Walt Disney World (FL)

Forget the Park Hopper: Reasons Why One Park is All You Need for the Day

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Park Hopper Magic Kingdom

Ed. – Today is “Both Sides of the Pressed Penny Day!” The topic is To Park Hop or Not to Park Hop. Claire looks at compelling reasons for both in two articles that run concurrently today. For the other side of the coin, read “Why You Should Park Hop.”

One of the decisions a Walt Disney World visitor needs to make before arrival is whether or not to add a Park Hopper to their Magic Your Way tickets. There are times when adding a Park Hopper is a great idea…but there are other times when visiting one park each day is all that’s necessary!

The Price

Sometimes a Walt Disney World trip is planned on a budget, and cuts need to be made in certain places. On a short vacation (1 to 3 days) a Park Hopper, per person, ranges from a $53.25 to a $68.16 add-on to a multi-day ticket, according to TouringPlans.com’s Ticket Calculator. The more days you stay, the lower the cost.

Park Hopper EpcotOn shorter trips, though, if all you want is a little taste of Disney at a lighter price, the Park Hopper isn’t a great idea.

The Themes

The joy of the Disney Parks is that each provides a different theme. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is all about the creatures. Epcot is about innovation and national pride. Disney’s Hollywood Studios takes us behind the scenes and up close to movies and shows. The Magic Kingdom is a fantastical view of the world.

For some people, they like to stay in that world from opening to close. Once you enter under the train tracks at the Magic Kingdom, you might want to stay in that magic until you leave that evening. Going from Animal Kingdom’s lush landscapes to Hollywood Studios‘ cityscapes might seem jarring to some.

Park Hopper Hollywood StudiosThe FastPass+

You can’t obtain new FastPasses until you use the first three, or the time window of the first three expires.  If you happen to have times that spread into the afternoon, then you won’t be able to add any more to any other park, no matter where you go. I had that problem on my last trip (fall 2014) while park hopping; my final FastPass at the Magic Kingdom hadn’t expired when I was trying to make new FastPasses at Epcot. I had to wait until the hour passed before the system would let me back in.

If you’re able to schedule FastPass times for early enough in the day this might not be an issue. But it might just be easier to add on new FastPasses to the park that you’re currently at than schedule ones at a different park.

The Transportation

If you are going to park hop, you are going to need to use some mode of transportation – Disney transportation or otherwise. If you want to maximize your time in the parks, you’re not going to want to take the hour to go between parks.

Staying in one park will save headaches that might come from waiting in line for a Friendship boat or bus, or navigating traffic around the resort and finding a parking spot. It also prevents you from missing a dining reservation at a different park.

The Plans

Park Hopper Animal KingdomThere are so many Touring Plans that revolve around a 1-day trip into a park. If you truly want to experience a park and all the nooks and crannies, you take a whole day to enjoy it! Certain things only happen in the parks at certain times of the day. I haven’t been able to see the Festival of Fantasy Parade because my time in the Magic Kingdom was set aside for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and I was in Epcot for the morning and afternoon. I didn’t catch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth because I caught Fantasmic! instead. Since I was bouncing around so much, I missed some things that I enjoy the most from each park.

So if you set one day for one park, you are pretty much planning on seeing all those special events (barring any day-of snafus). If you schedule the day at Epcot, you’ll spend the morning in Future World, have delicious lunches and dinners in World Showcase, and wander around the Lagoon catching the various shows in each country. Do you have to worry about missing Illuminations? No, because you’re already nearby!


Park Hoppers are a great option…sometimes. But there can be moments in your trip planning where you might have to ask yourself, “Is it really worth it?” Hopefully you can shed a couple of dollars off your total bill if you find that some of these reasons above apply to you!


Do you have any other reasons why not getting a Park Hopper is beneficial to your vacation? Remember: if you don’t agree with the reasons, stay tuned for Part 2, where I give examples of times when a Park Hopper is a good investment!

