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Robert Niles
Editor

Solo travel for theme park fans

Published: April 17, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Have you ever gone on vacation by yourself? If not, have you ever thought about it?

Solo travel changes your vacation. It's not just the social aspect, either. When you travel alone, you change the economics of your trip. And that just might allow you to visit someplace you though you'd never be able to go before.

Solo travel in Singapore
Your truly, traveling solo to Universal Studios Singapore

Think about how much money you spend per person when you travel in a group. When you take a roadtrip alone, you're paying the same for gas and maintenance as you would if you had other people in the car with you. A hotel room often costs the same whether you're traveling alone or with a partner. That's why it makes sense to pile the family into the car and hit the road for a relatively affordable vacation.

But when you travel alone, the price per person of that hotel-filled roadtrip skyrockets. If you're used to traveling with your family and taking the car because you think it's the cheapest way to travel, it's time to rethink that assumption before a solo trip.

Here's when solo travel makes more financial sense — when you fly. Unlike driving, adding a second, third, or fourth person to the trip when you're buying airplane tickets sends the cost, as well as the passengers, sky high. Price the cost a single plane ticket against the cost of driving to that place you've always wanted to visit and you might find that flying is the better and cheaper way to go.

But don't stop there. Since flying is often cheaper than driving for solo travelers, why not take a look at the price of going even farther on your solo trip? Perhaps you'd never consider that dream trip to Tokyo Disney or to Disneyland Paris if you had to take the family. But what if you had the opportunity to go somewhere alone? Could a trip to Tokyo or Paris, or some other far-off destination, actually be affordable? You won't know until you start checking prices.

If you're flying to some far-off city, obviously, you'll need a place to stay. While the price of a hotel room for a single often isn't cheaper than when you bring a partner or the family, traveling alone gives you some flexibility in choosing a place to stay that you might not have when you go with a group.

Unless you know someone with a lot of extra space in their home, it's harder to bring the family to stay at someone else's home than it is for one person to claim a space on the couch or in a spare bedroom. (Even if you don't know anyone where you want to go, you can find available spare rooms and places to stay on sites such as AirBnB and Couchsurfing.) Hostels can provide a decent place to get a night's sleep for a solo traveler. Also consider that if you plan a trip to multiple cities, you can avoid expensive hotel costs by traveling at night — flying red-eyes or taking night trains from one destination to another. Never stay somewhere you're uncomfortable, but take the opportunity solo travel gives you to consider alternatives to the same old hotels you'd use as a family.

So where should you go? Theme parks provide an ideal destination for solo travelers who don't just want to get away from civilization and be alone. When you're in a theme park, you're surrounded by many other theme park fans, even if you've come to the park by yourself. Sure, you could just obsess over your cell phone's screen like many other visitors when you're going it alone, but you also could ask the person in line next to you if he or she's ever been on this ride before, then see where the conversation flows. No, you can't bond with your family or friends on a solo trip, but you can meet a world filled with other interesting, engaging people with whom you'd never have talked if you'd been there with your own family or friends.

And let's not overlook the great advantage of traveling alone to a theme park — single rider lines! Traveling alone, you can fly through a park, using every single rider line available, and doing the park on your schedule without having to wait for anyone else to catch up, take a break, or anything else that slows down a group trying to move through the park as one.

Who's going to take your picture, to show that you were there? You don't have to take selfies when you're a solo traveler in a theme park. Any park photographer will take your picture with your own phone or camera, in addition to snapping a picture with their pro outfit.

In Tokyo
At Tokyo Disneyland

Worried about eating alone? Don't be. It might be easier to find a single seat somewhere in a crowded counter-service restaurant than it is to find a table with enough seats for the group. in certain restaurants, you can eat at the bar, without having to wait for a table. But don't rule out other table service restaurants, either. Book your table for one, chat up the servers, and enjoy a little time with that cell phone or guidebook that you didn't get while waiting in line because you were sprinting through a single rider queue, or hanging out talking with the people around you in the regular one.

Have you ever traveled alone for a vacation? Please tell us about your experiences, in the comments.

Replies (28)

Kurt Dahlin

Published: April 17, 2014 at 11:42 AM

This is great advice. While I've never taken a dedicated vacation by myself, I do travel solo a lot for work. Whenever possible, I try to find time for a trip to a local amusement or theme park near where I'm staying. I pay for any extra hotel nights that I stay, but the airfare is already covered by my employer. Just one more way to save money if you have the opportunity.
Dan McNeely

Published: April 17, 2014 at 12:08 PM

I think traveling alone is refreshing. No arguments on when, where or how long to visit each attraction or theme park.

I do a lot of runDisney events, which means I often travel solo to Orlando once or twice a year. I love my family (& twin girls) but its a nice break! :) I'm sure I'll be bringing them on future trips once my girls get older though.

I can't wait to see their expression when they try Butterbeer for the first time!

86.135.81.80

Published: April 17, 2014 at 12:22 PM

Travelling with a like-minded friend is also good because then not only do you have the benefits of having to pay for only your own bus/plane tickets, but you also get to split the cost of things like hotel rooms and car hire.
115.64.161.122

Published: April 17, 2014 at 12:44 PM

I travelled alone to Universal Orlando from Australia in November 2010. I found that very few theme park visitors wanted to talk as they all had their own families and showed no interest in anyone outside their cosy group. I actually found several people extremely rude and unfortunately those memories will always stay with me (along with the good ones, of course!). Generally, the only people who were nice to me were those who were paid to be (hotel and theme park staff). It made for an isolated holiday, but one that I still enjoyed. Company would have made it so much better though.
James Rao
Writer

Published: April 17, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Can't go solo - I've gotta have at least one other person with whom to share the experience. Although, I guess if I was single, traveling to a park alone might be a great way to meet Mrs. Right, or even Mrs. Right Now for that matter.

