The Pros and Cons of Solo Disney Travel

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Features, Park Wise

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Published on May 09, 2013 at 3:00 am with 36 Comments

In August 2012, I embarked on my first solo trip to Walt Disney World.  My little Disney geek was also headed to the World, but with his grandparents, so I was able to take my own trip guilt-free.  I snagged a last minute plane ticket, scored some discounted rooms, and I was ready to roll on my own.  While parts of my trip were not-so-solo, I was able to enjoy the solo experience as well as see some of the pros and cons of doing Disney by myself.

Since I like to end on a good note, let’s begin with my least favorite aspects of traveling solo…

1. I Missed the Family

Missing my family was definitely the biggest downside to my solo trip.  I’d run across things I knew the kids would love, and I’d feel a little tug on my heartstrings.  I’d pass by one of our traditional family photo spots and wish we were all there.  I’d see families enjoying their trip together, and I’d pout a bit.  Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the me time, but Disney is such a prominent place for our family that it was hard not to miss them.

2. No FastPass Runner

This was something I really missed compared to our group vacations.  At least one person in our party tends to skip coasters and the like, so that person usually grabs a set of FastPasses while the rest of us are screaming and throwing our hands in the air.  This saves so much time, and keeps the majority of us from criss-crossing the parks.

ŸGet Park Wise: If you didn’t score a FastPass, keep an ear out.  Sometimes cast members will call for a party of one to fill a vehicle on rides that don’t feature a single rider line.

3. No One to Chat With

While I would strike up conversations with other guests and cast members here and there, I had no one to chat with in the evenings about our favorite experience of the day.  No one to talk with over meals.  Not always someone to pass the time with in queues.  I’d occasionally be on the phone, but it’s not the same as having someone to talk to who’s experiencing the vacation with you.

But there are far more things I enjoyed…

1. I Only Had to Keep Up with Myself

No costumes to tote.  No autograph books to keep track of during the day.  No one to wake up in the morning.  I only had to worry about me.  It felt really strange to be able to sleep late at Disney.  I’m used to having to be up early and help with baths and fixing hair and coordinating outfits.  I got used to it quickly, though.  ;)

ŸGet Park Wise: Without kid gear to keep up with, consider stashing your ticket, ID and money/card in a pocket and enjoy bypassing the security line at the parks.

Private dining for one? Yes, please!

2. I Could Do What I Wanted When I Wanted

This might’ve been my favorite thing!!  If I wanted to sleep until 10:00 A.M., I did.  If I wanted to eat ice cream for lunch, I did.  If I wanted to ride Tower of Terror five times in a row, I did!  It was so much fun to be able to park hop just to ride one ride or stay out late without worrying about cranky kids or shop all afternoon just because I wanted to do it.

3. Dining is Super Easy as a Solo

I was able to get walk-up availability at every table service I approached.  It’s much easier to squeeze in one person than a party of six.  It was also a lot easier to find tables at quick service restaurants for the same reason.  Oh, and meals are a whole lot cheaper when paying for one.

A walk-up meal at one of my favorite restaurants, 50s Prime Time Cafe, was no problem as a solo diner.

4. Single Rider Lines

Yes, you can utilize these with a group, but when you’re all alone, there’s no waiting for the rest of your crew to make it through the line.  You can move on after your ride, or you can head back to the line for another go.

ŸGet Park Wise: Check out the Disney sites prior to your trip to see which attractions are currently offering a single rider line.

5. Grown-ups Night Out

A friend of mine also happened to be traveling at the same time, and she also happened to be staying at the same resort I was, the Beach Club.  Without having to worry about a babysitter (or being up early the next morning), we were able to have a girls’ night out on the Boardwalk.  I also was able to have a grown-up beverage or two while strolling the World Showcase in the evenings.

Would I do it again?  Sort of.  I’m headed back to the World for their summer Agent Education Program, and it’s for travel agents only, so I’m sort of a forced solo traveler.  I’m not so sure I’d do it again on my own volition, though.  Darn mommy guilt!

