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Old 08-15-2011, 04:13 AM   #1
jwhtewolfd
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Seeing the World: Solo-Style

Who: me
What: solo trip
Where: WDW, ASMusic
When: January 19 - 26, 2011
Why: I was single after 6 years of engagement (we broke up shortly after the 9/09 trip - you know it's bad when you can't get along at the happiest place on earth), and feeling lonely and wondering how I would ever get back to the World. This was 6 days tacked on to the end of a trip to Orlando for the North American Veterinary Conference - a great excuse to try a solo trip.

Deciding to do this trip was a big step for an introvert like me; I wasn't entirely sold on the solo idea. I had some time to warm up to the on-my-own-in-public thing while at the conference. Even still, going from a conference populated with solo travelers to a family theme park was a little jarring.

My goals in this TR are (a) to explore how I felt as a solo traveler, (b) to review a different time of travel and resort than I have previously experienced and (c) to document my day-to-day activities (for selfish reasons of coming back and reliving my trip from time to time). I tried to reign myself in and control my picture taking, but I still took far too many pictures. I'll try to refrain from posting all the obvious pictures that everyone has, but I'll admit up front that I won't be able to resist posting a few "standard" shots just because of the "pretty" factor.

So let's get started. It's been a long week. My grandma's funeral was Friday morning, which postponed my planned drive time from 3am to 3pm. Couple the stress and wear of the funeral with an all night drive, and I'm pretty much a zombie the first day of the conference. While sitting through lectures all day isn't exactly invigorating, the pace was right for my state of mind at the time. Each day was a little easier to wake up and focus, and by the last day I was anxious to exit work mode and get onto Disney property.

Wednesday afternoon I packed up the car and headed over to check in to Music. I reached the gate to the All Stars, but when the guard asked for my ID, I couldn't find it! He was trying to be nice and let me through anyway, but I had already gone into panic mode. The problem wasn't that it was "somewhere" and I just couldn't find it. The problem was that I knew EXACTLY where it was supposed to be, but it wasn't there. How will I check in? How will I get home? I pulled into the check-in parking lot and searched frantically, finally finding it well nestled between the passenger seat and the center console. I can only assume it somehow fell out of my wallet and out of my purse while I fumbled through my conference paperwork looking for my Disney paperwork.

Relieved, but still frazzled, I staggered into in the online check-in line. The lady behind the desk assigned me to a Country Fair building, but I didn't have my wits about me to request something else. She then proceeded to review the details of my reservation. All the standard stuff, yada yada yada, until she got to the dreaded Party Size. Verbatim:
CM: ...of...one?
Me: Yes.
CM: Just one?
Me: Yeah.
CM: Only one?
Me: You don't have to rub it in. :::weak, unconvincing smile:::

Now I had mused on this during the planning stages and realized that I'd be proclaiming my solo-ness throughout the trip, especially when dining alone and when asked for party size when being seated for rides. But I had assumed the CMs would just go about their business and that the awkwardness of being alone would be all in my head. I wasn't prepared for this level of un-professionalism. Combined with the loosing-the-license debacle, I was suddenly thinking this solo trip was the worst idea I've ever had.

The other CM behind the counter must have heard the exchange, b/c while my Ms. Clueless was printing up my stuff, she walked over, handed me a rose and told me to have nice trip. I have to admit that did help me feel a LITTLE bit better.

Downtown Disney is the arrival day tradition, and dinner at Earl of Sandwich was delicious. (Note that roast beef sandwiches do not photograph well.) I had a mission to find a new park bag, lest I be stuck with a difficult to access backpack. I achieved success in World of Disney, but suddenly realized I had forgotten my leopard print hat and matching headband ears! They were back home, prominently perched on my stuffed panther's head. A lot of good that will do me. I console myself with an amazing Ghirardelli chocolate shake, and wrap up the night shopping and strolling through DTD.

Thursday 1/20
I underestimated the time needed to walk from Country Fair waaaaaay in the back to the bus stop all the way in the front. Because Music is sandwiched between Movies and Sports, it's layout is more linear than the other two. Being in the back means you literally have to walk past every other building, and while the grounds are very nice, it can be a very long walk, especially when you are returning at night and shivering in the cold. I liked Music otherwise, but am seriously considering splurging on a preferred room for the next January trip, just to get out of the cold quicker.

