Is the Disney Park Hopper Ticket Upgrade Worth the Cost?

by josh on June 10, 2010

What is the Park Hopper Add-On?

Adding the Park Hopper upgrade to your Magic Your Way Base Ticket will allow you to visit more than one Disney theme park (Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom) each day.  For example, the Animal Kingdom might close at 5pm on the day you choose to visit.  With the Park Hopper upgrade, you could exit the Animal Kingdom at any time and travel to and enter any of the other three theme parks to take advantage of evening Extra Magic Hours, a late dinner reservation, or anything else.

You may exit and return to the same theme park on the same day as many times per day as you like, with or without the Park Hopper upgrade.

How Much Does It Cost?

For a One-Day ticket, the cost is $37.28 with tax. For two- or three-day tickets, the cost is $52.19.  With a four- to ten-day ticket, the cost is a flat $63.90 per ticket for both kids and adults with tax.  On a six-day ticket, the cost for the upgrade comes out to $10.65 per day.

Adding Water Parks & Fun and Park Hopper for a Discount

Adding both ticket upgrades results in a discount of about $35 per ticket.  The cost to add both upgrades is $91.59.

When Can I Add the Upgrade?

You can upgrade your ticket at any time, provided you upgrade within 14 days of first use and you have additional entitlements on the ticket; Park Hopper does not have to be added at the time of ticket purchase.  If on day three of your ten day vacation you realize you want to start hopping, you can take your ticket to any ticket counter and pay for the upgrade at that time.  The cost will remain the same regardless of how many days are left on your ticket, so it’s best to decide as  soon as possible.  For an explanation of entitlements and the new upgrade policy, see this post: http://www.easywdw.com/news/new-disney-world-ticket-policy-going-into-effect-august-3-2011/.  With the Park Hopper upgrade, it only makes sense to add it if you have additional theme park entitlements on your ticket, but you’ll want to be sure you have the ability to add days if that’s your plan.

If I Am Staying Five Days, Can I Purchase a Ten Day Ticket and Visit Two Parks Per Day?

No, as you might be aware, the cost to add each additional day to your Base Ticket after the fourth day is only about $10.  For example, a five-day Adult Magic Your Way Base Ticket costs $323.76 and a six-day ticket costs $334.41, a difference of only $10.65.  Disney is also aware it is cheaper to add extra days than it is to add Park Hopper.  You will be denied entry if you try to visit a second park on the same day with the same ticket (without Park Hopper) and an employee will probably explain the benefits of the Park Hopper upgrade.

What Makes the Park Hopper Worth the Money?

First, the Disney theme parks all have different hours.  For example, the Animal Kingdom closes much earlier than the other Parks most days, usually between 5pm and 8pm.  The Magic Kingdom may be open as late as 3am if it’s an Extra Magic Hours evening and Epcot is always open until at least 9pm.  A Park Hopper ticket would allow you to visit the Animal Kingdom during the day and then transfer to the Magic Kingdom in the evening to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, for example.  You could begin the day at Epcot and walk over to Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic or start your day at Hollywood Studios and take the boat over to Epcot for IllumiNations.  Be sure to check out the operating hours for your trip dates and see if transferring to other parks would allow you significantly more time in the Parks or allow you to visit a recommended Park in the morning and then travel to a different Park for rare evening entertainment.

Second, the Park Hopper ticket is handy if you plan a lot of dining reservations. Park Hopper allows visitors to have meals wherever they want, even if it isn’t at the theme park they first visited.  It’s also a popular add-on during special events, where you may want to spend more evenings in Epcot for the Food and Wine Festival or additional mornings in Hollywood Studios to collect autographs during Star Wars Weekends

Third, if it isn’t already clear, the Park Hopper ticket adds another layer of flexibility to your vacation, especially if you plan to return to your resort in the middle of the day for a break.  If you’re planning to leave anyway then the Park Hopper will allow you to go wherever you want in the evening rather than forcing you back to the same place you were previously.  Also, if you’re staying at a resort near a theme park then you may also want to strongly consider the Park Hopper.  For example, guests staying at the Yacht Club, Beach Club, or Boardwalk Inn are just a five or ten minute walk away from the International Gateway leading into Epcot.  This is a fantastic opportunity to spend some extra time in Epcot or catch a quick meal when you’ve spent the day elsewhere.  The same holds true for the Contemporary, Grand, Floridian, Polynesian, and Wilderness Lodge in their proximity to the Magic Kingdom.