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Claire Nat

I've been enjoying Walt Disney World since my Nana pushed my sister's and my strollers back in the late 1980s. I enjoy my day job here in the Denver area as a teacher and music coordinator at our church. I love music, reading, Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Michigan sports!

20 thoughts on “Forget the Park Hopper: Reasons Why One Park is All You Need for the Day

  • If I did park hop I would probably rope drop at one park and make all my FP for the second park in the late afternoon or early evening. Except at super buy times, I can’t see really needed a FP before 11.

  • A small point, but you do not need to wait for your last fp to expire before hopping. You should be able to go into MDE and cancel it. Then you are free to make 4th fp at the kiosk at the second park right away.

  • We did the park hopper in June 2013 when our family of four and my mom went for about 6 days (but bought 5 day park hopper tickets). With exchange rate highly against us now (we’re from Canada) the park hopper option is a really high cost. When we did go with park hopper, it was ok, but felt exhausting by the end and we realized we missed a tonne of things. It was worth it our first trip, but our next trip in August (last two weeks) is seven days and just the four of us and in Disney resort this time. I think that alone makes it easier to actually save money and do a nice thorough run of each park per day and an extra day to check out a park we may have missed things in. The hours from open to close constrict you pretty much anyways and always makes me question the validity of park hopper … that is unless you just want to hit key rides at key parks and have no desire to take it easy and just enjoy what each park has to offer. Each to their own, but i have a good feeling this summer will feel more relaxed and feel like we’ve seen much more of what each park has to offer. Enjoyed the article!

  • Another important factor to consider is your hotel location. If you are staying at a value or moderate resort, or offsite, then not having park hoppers can work. But if you are at a monorail or Epcot resort, you are so close to 1 (or 2) park(s) that you will be tempted to go there often, even if only for a moment. We love the Epcot resorts and no matter where we go in the morning, we often end up at Epcot’s World Showcase for dinner. We have been known to walk over to DHS just to get cupcakes at Starring Rolls. And we’ll think nothing of spending the day at a park, then relaxing in the afternoon and going over to a different park for evening EMH. When your hotel is conveniently located, you will be much more tempted to park hop.

    OTOH, if you have to travel some distance to get to any park, then you’re much less likely to hop. One park and done is pretty much it.

  • Last time we went we decided to play it by ear. It was a long trip and I felt that we wouldn’t need to hop. Plus we had pre-schoolers and 2 seniors with us and trying to wrangle every one from one park to another wouldn’t be easy. That being said, it was nice to know that if we really felt done at one park, we could add the hopper at guest services. We never needed it, so it saved us about $360, but had we wanted it I had it budgeted for.
    So my advice is, if you are undecided don’t buy it but put the money aside and add it later if you want it.

  • I agree that if you plan six months ahead you should not need Park Hopper (as long as you have enough days to visit each park). Six months gives you plenty of time to plan your days and get dining reservations on the days you are visiting each park. Unless you are trying to get in all the Extra Magic Hours you don’t really need to Park Hop. Unless of course that is just what you want to do. If you are only there 2-3 days, park hopper is a great idea to let you visit all the parks.

  • Something else to consider when deciding to purchase the Park Hopper or not is park hours. We will be returning to WDW this September and I considered adding the PH option…until I checked the park hours. We have a Free Dining BounceBack booked and often our suppers are planned for 5:00ish. By the time we finish our meal, all of the parks with the exception of Epcot will be closed most days of our visit. A few days MK will be open but since it’s also the beginning of MNSSHP the park closes at 7:00 4 of the days that we’re there and is never open later than 9:00pm except for 1 evening out of 10.

  • The best way to park hop and relying on Disney transportation is probably via Epcot since you have the monorail to get to Magic Kingdom and you can either walk or take the boat over to Hollywood Studios. During our next trip even though we’re staying offsite we’re intentionally parking at MK and then taking the monorail over to Epcot. Kids will enjoy the longer monorail ride in the morning and regardless if we hop over to MK after dinner we’re at least set up for it.

