Just over a month ago, Disney announced that Park Hopping would be coming back to Walt Disney World at the start of 2021 in a modified way.
The new system has quite a few rules and requirements different than the old way of Park Hopping you may be familiar with, one being that the ability to Park Hop is not guaranteed — instead, it’s entirely based on park availability (a.k.a. you might NOT get to hop if the parks are full). But, getting a ticket with the Park Hopper option is more expensive than a regular 1-day, 1-park pass. Will that additional cost be worth it for you under the modified system? Here are our thoughts.
First, let’s talk about the cost of a Disney World theme park ticket with a Park Hopper option. All of these prices are before tax.
Right now, for 2021, you can get a 1-day, 1-park ticket starting at $109 and going up to close to $160, depending on what day you visit. So, for our “sample” trip, we’ll look at January 1st — which currently is priced at $139.
Want to park hop? Then your ticket hops up in price from $139 to $204.
That’s a difference of $65 per ticket for the price hopper option.
2 and 3-Day Tickets
Thinking of buying tickets for a bit of a longer stay? Well, if you buy a 3-day ticket that gives you access to 1 park per day for any 3 days between January 1 and January 5th your cost is about $338.48 a ticket (or $130 per day).
Change to a Park Hopper option for those same days and your price goes up to $463.48 per ticket (or $155 per day).
So, that’s a total difference of $75 per ticket for the Price Hopper option, which breaks down to a difference of $25 per day.
4 through 10-Day Tickets
Once you get over to 4 through 10-day tickets, Park Hoppers also go up in price, although they can be less per day the longer your stay. So, for a 4-day ticket to be used between January 1st and 7th, the price is $483.81 per ticket.
With the Park Hopper option, it’s $568.81 per ticket.
This breaks down to a difference of $85 per ticket for the Park Hopper option, which would equal about $21.25 per day. The values/differences may vary throughout the year based on the price for that day but they are generally within that range.
What we can see from this is that the Park Hopper option is basically the same price as it was when the cost was increased in February of this year — from $65 per ticket for 1-day tickets, $75 per ticket for 2 to 3-day tickets, and $85 per ticket for 4 to 10-day tickets. You’re basically paying the same as you would have been paying under the old Park Hopper system. So now the question is: is this modified Park Hopper system still worth that value?
The Modified System
Before we talk about it more, let’s go through a quick recap of the modified system. Under the new policies that will be in place on January 1st, 2021, you will first need to have a ticket with Park Hopper benefits. Then, you’ll need to make a Disney Park Pass Reservation for the first park you want to visit.
You must actually VISIT that first park, and then when Park Hopper hours begin, you can try to hop to another park. Right now, Park Hopper hours will start at 2PM each day until park close. Your ability to hop to another park will depend entirely on that park’s availability and capacity limitations. There are some more details we’ll go into a little bit, but that’s the basics.
So…is the Park Hopper worth it? Maybe…or maybe not.
Before we dive in, we just wanted to make a quick note to say that this entire article is based on our current understanding of the Park Hopper modified system. There are quite a few things that still need to be clarified and things we need to see in action to fully understand, so once the system is in play, things could change. But for now, this is what we’ve gathered.
Some Might Say “NO” (At Least For Now)
Some might feel that Park Hopping is probably NOT worth it at least not until they can see how the modified system works in reality. Why? Well, there are a few reasons.
1. You Are Not Guaranteed to Park Hop
The entire Park Hopping system depends on availability. Disney has specifically stated that the “ability to visit another park will be subject to the park’s capacity limitations.” So, if all of the parks (or the park you want to visit) do not have any park hopping availability, there’s a potential that you won’t be able to park hop one day, or possibly any of the days of your trip.
So, you’d be paying the same amount as you normally would for something that’s not guaranteed to even happen AND you’re paying for a system with more restrictions (more on that in a bit). Essentially, you could be shelling out your dough for a service you may never get to utilize, at least not to its fullest. And, even if you can Park Hop on a given day, you may not be able to hop to the park that you want — again it will all depend on availability.
There’s even a possibility (as far as we know under what has presently been shared) that you could see a park has Park Hopper availability, get on the bus to go there, and then arrive only to find that it’s reached capacity for hopping while you were traveling there. You could go back to your original park based on our current understanding of the system, but that would still result in a lot of lost time and effort.
What if your first park is Magic Kingdom but you plan to hop to EPCOT? Say you book a dining reservation for a restaurant in EPCOT, and then EPCOT reaches its capacity and does not have any Park Hopper availability? Does your reservation guarantee you entry into the park? It’s not entirely clear. One Cast Member we spoke with said a reservation would guarantee entry, but several others said it would not or they at least recommended not making the reservation until you’ve already entered the second park. Our conclusion was that most Cast Members we had the opportunity to speak with seemed equally in the dark about how the new system will operate.
