Expert Tips for Walt Disney World Park Hopping
You’ve already splurged on Park Hopper. It was a smart decision, but now you need to make the most of it. Fortunately, I have a comically large amount of experience in this area. I’d like to give you several tips on theme park hopping.
Have a Plan
I understand that many vacationers are unhappy about the concept of planning. After all, the whole point of a trip is to escape the pressures of everyday life. People don’t want to think as much while on holiday.
Park Hopping will require a bit more effort. You need to keep up with multiple parks at once. You never know which one will have the smallest crowds on a given day. Even experts who pore over big data often guess wrong.
So, you’ll want to book FastPasses at a park, preferably 60 days before your arrival. Then, once you’ve finished those rides, monitor My Disney Experience for wait-times across all four parks. You’ll know which place should be your next destination.
Tips for the Start
Personally, I’d suggest that you start at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s opening early right now due to the recent additions of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
By doing Rope Drop at Hollywood Studios, you can get a boarding pass for the Star Wars ride and then plan the rest of your day around it. Plus, as we’re about to discuss, it’s easy to transition from here to a different park.
Since you’re starting here (maybe), you should also book FastPasses at Hollywood Studios. I linked my 2020 guide, which indicates the places to prioritize. So, that should get you through the morning part of Park Hopping.
I will add that waiting on Rise of the Resistance comes with a drawback. It makes Park Hopping more difficult. You only have a general idea of when you’ll get chosen. So, if your turn comes while you’re in another park, you’re, well, screwed.
Honestly, combining Rise of the Resistance with Park Hopping is quite challenging right now. You may want to skip the ride until Disney adds it to the FastPass lineup.
The next three tips go hand in hand. You must plan breaks as a buffer during your Park Hopper days. After all, Disney parks open early in the morning and remain in operation until late in the evening. Even during the offseason, we’re talking about 12-hour days. In the summer, Walt Disney World parks could run for as long as 16 hours.
You’re not ready for that. Nobody is. We frequently visit with a marathon runner and pure overachiever. She once ran a half-marathon and then wrote a paper for her Master’s degree while at Disney…and worked in 10 rides in the middle of all that. She still gets wiped out during hectic park days.
Disney stamina works differently. Even workout warriors will struggle some with a 12-hour park visit. As such, you should build some breaks into your schedule. You can do this organically, too. For example…
Take Advantage of Transportation Options
Boats run between EPCOT to Disney’s Hollywood Studios all morning. Buses will take guests almost anywhere on the Walt Disney World campus. However, you’ll experience delays while waiting for transportation to arrive. Similarly, you’ll have a 10- or 15-minute wait during the bus/boat trip.
This downtime works in your favor. Close your eyes and take a nap. Recharge your smartphone battery. Or just sit down and people-watch for a while. Whatever you do, you’re not sprinting through the parks trying to do everything.
These small breaks are a natural part of Park Hopping. The transfers between Walt Disney World gates provide a way to catch your breath and mentally prepare for the next wave of attractions.
I’ll even add another suggestion. The Disney Skyliner provides a novel way to admire the Disney campus. You’ll soar overhead, looking down at some of Orlando’s most stunning landmarks. Also, since the path is more direct, you’ll reach your destination quicker. When you’re determined to maximize Park Hopping, the Skyliner combines beauty with efficiency.
Presuming that you started at Hollywood Studios, you can exit the park and walk straight to the Disney Skyliner. Fifteen minutes later, you’ll be at the World showcase, ready to experience your second park. And while you’re there…
Fuel Your Body
When I go Park Hopping, I generally walk 30,000 steps or more. I’ve hit 35,000 steps on consecutive days before, which is the equivalent of 17.5 miles per day. That’s two-thirds of a marathon I’m walking on back-to-back days. It’s physically taxing.
Something I’ve learned the hard way – because I’m stubborn AND a slow learner – is that meals, snacks, and hydration are vital while Park Hopping. I’d strongly suggest that you use your dining experiences as a way to take another break.
For example, if you’ve followed the previous suggestions, you’re now at the World Showcase at lunchtime. Voila! You’ve hit the motherlode! Many of the restaurants in this themed land receive outstanding reviews from critics and guests alike. It’s foodie heaven, and you’ve earned a spot in The Good Place!
Take this opportunity to dine on your favorite international cuisine. While you recuperate, think about the attractions that you want to experience at Epcot. You can plot out several more hours while you eat.
Decide How Bold You Want to Be
Do you want to try the Four Parks Challenge? If you’ve followed my advice, you’re already halfway there. I won’t lie, though. Visiting every Walt Disney World theme park in a single day is challenging and physically grueling.
During your second park visit, you should evaluate how your party is doing. Do you need a break? Or do you want to go for it? Fortune favors the bold, so you could easily grab a bus to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. On the other hand, vacation favors the self-aware. You may want to take Disney transportation back to your hotel.
The choice is entirely up to you. What I’ll say about the rest of your day is that the same rules apply. You should use dinner and additional transportation as a way to refuel before/during your next park visit.
The one final tip I’ll add is that I believe that the best Park Hopping days end at Magic Kingdom. The most popular theme park in the world feels so magical as the night comes to a close. It’s a gentle hug followed by a Kiss Goodnight.
PS: The most essential Park Hopping rule is the one that should go without saying. HAVE FUN!!!