I decided to start the trip at Animal Kingdom. I thought it would be fitting, coming from the vet conference. While I love AK, I now realize that I simply must start a WDW vacation at MK. I am psychologically not at Disney World until I see the MK rope drop show.

The rope drop ceremony at AK has changed since '09. We were held back in the Oasis, and Mickey was on the truck instead of off in the distance by the Tree of Life. That little distance sure felt like it made a difference on the way to the Safari. But it was worth the effort. Our truck got stuck behind two cattle in the road that decided to stop for a snack. We had to wait for a pickup truck to come and herd them off to the side. I walked the Pangani Trail quickly. I don't particularly care for gorillas, and I wanted to make the first showing of FotLK. All the shows I caught throughout the day were well attended, but the walkways and rides didn't seem crowded.

After FotLK, I "hopped" in line to meet Thumper and Ms. Bunny. This was the second time I would feel truly alone. I was in line behind a family and had a couple behind me. The family in front of me finished, and as I stepped up to hand my camera to the photopass photographer, the girl from the couple behind me ran to the rabbits and merrily started her meet and greet. Suddenly feeling terribly sorry for myself, all I could manage was a "I wasn't with those other people" under my breath. Ms. Oblivious (I hope - I decided it would be better for me to think she was plain dumb than to take it personally) finished her turn, and I finally got my picture. You can sort of see my new Mickey-head bag and the matching pin on the strap.



I somehow mustered up some self-respect and forced myself to get in Safari Mickey's line right away. Gotta get back on the horse, and all that. Being first in line at Flame Tree BBQ allowed me to venture off to one of the secluded seating areas and wallow in my self-pity. No. I did sit alone with my chicken, but I enjoyed the peacefulness, the beautiful surroundings and the company of the birds.


On my way to Expedition Everest, I had to stop at the character landing to meet Pooh, Eeyore and Tigger. Eeyore gave me kisses. I walked the stand-by line for Everest for the first time, and it is impressive. I spent a good bit of time on the Maharajah Jungle Trek. The bats and tigers were really on the move, but I lingered over this tiger:



His face is the EXACT same shape as Louie's (the orange cat in my sig). Everyone at home who knows Louie agrees. Louie is unimpressed.

The Louie-look-alike almost made me late for Finding Nemo, but I was able to find a single seat near the front. Score one for the solo traveler. Flights of Wonder had a few less-than-cooperative birds, but it's still a neat show that I like to fit in whenever I can. I wasn't quite hungry just yet, but I knew I had a long night planned, so I grabbed some Honey Chicken from Yak and Yeti CS and found a seat to watch my favorite daytime parade: Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade. Bark and Growl and Screech and Roar! Stomp and Jump and Leap and Soar! Trying to eat and photograph the parade was an adventure in itself.

I did some light shopping on the way out. Had to get another AK shirt. Almost bought a hat, but passed on the giraffe print. They so would have had my money if the zebra print was on a hat instead of a visor.

Bused over to HS for Fantasmic! and got my first taste of Bra-zillion Tour Group hatred. They have no concept of personal space and can't be bothered by trivial things like realizing there are other people in the park. Waiting for F!, it felt like no one else in Disney World spoke English. I literally did not see or hear another American in my range of sight or hearing. Feeling awfully small and alone again.

It took forever to get out after F! For some reason the tour groups decide to stand in place instead of (a) remaining seated, (b) filing out of the theater or (c) allowing anyone to get by. Bus lines were a mess by the time I got out. I was the last one the driver let squeeze on. Another small victory for the solo traveler. Of course we were then gridlocked into the charter bus lot by all the tour group buses. We had to wait for someone to come direct traffic to let our Disney bus out. Finally we were on our way to Epcot.

I managed to secure a front and center view for Illuminations at the front of World Showcase. It's an excellent place to watch to get the effect of the countries lighting up, but the area right by the lagoon is off limits. And the crowd that ends up sitting behind you is daunting. You'd have to be early enough to be front and center; if not, I'd find somewhere less crowded, deeper in World Showcase to watch.