At this time, our recommendation would be to only make a dining reservation for the park that you have the Park Pass for, and wait to make any other reservations until you actually hop to the second park. This lack of a guarantee to Park Hop can make some feel like the Hopper option isn’t quite worth its value. After all, it’s a Park Hopper. Not a Park Hop-When-We-Tell-You.
2. You Can’t Park Hop Until After 2PM
Right now, Disney has specified that guests can begin visiting other parks (if there’s availability) once Park Hopping hours begin. Park Hopping hours are set to begin at 2PM starting January 1st, but Disney has said that could change and start earlier in the future. So, you can’t just run and ride Toy Story Mania at 9AM and then hop right over to get on Avatar Flight of Passage at 10:30AM. Things are much more restricted and you can’t just go wherever you want whenever you want.
That means you get a lot less time in the parks you hop to than you could previously, but are still spending the same amount of money as before. Let’s say you got a 1-day ticket, paid the $65 to Park Hop, and visited on March 1st of this year (before the closures) — the parks were open from 8AM at the earliest to 9PM at the latest (not even counting Extra Magic Hours). That’s a total of 13 hours of potential park visiting and ultimately hopping time, or about $5 an hour for Park Hopping privileges.
But, now you can only hop after 2PM. Using the same park hours, you’d actually only get 7 hours of Park Hopping privileges, making it actually just over $9 per hour (for those hours you can hop).
But, that doesn’t even take into account that park hours aren’t as long as they used to be. While hours have been extended for some dates the year, they are closing earlier or opening later and there aren’t any Extra Magic Hours or similar events being held at the moment. At the time of writing, the park hours have been released through February 20th.
The parks are only open on that day from 9AM at the earliest to 7PM at the latest across the four parks. That’s 10 hours of park time, but only 5 of those can be spent hopping. So, you’ve gone from spending about 13 hours hopping around to only 5, making park hopping now worth $13 an hour (only counting the hopping hours). Again, some may argue you’re paying MORE for LESS time in the parks, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to park hop at all.
3. You’re Limited in Terms of Where You Can Go
We did want to mention that one Cast Member indicated to us that once you enter a second park, your “spot” in the first park becomes available to others to Park Hop. Since Park Hopping depends on availability, that means if Magic Kingdom is your first park, you go there, and then you hop to EPCOT, you’re not guaranteed to get back into Magic Kingdom (or any other park for that matter).
You may plan a 4-park snack challenge, but at the end of the day, there may only be availability to hop to one other park and that’s it — or there may not be any availability at all! From our understanding of it, you basically can’t plan your day counting on the second park as something you’ll for sure get to do.
Especially for families with young kids (who need more structure and couldn’t really deal with a will-they-won’t-they type of situation for Park Hopping) or families that like to plan, this modified system may be difficult, at least as we understand it at the moment.
Now, January 1st could arrive, and we could find that there’s almost consistently full Park Hopping availability at all of the parks. But, that’s simply something we won’t know until the system is actually in place and being used. And even then, you’re still facing very limited hours to hop.
4. You Still Have to Get a Park Pass for Your First Park
Under this modified system, you still need to get a Park Pass Reservation for the first park you want to visit (the one you want to go to before Park Hopping hours begin). So it’s not as though you’re free to go anywhere you want even at the start of your day.
You’ll still be constrained by Park Pass, and will need to make sure you get those reservations in advance before the parks fill up (particularly around big holidays).
5. You Still Have to Visit Your First Park
In addition to booking a Park Pass for your first park, you’ll also need to actually VISIT that park that you have a pass for before you’ll be allowed to hop. In other words, won’t be able to book a Park Pass for Animal Kingdom and then sleep in and decide “okay, it’s 2PM, which means it’s Park Hopper hours, so I’ll hop over to Magic Kingdom.” Instead, you’ll need to first go to Animal Kingdom, enter the park, and THEN see if you can hop to Magic Kingdom.
If you don’t want to do that, you can cancel your existing pass and try to make a new Park Pass, but that will be subject to availability so you’ll definitely want to check before you make any changes and lose your existing spot in the park. All of this is to say, this system does have quite a few limits on your flexibility when compared to the old Park Hopper system.
6. You Can’t Ride Rise of the Resistance if Hollywood Studios is Your Second Park
This is a BIG one. Right now, if you want to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, you can try to sign up for a Boarding Group at 7AM from outside the park, or 1PM from inside the park. But, if you want to ride Rise of the Resistance with this new Park Hopping system you’ll need to make sure that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is your FIRST park (the one that you have a Park Pass for).
