Analyzing the Pros and Cons of Disney’s Park Hopper
When you purchase admission tickets to Walt Disney World, you’ll face a decision. You have the choice of adding the Park Hopper option. With this feature, you’ll unlock access to all four Disney theme parks each day of your admission ticket. Of course, you’ll pay more for this benefit. Is it worth the money? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Park Hopper to decide.
The pros of Park Hopper depend on the person. Some people will find some of the things I list here as negatives, while I see them as positives. I’ll explain my thinking along the way to clarify my position.
This pro is the crux of Park Hopper. Earlier today when I looked at park times, I noticed something so odd that I relayed it to my wife, another Disney parks expert. The wait-time for several attractions such as Soarin’ Around the World and Slinky Dog Dash was quite reasonable. Each of them was roughly half of what it regularly is at that time of day.
Anyone at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Epcot had a blast, I’m sure. Don’t get me wrong. The people at Magic Kingdom had a great time, too. Everyone does. The difference is that they were stuck waiting in abnormally long lines. They had no other choice.
Someone with a Park Hopper, on the other hand, could have ditched the crowded park and headed over to one of the gates with light traffic. They would have had the run of the place and thereby enhanced their experience. That sort of freedom is a huge plus of Park Hopper.
Multiplicity is a fancy word for a large variety of options. With Park Hopper, it’s particularly applicable. When you have a ticket that enables admission to one park per day, you lack multiplicity. Should you fall in love with a particular attraction, you can’t go back to it unless you buy another ticket to that park. You only get to enjoy it that day. You may spend the body of your trip reminiscing about it while lamenting that you cannot ride it again.
Simply stated, when you purchase Park Hopper, you’ll have a more productive, more satisfying Disney vacation. You can ride your favorites over and over again, independent of which park they’re at. You’re in complete control of your visit.
You can probably tell by my writing that I’m a strong advocate for Park Hopping. Still, I understand that this feature has some negatives. Here are the ones that I feel are most important.
Something you may not realize about Park Hopper is that Disney WANTS you to do it. They charge more since they’re selling a better service, but park planners would prefer that you have flexibility. That way, they could negate potential bottlenecks by encouraging guests to visit all the parks, not just a favorite one like Magic Kingdom.
For this reason, the cost of Park Hopper isn’t prohibitive. To the contrary, it’s only a considerable expense for a single-day visit. When you stay more days, the cost of Park Hopper gets stretched out more. As I type this, the difference between a four-day visit with and without Park Hopper is $75 per person. That’s less than $20 a day. The $75 price difference is the same for six days, also. That’s a cost of only $12.50 per day!
So, the cost issue becomes less significant the longer that you stay. To wit, staying for three days or less, you’ll pay $65 more for Park Hopper. $65 spread out over three days still isn’t price-prohibitive in my opinion. For two days, you’re paying $32.50 per day for Park Hopper, but it costs $65 for a single day. Disney is trying to price you in on a more extended stay by adding more value. I never like to tell people how to spend their money. Only you can decide how much is too much for your family’s vacation budget.
Do you like walking a lot on vacation? Do you want to spend time traveling on buses and boats between parks? Most people would answer no to both questions. When you skip Park Hopper, you’ll mostly avoid each aggravation.
I use the word convenience for this reason. When you don’t buy Park Hopper, you’re land-locked, so to speak. You will only have access to a single park the entire day. While you’re stuck if said park is overly crowded, it is a more manageable situation to navigate. You only need to worry about the wait-times and attractions at a single park. With Park Hopper, you take on more of a meta-view, wherein you have many more choices available to you.
This “con” is more of a pro for not Park Hopping, a corollary if you will. When you only have access to a single park, the pace isn’t quite so hectic. When you can visit all of them, you may tend to rush through the various major attractions where you are, which is unfortunate.
All four Disney gates in Orlando are impeccably designed, maintained, and run. They’re the gold standard in theme parks, which is why Walt Disney World dominates the industry in major statistics such as attendance and revenue. When you cannot Park Hop, you’ll spend most if not all of your day in the same park. In doing so, you’ll take more time and maintain a calmer pace.
Also, you may notice and appreciate more elements of the park since you’re spending more time in it. As an example, I’ve found that many guests skim through World Showcase the first few times they visit Walt Disney World. To them, it’s a place to get food more than anything else. This irritates me to my very soul, as each Epcot pavilion is worthy of an extended visit.
Similarly, when you rush, you might look at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as a half-day park. Should you skip the animal attractions in favor of the rides, you’ll miss the entire point of the park. Now that Disney’s opened up the nighttime experience here, you should plan to visit after dark, too. With a single park admission, you’re more likely to appreciate this stuff than if you rushed through Animal Kingdom.
In a future piece, I’ll list a few pro tips for maximizing Park Hopping. When you spend money on this feature, you want to get the most out of it, right? Well, I’m an expert on this one, having visited all four parks on the same day many times.