Recapping Day 1, we had a couple of lonely times, a couple of times where being solo allowed me to squeeze in somewhere, a good safari, an awesome parade, 2 nighttime spectaculars and a long, cold walk back to the room.
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Last edited by jwhtewolfd; 08-16-2011 at 01:07 AM. Reason: Eeyore needs love
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Old 08-15-2011, 08:17 PM   #2
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Friday 1/21
The first thing in my notes says "Weather today - wet and nasty with a side of BRRRR. No sun all day." The few brave souls that showed up for RD were allowed to huddle under the train station. I had neglected to check the poncho I packed from a previous trip, so of course it was ripped. As the wet day wore on, I had no choice but to break down and buy a Disney Parks poncho.

No RD ceremony this wet morning, so after a short countdown, they released us into the park. There wasn't enough of a crowd to call it a rush to Space Mountain, maybe a saunter to Space Mountain. Buzz was a walk on, as was Winnie the Pooh. The new queue area is really cute. I spotted Ms. Mary on my way over to PhilharMagic, so I stopped for a chat.



Here you can see how wet and deserted Fantasyland is at 10:30am:



I practically have the place to myself, so by the time I finished PhilharMagic, Peter Pan, it's a small world, and Haunted Mansion, I still had to wait a few minutes before Columbia Harbor House opened for lunch. I blame having just eaten for nodding off in Hall of Presidents. By the time I got to Thunder Mountain there were a few more people around. I think they were slowing down the line a little just to be able to fill up the trains. Splash was down for rehab, not that anyone needed to be any wetter or colder anyway.

Continued along my path to Pirates, followed by Jungle Cruise. I was sad to find the Tiki Room unexpectedly closed. I later learned about the fire that happened the day before. Nothing is keeping me away from the Tiki Room on the next trip. Can't wait to see the throwback version with the upgraded technology. From there I did a good bit of meandering around.

I lucked into a prime seat behind the Partners statue for the Dream Along with Mickey castle stage show, but a sudden heavy downpour stopped it mid-show. The rain drove me into the Main Street gift shops, and turned the 3:00 parade into the Rainy Day Cavalcade of Characters. It's a pretty neat way to see a ton of characters in a very short time, and the tune is crazy catchy. I suggest you-tubing it if you haven't seen it.

I found my way into Tomorrowland and dried off on TTA and Buzz. I trekked back to see if the next castle stage show would run, but it was canceled, I assume because the stage was still too wet, so I crossed over into Adventureland and rode Pirates again. I met Pirate Goofy:



and caught the end of Captain Jack's Pirate Tutorial. Success at last seeing Dream Along with Mickey right at "sunset," or what would have been sunset if there had been any sun to set. Then on to dinner at The Plaza. The waitress was a bit spill-happy, but my burger was good and the chocolate shake was ridiculous good. Yeah, I was freezing, but it was totally worth it.

Wrapping up my last bit of time left for rides, I hit PhilharMagic and Winnie the Pooh again. Then back to the hub to wait for Wishes. Got to see the very new Magic, Memories and You show, which is way cooler in person than what they advertised. I'm not convinced the Photopass pictures add anything to the show, but I would guess those who get their pics up there think differently.

After Wishes, I hightailed it to the Monorail and got into position for Illuminations with just 5 minutes to spare. Then everyone had the same idea to get in line for Soarin'. I think the 35 minute line was the longest I waited all trip. Still had time to do plenty more with the rest of EMH. Living with the Land is much easier on the eyes at night. I stopped in to get a free printout of a Photopass pic with my Disney Visa, which took way more time than I anticipated. When I finished there, Spaceship Earth was so deserted that I snuck in some flash pictures. Mission: Space's 20 minute posted wait time was a walk on, as was Test Track's 30 minutes posted wait time. I scooped up a couple of cool shirts and a blanket as Mouse Gears was shutting down, and rode a surprisingly packed bus back to Music.

