Embracing the Crowds as a Solo Traveler

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thisisnormal
A pretty normal crowd to open the Magic Kingdom

Many times the purpose of a solo trip is to “get away” from things. Get away from work. Get away from family or friends. Get away from crowds. Get away from stress. Get away from reality.

Walt Disney World provides a great release for solo travelers, which can qualify for all of those “get away” moments…except the crowds. It has come to my realization that there are fewer and fewer “low crowd” times at Walt Disney World these days. I was there on a solo trip in mid-October, and it still felt like there were tons of people in the park. Even if attractions promoted 20 minute wait times, there were still people in the attraction, and I still had to wait in a crowd.

So how do solo travelers enjoy the crowds, no matter what the time of year? Well, maybe not enjoy, but tolerate or embrace the crowds? Here are some tips.

bus
It’s rare to get a bus all to yourself, so get ready to be friendly!

Get to know your neighbors.

When you are in line for Toy Story Midway Mania for 60 minutes, that is 60 minutes of time that you will have the same people in front of you, and the same people behind you. They will be doing a variety of things: looking at smartphones, playing line games like “I Spy” or “The Alphabet Game,” sitting or swinging on the queue railing (kids, probably), or talking to each other.

Why not get in on the conversation? It can be as easy as “Man, Florida sure is hot!” or “I’m from Colorado, and I’m not used to this humidity!” Whenever I get into a conversation with someone new, my go-to is the weather. Usually that can progress into other topics.

Another option is to listen to their conversation and jump in. This may be viewed as awkward to some people, so use only when you’re sure it will not seem weird. I was in line for Enchanted Tales with Belle, and the group behind me was discussing when the park closed for non-Halloween Party guests. I knew the answer, so I turned around and provided them with it. It didn’t turn into anything, but I was being helpful and it gave me a chance to talk to people.

Keep a cheerful attitude.

If crowds are not your thing, you might be miserable at Walt Disney World. I knew early on in my vacation experiences that “grumps” can ruin a vacation, even if you only encounter one in passing.

The key to a solo success story? Keep the cheerful attitude. Yes, a child may run into you once…twice…eight times in a day, and your foot might get run over by a stroller, and the screaming child shows no signs of stopping next to you on the monorail, but it doesn’t mean the day is ruined. Smile at the child and say “That’s okay!” Grimace in pain but accept the apology of the stressed-out Dad. Just a smile of acknowledgement from a stranger instead of a glare can be huge for a vacationing family.

detail
Check out all these wonderful details!

Look over the crowds at the park itself.

Yes, there will be people all over the place. But the easiest way to embrace the crowds is to ignore them. Grab that Premium Mickey Bar and stroll down Main Street U.S.A. Yes there is shouting next to you, but look at the details on the trunk of the Tree of Life! You thought you had the perfect spot for the fireworks, but then people came, but that’s okay! Just shift over a little bit and you have a new perfect spot!

I have been on the verge of being upset or annoyed by something, but by just adjusting my view or ignoring the situation as best as I can really helps. I had a family behind me at Fantasmic! that talked through much of the performance. Instead of getting bothered, I listened for the exciting times and listened for how they would respond. It enhanced my experience instead of ruining it.

Create some magic.

Ever bought food at the Parks and given it away? Have you started singing a Disney song and listened as people around started singing with you? Did you start doing something goofy with Goofy and made the cast members and people in the queue laugh? Magical moments are limited to cast members. As a solo traveler, you have more time to plot and plan a magical moment and execute it to perfection. I have bought a Mickey balloon and given it away to a family. I have seen ice cream bought to soothe another person’s child (with the mother’s permission).

It doesn’t even have to be big or require money. Just offering an elderly man or woman your seat on the bus or monorail can be magic. This magic doesn’t just put a smile on their face, but yours, too!

Do you have any ways that you’ve traveled solo and enjoyed the crowds? Have you ever taken a negative situation and made it positive? Did you ever create some magic in the parks? Comment below!

Claire Nat

I've been enjoying Walt Disney World since my Nana pushed my sister's and my strollers back in the late 1980s. I enjoy my day job here in the Denver area as a teacher and music coordinator at our church. I love music, reading, Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Michigan sports!

12 thoughts on “Embracing the Crowds as a Solo Traveler

  • November 25, 2014 at 11:12 am
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    AS a person 10 days away from a solo trip, this was a great reminder! Thanks!

