WDW as a single parent

Dominion

Mouseketeer
Joined
Feb 3, 2013
Hello DISers!,

We went on a big family trip in Dec 2013 (my kids, grandparents, cousins - 10 people total) and had a great time. It was an "all out" kind of trip with tons of planning, great ADRs, stayed at Poly club level, etc...but it was a TON of planning and kid of stressful with that many people. I'm now a single parent and have 2 girls - ages 7 and almost 5. I really want to take them on another Disney trip, but I'm nervous about taking them by myself. Just dealing with the sheer size of the place and having no one else to help (for eg. someone stays with kids at table, while another adult gets food, trips to bathroom, differences in what girls want to do - my youngest is fearful, oldest is a daredevil.) If I went I would do it on a smaller scale - a few days instead of a week, stay at Swan/Dolphin, stick to MK and Epcot, fewer ADRs - basically make it less complicated and less expensive. The benefit is that we can do it however we (I!!) want. I would try and plan the trip in a lower crowd time if that makes any difference.

The other option is to try a Disney cruise, since that seems less tiring, less complicated. I've never been on a cruise myself, so that also seems daunting!

I'd love to hear from other single parents with similar aged kids about your experiences at WDW (or just parents who have taken the kids by themselves without another adult). Thanks!
 

Skrabadoo

Earning My Ears
Joined
May 9, 2014
Go the for cruise. We did one this year with a 2 and a 5 year old. It was so amazing, I'm sorry I didn't start cruising earlier.
 

bababear_50

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 5, 2007
Hi
I have taken my grandaughter by myself and here are a few things that helped me do it on my own.
We planned out the trip (itinerary) ahead of time and together.
I have taken her 4 times to Disney--age 5-7-9-10.

1. I utilized activities that were going on at the resort,
movies under the stars
pool time/activities
children's activity center
childrens treasure hunt cruise.
smores making

2.
Visit to Downtown Disney
Amc Movie theatre
I made up a hidden mickey game and once she found all 12 Hidden Mickeys
she got a treat.

3
Magic Kingdom Day
Picked three inportant rides and then listed 6 more that we hoped to do.
Booked Wishes Dessert Party, no crowds to worry about.
Collected Pressed Pennies.
I gave her $25.00 gift card ahead of time for a souvenir.

4
Epcot day
again we choose 3 important rides /attractions .
I made an candy around the world booklet and she got it signed/stamped in each Country.
We also bought a sample of candy from each Country except Morocco-we did find some ice cream there.
We went during Epcots Flower and Garden Festival so there was the butterfly
display,playground/ and of course a bit of shopping.


* we both used the washroom before meals and to wash up.
Remember you are a great Mom and you can plan a wonderful Holiday for you and your girls,
Have fun planning
Hugs Mel
 
  • Jackiet123

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jan 4, 2013
    I'm here now as a single mom with twin 5 1/2 year olds. We just finished out first day at MK. They did great. I rented a double stroller which was my lifesaver. It's where they were contained. On fact they preferred it to walking. I've schedule only a couple reservations at restaurants to leave the schedule more open. Go over ground rules with them that there may be something one doesn't want to do but the other does but we do it because we are a team and then the next time it may be the other person. That philosophy went well. Turned out I didn't need extra help like I thought. I scheduled a last minute reservation at the plaza for lunch just so I didn't have to juggle around trays, stroller and who sits with the kids. That worked great and was a nice rest time. We did some shows that helped with down time too. We were there open to close.

    I've also done the disney cruise and do admit that would be easier. But this is very possible to so the parks and have fun!!
     

    Oomiak

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    May 8, 2008
    I did my first single parent trip with my 6 year old son. He is 9 now and we have done six trips during that time. I have never felt overwhelmed or crazy for doing it. The only thing I have to live with is the fact that I ride what he wants to ride and I don't ride things he doesn't want to ride. I never get to do Tower of Terror! It's pretty easy for us. I can't say how I would do it with two kids, but I don't think it would be that bad. We are changing it up a little this year and headed to Disneyland for a change of pace.
     

    catherines_mama

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 3, 2003
    You can do it. Talk to your daredevil. See if you can do a special Bday trip with just her one day and that will help her in sitting out for sister now.

