Park Hopping is back at Walt Disney World! As of January 2021, Annual Passholders and guests who buy Park Hopper tickets can now visit Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and/or Animal Kingdom all in the same day. In this guide, we’ll share important details, info & tips, plus a report from our experience Park Hopping at Walt Disney World in 2021.
As a reminder, Park Hopping was temporarily suspended along with the Disney Dining Plan, FastPass+, Extra Magic Hours, character meet & greets, etc. At that same time, the Disney Park Pass theme park reservation system was rolled out to manage attendance and adherence to capacity caps.
In our view, the return of Park Hopping is a pretty significant milestone in Walt Disney World’s phased reopening. It signals one big way the parks are resuming normalcy. It also suggests that Disney is not concerned about hitting its capacity caps in the afternoon most days, which should be good news when it comes to crowd levels going forward.
We’ll start with basic info on modified Park Hopping at Walt Disney World. First, although Park Hopping is being added, Disney Park Pass reservations are not being dropped. That’s still required for the first theme park you’re visiting each day. At present, the that reservation system is in place to manage capacity through early 2022. (We still believe Walt Disney World will end up ditching it later this year.)
Not only do you need to have a Disney Park Pass reservation, but you actually need to scan in at the turnstiles and enter your first park to “validate” and enable Park Hopping. Savvy as the decision might seem, you can’t book DHS but skip it and head to Magic Kingdom to loop Country Bear Jamboree all day.
That requirement should be pretty simple for most guests to fulfill, as Park Hopping does not begin until 2 pm each day. Walt Disney World has noted that this is subject to change, and our expectation there is some parks might allow Park Hopping earlier in the day (not later).
For instance, it’s easy to envision a scenario where EPCOT has no limitations on Park Hopping–both because of its higher capacity and lower demand. By contrast, it seems unlikely that Disney’s Hollywood Studios will allow Park Hopping before 2 pm–because of its lower capacity, higher demand, and the headaches and confusion that would cause with the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue.
You also do not need a reservation for subsequent parks that you visit. More accurately, you can’t book Disney Park Pass reservations for multiple parks per day.
There also are no limits on how many parks you can visit when Park Hopping. It’s possible to do all 4, and it’s also possible to return to the original park you booked. The only limitation with any of this is predicated upon capacity caps, and thus far there have been no issues with that. The first test will probably come on Martin Luther King Jr. Day or President’s Day.
If you’re concerned about the capacity status of a park to which you’re considering hopping, the easiest way to find out is by calling Walt Disney World’s Park Hopping phone line at (407) 560-5000. We’d caution against simply asking random Cast Members inside the park you’re visiting–that’s not knowledge they’d have. (The bus stop Cast Members should know, though.)
Should this become a persistent problem, the status will likely be added to the My Disney Experience app. However, it hasn’t been a problem yet–we’re guessing that Walt Disney World intends upon further increasing efficiency and capacity by Easter and Spring Break, making it less likely to be an issue then, too.
One policy that Walt Disney World has stressed with modified Park Hopping is that only guests who book Park Pass reservations for Disney’s Hollywood Studios are eligible to join the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue. Given that Park Hopping doesn’t start until 2 pm and the second boarding pass drop time is at 1 pm, this might seem fairly intuitive. However, there are so many policies for that attraction that the totality of them can be overwhelming for first-timers.
This also makes sense given that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue slots are still booking fully within seconds of each drop time. If the pool of potential guests were opened further, the ride would literally be booking up in under a second.
The most interesting wrinkle to modified Park Hopping is that park-to-park bus transportation begins running each day shortly before to the start of Park Hopper hours. (That’s to be expected and is not the interesting part.)
Cast Members will verify Guests have a ticket or pass with Park Hopper benefits before they board. (That’s the interesting part.) We’ve observed several Cast Members on hand to remind guests of this while exiting the parks, with more checking MagicBands at the bus stops.
This is a new one for Walt Disney World, and we’re wondering how long it lasts. Presumably, guests know what kind of tickets they purchased and will only try to Park Hop if they’re eligible. Cast Members could also be stationed here to inform guests of the capacity status of other parks, but that could be done in the future as necessary–only if another park is at capacity.