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    • November 25, 2014 at 4:23 pm
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      You’re very welcome! Have a fantastic trip and enjoy all the wonderful holiday decorations!

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  • November 25, 2014 at 11:53 am
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    Thanks for sharing your visit with us. Going to WDW solo has always been a dream of mine.
    What, if any, were the downsides to being solo on your visit?

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    • November 25, 2014 at 4:37 pm
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      Yea, there are always downsides to a solo trip. It’s a bit awkward sitting by yourself at a table service restaurant (try out Biergarten for good communal dining!), the single rider line for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster a lot of times is longer than the actual queue (don’t do single rider for that attraction!), and it can be weird sitting in a clam mobile or other omnimover vehicle all by yourself. But most of those things are difficult if you’re uncomfortable with the solo experience. If you love the solo trip or want to try one, these downsides shouldn’t be too much trouble – I hope you can achieve your dream someday!

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  • November 25, 2014 at 2:18 pm
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    I went to WDW solo in Oct. and it was fine. You can ride the attractions that only you want to ride, eat when you want, go wherever you want. I ate at counter service restaurants and tried to do things that I hadn’t done before. In line at Soaring, they called for a party of three, and I grabbed the older couple in back of me and they were thrilled to get on a little early. You can offer to take photos of people, and it’s fairly easy to start short conversations in line. At my resort, waiting for the bus, a woman who came with a lot of family was waiting for everyone to show up, and she envied me my solo status! Downsides? Maybe eating at a full service restaurant, but no need to do that if you don’t want to.

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    • November 25, 2014 at 4:39 pm
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      Awesome! (We might have been doing the solo thing at the same time!) I have heard that some people forget to eat because they’re doing all the attractions, but that has never been the case for me. There are so many upsides to counteract any doubts you might have. Glad you enjoyed the trip!

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    • November 25, 2014 at 9:14 pm
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      I had a nice chance to do this at Disneyland at the end of a trip for work recently. At Toy Story Mania, I was waiting in line behind a mother with a toddler daughter and a 6- or 7-year old son. Hearing them talking about how were they going to do the seating, and would the son be able to ride okay by himself, I spoke up and asked the mom if she thought her son might like to ride with me (on the opposite side of the same car – you know how those TSM cars are…). This was fine with all concerned – and her son and I had a fun time. I got a higher score than he did, but pointed out to him that he had a higher accuracy score (I scored many points just by my fingers being able to pull the trigger cord so much more rapidly than he could – even if i was missing way, way more shots, too!).

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      • November 27, 2014 at 8:19 am
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        Any chance there is a site that solos could communicate with each other to plan to meet for a meal together somewhere while they are in a park?

  • November 26, 2014 at 2:00 am
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    Great article, i went on a solo trip in dec 2012 nd in the middle of planning my nxt one, i did not find dining that bad as i could appreciate all the details and spend time writing notes on my holiday. I found taking photos with me in them difficult, not so much at disney but at almost every where else i went and the price (i live in new zealand so i lose 20 percent going over and do not have anyone to split accommodation or transport costs with) was extremely high. But its a great experience

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  • November 26, 2014 at 8:14 pm
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    Great article! I’m going solo in 52 days and I really like the idea of making magic for others who may be struggling or just having a hard time. I LOVE Walt Disney World and I’m really excited to try and make somebody’s day if the opportunity arises, so you did a great job on this article…thank you and ask Len for a raise! 🙂

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  • November 26, 2014 at 11:36 pm
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    I love doing Disney solo. Altogether I spent nearly a month at Disneyland this last year all but one day solo. It’s great to go at your own pace and do exactly what you want. The only thing I haven’t done because it seemed awkward alone was character dining.

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  • December 1, 2014 at 10:01 am
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    I actually went on my first solo trip in October as well! I thought it was fantastic because I was able to focus on people outside my “bubble.” When I travel with family and friends, I’m the planner. I’m the one making sure everyone is happy, everyone is fed, everyone is participating in the activities they want. When I was by myself, it was like my eyes were opened to all the other people vacationing at Disney. I stopped more times than I could count to offer to snap a photo of the couple or family trying desperately to get a great selfie in front of a landmark. I gave my spot in a character line to another family who had to leave the park and couldn’t wait for the character’s break (while I had all the time in the world). I chatted with people from all over the world. I SLOWED DOWN. I went in with a positive attitude, and once I started trying to spread some pixie dust around for other people, I found that my experience was enhanced tenfold. I can’t wait to go back for another solo trip!

    Reply

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