    At meals ask CMs for help. They are wonderful and will help with trays. Sit near the bathroom. Leave the table empty and all go, telling the CM you will be back. Or go before like PP suggested. Give older DD some responsibility in helping plan, carry drinks, open doors etc.

    I was a single mom for 7 years and from 2 - 7 DD and I went many times. We lived in FL. When I met now hubby he worked a lot of weekends so I've taken all 3 alone for weekend trips. It's a handful, but the memories are worth it.
     

    WDmommyof4

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 25, 2007
    You can definitely do it. I have take my four boys on several Disney World trips as a single parent. You just have to know your limitations and theirs. Bathrooms were always the hardest for me since mine are all boys. I would take them in with my until they were about 7 and then I would send them on their own and make sure they knew right where to stand. I would use hand sanitizer and skip mirror time. Most of the time, I was out of the bathroom before them. Other than that, I say go and have a great time!
     
  • SillySallySews

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 28, 2014
    I am not a single parent but I have taken both of my daughters by myself to MK. They were two and six. The great thing about Disney is that so many of the rides are set up so that three (or more) people can all sit together on a ride. My older daughter is a thrill seeker, so I did have to explain to her beforehand that we would not be able to ride Space, Splash, or BTMRR because her little sister wasn't tall enough. We didn't have issues with the bathrooms since we are all girls, so we just all went in together. Food was also not an issue as they just followed me to counters or buffet lines. I never felt overwhelmed or unsafe being alone with them, and if you do find yourself in a situation where you need a hand the CMs are usually fantastic about helping. If I could do more girls only trips I would! IMO it's a lot more relaxing when you are the only adult making the decisions.
     

    msmama

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 21, 2009
    Disney may be one of the easiest places as a single parent.

    Like someone else said, I don't ride what my son doesn't want to ride. I also put myself completely on his schedule. I wake when he does and go to bed when he does - which isn't a problem because Disney is exhausting!!

    He's had it drilled into him that he must behave and stay close to me when we're in line for food. Of course, depending on places, if I can see him from where I am, he'll happily sit at the table while I get food (we often eat at off peak times which makes this easier).

    Bathrooms, I use my judgement on. Sometimes he'll go in to the mens room himself while I use the ladies, sometimes he comes with me (depending on crowds and how long I think we'll be, etc - he's 6 so it's not like I'm taking a teenager in the ladies room). But we do have a rule that if one person has to go, we both try at least.

    Disney trips before him were go-go-go, ride every ride from rope drop to park close. Now they are much more slow and I get to see Disney through a kids eyes, which is fun.

    I did my first single parent trip with my 6 year old son. He is 9 now and we have done six trips during that time. I have never felt overwhelmed or crazy for doing it. The only thing I have to live with is the fact that I ride what he wants to ride and I don't ride things he doesn't want to ride. I never get to do Tower of Terror! It's pretty easy for us. I can't say how I would do it with two kids, but I don't think it would be that bad. We are changing it up a little this year and headed to Disneyland for a change of pace.
    We shook it up last year and went to Disneyland. It was great! My son really seemed to enjoy the things that they don't have a WDW the most - I don't know if it was just novelty or what (because frankly his memory isn't that good to remember what they have where).
     

    ConnieB

    My girls with Anthony Daniels, SW Convention 2012
    Joined
    Jun 29, 2007
    For rides that the daredevil wants to do but the younger child doesn't.....go through the line with both kids, put the 7 year old into the ride, and you and the younger wait for her to come back. Just let the CM loading the ride know what you're doing and they'll direct you to where to go from there. You're lucky it's the older that is the daredevil. I'm not sure I would be comfortable with a newly 5 year old riding alone, but the 7 I think I would be, your mileage may vary of course.

