Solo Travel: Tips For Traveling To Disney World Alone
Enjoying a Walt Disney World vacation does not need to be a whole family affair. Many folks want a solo trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth for a whole bunch of reasons. The magic doesn’t disappear whether you’re a group of one or a dozen so long as you’re prepared to enter the Disney bubble of wonder upon arrival. One way to make a solo Disney adventure more special is to do it during one of EPCOT’s many festivals throughout the yea, especially if you’re a frequent visitor looking for something new to enjoy.
Each season brings a different festival to EPCOT, from the wintertime Festival of the Arts to the autumnal International Food & Wine Festival (via Disney). Every iteration of the festivals is a little different than the last, so even frequent Disney goers can enjoy something new each time. Festivals are one way that Disney World keeps things fresh for everyone, and meandering festivals are one way to make a solo trip a little more magical. But no matter what time of year you visit, there are many ways to make the most of your solo Disney me-cation.
Make use of single-rider lines
A major perk of going to Disney World alone is that you can always take advantage of single-rider lines for some of the most popular attractions. (You can always use the single-rider line even in a group though your group will be split up during seating.) But even if a ride you really want to go on doesn’t have a single-rider line, there’s a good chance you can get on earlier anyway. It’s fairly common for cast members to ask for one or two riders near the front of the line to fully load ride vehicles.
Disney doesn’t post the wait times for single-rider lines; however, generally, you can assume it’s about one-third of the regular wait (per Mouse Hacking). That means a 90-minute posted wait time might only be 30 minutes through the single rider line. Times can get thrown off if rides go down throughout the day, and Mouse Hacking also notes that sometimes single-rider lines get cut off as park closing approaches.
There are currently only four rides at Disney World that utilize single-rider lines: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Test Track and Expedition Everest — Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. All four rides usually have long waits in the stand-by queue, so going to Disney alone is a great excuse to get on them via the single-rider line.
Not having a group along for a vacation means asking strangers to take your photo. But that’s not always the case at Disney. PhotoPass cast members are posted throughout the parks often at the most coveted photo-taking spots. In addition to PhotoPass, Disney also offers private mini-photo sessions called Capture Your Moment which can easily be added to any Disney vacation. With Capture Your Moment, you get your own photographer at any of the four parks for your own private shoot in your favorite places. Capture Your Moment sessions are in 20-minute increments, but you can reserve two back-to-back spots for an extended 40 minutes with your own Disney photographer if you wish (per Disney).
There are always pros and cons to vacation add-ons like PhotoPass, like the fact that the photos expire after a while. Hence, you have to download them within a certain time limit (per Undercover Tourist). But when you’re visiting Disney World by yourself, the hassle of remembering to purchase the PhotoPass within a month of going home seems like a fair trade-off. PhotoPass cast members are usually found in the most iconic areas of each park where you’d be taking pictures anyway. You may have to wait for a minute behind a few other folks, though the lines aren’t usually very long, especially compared to some of the theme park rides.
Make new friends
Anytime you take a chance on a solo travel opportunity, you also take a chance on opening up your social circle. Part of the joy in traveling on your own is making new, like-minded friends along the way. Thanks to the internet and social media, it’s never been easier for solo Mousekateers to link up ahead of a big Disney adventure or stay in touch long after Cinderella’s Castle is in the rearview.
If the idea of meeting people online isn’t your thing, Theme Park Hipster suggests spending time in one of the theme park or resort area bars or in a ride line. Both locales are where folks are more likely to engage in conversation with you. You can talk about your theme park plans and maybe have some new pals to hang out with.
Because guests so frequently wear ears or character hats, participate in Disney bounding or put a lot of thought into their park outfits, there’s usually something obvious to start a conversation about. The number of times we’ve met strangers because we like each other’s backpacks or ears might astound you.
