The Conscience of a Park Hopper

Sometimes when James and I are out to dinner, or just enjoying a quiet evening at home, we do this thing where we brainstorm about our upcoming trips to the theme parks. I’m sure this isn’t new to any of you, and probably happens all of the time.

Mostly we talk about restaurants and what attractions we can’t miss (we know each other’s answers but I think it makes us feel closer to WDW even when we aren’t anywhere near it), but lately the topic of single day park visits vs. those with the park hopper option has come up. And, I’ll tell you, I’m pretty stumped.

I’m an avid park hopper, and I actually don’t remember ever visiting Walt Disney World without the ability to do this. This is what happens when you get used to something; it’s so difficult to take a step backward. And yet, the single day park visits are (obviously) cheaper than the park hopper option and, well, when you are suddenly on a different budget, that $57 difference means a lot.

 disney parks

For awhile, I thought: why not? I can be ADVENTUROUS. Because all of a sudden the adventure in Orlando would be remaining in one single park all day. I’ll be honest, the thought gives me shortness of breath and I feel a little claustrophobic. No longer will I be able to have breakfast at Animal Kingdom, head over to Epcot for a quick drink, and then hang out in Magic Kingdom for extra magic hours until 1 a.m.

No! I must make a decision and stick to it because my welcoming little park ticket, my salvation, will only work in one park a day.

But wouldn’t it be cool and wonderful to tour in a way you haven’t in probably 15 years?

Wouldn’t it?

Well, sure it would be. This is when I start to feel empowered! I can do this! I envision more time to visit the resorts that sometimes get ignored, and maybe even sleeping late. (What?! Relax on vacation?) Taking the time to really experience a park without feeling like you are being pulled in three other directions all the time with reservations flying all over the place.

Then I feel at peace with the decision again.

Until I look at a schedule and start nailing down which park to visit which day and it starts all over.


(It’s like the parks will FEEL this sting if I don’t show up, and I’m in the vicinity.)

Whew! No wonder booking trips is stressful!

So what do you think? Are we as theme park guests divided into two categories: the hopper and the relaxed? Is it possible to break out of old habits and try something new? Even if it means it’s not as flexible?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

(picture from

11 thoughts on “The Conscience of a Park Hopper

  1. Great post…this will be an entirely different way to tour the parks for you! You will have to plan a bit more and utilize EMH as much as you can. But just think of all the new things you can explore!

    Take time to enjoy the details of the different resorts…WL & AKL have free tours! Instead of grabbing a drink in Epcot, do a monorail pub crawl before heading to MK for the night. Take sunset ride on the boat transportation from DTD up to OKW and back. Play a round of mini-golf! The opportunities are endless 🙂

  2. I Park Hopped as a kid, but since I’ve resumed going to the parks as an adult, I have yet to buy a Park Hopper pass. The first few times I went back was because I was on a very strict budget and couldn’t afford the Hopper option. On my most recent trips to both Disneyland and WDW — both in the last month — I was flirting with the idea of Park Hopping, but we quickly nixed the idea when we got to Disneyland because it was so insanely crowded that we wouldn’t’ve gotten our money’s worth, then we decided against it in WDW because we were there for the marathon and figured we’d be moving so slow after the race that going from park to park wouldn’t exactly be the best idea.

    So as someone who hasn’t Park Hopped for a good 15 years or so (!!!), I am kind of all about staying in a single park for an entire day — and I usually come for the rope drop and leave at park closing. However, I usually break up days in the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios by departing for a bit in the afternoon and getting a drink and walking around nearby resorts — I love scoping out places I can’t afford to stay at! As far as EPCOT, I usually never leave. There is just too much to eat, drink, ride, photograph and just plain look at.

    All that being said, I understand that it can be very odd to deviate from your Disney Routine™. However, “if one must try new things, one should probably do so at Walt Disney World.”*

    *proverb I just made up

  3. I’m a hybrid: a semi-relaxed Hopper! 🙂 Having DL as my home park, I have to confess that, ever since DCA opened, I’ve never spent an entire day at just one park. Aside from letting Early Entry determine the starting park, we just wing it all day. And when my family and I visited WDW, we park-hopped like crazy — mainly to keep returning to Epcot.

    But I love your idea — what a fun challenge (I also like Sarah’s idea of blending in the other resort offerings).

  4. I am not a fan of the added park hopper cost, but thank you so much for this post. It’s true. I totally lose my mind when I get to Disney and want to SEE ALL THE THINGS!!!! But it’s a total bummer when you only have 1 day to go and adding $30 to the ticket price doesn’t seem worth it.

  5. I’m a very strong believer in 1:1 park to day ratio. That way I can explore the whole park and not lose valuable time going from one park to the next. When we went to Disneyland in the fall, we did park hoppers for the first time. With all the walking back and forth I was more tired, and we only did the big rides. I can understand that some people want more variety or don’t view certain parks as an all day park, but I prefer to spend the whole day in one park.

  6. You can do it! I sometimes wonder if I miss a lot going from one park to the next and I think this might be something I’d like to try sometime. But I think you are going to have an awesome time and get to see some things you’ve missed before. Let me know if you need any help planning. I have a list of ideas! 🙂

  7. Well, looks like you’ve really stumbled across something here, firing up the discussion! I guess both have advantages if you can make them work, but for Single Park per/day, consider how much more time would you now have up your sleeve that you don’t have to travel brpetween the Different Parks? That’s something you wouldn’t have had before, to now use to your advantage and really A) soak in the details you skip while rushing, B) do the smaller attractions you may have skipped before due to rushing, C) really make the most of a looong, full day, without rushing. And as you plan (still a good move for touring and dining reservations) I would say), the pressure is off a bit, so you can be spontaneous at your chosen Park! Also as you plan, if there is someplace you really feel you cannot fit into one day, perhaps make one Park a two-day experience. You have just saved a bunch of $$ anyway, you could always use it for an extra day! -Q

  8. I must admit, we have always been park hoppers. We are the family that gets to the park early and stays as late as possible. Then drag ourselves to the resort, shower, sleep and wake up to do it over again. We are “park” people….I would always recommend the hopper to my friends. “it is worth the extra $!” I would tell them…. On our last trip we had to cut back. The hopper was one of the first things to go. And I felt EXACTLY like you! Same worries. But on our trip something awesome happened. We were able to relax and take our time in each park. Knowing that we did not have to rush off to another park for a show or reservation. We were planted right where we needed to be for the day. No wasted time on travel, and extra bag checks. It was WONDERFUL. One trip when we had the hopper tickets, our last night I realized that I had forgotten something at DHS. I told my hubby, I wished I would have realized it was going to be our last time there…But I didn’t. We ran out of time to go back…I totally get where you are coming from knowing that “Epcot is right there!” but the single day park gives you a knowing that~this is it…time to say~ see you later,until next time. SO after hundreds of visits….all with park hoppers and one without….We will probably stick with the single day option…At least for now 😉

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