A park hopper is exactly what it sounds like: It allows you to "hop" from park to park, all in the same day. It costs an additional $52 per ticket and is good for all four major parks. It's valid for the length of the ticket, so the longer your visit the cheaper its daily use becomes. When you add up the total costs for a Disney vacation, adding $52 to each ticket seems like a fairly small amount, but these days a vacation is a luxury for most of us and saving money where you can is important. If I cut something from the vacation budget, it's the first thing I cut. Before you automatically get the park hopper option, think about how you visit the parks.
A park hopper might be for you if you:
- are the type of person who tours the parks "commando style" from morning until night.
- are staying off-site and can't take advantage of extra magic hours.
- are on your first trip and want to see everything.
- are on a short (less than 4 nights) trip.
- have young children and won't be spending a lot of time in the parks.
- take a slower approach to the parks.
- don't stay in the parks late.
- are on a longer trip and can tour at a slower pace.
If you don't add the park hopper option, you'll simply need to do a bit more research before your trip to ensure that you get the maximum use out of your ticket. Don't hesitate to make your dining reservations as soon as you're allowed. You an always change them later without a penalty, but if you're trying for an especially difficult reservation (Cinderella's Royal Table, Le Cellier to name two of the most difficult to get) don't change it until you know you can get another one. I'd probably lose some time in the parks before I'd give up a reservation I really wanted. If you're really concerned, search historic park and EMH hours online to give you an estimate of what you can expect and then make your reservations. Finally, once you get official park hours from Disney, you can plan your trip to give you the most hours in the parks based on regular operating hours and EMH, if you're staying on site.
A park hopper is definitely not a necessity. It's something that's nice to have. If you're cutting costs, it's probably the first thing you should think about. The great thing is that you don't have to add the park hopper option to your ticket when you purchase it. If, after a day or two in the parks, you find yourself needing one, you can add it at your resort concierge desk or once you get to the parks. If not, you've saved yourself a nice amount of money, enough to treat you and your family to a nice meal in one of Disney's better restaurants.