/ Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Buzz Lightyear - BlakeYou take a Disney vacation to make memories with family and friends, right? So, what fun would anyone have going by themselves?

This was the question I asked myself over and over as I pondered whether or not to take a solo trip to Walt Disney World. I had a surprise extra week off of work at the beginning of January, and school wouldn’t have started back yet. After doing some pricing, I decided I could manage a quick visit by myself if I wanted. But did I want to? Aren’t the most special Disney memories the ones you share with other people? Last-minute Disney is not foreign to me, but this would be too last-minute to coordinate a travel party. If I took a brief Disney trip, it would be alone, something I had never done before. With a bit of hesitation, I went for it.

Before I discuss what I found, here’s a little about me and what I expected from the trip: On the Myers Briggs personality test, I’m an INFJ, with the “I” (introvert) being significant. (Fun fact: introvert and extrovert has nothing to do with being shy or social, but actually deals with whether you re-energize from being by yourself or with other people. Now you know!) Since I’m an introvert, being by myself in general is not something I’m uncomfortable with, though I understand how some people are. When I told a friend I was going alone, he guffawed and said he wouldn’t survive not carrying on constant conversation for that long. Don’t get me wrong, I love being around people, but I can manage not being around people and be ok with that. What made me nervous, then, about taking a solo Disney trip was an insecurity about how I would be perceived by other vacationers. What would people think as they saw a college-age male touring Walt Disney World by himself? Would I be treated differently by Cast Members? Was I “allowed” to meet characters? Would I wish I had stayed home? When it was all said and done, I had one of the most special Disney vacations I can remember with a newfound understanding for the way Disney ensures guests of all party sizes have an equally great experience. Here’s what I learned as a solo traveler about visiting Walt Disney World by yourself:

You spend less time in line. While only a few attractions have a formal single-rider line, almost all of them are looking for solo guests to fill in those small gaps of seats. When you’re by yourself, that gap-filler can be you. This sometimes means that you get to skip a significant portion of the line if Cast Members are walking the queue asking for single riders. Other times, it means you have a lot more space to stretch out, such as when I had the very back car of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad all to myself (the bumpiest ride of my life!).

Cinderella Castle Dream Lights - BlakeYou can stake out spots for shows much later. While traveling with other people, it is necessary to arrive early to shows, parades, and fireworks to ensure a good viewing spot that will fit your entire party. With only one person’s worth of space to account for, it’s much easier to squeeze in wherever there is a small gap of room. This also means you can move around a bit to test out several locations before settling on the one you like best without struggling to keep everyone together. I arrived in the hub about 15 minutes before Wishes! began, and was able to find a perfect viewing location. This would have been next to impossible with even a party of three.

You can tour at your own pace. It’s difficult to describe this one without sounding snooty. I love experiencing the Disney magic with other people. Whether it’s family I’ve been with too many times to count or a friend experiencing everything for the first time, seeing the way people we love connect with Disney is a special thing and something that never gets old. That being said… we all have those moments when it sure would be nice to just shake everyone off and go do our own thing. Traveling by yourself, you can. There’s time to be with your thoughts and let each experience sink in. When you are by yourself, you are not rushing on to the next thing so your first-time friend sees all the essential attractions in one visit or so everyone in your party gets to ride their favorite. There is zero expectation from anyone but yourself, and that’s kind of cool. This trip, I didn’t get around to riding Haunted Mansion, and that was fine because it was fine with me. Ordinarily, even if it’s fine with me, it’s not fine with everyone else, and I wouldn’t dream of not fitting it into my day. I took a solid 20 minutes to just sit in the hub grass and take in the atmosphere, something I couldn’t have done with other people because they’d be asking why on earth I’d want to do that. I watched Dream Along with Mickey three times, simply because I felt like it, something I would never do with a big travel group because they’d (understandably) want to spend their time doing more attractions. When you travel by yourself, you don’t have to go by anyone’s preferences but your own. (Like I said, that sounds a little selfish, but in this context, it’s a liberating realization you must come to.)