Have you done a solo Disney trip?  What did you love?  What wasn’t so good?

About Jessica Ma'ilo

Jessica is a special education teacher by day and blogger and Fairy Godmother Travel agent by evening. When not supervising play dates or sleepovers, she can be found creating, sewing or singing. She loves hitting the Disney Parks, and she and her family escape to the World and Land as often as they can. She can be contacted at [email protected], and you can also check out her family blog, Magic, Memories, Mayhem.

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  • daliseurat

    Awesome. I am ashamed to admit it, but actually PREFER doing Disney solo for most of the reasons you shared! Oh, I definitely wish my daughter was there to share the magic and my wife to share a particularly great meal, but traveling with family or a group tends to stress me out as people always move too slow or want to stray from my plan. Plus, there are things I like to do that NOBODY else should be subjected to. Yes, I might want to take pictures in one area for three hours. Yeah, I am going to “ride” the Carousel of Progress 4 times. I might really want to just ride the monorail for a couple hours. And yes, I am going to stay in the park until they kick me out. When we vacation, I always build at least one Disney day just for ME. And I always find people to chat with. Usually, I can find another person like me who is doing the solo thing and we can compare notes. The downside is that I have found a couple people who decided they wanted to hang out with me and didn’t take the hint that I was not in the mood for that.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Don’t be ashamed!! Going solo is a great way to travel!

  • tofubeast

    I had the taste of solo time recently. My husband took our two year old back to the hotel for nap and swim time and I had all of EPCOT to myself for a few hours. It was awesome. I might have the chance again due to a work conference in a few months. I would totally do Disney solo in the future for all the reasons you mention above.

    BUT—it is fun to take people who have never been and see the wonder in their eyes…

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      I absolutely love taking newbies! It’s so much fun to watch them experience everything for the first time.

      • DobbysCloset

        Once I escorted a real Nigerian courtesy of a real Nigerian scam, who paid for myself and two stepsons to spend the day chauffering him to Disneyland and then to the airport, after which we returned to the park. It was pretty cool — he only had three hours there; on our return one of the boys got doused with a root beer float on Main Street — they didn’t charge us for IT, cheapskates! Needless to say, that visit was not optimal.

        If MouseChatters can tell me how to post Dobby’s Closet Official Photo as an avatar here, please let me know via Private Message.

        Also I am thinking about Planning the Perfect Disney Vacation as part of the impetus for slogging through multiple lawsuits’ compensation, so if any travel agents have ideas, please speak up!

        Lynne Walker

  • ChrisNJ

    My first visit to Disneyland was solo and it was mostly great. It was many many years ago and I was in CA on my own. It was go alone or don’t go – that made the decision easy. The only ride that I felt completely odd on was Alice in Wonderland – being 1 person in the car made me feel like I was on display. Was I going to miss it? NEVER.

    There certainly are benefits to a solo trip as Jessica points out. If you get the chance to visit a park on your own go for it. You can then indulge yourself with something your family/friends might never want to do – photo safari, souvenir shop til you drop, snack for every meal, go on Dumbo 10 times, walk from area to area just listening to the sounds/music, study every menu, sit and do nothing more than soak it all in.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      That’s weird that they’d give you your own vehicle. Seems like they’re always trying to get as many people through as possible. Oh well, small price to pay to enjoy a great dark ride, though!

      • ChrisNJ

        I know!!! This was years ago. And while waiting in line I was hoping I’d be sharing – but nope. Still a fond but odd memory.

  • horizonsfan

    I took a solo trip to Disneyland last May, and it was my first one. I’d gone with my wife and three-year-old to Disney World that February, and she wasn’t ready to go again. I had a great time and rode favorites a crazy number of times (Pirates six times, Mansion seven, Star Tours six, etc.). It was fun to have that kind of freedom, but I have mixed feelings about it. I’m not one to just talk to random guests and cast members, so it felt different than other trips. I hadn’t been to Disneyland since I was a kid, so it was great to finally get there. However, what I really wanted to do is bring my wife and daughter there. It was fun overall and I might do it again, but it was a bit different than I expected.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      I feel ya! You’re having a great time, but you almost feel like something’s a little off without the family.

