I’ll tell you a secret. It’s a secret that might not make much sense at first to many people, but after you have heard my reasoning I can almost guarantee you will agree. You see, back in the fall of 2013, I had been dating my now-fiancé for about a year and a half. And so early into our relationship I was eager to show him how interested I was in spending time with him and his family, of course, as all new couples are. However, when he first told me I was invited on his family’s annual Christmas trip to Walt Disney World… I was less than thrilled. The thought of spending an entire week dodging small children and dealing with their parents seemed pretty miserable to me. Not only was it Disney World, but the winter holidays are by far the busiest time to visit, which meant crowds, crowds, crowds! I agreed to go. Why? Because I love my fiancé… and that is pretty much the only reason I went on that first trip.
I fell in love with Disney on that family trip. And the irony of this entire story is that I have now become the “go-to” person (or “Disney Nazi”, if you ask my fiancé) for all questions regarding planning, dining reservations, FastPass+, wait times, and everything Disney-related. We even ended up getting engaged at the Magic Kingdom (right in front of the talking Mickey at Town Square!).
For me, half the fun of the trip is the planning and organization that comes in the months leading up to the vacation. Research actually shows that the anticipation of an upcoming vacation improves your happiness! In the numerous trips we have taken since then I have learned several tips and tricks about vacationing at Disney for adults. And the biggest secret that I have discovered is that going to Disney without kids is amazing! Of course, I will love taking our kids to Disney one day in the future. But being able to travel with only adults allows you the freedom to literally do whatever you want to do at the parks. You don’t have to go on certain rides or do certain things or head back to the hotel because your daughter is having a meltdown at the Magic Kingdom.
Here I summarize my thoughts and advice on how to best plan your “adults only” Disney World trip. Enjoy, and please share your advice regarding adult Disney trip planning in the comments below!
When should we go?
If you ask an avid Disney fan like myself, I will tell you “go any time you are able to!” That being said, there are certain times of the year when it would be great to be at Disney on an adults trip as opposed to with children. Disney has two events throughout the year that are perfect for adults: the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival in the spring (March-May) and the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival in the fall (September-November). I would avoid going in March because there may be more guests due to spring break weeks that could fall during that month. I would recommend April-May or September-October (if you have allergies like me and really can’t handle the Flower and Garden Festival).
When should we book a flight?
Everyone has their preferences on when they like to fly, or when they are able to fly due to work obligations. It is preferable to fly on weekdays since the prices are cheaper, however, this may not always be possible. To get the most bang for our buck, I try to make it so we have the maximum amount of time possible in the parks on our arrival and departure days. For example, we live in Michigan, therefore I like to book our outbound flight to Orlando, FL for very early in the morning so that we arrive to the hotel before noon. This allows us to have enough time to head to the parks for a leisurely lunch followed by an afternoon of park time. Likewise, on our departure day I schedule our flight back home for later in the evening. This allows us to spend the morning in one of the parks, have a late brunch or lunch, and then head to the airport.
Where should we stay?
For adults, the best option for lodging is by far the deluxe Disney hotels. Specifically the Boardwalk, Beach Club, and Yacht Club are the deluxe hotels in the Boardwalk area between Epcot and Hollywood Studios:
I would strongly recommend these hotels, if possible. They are also within close proximity to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, meaning that you are able to walk to two of the four Disney parks without having to wait for any buses (anyone who has waited 30 minutes or more for a bus at Disney knows how amazing it is to be able to walk!). The Boardwalk area where these hotels are located also is very adult-friendly: it has multiple restaurants, bars, entertainment, and even a nightclub and a dueling piano bar.
However, these hotels can be very expensive! My solution is a company called The DVC Rental Store. The DVC Rental Store works sort of like Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) but for Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points. Basically, DVC members who have extra points they need to rent out will use The DVC Rental Store to rent out their extra points. This is a win-win for both parties: the DVC members get some income for the points they do not use, and the renters get great deals on deluxe resorts at Disney World.
For example, we will be traveling to Disney World in June. Our two studio villas at Disney’s Beach Club Villas would normally have cost $5810 for 6 nights in June. However, through The DVC Rental Store, we rented these same two studio villas for $2800. This is a savings of 51.8%! Additionally, The DVC Rental Store is always a pleasure to work with: they are so friendly and accommodating, even with last-minute requests they try to do everything they can to make your vacation unforgettable.
In terms of when to book your hotel room(s), the DVC rooms are available for rental starting at 11 months or 7 months prior to your date of arrival. This time period depends on the DVC members themselves, therefore, it is a good idea to check as early as the 11-month mark to find out if there are any points available at that time (especially if you are going to be traveling at a busier time of the year).
What tickets should we buy?
I would recommend the 7-day (or however many days you will be staying) ticket with a Park Hopper option. The Park Hopper option is only $50-$64 additional cost (depending on how many ticket days you buy) and it allows you the freedom to move throughout all of the parks without worrying about staying in only one park on any given day. It’s also extremely beneficial if you are staying in the Boardwalk area because these hotels are so close to two of the four theme parks that you could have lunch in one and dinner in another!
What should we do in advance of our trip?
There are a number of reservations and planning tasks that I recommend completing prior to arrival in Disney World. This will help your trip go smoothly and ensure that you get to do all of the things you would like to do! Here are some tips:
- Dining reservations can be made up to six months in advance. I would strongly suggest making dining reservations for lunch and dinner during every day of your trip. These reservations can always be cancelled up until midnight the night before with no penalty, and it is always better to have it than to be scrambling around at the last minute trying to find a place to eat. (That being said, don’t forget to cancel by midnight the night before if you are no longer planning on keeping a reservation!) I like to choose a later time for lunch, between 12:30-2:00pm because these hours are getting into the hotter times of the day so it is nice to take a break and cool off inside. For dinner, I like to be finished in time to view the fireworks at one of the parks, so we usually make reservations between 7 and 8pm.
- FastPass+ is the new ride “reservation” system that replaced the old paper FastPasses last year. Each ticketed guest is allowed to make 3 FastPass+ reservations up to 60 days prior to arriving at the parks. These FastPasses are best spent on rides that typically have longer wait times, such as the roller coasters and popular Character Meet and Greets like Anna and Elsa. Similar to dining reservations, there is no reason to not book your FastPass+ reservations, therefore try and get onto the Disney website about 60 days out from your arrival day and make those choices.
- The Magical Express is the most convenient way to travel from the Orlando airport to your resort. It is a complimentary service provided by Disney to all onsite resort guests. The Magical Express can be booked starting 45 days prior to your arrival by calling the number here.
- Your Magic Bands will be sent to your home prior to your departure date. They can be customized up until 30 days before your departure, with different colors and names on the bands.
So what do you do when you finally get to the “World”? Check out our upcoming next post, Part 2, for specifics on Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and the Magic Kingdom! You can also join our email list here to receive updates on when the second part is posted!
And click here to read about my top 10 favorite places to dine in Disney World!
Looking to recreate a favorite EPCOT World Showcase cocktail? Click here!