The Introverts Guide to Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World can be a magical place, but it can also be overwhelming. And while this can be true for anyone, it can be especially true for introverts. Coming originally from the work of Carl Jung, and known to most people through some familiarity with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, introversion is essentially the preference for less stimulating environments. Introverts tend to gain energy from solitude, and get drained when spending a lot of time interacting with others or getting stimulated.
Introversion and extroversion are on a continuum, meaning that everyone has some of both in them, so whether you identify as an introvert yourself, have an introvert in your family, or none of the above, these tips can still help you enjoy your Walt Disney World Vacation even more. However, everyone is unique so you by no means need to adhere to every tip here to have a great trip – find what works for you and enjoy!
Note: These tips relate specifically to introversion, if you have questions or concerns related to autism or more specific or special needs, please check out our page on the Disability Access Service (DAS).
Do Your Research Have a Plan Pick a Hotel That Fits Your Needs Reserve DiningFind Your Laughing PlaceKnow Your NeedsPracticeLook Past the HeadlinersGet Out of the ParksRent or Bring a CarKnow Who You Are Going WithUse the TechnologyTreat Yo SelfYou Don’t Have to Do Everything
Do Your Research
For us, this is a default tip for anybody, but it’s especially important for introverts. Walt Disney World has four theme parks, two water parks, dozens of hotels, hundreds of restaurants, and much more. There is a lot going on, so having an idea of what you are getting into can be incredibly helpful.
Luckily, there is a lot of help out there. You can check out menus, look through attractions, learn about Genie+, or read about other people’s experiences in the blog. Planning is part of the fun for many Disney fans, but can also be a great resource to alleviate concerns and develop strategies.
Have a Plan
As a part of your research, you might come across typically busy times of year, like Christmas and Easter, or when popular special events occur, like Marathon weekend, so you can try to plan around those times. Similarly, knowing the park hours can help you identify which parks and times of day might be the least crowded.
Planning can also give you more of a sense of control over your day. Getting Genie+ reservations as close to each other as possible, or for attractions with particularly long waits, or whatever other criteria that would be helpful. Having breaks set for you to get away from crowds or rest can help maintain your energy for your trip as a whole.
One last benefit to having a plan is that if you know what you are doing and how to do it, you don’t have to talk to as many people. Energy is finite, so anything you can do to save some is a bonus.
Pick a Hotel that Fits Your Needs
Choosing where to stay during a Disney vacation is an important consideration for anyone, and depending on your own needs and strategies you have many choices.
If you think you will want to be able to easily and quickly get back to your hotel for breaks, then staying on-site generally, but especially at the Epcot Area or Magic Kingdom Area resorts could be worth the extra cost.
Conversely, for some introverts the immersion of a Disney resort might be too much to constantly be inside. Luckily, there are still a lot of options. One of the best might be a rental vacation home. You would be able to get away, have your own space, and enjoy some peace and quiet.
When talking about planning, we mentioned making Advance Dining Reservations, and for introverts there are a few specific things to consider. First, many of the table service restaurants at Walt Disney World are nearly or completely filled by those with reservation, so if you want to have a sit down meal, it is best to make a reservation. Table service restaurants will generally be, if not less crowded than counter service restaurants than at least more controlled.
However, you should make sure you understand what is actually going to happen at the restaurant you book. For those who don’t like extra attention on them, 50’s Prime Time and Whispering Canyon Cafe would probably both be bad choices. At both of these, part of the theme is that the wait staff will, for lack of a better term “mess” with you. Some people really enjoy that, but others really do not.
Additionally, the Biergarten restaurant in Epcot seats everyone at communal tables, so depending on the size of your group you will likely be seated with strangers. Whether or not that is a problem, knowing ahead of time can help you make an informed decision.
Finally, some of the most popular restaurants at Walt Disney World are the character meals. We will talk more about characters in general below, some of these restaurants also have participation events for children. Introverted children are all unique, but knowing that these happen and being able to decide whether to participate can be a helpful strategy.
A great way to know what the experience of a restaurant will be like is to check out our blog.
Find Your Laughing Place
While we wouldn’t suggest diving into the brier patch, a great way for introverts to find extra enjoyment during a Walt Disney World vacation is to discover one of the many quiet retreats around the resort that speaks to them.