  • StevenW

    When I was single, I went to WDW solo and I got Annual Passports to Disneyland as a local. The biggest benefit of going solo is the cost. Just pay for one person. It is much cheaper. Now that I’m married with a child, the costs are ridiculously high.

    Negatives, there’s nothing holding you back. Just go, but at the same time, there’s nothing motivating you to go. It is so easy to just do nothing. I’ve seen it. I’ll skip it.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Try going with a family of six!! The price point for a solo is definitely a plus!

  • Gregg Condon

    Great article.

    I’ve done solo days at Disneyland but never at WDW. My wife and I did one trip to WDW without the kids and we had an absolute blast.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Thanks, Gregg!

  • LAZ-E

    I’ve gone to Disneyland solo a bunch of times. The first was awesome because I hadn’t been there in years and it was a slow day.

    Times after that were almost as good. The level of freedom is what really makes it great. Going totally by your own plan and schedule rules! Also, planning when to go is much nicer since you don’t need to coordinate with anyone. The main thing that is missing though, is that you lose a different part of the fun when you go by yourself; sort of like celebrating something by yourself. But going solo is a must do at some point if you haven’t already.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Sounds like you’ve had some great experiences as a solo traveler. Thanks for sharing!

  • Matthew Curtis

    i love going to WDW and universal by myself…its great with single rider lines and eating!! great read!!! tks!

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Single rider lines are AWESOME! Wish more rides used them.

  • Big D

    Hi Jessica,

    I’m a travel agent as well, and I’ve done the WDW Agent Education Program, and it’s a ton of fun (but a LOT of hotel inspections!!!). The private Illuminations dessert buffet is probably the highlight of the trip. But you don’t really travel alone because you make friends with the other travel agents and end up going out in a large group. Plus you only ever get two hours at the end of the night in the parks anyway, the rest of the time you’re either in a seminar or doing a hotel inspection, or doing a ship tour in Port Canaveral of one of the Disney Cruise Ships. The coolest thing though is that they give you the super secret ultimate fastpass, which allows you to walk up to any ride and hand them the fastpass and get right on it. When I went they gave us two per person per night. I’m actually planning on doing the WDW Master AEP this year if they offer it again.

    As for going by myself, I only like to do it for a day, so I wouldn’t want to fly to WDW and spend a few days by myself. It does get too lonely and sharing the experience with someone you care about is usually the best part of the trip. But I don’t mind doing Disneyland or DCA by myself for a day, and because none of my friends are that big of a Halloween fan, I actually prefer doing Knotts Halloween Haunt by myself (because my friends would just want to go on the rides). I’ve gone to Hawaii by myself on business a couple of times (even stayed at Aulani last year), but even with that I had business meetings to attend so it wasn’t the same as being truly on your own.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      I’m really excited!! Thanks for sharing some of your fun!

      I’m totally with you on your second paragraph. If I were a local for either coast, I’d probably hit the parks solo pretty often (well, if the little ones were otherwise occupied, of course :) ), but it does seem like a long time to be solo if I’m flying and spending a week away. Luckily, I have local friends and family at both Disneys, so if I get too lonely, I could call.

  • Amy VandenBoogert

    I almost always hit WDW solo as I’m single with no kids. I actually prefer going alone for the most part as I see everything on my timetable. No one whining about being hungry when I’m not, not wanting to go on rides or see shows that I do (and vice versa). I get there when I want and leave when I want. Eating by myself doesn’t phase me one bit and I don’t always feel the need to have to talk to someone while waiting in line (that’s when I whip out the iPhone and catch up on Twitter/Facebook or play a game to kill time). I grew up an only child, so I’m kind of a pro at finding ways to entertain myself on my lonesome. It’s something I’ve always been used to.

