Buying Walt Disney World theme park tickets can be an overwhelming process for first (or second, or third) time visitors. There are so many options and price points that it can feel like you’re back in calculus class. I’m here to demystify one aspect of the ticket selection process: The Park Hopper.
What exactly does Park Hopping mean?
In Disney-speak, “Park Hopping” means that you visit more than one of the four Walt Disney World theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios) in one day. If you want to go to more than one of these parks in a single day, then you need to have the Park Hopper add-on for your Disney theme park ticket.
Do I need a Park Hopper if I’m going leave and return to the same park during the same day?
No. With a Disney base ticket, you’re welcome to leave and re-enter the same theme park as many times as you like during the same day. So, if you want to visit the Magic Kingdom in the morning, go back to your hotel room for a nap, and return to the Magic Kingdom for the evening fireworks, then you do not need a Park Hopper ticket. However, if you want to visit the Magic Kingdom in the morning, go back to the room for a nap and then see the fireworks at Epcot, you would need a Park Hopper.
Do I need to get a Park Hopper if I’m just going to pop into a second park to eat or shop?
Yes. Any time you want to set foot in a second park during the same day, you’ll need Park Hopper (with one type of exception which I’ll get to in a sec). There is no “just eating” or “just shopping” or “just seeing the fireworks” way to avoid needing a Park Hopper. The Hopping has nothing to do with going on rides–it has to do with entering the park.
Why would I want to Park Hop?
Lots of reasons. Some might be:
- You’re at Walt Disney World for just a few days, but want to go to all the parks.
- You want to add variety to your vacation days.
- You’d like to remain flexible in case weather or illness forces a change in your plans.
- There’s a park you only want to visit for part of a day.
- You particularly enjoy one part of a park (a certain ride or show perhaps) and want to revisit just that area several times over the course of your trip.
- You like to dine at one park more than the others.
- You couldn’t get all your preferred dining or FastPass+ reservations scheduled for the same day.
- You’re visiting at a time of the year when some of the parks close quite early and you want to expand your entertainment options in the evening hours.
Will I be missing out on something if I don’t Park Hop?
Not necessarily. It depends on your touring style, the composition of your family, and your ability to plan.
Guests who are traveling with very young children may find that more than one park per day is too much stimulation. Guests who are staying at Walt Disney World for a longer period of time may be able to arrange multiple visits to each park without needing that to happen during the same day. Guests who are visiting during peak times (Christmas to New Year’s Day, July 4) may find that park closures due to crowd levels will impede their ability to hop.
How much does a Park Hopper ticket cost?
The cost to add the Park Hopper option to your base ticket is $60, plus tax. It’s the same flat fee, regardless of the number of entry days on your ticket or the number of days on which you want to hop.
Is there a different price for kids or seniors?
Children under the age of three get free admission into the parks, so they don’t need a Hopper (or any other ticket). The Park Hopper price is the same $60.00 for everyone else, regardless of their age. (There used to a child price for the Hopper, but this disappeared many years ago.)
I see that Disney basic theme park ticket pricing now varies depending on what time of year I visit. Does the price for park hopping also vary?
You are correct that basic WDW theme park entry pricing is now variable by date. However, once you’ve paid for the base ticket anywhere on the calendar, adding park hopping is a flat $60 regardless of whether you’re adding it to a one-day ticket or a 10-day ticket. (Note, the prices in the linked article here are slightly out of date due to another price increase in March 2019, but the explanation of how variable pricing works is still great.)
I’m thinking about getting an annual pass. Do I have to pay extra to get the Park Hopper option with that?
No. Most annual pass options include park hopping. (See more on this below.)
I’ll be at Walt Disney World for six days, but only want to Hop on two of those days. I can’t buy just a two-day Park Hopper for a lower price?
No. The Park Hopper add-on is a flat fee item. It’s the same rate to hop for one day or for ten.
If I decide that I want to Park Hop during the middle of my trip, can I add the Park Hopper option then?
Yes. You can add the Park Hopper option to a WDW base admission ticket at any point when it is still valid.
If you’re visiting Walt Disney World for eight days and you decide on day three that you want to Park Hop, just go to any park ticket window, guest relations office, or resort concierge desk and they’ll hook you up. Of course, adding the Hopper option mid-trip means that you’ll have fewer days of hopping flexibility.
Is there a price difference if I add the Hopper late in my trip?
No. The price is the same $60.00 flat rate per person no matter when the option is added. If you’re pretty sure that you’re going to hop at some point during your vacation, then it makes the most sense to add the Hopper option as soon as possible. This way you’ll have the more ability to hop should circumstances warrant. For example, I find the Animal Kingdom somewhat inhospitable in the rain. If I were at Animal Kingdom and it started to pour, with the Park Hopper I’d just head on over to Epcot to enjoy some indoor attractions. Without the Hopper, I’m stuck with a wet safari.