One of the best spots to retreat and engage is Epcot’s World Showcase. From the gardens in the United Kingdom to the whole of the Morocco pavilion. Although just a few steps from the crowds, the pavilions provide countless ways to dive deep or momentarily escape.
In Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the park name itself is the secret – the animals! Between the Maharajah Jungle Trek, the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and the Oasis there are vast areas to appreciate beautiful animals, without as many crowds.
One of the most notable escapes in all of Walt Disney World is actually very close to the Br’er Rabbit’s Laughing Place, and that is Tom Sawyer Island. Only available by raft, this area lets you escape to the world of Mark Twain’s creations, and get away from it all while still in the middle of it all.
Know Your Needs
Introvert or not, everyone has specific needs, preferences, tolerances, and tendencies. Knowing those for yourself (and those you are traveling with) can help with planning, understanding, and overall success.
First, while not true of all introverts, there is a strong correlation between being an introvert and being what is generally referred to as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Making up around 70% of introverts, these people tend to be more sensitive to all forms of stimuli, including noise, light, smells, and even caffeine. If you, your child, your partner, or someone else in your party falls into this camp, being aware ahead of time can help you take care of yourself and maximize your enjoyment.
Some simple tips to start with:
- Bring noise cancelling headphones to be able to block out noises if you get overwhelmed
- Get enough sleep
- Wear sunscreen, get dark, UV blocking sunglasses, and try to limit sun exposure
- Eat healthy foods whenever possible (look for places like Anaheim Produce and Prince Eric’s Village Market for fresh fruit and healthier snacks)
One other area to know your needs in is character meet and greets. Popular with children and adults alike, character meets are often a major part of many Walt Disney World vacations. However, not every meet is created equally. Generally, Walt Disney World has two types of characters – face characters, who talk, and fur characters, who (almost always) do not. Some introverts don’t like making small talk, talking to people they don’t know, or talking much at all so depending on the way the meet is set up, some of the face character meet and greets can be painfully awkward. One tip, especially for those with introverted children, is to think of something you can bring up with them. If your child is introverted but loves Belle and really wants to meet her, you can encourage them to, say, bring up their favorite book, or some science experiment they were working on as a starting place. The characters are wonderful and usually feed off of whatever the guests are saying, so guiding the interaction in a direction that is more comfortable can be not only tolerable, but magical.
If you aren’t used to being around crowds or out with people for long periods of time, the best thing introverts can do to prepare for Walt Disney World is to practice. Find a local theme park, zoo, museum, science center, sporting event, or festival (or even your local mall between Thanksgiving and Christmas) and go there to just see how you do. As a sort of “expeditionary mission” you can see what reactions you have, how long you last, and some specific stimuli or triggers to watch out for. Better to figure that out 15 minutes from home with no real risk than while standing in the middle of Main Street U.S.A.
Look Past the Headliners
Some aspects of Walt Disney World are cultural touchstones that everyone knows and says you have to do (hello Space Mountain). However, one of the great things about Walt Disney World is that it has so much more than that, and those “diamonds in the rough” can be a great way for introverts to create their own wonderful experience in the parks.
First is just generally the level of detail that surrounds you in Walt Disney World. From the architecture to the landscaping to the background music, no detail has been glossed over and they are all right there for you to discover.
One particularly engrossing aspect of these details is the inclusion of Hidden Mickeys. Hidden Mickeys, as a group, are representations of Disney characters (mostly, but not only Mickey) that you can find everywhere from carpeting to rock formations.
Another great way to create a smaller experience inside of the larger world is with some of the individual activities designed in the parks. These include A Pirate’s Adventure in the Magic Kingdom, and the Wilderness Explorers in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Finally, you can look to shows and attractions that might not get as much attention. In the Magic Kingdom alone you have both the historic Carousel of Progress and the cult classic Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover. Both of these often have little to no wait, are relaxing, and give you insight into the history of the parks. Based on your interests, you can find spots like these throughout each of the parks.
Get Out of the Parks
The busiest part of any Walt Disney World vacation usually revolves around the parks themselves. As such, one of the best ways to avoid getting overstimulated is to schedule or take time outside of the park. One of the most common ways to do this is to schedule a “resort day” to hang out around the pool, take advantage of any special activities your resort has to offer, or just explore on your own.
