What You Need to Know about Park Hoppers and Fastpasses at Disney Parks
Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Park Hoppers and Fastpasses at the Disney Parks are two things that can help your family to have the best vacation ever! I wanted to take a chance to explain them and offer you tips on how to use them best at both Disneyland and Disney World. I have podcasts about this topic as well and you can find links to them on our Pins and Podcast page.
What is a Park Hopper?
A park hopper ticket allows you to visit more than one of the Disney parks in one day. So at Disney World you would be able to visit Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot as many times as you would like each day of your vacation. At Disneyland you would be able to go back and forth between Disneyland and California Adventure as many times as you would like each day of your stay. If you do not purchase the park hopper option on your tickets then you can only visit one park per day during your Disney vacation. There is plenty to do in each of the Disney parks to keep you busy for a whole day so you don't have to hop between parks to avoid boredom. The park hopper is really added flexibility so you can ride your favorite rides each day and still catch other attractions in each park. For instance, we have always wanted to ride Radiator Springs Racers each day of our trip in California so we will go to California Adventure for that ride and then hop back to Disneyland for other rides. With a Park Hopper you could potentially do a character breakfast in one park, hop to another for some rides, then go to lunch in another park and ride more rides and then finish your day at another park for the nighttime show.
Pros and Cons of the Park Hopper Option
The park hopper gives you a lot of flexibility. However, park hopping does take time out of your day so we don't like to hop too much. Park hopping at Disneyland is much easier than at WDW. At Disneyland the gates of the two parks are about a football field distance apart so you walk from one gate to the other pretty easily. At WDW you have to ride a bus, monorail or boat between parks and resorts so the transportation does take more time. We have always opted for hoppers at Disneyland and non-hoppers at WDW but it's really up to you. The cost for hoppers at WDW will be about $80 per person for your whole trip (not per day, just $80 overall). The cost of hoppers at Disneyland will be about $50 per person. These prices have gone up over the years so we're considering not buying the hopper option for out next Disneyland trip. We can actually add a whole extra day for less than the cost of hoppers. So three days with hoppers for our family would cost more than 4 days without a hopper. We would definitely prefer an extra day over the hopper option! You can check the Disney websites if you want to know the cost of hopper vs non hopper at Disney World and/or hopper vs non hopper at Disneyland.
What is a Fastpass?
Fastpasses at Disneyland and Disney World are free! Fastpasses are not available for every ride but they are available for most of the popular rides that tend to have long lines. A fastpass allows you to go to a ride at a certain time and skip most of the standby line so that you are only waiting a few minutes (or maybe up to 15 minutes depending on the ride). The fastpasses at Disneyland park are booked the day of your park visits either by paper tickets or on your phone (if you get the MaxPass add on). The fastpasses at Disney World are booked ahead of your trip online using a mobile device or computer. I prefer the Disneyland system because you tend to get a lot more fastpasse per day and you don't have to hassle with planning your rides so far in advance of your trip. I bet there are people who prefer the Disney World system because you can plan ahead and kind of lay out your day in advance. Either system allows you to skip some wait times and it's all free so fastpasses are great! I'll explain each system a bit more and give you some tips for how to do it best at each park.
FASTPASS at Disneyland and California Adventure
At the Disneyland resort fastpasses are booked the day of your visit. It has traditionally been a paper system but recently Disney added an option called MaxPass that allows you to book fastpasses at Disneyland on your phone. The MaxPass is $15 per day per person and it also gives you the ability to download all of your photopass photos. The photopass photos are taken by professionals at some iconic places in the park and certain character meet and greets. We have not upgraded for MaxPass and we probably won't in the future because we have a family of 6 and an extra $90 per day does not seem worth it. Our strategy for getting fastpasses at the Disneyland parks is to have a runner that gathers our FASTPASSES throughout the day. We send one person (the runner) to the most sought after FASTPASS first thing when we get into the park. Each ride that has a FASTPASS available will have a kiosk near the ride entrance where the passes are distributed. Your FASTPASS runner must have the park ticket for each person that is going on the ride because you feed the park tickets into the machine to get the FASTPASSES. Each person riding has to have entered the park that morning (they can't be sleeping at the hotel). You can get another FASTPASS after your return time for your current FASTPASS arrives or 2 hours after you obtained your most current FASTPASS. Return times are strictly enforced so be sure to return to the ride during that return window so you can take advantage of the shorter wait time.
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FastPass+ at Walt Disney World
At WDW the fastpass system is much different than the system at Disneyland. At WDW you book your passes online up to 30 days in advance of your stay if you are staying off property. However, if you are staying at a WDW resort you can book the passes up to 60 days in advance. You can select up to 3 FastPass+ passes per day in advance and they will be linked to your ticket or magic band. After you scan your first FastPass+ in the park you can modify your next pass for the day on your mobile device and try to get it for a time close to when you will be done with your first pass. After you use your 3 pre-selected passes you can obtain another FastPass+ in the park for that day. You can get extra passes at one of the in-park kiosks or on your mobile device. After your first additional FastPass+ is done you can get another pass and so on. Therefore, you'll want to book your top 3 priority rides for the advanced FastPass+ and try to make those reservations early in the day (or modify them when you are in the park to be earlier) so that you can get as many other passes as possible. ***Note: Please see our Blogs for each of the Disney World Parks to see which 3 fastpasses we recommend that you book for each park. On our most recent trip to WDW we were able to use our 3 fastpasses per day but after those were gone we found most of the time there were not anymore fastpasses available for that day. So we generally only got to use 3 passes per day. There was one night at Magic Kingdom where we booked a few extra and that was great. Anytime you can skip a line or part of a line is wonderful!
Free Packing List
I have created a free download with our Disney parks travel checklist (see below). This list includes all of our 10 essential items for every family trip on the left and our 10 essential items for Disney Parks on the right. Please see our packing blogs for more details about each item on the list: 10 Things to Bring to Disney Parks and 10 Things We Bring on Every Family Trip.
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Thanks for reading this and please check out our Other Disney Blogs and follow us for more travel tips on Our FB Page, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube! A fellow Disney blogger and Jenny have started a podcast all about Disney vacations called Disney Budget Disney Big. You can listen to the podcast and join our FB Community as well. If you have any questions you can leave a comment here or on our FB or Instagram pages. You can also leave a comment in our discussion section or send us an email. Please sign up for our email list below and you'll be notified when we post a new blog. We won't send you junk because we're new bloggers and we don't even know how to send anything but a blog notification, LOL! We look forward to hearing from you!
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