To Park Hop or To Not Park Hop



Buying tickets for Walt Disney World can be confusing to the uninitiated. After all, most local amusement parks are pretty simple. You walk up to the Ticket booth at the gate and buy the tickets for your family. Maybe there's a student or senior citizen discount, but that's about it. Not so simple for Walt Disney World.

First, it's very important to buy tickets well in advance. Certainly make sure you have purchased them ahead of your Fast Pass date (60 days ahead for on-site guests and 30 days ahead for off-site). You will want to go ahead and link them to your My Disney Experience account so you can make your three pre-planned Fast Passes.

Secondly, you will need to decide on how many days you will want to tour. Walt Disney World consists of 4 main theme parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, plus 2 Water Parks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.

You can choose to buy Base Tickets, which allow you admission to one park per day. Purchase any number of days, from 2 days to 10 days. With this ticket, you can leave and re-enter the same park in one day, but you cannot go to a second park on the same day. The Park Hopper option can be added to your tickets for an additional charge ($65 plus tax for 2 or 3 day tickets and $75 plus tax for 4 days or more). The Park Hopper allows you to visit multiple parks in one day.

There is plenty to do in each Theme Park to fill an entire day or even multiple days, so why get Park Hopper? Here are my reasons to get Park Hopper:

1. To make sure you see all the nighttime shows. If you allocate just one day per park, you only have one chance to see the nighttime show. It's rare, but if there is lightning, some shows may get canceled. Or, someone in your travel party may be extra tired or not feeling well and need to go back to your resort. With Park Hopper, you get another chance to see "Happily Ever After" or "Fantasmic."


2. For dining selections. If you have particular restaurants you'd like to dine in, having Park Hopper enables you the most flexibility. So you don't have to choose between Cinderella's Royal Table breakfast and Crystal Palace breakfast. You could do BOTH and just hop to another park.

3. If your resort is adjacent to a theme park. When we stay at The Beach Club, more often than not, we will end up in EPCOT at least part of the day. It could be to get a pastry and expresso at Les Halles. Or to get a glass of wine and stroll through World Showcase in the evening. After all, the park entrance is RIGHT THERE!! I highly recommend Park Hopper during EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival and EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival or Festival of the Holidays as well.

4. If you are not sure your child will enjoy a certain park, Park Hopper let's you check it out for a few hours, use your Fast Passes and then leave if they aren't having fun.

5. For shorter trips. If you only have a few days, then Park Hopper allows you time in each park, even if it's only a few hours.

6. If your travel party consists of adults and teens. You can move more quickly and are less likely to get bogged down by meltdowns, character stops and the like.

7. If you have visited before and don't need to see and do EVERYTHING at each and every park.

I know plenty of people who travel without Park Hopper, though and here are some reasons to NOT get it:

1. The strollers. If you are folding up a stroller every time you board a Disney bus, it makes hopping around more challenging. There is an appeal to getting into a park and staying put!

2. If you have elderly people in your party. Touring at a slower pace can make park hopping a chore.

3. If you are on a strict budget, it may make sense to use your vacation budget elsewhere.

4. It's your first trip to Walt Disney World and you're not sure where and what everything is. Focus on one park per day in this case. There is plenty to do and see without complicating your day.

So, there you have it. My overview of Park Hopper tickets. Whether you chose Park Hopper or Base tickets, you can have an amazing trip to Walt Disney World Resort - the most magical place on Earth.


Mary Graham is a Vacation Specialist with Coasters & Castles Travel. She is an Annual Passholder and makes frequent trips with her family and friends to stay up to date on the latest at Walt Disney World Resort. Her favorite characters are Dumbo and Tinkerbell. Her favorite rides in each park are Animal Kingdom: Flight of Passage; Hollywood Studios: Tower of Terror; EPCOT: Soarin' and Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

For Mary's help planning your next vacation, email: mary@tripsbymary.com.