (we have a condo), so we will have to drive to the parks each day. If we start off at Epcot and then hop to Animal Kingdom for example, do we have to pay for parking twice? Thank you.

13 Dave { 01.08.13 at 1:52 pm }

Hey Steve, and thanks! Pay once, keep the receipt, show the receipt at the second park, and you get in free!

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14 Steve { 01.18.13 at 11:49 am }

Thanks so much for the quick response!

15 Mandy { 07.17.13 at 9:42 am }

Can I buy a hopper for a 3 day visit? We have a 2 and 4 year old and want to make the most of the things the little ones will like. What do you suggest? We are there 10/16-10/20…. in the parks on 10/17-10/19.

16 Dave { 07.18.13 at 7:46 am }

Hi Mandy! You can add a hopper to any ticket length. I don’t think you’ll need it, though. At those ages, there’s not much outside the Magic Kingdom, and plenty at the Magic Kingdom…

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17 Jane { 11.17.14 at 12:48 am }

Hi Dave, I am really not sure whether to use our park hopping option (we have the military tickets so they came with it) or not. We have a very planned out itinerary. Our MK day will probably be too long for any of us to make it to the parade and Wishes, but I want us to see those. So, on our HS or AK days, we might park hop in the evening to see those. The issue is, will it be worth the long trek? Not sure yet if we’re going to drive to the parks or take the bus, but it is a 9 crowds time (Thanksgiving week). The days in question are HS on Wed or AK on Fri. Any advice would be appreciated, thanks!

18 Dave { 11.17.14 at 8:41 am }

Jane, they are well worth seeing, but not at the expense of Fantasmic at HS, so I’d hop to them on your AK day!

19 Wendy { 06.01.15 at 8:39 pm }

I am sure this has been asked and answered, but here goes…

Can we buy more days that needed (without park hoppers) and use the extra day at the second park? That would save money, so I figure it is not allowed. We need 3 days – could I get 4 days and use two days in one day for two parks? Clear as mud, no?

Thanks as always,

Wendy

20 Dave { 06.02.15 at 4:50 pm }

Wendy, no.

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