I recently went on a trip to Disney World in Orlando as an adult without any children. The experience was so much better than I imagined. I’m going to cover 9 of the things I wish I had known before we went to Disney World without kids.
The 90’s Disney World Ad That Started It All
As a child, my parents had a collection of Disney movies on VHS and I watched them pretty much constantly. There was this one specific advertisement for Disney World on quite a few of my favorite tapes, and I really believe that’s what stoked my heart’s desire to go there.
Here is the ad. Warning: It’s adorable and very 90’s:
Maybe it was the older brother’s sensible advice or the idea of packing to go somewhere where “dreams come true,” but my heart was hooked and I needed to make the trip. I literally wished to go to Disney World on all my birthday cakes from that point forward. I knew it would be special.
My family had the opportunity to go to Disney World when I was in 7th grade (I was 11, my brother was 7 and my sister was 5 or 6). It was a miracle in the little world of Emily, and a completely amazing experience. Luckily, I was also old enough to remember a lot of it!
And while that trip still holds some of my absolute favorite memories with my family, I can’t say it quenched my desire for Disney. I knew I needed to go back again — and I knew I wanted to do it as a grown up human without any children. My husbands and I made the trip this year, and it was 100% worth it.
9 Things We Learned on a Disney World Trip Without Kids
Now that I am back, and I have already been soaking in the memories of the trip non-stop for a few days, I am going to write down a few of the things my husband and I both wished we had known before we left. These aren’t deal breakers, but they are either things we did right by chance, or things we could have done to make the trip even more magical.
1) Use the Disney World App – Fast Passes & Scheduling
Before I talk about the Disney World app for this and the next two tips, I have to say that I am not someone who often puts faith in technology. I was fully prepared for this app to be clunky and inconvenient — more of a gimmick than anything. However, in classic Disney style, this app was really quite well put together.
We first started interacting with the app when we were trying to find a way to see our scheduled fast passes and dinner reservations. The home screen on the app not only displays your next “appointment” but opens up to a daily calendar that allows you to see everything you have scheduled for each day of your trip.
We quickly realized we can also schedule and cancel new fast passes from the app. It made it possible for us to get on almost every ride without having to wait in line for more than 20 minutes.
2) Use the Disney World App – Food
The next great thing about the app was the added convenience of ordering food. We were never really sure what we wanted to eat, and often times we were each interested in a different counter service option. Ordering food with the app made this incredibly easy, as we could order while waiting in line for a ride, get off the ride and walk to the restaurant, hit the “I’m here” button, and have our food within 5 minutes.
Being able to look at the menus and to order the food from any counter service location through the app saved us time standing in line — not to mention lots of frustration in trying to decide what we wanted to eat in a hurry.
The app saved us from what could have been several sweaty and hangry arguments over lunch.
3) Use the Disney World App – Navigating the Park
This is probably the most important reason to get the Disney World app. Not only does the app offer a digital map of each of the parks (and surrounding resorts), but can be filtered to show information about the restaurants, wait times for rides, character meeting locations, restrooms, and gift shops.
Because we were without any kids and we were not in the mood to stand in long lines with the high temperatures and humidity, we took advantage of the digital maps. We would lay out the strategy for the day and use the app to change plans on the spot, rather than having to walk and see that wait time sign hung up over the entrance to the ride.
Again, this added convenience may not be a surprise to everyone, but I never expect technology to save the day. On a trip to Disney World, however, the app is a game changer.
4) Sign up for Fast Passes as Early as Possible
Now, every seasoned veteran of Disney World knows that scheduling fast passes should be done as early as possible. However, this is especially important if there are new rides or attractions you are hoping to snag a seat on. We didn’t dibs our fast passes as early as we could have, so we were unable to get one for some of the newer attractions (Frozen Ever After, and Flight of Passage) and had to stand in some lengthy lines.
Had we taken advantage of our 60-day head start in choosing fast passes, we might have avoided those long lines and could have potentially gotten to experience them more than once in the time we ended up spending in line.
5) Wear Quality Walking Shoes
This is common sense, but I saw so many people making those long treks across Epcot in flip flops. Why torture yourself? Put on some comfortable tennies — even with nice walking shoes on, my feet hurt by the end of the day.
As someone with activity induced knee pain, I was definitely planning to wear supportive shoes. It’s not as cute or stylish, but my knees, my back, and my feet were glad I made that call. The only downside to tennis shoes, is of course, if it rains really hard while you’re out and about. My husband and I both commented that it might have been a good idea to bring two pairs of tennies on the trip in case one got soaked, but we ended up just throwing some sandals in our “day bag” to put on if the rain really started coming down.