  • Our last trip to Disney, we tried to NOT park hop to save $. On day 2, our day at Epcot, our kids (9,6,4) were crying and begging to go to MK! So we added the park hopper option while we were there. We had always hopped in the past, and thought we could be fine without it. It lends the only spontaneity to Disney trips these days!

  • In our first several trips we didn’t hop. Well, we might have…a little bit…out of excitement. But we didn’t park hop.

    Our last trip, we spent several mornings at MK and after our midday break went to Epcot for dinner and touring. It worked out terrifically well.

    Another advantage was alluded to by Joe above. We typically go 6 full days – without hopper, 2 each at Ep and MK, one each at AK and HS. It’s always a bit of a downer to be one-and-done with AK and HS. On our next trip, we’re planning to get two half days at each.

    Any way you go, it’s fun!

  • We’ve been going to Disneyland on an annual basis for quite a while now and we always use park hopper tickets. We don’t park hop every day of the trip but depending on how long we are there we always end up park-hopping the last day or two of the trip because we all have favorites we want to hit “just one more time.” before we have to go home.

  • While I understand the points stated in the article, our family would never go to Disney without getting the hopper option because we want to maximize our Disney experience. Using the awesome advice gained from this site, we always arrive before rope drop and can ride and experience attractions before it gets crazy and not have to use any fast passes in the AM and save them for another park at night, while planning meals much more easily. Again, that is our personal preference and we can experience all of the parks multiple times in a lesser amount of days which save much more money. A 4 or 5 day trip with the park hopper option is much cheaper than a 6 or 7 day trip without it.

    • Totally agree, love having PH. I love RD, stay till 1-2p, return to the hotel, and back to another park for dinner.

  • I feel like the Park Hopper is great for adults but problematic for families with young kids. We bought three park hoppers in January (our second daughter is 2 and didn’t need one) and barely used them. We did two parks on our last day, and that felt like too much. I also visited EPCOT one night alone, but I’m not sure all of that was worth it. We’ll probably do it for the flexibility, but it’s an easy way to save money.

  • I purchased a 10-day no-expiration park hopper, and ended up never using the park hopper. We never did the go back to the room to nap thing, even when our son was napping age (he would nap in the stroller while we swapped out for rides he couldn’t get on). I feel like the time spent traveling from one park to another is a waste of time.

    Remember too that you can add on the park hopper at any time during the trip. So you can purchase tickets without it and save that money if you find you don’t need more than one park in a day.

  • We found that we really never took advantage of park hopping, and that with good planning we really do not need to hop at all. On our last trip we took the savings from not getting PH tickets and used it to get MVMCP tickets, which effectively turned one of our days into a “hopping” day, as we went to AK in the morning and then went to MK at 4:00 for the party.

  • Thanks, Claire!
    You present so much useful information, especially for those wondering whether to hop or not.
    We’ve done both and decided we simply prefer to open and close the same park (with an afternoon break) for purposes of immersion in that park’s themes. We find something quite magical about focusing one one park per day.

  • I think park hopper is good for those with preschool and below age children because you may be returning to your hotel anyways in the middle of the day for rest so why not change to another park? Also, for this age there isn’t tons to do in some parks (Epcot and Hollywood) So it’s good to do a half day there.

    • I agree. When we went for a 2 day trip with my oldest when she was 2, we did a morning in AK, went back to the hotel for a nap, and then spent the afternoon and evening in MK. The next day we did the morning in MK, did a few things in HS (napped during the transportation time) and then did the evening at Epcot. We got to get a taste of everything (while spending the most time in age appropriate MK) and decide what we wanted to see more of when we went back for our longer trip a few years later.

  • Remember that the cost of a Park Hopper on a multi-day ticket is only a $26 add-on if you are already planning to get the waterpark pass. While there are cases where it’s not worth getting the parkhopper (which you detail nicely), the freedom it gives you for planning your trip (especially with the dining plans when you’re eating at epcot multiple afternoons in a trip) makes it a no-brainer some of the time.


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