    Remember that kids don't usually care about all the careful planning....they just want to be and do and go. So don't feel you have to plan every second of the day. Ask them for specific "must do" for each (if their list gets too long, tell them to pick the top 2 in each park) and then just be sure those get done....everything else is gravy and spontaneous fun.

    The average kid is just as happy having a hot dog or pizza really quick and then back on rides, rather than a nice sit down meal (though Mom may need an hour sit down meal, lol). And the quick service are, of course, cheaper too.

    Unless you're going at a crazy busy time, just plan to eat either before the normal meal rush or after it and finding a table shouldn't be a problem once you have your food. Let the 7 year old carry a tray with food (but maybe you carry the one with any drinks as those tend to be the culprit in most spill accidents because they are tall and unbalanced). If that won't work, then simply ask a CM for help, there are always several nearby and they're used to being asked to help.

    Bathrooms....I have twins, and until I felt they were ready to go on their own (and this was anywhere, not just Disney) we'd wait for a disabled stall....those stalls are large enough for all 3 of us to fit and we just take turns going. Once they were ready to go on their own if I didn't feel safe not being right there, I'd stay by their door as they went, and then have them stand so I could see their feet while I went (I'd tell them they need to guard the door for me, just like I did for them.....makes them feel it is an important task, lol). Now, mine were good about obeying that rule and aren't wanderers, so you know your kid and whether that will work.

    Disney has a lot of family/companion bathrooms where it is a single room and those are handy to use as well. Check the park maps for those bathroom locations, there aren't a lot of them, so it will take a bit more coordinating and maybe a hike to get to.

    Ever since mine were really little, I always requested they hold MY hand so that "I" would be safe crossing the street, or so "I" would not get lost in the stores....they took this very seriously and if I let go they're remind me that I didn't want to get lost, lol. A cute reverse psych trick someone taught me, that even now, as teenagers they'll often joke and say "Mom, you need to hold my hand crossing this street, you don't want to get hurt". I joke that I'm getting old enough I probably need the help, lol.


    The best thing you can do, for your own sanity and so the kids don't feel your stress, is to remember that this is not about how many rides you can go on in a single day, it is not about doing every single thing there is to do....it's about being together and having fun and perhaps most important, building memories. Years from now the kids are not going to remember their 4th time riding Peter Pan, or the uber expensive meal, or even the deluxe hotel, they're going to remember the silly thing that happened or the time this or that happened. Take it slow and let the kids direct what they want to do at that moment. If possible, go for an extra day or two so you don't feel rushed.....stay in a moderate or a value resort if you need a budget boost to afford the extra days.

    If you are still concerned about going alone (and I know that feeling, I was a bit nervous our first time...I'm not single, but my husband just doesn't care about Disney so we don't take him, lol), consider bringing along a friend.....either another adult or maybe a responsible teenager. I know a mom who has a special needs kid and a non-special needs....so she needs help.....she brings along her trusted babysitter, a teen who can handle both kids so sometimes the teen stays with the special needs kid and keeps them entertained wandering around or standing in line for the 10th time to meet Mickey while mom takes the other on rides, and vice versa. She doesn't pay the teen at the babysitting rate.....instead she pays for their trip (and gives the teen a few hours alone while mom and the kids hang at the resort). You don't have a special needs, but you have two different need children (one daredevil one not)...so bring along a teen (sitter, cousin, etc) to go off with one or the other. By switching off you get to spend special alone time with each one, building another set of memories. My hubby travels a lot so I also know how hard it can be sometimes to give one-on-one attention to both kids! Again, I'd suggest switching to a value or moderate resort to be able to afford the extra ticket and food costs of a companion.

    You CAN do this....you just have a different set of planning to work on.
     

