Since most of the posts here on Vacationearing are about having themed days in Walt Disney World, I usually assume that you’ll be park hopping in order to experience all the activities related to that day’s theme. But if you’re not doing a themed day, should you park hop or not?
As you might expect, the answer is “it depends.” Here are some of the pros and cons of each option.
To Park Hop
The biggest benefit of buying the Park Hopper option is maximum flexibility. If you want to spend most of the day in Magic Kingdom but have lunch in Epcot, you can. If you only have a few days in town, you can do two parks per day so you can still experience your favorite attractions. If you’re traveling with a large group and you want to split up, you could all go to different parks during the day and then meet up together in Epcot for IllumiNations at night. Even if you usually spend all day in one park, having that Park Hopper option gives you the added assurance that if you wanted to go to another park, you could.
You can also use a Park Hopper to maximize your park time per day. Say Disney’s Animal Kingdom has morning Extra Magic Hours, but it closes at 5 p.m. You could spend 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. there and then head over one of the other parks to eat dinner and see the evening show. You do have to spend time on Disney transportation to get there, but if the park you started at is closed anyway, you’re still gaining more park time than you lose.
Not to Park Hop
The biggest benefit of doing one park per day is the cost savings. The Park Hopper option decreases in price per day the more days you buy, so the savings vary from $5.50 per day (on a ten-day ticket) to $35 per day (on a one-day ticket). If you’re buying tickets for a large family, that could really add up. If you’re staying for four or more days, you can still experience all four parks; you just can’t do it all in a day.
Another benefit is a more relaxed pace. You don’t have to be concerned about getting to another park in time for an advanced dining reservation or a parade. You also don’t have to spend time on a bus, boat, or monorail while the parks are open. That gives you all the hours that particular park is open to experience all it has to offer. You probably would do that normally in Magic Kingdom or Epcot, but you might never have spent an entire day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Rather than just doing the top-tier attractions and going to the next park, you can try all the attractions you’ve overlooked. Enjoy a relaxing meal. Find a shop you’ve never been in. Walk slower. Sit on a park bench and people-watch. Doesn’t that sound like a great day?
It’s true that if that park closes earlier than the other parks, you can’t go to another park, but that doesn’t mean you have to go back to your hotel and watch TV. You could go to Downtown Disney or Disney’s BoardWalk area and shop, eat, drink, or dance. You could tour the resorts on the monorail line. You could see Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba. Go miniature golfing. There’s a ton of things to do outside of the parks in the evenings if you’re interested.
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You might be able to tell I have a bias toward not park hopping, and that’s true. Still, I usually add the Park Hopper option when I buy a ten-day pass, because of the flexibility. If I’m going on a shorter trip and need to buy tickets in order to qualify for free dining, sometimes I’ll skip the Park Hopper option to save money. It’s more tempting to buy the Park Hopper on shorter trips so that you can see more in fewer days, but it’s also more expensive that way. If you know you’ll be back, you might want to buy a longer pass and add no expiration… but that’s a topic for another post.
What’s your verdict? To park hop or not to park hop?