At times today I felt very lonely, even ready to just go home. I'm sure the dreary weather contributed to the feeling, but by the end of the night I felt like I had had a good day. Nothing beats a MK/EP combo day. Especially when there are Wishes involved:



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Old 08-15-2011, 08:44 PM   #3
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Enjoying your trip report. I admire your decision to go solo. That is very brave. I don't know if I could do it, but I did get to spend a few hours in HS on one of our trips and it was pretty cool to just take my time and do some things that I wanted to do that no one else was interested in. Looking forward to reading along.
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Old 08-15-2011, 09:13 PM   #4
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Great start!!! I am so glad you were brave enough to go solo. Can't wait to read more!
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Old 08-15-2011, 09:47 PM   #5
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So many people go solo, I'm surprised the CM at check-in did that to you.
I go solo ever Spring, when my dh attends his conference.
I even did Typhoon Lagoon by myself this past spring.

It does have it's up and downs, but I think the trick is making small talk and eye contact. I am bad at both, but I try. I usually end up taking a lot of people's photo's for them. I must look like someone that likes taking pictures.

Looking forward to the rest of your TR.
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Old 08-16-2011, 12:32 AM   #6
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Saturday 1/22
"Cold, Cold, Cold" are my notes to start off today. If it hasn't been made abundantly clear by now, let me just reiterate: I don't like the cold. Despite the frigid temperature, I found myself first at the turnstiles for Epcot rope drop.



Getting out in the cold early has its perks. I got a first-row, feet-free view of Soarin' and an entire train to myself for Figment. For some reason I decided to see Captain EO. I don't know what I was thinking. After the lameness of EO, Nemo was amazing. Turtle Talk was cute, as always, and next door at Coral Reef, I was seated right next to Crush!



We shared a delicious lobster soup, mahi mahi and a chocolate wave.

After lunch I made my way back to World Showcase, stopping to ride Soarin' again on the way. Wandering around World Showcase, I caught Serveur Amusant in France,



Voices of Liberty



and the American Adventure in America, met the Beast,



and watched O Canada! before it was time for dinner at Le Cellier. I had a wonderful cheddar cheese soup and New York strip. I felt like splurging (even more) and ordered an Antioxidant Cocktail – Finlandia Wild Berries Vodka, Absolut Berri Acai Vodka, pomegranate, lychee and freshly squeezed lemon juice. It was tart and strong and absolutely delicious. And ridiculously expensive.

After dinner, it was off to the monorail to MK for the Main Street Electric Parade (Rant mode on: What's up with Disney taking all the cool, newer stuff and replacing it with old, lame, out-dated stuff and calling it special? It's not special. It's cheating people out of the good stuff. And it's lame! Down with Captain EO! Down with the Electric Parade! Bring back SpectroMagic! Rant mode off. I miss Spectro.), the Magic, the Memories and You, and Wishes.





It was bitterly cold after Wishes, so in desperation to escape inside somewhere, I lined up for Monsters Inc. and Carousel of Progress. Not the best use of time, but by the time I came out of the great big beautiful tomorrow, I was D-U-N done. I was back in my room by 9:45pm while MK was still open until 10pm. I've never left a park for being too hot, but that cold chased me out of MK an hour early! Not surprisingly, Disney was selling blankets off of carts along the parade route. $$
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Old 08-16-2011, 01:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JolllyHoliday View Post
Enjoying your trip report. I admire your decision to go solo. That is very brave. I don't know if I could do it, but I did get to spend a few hours in HS on one of our trips and it was pretty cool to just take my time and do some things that I wanted to do that no one else was interested in. Looking forward to reading along.
Thanks. I didn't feel very brave at first, but I managed to have a good time in spite of myself. It was nice to only have to worry about what I wanted to do. I saw so many things I normally wouldn't have slowed down to see before. It really has its advantages if you can get past the uncomfortable stuff.

Quote:
Originally Posted by portocall View Post
Great start!!! I am so glad you were brave enough to go solo. Can't wait to read more!
Thanks. I think stubborn is a better word than brave, but me too! I think I was a little more sympathetic toward Piglet this trip.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OhMari View Post
So many people go solo, I'm surprised the CM at check-in did that to you.
I go solo ever Spring, when my dh attends his conference.
I even did Typhoon Lagoon by myself this past spring.

It does have it's up and downs, but I think the trick is making small talk and eye contact. I am bad at both, but I try. I usually end up taking a lot of people's photo's for them. I must look like someone that likes taking pictures.

