by Tiffany Rummer, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the July 10, 2007 Issue #407 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
As an avid Walt Disney World Resort fanatic, I look forward to my next Disney trip every single day. I'm a regular All Ears® reader, and scan the pages of the vast website a few times daily, catching glimpses of incredible pictures, reading interesting articles, and wishing I was eating at my favorite restaurant on property. I figure what better way to live the magic at home than to write an article and share my Disney experiences, as a solo traveler, with the All Ears® community!
Despite the fact that I am only 23 years young, I consider myself to be a Disney veteran (I have more than 30 trips under my belt). My parents started taking me when I was 6 months old, and my love for everything Disney has grown since then. After graduating from college, I decided to move to Fort Myers, Florida, to experience life, and give me an opportunity to visit my haven more often. During my five months in South Florida, I became an annual passholder, and visited as a solo traveler over a half-dozen times. For those of you who are hesitant about traveling to the Number 1 family destination alone, I am here to assure you that you will have an amazing time.
I had never stayed in a hotel alone, so that was an experience in itself. Staying on property alone is so much fun, though. I stayed at the three All-Star Resorts, along with the Pop Century Resort. I have found all of these resorts to be extremely solo friendly and absolutely safe for a lone female traveler. The cast members were very nice to me, and made me feel right at home at check-in, not treating me any differently because I was alone. While sometimes I wanted my family around (three sisters, ages 19, 7 and 5 are always fun), they were never more than a phone call away. If I was feeling lonely, I would pick up my cell phone and call my mom, telling her that I wished she were there, and rubbing it in her face that I was walking down Main Street USA (she's a fanatic like me, too).
The great thing about being a solo traveler at a value resort is being able to use the food courts whenever you please. There are many options to choose from, and you have the ability to eat in the food court, outside at the pool, or back in your room. The majority of my meals were from the food courts at the various resorts I stayed at. On my way to a park in the morning, I would grab a cup of coffee, a bagel, and hit the bus to my first destination. I found this to be the perfect way to eat breakfast as a solo traveler. Eating on the run like that allows for maximum park exposure, as well. In the evenings, on my way in from a long day at the parks, I would sometimes crave a salad, pizza, or pasta, and the food court is the best place for a midnight snack that can be enjoyed back in your room.
I find it unnecessary to eat at a table service restaurant while traveling solo. I have experienced most of them, and while they are all equally fabulous in their own right, I have much I want to accomplish on my solo trips, and sitting down and eating a nice meal is not one of my top priorities. I have no doubts that dining at a WDW table service restaurant would be perfectly comfortable as a soloist. I feel it necessary to save the table service meals for trips with my family, when I know I won't have to pay for my own dinner (thanks, Mom!). I have all of my favorite counter service restaurants picked out in each park. In the Magic Kingdom, I love sitting down in the Columbia Harbour House and having some chicken fingers and fries. The atmosphere is so wonderful, and it's usually fairly quiet. In Epcot, I head over to the Electric Umbrella for a quick bite. At Disney-MGM Studios, the Flatbread Grill is a must for me; the Greek Salad is just fabulous! And at Animal Kingdom, anywhere with a refreshing Popsicle is number 1 on my list. The great thing about traveling solo is you can eat when you want and where you want, without having to consult anyone else on the matter.
Now that hotels and food are taken care of as a solo traveler, let's move on to bus riding and park hopping! I was a little nervous about riding the WDW transportation solo, but after my first time, I realized it was a breeze. With an iPod popped into your ears, the solo treks to the parks on a bus, monorail, or boat whiz by, and in no time you're cruising your favorite park. I usually take off the iPod when I exit WDW transportation; I savor those sounds that come from the Jungle Cruise as I walk through Adventureland, or the special area-specific music played throughout World Showcase as I stroll around Epcot. There's something magical about walking down Main Street USA and hearing the hustle and bustle of excited families rushing toward their favorite attraction, show, or shopping choice. Occasionally I will stop, take a seat, and just watch and listen. People watching is so much fun, and as a solo traveler, you can plop down anywhere you like and take in the sights, sounds, and smells that the WDW Resort has to offer. One evening on a solo trip I sat in a rocking chair on the porch of the Liberty Tree Tavern, about two hours before the start of my favorite parade, SpectroMagic. I sat there for over 2.5 hours, watching the masses pass by, rocking the hours away. I even had a lovely couple take a seat next to me. We talked about our families and various trips to the World, and it was so nice to meet other Disney enthusiasts like myself (they seem to be everywhere!). It's hard to meet new people when you're traveling with family members and friends. When you go it solo, you have the opportunity to stop, smell the roses, and meet new friends along the way.