What Makes the Park Hopper A Less Attractive Option?

First, the cost of adding the Park Hopper upgrade to a muilti-day ticket for a family of four would be $255.60 ($63.90 * 4).  That’s a considerable expenditure.  For the same price or less you could enjoy a meal at Cinderella Castle, upgrade from a Value resort to a Moderate resort for three days, purchase 20 or more alcoholic drinks, and a whole lot more.  The “opportunity cost” can be substantial if you’re planning your vacation on a budget.

Second, the cost per day will be much higher on shorter stays.  On a four-day ticket, the per-day cost of the Park Hopper would be about $15, compared to $6.39 per day on a ten-day ticket.  Your opportunity for hopping is much greater on a longer stay as well, which makes the Park Hopper the most attractive for guests staying at least five days.

Third, Park Hopping can be more time consuming than you might imagine.  Driving from the Magic Kingdom to the Animal Kingdom takes 20 minutes to 30.  That doesn’t include the amount of time it takes to walk to the entrance/exit of either park, make it back to your car (if you’re driving), or wait for the bus (if you’re relying on Disney transportation).  Most Park Hops take about 60 minutes from the time you decide you want to hop to the time you actually arrive at the next Park.

Fourth, keep in mind that you may be arriving during peak crowds if you hop in the afternoon.  For example, if you spend 9am to 2pm at Hollywood Studios and then hop over to Epcot, you’ll arrive during the most crowded time of day.  It may be a better choice to stay at the Studios and use up those FASTPASSes you’ve collected during the day or visit additional high capacity attractions.  On the other hand, if your expectations are simply to arrive at Epcot and enjoy some of the less popular attractions then you can certainly enjoy your time.  However, keep in mind that the Parks are generally busiest from 11am to 5pm and an afternoon Park Hop may land you in heavier crowds than expected with no FASTPASSes (although you can certainly collect them once you arrive if they are available).

Fifth, the Park Hopper upgrade is basically free money for the Disney Company.  It doesn’t really cost them anything for you to go to two or three Parks in the same day.

So, Is The Park Hopper Upgrade Worth It?

There’s no set answer.  I recommend calculating how much it will cost to add Park Hopper to your tickets and then dividing that by the number of times you intend to Park Hop.  For example, your family of three might plan to Park Hop four times over a seven night stay.  The cost to add Park Hopper would be $191.70 ($63.90 * 3) and the cost to Park Hop would be $47.93 per Hop ($191.70 / 4 Hops).  It might not seem like such a good idea once you calculate how much it will actually cost to Hop around.  Also consider the cost to add additional days to your Magic Your Way Tickets or even how much it would cost to add an additional day and night to your vacation package.  A Disney World Value Resort can often be had for about $110 per night and the cost to add an additional day to your tickets may be just $10 each.  For a family of three, that extra night might cost as little as $140 and be a better choice than adding Hoppers.

The Park Hopper is also best used by guests who tend to return to their resort in the afternoon to relax.  Since you’ll already be traveling back to a transportation hub, it will be much easier to transfer to a different Park in the evening.  Switching parks in the middle of the day without a rest in between is time consuming, stressful, and exhausting.  Finally, guests staying at a resort in close proximity to one of the theme parks may also find increased use for the Park Hopper upgrade, especially if you’re staying at one of the Epcot-area resorts.

You can add the Park Hopper upgrade to your ticket at any time, even after you’ve used your Magic Your Way Base Ticket, provided it’s within 14 days of first use and you have additional entitlements on the ticket.  If you’re unsure whether or not you would get any use out of the Park Hopper upgrade, consider waiting until you visit the Parks and see for yourself.  Since the cost is fixed, there is no cost benefit to waiting and adding the option later, but you can at least be sure it won’t be wasted money if you’re happy sticking with one Park per day.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Marcia July 24, 2012 at 8:03 am

I was checking out various “add on” prices at the Disney website and apparently (?) they give you a break if you add both WPM and Hopper? I didn’t actually buy tickets (pricing out upgrades to our package tickets), so these prices are w/out tax, but still…. 4 adult tickets: 6 day basic ticket = $1112 and WPM = $1340 (+$228) and Hopper also = $ 1428 (+$88).

This isn’t how I remember it from our last trip (many years ago), but I know things change all the time… Am I understanding this correctly?

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