WARNING: Park Hopping is Rarely Worth It!

Park Hopping at DisneyIMG_6862

You simply visit one park in the morning and then head to another park later on in the day!
Basically, yes, but there’s more to it, if you want to do it well!


Park Hopping at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando

Park hopping, is just as our title suggests, you visit a theme park earlier on in the day, then hop to another, later that same day.  In theory, you could hop backwards and forwards to as many parks as you like if they are covered by your tickets.

Both of Orlando’s major theme park operators offer park hopping options in their ticketing ranges.

At Walt Disney World, you can choose to buy a ‘park hopper’ enabled ticket or upgrade an existing regular park ticket to allow you to visit more than one park per day.
Alternatively, you could if you wish, use up some of the multi day allowances that a standard ticket offers you.
For example; If you had a 6 day pass, you could use one day for the Magic Kingdom, then visit Epcot that same day and use up another day of your ticket’s allowance.  (Not as crazy as it might seem!  More on that later!)

At Universal Orlando, guests also have a choice to purchase tickets or upgrades to allow you to walk, or more recently; take the Hogwarts Express between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios in the same day.


Why Park Hop?

While most of the Orlando theme parks deserve a very full day in order to get the best out of them, guests that have already explored the parks to the full during their current or previous vacations, may benefit from ‘Cherry Picking’ attractions in different parks.
A great example might be; to arrive at the Magic Kingdom during the morning, staying until after the parade, then perhaps taking the Monorail over to Epcot to catch the beautiful Illuminations firework display at 9pm.

Park hopping can also be a great way to finish off a vacation in style, by either revisiting your favorite attractions one more time, or ticking off any ‘must sees’ that you managed to miss out on earlier in the week.

Is Park Hopping Practical?

In the case of Walt Disney World, due to the distances between the four main theme parks, many guests are surprised that we always advise caution about park hopping.
Hopping between parks saps up valuable vacation time, and guests should expect to schedule between an hour and an hour and a half between theme parks in order to account for travelling to and from parking lots, (or Monorail stations) and going though security checks and ticket barriers.  It can be done in less time, but a speedy transition can not to be relied upon.
Also, newcomers to Walt Disney World, will enjoy the easy driving and well sign posted roadways of WDW, but, guests do occasionally take the wrong slip road, requiring some lengthy detours in order to get back on target.  An hour can easily become more!

Our second concern about park hopping is that even once you’ve entered the second park to target a particular attraction, it takes a bit of knowledge and ‘map reading skill’ to be able to locate your chosen attractions right away.
Park Hopping at Disney can however, definitely work provided that guests know the layout of the parks fairly well.

For Universal Guests, the distance element isn’t a concern.  There’s no need to head back to your parking lot as the parks are connected well via a convenient walkway that passes through CityWalk.  (There’s even a quick entrance near the Hard Rock/Blue Man Group buildings.)
The brand new Hogwarts Express also links the two parks beautifully, should guests have a valid park to park ticket.
Although Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios parks a very close, as almost ‘one huge theme park’, we would advise that the same caution is made if you want to keep time wasting to a minimum, as a good level of ‘park knowledge’ is still needed to get about efficiently.
Islands of Adventure is the toughest challenge as the circular walkway around a large lagoon, offers little opportunity for short cuts, once you are in it, you can really only choose to go clockwise or anti-clockwise.
Overall though, unlike at Walt Disney World, park hopping at Universal is more practical if you are first timers.


Is Park Hopping Worth the additional expense?

At the time of writing, for Disney, the extra cost per person of $60 is not a cheap upgrade for most families.
There’s no loophole around it either!
If you want to visit more than one WDW park in a day, you must have a Park Hopper upgrade, or, an Annual Pass.

You can’t for example use an extra day up from a multi day pass!  The turnstiles will be able to detect that you have already been inside another park previously that day.
In short, if you want to park hop, you definitely need a Park Hopper!

Also, keep your parking lot stub from the first park of the day to avoid needing to pay for further parking at any other WDW parking lots that day!

For Universal guests, if you want to make the best use of the two lovely theme parks, we strongly recommend the 3 day Park to Park deal as the best ticket option to choose from.
Not only is it essential to take out the Park to Park option to ride the awesome Hogwarts Express train, but now that Diagon Alley is open, 3 days is a definite must for a visit to Universal Orlando.


Other Park Hopping Ticket Deals – Orlando Flex Ticket

Perhaps the best kept secret in Orlando is the Orlando Flex Ticket.
For one price, you get unlimited access to 5 or 6 parks (depending on the ticket you choose) for a full 14 days.
With this ticket, you can effectively hop between these parks as much as you like for no extra cost!

5 Park Orlando Flex Ticket (around $275 child, $295 Adult)

  • Universal Studios
  • Islands of Adventure
  • SeaWorld Orlando
  • Aquatica Water Park
  • Wet n Wild

6 Park Orlando Flex Ticket (around $315 child, $335 adult)

  • Universal Studios
  • Islands of Adventure
  • SeaWorld Orlando
  • Aquatica Water Park
  • Wet n Wild
  • Busch Gardens Tampa


Our final advice on Park Hopping in Orlando!

Park hopping can be fun if you can keep the travelling time between the parks to a minimum.
Check out our Disney Ticket Advice Articles and Tips
Most importantly of all, try your very best to avoid 2 common mistakes that Orlando vacationers often make;

  • Don’t turn your valuable vacation into a frenzied park dash, always remember that you are there to have fun.  Slow down a little, plan as best you can, stop for plenty of rests and water breaks and always chat to the Cast members for advice or directions.
  • Don’t be tempted to buy any ticket upgrades unless they pay their way!  Most are too expensive to justify, so bear that in mind at the ticket kiosk.


Other Ticket related articles you may be interested in

Disney’s ‘No Expiry’ ticket option – rarely worth while

General Disney Ticket Advice – tips and advice

Cheap Disney Tickets – The Risks and Truth!