When to upgrade to Park Hopper tickets at Disney theme parks (and when not to)

When buying Disney theme park tickets, families have the ability to upgrade to Park Hopper tickets. What does this mean? Instead of gaining admittance to one park per day, you have access to all four (plus water parks, if desired). Do you ‘need’ Park Hoppers? Most families believe the answer is yes, but in fact, it depends on your family’s plans in the theme parks, style of touring, and organization. Read on to find out when it’s really valuable to upgrade to Park Hoppers at Disney theme parks and when it simply doesn’t make sense.

upgrade to park hoppers

Park Hopper myths:

1. It’s easy to ‘hop’ from park to park. The term ‘park hopper’ implies it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump from one Disney theme park to the next. In fact, it can take up to an hour to ‘hop’, depending on your luck with bus schedules and how crowded Walt Disney World is at the time of your visit. During a non-peak week in late April, it took me 45 minutes to get from Animal Kingdom to the Magic Kingdom, for example. Why? Disney busses don’t go directly from park to park. Rather, they go from park to hotel resorts, or from parks to the Ticket and Transportation Center, where you ‘hop’ onto different lines.

Even commuting from the Magic Kingdom to Epcot, both on Monorail lines, requires a transfer and occasional resort stops en route (plan on 30 minutes, depending on Monorail queues). Planning to drive your own vehicle? You still need to commute to your current parking lot, drive over, then park and commute again. This is not to say to avoid Disney transportation: we’re fans. Just know that while reliable and relatively stress-free, Disney transportation is not swift.

2. You can hop to a second park late in the day and still ride major attractions. Again, it depends on the season and how busy the park, but sometimes you can, and sometimes you can’t. If you spend your day at Epcot, for instance, and decided to hop to Hollywood Studios at 2 pm to ride Tower of Terror, you may run into difficulty if Fast Passes have run out for the day. Because your party cannot all obtain FP until they’re all in the park, there’s no way to secure Fast Passes until you’ve ‘hopped’.

upgrade to park hoppers

3. The Park Hopper add-on barely costs anything. In fact, at $35 extra per ticket (over $50 extra with water parks), the cost adds up! Savings can be in the hundreds of dollars to opt out of Park Hoppers. If your family typically tours a park for most of any given day, then enjoys resort time, or likes to spend time in other areas not requiring theme park admission, such as Downtown Disney or Wide World of Sports, you may have no need of a Park Hopper. Just be sure to plan to attend evening shows and entertainment at the same park you visited earlier in the day. (This will take planning.)

You need the Park Hopper add-on if:

1. You plan to take advantage of a morning Extra Magic Hour and then get out. This is a wise strategy, as the Extra Magic Hour park tends to become overcrowded after the hour is up and regular park guests arrive on top of the resort guests. If you plan to leave a park by 10 am and hop to another, you’ll likely have time to arrive before lunch and secure the Fast Passes you need for the afternoon.

2. You plan to utilize the Park Hopper just for evening dining and entertainment (not rides). If you like the idea of arriving at a park early in the morning, focusing on rides, then leaving for a mid-day rest, then heading to a different park for a relaxing dinner and evening entertainment, the Park Hopper may be a great value to you.

3. You’re visiting at a very low-crowd time of year. In this case, you may not need a full day to accomplish what you want in one park, and your transportation time may be lower due to smaller crowds.

When to upgrade to park hopper tickets

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

Comments

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Comments

  1. Definitely agree!

  2. Super helpful, Amy. 🙂

  3. Great tips! I’m hoping to check out WDW next year and it looks like way more planning than Disneyland because of all the parks. I think it’s smart to not upgrade to the park hopper unless you know you will really use it. That cost would definitely add up quickly, especially with a family.

  4. I’m always flip/flopping on whether or not to get park hoppers. Thanks for the info.

  5. Thanks for the extra information

  6. Sandra Caballero says:

    Good to know.

  7. kristen sowko says:

    Great tips to know! Thank-you 🙂

  8. Thanks for the advice!

  9. Rosa cuevas says:

    Thanks

  10. Parkhoppers are definitely more useful for the way our family uses the parks at California Adventure/Disneyland than at Disneyworld!

  11. Jennifer Crowell says:

    Thanks for the info!

  12. alissa farias says:

    great tips!

  13. alissa farias says:

    Great tips

  14. Thanks for the great tips!

  15. Jaime Zielinski says:

    good info

  16. kevsunblush says:

    Thanks for the advice. We hope to go this summer.

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