My wife, Kathy, and I have made many trips down to Walt Disney World in Orlando with our kids in the past. As a matter of fact, many of those trips were memorable - especially when the kids were young since we watched their reaction as they witnessed childhood heroes 'come to life'!
However, Walt Disney World is a fantastic destination if you are travelling without your kids. We just returned from a four-day 'last minute' Disney vacation, and we would highly recommend considering Disney as a destination for couples who are looking for an entertaining, fun getaway!
We research before any trip so that we catch the major attractions and then also enjoy some leisure time at destinations. This 'core & explore' strategy was on full display during our Disney visit.
In four short days, we hit all four Disney theme parks - The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios - along with Blizzard Beach (one of two fantastic Disney water parks) and Disney Springs which features a food, bar and entertainment cluster. We actually never left the Disney footprint during our stay and, despite not renting a car, were able to travel without cost within Disney by simply using the Disney transportation options - bus, boat and monorail.
We have been to Disney at various times of the year - Christmas, March Break, Easter and summer - and there are pros and cons to all of those windows. We made this trip in mid-August and found that the parks were not overly crowded (many US students are back in school - a big plus) but the central Florida heat was tough at times. Staying hydrated and eating healthy meals (lots of good options throughout the parks) are absolute necessities. Fortunately, many attractions were air conditioned. Also, Disney's FastPass+ system of reserving attraction access, along with utilizing the Walt Disney World mobile app (downloading this is a MUST), significantly reduces wait times. Check weather forecasts and consider last-minute bookings for later summer travel since hurricane season falls in this window.
Here's our suggested itinerary for a couple's four-day Disney escape:
Day One - Arrive, hit the pool and then on to Disney Springs! Book a flight that will get you to Orlando as early in the day as possible and pre-arrange ground transportation to your hotel (note that if you stay at a Disney resort, ground transportation is provided free-of-charge). Check in and hit the pool to soak up some Florida sunshine!
Head to Disney Springs for dinner, drinks and a wonderful entertainment experience! We were especially impressed with the calibre of musicians and entertainers found throughout Disney Springs. The entertainment is diverse and there's something for everyone! Be sure to make it to the Art of Disney store towards the back end of the sprawling grounds. You will be rewarded with the chance to see a Disney artist doing character sketches while you watch - an awesome experience!
Day Two - The Magic Kingdom! This park is full of wonderful activities and filling an entire day here is easy and less stressful than trying to jam in a few activities and then park-hopping.
Check the schedule so that you catch both the afternoon parade and evening fireworks show; both are spectacular and have been updated significantly from prior years. Be sure to have your FastPass+ experiences booked in advance and include Splash Mountain in a PM slot when you'll need a break from the heat. This is Disney's most popular park so be there before the park opens and head right for your top choice.
Tomorrowland offers many great experiences such as Space Mountain & Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and you can enjoy very short lines in the first few minutes after the park opens. We enjoy Liberty Square's attractions - the Riverboat cruise, Haunted Mansion and the new Muppet Show (worth catching) - along with those in Adventureland - Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Enchanted Tiki Room & the Swiss Family Treehouse. Stop at the Aloha Isle to enjoy pineapple floats and pineapple ice cream treats; they're addictive!
Day Three - Time for some Disney water park magic! We always love a visit to a Disney water park and you just can't go wrong with either choice - both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are world-class!
Check the water park hours since a daily admission allows you to enjoy both parks in one day! This is an excellent option since the parks are both unique and worth exploring! Top attractions at Blizzard Beach include Summit Plummet which offers a steep 12-story-tall slide (so steep that many people can't bring themselves to drop once they reach the top despite the long waits), Toboggan Racers (8 racers head down at once) and Steamboat Springs (group raft ride with lots of steep banks and twists). Typhoon Lagoon has Surf Pool (an amazing wave pool), Crush 'n' Gusher (where you ride uphill at times) and Shark Reef (a 60' swim with provided masks and snorkels through a large tank filled with fish and tame sharks). Lockers are available at both waterparks.
For a relaxing evening, head to Disney's Boardwalk for a leisurely stroll and an ice cream treat after having dinner at the ESPN Club restaurant.
Day Four - Park-hopping time! - Epcot, Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios. You will need to spend time planning this day around FastPass+ availability. We hit Animal Kingdom first since the animals will tend to sleep the day away once the mid-day heat arrives and the new Pandora attractions are very, very popular.
Even if the attraction wait times are too long, be sure to get to Pandora to see the breath-taking scenery. The Kali River Rapids, Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safari and two excellent live shows - Finding Nemo & Festival of the Lion King - should all be on your 'to do' list, along with Avatar Flight of Passage if the wait is manageable. (As an aside, we received tremendous help from Wil in Guest Relations at this park and this is a constant at Disney - a 'guest-first' attitude is entrenched amongst the staff!)
Head to Hollywood Studios to take in one or more of Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Toy Story Mania. Take the boat over to Epcot for an evening stroll around World Showcase and to catch the spectacular evening show at the lagoon. Be sure to make it to France for some delicious French cuisine and dessert options! Pack at night and, don't worry, you'll sleep on the plane after this experience!
We loved our four-day Disney getaway - it was a fun way to enjoy world-class entertainment and we are sure that the experience will be similar for other active, fit travellers!
Fred Masters and his wife Kathy reside in Kitchener. Fred has performed technical review work for a major Canadian textbook company. Both are avid "last minute" travellers who have attended four Olympic Games. (Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008, Vancouver in 2010 and London in 2012)