6) Evening Extra Magic Hours = The Best
Extra Magic Hours are a special hour or two in the Disney park either before or after it officially opens or closes. These hours are only available for guests of the Disney Resort Hotels and are not available for every park every day. There are die-hard Disney people out there who are going to get up at 6:00am to stand outside the park gates at 7:00am to be able to use their Extra Magic Hour from 8:00am-9:00am. We were not those people. In fact, we realized pretty early on in the trip that the nighttime Extra Magic Hours are a much better option for adults without kids.
First of all, kids are usually not up for staying at the Disney parks past 9:00pm, or for staying till 11:00pm when the Extra Magic Hours end. That means you get at least an hour with only about 1/3 of the screaming toddlers/kids that were there in the morning and afternoon. Secondly, all of the Disney parks are gorgeous at night (ex: that picture of Magic Kingdom up top). The attention to detail that goes into the lighting of these parks is astounding, and something that’s definitely worth staying out for if you get the chance. All that said, as two adults without kids in tow, the nighttime Extra Magic Hours were definitely the better option.
7) Keep Your Mind Open
Nobody has to talk me into finding fun in things that kids love. I am a big kid at heart. However, throughout the trip my husband and I both overheard people who seemed to think they were too old or “cool” for whatever they were doing. Whether it was a dad who was unimpressed with the animatronics on the new Frozen Ever After ride, or a teenage daughter rolling her eyes at a younger sibling who excitedly pointed at a character meet and greet opportunity — there were people at Disney who lost touch with the joy of the experience.
Keeping an open mind and enjoying the experience and all of the effort that goes into making Disney World such a special place means putting aside your inner grump or cool kid. While this wasn’t a problem for us to overcome, I would say to anyone planning the trip as an adult to decide ahead of time to keep an open mind.
8) Prioritize Your Favorites
Everyone said to us before we went, “you won’t be able to do it all!” and they weren’t completely incorrect. However, I think that a little prioritization and strategy goes a long way in Disney World. We made it to all of our top choices without much stress or time waiting in lines. Fast passes were certainly a part of making things efficient, but the other part was having some flexibility and being willing to change plans.
We planned which park we were going to be at for the majority of every day, and tried to get fast passes for any of our favorite rides there, but the rest of the time was left open to whatever we wanted to do. We walked through gift shops and grabbed snacks. We’d hop on lower priority rides whenever we saw the wait time was short, even if it wasn’t in “the plan.” As with many things, I believe that over-planning can take away from some of the fun, and when you are in Disney World as an adult without any kids along, there’s no need to rush around or even go on rides if you are enjoying the time just walking around.
9) Consider Eating Outside of the Parks
Many people save a TON of cash by bringing their own food along to Disney World (especially if they have kids). We decided before we left that we weren’t going to worry about trying to bring anything along — so we just ate wherever we wanted and whatever fit into our schedule. It was insanely expensive, but felt very special and fun. We were also lucky to have been at Disney World during the Food and Wine Festival in Epcot, which means that there were even more choices for food than usual.
However, our favorite meals were the ones we got when we ate at our resort and at neighboring resorts outside of the Disney parks. We splurged one night at The Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club Resort, and then walked over to Kimonos for sushi at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. Both of those meals were exceptionally good, and made for a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the parks.
So there you have it. We planned our trip and had a truly wonderful time in a place that is really like nowhere else. I can’t begin to explain all of the ways Disney World has affected my little world, but I can definitely say that I am looking forward to sharing the experience with my kids someday. I hope I get the opportunity to show them that growing older doesn’t mean giving up the things that made your heart happy as a child.
The Most Magical Part of the Trip: Love
I can’t end this without highlighting one of the best parts about this trip to Disney World.
My husband doesn’t sing along with “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and “Part of Your World” like I have since I was a little girl. He doesn’t know all the lines to that Disney advertisement from the VHS tapes, or even remember very much from his childhood trip to Disney World with his family.
However, from the moment he and I met, he understood and was excited about my dream to go back to Disney World. His motivation wasn’t based on his own dream, but on being able to share in mine. Of course he had a great time once he was there, but he never questioned or rolled his eyes at my enthusiasm. He saw something that made me happy, got on board, gave up a lot of time and money, and made it reality for us.
Without his support, encouragement, and willingness to join in on something that so many people would see as childish and silly, I don’t think this trip would have been nearly as magical.
We all have things that make us feel joy and excitement, and it means the world when the people are love are willing to share in those things. I feel so incredibly blessed to have married a man with a heart for sharing in what I am passionate about. I’m always amazed at how much we can enjoy an event or project just because we are sharing in someone else’s happiness. It’s love, and it’s truly warm and cozy.