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When the Kids Grow Up: Joys of Solo Travel

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's happened, and so much sooner than I'd expected: My teenage son has outgrown Disney Parks. Clearly this is heresy among the Disney digerati. It must just be a phase he's going through, needing to distance himself from childhood things like his mom's obsession with the Mouse. Or it's because Disney doesn't have enough for boys (you don't really want to get this radical feminist gender outlaw going on that topic, trust me). This is also the kid who happily hangs out at anime conventions with his parents (presenting panels together, even), watches Revolutionary Girl Utena, and has experienced almost every attraction at Disney World (as well as time spent at three other Disney resorts around the world). For some people, their tastes just change over time. And like Crush sings in Finding Nemo the Musical, "If they're ever gonna grow, then ya gotta let 'em go." And since my spouse's disinterest in Disney Parks is already well-documented, I find myself gazing out into the world of solo Disney travel.

Mickey Mouse and Me

(Picture: With my buddy Mickey, on a January 2011 solo trip to Disneyland.)

Now, I've enjoyed a lot of solo travel in the past, both to Disney Parks and in my busy professional life. But the thought of my sweet little boy outgrowing Disney throws me into a tizzy, fearing the empty nest, wondering where all the time went, wishing I could travel back to one of our earlier mother/son Disney trips. But I refuse to sit around hoping that someday I'll have grandkids to take to the park, or glancing around desperately to see which of my friends might let me borrow their kids for a little trip to the Mouse, or let my nostalgia get in the way of today's happiness. So instead, I'll focus on my favorite things about traveling without the family:

  • Flexible dates mean lower crowds. Sure, some folks take the kids during the off season, but I've rarely been comfortable pulling mine out of school for Disney (rare exceptions: My BFF's wedding, and a week that was otherwise full of uncomfortable and disquieting medical tests).
  • Flexible dates mean WDW fan meets! Once my son was old enough that I could travel soo to Disney without feeling I'd break his heart, I booked my first solo trip, to MouseFest 2008. It would seem that my attendance was the straw that broke the camel's back, as MouseFest ceased to exist shortly after. But I had a fabulous time at WDW Today Reunion 2009, and have just booked my travel to WDW Today Reunion 2011
  • The bathroom is mine, all mine. Somehow over the years I've accumulated far too many health and beauty products; my medications alone take up a sizeable chunk of bathroom counter space. Plus the offsite condo where I usually stay on my trips to Walt Disney World has jaccuzzi tubs, so I can stretch out with my favorite fancy bath products and a touristy magazine, or even watch Stacy on TV (yes, even offsite!).
  • Single rider lines. Skipping the long queues by riding solo is so fabulous that my BFF and I had to make a music video about it. Not only does it save a ton of time, but sometimes you get to see bits of backstage that would've eluded you otherwise. 
  • Touring my way. I can be very particular about my touring needs. It just doesn't feel right to miss rope drop. I want to ride Mr Toad's Wild Ride five times in rapid succession to earn my Nowhere in Particular badge on Disneyland Lines. I might choose my lunch location strictly on the availability of power outlets for recharging my phone. And while I'll happily compromise on most of those to be with friends and family, if I'm gonna go alone, I'm gonna enjoy the heck out of my autonomy.
  • Spontaneous conversations with Cast Members and other Guests. It's not like I can't strike up a conversation when I'm traveling with someone . . . but it just doesn't happen as much. I'll always remember going through the (now-defunct) single-rider line at Toy Story Midway Mania, and pointing out all the Easter Eggs to my co-rider (who was eager to set a new high score next time, and impress the wife). And the off-duty college program Cast Members I chatted with in line for the Pixie Hollow meet-and-greet, who were having a fabulous semester away from school.

So, what about you? Have you stared down the empty nest? Do you ever travel solo (to Disney or otherwise)? What's it like for you?