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One is NOT the Loneliest Number!
by Lori Wedeking, Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the March 19, 2002, Issue #130 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
People ask me all the time, "Do you really go to Walt Disney World alone?"
When I tell them yes, then they ask, "Will I have fun if I go alone?"
Well, I tell them, that's up to you.
Going alone to Walt Disney World is not a barrier to having fun. Going alone means you can do what you want to do when you want to do it, and that's a very rare treat for adults who carry many demands and roles the rest of the time. I have been to Walt Disney World a dozen times, four of those times by myself. In fact, two of the "alone times" were for more than a week!
As a single mom of two now-adult children, I've traveled alone frequently for business and pleasure, but the first time I set off to Walt Disney World by myself even I wondered if it would be fun without kids. I soon noticed, though, that there are plenty of kids all around!! You can share in the joy children feel when meeting their favorite characters at a distance, and at the same time be grateful that the toddler in total meltdown or the pre-teenager who is complaining that everything is boring doesn't belong with you.
Most of the things one does at Walt Disney World, like the rides, are very easy to do alone. Parades and shows are in fact already shared with the many others around you, and, if you want, it's easy to engage nearby folks in conversation. I was waiting for the Animal Kingdom's new Jammin' Jungle Parade when another woman asked if she could share the bench with me. We quickly learned we were both traveling alone and loving it. She had come to Florida with friends, but they wanted to sit in the sun by the pool, while she wanted to see the parks, so she was off on her own each day.
There's nothing like traveling alone for true relaxation. Sitting out on the room's balcony always seems very luxurious to me. But if the isolation of your room loses its appeal, there are many other places to go. All Disney resorts have pool areas, and the food courts sometimes can be relaxing during off-peak times. I enjoy, for example, sitting by the water wheel in the Port Orleans-Riverside food court. There is something very relaxing about that. The deluxe resorts all have wonderfully decorated lobbies with many comfortable chairs.
My idea of an "adult nap" is to get an ice cream cone or sundae from Beaches and Cream (at the Beach Club Resort) and then wander along to the rocking chairs on the Yacht Club verandah. It is very relaxing to sit there and hear the happy shouts of the children in Stormalong Bay. A quiet place I've discovered are the rocking chairs at Crockett's Tavern at Fort Wilderness. At 11 a.m. it was very quiet, just a few folks walking along to River Country. It had a very quiet, Sunday afternoon feeling, even though it was a Thursday!
And let's not forget one of the best solo activities. I'm a woman with completely intact shopping genes, and shopping certainly can be done alone -- in fact, it's more fun alone than with a reluctant companion.
If you want a break from all the solitude, and want to spend some time with people, you could always try taking a tour. Tours, besides being interesting, are a good way to talk and interact with others interested in some of the same things as you. My experience is that the guide always begins the tour with an activity designed to break the ice in a non-threatening manner. On the Backstage Safari Tour, the guide asked us to say our name, hometown, and favorite animal. You can quickly discover someone from your home state, but at the same time, aren't asked to disclose anything that might make you feel insecure.
One of my favorite parts of traveling alone is the opportunity it affords me to meet people I wouldn't encounter if I was traveling with a companion or group. When traveling with others, conversation and interaction tends to stay within that group. Alone, you are more likely and better able to reach out or have opportunities come your way. For example, when I took the Keys to the Kingdom tour, the guide slipped into the Haunted Mansion dune buggy with me, allowing us to have one-on-one time.
If you're by yourself, you may be placed with another guest on rides. On my most recent trip, I met a most delightful 10-year-old boy from England on Splash Mountain when the Cast Member directed me to fill in an open space. Not too long ago, I was sitting alone in the rocking chairs in front of the fire in the Wilderness Lodge and was joined by a couple. In this cozy setting, we started talking easily, and I heard all about the surprise 50th wedding anniversary gift their children had given them -- the kids had sent a limo to their home in Vero Beach to pick them up for a stay at the Grand Floridian, complete with dinner at Victoria & Albert's. What a wonderful story! One afternoon, after the parade in the Magic Kingdom, I spotted some folks sitting along the walk in Frontierland. One of the gentlemen was wearing a hat from my home state university, so I walked over and asked if it was genuine. As we visited, we quickly discovered more in common than I ever could have imagined. This man not only worked in my Minnesota hometown when I was in grade school, but he remembered my late father! This was a true Disney moment that probably would not have happened had I been traveling with my two grandchildren.
I have also found that some of the special Disney touches come my way even as a single traveler. It should have been easy for housekeeping to recognize that there weren't children in my room, but that didn't prevent them from treating me to some fun tricks. I came home one day to discover mysterious washcloth bunnies had captured my toothbrush, toothpaste and lipstick. Another day my hairbrush plus another washcloth had been turned into another critter.
Obviously, there are some things you can't do when you're traveling solo, like taking a picture of yourself. I have found, though, that other guests and Cast Members are usually more than willing to take a photo for me. Handling luggage is sometimes hard to manage alone, but the moderate and deluxe Disney Resorts have bell service.
There are some other drawbacks to traveling alone, but I think they are easily overcome. For example, when I anticipate a long wait, such as waiting for Fantasmic, I carry along a paperback book. It is a real pleasure to read for 30 minutes rather than concentrate on the fact that I'm sitting on my own.
Dining alone can be an unnerving experience in some places, but I don't find it to be so at Walt Disney World. I've never perceived that service was poor because I was alone, and there is only one Walt Disney World restaurant where I felt I got a bad table because I was a single guest. At the rest -- from Jiko to Tony's Town Square -- I've always been seated in locations that I'm pleased with. Treating me well is part of the Disney principle of Courtesy. Another thing that makes dining solo easier at Walt Disney World is that there's so much to occupy you -- there's usually so much decor and theming to look at, plus the people-watching is wonderful. A nice meal flies by before you know it. Lounges, too, are well lit, and usually designed to be a showplace, so there are plenty of Cast Members around -- they don't feel like intimidating places to a person traveling alone.
Women traveling alone are certainly wise to think about security, but traveling around Disney doesn't take anything more than usual "street smarts." In many ways, traveling alone around Walt Disney World is actually easier than traveling solo in many other places. For one thing, I use a town car between the airport and Disney, so don't have to worry about a rental car, getting gas for the return trip, or any problems with someone targeting a rental car. I leave home everything but my American Express card, my check card and ID. I stick a few dollars in my pocket every morning for minor purchases, but use Disney room charging privileges for other purchases, so have little need to be in and out of my bag for money or credit cards. I wear a lanyard for my annual pass, and use that, too, for stowing away FastPasses. At nighttime most areas are well-lit, and there are usually many others out and about, so that you're not walking in dark, isolated spots. At check-in, Disney, like other good hotels, takes care not to announce your room assignment verbally at the desk, and I have found doors to have adequate security measures, like double locks and peepholes.
So, yes, I think you *will* have fun if you go to Walt Disney World alone. If you fear you might not enjoy an extended stay, try taking off for just a day by yourself as a trial run. Soon you, too, you will be relishing the delight of doing what you want each moment, whether that is going on a ride, enjoying the flowers, or savoring a cup of coffee on your balcony overlooking the World.
What are your tips and ideas for going Solo to WDW? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org One lucky email will be selected at random to win a brand new Passporter WDW 2002 book!
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.