The ILFT crew got a chance to Disney park hop for three days, thanks to the Zootopia press junket I was invited to. Here are some of our tips and experiences that should help you in planning a memorable visit to Walt Disney World!
- Use Fast Pass+ – Fast Pass+ is a complimentary service provided by Disney that allows you to pre-schedule being able to go on the fast pass line for up to three (3) rides or experiences for the same park in one day. You can link your family members’ accounts, and schedule for everyone up to 30 days in advance of the date on your ticket (60 if you are staying at a WDW Resort). Once you have used the three fast passes in the day, you can request an additional fast pass at a kiosk within the park. You can request this additional pass, no matter what park you are in. And once you have used the additional pass, you can request another and so forth. The trick is to plan the three Fast Pass times early for the same park, so that you can hop to other parks and request more passes. You have to use the three scheduled Fast Passes before you can request more, so you don’t want to schedule something for the evening in advance. Also, you should identify where the kiosks are in advance to save time. Please note that Fast Pass lines can still have a wait, but it’s shorter than the regular line and will save you tons of time for the rides and experiences that are in high demand. Kiosks can have a short wait as well, so plan accordingly. We used Fast Passes whenever we could because it saved us lots of time, and allowed us to visit all of the high demand attractions that we wanted to experience.
- Travel Off-Peak and Weekdays- It’s simple, traveling during peak seasons and days translates to longer lines for everything. When you are park hopping, you need to maximize your time, so planning to travel when less people are there will allow you to experience more of the parks.We traveled during the off-peak time of late February, and one of our days was a Monday. We found that we were able to do so much more than when we’ve traveled there during the peak seasons in the summer.
- Plan at Least One “Late” Day- Park hopping in WDW for an entire day with kids can be exhausting for both them and you. Having a “late” day will allow you to start fresh in the afternoon and go all the way through to the Main Street Electrical Parade, without feeling like you are going to drop. Additionally, many people start off early in the parks and the lines can be slammed. When you travel in the afternoon/ evening, it allows you to take advantage of shorter lines as each park closes down. On our late day, we ate lunch at home and then visited Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Magic Kingdom. Yes, three parks in one day and all after 3p! We visited Animal Kingdom first because it closes first. We were able to use our Fast Passes to go on safari, watch a live action show “Festival of the Lion King”, and hop on a ride in Dino Alley. We also got through a ton of other things there in less than three hours. AK really clears out towards the end so you can get through so much. Then we hopped on the bus over to Epcot, where we ate dinner, checked out a few attractions and watched IllumiNations before boarding the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom. We hopped on the ferry boat and almost had it all to ourselves. At night, it was so beautiful and the few minutes wait and travel time to MK was so worth it. When we arrived, it was minutes before the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular and we were able to get almost to the lawn to watch the beautiful fireworks. Once the show was over, there is almost a mass exodus towards the front gate. While everyone was leaving, we headed behind the castle and went through It’s a Small World, Flights of Wonder, The Mad Tea Party, and the Dumbo The Flying Elephant ride, all without needing to use the Fast Pass. (We could’ve even boarded the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train if I wasn’t so afraid of riding it at night). Then we headed back to the lawn and had curbside seating for the Main Street Electrical Parade.
- Wear Comfortable Shoes- Yes, this tip makes an appearance on thousands of tip posts, but that’s because it is a golden one. This tip especially rings true when you are park hopping. When you are going from place to place, you could walk a half marathon in a day. (Coincidentally, there was an actual princess marathon on the weekend we were there). I learned my lesson quick that simple flats will not cut it. Comfortable sneakers is where it’s at.
- Travel Lightly- When planning to spend the day somewhere, it can be tempting to pack an entire bookbag to make sure you have everything you need. However, packing light will allow you to travel between the parks and onto different rides, without weighing you down and having to stop to find a place to store your stuff. I didn’t let my kids tote along their little bookbags and tablets like they usually do, because Disney has enough attractions to keep them entertained. The key here is pockets. Yes, pockets to keep things organized and easily accessible. The baggalini purse I got last year to review has a ridiculous number of pockets packed into its small size. I was able to carry everything from my wallet, to my tickets and maps, and even my tablet, and all in a compact space that allowed me to go on the rides without it getting in the way. Not once did I need to leave it on the side or in a locker. Additionally, packing lightly meant that my shoulders weren’t killing me at the end of the day.
- Figure in Transportation- Traveling between the parks can vary by which park you are going to. Your best bet is to park in one location and use Disney’s complimentary transportation to get around. Each park varies in the ways you can reach them. Animal Kingdom can be reached by bus, Hollywood Studies can be reach by bus and boat, Epcot can be reach by monorail, bus and boat, and the Magic Kingdom can be reached by monorail, bus and boat as well. It’s important to note that the monorail that services Epcot is on a second line that drops you off at the Ticket and Transportation Center for Magic Kingdom. You need to either transfer to the Magic Kingdom line, walk over to the main entrance or take the ferry over, in order to get into Magic Kingdom. Plan at least a half hour travel time to get between each park you are traveling to. Buses and boats can take longer, as the wait times are longer and/or they hold less people than the Monorail. We also learned that the buses can get packed pretty quickly, especially when each park closes, so plan on the possibility of standing or having to wait for another one.
- Be Flexible- If you try to plan out every little detail, you might lose out on the fun of the experience. Plus, there are always things that happen that can throw a wrench into everything you planned. While we had a general idea of what we wanted to do and a goal of getting on certain rides or attractions, we really went with the flow during our trip and it made it much more enjoyable. Having the park hopping pass allowed us the freedom to explore and “Try Everything.”
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ZOOTOPIA opened in theatres everywhere on March 4th!
Look out for our WDW Family Park Hopping Moneysavers coming soon!
Disclosure: Heather was invited to attend this exclusive Zootopia press junket by Disney, and we received park hopper passes in exchange for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.