It looks like it’s cheaper to add an extra day to my ticket than to add the Park Hopper option. Can’t I just do that and use two different “days” to get into two different parks?
No, no, no, no, no, no. And a little more no after than.
Seriously, this is perhaps the biggest area of Disney ticket confusion out there. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen guests use extremely foul language and nearly come to blows with guest relations cast members who informed them that they could not use a base ticket at two parks in one day.
Don’t do it. Don’t try it. It won’t work. The entrance reader will reject your ticket; people will be called over; someone will get upset. Save yourself the trouble and just put this idea out of your mind.
You simply cannot scan the same ticket (MagicBand, RFID, whatever) at two parks on the same day without having the Park Hopper add-on.
I totally understand your logic. Depending on your travel dates, the price difference between an 8-day base ticket and a 9-day base ticket could be as low as $7. You’d rather spend $7 and swipe twice than spend $60 for the Hopper. I get it. But it just won’t work.
And I know that the next question that usually comes up is, “But why?” The answer to that it is simply, “Because Disney said so.” They’ve structured the ticket pricing to be more financially advantageous for them than for you. That’s just the way it is. Time to move on.
Can I go to more than two parks in a day with the Park Hopper?
Sure, knock yourself out. I often use Park Hopper tickets to visit three parks in a day. And a few times for very tiring four-park days.
Can you give me an example of why you’d go to three theme parks in one day?
For me, this often happens when I want to get a mid-day meal at Epcot during a festival (Food & Wine, Flower & Garden, etc.) and I’m staying in the Epcot resorts area. I’ll start my day touring the Magic Kingdom, spending something like 9:00 a.m. to noon enjoying rides and other attractions. When I get hungry, I take the monorail over to Epcot for a lap around the World Showcase countries and a nosh at the food booths, spending time there from, say, 12:30-2:00. I’ll exit at the International Gateway and go back to my room at the Boardwalk for nap or swim. Then in the evening, I might head over to Hollywood Studios for dinner and Fantasmic.
The times that I personally have been to four parks in one day have been because I’ve been doing TouringPlans research, but many folks just like to hit all four fun.
Is having a park hopper worth the price?
“Is it worth it?” is one of my least favorite questions. Your impression of worth will be colored by the length of your vacation, your income, the composition of your traveling party, your overall vacation expectations, and a thousand other factors.
That being said, about a year ago, Touring Plans surveyed readers (admittedly a biased group) asking them whether adding the park hopper option was worth it to them and they responded “yes” by a factor of two to one. For every reader that said park hopping was not worth it, there were two that said it was. (Note the pricing mentioned in this linked article has changed slightly since it was posted, but likely not enough to skew the results if it were repeated today.)
Do I need a Park Hopper to go to Disney Springs?
No. There are no admission tickets needed to visit Disney Springs. A few venues within Disney Springs require tickets (the movie theater, for example), but you don’t need a base ticket, a Park Hopper, or anything else to visit Disney Springs to enjoy the shopping, dining, and outdoor entertainment.
Does Park Hopping include admission to the water parks?
No. Water parks admission is not included with regular Park Hopper tickets. To enter a water park (Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon) you’ll need a single-day water park ticket, a multi-day water park ticket, or the Park Hopper Plus base ticket add-on. The Park Hopper Plus is different than the regular Park Hopper.
What’s the difference between a Park Hopper and a Park Hopper Plus?
The Park Hopper Plus includes all the benefits of the regular Park Hopper (namely the ability to visit more than one theme park per day), PLUS you get the ability to visit other Walt Disney World locations, including the water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon), the EPSN Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney’s 9-hole Oak Trail golf course, and the WDW miniature golf courses (Winter Summerland and Fantasia Gardens).
There is some fine print that goes along with your access to those “Plus” locations. For example, according to the WDW website, “Tee times are required for Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course and are subject to availability. Miniature Golf valid for one round. Round must start prior to 4:00PM. Only one miniature golf visit per day. ESPN Wide World of Sports admission valid only on event days; some events require an additional admission charge; there are no events on certain days; days and hours of operation of concessions, venues and attractions vary.”
Is there a limit to the number of “Plus” locations I can visit with the Park Hopper Plus option?
Yes. The number of Plus options allowed is tied to the number of days in your base theme park ticket. If you have a one or two day base theme park ticket, adding the Park Hopper Plus allows you two “Plus” location visits. Beyond that, the number of Plus visits allowed is equal to the number of days of your base ticket. So, a 4-day ticket allows 4 visits and a 5-day ticket allows 5 visits, and so on.