Splurge on unique experiences
Have you always wanted to do the Wild Africa Trek rope bridge adventure over the savannah in Animal Kingdom but have a partner who is afraid of heights? What about taking part in one of the many classes offered across the resort property or DiveQuest at EPCOT? Using your solo trip to splurge on one of these Enchanting Extras is a fabulous way to make your trip just a tad more magical. Take some time to knock a few of those Disney must-dos off of your bucket list.
Some fan-favorite Enchanting Extras are the tours offered throughout Disney World. Keys to the Kingdom, for example, lets guests see some behind-the-scenes areas at Magic Kingdom and the opportunity to learn more about the parks simultaneously (via Theme Park Tourist). The less budget-friendly alternative (though quite exciting) is partaking in a V.I.P. tour. On a Disney V.I.P. tour, you get your own personal guide, skip the lines at even the most popular rides and receive the best care only Disney can provide. When you’re visiting Disney World solo you don’t have to compromise with anyone else about adding extra special amenities to your vacation, so why not treat yourself?
Do everything you want to do
Probably the biggest perk to solo Disney travel is that you don’t need anyone’s permission to spend the day as you’d like. You could camp out all day and people-watch in the shadow of the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood Studios or ride Pirates of the Caribbean a dozen times if you want to. Anything and everything your heart desires in a Disney trip is within your reach when you’re in charge.
Even if the idea of eating alone at a table service restaurant intimidates you, eating by yourself is one way to ensure that you only eat where you want to eat. Plus, Disney Tourist Blog says their experience has been that cast members are often more than happy to chat up a solo diner to make the experience more enjoyable. Don’t be afraid to make that stack of reservations you’ve wanted to make in the past. If you want to have breakfast with Pooh and his friends every single day at Crystal Palace, you absolutely should.
On the flip side, being solo also means you don’t have to wake up bright and early to hit the parks. Sleep in until noon, grab some lunch and head out for the day if you’re not a morning person. Or you could rope-drop your favorite rides before leaving in the early afternoon to relax at your resort. Either way, you can do what you want.
Utilize walk-up dining reservation availabilities
There are still going to be restaurants like 50s Prime Time Cafe that require advanced reservations. Still, for the sit-down restaurants that allow walk-ups, you may have better luck than any groups hoping to grab some grub. There is no guarantee, even in the slower season, that you’ll get a seat without a reservation, though it’s more likely if you’re by yourself that it will happen.
Being able to get seated with a walk-up reservation is largely a matter of timing, according to WDW Info. Obviously trying to get a seat during the dinner rush at 6 p.m. will be harder than grabbing a late lunch at 2:30 p.m. The same goes for somewhere like Be Our Guest. A walk-up during non-peak hours will be much easier to accommodate than squeezing into a noon lunchtime spot. Luckily, when you’re flying solo, you can more easily navigate a little wait or schedule your meals accordingly
Grab a seat at the bar for a meal
Several restaurants across Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Springs offer bar or lounge seating with a full menu. These first-come, first-served spots can be hard to come by during popular mealtimes — unless you’re alone. There are often one or two random spots open among other bar-sitters that are perfect for a party of one to enjoy without a long wait for a table. Bar sitting is particularly excellent in many table service restaurants throughout Disney Springs, according to Inside the Magic.
Several table service restaurants throughout the four Disney World parks have lounges or bars that serve the full menu. Even a place like 50s Prime Time Cafe has a bar area, for example, so you could still snag some meatloaf and that patented server sass if there’s a place to sit. Some personal favorite areas to check out are Nomad Lounge, the Tune-In Lounge, and the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge. Brown Derby Lounge is particularly nice because it features outdoor seating, which many of the other lounges do not.
Talk up the cast members
Having brought gifts to Disney parks on occasion to celebrate the cast members, we know how special Disney World cast members are and how infrequently they’re appreciated. Take some time to chat with cast members during your vacation, maybe you’ll learn something new about Disney or make a new friend in the process!
