Guest Writer Wednesday
14 Reasons For Going Solo at Disney
By: Beth Skarp
Many have asked over the years, does it really make sense to head off to Disney World or Disneyland sans the family, going solo. Having done this several times, I say emphatically—YES!! Rather than share in bits and pieces why it is a good idea, I am going to share with you my reasons, in order, of why I enjoy going solo.
First, understand that I have a very supportive and wonderful husband who insists that I take this time away. We have a house full of “permanent kids” who require our full attention 24 hours a day; 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Since our permanent kids are females, most of the care for them falls on my shoulders, for obvious reasons. Every now and again, I need to take a break in order to be a better caregiver and Mom to my special needs girls. So, we plan, we save, and once or twice a year both my husband and I take a solo trip, sans the family. His trips take him many places while my trips take me to Disney. We have been able to enjoy Disney as a couple, but with the special individual needs of our girls, it is best and easiest for taking solo trips.
So, here in order are my personal favorite reasons for going solo to Disney.
1. Lighten Up--Yes, traveling solo means most times I have only two cases, and they are rather small at that. I have an ample sized carry on case where most of my clothing goes. I then have a small checked bag. The only reason for the checked bag is because I need the room for the “liquids” that I can’t carry with me on the plane, such as my coffee creamers and my hygiene products. It also allows me to have room for any souvenirs I purchase as well as my extra shoes for walking (and I walk—LOTS!) One small suitcase to check, and one carry on. Makes it really easy for me to get where I am going to and from the airports quickly.
2. ME Time— Nope, not talking about Magical Express here, but honest to goodness time for just ME—Beth Skarp. When I take a solo trip to Disney, I get to focus on just one individual, that individual being yours truly. I get to choose where and when I want to be at any given time. And this sounds somewhat selfish, but, I get to make all the decisions that will please ME and not worry about someone else. I am not listening to “Mom will you help me with…” or “Mom, how much longer will you be in the bathroom”, or “Mom, what is to eat”. For this time, I am not a Mom, but an individual. I can run a tub of hot water, add some scented bubbles, and just relax. I can eat super early or super late or just when the mood strikes me. I have no responsibilities to anyone but ME.
3. Dress Up Time—OK, this may not mean much to most of you, but for me, it is huge. I spend so much time making sure my husband and the girls are ready to go wherever that I don’t always get the time to get me dressed and ready to go. Don’t get me wrong, I have clothes on, but they are my typical “Mom Uniform” of jeans or sweats and a t-shirt or sweatshirt. Invariably, something happens and I need to make a “before we get out the door” change. Most times something gets spilled on me, or time runs out before we need to be out the door, so it is a literal “grab and run” outfit sans makeup, jewelry or even matching socks. Going solo, I can be fashionable and not look like a typical Mom. I can put on makeup and jewelry, have a coordinated outfit, and take time to style my hair to get ready for a day of doing Disney. My Mom Uniform along with my normal white tennis shoes usually stays home, so I get to be a stylish individual for the week.
4. Stop And L-O-O-K!—I am not talking about rushing from the resorts to the parks or going from a ride to say dining or entertainment here. Rather I am calculating when we were last at a bathroom, how long it has been, and whether or not we need to find a Family or Companion bathroom yet again. I also need to make sure that I incorporate the needs and wants of not only the girls, but my husband as well. Where have we agreed we would be at this time? What shows/rides/parades were our “must see, must do” for this park on this day? What is the easiest means of getting where I need to go—both for the wheelchair, the person pushing the wheelchair, and those who are walking? Going solo, I have NO plans or schedule. I meander. I people watch. I stop for things just because. If something catches my eye, I can stop and explore it fully—including taking time to smell the flowers or roses along the pathways. Time simply doesn’t exist (except for knowing when the parks open and close). Sometimes I am able to snag a great dining reservation, so I need to know how long I have before I need to be at my dining destination. In fact, I almost don’t need a watch at all.
5. Girlfriend Time—A couple of times I have gone solo to Disney, I have been able to meet up with friends, male and female, who live in the local area. We are able to get together for dinner, touring a show or special event such as Food & Wine or the Flower and Garden Show, or taking in a park or two while enjoying the rides and attractions for the day. This time will be no exception. I am looking forward to meeting at least two of my best friends. Getting together with Disney Peeps or best friends while at Disney is always fun. And the best part, I can spend as little or as much time with my friends as I want and not have to worry about infringing on “family” time. When girlfriends can spend the night with me, even better.
