Cinderella's castle at Walt Disney World

Solo Disney World & Universal Studios: Even a nomad needs a respite (part 1)

How does a trip to Orlando and a couple theme parks fit in to WorkTravelTech? There is the travel aspect, undeniably, but then… well, let’s just say opportunities present themselves and stress needs to take a vacation.

So did this girl.

I tacked on Orlando to a conference trip in Florida. I’d never been to anything Disney, and there’s no time like the present.

Leading up to this trip, I read a lot of blogs about solo Disney World, and they all stressed how great it was to do whatever you want, when you want. Which… I pretty much already do, depending on my work schedule. My biggest concern was getting bored since I’m not really their target demographic, and I hate waiting in line. Turns out, everyone is in Disney’s demographic, and Mickey loves us solo fans just as much as the families.

First visit!
First visit!
Walt Disney and Cinderella's castle
Walt Disney and Cinderella’s castle

Three days in two theme parks

I planned on 1.5 days in Disney World, and one day at Universal, which, in all honesty, was more than a little crazy. Usually these trips are at least 4-5 days, especially at Disney World. But I was a woman on a mission, or at least one who’s aghast at spending $100 per day to hang in a theme park. (Keep in mind my usual theme park experience usually was Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, IL.)

What a world of difference from Great America… and now, finally, I get it. Everything is just amazing. Remarkably built. Rides are actually quite good (the American Eagle will always be a favorite, regardless). There is something for everyone, no matter your age.

That song is stuck in your head now, isn't it?
That song is stuck in your head now, isn’t it?
Chip and Dale
Chip and Dale
Mickey transcends cultures
Mickey transcends cultures

Staying on-site

I had a late entry into Orlando and checked in to Pop Century Resort. Although lower-priced, I was still happy to find it was quite clean and up-to-date. A cute resort, it featured the 1950s to 1990s throughout the big complex, and it abuts a beautiful lake and view of another bargain Disney resort, Art of Animation. Wifi was actually pretty strong, but then there’s a good chance the other users were only checking Facebook. So not all was plastic and purchasable… almost.

Staying on-site was a financial decision since I knew I’d be spending two days at Disney and just one at Universal. Parking is then free at the Disney parks. Parking at Universal was $20, and I chose the closer option to save my poor, beleaguered feet after walking 48 miles in two days at the Disney parks.

One tidbit: Don’t drive, but take the shuttle to the Magic Kingdom. There is a lot of walking here just to get to the front gate from the parking lots, and the ride was fairly short. The Animal Kingdom and Epcot don’t suffer from this issue. But definitely remember where your car is; getting lost on a hot, humid blacktop is just not fun and these parking lots are massive.

Pop Century Resort
Pop Century Resort

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Disney food

Every Disneyfied surface, of course, was attached to some sort of gift shop so you can buy something… anything Disney. I perused more than enough $39 t-shirts in every conceivable style, and even a Swarovski Disney shop. Mickey is one versatile retailer, and you’re hard-pressed not to see someone sporting some Mickey ears or other paraphernalia.

I bravely resisted for the most part (more on that later), but I spent more than enough eating at Disney attractions to make up for it. This was an experience that is certainly more targeted toward kids, or at least a very broad audience — Pop Century Resort itself had some random, barely Italian selections and plenty of the usual hotdogs and hamburgers. The same could be said for the Magic Kingdom, where if you don’t have a reservation at a sit-down restaurant (a bit of an extravagance for someone limited on time) you’re going to the food stalls and open restaurants. I have a suspicion these were more palatable based on my later Disney food experiences.

Selections in the Magic Kingdom were strange: Hotdogs, hamburgers, or… a half chicken? Fries, or… green beans? It was an interesting and somewhat tasteless decision. The highlight was a Dole Whip at Adventureland in Walt Disney World. So delicious and refreshing, I’m glad I snagged a table and people-watched.

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Interestingly, the Magic Kingdom is dry—so no alcohol. I don’t drink much at all, but after a long day of flying I wanted a relief from strollers hitting me in the ankles (seriously, the kids were great — parents acted like it was a demolition derby). Perhaps I seemed truly beleaguered by it, because a Disney staffer apologized profusely.

I was much happier at Epcot, which was featuring the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. This is a must if you happen upon it: Various countries’ fare in bitesize portions and appropriate pricing — perfect for sharing and some great flavors (take a lesson, Taste of Chicago).

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To be continued next week…

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