“You’re going to Disney……Alone?!?!?!?!?”, they ask as horror, dread and pity cross their face. Don’t let them scare you. It may take a little more planning. A little more time. But going to Disney as a single parent is completely doable. I’ve visited Walt Disney World, with my three children, four different times as a single mom. You’ll find that as a single parent, planning is going to be your best friend. While the unexpected can, and will happen-the more you can plan and prepare the better off you’ll be.
First you’ll need to decide when to go. I know for most, summer and holidays are the only options because of school. But I highly recommend going off-season (Oct.-Dec is my favorite time). If your child(ren) can afford the time off from school, take it. The benefits are plenty. Less crowds (easier to keep track of your kids). Shorter lines (getting to do more). Less expensive (be on the lookout for some great deals like getting the Dining Plan for free).
Once you know when you’re going, you’ll need to decide how to get there. Fly or drive? With one child, maybe two, flying might be an option. But with more than two children I wouldn’t even consider it. Driving is something you and your children are already used to. You know how they travel. You can stop when you need to. You can pack as much as you need (even extras) and still have room for souvenirs. And while Disney does have a great transportation system, I like the freedom that comes with having my own car when I’m there (storage, time, short trips off property).
Next you’ll need to decide where to stay. While I’ve stayed on and off Disney property, I highly recommend staying at one of Disney’s on-site resorts. Themed rooms, great amenities, most with great dining options. For a small charge you can request preferred room that puts you closer to the pools, food court, and transportation (Added resort benefits-package delivery and Dining plan options).
Now that you’ve arrived, here are some great tips to help create some magical memories:
- Disney’s Photopass– We’re always taking pictures of our children, but as single parents don’t often get the chance to be in any. But Disney’s Photopass takes care of that for you. Throughout the parks, at character greetings, and on some rides, Disney’s professional photographers take pictures for you. Preorder you CD to save.
- Strollers – For single parents I recommend renting strollers in the parks directly from Disney. While the option may be a bit more expensive than other vendors, or bringing your own; it saves you from struggling on and off buses and trams, and leaves your hands empty to hold onto the kids. Even if your children are a bit older, if they fit, I’d get one. When my youngest were 5 and 7 I got a double stroller. It allowed them to rest between rides. Helped hold any extra items we had. They didn’t tire out as easy, and made keeping track of them, that much easier.
- Clothing– While older kids might not like this as much, if you can get away with it, dress them alike. Or at least the same colors. It makes locating your children easier. It also helps to take a picture each morning. That way just in case someone gets separated from the group, you’ve got a visual reminder to share.
- Cellphones– This last trip was a big moment for us. The children were old enough to go off on there own (at least for short amounts of time). With todays technology, smartphones/cellphones, it’s so much easier to do. If you’re traveling with older kids who don’t have cellphones you may want to invest in a prepaid. The small amount you pay will help give you peace of mind. Knowing that you can get in touch with each other. [Always have a meeting place and time just in case you can’t get in touch]
- Rides– There may be certain rides at Disney that some of your children, or even you yourself do not want to ride. Disney’s new rider policy allow children that are at least 7 years old (and meet the height requirements), to ride without you. That doesn’t mean you have to just drop them off at the start of the ride. I have waited in many lines and taken the ‘chicken exit’. With the 3 of them older now, I find myself picking a quite spot near the exit of the ride and just enjoying some quite time.
- Character Dining– This is a great way to accomplish two things at once. Instead of waiting for hours for all the characters, we tried to plan one character meal per day. This allowed us to visit the characters (without waiting in line) and eat a delicious meal as well. (Plan off time eating to cut down on waiting even more).
This is your vacation. Don’t try to do everything. Invest some time getting to know the rides and attractions. Choose the ‘must-do’, ‘really-want’ and ‘it’s okay to miss’. Create a schedule, but give yourself permission not to stick to it. Remember that ultimately your goal is to create memories to last a lifetime. We’ve only touched the many ideas single parents can use.
What’s your favorite single parent tip?
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