When it comes to friendliness, Disney cast members are generally above and beyond anyone’s expectations. That’s why Theme Park Hipster suggests chatting with them when you encounter them on a solo Disney adventure. Just striking up a conversation with a cast member could make their day. Still, it could also make yours too. All sorts of fascinating folks work at Disney World, so why not take the time to get to know some of them? You never know who you’ll meet! After all, celebrities like Kathryn Joosten, Wayne Brady, and even Kevin Richardson all worked at Disney World once upon a time (via Insider).
Corraling your group of travel companions on a Disney trip can be like herding cats. Everyone has their own agenda or things they want to do. When you’re by yourself, however, you can truly enjoy a less stressful experience. Without anyone else to coordinate, you can do Disney spontaneously, which isn’t so easy with a bunch of other folks in tow.
Grab some spring rolls for a snack, go park hopping or decide to spend the day at Disney Springs. You can plan out every moment of a Disney trip or just go with the flow. Being spontaneous is much easier when you don’t have anyone else’s approval to gain. So why not play things by ear when you’re visiting Disney World on your own?
Try creating a list of things you absolutely want to do during your trip and go from there (per All Ears). Keeping in mind what you want to achieve makes it easier to make decisions throughout your trip. If that is all the pre-planning, you want to do, you’ll be much more open to embracing carefree spontaneity.
Take it slow
Particularly for travelers who have been to Disney World a lot, slowing down the experience can be a way to really soak in the magic. Sleep in, take your time getting to the parks, enjoy the cavalcades or shows and just relax while you’re at Disney. A Disney vacation can be so hectic that you need days to recover after your vacation. After all, you’re walking tens of thousands of steps a day -– Disney World can be intense.
There are activities that even frequent Disney guests forget about because they’re too busy hustling through the parks. Things like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and Pirate’s Adventure quests are ways to further engage with places around the park that are fun to do on your own, too (per Phd Princess). You can start and finish the activities on your own time while keeping yourself entertained simultaneously. Being entertained while being on your own can be the trickiest part of going to Disney World alone.
When you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort property, there is so much to do outside of the parks. But if you are spending all day every day at the parks, you might not get to experience any of the amenities your resort has to offer. From spa services to outdoor movie nights, arcades, and pools to enjoy, the resorts have more to them than just a place to rest. Take the time to unwind at the resort.
Explore the resorts
Walt Disney World Resort is unique, in part, because of the expansive hotels. With elaborate theming, exquisite food, and fascinating decor, resort hopping is one way to experience everything they have to offer. You certainly don’t have to stay at The Grand Floridian to enjoy its grounds. For their amenities, Theme Park Hipster ranks five of Disney World’s 25 resorts as the best for adult solo travelers: the Dolphin Resort, Coronado Springs, Wilderness Lodge, Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, and Pop Century.
Especially for a solo traveler, staying somewhere like Pop Century or Port Orleans – Riverside gives you more options for exploring the grounds. Pop Century is connected to the Skyline, which can take you to different resorts as well as Hollywood Studios and EPCOT. Riverside has a riverboat that can take you to the nearby Port Orleans – French Quarter or Disney Springs.
Make it a point to explore at least one other hotel, if not a few, during your solo Disney trip. In a day, you can easily see several resorts, enjoy a meal at one of the other restaurants, and experience areas of Disney World you haven’t seen before. At the end of the day, maybe take in the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the Contemporary Resort.
Find primo show seats
Vying for a good spot for a show at Disney World is sometimes as hard to come by as a Mickey bar on the hottest day of summer. But when it comes to snagging a spot without waiting or space-holding for a long time, solo travelers often luck out. That is particularly true for seated shows like Fantasmic. That is because cast members often need one or two people to fill in a row which many families and large groups at the parks cannot accommodate.
When planning on seeing a show solo Orbitz recommends getting to the show no later than 10 to 15 minutes before showtime — especially if it’s a more popular one, like Fantasmic. The same generally goes for fireworks as well, because single guests can squeeze in easily in the viewing crowds. Though if you really want to treat yourself, make a reservation at one of the dessert parties. Not only do you get guaranteed spots (seated or not) to watch the fireworks, you get a buffet of tasty desserts, wine, and beer too!