I first visited Walt Disney World in 1981 at the tender – and clearly impressionable age – of three. We luaued, we Hoop-Dee-Dooed, and we rode It’s a Small World more times than is probably healthy or appropriate for any small child.
There were several more trips to the World sprinkled throughout my childhood, but perhaps my most memorable trip came in adulthood when in 2008, my husband and I, along with my parents, took our two children to Walt Disney World for the first time and I watched them fall in love with the magic that had been one of the highlights of my childhood.
When my family first took my children to Disney, my kids were two and a half and four years old. They’re now fifteen and twelve and have been to the World several times, both for family trips and for work trips associated with this blog. But while I love that time that we had together in Disney Parks and look forward to future visits, I have also come to love kid-free time at Disney. Several years ago my husband and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary with a kid-free trip to Walt Disney World. I’ve also traveled to the World kid-free with my best friend and Resourceful Mommy contributor, Shannan. And I’ve hung out at the world without kids multiple times while on property for speaking gigs, to attend social media conferences, and while attending media events.
There is so much to love about visiting Walt Disney World on your own that I could write a book on the topic rather than a post. Here are just a few of my answers to people’s puzzled looks and well-intentioned question – “But why??”
I made a lot of new friends on this trip. These baby ducks are the only ones I photographed.
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Traveling through Disney Parks alone doesn’t mean spending time without other people. I visited the Parks during one of the weekends of spring break season as well as during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. I was definitely not alone.
But because I didn’t have family and friends at my side, I was able to engage with the people around me. My phone stayed in my back pocket, and my ears stayed open to questions from first-timers:
Are we on the right monorail? Do we just stay on this monorail? I’M SO CONFUSED.
What is this pyramid thing? Is there a ride in there? Should we even go in?
I wonder what time the fireworks start here. Think we can see them if we stand anywhere?
This is the monorail to Epcot only. If you want the Magic Kingdom or any of the monorail accessible resorts, you need to switch here by going down this ramp and up the next.
There is a ride in there. It’s fun, cheesy, relaxing – and there’s almost never a line. Plus it’s air conditioned. Go in!
They start at 9:00 and they’re leaving after this summer. Don’t miss your chance, and try to get a spot along the fence near the Mexico Pavilion.
I had the pleasure of chatting with two Vietnam Veterans, one who got slapped upside the back of the head by his wife for flirting with me (he offered me a ride in his scooter – not a bad offer!), two children in a double stroller who I implored to start their own YouTube channel about Disney Parks, a family traveling to the Parks for the first time who had no idea where they were going or how they were getting there, a lovely woman from Mexico (the country, not the pavilion) whose weather sounded just as temperamental as ours in Maryland, and a host of other people from two years to seventy-two.
It’s amazing how far a warm smile and a helpful tip can go in spreading – and feeling – joy.
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You may have guessed from my incessant conversing with people I don’t know that I wasn’t exactly booking it through Epcot this trip, trying to hit multiple FastPass+ and dining reservations.
I am definitely capable of becoming Parkzilla when I visit Disney Parks. I’ve been known to march my family through a vacation with a color-coded, printed out spreadsheet, and my father has made it very clear that he had higher-ups in the Navy who went easier on him than I do when trying to keep to a park schedule.
But there is something about time at Disney alone that allows me to slow it waaaaayyy down.
On this particular trip I discovered the joy of reading by the pool under the shade of a palm tree while chatting with a chardonnay-soaked new acquaintance about life choices and future goals. I found a row of Adirondack chairs inside a play area at Epcot that were situated in shade and next to a large and fragrant lavender plant. I snacked around the world from various festival food trucks rather than keeping meal time brief and rushed. It turns out that beef brisket covered in melted beer cheese (this is a thing and it is delightful) and poured over fries is best enjoyed while looking out across water with a breeze conveniently keeping your hair out of your food.
I watched people. I took pictures. I sipped a Grand Marnier slushy. I left Epcot for the heck of it and wandered over to the beach at Disney’s Beach Club Resort to spend some time rocking on a swing with my toes in the sand.
I still love a good spreadsheet, but this Disney pace is a dream come true.
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Walt Disney World Resorts are some of the best in the world with cleverly subtle Disney theming, luxurious bath products, and pillows good enough for Snow White and Sleeping Beauty…and those ladies like to nap.
When I travel with my family, we spend very little time in our rooms and at our resorts. I know that isn’t the case for all guests; I’ve heard tales of pool days and resort days and relaxation days. I’m sure they’re not the stuff of myths and legends and some families actually enjoy down time while at Walt Disney World, but my family loves to go, go, go, maximizing every possible moment in the parks, especially now that my kids are older.
Each evening when I returned to my room at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa (and spa…we’ll get to that…), I changed into my jammies, opened the balcony door, and enjoyed the sounds of the boats traveling back and forth on the lagoon between the resorts and the Magic Kingdom. I could hear the music of the Electrical Water Pageant and even the you-don’t-have-to-go-home-but-you-can’t-stay-here end of night fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle. On this particular trip, I enjoyed reading a book I had picked up at the airport. Just in case, I’d also packed some coloring books, my Bible, and my journal.
My resort room wasn’t simply a place for me to crash each day and sleepily shower before hitting the parks. The room was part of my vacation.
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Disney Parks are the home of amazing dining, but reservations at some of the most popular restaurants can be tough to come by unless you plan your trip far in advance. At some eateries, however, solo diners can slide right in to a seat at the bar or lounge where they’re able to order off of the full menu.
During this trip I decided to give lounge seating at California Grill inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort a try. The only other time I dined there was during my anniversary trip with my husband a few years ago. It was a magical meal with a view to match, and I unapologetically wanted to recreate it alone. I, of course, missed his company. But I couldn’t let my love for my husband stand between me and an incredible cheese plate while watching the sun set over Seven Seas Lagoon.
After enjoying the afternoon by the pool, I hopped on the monorail and headed over to the Contemporary where I told the elevator attendant that I was hoping to find a seat in the lounge. It was 6:30 p.m. – prime dinner reservation time – so I was ready to be denied entrance. Instead, the very helpful cast member took me up to the roof top restaurant and pointed out where seating was available on a first come, first served basis. I was able to get a seat at a table (all tables without tablecloths are included in lounge dining) right next to a window. As the sun went down and the lights of Magic Kingdom came on, I enjoyed the legendary cheese plate, the beet salad, and a chocolate cake that was downright sinful.
After such a successful first attempt at walk-in fine dining, I’m excited to give it another try during my next visit.
During past work-related solo trips to Walt Disney World, I discovered the joys of some of Disney’s hidden gems. I think that most people realize that there are special tours, events, and packages available to Disney guests, but I’m not sure that everyone realizes that my two favorite non-park activities are available to enjoy. When I’m visiting Disney Parks with my family, I struggle to justify time away indulging in me-time splurges, but on a solo trip? Those splurges are the entire point.
One favorite activity is going horseback riding at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. But my absolute favorite is taking time for a spa treatment at Senses Spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. I’d stopped in there in the past for a one hour massage between conference sessions (okay, instead of conference sessions), but this time I decided to make a day of it, enjoying both the wet and dry lounges, the snacks, the showers with incredible bath products, and receiving both an aromatherapy massage and a custom facial.
There’s something magical about lounging the day away in a spa after walking 22,000 steps the day before in the parks. Heaven.