Disney Alone Time: Planning for a Solo Trip to Walt Disney World
|by Heather Macdonald, PassPorter Message Board Guide (Moderator)|
Last modified 09-08-2011
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Filed in Articles > Walt Disney World > Touring
I’ll be honest, I like traveling by myself.
The biggest perk is not having to please anyone but myself. I also think it is easier to plan a solo trip, and it usually gets done with very little notice, often just a few days before the trip.
The first things you need to worry about when planning a solo trip are your hotel room and your transportation. These two things eat up the biggest part of your Walt Disney World (WDW) budget. It is probably easiest to do these two tasks in tandem to make sure the budget is there before you book one or the other. Use two browser windows or tabs in your computer to get yourself to the final booking pages for both, before buying either. That way you aren’t stuck with a room or a flight that you can’t really afford.
I definitely prefer onsite hotels for a solo trip. Any Disney hotel would be just fine for a solo stay, but I have two favorites based on what my budget is for the trip. If I’m doing a low cost, quick trip I really like All-Star Sports. It is the first bus stop both to and from the All-Stars and I think it is in the best shape in terms of maintenance. Staying at an All-Star Resort also gives you access to all the All-Star resort amenities - three pools, three food courts, and three different shops. If I have a little more money to play with, or a really good discount code, I like to stay at the Contemporary. The Contemporary has multiple onsite dining options, the rooms have just been redone, and there are multiple transportation choices. I just love riding the monorail to the parks. It’s also a really quick walk to the Magic Kingdom.
Dining reservations are always a toss up for solo trips. How many meals do I want to sit down and eat by myself? I think sitting down for meals provides a nice break and time to regroup, plan the rest of the day, and organize my notes and photos. There won’t be anyone telling you that the meal is taking too long and they want to get back to the parks. I make as many reservations as I can before I leave. I usually end up changing them from my smart phone, using the mobile Disney Dining Site.
- photo by ilovedisney247
Don’t worry about eating alone. The restaurants at Walt Disney World are so busy all the time, you won’t feel like you are alone. Servers will be happy to take photos for you, if you book a character meal--or you can do what I do, and ask the unsuspecting table next to you! Some of the best solo meals I’ve had at WDW, in terms of both food and service, are the Crystal Palace breakfast, dinner at California Grill during the Wishes fireworks, and Sanaa at Kidani Village. If you decided you’d like some interaction with other guests, Biergarten and Teppan Edo have family-style seating where you are seated with other guests.
Touring on a solo trip is a little bit different than touring with a group or a family. I make a list of things that I want to do before I leave and then try to schedule them into my mornings. I leave the evenings open for either fireworks or meals. I still plan for a nap in the afternoon, because I get up super early when I’m touring alone and I need a break in the middle of the day.
The biggest tip I can give you to maximize your solo touring plan is the 20-minute rule. I never get in a line that has more than a 20-minute wait. If I come to a ride that has more than a 20-minute wait, I either grab a FASTPASS, I come back first thing another morning, or during a slower time of the day; during a parade works well. Make sure you take the time to visit the attractions that you love, but that the folks you usually tour with don’t love. Some of my favorites when I’m by myself are Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, The Art of Disney Animation, Carousel of Progress, The American Adventure, and The Hall of Presidents.
The other thing I love to do when I’m touring alone is character meet and greets. I always get great interaction from the characters when I’m alone, and the cast members are more than happy to take photos for me. I think that being a character handler at Walt Disney World almost makes you a photography pro! They handle all different kinds of cameras every day, and really want you to have special memories. Try and get to the meet areas right when they open for the shortest lines and longest interactions. On my last trip I met 20 different characters with almost no waiting at all--and it was only a two-day trip! (Tip: Use FASTPASS to meet Mickey and the Princesses in the Magic Kingdom!)
Special experiences are great things to do on a solo trip. If you’d like to relax on your trip (unlike the commando-style touring the rest of your family goes for), make a reservation for a treatment at the spas or massage centers. The spa at the Grand Floridian is closing for expansion construction beginning in mid-September but I prefer the spa at Saratoga Springs. I find it larger and more relaxing. There are massage centers at the Contemporary, Yacht and Beach Club, Boardwalk, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, and Coronado Springs. Visit www.relaxedyet.com.
Another great thing to do is take a backstage tour, especially if you have kids at home who aren’t old enough for these experiences. I have really enjoyed taking the Keys to the Kingdom, Undiscovered Future World, and Wild by Design tours solo. These are more great opportunities to do things in a group setting. One last event that is a great choice for a solo tour is the wine tasting held at 2pm at Jiko at Animal Kingdom Lodge, on Wednesdays. The cost is a reasonable $25 and I had a great time meeting the other folks who were seated at the table. We all chatted about where we were from and our Disney experiences. Three glasses of South African wine helped loosen everyone up as well!