6. Savor the Flavor— My family enjoys sampling new and exciting things to eat. Yep, they have eaten snails and other exotic foods and love them. However, the girls do get bored easily and can’t wait to get out and get going in the parks once again. They don’t have the patience to want to sit and savor what they are eating and enjoy every aspect of the dining experience. Also, sorry to say this, but Disney is not truly set up to accommodate wheelchairs in all of their dining venues without a bit of juggling and maneuvering on the part of the wheelchair “handler” to get the wheelchair and the diners into their venue and up to the tables comfortably. Not saying it can’t be done, but that it is truly a hassle. Going solo means I can become more adventurous and enjoy my meal. I can dine at places that don’t readily accommodate the wheelchair. I am often asked if I feel subconscious about eating alone. Rarely—if ever. There are places where you can be part of a group if you wish such as at Teppan Edo or Biergarten. Or, you can choose to enjoy eating by yourself—the choice is truly yours. Want to take your time and enjoy an appetizer fully before the main meal—you can do this. Maybe it’s me, but I like to taste then determine if I can figure out all the spices or seasonings used to make my food. And yes, I admit it. I hate to share my desserts. Some of them are just too good to share. My secret to feeling less conspicuous while dining solo…take along a small journal style notebook while dining alone. No, you don’t have to read (other diners may think you are). Rather, the journal allows me to take notes of what I have eaten and share these observations with others—like my fellow Disney lovers. And believe it or not, it also opens up dialogues between not only other Disney diners but the wait staff as well. With my Disney themed journal, diners believe I am either some celebrity food writer and ask me questions about the food, OR, I must know a bit about Disney so they ask me park or touring questions. Don’t tell, but I have had the wait staff bring me out something new or different the chef is working on, just to ask my opinions. Love this. Because I am not rushed with dinner, I can savor the flavors of what is presented to me and give a more honest review on what I am sampling.
7. Adult Drinks—Yes, I like to imbibe every now and again. Going solo, I have more freedom to do this. Since I am not worried about the time, it truly can be 5:00 anytime for me (if I want it to be). Anyone care to join me for a Lapu Lapu, Backscratcher, Gran Marnier Slushie or Rum Runner just to name a few of my favorites. And let’s not forget about the great additions that can be added to your coffee. I love the Moroccan coffees at Tangierine Café.
8. Grown Up Entertainment—There are so many places to enjoy entertainment once the parks close down. Having a wheelchair, it is hard to get into these venues comfortably without feeling crowded or on display. When your “kids” need to be in bed by around 9:30 pm or so, well, it makes it somewhat difficult to enjoy Disney after the sun goes down. Going solo, not only can I take better advantage of the evening Extra Magic Hours, I can also take advantage of the various adult lounges and nightclubs. Atlantic Dance is not one of my favorite places to be (too loud and boisterous, and I am not much of a dancer) but I do enjoy Jellyrolls. The dueling pianos are so much fun, and the crowds are lively without being boisterous. I don’t feel as if I need to be on a date or with a bunch of girlfriends in order to enjoy going here. I also enjoy YeeHaw Bob at Port Orleans Riverside (although to be honest, he can get on my nerves at times). Not a beer drinker, but I do enjoy sitting out at the Big River Grille and Brewing works while watching the happenings on the Boardwalk. Todd’s English Bluezoo Bar is also nice, but a bit upscale for my liking. Crew’s Cup or Martha’s Vineyard near Yacht & Beach Club is also a nice place to relax and just unwind. My personal favorite is to take the water taxi from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney and enjoy the happenings there. If you want something fun to do after the sun goes down, you can usually find it at Downtown Disney. Whether it is a late night movie, bowling at Splitsville or eating later than usual, Downtown Disney cranks up when the sun goes down. Have been to Cique de Soleil for their late show and then enjoyed some music, dinner and drinks at House of Blues after the show. That was really nice. If night time is your time, then you will find lots to do while at Disney.
9. Front and Center—Many times it is easier to get a single person into a show or at a prime location for a parade then it is for an entire family or group. Many times I have gone just before the show began to see if I could get in. There is most usually room for one more individual, if you are nice about the approach. If I see a spot for say Finding Nemo or Fantasmic that is closer to the action, and it appears that there is ample room, I have no problems asking, politely of course, if I can sit there. Most times it is not an issue. This is especially true if you find a family with young kids. Just offering a distraction for the kids (someone new…takes their minds off of the wait time) seems to make everyone happier. For parades, I can usually snag a spot where I can get great pictures, and not be in the way of those who have been sitting for a while or staked their claims. It really isn’t too hard to find a spot. Simply asking if you can join their group works. I can’t really say how this works for me, it just seems to work out for me.
