Dedicated blog readers may recall Erin Foster’s article “Spring Break at Disney World – Teens’ First No-Parent Trip,” outlining her teen daughter and friends’ first Disney trip without parents. Though now I’m (supposedly) a real adult—I just graduated in May–it wasn’t long ago that I was a teen taking my first Disney trip without parents. My first winter break in college, I went to Walt Disney World with my boyfriend and two other friends. Two years later, I went for my 21st birthday with my three younger siblings. So for any teens or young adults out there planning your first parent-free trip, here’s a quick guide into your first clumsy steps into Disney adulthood.
Why a Disney Trip Without Parents?
Walt Disney World is the safest place to go for your first no-parent trip. The crime rate is essentially zero and every single cast member is trained to help you stay safe. It’s also one of the best options for fun. All through college, I never found the MTV Spring Break-style college trip terribly appealing. I enjoy the occasional beverage, but I can only “WOOOO!” for a few hours before I’m bored. Walt Disney World has an infinite number of activities and it’s impossible to get bored. I had been planning my family’s trips for years, so I felt comfortable planning my own trip.
Assembling the Team
Due to our genetic similarities and shared upbringing, my siblings and I know each other quite well and knew we would get along during our trip. We are all Disney experts who have similar interests and goals for a Walt Disney World trip, and a unanimous acknowledgment of me as the leader. When I went with my friends and boyfriend, they all knew I was the resident Disney expert and were happy to follow my plans. I had been friends with all of them since the third grade, and my boyfriend and I had been together for over two years, so we were confident in our ability to deal with each other for a few days. Their most important quality was their enthusiasm for Disney fun.
You’re going to need at least one person to be 18 or older by the first day of your trip. No hotel, on or off Disney property, will let somebody younger than 18 check in without an adult. Many off-property hotels have a minimum check-in age of 21, but Disney’s age limit is only 18.
If you’re looking to rent a car for your trip, Fox Rent-A-Car will allow drivers 19 or older to rent a car. Drivers under 25 are charged $14.00 per day on top of the base rental price. You can also use a debit card to pay for the car rental as long as you have the full rental charges, plus $150, available in your account.
Since Walt Disney World is a family park, nearly all locations are open to all ages. The only locations that require you to be 21 or older to visit are Jellyrolls and Atlantic Dance Hall, both located on Disney’s Boardwalk. Any other locations will allow those under 21 to enter, though there may be restrictions about sitting at the bar areas.
Grown-up Packing List
When you’re the actual adult in the group, you’re going to need to have actual adult things with you that you may not have thought about with your parents taking care of everything.
- A state-issued I.D.
- Flight information
- Cash for tips (see a past blog post with tipping info here)
- Credit or debit cards
- Reservation information
- The My Disney Experience app
Money Saving Tips
We all know college students have no money, and I was (read: am) no exception. So we took severe lengths to save money on our trips.
- Rent DVC points. It’s a controversial position, but I am a big fan of renting DVC points. It gave us access to a larger room to squeeze ourselves all in and access to a kitchenette. The kitchenette is directly related to the next tip…
- Pack food. We took full advantage of Southwest’s free luggage policy to bring giant suitcases filled with peanut butter and jelly sandwich ingredients, canned foods, cereal bars, and any other food we could fit. We had the occasional dinner out and bought some snacks, but we saved tons of money on meals by packing lunch for days at the parks.
- Arrive early and leave late. With just three nights in a hotel, we had four full days in the parks by arriving on the earliest possible flight, dropping off luggage, and heading straight to the parks on the first day. On the last day, we dropped off our luggage at bell services, went to the parks, and took the latest possible flight home.
Was Walt Disney World your first trip without parents? How did it go? What advice do you have for first timers? Let us know in the comments.
Please welcome Maddi Higgins to the TouringPlans blog team. Maddi is current at Walt Disney World as part of the Disney College Program.