Yesterday, Disney announced that Park Hopping will return to Disney World in 2021 (with some modifications)!
We’ve been working on getting more information about what this means in terms of park-to-park transportation, and working on getting answers to your questions about this new process. But what does this change mean for your 2021 trip? Here are our thoughts.
1. You’ll Be Able to Park Hop If You Want, But You Don’t Have To
Come January 1st, you will be able to stick with your one-park-per-day ticket just as you always could. And, as always, even if you buy a ticket with Park Hopper benefits, you don’t have to use it. We spoke with one Cast Member on the phone about what would happen if we did not want to Park Hop, but just wanted to leave the park for a mid-day break and later return.
Since guests will have the ability to hop to a second park in the afternoon if it has availability, we wondered if our decision to leave the park for a break would cause our “spot” in the park to become available to others, creating the possibility that the park would fill up in terms of availability and we would be prevented from getting back in later in the day.
The Cast Member we spoke to said it would not impact our trip. Instead, they said a Guest’s reservation “spot” at a particular park doesn’t become “available” for others to then take advantage of to Park Hop until that guest scans into a NEW park. We will definitely keep you updated if we hear anything different, but for now it appears your spot at the park you obtain a Park Pass for (the first park you want to visit) will hold that spot for you, even if you leave, unless you scan into ANOTHER park.
2. If You Want to Park Hop, You Will NEED the Park Hopper Option
This might go without saying but it’s been a while so it is really important to note — only guests with a ticket with Park Hopping abilities or annual pass with Park Hopping benefits will be able to Park Hop. Makes sense — it’s just something you want to keep in mind. Also, Park Hopping will be subject to any applicable ticket blockout dates, as the Annual Passholder website was updated to say, so if you are blocked out of EPCOT one day, you won’t be able to Park Hop there.
3. Park Pass Isn’t Going Away For Now
Park Hopping may be coming back, but Park Passes are sticking around too. Under the current system, you’ll need to make sure you get a Park Pass reservation for the first park you want to visit. Currently, a Park Pass is NOT required for the park you want to hop to, but that may change.
So, it’s still critical to get a Park Pass in advance as early as you can to make sure you are guaranteed to visit the park you want to visit initially. Park Hopping may, however, allow you to potentially visit parks that develop availability later in the day. For example, if you wanted to visit EPCOT, but couldn’t get a Park Pass for it, you may be able to visit another park in the morning that you ARE able to get a Park Pass for, and watch for potential Park Hopping availability to open up at EPCOT if enough guests scan into other parks, making their “spots” available.
4. You Might Not Get the Chance to Park Hop
Disney has noted that Park Hopping will depend on availability. In other words, if all parks have reached whatever capacity Disney has set for them in terms of reservations and Park Passes, you won’t be able to hop to them. So, you will definitely need to have a sense of flexibility about the whole process. If you simply MUST ride Star Tours, don’t plan on hopping to Disney’s Hollywood Studios later in the day. If an item is a must-do for you on a particular day, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a Park Pass for that park. Otherwise, you run the risk that you won’t be able to hit that must-do item if capacity fills and you cannot hop to the park where your must-do attraction is located.
What does all this mean if you make a dining reservation at another park and later it reaches capacity? We’re working on getting more information about that from Disney and will definitely let you know what we find out.
5. You HAVE to Visit the First Park
This is a really important step in the process. If you want to Park Hop, you have to get a Park Pass for the first park you want to visit and then you actually have to visit it. That means you can’t get a Park Pass for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, decide to spend the day at the hotel instead, and then “hop” to EPCOT. If you want to “hop” to another park, you’ll actually need to visit the park you have the Park Pass for, even if that means you have to enter your “first park” after Park Hopping hours begin at 2PM.
If you don’t want to head to your “first park” — Animal Kingdom in this example — before hopping to another park, you would technically have the option to cancel your existing Park Pass and try (based on availability) to book a new one. If you are going to try to cancel and rebook, you will definitely want to check Disney’s Park Pass availability calendar BEFORE making any changes to see what Park Passes, if any, are still available on the day you’re looking to go. It’s best to check first than to cancel and then find out all of the parks are full, and it’s important to make sure you’re happy with your plans ahead of time.