    JimmyV

    Por favor manténganse alejado de las puertas.
    Joined
    Jun 4, 2008
    The other option is to try a Disney cruise, since that seems less tiring, less complicated. I've never been on a cruise myself, so that also seems daunting!
    You are getting lots of great advice about going to WDW as a family of three. It definitely can be done, and the environment helps entertain the kids, so you don't have to. Also, don't be surprised if your "fearful" younger one becomes a "daredevil" by the end of the trip. It is amazing what peer pressure and sibling pressure can do, not to mention the jealousy of the younger one seeing all the fun that the older one is having. But what I really wanted to comment on was the option of the cruise. Maybe this is a good thing, or maybe it is a bad thing, but what you will need to understand is that if you take your kids on a cruise, (and we're really talking about any mass market cruise line here...not just Disney), there will be vibrant kids' programs for them and they will be engrossed in that for much of the day leaving you by yourself. Maybe you would relish the "alone time" or maybe you would be lonely and bored. I have no way of knowing. Just giving fair warning that the kids will fall in love with the kids' programs and leave you for much of the day. Take that into account when deciding.
     
  • clutter

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 29, 2001
    For rides that the daredevil wants to do but the younger child doesn't.....go through the line with both kids, put the 7 year old into the ride, and you and the younger wait for her to come back. Just let the CM loading the ride know what you're doing and they'll direct you to where to go from there. You're lucky it's the older that is the daredevil. I'm not sure I would be comfortable with a newly 5 year old riding alone, but the 7 I think I would be, your mileage may vary of course.

    Remember that kids don't usually care about all the careful planning....they just want to be and do and go. So don't feel you have to plan every second of the day. Ask them for specific "must do" for each (if their list gets too long, tell them to pick the top 2 in each park) and then just be sure those get done....everything else is gravy and spontaneous fun.




    The best thing you can do, for your own sanity and so the kids don't feel your stress, is to remember that this is not about how many rides you can go on in a single day, it is not about doing every single thing there is to do....it's about being together and having fun and perhaps most important, building memories. Years from now the kids are not going to remember their 4th time riding Peter Pan, or the uber expensive meal, or even the deluxe hotel, they're going to remember the silly thing that happened or the time this or that happened. Take it slow and let the kids direct what they want to do at that moment. If possible, go for an extra day or two so you don't feel rushed.....stay in a moderate or a value resort if you need a budget boost to afford the extra days.
    I've done way too many Disney trips with my dd as single mom/only kid and I agree with most of these points. There will just be a bit more compromises that each sister will have to make, and isn't that a great lesson for them. And there are so many things that you can do that aren't rides. Shows, mini-golf

    As for the cruise, I never did that with my dd. My purpose on vacation was for us to spend time together without the stresses of everyday life. It seemed that the cruises were geared towards kids clubs for the kid, but then what was I supposed to do by myself? OTOH, if I was looking for a little me time, that would have been a good option.

    I am a DVC member and usually purchased APs. We went SO many times when dd was 3 - 13. Now 17, we recently went with one of dd's friends that had never been. What a blast. It was so wonderful to see dd want to relive and share some of her favorite things.
     

    TXTransplant

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 28, 2012
    I'm a single mom and I've done both WDW (3 times) and a Disney Cruise with my son. On one of the WDW trips, my sister joined us, on another my son's dad was with us for 2 days, and on the third I was solo the entire time. The cruise was just the two of us.

    Both are manageable, but the cruise was much more relaxing for me! We had "together time" but with the kids club on the cruise, I was able to sneak away for some "me" time. My son also made lots of friends on the cruise, and I even made friends with a couple of other single moms. It was nice to be able to socialize while my son swam in the pool and did other kid activities. Nothing compares to WDW, but if you are looking for a vacation where you can relax, I'd go for the cruise.
     

