I attended the Romance Writers of America annual conference last week in Orlando, Florida and couldn’t resist the opportunity to try out Walt Disney World without children in tow. It helped that Disney supplied me with two one-day passes via a press request.
In many ways, experiencing the Land of Mouse alone was seeing Disney World for the first time. So I was inspired to make a list of all the things you can do at without kids to sort out why it felt so different.
If there’s a ride that you must have right.this.second, you can get a bottle of water, a snack and settle into line, which is exactly what I did for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, my first stop on the kid-less tour. It was supposed to be an eighty minute wait without FastPass.
However, the wait was closer to thirty minutes which was plenty of time to finish my snack. (Though if you have a weak stomach, the snack may not be advisable. )
2. Appreciate the Scenery.
When I’m in line for a Disney ride with my kids, I’m not paying much attention to the ride. I’m counting heads. I have four children and I have to make sure they’re not scared or teasing each other or becoming dehydrated.
Alone, it was possible to look around and appreciate the care and skill Disney puts into maintaining the illusion of unreality inside the theme parks.
For instance, I finally noticed the show tunes piped into the central meeting area at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I’m sure the music is nothing new but I never heard it before. This time, I recognized a few songs, such as “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady.
3. Be Terrified
When I rode the Tower of Terror with the kids, I kept an eagle eye on the younger two to make sure they weren’t afraid and that they were strapped in securely. All the spooky trappings went over my head.
When I rode it by myself, I could pay attention to the theatrics. I realized “hey, this is kinda, well, terrifying.”
4. Change Your Mind
With the kids, I had to have a plan and I needed to follow through on that plan or I would soon be placating four cranky children. No second thoughts were allowed, not even when I was uncertain of riding Mission: Space at EPCOT.
With the kids with me, I had to live up to the promise I made to try this particular thing.
Without them, I could back away slowly, if needed. (Though I did love Mission: Space.)
5. Pause and Be Indecisive
Being indecisive is generally death to parenting, whether you’re at a theme park or not. It’s even worse when touring Disney because then my kids became restless and started arguing over where they want to go individually–they hardly ever agree — and suddenly, chaos reigns.
When I was alone, I could sit down, look at the map and even decide to stop walking and rest for a while.
6. Change the Criteria for Going on Rides.
With the kids, the criteria is “fast” and “lots of ooo…shiny!”
Walking around Orlando in one hundred degree summer heat, my criteria quickly devolved into being able to sit down in air-conditioning.
This is why I finally saw the Muppet 3D show that my kids dismissed as “not too exciting” on our family vacation. And, yes, it was fun. But it was also cool and dry.
7. Browse in the Gift Shops
I give my kids “the talk” before we go into any gift shop. The one that sounds like this: “Okay, I know there will be cool stuff. But we can only buy one thing and there’s a price limit, so, no you cannot have everything you want in there, no matter how cool it is.”
Once we had already bought souvenirs, I avoided gift shops entirely because taking children inside a gift shop without getting them something seems, well, mean.
Without kids, I could browse as I wanted. I even entered the glass-blowing store since I did not have to guard against my children wanting to touch the shiny but expensive objects.
8. Eat Without Being Rushed
My kids eat faster than I do especially when there are places to go and Disney to explore. It doesn’t help that my eating is usually delayed because I’m making sure they have the right food, napkins, utensils, etc.
That means if I have to eat, it must be fast. There is no time to savor anything.
This time, I had a hot fudge sundae and sat down until I was completely satisfied.
9. Avoid the Disney Characters
My younger kids, naturally, wanted their photos taken with the Disney characters. Unfortunately, the characters are usually mobbed and if you’re at a character station, you must get in line. Then there is the problem of the possible attack of shyness at the end.
Before you know it, thirty minutes are spent standing in line for photos that never happen because the little one balks at the end.
Since I didn’t crave a photo with Buzz Lightyear that badly, I could pass on this dubious pleasure.
10. Go on Kitschy Rides
But since I was touring the Magic Kingdom with a friend who shares my off-kilter sense of adventure, we went on both rides. It helped considerably that the Carousel of Progress–which I admit is hopelessly outdated–had both comfy seats and air conditioning.
In all, it was great to visit Disney World alone but what I could do without kids is completely trumped by the one thing I can do with my kids: seeing the joy reflected in their eyes as they have a great vacation.
I suspect I’m not the only parent that would prefer to see the theme parks that way.