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The days when Disney World was ‘only for kids’ are long gone – these days, up to a third of visitors to the Disney Theme Parks are child-free! Who doesn’t like to channel their inner child, indulge in nostalgia and relive childhood memories or simply enjoy everything Disney. Almost everyone I know loves Disney movies, and everybody grew up with Disney stories, so even if you aren’t a fan of Mickey Mouse it’s likely that you have a favorite Disney character.I know several people who visited Disney World as grown-ups, spending several days exploring the parks, and I know that some friends of mine with kids are pushing for Disney vacations because they really want to go, not necessarily their kids (although, which kid doesn’t love Disney World?). Going on a grown-up vacation to Disney World is different than visiting with your family though – you’ll be interested in different rides, different food, and you will find it much easier to whiz around the park without children in tow. So how do you go about planning a trip to Disney World for grown-ups? Here are my top tips for a successful adult getaway to Disney’s Florida Theme Parks (most of these tips are also applicable to family vacations to Disney World, by the way):
Get a FastPass
This is my #1 tip, because there’s only so much standing in line with a bunch of impatient children you can stomach. You beat the queues with Disney world tickets that you can buy online before you even go, and you can choose how many days (or even weeks!) you need a ticket for. Buying advance tickets means that you have admission to all Disney Parks (including Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot Center, the Disney Water Parks, Oak Trail Golf Course, the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex, and more!) for several days, you can visit multiple parks in one day, and, best of all, you can reserve tickets for the rides you want to go on. You can choose the exact time for each ride you want to go on and simply show up there at the time you booked, instead of waiting in lines for hours – and trust me, this will make your trip so much more enjoyable. Since most of these advance tickets are valid for a week or longer (and still worth it, even if you’re only visiting parks on three or four days), it’ll also enable to take a break from the parks for a day or two, and plan other activities instead. Plus: multi-day tickets work out to be much cheaper per day than a single day ticket, and you’ll need at least four full days to visit the main parks.
Plan your trip thoroughly
Now that you have your tickets, it’s time to make a detailed plan. Don’t just show up! Disney World is gigantic, and there is no way that you can see everything, so you’ll have to plan thoroughly which attractions you want to include and which aren’t all that important for you.
Be realistic with your planning – start with six attractions per day instead of trying to cram in ten (which is impossible anyway). Research all the rides and which one you really want to go on – rides like Space Mountain, Tomorrowland and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are usually the busiest ones at Magic Kingdom; the Rock’n’Roller Coaster, the Great Movie Ride, or the Tower Of Terror are popular with grown-ups at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Look up which park the rides that sound most appealing to you are at, and then plan your itinerary and your route around your must-do attractions.
You can order a free DVD from the official Disney World website (or watch it online) which has plenty of useful information and tips on how to make your trip to Disney World a successful one. If this is your first trip to Disney, I highly recommend watching it.
Another good resource to get you started is Disneytouristblog’s Disney World Trip Planning Guide, which is regularly updated and has fantastic sample itineraries for all parks, and tips on everything from dining at Disney to where to stay.
During your time at Disney, you can always use the free My Disney World Experience app, which tells you where everything is located and also has the locations of the nearest restrooms and restaurants for you – plus wait times for rides, should you not want to opt for a Fast Ticket.
Include grown-up activities in your itinerary
There’s plenty to do near the theme parks, and you should plan some non-Disney related activities. Since you’ll be on your feet all day long on most days, a spa day might be a welcome change. You can spend one day golfing or mini golfing, include a beach day, lounge by the pool, or take a day trip. There is plenty to see in Central Florida! If you enjoy cocktails, why not head on the Disney Monorail Bar Crawl, which doesn’t only make for some excellent drink experiences, but also allows you to see the various Disney resorts (and their bars, of course) even if you don’t stay there. You can find more information on it in this Yahoo article. If you’re into food, you might want to plan some elaborate dinners – while the food inside the park is mostly average theme park fare (and not very healthy) there are some great restaurants in the Disney hotels and around the park. Orlando is in fact a fantastic destination for foodies! Looking into the restaurant options before your trip and reading some recent reviews will help you make your trip much better (especially if you’re a foodie like me, and food can make or break a trip for you!). There are lots of upscale options, but reasonably priced eateries with excellent reviews can also be found.
Epcot is a must-visit, of course, but can be made into a great travel-the-whole-world-in-one-day experience with lots of international foods to try – and a great place for a travel-themed scavenger hunt for grown-ups.
If you feel adventurous, sign up for the Wild Africa Trek, an animal-filled three-hour guided trek through Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park with lots of exotic animals, and that has you hike through jungle forests, cross rope bridges and have close wildlife encounters that make you think you’re on safari in Africa and not in a Florida theme park.
Avoid school vacation time
Since you’re planning a Disney World getaway for grown-ups, you are luckier than families planning a trip to Disney – you can actually avoid visiting during school holidays! Make sure to check U.S. vacation times before you book anything, and avoid universal holidays such as the Christmas and Easter break at all costs. If you are able to visit during off season, say in November or March, and on weekdays instead of weekends – perfect! You’ll beat the crowds, get better rates for accommodation and have a much more enjoyable experience all around, and this being Florida, the weather will still be pleasant.
Plan wisely where you’ll stay
There are several Disney-owned hotels in the imminent vicinity of the theme parks, but their price tag is quite hefty. Since you’re able to travel in off-peak times though, you might be able to snatch a great deal on one of the many hotel booking websites out there. If not, find out which of the Orlando hotels offer free shuttles to the parks (most hotels do), otherwise you end up spending lots of money for taxis or for parking, should you decide to rent a car. An advantage of staying in one of the Disney hotels is that you’ll get early access to select parks, and you can stay longer than the regular opening hours. An invaluable benefit if you’re pressed for time! Disney’s free Magical Express even offers complimentary shuttle services to and from the airport to select hotels – see if you can find a good deal for one of these hotels. If you’re looking to save money, make sure to research hotels with a decent breakfast buffet (included in the room rate), and several hotels have free dining options that can save you lots of money, considering that most Disney restaurants aren’t cheap.
Airbnb vs hotel
If you’re traveling with a larger group, you may also consider staying in an Airbnb. That way, you can share an entire apartment or house rather than staying in hotel rooms. Renting an apartment also has the advantage that you’ll have a kitchen which means you’ll be able to make your own meals – a big money saver! Many apartment buildings and houses also have a pool, and having a private pool instead of having to share a hotel pool is so much nicer. Splitting the cost for a big apartment between several people also means that it is usually cheaper than paying for hotel rooms. Another advantage of staying in an Airbnb on your “Disney World for grown-ups trip”: you won’t have to deal with the noise of children! Check out some Airbnb’s in Orlando here:
Save money: If you don’t have an Airbnb account yet, use my referral code to sign up and get up to $40 off your first booking.