A Real Grown-ups Survival Guide to Disney World for the Mostly Disinterested
There are a lot of guides out there for adults who are planning to visit Disney World without children. As I have been planning my most recent trip down there, I have found these guides to be rather useless. The problem is that many of these guides operate under the following assumptions: a) I’m rich b) I like to golf and c) everyone in my party loves Disney. I know that is might be hard for us Disney-philes to understand, but it is very possible for a person to visit a Disney Park and not really be all that into Disney movies, characters, music, and whatever new thing The Mouse and his minions are providing for us to throw our money at.
As you read this post, I am (hopefully) down in Florida, literally rolling around is all the sugary sweet Disney goodness...because that’s the kind of girl I am. Along with me however, are The Boy, Tiny Doom, and her partner in matrimony, the Goog. Neither Tiny Doom nor The Goog hold a candle for the Disney Parks like The Boy and I do, so part of the challenge in planning this trip has been to find a decent balance. How do grown-ups with varying levels of interest in Disney enjoy a vacation together? Well, here is a list of what I have been focusing on.
1) Bring an expert. Well, maybe I’m not an expert, but I believe this trip to be my 6th trip to Disney World and the last one was only 2 years ago. As the most enthusiastic Disney-fan on the trip, it was easy to make me in charge. I had a plan, I had a mission, and I was pretty much able to plan the entire thing in a few days, leaving Tiny Doom and The Goog to merely follow my instructions. For example “Call Disney, give them the reservation number I created for you and confirm everything. Oh, and don’t forget to count the number of times they say ‘magical.’”
This has worked really well for us because then it’s just a matter of bouncing ideas back and forth without any other members of the party having to deal with Disney’s various reservation systems. Instead, I shared schedules for feedback, used my pin code discount for both reservations, and provided honest assessments of restaurants and attractions that I felt would suit our group. Drive-In Sci Fi themed burger place? YAY! Victoria and Albert’s? Nay!
For those who do not have an expert to go to, there are a million blogs and websites out there that are very helpful. If doing all that research feels like a pain, there are also travel agencies that specialize in custom Disney Trips. Oh, and of course, you could ask me! No really, if you send a Disney question to the blog, I would be shocked if Cartoon Sara or myself couldn’t help you out.
2) Explore the “darker” or “weirder” side of Disney. As much as Disney would like you to believe that everything is magic and light at their parks, there are also some interesting things that get a bit glossed over by those who are paid to tow the magical-line. Walt Disney himself, while also a creative genius was also very into control. A little reading on the original plans for EPCOT reveals a plan for a community where Disney pretty much had governmental control over the area and would have his hands in almost every aspect of the lives of the employee’s who chose to work and live there.
The spin can sound really positive, but it does make one think about the relationship between employer, employee, and our private lives.
The internet is littered with all sorts of sordid information about Walt himself and the parks, some more true than others. But hey, it certainly is an interesting rabbit hole to explore...if not just for all the stories from the ex-employees/cast members.
3) Get technical. It takes an awful lot to make Disney World work, from the trash collection to the amazing rides. A person could spend a lot of time trying to figure out how they create real time animation that can have unique interactions with guests like in Turtle Talk with Crush, or how the Haunted Mansion uses a practical effect called “Pepper’s Ghost” (originally created and used in the 1800s) to create the famous Ballroom scene. Reading about it before seeing it in action can certainly add a whole other level of interest as you explore the park. For those feeling a little spendy, Disney also has a few backstage and underground tours to show you this stuff first-hand.
4) Go retro. There will always be people who argue both sides of the the new vs old Disney debate. Some people get annoyed when some of the old attractions are left behind to take up valuable real estate, while others of us shed a tear in our beer for the loss of rides like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. There is something very nostalgic about the older rides, probably because to some of us, those speak much more to our youth than rides like Test Track (which is still great for other reasons) or the Aerosmith Rock and Roller Coaster. Make a point to see them while you still can because something you dreamed about seeing as a kid, could very well be gone in a flash. Yes, yes, the grown-up in you might not care so much, but feeding the inner-child can be a good thing too. And if you hate everything, there can be comfort in knowing that those kids in grade school who went every year and bragged about the Main Street Electrical Parade were full of it.
5) Geek out. Three words - Star Wars Weekends! If you can control the time of year you go, there are times when Disney hosts events that are more catered to specific interests. While it can often cost more money to go those times of year, you at least have a shot at a Food and Wine Festival, Marathon events, and the very popular Star Wars weekends where you can finally see the Empire and the Rebel Alliance in a dance off...assuming you are into that sorta thing.
6) Have a mission. This is a strategy that is going to be particularly helpful for my group. Some of us (looks over at Tiny Doom) are wonderfully goal driven. And others of us (COUGHmeCOUGH) are totally happy to use that to our advantage. This means that not only will my own eyes be on the lookout for the perfect Muppets and Haunted Mansion park pins to trade with Disney Staff, but now Tiny Doom will be too. Seriously, that girl is like a hawk. And all it took was a few links about Disney Pin Trading to get her interested enough to play along.
Another good mission are the Hidden Mickeys. It’s not a secret that the Disney designers get a kick out of sneaking some extra Mikey silhouettes into their designs around the park. It can be a serious game with entire websites and books devoted to finding these little guys. For us, a little competition might be in order, especially after we make full use of the next tip...
7) If all else fails, drink! No really. This is not one of those “drink the pain away” suggestions, I am trying to make a legitimate point that the drinks at Disney are varied and often a lot of fun, especially in Epcot. There is a tequila cave with 100 kinds of tequila available, a sake bar, wines from all around the world, and hilarious novelty drinks with glowing “ice cubes.” The lounges and bars can often give you an opportunity for some quiet time away from the crowds and there are a few that provide entertainment as well. I myself can often be found at my resort’s lounge after the parks close, sipping something or other and planning the next day. In fact, this year I plan to try that out at the fancy-pants hotels as well. You know, cause FANCY.
So there you have it. While it is most likely that you cannot convert anyone to “Team Disney,” that doesn't mean that person can’t enjoy themselves when they find themselves at the parks for a family vacation, reunion, conference, or what have you. The idea is to be smart about it. Tailor your trip accordingly and make sure to take time away from the crowds. It might not be your dream vacation, but any time away from the usual grind should definitely be enjoyed as much as possible.