Disney World Park Hopper: Should I buy this?
Navigating the clusterfuck, the not-so definitive guide to the Disney Worlds Park Hopper option. Get prepared to read several words folks as this ain’t as clear cut of a decision as not buying that damn Dining Plan. Let’s get a something out of the way before we dive in. Don’t ever buy your tickets at the gate or direct from Disney unless you’re buying an annual pass, qualify for a military discount, or are only going for 1-day. A reputable third-party broker will always save you money and their prices include the tax which Disney’s website neglects to mention until you are ready to checkout. I use the ticket calculator at Touringplans.com to find the best deals as they do the homework for you and show you the cost of several brokers who are trustworthy and sell real WDW tickets. You may find deals on eBay or craigslist for less, but you’re playing with fire there and I’d be surprised if you don’t get burned.
Pro-tip: if you’ve already decided you want the Park Hopper, and you know you’re going to visit a waterpark or play a round of golf you should absolutely buy the Hopper Plus option as it will cost less than whatever that activity would cost by itself plus you can go more than once as it includes access to the waterparks, golf (real and miniature), and ESPN Wide World of Sports. These “plus” experiences coincide with the amount of days you have on your regular Park tickets so if you have a 5 day Park Hopper you’ll also have 5 “plus” visits to use which don’t count as a day in the Parks. so if you’re going to do a waterpark-only day at Disney you can effectively buy one less day for Park tickets than your trip is long since the waterpark day will count as a “plus” item and not actual Park entry.
What will it cost?: The Hopper will cost a flat $60 on tickets of 2 or 3 days days and $75 for tickets of 4-10 days. Note: rates based on Disney pricing (pre-tax) you won’t pay this much because you’ve made it this far into the article, congrats.
As with everything concerning WDW Park ticketing the longer you stay the less it costs per day. If you’re going for 10 days this is a much easier decision at $8 per day vs the $32 per day it cost someone coming for just a couple of days.
What do I get?: You get to Park-Hop, dummy. Yes, but what exactly does that mean, asshole? Essentially you get access to all four theme parks on any given day that your tickets are active. So you can start your day at Magic Kingdom and end at Hollywood Studios and only have used 1 park entry ticket.
So, if I’m going for 4 days and only want to park-hop on one of the days can’t I just buy a 5-day ticket and use two of my entries on the one day I want to park hop? Nope. Bob Iger don’t play that shit.
So I should buy this thing, right? Maybe. I personally love this option but it fits with my families travel style. It may not fit yours. For instance we love to stay on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop and if we’re not on the monorail loop we’ll stay at one the Disney’s Deluxe hotels near Epcot which are just a short walk to the International Gateway in World Showcase. Here’s why that’s a big deal for us. If we’ve spent a full day at say Animal Kingdom and come back to the resort to rest and eat, we may wake up shortly before the fireworks at our home park. We can then zip over to the park either on foot, boat or monorail within a short period of time and find a half-decent spot to watch the pyro-display or use that time to experience the shorter lines for rides while other guests are watching shit blow-up in the sky. Either way it’s a win and a definite advantage of the Hopper. If you’re staying on the Epcot side this essentially gives you access to the monorail to get to the Transportation and Ticket Center/Magic Kingdom without the need for a bus as you can just walk thru Epcot to board the highway in the sky and head to Magic Kingdom and this only counts as one entry. If you don’t have the Park Hopper option you’d be relegated to the bus, your own car, Uber, taxi etc which frankly just isn’t as cool as riding a fucking monorail. If you’re staying at one of the Epcot properties I highly recommend the Hopper option if you plan on visiting the Magic Kingdom during your stay, which you are.
So, I’m getting this thing then, yes?
That depends. What is your transportation situation? Do you have transportation at your hotel other than a bus or shuttle? If the answer is NO, I’d say it’s probably not worth buying the Hopper as coordinating Disney bus routes & times, or waiting for third-party shuttles from your off-site hotel multiple times per day will add some unneeded stress to your day so pick a Park and stick with it. Do yourself a favor and sign-up for touringplans.com, it’s cheap and worth every cent (they don’t pay me to say that) you can even schedule in breaks for meals in your plan it’s a great tool. Note: Whether you buy the Hopper or not you should have a plan inside the Disney Parks, if you don’t want to get super detailed in your planning or just don’t want to pay the money for a tool like touringplans.com you can use our FREE day plans for the Parks. They are a basic guide to get you going and are written with the idea of reducing your stress levels while roaming the House of Mouse.
So what else should I consider?
The mix of your group would be my next concern. If you’ve got teenagers who aren’t as excited about the family vacation as they once were, buy the damn hopper. Let those little shits hit the thrill rides in whichever park they please everyday while you and your spouse slow-stroll it through World Showcase or where ever else floats your particular sailing vessel. Set a meetup time for dinner or fireworks in whatever Park of your choosing and keep the entire family happy. Same goes for large groups, since it’s so hard to cater everyone’s desires. *Allow me to digress slightly* Even if you do manage to agree on a ride for everyone the ride vehicles in Disney Parks have a finite amount of space and even less so per row so your group of 10 isn’t really going to ride “together” per say on most things. There is some wonderful theming in the cues so there’s definitely together time to be had while waiting in lines and it’s more enjoyable than your average amusement park, but it’s still waiting in line. Not exactly the same as the group riding together that you envisioned when your dumbass started day planning for 23 people ranging from age 3 to 81. Which hits on a point for another article at another time: Don’t try to day plan for large groups. Sure, invite your cousin, aunt, friends, parents and whomever else you want to be on the Disney property (even the same hotel if you dare) on the same dates as you, but let them be in charge of day planning (rides, lunch, breaks etc) for their own immediate group. Your job can be simply to suggest meetup spots for the larger group en masse for a particular meal or meals (preferably dinner or breakfast), fireworks displays, specialty tours, etc. A Park Hopper can enable you all to enjoy your Disney experience in your own way without hindering the whole group having a rendezvous.
I’m only going to be there for a few days so I’m not buying this, right?
Right. Kinda. Unless you’re staying at the resorts near Epcot then you should still buy this because it eliminates the need to ride the bus to Magic Kingdom. Also, if you’re staying on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop then you should still consider it though it’s not as clear cut of a choice, though I’m a buyer at stays of 4 or more days.
You guessed it, it depends. This is one of those decisions that is going to come down to your Disney vacationing style, the makeup of your group, where you’re staying and for how long, what transportation is available to you etc etc etc. Being able to directly access a Park either via walkway, monorail, or boat makes the Hopper more valuable. The Hopper enables you to be more flexible with last minute FP+ opportunities or hard to get dinner reservations (not so hard to get if you use the tool provided by touringplans.com by the way). Say you’ve searched high and low for that FastPass+ for Frozen Ever After and you finally get it, it’s on Wednesday. Well fuck!! Wednesday was the only day you could reserve a table at Be Our Guest inside the Magic Kingdom for dinner so now your daughter won’t get to ride Frozen and see Olaf, Anna Elsa and the gang or your wife never gets to realize her dream of dining in Beast’s Castle. What do you choose? Choose the Park Hopper, that’s what. While there many arguments for the Hopper (I’m team Hopper if you can’t tell yet, in which case you’ve obviously skipped ahead and probably are paying full price for your Park tickets like a dumbass), there are also many people who should not buy this as it’s just another expense. Namely, those people who fall into the category of when using the Park Hopper would be a hassle. If you can’t make use of the thing without adding stress to your day it’s just not worth it because you’re on vacation for fuck sake. Conversely, if it can offer you some added convenience and reduce the stresses of planning a Disney vacation then buy that shit without hesitation.