Should I get a park hopper or can I spend all day in one park? This is a very popular question, both among first time Walt Disney World visitors and among those that have been a few times. So, to sum it up simply: the answer to your question is yes.
Clear as mud, right? I love park hopper, but I can also easily spend all day in a single park. A park I consider a half day park may be your family’s favorite and you guys could spend three days there just enjoying it. There is no right or wrong way to do Disney, but let’s take a look at some of the reasons park hopping may or may not work for you.
When you park hop, you can either use Disney’s transportation or you can use your own (parking is valid at any park for the same day, so save your receipt. If you pay to park at Magic Kingdom then drive to Hollywood Studios, you won’t need to pay again.) However, this means either getting to your vehicle, which can be quite a trek depending on where you parked, or taking advantage of Disney transportation, which can often be a little slow -or during peak season, you may have to watch several buses pass you by before you’re able to board one.
The time commitment is especially of note for first timers or folks who don’t go very often. Is it worth it to lose park time to go to a different one? Maybe, maybe not.
Half Day Park:
What is a half day park? It’s just a term that means a park you can’t imagine yourself spending all day exploring. For my family, Animal Kingdom is a half day park. For your family, it may be Epcot or Hollywood Studios. I’ve never met a family who thought Magic Kingdom was a half day park. So if you find yourself in Animal Kingdom and you’ve done everything you want to do by 3pm, then what? You can redo your favorites, head home early, or, if you have a park hopper, you can bounce to another park and close out your day there. We like to hit Animal Kingdom until 2-3pm, then bounce over to Epcot for dinner and some extra fun. If we don’t have park hoppers, sometimes we’ll just head over to Disney Springs for a more relaxed evening.
Take advantage of magic hours:
Extra Magic Hours are special hours only for guests staying on property. They can be useful, especially when you have park hoppers! For instance, you could get an early start in one park, then hop over to another when it opens up to the general public. Or, you could end your day in a different park from which you started, depending on if the EMH are for the morning or evening. The park hopper ticket allows you to take advantage of these without committing to spending all day in one park.
Avoid the Crowds:
Have you ever arrived at a park only to discover every single person in Orlando also seems to have arrived at that same park? Maybe you’re looking at the My Disney Experience app and noticing that wait times are significantly lower elsewhere. If you have a park hopper, no problem. You can just bop right on over to that other park, and try the crowded one again on another day!
See old favorites more than once, or get a second chance at a must do:
Maybe your kiddo can’t get enough of that one thing. You know what that thing is. Maybe there was that one thing you really wanted to do, but were unable to do on your park day. With park hopper, you can head back to a park for an hour or two just to knock out seeing that character you weren’t able to see- or to ride It’s A Small World for the 400th, and last, time before you head home.
Four Parks, 1 Day Challenge:
Veterans of Disney often like to give themselves a little extra challenge by hitting all four parks in one day! Obviously, you have to have park hopper to do give this a shot! There are tons of different ways to set up your challenge, so check out some of our tips here. I don’t recommend this for first time visitors unless you are going to do a long trip. Even then, you might find it more stressful than fun.
Park hoppers sound great and add a lot of flexibility to your plan, but they aren’t cheap! At the time of writing this, park hoppers cost $65 per ticket for a 1 day ticket, $75 for 2-3 day tickets and $85 for 4-10 day tickets (park hoppers that include the water parks are even more expensive). You pay that same amount whether you use park hopper once, or every day- and for a family of four with 4 day tickets, that’s an extra $340.
On our last trip we ran into Hollywood Studios just to look for a pin I wanted and to grab a Mickey Bar, then jumped back on the Skyliner and took a trip to Epcot for some delicious snacks to use up our snack credits, before heading to Magic Kingdom to piddle around. We started a day at Magic Kingdom and then ended it at Animal Kingdom. We’ve had trips where instead of park hoppers, once we were done with a park we just headed back to the room to rest up. We’ve walked in to Magic Kingdom, used up our 3 fastpasses and nope’d back out due to the crowds and headed somewhere else. We’ve made our park hoppers really worthwhile and we’ve wasted the money on them.
There truly is no wrong way to do a trip, because each one is magical and totally unique.