Disney with Special Needs: Get to Hopping (Parks, Of Course)

I said a hip, hop, the hippie…to the hip…hop….OK, so I don’t really know the words, but the sentiment behind it stands. When you are planning your visit to Disney World, you are going to have many decisions to make, but one of the most important is the type of ticket that you purchase.

Now, if you are super extra fancy and opt for the annual pass because you already know that you’re going to be back within the next year, you’re already set and don’t need to think much further. If you don’t, however, you are going to be presented with a list of options from which you will have to select your family’s experience. Albeit, it’s a short list, but what you choose from it will make a tremendous difference in your vacation.

So what are those options? Magic Your Way, also known as base tickets. Park Hoppers. Park Hopper Plus. Simple, right? And what does that all mean? Well, the base ticket is exactly what it sounds like. Basic admission to one park per day. You can’t go to multiple parks per day and you can’t use more than one of your days in a single day. Simple. If you want to go to more than one park in a day, go for Park Hoppers that let you…hop…from park to park as you please. Park Hoppers Plus (formerly Water Parks and More) tacks on the ability to hop on over to the water parks or to play some mini golf.

So, what’s the right option? If you’ve been with me for any period of time you probably know the answer, but I’ll tell you anyway. Not Magic Your Way tickets.

So why should you hop?

Park Hoppers are one of the most important parts of my Disney planning and a critical element of handling my family’s special needs while we travel. Now for my usual disclaimer… I don’t know you. I don’t know your struggle. (That’s what the sassy kids are saying these days, isn’t it? No? Alright. We’ll just stick with you know your family best.) What works best for my family might not work best for yours. All I can tell you is why it works the best for us and why I would never consider traveling to the parks without a Hopper or an annual pass.

Crowd control. If you’re like me, you spend hours poring over crowd calendars and projections, trying to figure out which day would be best for which park, and how your trip is going to pan out. If you’re like me, you will also head to one of the parks one day thinking that everything is a fantastic and realize that the calendars lied to you and that the crowds are ten times worse than you expected. If you have base tickets, you are stuck fighting your way through the wall of humanity and hoping that you will be able to get on a ride at some point. Not delightful. If you have Park Hoppers, though, you can turn right around, jump on your favorite form of transportation, and head over to another park

But I want to… The best thing about having been to Disney as many times as my family has is that we are comfortable there and familiar with what the parks have to offer. The problem with having been to Disney as many times as my family has is that we are comfortable there and familiar with what the parks have to offer. The reason that this is a double-edged sword is that there are times when we are in one park going about our day, and suddenly we have just a desperate need to do something in one of the other parks. Maybe it’s a ride that we just have to do. Maybe it’s that we can’t stand the thought of eating anything for lunch other than Pecos Bill. Maybe it’s that it’s the end of the day and we need to see one nighttime spectacular over another. Whatever the reason, if we are feeling the urge to do something else in the middle of another park, the Hoppers give us that ability. That level of flexibility is crucial to us. The thought of having to stay in one place all day – and to make that decision well in advance for reasons of dining reservations—makes us feel trapped and overwhelmed. Suddenly it’s not a fun day, but an obligation. There have been two days in the entirety of our Disney vacationing career, with the exception of special event party days, that we have not hopped

Splitting up is hard to do…unless you have a Hopper. Let’s revisit that iconic Disney commercial with the million family members again. You see the whole group, eleven different generations, all in matching shirts, holding hands and Mickey balloons, moving down an inexplicably empty park path together. While this is a wonderful image, it’s not the most realistic in the world… or the World. When you travel with a group of five or six like I do, you are going to have plenty of time when you are together, but there are also going to be times when the different generations or different segments within that group are going to want to head off and do their own thing a little bit. That’s part of the delight of Disney. There’s something for everybody. There is at least one day each trip when Tutu and the baby have an evening together just the two of them. Hubs and I also like to spend a little bit of date time together, and Bubba often needs a while to himself. If we had base tickets, we would have to stay in the same park or return to the same park that we went to in the morning after bringing Mommy and Avalon back to the resort. With the Hoppers we can go wherever we want to go and do whatever we want to do while everybody else does the same. Perfection.

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Taryn was born and raised, and still lives in Richmond, Virginia. Neither she nor her husband ever had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World when they were children, but when their daughter Avalon came along, they decided she was not going to follow in their footsteps. They brought Avalon for the first time when she was 3 and have been hooked ever since. Now along with Taryn’s mother and equally Disney-loving older brother, they go “home” at least once a year, and by the time she is staring longingly at Cinderella Castle from the ferry on their last night, Taryn is well on her way to planning the next trip. As a group consisting of two adults with Asperger’s, including one who is also vegan, a very accommodating husband, an only child, a senior, and a service dog, they are a pretty special family, but Taryn is excited to show that the World really is The Most Magical Place on Earth and that there is a place there for everyone. When she isn’t thinking about her next Disney adventure and trying to come up with a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party costume that will beat her Oozma Kappa nerd look, she is a professional blogger and novelist.

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