6. You Might Be Able to Park Hop to MORE Than 2 Parks or Hop More Than Once (Key Word: MIGHT)
Again this all depends on availability, but from what we’ve heard at the moment from the Cast Members we’ve spoken to, the system works like this:
- You make a Park Pass for your first park
- You VISIT the first park,
- Park Hopper hours start at 2pm, and
- Once the Park Hopper hours start, you can go wherever you like with open Park Hopping availability.
So, if there’s availability at another park, you can hop to it. Let’s say you start in Magic Kingdom and hop to Animal Kingdom around 2PM. If you finish up what you want to do at Animal Kingdom and want to go back to Magic Kingdom, you may be able to if Magic Kingdom has Park Hop availability, at least that’s what one Cast Member indicated to us via chat.
When we asked if we could potentially even visit a THIRD park, the Cast Member indicated that it may be possible. It looks like as long as the Park Hopper for that particular park is available, you should be able to visit that park.
Now, the return of Park Hopping was just announced yesterday, so there is a LOT of information that is surely on the way, and this is based only on our conversation with one Cast Member, so we’ll keep our eyes open for any updates and definitely let you know as we hear more on this.
7. You Can Only Park Hop After 2PM Right Now, But Park Hopping Hours Can Change
These are both really important things to keep in mind. Right now, Disney has indicated that Park Hopping hours will begin at 2PM. This means you can’t run in, ride Avatar Flight of Passage, and then immediately run to EPCOT for the rest of the day. You won’t be able to hop to another park until AFTER 2PM. And remember you HAVE to enter your first park (the one you have the Park Pass for) before you can do any Park Hopping at all. Compared to the “freeness” of Park Hopping from before the park closures, this does significantly limit the time you can spend in the second park, especially depending on how long that second park stays open.
The other important thing to note is that Park Hopper hours can change. Disney has specifically advised Guests to check their Park Hours website or the My Disney Experience app for the most up-to-date Park Hopper hours, “as they could start earlier at a later date, depending on the day and park.” So, there may be a day when you can start Park Hopping sooner than 2PM. That’s something we’ll definitely be on the lookout for!
8. You’ll REALLY Need My Disney Experience — and You’ll Need to Check It!
This sort-of goes hand-in-hand with the last one, but you’ll definitely want to download the My Disney Experience app if you haven’t already, as it will become particularly important when it comes to checking Park Hopper hours or other availability.
We have definitely noticed changes in crowd levels at Disney World. Considering that park capacity has been increased to 35%, the addition of Park Hopping could mean you’ll just see more people going in and out of the parks as a whole. It also could mean — as we discussed above — that you may not be able to Park Hop if the park you’re looking to go to is at capacity.
And because Park Hopping will be taking place after 2PM (for now), it means that once you hop to another park, you may see longer lines for rides already formed there by the morning guests (guests who visited that as their “first park”) if not very many of them choose to hop elsewhere. But, on the flip side, if a lot of guests hop between parks, you could see lines thin out or simply even out in the afternoon as guests choose to leave their first park and enter another. We’ll be keeping an eye on crowd levels once Park Hopping begins and let you know if we notice any significant changes.
10. You NEED a Park Pass to Try to Ride Rise of the Resistance
One aspect of the new Park Hopping process is CRITICAL to know when it comes to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Disney has specifically said that if you are visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios after visiting your first park, you will NOT be able to join the virtual queue to ride Rise of the Resistance. That means, if you MUST try for your chance to ride this incredibly popular attraction, you need to get a Park Pass for Disney’s Hollywood Studios as it will need to be the first park you visit.
So, overall what does the reintroduction of Park Hopping mean for your next Disney trip? Things may look different than what they look right now, but they’ll also be different than what you were used to prior to the park closures. You may have the ability to conquer more rides at more parks in one day (or eat MORE food from more parks). But, you’ll also have to keep in mind that Park Hopping is not guaranteed. Instead, it will all depend on availability. For now, you shouldn’t plan your trips treating your second park as a guaranteed item that you’ll get into for sure. Instead, you should plan to spend your day at the park you have a Park Pass Reservation for (your “first park”), and treat it like a bonus if you’re able to hop!
We’ll continue to keep you updated as we learn more about Park Hopping, so check back with us for more details.
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Are you excited for Park Hopping to return? Tell us in the comments.