What does a Park Hopper Plus cost?
The Park Hopper Plus add-on costs $80, plus tax, per base ticket. This $80 fee allows you to visit any of the theme parks multiple times per day and allows you to visit the water parks, mini-golf courses, etc., based on the number of “Plus” allotments you have. Remember, the basic Park Hopper is $60, so adding the Park Hopper Plus is only $20 more.
That sounds complicated. When does it make sense to buy the Park Hopper Plus?
The Park Hopper Plus is most useful if you want to visit a water park at any time during your WDW vacation. Adult water park tickets are $69 per day, plus tax. Paying for just one day of a water park ticket takes you almost all the way to the price of a Park Hopper Plus. If you were going to visit a water park anyway, it’s an easy argument to spend a few dollars more to get Park Hopping and more choices for “Plus” activities thrown in as well.
I’m driving to the parks. If I Park Hop, do I have to pay for parking more than once?
No. You only have to pay for theme park parking once per day, no matter how many parks you visit. Just save your parking receipt from the first park you visit. (You got a receipt, didn’t you?) Show the receipt at your second park and they’ll wave you through without having to pay again.
And remember, if you’re staying at a WDW resort hotel, you don’t have to pay for parking at the them parks at all. (Though you do now have to pay for parking at your WDW hotel.)
If I’m using a Park Hopper, can I make FastPass+ reservations at more than one theme park per day?
Not exactly. Currently, guests must make their first three FastPass+ (FP+) reservations all in the same theme park. Once your first three FastPasses have been used or have expired, you can then make more FP+ selections in a second park, one at a time. But, right now, you can’t make advance bookings of say, one FP+ at the Magic Kingdom and two FP+ at Epcot.
There’s a decent possibility that this will change in the future, but we don’t have any real idea about when this might happen.
A strategy that I often employ is to use a time-saving Touring Plan for my first park of the day, and save my FastPass+ reservations for the headliner attractions at my hop park (my second park of the day). This way I’m able to get ride things like Slinky Dog Dash in the late afternoon without a hideous wait.
Is going back and forth between parks a time waster?
It depends a bit on where you’re staying and where you’re going, but often it’s not overly time intensive.
My family often stays at the Beach Club Villas and we love dining at Epcot. When we stay at BCV, we typically visit the Magic Kingdom in the morning, go back to the room for an afternoon nap or swim, and then eat at Epcot in the evening. I feel like this ultimately saves us time rather than wastes it.
Do I need a Park Hopper ticket if I’m going to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, or other after hours event?
No! This is that exception to the Park Hopper rule that I mentioned earlier. MNSSHP, MVMCP, Disney After Hours, and a few other experiences are called “Hard Ticket” events. You need a dedicated ticket to enter that’s unrelated to your regular theme park ticket.
So, if you only have a base park admission ticket (one park per day) and you visit Epcot during the day, you’re still welcome to go to the Magic Kingdom in the evening without a Park Hopper if you use a Halloween Party of Christmas Party ticket to get in. The Party tickets do not impact your regular tickets.
I’m coming from far away and planning a long visit to Walt Disney World, do you think I need a Park Hopper ticket?
If you’re coming to Walt Disney World for eight days or more, the most economical ticket option for you may be an annual pass. The Walt Disney World Annual Pass includes Park Hopping, there’s no need to buy an extra add-on for this. You should factor this into your decision making process.
I’m a TouringPlans subscriber and I want to Park Hop during my trip. Do you have any tips for me?
Brian McNichols has put together a video tutorial on tips for using touring plans with a Park Hopper. He describes this better than I ever could.
I’ve got a family of five. For us to add Park Hoppers to our tickets would cost more than $300. Is it worth it?
Again the most vexing question of all: Is it worth it? Only you can make this decision based on your unique situation. Some things to think about as you decide are:
- What is my total vacation budget and what percentage of my budget would be consumed by Park Hoppers?
- Is this a lets-relax-and-be-luxurious vacation or a save-every-possible-penny vacation?
- Is having the ability to be spontaneous important to you?
- Are you traveling with guests (children, infirm adults) for whom Park Hopping might be physically or emotionally challenging?
- Are you a good planner? Are you sure you’re going to be able to accomplish everything you want to in a park during a single day?
- What else could/would you do with the money during your Disney vacation? More souvenirs? Better dining? Backstage tour?
- What else could/would you do the money at home?
So Frugal Friends and Hopaholics, what’s your strategy? Are you a one-stopper or a multi-hopper? Does your hoppiness change based on who you’re traveling with, the length of your visit, or any other factors? Are there any critical questions that I missed? Let us know in the comments below.