Experiencing the vast attractions solo is another easy-peasy thing to do at WDW. And on occasion, being a solo rider can have its perks. For example, on Test Track at Epcot, there is an entire line devoted to solo riders. It's much faster than the regular line, and defeats the purpose of getting a FastPass for that attraction; you can save it for the ever popular Soarin'! When I'm feeling beat at Epcot, I immediately go to Spaceship Earth, my all-time favorite. I always stop in for my first ride when I enter the park, and usually once more on my way out, to give myself a break in the dark. Listening to the soothing sounds of the narrator guiding me through time always gets me ready for a day at Epcot, or gears me up for my ride back on the crowded bus after a long day of walking around Epcot (doesn't it stand for 'Every Person Comes Out Tired?'). I have never encountered any problems or uncomfortable feelings as a solo rider. Matter of fact, it's usually a chance to meet new friends along the way, whether it be in the queue talking to your neighbor, or sitting next to a new person while taking your trip through Dinosaur in the Animal Kingdom. On a solo ride on Splash Mountain, I met the friendliest 10-year-old boy seated next to me. We had a great time getting absolutely soaked together!
Disney-MGM Studios is a great park for solo travelers, as well. During my first solo trip, I enjoyed a showing of The Voyage of the Little Mermaid on a Sunday morning. I was seated in the front row, next to a lovely family with two small children. After the show, I ventured out and grabbed a soft pretzel and sat down next to the same family on a bench. We got to chat, and I discovered that the father in the family wished he could travel to Disney solo some time; he thought it would be great fun. I assured him it was, and was on my way to the Great Movie Ride, another great attraction to take in as a soloist.
Viewing parades and fireworks is another easy task on your own. Since there is only one of you, it's much easier to get a prime spot to watch my all-time favorite parade, SpectroMagic, or the best fireworks display, Wishes! During my solo trip over Christmas during MouseFest, I sat right on the curb in front of Cinderella Castle, and awaited my favorite parade to start. After the spectacular light display, I laid down on the ground right in front of Cinderella Castle to await the start of Wishes. By the way, if you lay on your back to watch the fireworks in that particular area, be sure you have something to rest your head on. The concrete is quite hard. Who knew?!
The last fun thing I love to do as a soloist is stroll through the parks and walk in and out of the vast number of shops. While I won't buy something at every shop (even though I have to fight the urge to do so), I love the theming of the various stores, walking up and down the various aisles, looking at the beautiful snow globes or the mounds of plush toys everywhere. Taking a bus to Downtown Disney is always on my list of to-dos. I can get lost in the World of Disney for hours on end, and usually walk out with more souvenirs than I know what to do with. Luckily, I have many Disney family members that are willing to help me get rid of my Disney gifts.
When I'm a solo traveler, I love to just walk around and take everything in. As a child, I rushed from attraction to attraction, desperately wanting to get that first seat in Space Mountain, or grab the first ride of the day on Big Thunder Mountain. Nowadays, simply walking around the parks and enjoying being at WDW is enough for me. I am looking forward to my upcoming family trip, because the last few trips have been solo, but I am here to assure you that solo trips are fabulous, if you let them be!
About the Author: Tiffany Rummer hails from Columbus, Ohio, making her an Ohio State Buckeye (go Bucks!). Her first trip to WDW was at 6 months old, and she's made more than 30 trips since then. Her absolute favorite character is Cinderella, as evidenced by the fairly large tattoo on her back. When she isn't planning her next trip to the World, she is working as an administrative assistant for a large air pollution control systems company, helping to pay for her obsession of all things Disney.
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.