10. Ahhhhhh…..The Spas—Yep, love me a good manicure or pedicure, not to mention a massage or bit of personal pampering. I have been to the spa at Saratoga Springs twice and absolutely loved it. At the spas, I am pampered, I am beautified, and I am truly relaxed. I feel like I am truly a new person. Oh, and if you get a treatment say a day or two before you head back to reality and home…well, let’s just say that the homecoming can be a little bit more magical and special as well if you catch my drift.
11. Shop Till You Drop (or at least until the credit card says stop)— Yes, I usually come home with a souvenir or two for the family from my trips. I love to shop, and it is hard for me to get “just something” for the girls or my husband. I want to take my time and get the perfect gift, spending the least amount possible to do this. While in the parks or resorts, I take note of what I have seen, for whom, the price, and the item number. I then prioritize what I wish to buy and plan my shopping attack. Sure, this will involve doing some running around and advanced planning for my shopping day on my part. However, if I simply don’t want to do this (or I don’t feel I have the room in my luggage to transport the items back home), I don’t. I have the item numbers and the names of the merchandise I want to purchase, including where said items were seen. It is really just a quick call to Disney Merchandising to tell them not only where I saw the item, when I saw it, how much it was, the item number (very, very helpful) and what I want. Disney does the shopping for me including shipping the package directly to my door. Best of all, Mom is once again “The Bestest Mom in the WORLD”. Can’t beat that with a stick.
12. Singles Welcome—I bet you were wondering if I went on any rides. Yep! I get to ride the ones the girls simply can’t ride or don’t really like. Fast Pass is a great idea, and I do make use of this for the rides I want to take advantage of. Another great option is the Single Rider Lines. Many rides within the parks still have these, and when they do I avail myself of this line. I have no problems at all riding with a total stranger (chances are I will not see this individual again in the parks). Also, if you keep your eyes and ears peeled, many times you will hear a Cast Member or CM saying “party of one or two”. You can then walk past others in line and ride.
13. Tours and Everything Else in the World— Disney has not only several tours but special and unique adventures as well, outside of the normal theme park attractions. These special activities fit just about any age bracket, time restraints or budget you can imagine. However, you are truly limited in what you can do when you have not only a wheelchair in your party but a member of your party who needs more attention or assistance than the tour or special activity is set up to accommodate. Going solo or as a couple, I have done many of the tours and really enjoyed them. I have done the Backstage Safari, Backstage Magic, Gardens of Wonder (during Flower & Garden show), Keys to the Kingdom, and The Magic Behind the Steam Trains tours. I have also done the Safari Breakfast as well as the Wanyama Safari Tour at Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Loved these tours. This upcoming trip, I am doing the Behind the Seeds tour as well as the Magic Kingdom to Marceline tour. Really looking forward to these. My bucket list is by no means exhausted. I would still enjoy taking in Flights of Wonder (the hot air balloon at Downtown Disney), parasailing in Bay Lake, riding a jet-ski, and yes, even taking a ride around the race track with the Richard Petty Driving Experience. We’ll see if I get these crossed off my bucket list or not.
14. I Get To Be A Kid Again!—Many who visit get to be kids or at least kids at heart. This is especially true in my case. I am not a Mom (OK, so I am always a Mom, but while I am going solo at Disney, I can relinquish that title for a while), I am not a caregiver responsible for the needs of other members of my party. I am not the planner, nor am I the one who has to say “we need to head for here to take care of this” person. I left these responsibilities at home, along with my Super Mom cape and the Mom Uniform. Instead, I am a child, an individual who gets to satisfy her wishes and desires during this time. Want to order onion rings with dinner, sure, go ahead (but don’t complain when it talks back to you in the middle of the night—besides, no one around to hear the complaints). Want to sleep until the crack of Noon so you can enjoy evening Extra Magic Hours, go ahead—who is going to report you or say anything. Want to ride Rock N Roller Coaster more than once—OK (just make sure you have the Ben Gay for later). Want to stay up late, just because you can—yep you can do that too. Whatever my inner child wants, I can do (within reason of course). After all, my body still can’t become the 20 something “kid” it keeps trying to be. The point is this…I can enjoy the simplest of pleasures again.
Being solo at Disney is definitely NOT for everyone. For me, it works—and I truly cherish my times visiting Disney alone. And you know what, while I am technically alone—I came by myself from my personal family here—I am not truly alone. I am surrounded by hundreds of others, all coming to enjoy what they can from their Happy Place. Being alone, I feel secure knowing that I am not truly alone. Assistance is there for me should I need something (which thankfully, I never have). Yes, going solo to Disney works well for me.