If you read that title and are asking yourself, “Why would I do Disney World as an adult?”, I want you to know that you are asking a fair question. Disney is not for everyone and if the idea of visiting the ‘happiest place on earth’ either confuses you or leaves you in hives, I recommend you stop reading now. However, there are plenty of adults out there who love all things Disney—some I would even classify as obsessed. Although I am far from obsessed, I have a healthy respect for Walt and his legacy. And I am not alone. Lots of adults visit and enjoy Disney World, sans kids, every single day.
I recently spent a long weekend in Florida with some old roommates of mine. We had a blast! Time was spent at Disney World and considering this was not our first rodeo, I figured I would share some of our tips and tricks. But first, a back story:
Disney World College Program
During my sophomore year of college, I found myself getting a little burned out by school and the whole college scene. Needless to say, I was primed to embrace any legitimate excuse to take a break. It was during this time that a recruiter for the Disney College Program attended one of my classes and told us about Disney’s internship program. Although I have never been a huge Disney fan, I found myself intrigued by the possibility of an internship in Florida (far away from cold and snowy Idaho). I decided to apply and let fate decide. It was not long before I got the news that I had been accepted for an eight-month internship starting in January. (I found out later that getting accepted into the program is not terribly difficult.) I left Idaho with two suitcases and a stomach full of butterflies. So began one of the most unique experiences of my life.
Fast-forward 15 years. I have never forgot my experience working at Disney World. Best of all, I am still friends with the girls I lived with. A lot has changed since my time in Florida, but many things have remained the same. Lucky for me, one of my roommates still lives in Florida and her husband is a manager at Disney World. Not only can we crash at her place, but she shuttles us around and keeps us up-to-date on the latest happenings. This was the set up for our brief but delightful 15-year reunion earlier this summer and below is my advice, based on this trip, to help you plan your own adult-only foray into the world of Disney.
Tips for enjoying Disney World as an adult
Consider your timing
Our girls’ weekend happened in June. This is not exactly the best time to visit Disney World. I feel like we lucked out with both the weather and the crowds, but I would not rely on luck if you do not have to. And I would avoid summer at all costs. Basically, whenever kids are out of school, the park will be busier (think summer, Christmas and spring break). If you are not traveling with kids, why on earth would you go when all the kids are there!?! Back in my College Program days, February was dead. Although that is not really the case anymore, it is still less crowded than summer. The weather will be infinitely better as well.
Pick and choose
Unless you are planning on spending a couple of weeks in Orlando, you are going to have to pick and choose what you want to do. Disney World itself has so much to offer and it takes a lot of time and money to see it all. Given that we were only there for a long weekend, we opted to visit Disney Springs (called Downtown Disney when I worked there), the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and a spa. Limiting our options allowed us to focus on the experience and our time with each other. In the end, we had a much more enjoyable time than if we had crammed our schedule full of everything Disney World has to offer.
Be prepared to pay
Disney World is not cheap. Everything you do will cost you money—more money than you usually pay for things. I am sure there are blogs out there with tips and tricks for how to do Disney World on a budget. But in general, it is a very difficult place to be thrifty. So be prepared and save up a little extra before you go.
Stay on Disney property
If money is not a huge concern, I recommend staying on Disney property. There are a lot of hotels to choose from and each has its own unique theme. Staying in a Disney hotel is especially a good idea if you do not want to rent a car. Their transportation is topnotch and it is easy to get around. Plus, they pick you up right at the airport and take you to your hotel.
If you are trying to save money, there are plenty of hotels just outside the park. But remember that you will have to pay to park. When you add that to your rental car and fuel, your hotel may not be such a good deal after all.
Take it easy
Of course, this is easier said than done. It is hard not to try and do as much as you can when you are visiting the parks. Lucky for us, we had a momma-to-be in our group. This meant we walked a little slower and took more breaks than we normally would have. It was great though! Slowing down and just taking in everything around us (the people watching is excellent at Disney World) made for a much more enjoyable experience. We still ended up doing everything we wanted, but we did not cram activities into every second. If a line was too long, we skipped it and went somewhere else. Did we ride every ride in the park? No. But that wasn’t our MO. Did we enjoy each other’s company while moseying around the park and riding a ride here and there? We sure did.
I am sure this is very important when you take kids to the park. But that does not make it any less important without kids. During really hot moments, I was grateful to have a fan in my bag. When the rain came down, we pulled out our ponchos. You do not have to carry an over-sized backpack and be prepared for any eventuality. But you will have much more pleasant experience if you are prepared with things like a snack, fan, poncho, water bottle, etc.
It is hot and humid in Florida. You will sweat a lot. Bring a water bottle and refill it often. There are restrooms all over the park and finding one is never a problem. So there is no excuse for not staying hydrated.
Stay on top of the latest technology
Things change all the time at Disney World. The fast-pass system is very different today from when I worked there. But it is a great tool and if used properly, can make scheduling and planning your time in the park a lot easier. Also, there are good apps out there to help you plan. Disney’s own app makes scheduling fast passes and dinner reservations a breeze. You can also check the wait times for rides.
MagicBands are a relatively new thing. Basically, they are your room key, credit card, park pass, fast pass, etc. all wrapped up in one bracelet (kind of like a cruise ship card). I think they are very cool, especially if used to their full potential. We did not use them on this particular trip. But I have used them in the past and really enjoy their ease and convenience.
Avoid character lines and the parade
Unless meeting characters and getting your picture taken with them is really your thing, I suggest you skip it. Meet and greet lines are a huge time suck. Plus, you are taking time away the kids who really do want to meet the characters.
The parade is nicely done, there is no question about that. But it can be tough to find a good spot to watch it unless you want to set up camp really early. I would rather ride the rides during the parade. The lines tend to be a lot shorter at that time.
However, stay for the fireworks
Disney spares no expense when it comes to their firework shows. They are well worth seeing. I am sure the lines are shorter for rides during this time, but I have yet to regret watching the pyrotechnics. Most people head home after the show anyway, so you can still ride a few rides afterwards with shorter lines.
Wait for the rush on Main Street to die down
Right after the firework show, the vast majority begins to exit the park. But before they go, they hit up the stores on Main Street for some final souvenir shopping. This the worst time to be on Main Street. Save yourself the trouble and go ride another ride or two. Wait for the masses to clear out and then make your way to the monorail.
Hit up a spa on your last day
No matter how easy you might take it, you are still going to spend a lot of time on your feet. And it is Florida, so the weather will be hot and humid most of the year. The combination will most likely leave you feeling exhausted. My recommendation: schedule a spa treatment on your last day. We discovered this great idea mostly by accident. However, it was the perfect way to end our fun-filled girls’ weekend at Disney World.
With a little preparation and planning, you can have an amazing Disney World experience without kids. It might not be for everyone, but where else is it okay, even encouraged, for an adult to act like a kid? Disney World really is unlike any place I have ever been. And I always leave with a smile on my face.