    ibela

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 28, 2006
    WDW is a more hectic trip because there's so much to see and do that it can get overwhelming. Potty breaks, QS meals, etc. I think kids get tired and cranky and it's doable as a single parent BUT a cruise is much easier to handle as a single parent. I planned a WDW trip with my 2 when they were 4 and 6. I planned our top 3 must dos in each park and a character meal daily. I also alternated park days with pool days so we could all recoup. At the last minute, my boyfriend was able to join us and the entire week I was thinking how relieved I was he was there to help. Of course it's doable but I'd go the Disney cruise route. We've been on 3 cruises and it's a great balance of activity vs down time. No real lines for things and overall I think it'd be much more relaxing for everyone while still having a good time. Shows are great, kids clubs are great, restaurants are great, etc. It's your vacation too and I think a cruise would definitely help recharge the batteries and be an overall more relaxing and enjoyable family time.
     

    dsdeleon

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 12, 2012
    I have done a single trip with my youngest at 6 and that trip was the easiest so far because we are the same schedule and like the same things (late late nights at MK, rope drop at other parks and sleep all day). You didn't say if you are a single Mom or Dad but if it's Mom, bathrooms will be easy. My son being opposite sex and too old to see me have to go in a companion, I still make him stand outside the stall in the adult bathroom. As a single Dad, the girls going in the adults bathroom is not an option, so a companion would have to do.

    I am taking my 7 yo and 9yo 10 park days of Dis/Uni in April. I expect them to use the adult Men's bathroom on their own (together) and for us to separate for a few activities, like drop the youngest off at Simbas Clubhouse and take the eldest on the Sunset Safari. Their schedules and likes/dislikes are different so I am hoping they both just go with what is planned, but I am making less ADRs/must-dos and just taking it easy.
     

    vicky33006

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 27, 2012
    This is such a great thread! I'm taking my DS (will be 9) with me to WDW for nine nights this summer. The trip will just be him and me for the majority though my sister and nephew will be joining the first three nights. I'm very excited and not really nervous at all. I only have one though...so that makes a big difference. I don't mind going by his schedule at all. I think he'll make me slow down and that's a good thing!

    My only worry is the bathroom situation. I'm more worried about what to do with him when I have to go. When he has to go I'll just wait for him very close by. I'm sure it will all work out...just makes me a bit nervous.

    I thought about a cruise a bit for this trip but ultimately decided against it because the best part of a cruise for the kids is spending time in the kid's clubs, and I don't want to spend my whole vacation alone. The purpose of the vacation is to spend time with him!

    OP have a fantastic vacation! You'll make memories that will last forever!
     

    pixarmom

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 20, 2009
    Not a single parent, but I take our three boys on my own all the time. Granted, two of them are now teens and the youngest is 8, but I've been doing this for quite some time and love it. I'd say the most important thing for me when traveling with them on my own is to be realistic about what we can/want to do in a day. We usually take an afternoon break and have swim time.

    We stay club level as much as possible so that breakfasts are really easy and they have easy access to snacks during our late afternoon break. But I've also stayed in mods and values with the kids. In that case, we're up super early to beat the breakfast rush.

    As for ADRs, I make a ton of them. It's so much easier to sit down with the kids than to stand in line gathering and placing orders, juggling trays and finding seats. When the kids were younger, I'd just select TS restaurants that are more appealing to kids and/or that move along more quickly. Some of our favorites for mom and younger kids trips are Garden Grill, San Angel, Hoop Dee Doo, Sci Fi and Cape May. Now our older boys are up for anything and our youngest just falls asleep. But CS restaurants are exhausting and I need a break from my break afterwards!

    We've been on cruises (Dream to Bahamas, Wonder to Alaska) and I LOVED the Wonder to Alaska. But I agree with clutter. I was just thinking that the super long dinners in the dining rooms were great, but if our kids were younger and I was on my own with them, I wouldn't love that. Rather have ADRs for WDW TS locations that are always hopping and/or quick.

    I also agree with the must-do lists. I ask our kids for three priorities in each park. Fortunately for us, there is a ton of overlap. So I plan for those favorites, and set up the expectation that we'll do those and anything else is just a bonus.

