Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Few Solo Days

Welcome back Rebecca Farrell (@RMZFarrell) for more Disney fun!

Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to attend a conference held at the Yacht & Beach Club Convention Center at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. As part of my company’s continuing education program, I got to learn from some of the brightest minds in my industry about the intersection of social media and public relations. Fascinating stuff.

In addition to some amazing learning and networking experiences, I also had a chance to spend time in the parks SOLO – for the first time ever. Here’s how my days went with one caveat – as a frequent Disney traveler, I have a few friends in the area, so I was never 100 percent by myself – but about 75% of my trip was on my own.

Arrival day – Wednesday
Flight landed around 10:30am and I was at my resort (Boardwalk) by 12pm. After picking up my room key (I did online check in and my room was ready!), I headed for the bus stop to hit Downtown Disney to do some souvenir shopping. After waiting about 15 minutes, some other impatient people and I shared a cab (total cost for 4 people with tip - $12) and I spent a few hours wandering the shops, picking up items for friends, family and co-workers who had made special requests.  And of course I took advantage of Disney’s package shipment service back to my home resort.

Food concerns: Nobody wants to be that lame-o eating all alone, right? Pshaw! Shrug it off! I knew that they served the full menu at the bar of Rainforest Café, so I bellied up there and had some lunch. The service was just as friendly and attentive as if I had been at a table with others. The food was terrible, but it served a purpose.

After a little while longer at DTD (let’s face it, I can only shop for so long!), I decided to take the bus over to the Polynesian where I had a dining reservation for dinner and planned to watch the 8pm Wishes fireworks from the beach. Granted, it was only about 3pm at this point and I had several hours to “kill”, but sitting poolside IN FEBRUARY was fantastic. When I tired of that, I sat in the lobby, all the while reading a book on my Kindle app for iPhone.  Lucky me, I happened to be in the lobby when they did the daily torch lighting ceremony – which I’d never had a chance to experience before. Very cool stuff!

I had dinner at Kona Café that night, and it was delightful.  The server took very good care of me and I honestly didn’t care that I was on my own. I read my book, people-watched, and truly enjoyed my food.
After dinner, I went down to Captain Cooks, the Poly’s quick service location, and grabbed a Dole Whip before going out to the beach, pulling up a lounge chair, and waiting for the fireworks. I will say that it was cool on the beach, and I was glad that I had my fleece and a pool towel to keep me warm. Afterwards, I rinsed my feet in the pool – which was SO warm I didn’t want to leave – and headed inside to meet a Cast Member friend (someone I have known since grad school) for a quick hello.

Conference Day 1 – Thursday
Since I was actually at Disney to LEARN, my second day was spent in presentations and educational sessions. We did have a wonderful lunch outside on the boardwalk as well as a fantastic private event at Hollywood Studios in the evening (check my Facebook page for more details!). I got to see Fantasmic, a show I’ve only gone to once before in my 9 trips to the parks, and have dinner at the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular after the park had closed.

Conference Day 2 – Friday
The conference was scheduled for only a half day on Friday, which freed me up to hit Magic Kingdom for a few hours. As a conference attendee, I was entitled to purchase an “after 2pm” ticket – which is exactly what it sounds like. I was admitted into MK at EXACTLY 2pm and sped towards Be Our Guest for lunch. I only waited in line for about 20 minutes, but it was not a positive experience. The food was pretty lousy…I’d be willing to give the location another shot, but my expectations were NOT met. The theme of the whole castle is amazing, but they should pay more attention to the food.

Also, the park was PACKED with teenaged cheerleaders in town for the National Cheerleading Championships. As a former cheerleader myself, I certainly won’t begrudge these young girls a good time, but I’m in my late 30s now and they pretty much annoyed the beans out of me.

Being alone did free me up to do the things my husband is rarely game to do, including meeting Princess Tiana, Princess Merida, riding Jungle Cruise and finishing all of the jokes, and meeting up with a former co-worker for dinner. I had a very forgettable meal at Cosmic Rays and then rode the PeopleMover during Wishes before grabbing a Dole Whip and heading to Big Thunder for one last ride. On my way out of the park, I swung by to meet Tinkerbell and then went to the bus stop. I spent about seven and a half hours in the park, which was scheduled to close at 10pm.

