Talk of Disney World vacations often conjures up images of happy families, kids napping in strollers, little ones in princess and pirate attire. But solo travel to Disney World is still common, especially given how popular it is as a conference destination. What to do if you find yourself all alone in Disney World, either during a conference break, or due to a change in travel plans or a sick travel companion? Have the best time ever, of course. I love Disney World vacations with my family, but solo trips are fantastic, too. I’ve got some tips on making the most out of Disney World solo trips. You might enjoy it so much that you never want to take anyone with you again…
Search for Hidden Mickeys
Hidden Mickeys are subtle Mickey Mouse-shaped designs either deliberately or accidentally found around the parks. And, sure, kids love looking for them, too. But when you’re on your own, you can set a goal and follow your own path to find as many as possible You can look on your own, or you can use a guide. My favorite take-with-you guide is Hidden Mickeys: A Guide to Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets. There are also apps and websites you can use if you don’t want to carry a paper guide with you. I just like being able to check off the Mickeys I find along the way.
Eat the Food You Want to Eat
I have several picky eaters in my family and they aren’t all kids. That means that before choosing a restaurant, I need to read the menu and make sure there are options for each person in the family. We also have a child with food allergies and, while Disney is incredibly accommodating, there are some restaurants that just make less sense for us to visit. When traveling on my own, I can eat where I want when I want. Because guess what? It’s also a lot easier to make a dinner reservation for one!
My favorite full-service spots for dining solo are:
Jiko – The Cooking Place – Jiko is situated in the Animal Kingdom Lodge and has the most divine food. It’s on the pricier side, so dining here solo is both less expensive and less stressful (without my husband eyeing the prices). There will still be families present, but if you’re looking for a quieter meal, this is a good option. Do be warned that it has a certain romantic vibe, so if you’re just out of a big breakup or prone to feeling lonely, this may not be the spot for you.
PrimeTime Cafe – I’ve seen people say this is an awful choice for dining during a Disney World solo trip, but I wholeheartedly disagree. If you’re someone who doesn’t like eating alone, PrimeTime Cafe in Hollywood Studios is a great choice. Why? Because the wait staff are meant to engage with you more than at other restaurants. They’ll sit down at the table to chat for a bit and treat you like you’re one of the family. In fact, that’s the point. This 50’s diner-style spot is supposed to feel like dinner at mom’s house. You may end up with a lecture on eating your veggies, and that’s all part of the fun. But I’ve also found that many families embrace the vibe and engage with the tables around them meaning that you might just find yourself adopted into another tribe for dinner. **If you’re not feeling like sitting among the families, there is seating at the bar in the Tune-In Lounge, where the full menu is available.
Connect with Other People
I’m an introvert. I like having time to be in my own head having my own thoughts. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like getting to know other people. So whether you’re an extrovert craving human interaction or just a friendly introvert with some time on your hands, Disney World is a great place to connect with other people.
First and foremost are the cast members. They are always willing to have a quick chat. If you know you’re going to be feeling lonely, ask for a “Celebration” pin at Guest Services (or at your hotel). Have them write, “First Solo Visit” on it. I find that a unique “Celebration” pin always catches the eye of Cast Members and gives them a way to start a conversation with you. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Engage with the family next to you in line. Ask folks at the next table over for dinner suggestions. On my last trip, I watched a couple of women strike up a conversation with the guy eating on his own at the next table over. He gave them suggestions on what to order and even offered them some samples of his meal! The next day, I saw the same two women and approached them to say Hi. We had a nice chat before heading our separate ways.
My picture with Chewbacca is a bit of a joke, but you’ll find that most of the characters are just as thoughtful with solo adults as they are with adoring 4-year-olds. Don’t be shy!
Take a Tour
Unless you’re a pretty serious Disney World fan, you may not even know about the wide range of tours and special experiences the parks offer. You can swim with dolphins, learn more about the trains, or get an in-depth behind-the-scenes view of the parks. If you’ve got solo time in the parks, a tour is a great choice, especially if you prefer to be with other people. Not only can you learn something, but you get a special insider view.
- Backstage Magic – I highly recommend the Backstage Magic tour, which brings you behind the scenes in several Disney World parks, through the underground “utilidors” and into the places where the magic happens like the costume shop. That’s a 7-hour tour and is currently $275pp (adults only).
- Keys to the Kingdom – If Backstage Magic is out of your budget, the Keys to the Kingdom tour is 5 hours and focuses solely on the Magic Kingdom. It’s $99. Both tours also require park admission.
- Behind the Seeds – For a last-minute, budget-friendly option, I’d also recommend the Behind the Seeds tour in EPCOT. It’s just $25 for adults (it’s open to kids, too, but you’re solo, remember?). Behind the Seeds is an hour-long walking tour in The Land pavilion and it takes you behind the scenes of the Living with the Land boat ride. This is a quick option and you usually don’t need to plan ahead, although I’d recommend heading over earlier in the day if the park is crowded. Plus, it’s pretty cool to wave to the people riding by on the boats!
There’s no reason why you have to spend your trip in one of the parks. I am not a big spa person, although I’m all about the occasional facial. If you are, this is your chance. Disney World has several spas so you can make the most of your solo vibe.
Take Time to Smell the Roses
And check out the decor. When you’re traveling with other people, especially kids, you’re often racing from attraction to attraction with barely any time to breathe. One of the nicest things about traveling on your own is that you can stop to examine the details on a fountain or mosaic. The Imagineers have put a lot of time and effort into every small detail, so it’s worth your time to slow down and pay attention. But sometimes, the best moments are the spontaneous ones. On a rainy day at the Magic Kingdom, I spotted this duck living it up in the puddles and couldn’t help but stop and watch him enjoy his own Disney vacation.
Solo travel isn’t for everyone, but Disney World makes it easy. Definitely give it a shot if you have the opportunity. You may be surprised by how much fun you have.
Have you done a Disney World solo trip? What are your favorite tips?
Disclosure: Although this is not a sponsored post, we have received free and/or discounted tickets and lodging from Walt Disney World in the past. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions are my own.