    As for the compromises, our older boys will now do anything on their own. But that wasn't always the case. When they were younger, for example, they wanted to ride TOT and SM but only with me. I couldn't because their little brother was too little and didn't have another adult for rider swap for our mom and kids trips. So they didn't, and they understood that we compromise when it's just the four of us.

    Honestly, I think Disney with three kids is WAY easier than everyday life at home with three kids! At Disney, we're all going to the same place at the same time, I'm not cooking, cleaning or doing laundry, I'm not driving anyone anywhere, there is no homework, and the schedule is far more flexible!
     

    CaLuCa

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 27, 2012
    I must preface this with I am not a single parent but married to someone who doesn't have the magic. We live 6-7 hour drive to WDW and just a few weeks ago I took my 4 kids to MK, Epcot and AK by myself. Ages are 11, 4 yo twins, and a new 2 year old. I had some serious doubts that I could do this, but I survived and we all had a great time. Actually the hardest part was driving in the rain and dark for several hours. We ended up getting AP for us (but not dad) and will be returning several times over the next year. Some trips DH will come, but you should have seen his eyes light up over the idea of a weekend without anyone else in the house. :rotfl2:

    I took a double stroller and the kids napped in it (both my twins are small and one is like a little roly poly, curled himself up in a ball in the basket) while DD11 and I did an Agent P (shoot me now! Thank goodness they are on smart phones and not the awful flip phones!!). We didn't do even a fraction of the things I would have originally deemed acceptable to get done, but my main goal was to not lose anyone (2 year old is a runner) or have anyone need stitches. My DD11 has some learning disabilities and can be a handful at times, but was an absolute gem...after all, it's her happy place too! :banana::love: We struggle with school and it is such a treat to see her enjoy life and us to share something wonderful.

    We only did things that all of us can do together. DD11 won't do anything scary, fast, (or fun) and DS2 is too short. So we stuck to shows and "tamer" rides. We did not do any CS or TS. My kids are the champions of snacking so I just brought goodies in the backpack and ate in our room. I do plan on doing some TS in future trips, but no buffets as I just don't think I can rely on them to stay seated while I'm getting food and I don't want DD11 to have the full responsibility of watching her younger siblings.

    So, long story short...oh, wait, we've done a cruise too and it was a good time, but to me the magic lies in the parks. Both are lovely, but a completely different experience. And the bathroom thing...the 3 younger ones went in with me...everyone does the women's restroom so far.

    Now, even longer story...Yes, you can do it. Sure it's easier with additional adults, but spending happy time with my kids where we didn't have to worry about school, picking up toys, getting somewhere on time, or even what's for dinner (pudding cup, anyone??) just made the most magical place even more memorable.
     

    tooh8ful

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 18, 2007
    I'm a single mom of 2 girls, 7 and 12. My older daughter is a daredevil and the younger one doesn't even like the tea cups!
    When the girls were younger it was possible for us to go during free dining. I always took a friend along to help with the girls. The extra adult in the room didn't cost anything and dining was included so I only had to pay for their park tickets (They paid for their own flight, part of the "deal")
    That worked really well for us. The younger daughter didn't have to ride anything she didn't want to and the older daughter didn't miss anything and in fact, because of baby swap rode a lot of things twice.
    If you have a friend willing to tag along this may work for OP. The cost for an additional adult isn't huge but the help, especially with children with different interests is HUGE!
    This year will be our first WDW trip without "assistance". But my girls are older now so not a big deal. Just the 3 of us went to DLP in Oct. and I just waited with the little one while my older daughter rode the things she didn't want to.
     

    Dominion

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 3, 2013
    Thank you all so much for your thoughtful posts! There is so much helpful information and advice here. You've given me lots to think about!! It never occurred to me that I could ask a CM for help to get food to my table, or that I might spend a lot of time alone on a cruise. I still haven't decided which way to go, although I am leaning toward WDW first, especially with some of your very inspiring stories. Thank you!!!
     

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