In a few months I’ll turn 70, which started me thinking about my upcoming trip to Walt Disney World. I jotted down a few things that I need to remember, as a sexagenarian. (Note to self: I’m not 40 anymore.) I hope sharing my list might be helpful to others who have been around the sun as many times…or for people traveling with them.
1) First off: slow down! After all, this is a vacation. The best advice a friend gave me before a trip to France was simply this: Stroll and Linger. That advice applies to Disney as well–take your time. Notice the little details Imagineers have worked into every square inch of the parks. Look for things you’ve never noticed before. Take paths that are out of the way and quieter than the thoroughfares. (But while you’re looking around, watch out for strollers…)
2) Stay on site if you can. If your hotel is on the monorail loop, take a water launch to the Magic Kingdom instead of the monorail. That mode of transportation has got “slowing down” built right in! Or if you prefer to walk, follow the path to the Magic Kingdom from the Grand Floridian or Contemporary Resort. If you’re staying at one of the EPCOT resorts, take advantage of the watercraft service and walking paths to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. If you’re staying at Caribbean Beach, Riviera Resort, Art of Animation, or Pop Century, make use of the Skyliner system.
3) Try to make the weather (and crowds) work in your favor. The Unofficial Guide suggests that seniors plan to visit at a time of year when the weather isn’t extreme, like spring or fall. Warm days with cool nights that require no more than a light jacket are ideal. And fellow retirees should take advantage of times when crowds are low. Check the TouringPlans site for up-to-date projections on crowd levels.
4) Stay hydrated. We once ended up at the Magic Kingdom’s medical station on the verge of dehydration. The nurse told us to drink A BOTTLE OF WATER EVERY HOUR! I’m not suggesting you need to, but we did, and it made all the difference. We’ve since purchased Britta water bottles and carry them with us all day, filling them as we go along.
5) Take a midday rest. There are a couple ways to do this. You can recharge in air-conditioned comfort by visiting the Hall of Presidents or Carousel of Progress in Magic Kingdom, or the American Adventure in EPCOT to name a few of the great places to sit. Also, think about taking an afternoon nap back in your room: housekeeping is done by then and most people with kids are still at the parks, so your room is quieter. (You’ll also avoid the heat of the day.)
6) Eat dinner early. Make a reservation for 4:00 or 5:00 p.m., and you’ll avoid crowds. Consider eating at one of the restaurants in a hotel; they’re terrific and away from the hustle-bustle of the parks. Then, after dining, take a slow after-dinner stroll.
7) Start with the end of your day in mind and plan backwards from there. Do you want to end up close to where you’ll be eating? Or close to fireworks or another evening extravaganza (once they start up again after COVID)? By ending your touring day nearby, you’ll save steps and won’t arrive back at your hotel drop-dead tired.
8) Think beyond the theme parks. Consider spending a day or more away from the parks: visit Disney Springs, take advantage of a spa, or go golfing. Touring other hotels is also great fun. The lobbies are beautiful, and you may get a couple ideas about where you want to stay on your next visit!
9) Prepare yourself for walking. No matter your plans, you’ll do a bit a walking. Good shoes – broken in ahead of time – are a necessity. I also recommend wearing compression socks: nurses, waitpersons, and others on their feet for long stretches wear them for a reason. Personally speaking (I’m not a doctor), I’ve worn them due to some varicose veins and can attest to the difference they make! Another tip from the Unofficial Guide: “Many seniors like to walk, but a 7-hour visit to a theme park includes 4–10 miles on foot. Consider renting a wheelchair or mobility vehicle.”
10) Lastly, by going at your own pace you’ll be more open to the magic. It’s in every smile you pass, on the face of the four-year-old who’s meeting Elsa for the very first time, in the extra pixie dust a cast member sprinkles your way and yes, even in the crowds filled with crying babies in strollers. (Did I mention that you should keep an eye out for strollers?) Take time to pause and breathe it in. There’s no other place like it – that’s why you’re here! So slow down – and enjoy more!
What are your best suggestions for touring as a senior or with seniors in your party? Let us know what you think in the comments.