Disney has specifically stated that you MUST go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios as your first park in order to get a boarding group and ride this attraction. Those hopping over at 2PM will have missed the new second virtual queue booking window and have no ability to ride.
Overall, there are quite a few reasons why some may feel that the modified system is not worth the price YET. There’s still a lot about this system that hasn’t been clarified yet or really won’t become clear at all until we can see it in use. After it goes “live” on January 1st, we’ll be able to see if some of those concerns about a lack of flexibility (particularly when it comes to Park Hopping availability or even with an increase in Park Hopper hours) will be eased. It’s entirely possible these concerns are mostly resolved, but that won’t be clear until 2021 hits.
Some May Say “YES, It Will Likely Be Worth It”
While we’ve given you some of the negatives, there are also positives to this modified system which may totally make it worth it for some!
1. You Can Hop!
First and most obviously, you’ll be able to Park Hop again! While this will depend on availability, at least the option is there. Right now, there’s no Park Hopping available whatsoever. Whatever park you get your Park Pass for is the only one you can currently visit. So, for some, just having the ability visit 2 parks at all is a HUGE benefit!
You could once again ride some rides in the morning in Magic Kingdom and have dinner at Les Chefs de France in EPCOT. Or, you could take on Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom in the morning and end your day with some Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at night. More parks = more fun!
2. You Can Arrange Your Park Days How You Want
This goes hand-in-hand with the first point, but the ability to Park Hop means you can go back to planning and enjoying your days how YOU want them to be again. If you and your family don’t need a full day in EPCOT to ride/eat the things you want, and would rather have a half-day there and spend some afternoon/evening hours visiting your favorite rides in Magic Kingdom, you can do that! YOU are more in control of YOUR vacation again.
It also means that you could potentially need less days to accomplish everything you want to do if you’re able to hop as you like under the new system and get things done quicker. That could save you money if you’re able to finish all the things you want to do in 3 days as opposed to 4, thanks to the ability to potentially visit multiple parks in one day.
3. You Could (Potentially) Hop to More Than One Park in the Afternoon if There’s Availability
Again, we’ll have to wait to see if Disney provides any clarification, but one Cast Member did indicate to us that if there’s availability for Park Hopping (beyond your first park you hop to), you’d be free to visit additional parks in the same day. That means you could start your day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (where you’d have a Park Pass reservation), and then hop to EPCOT at 2:30PM, and then hop to Magic Kingdom at 5PM — if there’s availability.
That would add a TON of flexibility back into guests’ plans, giving them the ability to see much more in just one day.
4. It’s a Big Step Back to the Disney World Days of the Past
Overall, bringing back Park Hopping, even in a modified way, is a big step back to the Disney World of the past. For many, we know that Park Hopping is a way of life. So, having it available again (despite some of its potential limitations) could totally be worth it for those that just want that sense of control and freedom back — that sense that they can visit more of the parks they want (potentially).
So, overall, Park Hopper may be worth it for some and not for others (at least not until we get a better idea of how the system will actually work). For those who can potentially be more flexible in their plans and are willing to hop to wherever there’s availability, getting a Park Hopper may be a good option, as long as they’re okay with the fact that they may not get to Park Hop at all (if there’s no availability) and understand the limitations.
For others, the cost (which can add up for big families, but can be less per day depending on the length of the trip) may just not be worth it for something that isn’t guaranteed and is more restrictive than it used to be.
Once we see the system in action and get a better sense of how much availability there is to hop over a period of time, we will be able to understand more about its worth. Keep in mind, even if you don’t buy a ticket with a Park Hopper option initially, you can always add it on after your trip starts if you decide it’s worth it for you.
BUT you’ll have to pay for it for the full length of your trip (meaning, if you’re staying for 5 days and you decide on day 3 to add the Park Hopper option, they’ll still charge you the Park Hopper cost for 5 days) so be sure to make that decision early in your trip to take full advantage of the benefits.
Generally, however, you CANNOT buy a Park Hopper ticket and later downgrade to a 1-park per day pass and get a refund of the difference, as this Cast Member indicated to us via chat.
Disney’s website also notes that “Tickets and packages at Walt Disney World Resort are nontransferable and nonrefundable.”
So, if you’re unsure of whether you’ll need a Park Hopper, it would be best to wait to add that cost until you fully decide you need it. Until it’s clear how the process is working, buying the Park Hopper add-on remains a bit of a gamble for guests. Come January 1st, we’ll have a clear picture of the system in action and will be here to answer all your questions, so check back often! We’ll definitely be on the lookout for more information about Park Hopping and let you know what we find.