Solo Walt Disney World, Part One

by Gray Cargill on October 6, 2008

This is part one of a series of posts on solo travel to Disney World. I am not going to cover general aspects of a trip to Disney in this article, but rather explore what the solo experience at Disney is like. For general information about Disney World, see the links in the right sidebar of my blog under the category Disney World. I have found these sites to be very useful in my search for information for trips.

Main Street and Cinderella's Castle

Main Street and Cinderella's Castle

I have a confession to make: I never went to Disney World or Disneyland as a child. Sad, isn’t it?

I made my first trip to Disneyland at age 18 with my uncle and some extended family members. It was fun, but you can only see and do so much in one day, which was all we had. I did no advance planning for this trip, but let myself be led around the park. I remember going on It’s a Small World, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion, but nothing else about that trip. I had a cheap camera back then, so my pictures are blurry or nonexistent. And I didn’t write about my experiences in a journal.

Contrast that with my first trip to Disney World–solo–in 2005 at the age of 39. I remember almost everything about that trip, and not just because it happened more recently. I did all of the planning; I chose my own activities and restaurants, hotel, and transportation. Because I was alone, I was able to notice things around me more. I leisurely took photos, and I kept a journal. To me, this is one of the greatest reasons to travel solo: When you’re alone you’re totally in the moment and you can savor an experience that much more. You can pay attention to your own reactions to things instead of being influenced by others’ reactions. And you have time to record your experiences.

Spaceship Earth, Epcot

Spaceship Earth, Epcot

I had always wanted to go to Disney World, but either didn’t have the money or didn’t have anyone to go with. So I kept putting it off. Finally, I was looking at warm vacation destinations to break up the long cold Vermont winter, and started looking at Florida. I thought of Disney World, and almost dismissed it for the very reasons so many adults do: I thought, “But isn’t it just for families with kids? Won’t people think I’m some kind of weirdo for going by myself? Will I stick out like a sore thumb?” To find the answers to these questions, I did what I always do: I consulted the Internet.

I did my usual reconnaissance online by reading two active Disney message boards (the Disboards and Intercot) and quickly learned that, by going to Disney alone, I was in fact, not alone. Lots of other adults go solo to Disney, for a variety of reasons. To many, Disney World is literally their favorite place on earth, so they go as often as they can, with or without companions. Others don’t know anyone with the desire and financing to go at the same time they plan to go. Some just need to get away from all of their responsibilities in life, including their families, for a little “me” time. Some have to go to a convention on site and decide to add on some days for vacation while they are there.

The biggest argument against adult solo travel to Disney is that “it’s for kids”. Yes it is. It’s for kids of ALL ages. As Walt Disney himself once said, “You’re dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.” Sometimes, as adults, we forget that our inner child needs to come out to play once in awhile in order for us to be whole and happy. The best thing about going to Disney World without children is that you get to focus on your own inner child and indulge him or her, without having to be the “responsible adult” or worrying about anyone but yourself. You also have the opportunity to do things you might not do if you were there with your family (like read a book poolside at your hotel or get a massage). In other words, it’s like all solo travel: It’s all about YOU. Sounds good already, doesn’t it?

Mt. Everest, Animal Kingdom

Mt. Everest, Animal Kingdom

My top reasons for recommending Disney as a solo travel destination are that it’s safe, it’s easy, and it’s very customizable. If you get nervous going to new places alone, this is a great first trip for you. Fran from Pittsburgh, a repeat solo traveler to Disney World, agrees: “Traveling solo at Disney is great for people that have never traveled solo before. It gives them a ‘safe’ place to travel alone. Not just in regards to physical safety but also from the aspect of being made to feel welcome and never alone.”

If you are the type who doesn’t like driving in strange places, you don’t have to. You can fly into Orlando and take one of the Disney Magical Express buses from the airport, and go straight to your resort. Once you’re on Disney property, there’s so much to do, you never have to leave during your stay if you don’t want to.

And finally, it’s customizable. What do I mean by that? Disney World has such a variety of offerings that you can make of your vacation whatever you want it to be. If you’re looking to slow down your pace and relax, you can sit by the pool, enjoy some nice sit-down meals, get a massage, and sit around sipping cocktails all evening. If you want an action-packed vacation, you can get yourself a park hopper pass, hit all the parks and ride all the rides. If you want to enjoy non-park activities, there are lots of water sports, bicycling, horseback riding, shopping, a movie theater, and more. Or you could do a combination of all of the above. All while enjoying the lovely Orlando sunshine and warm temperatures.

Sound good so far? Good. Now that I’ve piqued your interest, in part two of this series, I’ll start covering the specifics of a solo trip to Disney.

Previous post:

Next post: