Disney vacations can be expensive endeavors. Budget-conscious visitors often look to save money by foregoing a few of the ticket “extras,” including the Disney park hopper option. But are park hopper tickets worth it? Many Disney guests find them worth the splurge. Find out the factors to consider when deciding whether park hopper tickets are worth the price for your family on your next Walt Disney World or Disneyland trip.
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The cost of a Disney vacation seems to be always increasing. What’s a Disney-loving family to do? If like me, you are probably always looking for creative ways to save money on your family’s Disney vacation.
Travelers can often use frequent flyer miles or points to save on the air travel and hotel portions of a Disney vacation. But one major cost of a Disney trip that can’t be minimized with miles or points is your theme park tickets. How can you possibly save on those?
Disney Park Hopper Tickets: What Are They And Are They Worth It?
One cost-savings strategy is choosing to purchase standard tickets that allow access to a single park in a single day rather than tickets that have the “park hopper” option added.
First things first – if you aren’t a Disney geek, what is a park hopper ticket? It is a ticket that allows guests unlimited entries to visit any and all of the theme parks at Walt Disney World – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios – on the same day. At Disneyland, a park hopper ticket is good for both Disneyland Park and California Adventure in a single day. Park hoppers cost more than the standard one park per day tickets.
On some tickets, the cost difference is substantial. A one day ticket to the Magic Kingdom is $114-133 as of January 2018, but the park hopper option will set you back an additional $53-$67, depending on park and season.
For the sake of full disclosure, I should first admit my park hopper bias. My family nearly always chooses to purchase park hopper tickets for our Disney vacations. We prefer the flexibility and would rather ride more rides by park hopping than spend our extra cash on something like lots of Disney fine dining experiences.
But I recognize that the option doesn’t make sense for everyone. Factors like budget, mobility, or simply the length of your vacation can all tip the scales. Each trip is different, so crunch the numbers for your family each time.
What to Consider in Choosing a Park Hopper?
Trying to decide whether to upgrade to a park hopper ticket on your next Disney vacation? Here are the factors to consider when considering whether park hopper tickets are worth it to you:
Ultimately, it always comes down to money. Your vacation dollars are limited, so if you want to splurge on a fancy Disney dining experience or on a special souvenir, you have to cut back somewhere. Many family travel budgets are a bit flexible, however, so getting the absolute cheapest park tickets isn’t always the deciding factor.
2. Length of Stay
Given the sheer size of Walt Disney World, many families plan for a week-long trip. On longer visits, the cost of the park hopper option on a per day basis goes down substantially. For example, as of January 2018, a five-day adult ticket with tax costs $394 ($78.80 per day) but adding the park hopper option only costs $80 more ($16 per day). Budgeting for this additional amount may well make sense on a per-day basis if you will park hop many times.
Conversely, families who only have a short stay may want the park hopper option to get to see all of the parks on a short visit. I wouldn’t recommend doing more than two parks in a single day, but the park hopper option allows you to see all four Walt Disney World parks on a reasonable timetable in just two days if absolutely necessary.
3. Ages & Stages in Your Traveling Family
If you are traveling with very young kids or older grandparents, your family is going to tour at a slower pace. Mobility-restricted families may well find park hopping too logistically difficult and not worth the cost. In this case, save the cash and savor each park.
There is one exception, however, to this general rule. With young kids still bound by a nap schedule, park hopping can offer an important advantage to consider. If you plan to go back to your hotel room for a mid-afternoon nap anyway, having the park hopper ticket can be valuable. With it, you can return to a different (and often more convenient) park in the evening.
4. Maximizing Fastpass+
Are you a Fastpass+ junkie who knows how to work the system to maximum advantage? If so, you can get more out of Fastpass+ with park hopper tickets. Walt Disney World pros know how to schedule and use their three pre-planned Fastpasses reasonably early in the day in order to go to ticket kiosks and get more. If you have the flexibility of going to another park to use additional Fastpasses, you’ll have more ride options from which to choose.
Do you simply want the flexibility of making decisions on the fly? If leaving some things to chance matters to you, then park hopper tickets are worthwhile. Despite the Disney pressure to pre-plan everything these days, it is still possible to have a lot of fun at Disney without scheduling every single minute.
6. Are You an Epcot Dining Fan?
Many of Walt Disney World’s best restaurants are in Epcot. This means that foodies may get a lot of value out of park hopper tickets. These tickets enable food-lovers to go to one park in the morning and dine at Epcot at night.
The park hopper option is even more valuable during special events like the International Flower & Garden Festival and the International Food & Wine Festival where the Epcot food options are even more enticing. Additionally, if you are staying in an Epcot area resort (Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan & Dolphin, Boardwalk Inn), then budgeting for park hopper tickets is a no-brainer.
7. Extra Magic Hours & Crowd Avoidance
Disney pros know that a park is often the busiest on a day when Extra Magic Hours are offered. Having park hopper tickets enables you to skirt these crowds. One strategy? Take advantage of an early morning Extra Magic Hour in one park and then hop to another less crowded park when the lines start building.
8. The Disneyland Difference
While many of these same Walt Disney World factors come into play when deciding on park hopper tickets at Disneyland, the calculation at Disneyland is a drastically different one.
The major reason for the very different analysis is simple proximity. The two parks at Disneyland (Disneyland and California Adventure) are just a few steps apart from each other, so park hopping can take almost no time at all. With the introduction of Disneyland’s MaxPass allowing Fastpass booking in the Disneyland app, you can also now easily book a Fastpass for a ride in the other park, then hop over when your reservation time arrives. The combination takes some of the guessing about timing away.
For these reasons, I happen to think that park hopper tickets are quite a bit more “worth it” for anyone at Disneyland, even for visitors on a limited budget.
The one exception I might make in recommending park hopper tickets is for visitors planning a two day trip to Disneyland. For a two day visit, you might be okay forgoing park hopper tickets if they truly overtax your budget. Why? Because you can easily spend a full day at Disneyland and a full day at California Adventure and not be shortchanged on either. This is an allocation of park time that makes sense.
Visitors planning a stay of 3 or more days should definitely spring for park hopper tickets if budget allows. The additional cost is just $45 per ticket on 3, 4, or 5-day tickets. For longer vacations, the cost of park hopping per day is even less than at Walt Disney World.
Another reason to buy park hopper tickets on 3+ Disneyland visits is early admission. Three or more day Disneyland tickets include one morning of early entry into Disneyland park, even if you are not staying at a Disneyland hotel. This benefit is called “Magic Morning” (to distinguish it from Extra Magic Hours at both parks offered only to Disney hotel guests). It’s a little-known benefit but one that can pay off big when attempting to avoid the Disneyland crowds. Park Hopper tickets allow you to take advantage of early entry and then hop to avoid the worst lines.
Where to Buy Discounted Disney World & Disneyland Tickets
Disney-bound? For Walt Disney World vacations, TravelingMom recommends Undercover Tourist for discounted tickets and vacation packages.
If Disneyland on the West Coast is your destination, Traveling Mom recommends Get Away Today for discounted Disneyland tickets and vacation packages. Even better, save $10 on a 2+ night vacation package with code TravelingMom!
Are park hopper tickets worth it to you during your Disney vacation? What are the reasons for your choice?