You can easily change plans without throwing everything off. The new FastPass+ makes for an innovative way to plan family vacations. However, especially for big groups, once something is reserved, it can be a struggle to switch things up. Not the case when you’re by yourself. The day before my day in the park, I replaced an existing FastPass+ selection so that I could watch the Festival of Fantasy Parade from the FastPass+ viewing area. It was simple, quick, and presented no problems. If I had been with my family of six, first, there would not have been a next-day availability for a group that large. Second, doing so would have likely thrown off the touring strategy for the entire day and led to having to create a completely new plan. As a solo traveler, I could make quick decisions like that, and, even when I was inside the park, make spontaneous choices that didn’t throw everything else out of whack. This doesn’t just refer to FastPass+, but also relates to basic decisions like where to eat a snack or when to experience a certain attraction. The only needs you have to accommodate are your own, therefore relieving much of the complication that can come from touring a theme park.

Mary Poppins - BlakeIt’s ok to meet characters. I was nervous about this one. Meeting characters is one of my favorite things to do in the parks. While I’ve met a few characters by myself here and there on past visits, I was anxious about being by myself for every character. I shouldn’t have been. I didn’t get any awkward glances from guests like I anticipated, and even if I had… who cares? When interacting with each character, I completely forgot about any hesitations I might have had.  They treated me no differently than anyone else, and spent just as much time with me as they did with large groups. More often than not, it was I who concluded the conversation, not them. I also attended the 1900 Park Fare character breakfast, which I was a bit hesitant to do. While the interactions at the meal felt a bit more rushed than the ones inside the parks, it was otherwise a positive experience with fun character moments. The only awkward part was the close proximity of each table (but that had nothing to do with the characters and would have been prevalent even if I was there with other people).

You can still make memories when you’re aloneI don’t know about you, but when I take a vacation to a place I’ve visited before, I can’t help but think back to memories that occurred at specific places—memories that stem from being with other people. When I ride Splash Mountain, I think back to my friend uncontrollably laughing at Br’er Fox. When I walk through Fantasyland, I think back to when my little sister was crowned “princess of the day.” In taking this solo trip, I expected to be reminded of these past moments I had with other people, but did not anticipate making any new moments by myself. I knew I would have a blast, but what special moments would I have to remember this trip by if there wasn’t anyone with me to initiate any such moment? That’s where I was wrong. The next time I approach the entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I’ll remember running along that pathway to make it just in time for the Symphony in the Stars fireworks. The next time I grab a snack from Sleepy Hollow, I’ll remember how Minnie and Goofy waved to me from across the moat as they waited to go onstage for Dream Along with Mickey. There still can be those moments, and magic can certainly still be made, no matter the party size.

Have you ever taken a solo Disney trip?

 

(Images and video belong to author’s personal collection.)

 

Mickey - Blake

 

Blake studies Electronic Media and Film at Appalachian State University. His favorite attraction is the hub grass. You can find him on Twitter @blake_242 or at BlakeOnline.com.

 

 

 

 

Comments

comments

15 thoughts on “Visiting Walt Disney World By Yourself”

  1. Brad B. says:

    I prefer to share my park visits with family, but I have had some magical solo visits as well. I occasionally have work travel to Florida and have done some solo days at the WDW parks while there. One especially memorable one was being there on a perfect evening with clear skies and a full moon. I didn’t mind waiting in the line for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train because it was so beautiful there. And I had the best Jungle Cruise ever — it is a different experience at night, and the skipper for that trip was the funniest ever! Recently, I visited Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and the Magic Kingdom all in one day by myself, and had a great time.

    I also recently did a solo trip to the Disneyland parks. I was on work travel to CA and decided to take a couple of vacation days to visit the Disneyland parks. It was my first time there since 1979, when I was in high school, so it was really cool to see Disneyland again after all those years, and to see California Adventure for the first time, and to see the differences between Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom. I rode the Matterhorn Bobsleds at least 6 times because it’s a cool ride and because they had a single line so I never had to wait.

  2. Zack Kaplan says:

    This was a really informative article, I’m looking to go to Disneyland on my own this November (I’ll be 19) though my hesitation mainly comes from traveling alone for the first time. Mainly due to my fear of messing something up and getting lost at the airport. I was pretty nervous navigating airports last August, despite being with my mother for her birthday/my graduation trip.

  3. Andy H says:

    I have not taken a solo trip to Disney, however I will be taking one around the middle of April. The timing of this piece was great, thanks for the wonderful tips.

  4. Stan Solo says:

    I went on my first ever solo trip last month and loved every ‘single’ minute of it! 8 days of solo time in WDW with a 7 day WDWRADIO Star Wars cruise right in the middle of it.

