There was very little doubt in my mind that I would love my first Walt Disney World experience and yet I had put off the trip for quite a long time. Even after visiting Disneyland in California four times in less than a year, the very idea of Walt Disney World intimidated me deeply. I had become used to the very compact and intimate feeling of Disneyland and I knew that the sheer size of its Florida counterpart would be a totally different experience. And it was, but that doesn’t mean it was bad, far from it. I loved my first trip to Disney World and I know that I’ll return many times. However, visiting and enjoying the experience is very unique which is why today I want to share some of my thoughts, tips and tricks to getting the most out of the Walt Disney World Resort. I’m partnering this year with Marriott International to share some of my favorite spots to visit around the U.S., including my first visit to Walt Disney World.
This is NOT Disneyland
One aspect that has endeared Disneyland in Anaheim to me is its very compact size. Made up of just two parks, getting around both of them as well as hopping between the two is easy and convenient. Walt Disney World though is a very different experience. Literally the size of a city, the Walt Disney World experience takes time and planning. While you can certainly hop between the four parks of Walt Disney World, you have to take into account the time it will take to transit between them. Although I purchased Park Hopper passes, I ultimately found it easier to stick with one park per day. This way I was able to get the most out of my visit, and Fast Passes, and enjoy the experience more so than if I was constantly on a bus, boat or monorail. Given its size, that also means Walt Disney World requires a lot more planning than Disneyland. Hypothetically speaking, if I woke up one morning in Anaheim I could decide on a whim to go to Disneyland and still have an incredible day, riding almost every attraction on my to-do list. This is not necessarily the case for Walt Disney World. Since it is so enormous, planning out one’s trip is incredibly important. This is particularly the case given the different Fast Pass system used. Guests may try to get their desired Fast Passes 30 days in advance (60 if you’re staying on property) which means the trip strategy is totally different than Disneyland, which does not allow for attraction reservations until you are physically in the park. Executing a successful Walt Disney World trip takes a lot more preparation, but once that’s all done it’s pretty much smooth sailing.
With so many options at Walt Disney World for staying on-site spanning all budgets, there aren’t too many reasons NOT to take advantage of the perks that spending the night on property offers. Not only is it convenient but Disney rewards on-site guests with complimentary transportation, earlier Fast Pass reservation windows and more. Plus, being able to easily take a mid-day break in your hotel room is a necessity in the heat and humidity of Orlando. For my first visit to the Walt Disney World Resort, I had the great pleasure of staying at the Swan and Dolphin. Part of the Marriott family, the resort features all of the perks included with any on-site hotel, including an incredible location. It’s in the Epcot area of Walt Disney World, next to Disney’s BoardWalk. Epcot is very walkable, but there’s also a complimentary boat that can quickly take you not only to Epcot, but also to Hollywood Studios. The other two parks, Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom are easily accessed via the complimentary bus system that leaves in regular intervals from the Swan and Dolphin Resort. Not once did I feel inconvenienced, in fact the location really was ideal for me and my purposes. It’s also nice to be able to return to one’s hotel room easily and quickly during the day to rest and recharge.
Fun Even as a Solo Adult
One aspect I was worried about was traveling to Walt Disney World as a solo 43-year old adult. In Disneyland it was never a problem, heck, I even preferred it. I wasn’t so sure about the Florida parks but I shouldn’t have worried because, just like Disneyland, Walt Disney World also was made with adults in mind. When Walt Disney first conceived the idea of Disneyland, the intention was always to create a safe place where visitors of all ages could have an incredible experience. Not satisfied with making a kids park where adults were largely bored, the result is an entertainment experience that has stood the test of time since 1955. At the time, it was a concept well ahead of its day and almost every resulting theme park that has opened since Disney first cut that ribbon to Disneyland has copied the model. With only a few exceptions, most of the rides in Disneyland, even the original 1955 attractions, are just as much fun for adults as they are for kids. This naturally holds true for not only the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, but all of the parks at the resort. Everything I decided to try was fun, really fun, and not once did I feel out of place or odd for wanting to enjoy the attractions. Far from it, I was one of thousands of adults in the parks out and about wearing Mickey ears and reveling in the pure and unbridled joy that is Disney.
Even though it was my first visit to the Walt Disney World Resort, I knew that it would be an incredible experience and I was right. Last year I first “discovered” Disney when I visited Disneyland in California. Over the course of a year I returned three more times, but was excited to finally tackle the small country that is Disney in Florida. Even though I only had a few days, I made the most of it thanks in large part to the incredible location and services offered by the Swan and Dolphin Resort. They removed all of the normal stress and worry which in turn allowed me to fully embrace the Disney spirit and to just have an incredible time. I’ve always been a big Disney fan, as I imagine most of us are, whether it’s watching the movies and shows as kids or appreciating the many other ways they’ve impacted our lives. To live in that universe, even for a short little while is a special experience the likes of which truly is unparalleled. Before my first visit I was pretty sure that I would enjoy the experience, I just had no idea how much. I returned to a time in my life when things were all puppies and unicorns, and that’s where the Disney obsession for so many starts. We all want that, we all want to be free from stress and anxiety and visiting a Disney park is honestly one of the few ways I’ve found to accomplish that. So if you’re wondering if visiting as an adult on your own is worth it, wonder no more. The experience is so much more robust than you might think and I know that after your first visit, you’ll be just as eager to return as I am.