If hanging around your resort doesn’t sound exciting, there are still plenty of great things to do while getting away from the parks. Disney has two great mini-golf courses Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland. Fort Wilderness has several outdoorsy activities, including horseback riding. Several of the resorts have boat rentals and special fishing trips.
Even if you are planning on going to one of the parks every day, getting away from the parks during the day can still be a great idea. You can easily and quickly get to a resort hotel for a meal to break up your day, or just to get away and explore!
Rent or Bring a Car
One of the great things about Walt Disney World is that you can get there and get around without having to worry about a car. However, there are several reasons, especially for introverts, that you might want to still get a car.
First is that if you have your own vehicle, introverts don’t have to worry about the crowds associated with Disney transportation at busy parts of the day. More than that, if you are the type of person who wants or needs to be able to get away from people rather quickly, the ability to go straight to your car can be a great asset.
Moreover, and continuing from our previous tip, having your own vehicle gives you the opportunity to get even farther away from the whole Walt Disney World resort. For some, the ability to drive to the beach, get engrossed in the space coast, or just go to a familiar chain restaurant that is half empty are all made possible with a vehicle.
Know Who You are Going With
Since Walt Disney World vacations are often special events, many travelers make the trip into a big production. You might take a trip with extended family for a reunion, co-workers for a conference, or friends just for fun. With any group, having a shared understanding of expectations going in can help alleviate trouble later on. For example, knowing if you are sharing meals, wanting to spend every waking hour together, fitting as many people as possible into hotels rooms, and more are all important things you might want to talk about in advance.
Even with people you might enjoy, an immersive trip where you aren’t able to take care of yourself because of someone else can be incredibly frustrating. For most, communication and planning can alleviate many of these problems.
Also, many Disney fans, introvert and otherwise, occasionally enjoy taking a solo trip.
Use the Technology
Over the past few years, Disney has invested a lot in the My Disney Experience related technology. Between the website and the app, you can reserve dining, order Magic Bands, and start Online Check-In so you don’t have to go to your hotel desk.
While on site, you can use the app to check wait times, look at maps, change reservations, and (in select locations) order your food ahead of time. If you prefer to limit your interactions with others, the advent of Disney technology can be incredibly useful.
Treat Yo Self
This tip touches on bits of many of the others. Essentially though, you can invest a little in improving your experience at Walt Disney World. Consider upgrading to a deluxe or deluxe villa resort and you will likely have a quieter experience that is often closer to one of the parks (for easy access and breaks). Several of these also have an attached spa for total pampering and relaxation. Similarly, many of the signature restaurants will have a slower paced and calmer dining experience.
Recently, Walt Disney World has also expanded the type and variety of more exclusive add-on opportunities available. For example, most of the nighttime spectaculars now offer some kind of dining package or desert party that can help introverts become buffered from the larger crowds. Also, there are multiple in depth behind the scenes tours that will let you travel deeper into some aspect of the Walt Disney World Resort in the confines of a smaller group.
You Don’t Have to Do Everything
This isn’t the normal “you can’t do everything in one trip” sort of tip, although that is true. This is us giving you permission to skip those things that are highly rated, or on all of the advertisements, or everyone at home says you have to do. For example, if the prospect of being stuck in the middle of thousands of people on Main Street during a parade or fireworks seems like it would be a horrible experience for you – then don’t do it. You can easily fill your time with things that won’t give you overwhelming anxiety.
However, if you really don’t want to miss a particular experience you can usually find a way to modify it to fit your needs with a little planning. For nighttime spectaculars the “best” spots are usually really crowded, but if you get a little farther away you can come later, not be as surrounded, and also not have much of a sensory overload (this is particularly important for the Star Wars fireworks in Disney’s Hollywood Studios). Also, as mentioned above, Disney offers many dining packages and dessert parties which can offer a sort of protective bubble from the crowds.
Overall, the measure of success for anyone going on a Walt Disney World vacation is how much they enjoyed their own experience. For any introvert heading there, if you take a little time to assess what you want to get out of it and make a plan to achieve that, you are bound to have a magical experience.