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Going Solo Walt Disney World as a Solo Traveler
Friday, October 26, 2001
In general Walt Disney World is considered a family vacation destination; a place where Mom, Dad, the kids and perhaps the grandparents can spend a week together enjoying a variety of rides, attractions and shows. Walt Disney himself developed Disneyland so there would be a place that parents could take their children and have fun with them rather than sitting on the sidelines watching them have fun. Disney also markets itself as an adult destination, where empty-nesters and young singles can also have fun.
There is at least one other segment of the population that generally does not come to mind when thinking of who is likely to vacation at Walt Disney World: the solo traveler.
There are many people who do not have a suitable travel companion, yet are not willing to sit idle at home. There are also many people who have friends and family, but for whatever reason either have the occasional opportunity or purposely choose to visit Walt Disney World (and other vacation destinations) alone.
I made my first solo trip when I was married, and although I was hesitant at first, that trip erased any hesitations I had about making future solo trips. In this article I will outline some of the common concerns/questions about taking a solo trip, along with what I found to be the reality in my experiences.
Cost is obviously a consideration for some people. Somehow spending $200 per night on a resort room as a solo traveler may seem extravagant or wasteful. If that is the case, move down a level from a deluxe to a moderate, or from a moderate to a value resort. The smaller room size ceases to be an issue for a party of one. However, if giving up the amenities of the nicer resort is going to be an issue, then it probably makes sense to pay the higher cost and stay at the level of resort you are used to. Some people may feel more secure at a nicer resort - I always recommend staying in a Disney resort, but that is my personal preference.
Particularly for a solo visitor from out of town, staying on-site is much more convenient than having to drive around in a town that may not be familiar. If the traveler is a Disney Vacation Club member, the lodging cost ceases to be an issue, since there are no room and tax charges! The bottom line though, is to spend the money necessary to get the level of room in the location that you will be happy with. After all, if you feel you are not worth it or you cannot afford it, perhaps you should postpone the trip until a better time.
Should you rent a car if you are not driving to Walt Disney World? There is no question a car is the most convenient way to go, but again the cost may seem prohibitive considering there is only one person. Sometimes a solo traveler will have more time because the different needs and desires of other travelers in the party are not an issue. For this reason, waiting for Disney transportation becomes less of a hassle. A solo traveler flying in can use Mears shuttle for under $30 round trip, which is the cheapest option I am aware of. However, each person needs to judge how important a car will be to the vacation, and whether a rental is available at a reasonable price.
For most Walt Disney World visitors, the majority of time is spent in the four main theme parks. Those planning a solo trip may be apprehensive about whether or not they can enjoy themselves without someone to share this experience. I initially thought I might feel awkward not having another person with me.
Although there were moments when I wished I had someone to share a comment or observation with, for the most part, I enjoyed being solo. The biggest advantage is having total freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want, without having to consider a travel companion's wishes. If you want to head to a park to see one attraction and then leave, you can do so without feeling that you should stay there longer because someone else in your party wants to see other things. If you want the luxury of sleeping in and not going to a park until noon, you can do so without upsetting your family members! If you simply want to sit on a bench, or never even enter a park, you are free to do so because there is nobody else with you suggesting other activities. It may sound selfish, and it is selfish but in a good way!
A solo trip is a great way to do those things your spouse or usual travel companion does not particularly enjoy. Whether that is golfing, shopping, spending days in a spa, or laying by a pool, the solo traveler is free to enjoy those activities without guilt.
Generally, both guests as well as cast members at Walt Disney World are friendlier than in the outside world, which makes it easy for even shy people to strike up a conversation with strangers. These brief connections with other adults can be fun, and help to make up for the fact that the solo traveler does not have a companion to talk with.
Another advantage of going solo is that you sometimes get pulled forward onto a ride or attraction when they are need to load one or two additional people to fill up a ride vehicle. Test Track in Epcot is the only attraction that uses an established Single Riders Line, but I have been brought forward quite often at Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom and on the Kilamanjaro Safari ride at Animal Kingdom. It is also easier to get into any restaurant without a priority seating as a party of one!
Speaking of dining, for years I felt that as a solo traveler I did not belong at the full-service restaurants. My reasons included not wanting to occupy a table for two, particularly knowing that I do not eat very much and the check would be much lower than the server is used to, not wanting to look awkward being the only person alone at a table, and fearing I would be bored with nobody to talk to while waiting for the meal to arrive. Counter service meals seemed so much easier, but that meant missing out on all the really good food at Walt Disney World. I am glad I finally smartened up, and tried a meal at LeCellier in Epcot, which was a wonderful experience (which I repeat at least once every trip). Sometimes the server will stop to chat, depending on whether he or she has time, and depending on that person's personality. Some solo travelers bring a book or magazine with them and read while waiting for the food to be served. Others just sit and enjoy the air conditioning! The only restaurant I would not consider as a solo traveler is Victoria and Alberts at the Grand Floridian Resort, only because that is supposed to be a romantic dinner. I would however, encourage anyone else to go ahead and enjoy themselves.
The water parks and Pleasure Island are also good spots for solo travelers. At the water parks there are lockers available for rent if you bring any valuables, since you will not have anyone to watch your stuff. On busy days it is much easier to find one chair or one tube for the lazy river than it is to find two or four at the same time and location! I would never dream of going to a bar alone at home, but Pleasure Island feels like a second home to me, at least at the Comedy Warehouse. The dance clubs are not my thing, but sitting in the Adventurer's Club as a solo, or watching a show at the Comedy Warehouse is an excellent source of entertainment with or without other travel companions. In fact, being a party of one usually gets me a better seat than when I am with someone at the Comedy Warehouse, as it is pretty common for them to have one empty seat left on a row.
If you have read my trip reports, you know that I take many vacations to Walt Disney World each year. Some of those trips are with family, some with friends, but many are solo. Some of the solo trips include a portion of the trip where a group of solo travelers spend a few days together, and it seems all of my solo trips now include some days with friends who either live in the area or happen to be visiting during my dates. I never imagined I would develop these friendships when I began my solo travel, but I consider myself lucky to have met each person. I have seen this happen with others as well, so while making a lifelong friend should not be expected on a solo trip, if it does happen it is a wonderful thing and probably would not have happened had I not been traveling solo to start with. For me, my solo trips would be the last ones I would give up; I love the freedom that comes with them, but you can argue that I am not truly solo when I have friends to meet.
For those who might find themselves in the Walt Disney World area on business or who want to plan a solo trip, my advice is to do it! If you are unsure, book a relatively short trip, pick a time of year that works best for you (discounted rooms, low crowds, right weather, etc.) and give it a try. Plan a couple of things you have wanted to do but have never had the chance, especially if they are things your normal travel companion does not want to do. If you are online and know of others who will be there at the same time, consider a brief get-together in a public place to have some ice cream, a cup of coffee, or just to say hello in a park somewhere. The most important thing is to simply go, and have a wonderful time. It just might be the first of many solo trips you make to Walt Disney World.
Contact Sue at email@example.com.
MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide has some information about other special touring situations:
Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.
After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in 1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.
She takes many of these trips on her own, but she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
She works as the Administrative Services Division Head for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.
Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers. Read her trip report archive here.
You can contact Sue here.
Get the latest info about the resort at Park Update: Walt Disney World.
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