Walt Disney World Park Hopper Passes

There are a number of options that you can choose when planning your Disney vacation.  Today we are going to assess the value of Walt Disney World park hopper passes.  Park hoppers spark a lot of controversy among Disney planners.  Some are adamant that they are a waste of money.  Others, like myself, always make the purchase on longer trips to Disney.  Before you decide, lets analyze exactly what the park hopper does, and then you can better decide whether to buy this ticket add-on.

What is a Park Hopper Pass?

Essentially, the park hopper pass is a ticket add-on that allows you to enter any of the four Disney World parks on a single day.  Without a park hopper, you are restricted to one park per day.  The park hopper pass is $59.00 for any multi-day ticket package that you buy, whether it’s 2 days or 10.  The park hopper pass is also automatically included in any annual pass purchase.  If you are just coming to Disney World for one day, the price is between still in the 50 dollar range.

The Pros of having a park hopper pass

I feel strongly that this pass is important on long vacations, for planning purposes.  Why is this?

Restaurant Reservations If you are doing the Disney Dining plan, your dinner reservations will be severely restricted if you don’t have the park hopper pass.  Enjoy dining at Epcot?  We do.  We usually eat at 3 or 4 Epcot restaurants in a typical 8-10 day vacation.  However, we would never consider having 3 or 4 Epcot days.  Therefore we have the flexibility to tour the parks we want during the day, and then come to Epcot (or any other park) to eat at night.

Unexpected Crowds – Lets face it, we all use crowd calendars and estimate which parks will be busy on certain days.  While we can usually do a pretty good job anticipating this, there are times where we are dead wrong.  On those days, a quick switch to another park is often a good idea.  If you’ve ever been to the Magic Kingdom on an insanely crowded day, you know how miserable it can be.  When you have to wait 45 minutes to ride Small World, it might be time to look at another park.  The park hopper greatly increases your flexibility.

Night-time festivities – Each park has different night-time festivities, aside from Animal Kingdom.  However, without a park hopper pass, you are forced to go to the same park both in the morning and the evening.  Now perhaps this isn’t a big deal.  But if you’ve already toured the park in the morning, and then gone on a little mid-day break to escape the heat, it’s always a little more exciting to try out a different park.  This is especially the case with the Animal Kingdom.  It often closes around 6pm.  Without a park hopper pass, your Disney day ends.  With a park hopper pass, you can head to another park and keep the fun going!

walt disney world park hopper passes

Park a park, any park! With a park hopper pass, you can do them all!

The Cons of a park hopper pass

In reality, the only con is money.  The money is admittedly pretty steep if you are only going for 2 or 3 days, as it costs 30 bucks a day for the hopper pass.  Usually on a short trip, you won’t need park hopper passes, as you know exactly which parks you want to be at.

But in reality, the money issues fade away as your trip lengthens.  59 dollars over the course of a week is about 8 bucks a day per person.  That’s a small price to pay for the flexibility to go where you want, when you want.

But at times, we all penny-pinch and look for ways to save money.  Cutting out 240 bucks over the course of a week for a family of four can represent a lot of money for some families.  I don’t want to give the impression that you can’t have a good time without a park hopper pass, because that isn’t true.  You just aren’t as flexible as you could be.

There are plenty of people who have a blast at Disney and have no need for a park hopper, as it just doesn’t fit into their “style of touring”.  For instance, if your family likes to sleep in, head to one park, eat dinner and then head to the pool, a park hopper pass might not be worth it.

Our Recommendation

If this is your first trip to Disney, and if you are going for longer than four days, I recommend purchasing the Park hopper.  Since you haven’t been before, you haven’t really established a “style”.  Also, many new people find that there are certain parks that they just don’t like.  Without a park hopper, they are stuck at the park, with nothing else to do but head back to the hotel.

If you buy the park hopper, stay for a week and find that you don’t use it, then at least you’ll know for future trips.  But trust me, nothing is worse than shelling out thousands of dollars for an expensive trip, then being frustrated at the limitations due to your touring style.

Maximizing the benefits of the Park Hopper Pass

First, plan early mornings at each of the four parks.  As we always stress, getting to the parks early is the key to fast touring.  Then switch up your evenings based on the night-time festivities and your dinner reservations.  For instance, in the off-season, the Magic Kingdom parade only runs on certain evenings.  Those days will be very busy, as many guests aren’t park hoppers, and so they must spend the entire day there.  So use that opportunity to tour another park in the morning.  Then hop back over to the Magic Kingdom that evening for the parade.  Smart touring is why we love the Park Hopper pass.

Finally, maximize those Epcot dinners.  There are many fabulous dinners at Epcot, and without the pass, you can probably only try a couple, as you probably will not want to spend 3 or 4 days in Epcot.  Allowing yourself to sample the fine cuisine in the evening hours is reason enough to spend the extra money!

Since we’ve talked so much about touring the parks effectively, lets head over to our series on Beating the Crowds to learn more about this!

Click Here >>> Beating the Crowds

 

 

4 comments on “Walt Disney World Park Hopper Passes

  • In ’94 my wife and I drove from western Canada to WDW and stayed offsite at a timeshare about 30 minutes away. It was our first trip to WDW and I’m not even sure they offered park hopper back then. In ’07 we went to DL and again stayed offsite (with two children) but we did use the park hopper option, especially useful being directly across from each other. In ’10 we decided to return to WDW and got a great deal at the Wilderness Lodge (with an upgrade to concierge level), and though the room was crowded the service was excellent. The six day park hopper pass didn’t get a full workout, but it did get used a few times.

    We are returning again in ’14 but with older children who like their space we will be staying offsite in a three bedroom condo just south of the parks. It’s just too expensive to get that amount of space at any of the WDW Resorts. We now find ourselves at that point where we’re not sure the park hopper option would be used, but being in the area for two weeks certainly makes it enticing. Especially with a 7- 10 day pass, the actual day to day upgrade cost becomes pretty minimal overall.

    I guess I’m convincing myself here, but is the pass worth the additional cost when attending the parks in early May, which is off season? Are the parks open late enough to make the option worthwhile if you don’t have access to extra magic hours? Decisions, decisions.

    • Gordon,

      I always recommend it on long trips. It opens up flexibility in so many ways, and really isn’t that expensive. Even if you only use it 3-4 times, it’s worth it for many of the reasons listed in this article.

  • We always use the hopper and I disagree that it is not needed. The flexibility to go from one park-which may be insanely crowded-to another or to have dinner at Epcot is well worth the extra money to us. I can’t imagine being stuck in one park all day-much more fun to go to one park in the morning,take a midday break to swim and eat and then go back to another park. The tickets are expensive anyway so this option hardly matters overawll and has many benefits

    • Alexis,

      I totally agree. In the article, I tried to be balanced, but in the end our recommendation is that you buy a park hopper. I agree that if you are going to spend the money on Disney tickets, which are already expensive, just spend a little bit more and get the park hoppers. It’s definitely worth it.

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