Full on Fun Day – Saturday

When I had originally made my travel plans, I knew that I wanted to spend an entire day at Epcot because it was within walking distance from my resort. So that’s exactly what I did! I arrived at the International Gateway entrance around 8:40am and guests were admitted to the park at 8:50am. I waited at the bridge into World Showcase until 9:00am on the dot and was admitted to the France pavilion where I picked up a delicious chocolate croissant and coffee at the newly refurbished Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie. At about $6 for two items, I thought it was overpriced and the coffee was bitter. No matter. Breakfast in hand; I made my way to Future World and straight for Test Track! There was no wait via the single rider line, and while I did skip the whole ‘create your own vehicle’ experience, the ride itself was awesome! Gone is the corny opening video, replaced with a very TRON-like atmosphere throughout. I don’t want to give up much more information that that, you need to experience it for yourself! I hit a few more rides in Future World after that: Living with the Land, Spaceship Earth, visited the Living Seas to see the manatees. After that, it was time to head back to World Showcase, where I was on hand to be one of the first guests to enter the Mexico Pavilion at 11am to ride the Gran Fiesta Tour. Headed to Norway right after that and WALKED ON to Maelstrom – that never happens!

I spent the rest of my day at EPCOT taking in the live entertainment that I enjoy so much, namely Voices of Liberty at the American Adventure; Off Kilter in Canada and British Revolution in the UK. If you’ve never seen any of these acts, you are really and truly missing out…be sure to put them in your plans for your next trip!

I also met Tigger, Pooh, Snow White, Aladdin and Jasmine! Grabbed lunch with friends at Tangerine Café (AMAZING FOOD) and took a short break in my room in the late afternoon to check on my Magical Express reservations.

I grabbed a very quick, and late, dinner at Katsura Grill – the quick service location in the Japan pavilion – just some sushi and edamame. I also grabbed a chocolate éclair ($$$) at the bakery in France but threw it away because it was too rich.

All in all, it was a good trip for me – not the best food experiences for someone who has come to expect a lot from Disney restaurants over the years – but that was completely eclipsed by the amount of FUN I had racing around MK and Epcot on my own. I was never lonely or scared – sure I missed my hubby, but this was a good experience and one that I’d definitely tackle again if I had the chance.


  1. So fun reading about your solo time after/around the conference! I bought a conference discounted 4-day park hopper ticket for the trip. I arrived Tuesday and my friend arrived late Wednesday, so I had solo time and friend time in the parks as well. Tuesday night I had dinner at Tangerine Cafe and the veggie plate is so good! The young Moroccan men are very attentive to solo female travelers, I found. :) I also rode Test Track but I was disappointed that the big transformation was really more cosmetic. I was expecting new experiences from the ride itself. And I got to see Illuminations, which we missed on our trip with the kids because we were finishing dinner in the German beer hall restaurant.

    Wednesday morning I had free time and headed to Hollywood Studios. Being without the kids and having the map of the park somehow seared into my mind after our visit in 2011, I made very efficient use of my time, riding Rockin Rollercoaster twice, Star Tours and The Great Movie Ride. After my workshop, I had a little bit of pool time, then my friend and I met up at Animal Kingdom where we had a reservation at Boma, which never disappoints.

    Friday we had lunch at San Angel in Epcot, which was delicious! Then it was my first chance to hit Magic Kingdom on the trip, and I rode Space Mountain for the first time! Whoo hoo! What fun. Hit a bunch of rides and wandered the new Fantasyland area, had my first Dole Whip. Yum! We stayed at MK through the fireworks, which we watched from a great vantage point. We had all day Saturday as well, with a very late return flight Saturday night. We managed 3 parks in one day, using the extra magic hours in Hollywood Studios for a quick breakfast, Tower of Terror and Rockin Rollercoaster (first row, amazing ride). Then we headed to Animal Kingdom for Expedition Everest, Dinosaur and Primeval Whirl and finally back to MK.

    When we were in MK on Friday afternoon, we learned that they often have early dinner cancellations (like 4pm) at Be Our Guest. That was perfect for Saturday because we had to leave to get our bus, so we lined up at 3:30 and by 4pm we were seated in the "master's chamber" for dinner. Our food was actually quite good, I had a very nice seafood dish in puffed pastry. Perhaps give it another try for dinner (it's a splurge!).

    I do regret not having any real chill out time by the pool, but otherwise, I had such a blast being on my own and with a close friend. I can't wait to return with the kids and husband though!

  2. I went for a 10 day trip on my own in November 2012 - I loved it!!! With how friendly cast members are and other tourists to chat with, no problem being on my own. I would do it again.