Some adults think they need a toddler in tow to justify a trip to Walt Disney World. I’m here to tell you it’s just not true. Disney isn’t just for the kids.
My husband and I were invited to visit the theme park, and because our kids are in their early 20s, we decided to visit as two generations of adults to see what Walt Disney World has to offer (spoiler alert: Everything!).
Before we even booked plane tickets, we downloaded the My Disney Experience mobile app. My Disney Experience is your guide to all things Walt Disney World, from your resort reservations and theme park tickets, to securing your timed FastPasses for the express lane at most rides. You can start to plan your itinerary in the app 60 days prior to arriving in the park, and trust us, you should. Make your meal reservations and book your must-have FastPasses early in order to avoid disappointment. (A note about FastPasses: You are given three FastPasses at the start of every day and they must be booked for the same park. Once you use up your FastPasses, you can book single passes in any park, provided you have a parkhopper pass.)
When we arrived at the Orlando airport, we took the Minnie Van Airport Shuttle Service. This is a new offering from Walt Disney World; it’s a personal van that can accommodate up to six guests and sets a fun mood because it’s decked out in a Minnie Mouse theme.
Our resort, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, is a charming lakeside resort modeled after a seaside bed- and-breakfast inn circa 1940. Benefit: Epcot is less than a mile away by ferry, or a 15-minute walk along Disney’s boardwalk.
At check-in, we received our Magic Bands, which connected us to our Disney Experience account. Magic Bands provide entry into the parks, check in at FastPass entrances, identify Disney PhotoPass photos, unlock Disney Resort hotel rooms and charge purchases to rooms. There’s a reason they’re called Magic Bands!
We were set to go. Our phones were charged, we donned our Magic Bands and we were on our way.
We thought of all the fun we had children and realized we could multiply that by 100 as grown-ups. We could seamlessly move around the park, enjoy the shows and make plans without the worry of naptime or cranky kids. Disney World has successfully incorporated the adult experience into its family friendly fold. As adults, we had a greater appreciation for the details and the true creativity of the parks.
We did all four parks in three days. At the end of each day, we visited Disney Springs. This is home to great dining (from food trucks to fine dining), loads of stores and fun entertainment.
WHAT WE GROWN-UPS LOVED
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park: The Avatar Flight of Passage—simply amazing—and the calmer Na’vi River Journey. Both are in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Use FastPasses if you can, as the lines get quite long. Kilimanjaro Safari is also a favourite.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios: The new Toy Story Land is amazing. My husband loved the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster and the Alien Swirling Saucers. I loved the Toy Story Mania. It’s a competitive ride, which is right up my alley. Our adult kids loved the The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, too. (I stayed behind. No terror for me, thank you very much.)
- Magic Kingdom: Haunted Mansion (of course), Peter Pan’s Flight, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain.
- Epcot: Soarin’ Around the World (my favourite), Test Track and for the evening, the Illuminations: Reflections on Earth fireworks show.
- Visit the Disneyworld.ca Special Offers page for potential offers and discounts.
- Stay at least four nights (five days) so you can see all the parks and still have some fun at the hotel (all the on-site resorts have pools).
- Pace yourselves because the parks can be very tiring for all ages.
- Be aware of off-season dates. These tend to vary depending on the hotel, although value season generally means January through mid-February, late August through late September, and early November through late December.
- Consider how much time you are going to spend at your hotel, as you don’t want to pay for a place with great perks if you are not going to use them.
- Find out the cutoff age for kids to stay free in parents’ rooms—it varies.
- Compare costs of staying off-property with staying on-property. Factor in the time, money and inconvenience of getting to and from attractions on your own. Complimentary buses travel regularly from the four theme parks and water parks to all Disney resorts on-property.
Staying in one of Disney’s many resorts may seem more expensive, but in the end, we found it well worth it. It makes it so much easier to visit all the parks through Disney’s ideal transportation system, the Extra Magic Hours perk, and Disney’s Magical Express (complimentary airport transportation).
You can approach your visits in a variety of ways, from being on hand when the park opens, to a leisurely visit later in the day so you can stay throughout the evening and enjoy the spectacular fireworks.
Check out the park guide map early and take the time to map out your route the day before. Some people start at the back of the park and work their way forward.
If you’re travelling with small kids, find out the height requirements to avoid meltdowns.
Mark the washrooms and where and when to stop for snacks, lunch and dinner. It all makes for an easier and more efficient use of your time.
Remember, Walt Disney World is a staggeringly large place (roughly 40 square miles!). So, be prudent, create an itinerary so everyone gets to visit their favourite spots and have fun. After all, you are in the place where dreams come true.
Originally published in our Spring 2019 issue. Photos courtesy of Jane Bradley and David Roark via Walt Disney World.