I do have some basic tips for a trip by yourself. There won’t be anyone to talk to in line, unless you are super outgoing. I load my iPhone with plenty of books to read once I’ve finished taking pictures. Pack extra camera batteries and cards---I bet you take more photos on a solo trip, then you do with your family.
I highly recommend trying a trip to Walt Disney World by yourself. You’ll find you have the freedom to do all of the things you want to do, at the speed you wish to do them. There are so many opportunities to meet and interact with other people at Disney, if you choose to seek them out. It is also completely possible to spend a few days just keeping to yourself and relaxing.
Tip: Listen to Heather discuss solo travel on the PassPorter Moms Podcast!
- photo by ilovedisney247
About the Author: Heather is a PassPorter Message Board Guide (moderator). She lives in New Orleans and works for a major hotel chain as a bartender. Heather visited Walt Disney World as a child and after surviving Hurrican Katrina, thought it would be the perfect escape vacation! She loved it so much that she has been 10 times in the last five years.
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afirmbeliever on September 8, 2011 @ 7:48 pm
I am enjoying each and every trip I take with my 3 children, but look forward to making my first trip alone......
I plan on staying at the Beach Club resort. I will tour the parks during the day. Return to the hotel mid-day for a nap/swim. Then each evening I plan on walking over to Epcot to enjoy a dinner in a different country.
My children laugh at me now. Because when they ask me about my favorite part of a trip, or favorite thing to do, it's often just sitting and watching. The shows. The shops. I have a few favorites (Marie, Flick, Fairy Godmother), but don't need to see Characters.
Yet after saying that, it brings a tear to my eyes, to think about the day when the kids don't come on vacation with me anymore. Guess if I'm going to miss them, I might as well miss them while I'm at Disney. :o)
shrtswt2thpt on September 8, 2011 @ 8:12 pm
With one exception all of my trips to WDW have been solo. My friends/family here in Texas don't want to go so it's just me, myself and I. I find getting ADR's to be problematic, generally I book for two.
Each time I go, I have a set plan. My latest trip was to the Flower and Garden Festival. I made it a point to take pictures of ALL the different topiary's and then some. I have pictures of all the Christmas trees at the parks.
This time I am going "resort hopping". Since one of the resorts I want to try is the Port Orleans, French Quarter that is #1 on my list.
I always stay at the Shades of Green and find the transportation to be fine. I do like the walk to and from the Poly.
One of the best things about going solo is that you can make magic happen for others. I keep an eye out for a kid or two to bestow a balloon to.
Yes people do look at you for being by yourself but this is my Disney Vacation and not theirs. :bestwishes: :flag: :flash:
saved2trek on September 9, 2011 @ 12:46 am
I found myself, because of work, having to stay in FL during my 50th birthday. I'm single and wanted a memorable 50th. So, I went to WDW. Reading this article brought back so many memories. I stayed on property. I took two behind the scene tours. I ate my birthday lunch at the Biergarten. I had my picture taken with tons of characters. Cast members were all happy to take pictures proving I was there. I had an incredible time. I saw and did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. I spent time around the pool and met people from other states. I now have a scrapbook full of pictures. And so many memories. I wholeheartily agree with this article. It's right on the mark. Take a leap and visit Disney solo. You'll love it. Oh, and I rode every rollercoaster till I was dizzy.
ilovedisney247 on September 9, 2011 @ 1:20 am
Thanks for reading everyone! I'll be working on a new article next week!
View all 5 comments in forum thread DMG on September 9, 2011 @ 9:48 am
I am a HUGE Disney fan and WDW is my "happy place". I am 60 yrs "young" (HA HA) and I have gone many, many times with my family and with friends, but never solo until May 2011 when I went to the D23 40th Anniversary week-end event all alone. I was really not sure if I would like being there without someone to share my trip with, but boy was I wrong. I met so many wonderful people, and enjoyed watching all the Disneymagic at work everywhere. I live in Greensboro, NC and rode the train to Orlando. It is relaxing and it travels all night arriving a little after 10 in the AM. It was different being solo on the train, but I watched a Disney movie on my laptop and then slept until almost 6 the next AM. Had breakfast on the train and arrived in Orlando. rested and ready for all that Disney has to offer.... Disneymagic. I had scheduled transportation with Happy Limo who was waiting for me when I arrived. Arrived at the Comtempory, was in my room by 11 AM and proceded to register for the D-23 week-end events and by 1:00 I was in the Magic Kingdom. I must say it was very nice, and staying on site is the way to go with going solo. Transportation available everywhere and everyone is covered in Disneymagic. Will definitely go solo again. I had a wonderful Disney time and have many pictures to show everyone. Thanks for your article, how this will inspire many to venture solo if they are so inclined. DMG
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Updated 09-08-2011 - Article #727
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