In terms of transportation, options are car (yours or rental), ride share (Uber or Lyft), Skyliner gondolas, FriendShip boats, or Disney buses. On the days we visited, MagicBands/tickets are scanned only at the buses, which could be because that’s the only direct form of transportation–everything else also transports guests to resorts.
On the transportation front, it’s also worth noting that the EPCOT monorail line is still not in service.
Back when the return of Park Hopping was announced, we (correctly) speculated that this would be the case due to continuing low usage. We further speculated that March 2021 seems like a more realistic timeline given that’s when demand is likely to pick up. Hopefully that proves accurate, too!
In terms of observations, we haven’t noticed anything particularly noteworthy–yet.
Around 2 pm, there has definitely been increased activity of guests entering Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT on the days we’ve visited. We’ve also noticed increased Skyliner use midday, but we’re talking going from a no-wait walk-on to waiting less than 5 minutes. Not exactly a seismic shift.
When it comes to strategy, the biggest Park Hopping tip we can offer is to “emphasize” Disney’s Hollywood Studios when making your Park Pass reservations. This isn’t really new advice, but it’s doubly true now that Park Hopping is an option. Start by booking reservations for at least 2 days at DHS even if you only plan on doing 1 day at that park. Consider booking DHS for all days when you’re planning on visiting Animal Kingdom or EPCOT, in addition to your dedicated DHS day.
This is our recommendation because it’s always easier to change from Disney’s Hollywood Studios to another park than vice-versa. By the time your travel dates arrive, it’s conceivable that DHS will be fully booked for every day of your trip. Same goes for Magic Kingdom on popular dates, whereas Animal Kingdom and EPCOT almost always have same-day availability.
This gives you more chances for success with the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue, which remains difficult to book. With the new 7 am entry time, it’s now possible to attempt to score Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding passes from outside the park before you start your day.
If you’re unsuccessful, you can change your Disney Park Pass reservations day-of to EPCOT or Animal Kingdom. If you are successful, you can potentially do multiple mornings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and multiple evenings at EPCOT.
This is exactly what we did our first two times Park Hopping at Walt Disney World in 2021 and it worked out fantastically. (We also returned to DHS one of those evenings for short lines there at the end of the night.)
Not only is spreading visits over multiple days a savvy way to do Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but DHS-EPCOT is our preferred one-two punch when it comes to Park Hopping. That’s primarily because these two parks are within walking, boat, and Skyliner distance of one another, making them the easiest and only non-bus option for Park Hopping right now.
Prior to the closure of Walt Disney World, we had been refining our Park Hopper Strategy for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance with this very idea in mind. We spent a ton of time testing and tweaking our strategy…to have it become mostly “worthless” two weeks later. The details are different now, but the idea is the same.
While we’ve used the Skyliner several times from resorts to the parks since Walt Disney World reopened, it was really nice to once again use it for Park Hopping. The gondolas are efficient, relaxing, and offer fantastic views.
Riding the Skyliner at dusk with views of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure with its marquee illuminated (looking ready to open whenever!) and the cool breeze was absolutely sublime. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is fantastic, but that Skyliner “flight” was our favorite ride of the day!
Beyond that, it’s premature to offer any further commentary on how this will impact crowds or strategy for best leveraging modified Park Hopping at Walt Disney World in 2021. We have some theories, but want to test those under more normal conditions–most Annual Passholders were blocked out the first two days of Park Hopping–before covering them here.
Ultimately, we’re elated to have Park Hopping back. While it probably means attendance will be normalized throughout the day–as opposed to the quieter evenings to which we became accustomed in the summer and fall–it’s a positive development for Disney and most guests. We’re also optimistic that it’s a precursor to the return of other things at Walt Disney World, from more restaurants to Extra Magic Hours (or some form of early entry) to FastPass+ (or some form of virtual queue) to the Disney Dining Plan. I think we’re all ready for 2021 to be the year that things start going back to normal at Walt Disney World!
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Are you excited to Park Hop once again at Walt Disney World? If you’ve been postponing a trip, does this move the needle for you, or do you still need more ‘temporarily suspended’ offerings back? Think this will have a ripple effect on anything else at Walt Disney World? What do you expect to come back next? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!