Empty Nesters

Walt Disney World is for people of all ages. You don't have to have children to go (unless of course you want an excuse)!!

In fact more and more Empty Nesters are making their way to the vacation kingdom each year and seeing it through a new set of eyes.

The Empty Nester series was written by Barbara Rubenstein and edited by Debra Martin Koma.
All information was current at the time the article was written.

Part I – Deciding to Go
Part II – Child-free Dining
Part III – Recreation


Empty Nesters Part I

Tired, Hungry, Cranky, Argumentative,
Thirsty, Naggy and Exasperating.

The Seven Missing Dwarfs?

No, just the gamut of frustrating situations you can encounter when traveling to Walt Disney World with children.

Like many empty-nesters, my husband and I first captured the magic of Disney through the eyes of our children. We began our annual and sometimes semi-annual intrepid travels to Walt Disney World when our children were toddlers and continued until they were well into high school.

Each Disney trip produced new experiences and always ended with anticipation of our next Disney adventure. Except for minor glitches, we always came away exhilarated, at times exhausted, but with new cherished memories.

As our children moved into their last years of high school and on to college we wondered how, or even if, we would see the Disney magic without them. A couple of years ago we ventured to Disney on our own for the first time, a little guilty at the prospect of visiting without our children. Our accommodations were not quite ready when we arrived, so we decided to have lunch in Downtown Disney.

We selected Captain Jack's, since we wanted to try somewhere that we had never before eaten. What a wonderful experience to sit quietly and ponder the selections on the menu! We lazily sat eating our lunch at our window table overlooking the water. With no one to rush us to move on to the next activity, we found ourselves taking in the wonderful view well after our meal was completed.

We ate many wonderful and interesting meals on that first trip sans children, seeing the many Disney eateries in a completely different light and sampling cuisine that our children had never been brave enough to try. We noticed the different embellishments and themes that make Disney restaurants so unique. We engaged in conversations with the waitstaff and on occasion spoke to the chefs, learning about their culinary experiences.

The many diverse shops in the Disney parks, hotels and Downtown Disney offered us another opportunity to appreciate our newfound independence. We browsed at a luxurious, leisurely pace, meandering in and out of shops that were never of interest to us as a family.

Even the change in our park touring was a revelation to us. Imagine being in a Disney park and sitting on a bench, just watching the activity swirling around you, but being in no particular hurry to go anywhere. Walking hand in hand, spontaneously selecting a ride or attraction on a simple whim. Stopping to drink in the culture of a country in Epcot's World Showcase. Visiting the Hall of Presidents with no one begrudging you. Seeing the Disney characters in passing and not frantically searching out someone's favorite one.

We discovered the other Disney, the Disney that offers golf, tennis, biking, jogging paths, health spas and gyms; even the Disney without the parks and attractions. We explored our resort and enjoyed the wonderful beaches and beautifully manicured grounds. We read a book at one of the great water parks, partaking of the slides and pools only when and if we wanted to. We sat on a balcony and actually read the newspaper that was deposited at our door in the morning. We stood on a quiet part of the Polynesian beach watching fireworks while discovering the romantic side of Disney.

We even found that you can NAP at a resort pool in the afternoon! Most importantly, though, we found a visit to Walt Disney World to be a wonderful, well-rounded and relaxing vacation.

We will always cherish the memories of our Disney vacations as a family, and chuckle at the guilt we feel when enjoying Disney on our own. On that first trip without our children, we *did* see Walt Disney World through different eyes. And when friends ask us "Why are you going to Disney when your kids are now grown?" we knowingly look at each other and smile, remembering the magic that Disney delivers.

And yes, when we return from our Disney vacations without the kids, we still anticipate and plan our *next* Disney visit with enthusiasm.

Tips for Staying at WDW Resorts *without* kids:

I VANT TO BE ALONE: When selecting your hotel or resort, request a room away from the hub of activity. We always request a room (or building, at the resorts with multiple buildings), away from the main lobby, pool and food areas. We also ask for a top floor away from the elevators. The hotels/resorts usually are happy to fulfill these requests because this is the exact opposite of what most families want. It is worth the few extra steps for us to reach these areas in exchange for more quiet accommodations, and not too many feet running by our room.

WATCHING THE WORLD GO BY: Wherever you decide to stay, take advantage of your resort/hotel. Sit in the lobby and people-watch. This is a nice respite from the day's activity. Set aside time every day to use the pool/spa. Go to the beach and marina area, rent a boat or just lay not doing anything. Sit at the bar even if you don't drink You will usually find only adults in this area. Browse in the gift shop. Make a point of visiting the concierge or guest services area to learn about all of the amenities that the particular resort offers. Most importantly, relax.

Part I – Deciding to Go
Part II – Child-free Dining
Part III – Recreation

Edited to remove outdated information