    I had a blast because of all the things Blake listed, plus I would add that I was more apt to talk to strangers in line creating new friendships. One day I met an amazing couple from Sydney Australia. We spent the entire day and night at EPCOT together! Now I’m actually considering a trip to Sydney just to visit them again.

  5. Sue Clarke says:

    Although I love having company around WDW, four years ago I travelled there alone. I embraced the difference: I could sit and watch the world go by when the Floridian humidity got to me; I went into the American Idol show three times & nobody was judging me for my decision or for any other duplicated rides I did. I met so many people in line and on the rides that I didn’t feel “alone”. At the beginning in my head I was on my own but to other visitors I was probably one of a group who hadn’t wanted to go on a ride with the rest of my group. It didn’t take long to get into the swing of being a solo rider. I’m going there again at the end of April and I can’t wait to do everything at my own pace 🙂

  6. Scott says:

    I’ve been to WDW many many times alone. Not because I do not have family or friends but because I love just an hour away and have Friday’s off when most others do not.
    So when I am free I go visit the parks. I use this time to just explore and take pictures of the changes.
    You can’t do that when you have a group, unless that group also enjoys that also.
    If you ever get a chance to visit the parks alone do it. You will see so much more you didn’t know existed, especially visiting the resorts.

  7. Tom Wade says:

    I really enjoyed Blake’s article about going a Disney park by his self. I have done it twice at Disney World and 3 times at Disneyland while on a business trip. I normally go with family or friends but it was great to do everything my way for a change. No one to please but me. If I wanted to ride something 3 times, I dit it. I ate when and where I wanted to. It was great! and I recommend it, especially for big Disney fans like me. I noticed that the responders were all guys. Thought that was interesting. So any gals out there gone solo?

  8. Lisa S says:

    Loved your article as this is something I have been considering doing for awhile. Thank you

  9. Tonya says:

    I LOVE going to the parks by myself. I’m an INFP (pretty close to you) and really enjoy being able to go at my own pace and not worry about if someone else wants to do what I do (I guess that’s the feeling/perceiving part) Great article and advice!

  10. Paul Saint says:

    Blake,

    I experienced my first stay on WDW property in September 1992 as a solo trip. It was a vacation I will truly cherish, since I got to explore WDW at my own pace, which I really enjoyed. I stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort and explored every inch of it my first day. I then hit the then-three parks at WDW. I ended each day at the former Pleasure Island, where I discovered the wonderful Adventurers Club, which I miss to this day. During my solo trip, I met some great people, both cast members and Guests. I truly recommend it for anyone who wants some “Me” time at the Most Magical Place on Earth!

  11. Dale says:

    Went to Disneyland last year for the 60th anniversary on my own. A treat from my wife and had to tell the kids I went on a business trip etc etc. It was great for all the reasons you mentioned on your article. I went down main street USA reading every single window and acknowledging every single legend. I went because it was the 60th, a once in a lifetime experience. But let’s be clear here, I’m taking the kids to WDW next year. But perhaps one day I’ll do a WDW solo trip too? 🙂

  12. Jack says:

    I was on business alone with an annual pass in my wallet. So…when I discovered I had 6+ hours to myself I went straight to Epcot. I must admit it felt weird walking into my favorite park alone, surrounded by so many people with friends and family.

    After leaving Spaceship Earth, I was filled with the realization that for the first time in WDW I could do anything or nothing! When performers came out near the big fountain to do a 15 minute show, I spotted an empty park bench AND an ice cream cart! What a perfect time to enjoy a Mickey Bar!!

    Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera as when I’m with my family someone always questions why I slow down and take so many photos! Now I could slow down and speed up at my disgression. Nonetheless, it was a great day but I did look forward to my next visit with friends and family.

  13. Belinda says:

    I’m going solo to WDW for the first time this November – can’t wait. I too am an introvert (recharges alone) I have absolutely no difficulty chatting with random people – I actually enjoy it! Thank you for this article – it gives me more confidence that my solo trip will be fantastic!

  14. Ruby says:

    Do you have instagram?

  15. Doc says:

    Solo is the only way to go. Most of my friends have no interest in going to WDW so I go myself. Sometimes it can be a downer cause you have no one to share it with. But I have met so many great guests from all over the world in line, at parades, dining and just traveling through the parks. Can’t believe I’m saying this, but you’ll find “It’s a Small World After All”! Just enjoy your self and smile a lot.