Looking forward to the rest of your TR.
I was totally taken aback. I really never expected such a reaction from a CM. Disney sent me a survey about my stay once I got home and I did mention it, just b/c it seemed SO out of character for the customer service pros. Imagine the possibilities; how could you say that to someone who may be recently divorced or have someone deceased?

I actually didn't talk to many people, that I can recall. I spent a lot of time reflecting and more time just zoning out. It had been an exhausting several months with my grandma getting progressively worse, so it was nice to just be quiet and observe nice things happening all around me. I didn't get asked to take anyone's picture, even though I pretty much always had my camera in my hand.

Already halfway through the trip. I started this TR partially in anticipation of an upcoming trip at the end of September. I don't think it's going to keep me occupied for as long as I had hoped it would. Oh well. Only 38 more days until I have more material to write about!
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Old 08-16-2011, 02:37 AM   #8
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Enjoying your trip report.
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Old 08-16-2011, 08:32 AM   #9
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Old 08-16-2011, 08:34 AM   #10
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Your photos are really fantastic!!!!
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Old 08-16-2011, 09:23 AM   #11
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I am enjoying your trip report. You have a nice writing style--I can picture myself there as I am reading it
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Old 08-16-2011, 09:47 AM   #12
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Those are some great pictures you have there and it looks like you are warming (sorry) up to the solo trip.
I was down there in January once and had to purchase gloves and a hat - woohoo!!
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Old 08-16-2011, 12:40 PM   #13
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I've never gone to WDW solo, but I sure would in a heartbeat. A trip to Disney is a trip to Disney. I stayed at the All Star Music last trip and loved it, we were in the rock building with the giant guitars on the sides. So cute. I'm going back in Jan and used to summer/fall trips so I will be sure to take my gloves and a hat and layers of warmer clothing. After reading your report I now know more of what to expect. I hope you had a wonderful time.
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Old 08-16-2011, 05:02 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Abdieso View Post
Enjoying your trip report.
Quote:
Originally Posted by TigerKat View Post
Great start, I'm signing on!
Quote:
Originally Posted by shovan View Post
Your photos are really fantastic!!!!
Thanks guys!

Quote:
Originally Posted by FloraFauna View Post
I am enjoying your trip report. You have a nice writing style--I can picture myself there as I am reading it
Thanks. I appreciate you saying that; I don't get to practice writing much.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GaRain View Post
Those are some great pictures you have there and it looks like you are warming (sorry) up to the solo trip.
I was down there in January once and had to purchase gloves and a hat - woohoo!!
I can give away one secret for the Wishes pics. Stand on the corner of Main Street in front of the ice cream parlor. Use the horse tie-up post on the corner as a tripod. Set your point and shoot to sports/pets and manually turn off the flash. Angle up at the castle and click away while you watch. You'll end up with at least a few good pics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cin View Post
I've never gone to WDW solo, but I sure would in a heartbeat. A trip to Disney is a trip to Disney. I stayed at the All Star Music last trip and loved it, we were in the rock building with the giant guitars on the sides. So cute. I'm going back in Jan and used to summer/fall trips so I will be sure to take my gloves and a hat and layers of warmer clothing. After reading your report I now know more of what to expect. I hope you had a wonderful time.
Being solo definitely requires a different mindset, and it can be really hard at times when you just want to share a moment with someone. I have to admit I called home a lot more than I normally would. It'd probably be easier for someone with a smartphone who could share over facebook or twitter (but I'm cheap, and my phone is just a phone).

As for the weather, the actual temperatures were probably mild for most people, but I am a wimp when it comes to cold. Midday temps were from 59 - 79, so not SO bad, though 59 is pushing it for this New Orleanian. Nighttime temps were brutal for me; some only got down to low 50's, but one night was 43 and one was 38! Knowing myself, I came prepared and wore 3 layers most days - long-sleeve tee, short sleeve tee and jacket. I kept my gloves on most of the time (though I realize you can't really tell from my character pictures since I usually have my hands wrapped in my jacket sleeves). The only thing I'll do differently next time is wear leggings or pj pants to add layers for my legs. I think if I had had that, I wouldn't have been driven out of the park on that coldest of nights.
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Old 08-16-2011, 05:56 PM   #15
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Those temps would be the perfect ideal vacation temp for me!
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