You’re super excited about your upcoming visit to the Disneyland Resort. You’ve got TWO amazing theme parks available to explore – Disneyland AND California Adventure! When you purchase your admission tickets, you have a decision to make – Single park passes or Park Hopper passes. (There’s also the Disneyland Resort Annual Pass but we’re assuming you came here to read about Park Hoppers. Click this link for everything you need to know about Disneyland Annual Passes.)
Park hopper tickets are very popular and many would tell you they’re your best admission value. Who wouldn’t want to have access to both parks every day they visit the resort right? But on closer analysis, Disneyland park hopper tickets are NOT always your best bet! There are many times when single park tickets are the best choice ESPECIALLY if saving money is on your agenda.
This post will help you sort out the pros and cons of each option and leave you more confident about your choices.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO OPTIONS
The single park ticket allows you access to only one of the 2 parks, Disneyland or California adventure. You will make your park choice when you purchase the ticket. The price is the same regardless of which park you choose.
The Park Hopper pass on the other hand allows you to enter both parks on the day you use the ticket. You can enter either one of the 2 parks first then move between the parks as many times as you wish during the day.
The Park Hopper pass is a bit pricier than the single park pass as you might imagine – $55 more per ticket to be exact as of March 2020.
There are multi-day options for each ticket type from 1 to 5 days. The value increases as you add more days to your pass. In other words the cost per day for a 5-day pass is significantly lower than for a 1-day pass. Multi-day passes are good for 13 days after first use so you don’t have to use them over consecutive days. But if you’re coming from out of town, be sure to use them before you return home!
Disneyland ticket prices sure aren’t what they used to be! Prior to 1982, admission to the park (before there was California Adventure Park) was via individual tickets for each ride sold in books of 10 or 15 tickets – all for about the price of a Starbucks Latte’ today! But you also get alot more for the price of admission today than in the days of the one-ticket-per-ride books.
Here is the breakdown for today’s pricing of single park and park hopper passes as of January 2019.
(prices shown are adult rates for ages 9+. Child Ages 3-9 rates will be roughly 4-6% less than the adult rate. Children under 3 are free).
SINGLE PARK TICKET / PARK HOPPER TICKET
- 1 day = $104 – $154 / $159 – $209 (depending on time of year and day of week)
- 2 day= $235 / $290
- 3 day = $310 / $365
- 4 day = $340 / $395
- 5 day = $360 / $415
The variance in one day ticket pricing is based on higher pricing during peak days. There are 5 “tiers” depending on the time of year and day of week. Lower tiers will pretty much always apply to midweek days during slower months. Mid tier pricing will apply to weekends during slower months and midweek during busy months and upper tier pricing will apply to busy season weekends and holidays.
SO WHICH OPTION IS BETTER?
OK, this is the heart of the matter when choosing between the two options. First consideration – There’s A LOT to do in both parks and it’s easy to kill a full day in either park and not see it all – More so at Disneyland park than California Adventure but either park could consume your day (and then some if its real busy).
I once preferred the park hopper myself as I wanted to experience both parks every day I was at the resort and many times I was only there for one day.
On occasion my family would spend 2 days at the resort. We’d get 2-day park hopper tickets and spend both days bouncing between both parks. It was always a lot of fun and the variety made it worth the extra cost. But recently, I realized something that changed my perspective…
Moving between both parks is time consuming! Walking from the middle of Disneyland park to the park exit, walking across the large quad that separates the parks to the re-entry line for California Adventure, waiting in the entrance line then walking to your destination inside the park all can take between 5 and 15 minutes depending on how crowded it is. Especially if you have a large group.
Repeat that 4 or 5 times in a day (not unusual for the ambitious park goer) and you’ve consumed up to an hour and a half of precious ride time, not to mention energy! That may not seem like much on the surface but what I discovered the first time I tried the single park pass was a greater ease to my day. Less walking, more riding!
If you like to use a locker to store your stuff inside the park, this further complicates things. There are lockers near the entrances inside both parks. I like to use the Disneyland park lockers because Disneyland stays open longer than California Adventure.
But what happens if you’re at California Adventure around dusk and your 12 year old daughter suddenly needs her jacket or sweater which is in the locker at Disneyland park? Your only options are to let her suffer or spend 10-30 minutes of precious ride time going to the locker and back to get her sweater.
You could opt to use the lockers that are outside the park – on the Disneyland side outside the exit gate nearest Downtown Disney – on the CA side outside the exit gate nearest the buses and Harbor Blvd. But this option still requires leaving the park to access your locker eating up more time.
Locker use is much easier to manage if you’re staying in one park the whole day.
There’s also the issue of fastpass returns. Often when park hopping, you’ll find yourself jumping parks just to use a fastpass in the other park. This once again eats up precious time traveling between parks.
After doing this both ways I realized the single day pass is often the preferable option for these reasons:
- Less mileage on your feet and energy burned. Especially important for families with small kids or for older adults.
- Less time moving between parks, more time riding rides!
- Lower ticket cost. $50/ticket saved. That’s $200 saved for a family of 4!
- More convenient locker use. No need to ever jump parks just to get something from the locker.
- Less mental stress. The process of moving between parks and navigating through the crowds can be stressful especially if you’re not familiar with the parks. Add in trying to keep track of event times (parades, shows) or fastpass return times in the other park and making sure you don’t miss your event or attraction and you can see how much easier it would be to stay in one park.
WHEN ARE PARK HOPPERS THE BEST OPTION?
Let’s say you’re coming to California for a visit and you have one day free to visit Disneyland Resort. You know you won’t be here again any time soon and you really want to see both parks. This is a case where Disneyland park hopper tickets make sense as they’re the only way you can access both parks.
As noted earlier, you can easily spend an entire day in one park and not see everything but in the case of only having one day available and you absolutely MUST see both parks, get the park hopper and plan 5-10 must do rides for each park and plan to only jump parks once or twice. (Be sure to make use of the MaxPass feature to eliminate park bouncing when acquiring Fastpasses between parks). The more concrete your plan, the more attractions you’ll get in.
Try to do this on a day when the parks have long hours. Hours can vary greatly, between 11 and 16 hours depending on season and day of week. Check the Disneyland website for upcoming park hours.
Also, plan to arrive an hour before the park opens if you want to maximize your ride time. Parking, riding the parking shuttle, getting through security check, buying tickets and waiting in the entry line easily eats up an hour on a busy day. Plan accordingly!
THE BOTTOM LINE
Disneyland park hopper tickets are a valid option for anyone who only has one day at the resort or anyone who wishes to have access to both parks on any day of their stay and feels the extra 50 bucks per ticket (and time spent hopping) is worth it.
But single park tickets offer a great alternative if time and money savings matters to you. You won’t have the daily variety of both parks but a multi-day trip will still give you access to both parks. If you’re a local, do California Adventure in the spring and Disneyland in early December on value days (still cheaper than a 2-day park hopper).
Ideal trip consideration – 3 day trip – 2 day single park tickets, California Adventure on day 1 and Disneyland on day 2 and park hopper on day 3. The best of both worlds!
Whatever you decide, HAVE FUN!! See you at the resort soon!