    But I do have friends I like to hit the parks with when I’m in the mood for group shenanigans and we always deliver on that front. Overall though, I really enjoy visiting the parks by myself. It’s just easy and stress-free for me.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Sounds like you’ve found a great balance of solo and shenanigan travel! ;)

  • Skimbob

    I have traveled solo to both DL and WDW. I am single and usually have travelled with relatives but I really enjoy the trips I do alone as well. I meet all kinds of new people and many of the CMs love to talk. I am a huge Dosney fan so I get into some really good conversations. Doing these trips has helped me to go even farther. I travelled to the Netherlands all by myself this spring and had a blast. My next solo trip will be to WDW in October for TOT 10 miler. I can hardly wait to do this race. I am also excited about having dinner again at Be Our Guest which was a great experience in January. I just barely got a reservation this time even at 180 days out.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Well, Skimbob, I’ll be there that weekend (doing the 5K…my first one!) extremely un-solo (it’s our school district’s fall break, and I’ve booked a bunch of trips for people traveling from my hometown), but maybe we’ll run into each other!

      Enjoy Be Our Guest!! We loved it in December! We’re hoping to try it for lunch this fall.

  • DobbysCloset

    For me this is such a weird thread because I have always gone alone but, next time, I will have a companion for most of my visit — Dobby, whose photo doesn’t show up here. A service dog who will spend some time in the kennel and some time in my arms making lines less claustrophobic both for me and nearby guests.

    Obviously Single Rider Line and Bathroom Use are the best perks of touring solo, but others mentioned (meals in peace, time for adult contemplation on demand) are on target as well.

    For me the best part of it is the shopping. I can spend hours shopping, looking at all the wonder of Disney in the best of the souvenirs, and buy a few magnets.

    Lynne

    • don731

      I’ve done both DLR and WDW solo. I work for the airlines, and between marriages, had a lot of free time and many non-rev opportunities. My current wife loves DLR and we are doing the park together this year, but I still enjoy solo Disney Park travel. Whether it’s relaxing on a bench for an hour watching the people go by, or riding POTC eight times in a row, it’s great to be able to relax and not follow a defined operations plan!

      Cheers,
      Don in Chicagoland

      • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

        Thanks for sharing, Don!

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Have a great trip, and enjoy your shopping time!

  • BostonMike

    I went solo once to WDW for 3 days. Trip included going to the Mickey’s Halloween party with trick-o-treat and pictures with the dwarfs. Did everything I wanted including Fantasy rides. Only time felt out of place was on Small World. I’m 6’ 2’’ and about 250 lbs and the cast member sat me in a row by myself – felt all eyes were on me.

    Lot of fun put like others who posted it was missing something – missed my family. Like going out to celebrate your birthday and you’re the only one at the party.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      First, so glad you got to go to the Halloween party! We LOVE it!! So many adults think it’s just for kids, but it’s so much fun for everyone!
      I think you hit the nail on the head with the party comment. Still fun, but seems like you’re missing something.

  • CreepyMonkey

    I think it’s great you can do the parks alone. I enjoy doing things myself all the time, usually like movies, etc. I’ve never done the parks by myself though. Right now if I tried to plan a solo trip my wife and kids would kill me.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Haha! That’s my problem, too! The little Disney geek is going to be really annoyed with me when I go for work next month. Then I will remind him that he went in March, is going to Disneyland in July and will back to WDW in October.

  • cammysan

    When I went to Disneyland back in August, I was by myself, it was really enjoyable to stroll through the parks at my own pace and do the things that I wanted to do. The only downside was that, because I was on my own, I didn’t go on some of the more thrilling attractions, and am desperately wanting to go on them before I leave the country…

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Why did you skip the thrill rides?!? Go back and do them…right now!! It may even go faster for you as a single!