But, since I have been happily married for 22+ years, I simply look forward to the day when the Mrs. and I can travel as a duo - without those three pesky chillins! Many of the same benefits you noted about solo travel in your article would apply to my wife and I traveling without the kids. The savings on food costs alone would pay for the trip!!!!

Rob Pastor

Published: April 17, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Yes, two for a vacation is the perfect number.
Robert Niles
Editor

Published: April 17, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Kids are great... for, oh, about 18 years each. ;^)
Melanie Howe

Published: April 17, 2014 at 5:47 PM

I'm like Kurt -- I've never traveled on a full vacation alone, but I frequently find myself in the Orlando area for work. If I have some free time, I'll take advantage of my annual pass and hop over to Universal for a few hours. It's fun to roam through the park on your own.....not to mention getting to take advantage of single rider lines :-).
James Trexen

Published: April 17, 2014 at 5:36 PM

Like others, I've never actually travelled alone, but on my Disneyland trip back in Dec., there were a few times where I was alone because the other family members were tired and headed back to the hotel room (party poopers!). However, there were only a couple of rides at the resort that had single rider lines and each one I tried using ended up being closed. Since it was around 11:00 at night and the fireworks crowds were gone, it really didn't matter, but for those couple of people-free hours, I felt like I had the whole park to myself.
Kris V

Published: April 17, 2014 at 7:03 PM

I've done quite a bit of traveling on my own in the last couple of years mainly to theme park destinations – (Florida of course, Virginia(?), and the hot spot of Ohio). While I would definitely like to have someone to come along and enjoy the journey, I wasn't about to wait around for that to happen.

A few of the things I've noticed –

Single rider lines are indeed the bomb-digity. I’m disappointed when a ride doesn't have a single rider queue or if the queue is closed. I've been to Universal Orlando quite a few times on my own the last couple of years. I can’t imagine having to actually wait in line with someone else with me now. I really don’t know how I’m going to react to that if the opportunity comes up. One downside to being able to hop onto so many rides quickly is that I can get a bit dizzy sometimes, so if I don’t pace myself (like I would be able to do when in the normal queue), things can go a bit downhill and require me to sit down for a breather.

Rollercoaster trains with only two seats per row can be awkward. I don’t mind sitting next to a stranger, but I know that not all folks are friendly like that. Plus, if you’re in a single rider line for one, it seems to take forever to get a seat because most people are already in pairs.

My biggest single rider pet peeve that I've noticed is at Disney (specifically on the Hannah Montana Rock’n Roller Coaster at DHS). It is when families specifically get in the single rider line because they think it will be faster. Then once they reach the area where the attendant is assigning people to rows, they complain about being split up, to the point that the attendant will take them aside and try to accommodate them. Sorry, but if it was up to me, you’re riding alone. You know what line you walked into, now deal with it.

I don’t know how it happens, but I also manage to end up talking with locals quite often at the parks. They are always surprised when I tell them where I’m from and that I made a trip out to Florida on my own. They find it highly unusual that someone would do this by choice. It’s also interesting to get their perspective about visiting the parks as well.

I can’t think of a time where I haven’t found someone to take a picture for me. Sometimes they don’t speak English fluently, but everything works out okay. Usually I’ll end up taking their picture with their group and then they’ll take mine. Sometimes I’ll just help a group out for good mojo.

Eating in a restaurant alone is probably the weirdest feeling. It doesn't help when you ask for a table for one either. This can be helped by dining at the bar with the other people that are by themselves. Plus you might have the opportunity to strike up an interesting conversation with someone while you’re there.

Another activity that feels odd to do by yourself is play miniature golf. The best time to play is during the day when there are less people, that way you don’t get stuck by yourself in a backlog of groups waiting to play the next hole.

Off the topic of themeparks, visiting museums on your own is actually a good experience. You can take them in at your own pace and you don’t have to worry about taking too much of someone else’s time looking at a particular exhibit.

My advice is, if you really want to visit somewhere, but you’re waiting for someone to come along with you – don’t. Do it now. Don’t wait, waiting only prolongs the time you’re wasting in not going. If it’s a themepark you want to visit, but you’re not sure about going alone, try going to your local one first. Don’t limit yourself to having to do activities with someone else around.

James Trexen

Published: April 17, 2014 at 7:15 PM

Hannah Montana Rock n Roller Coaster? *shudders*
72.239.60.155

Published: April 17, 2014 at 8:21 PM

Honestly I have tons of friends but I enjoy going on vacations and to the parks every once in a while on my own. I couldn't care less what other people and all the tourists think.
Frank Prsha

Published: April 17, 2014 at 8:42 PM

Plus, there is the possibility of meeting some cuties while touring by yourself.
N B

Published: April 17, 2014 at 9:58 PM

My first experience with traveling alone was a few years ago when I would be sent all over the country for custom installations. I was nervous at first, but then really started to enjoy going out to dinner by myself and being independent.

I would hit USF by myself any day if given the opportunity.

99.158.174.209

Published: April 18, 2014 at 3:04 AM

Twice I attended a convention solo, at Swan and Dolphin, maybe 3 days each trip. What would be easier than to boat/walk over to Epcot for the evening? Did it two nights on the first trip using leftover days on a no-exp 10-day pass.
The second trip, had the same idea in mind. Went to Epcot again, but felt bad my family wasn't with me to share the visit. Bought some T shirts and other souvies for the daughters at Mouse Gear and walked back, stopping only for Illuminations.
fred
Jeffrey Britton

Published: April 18, 2014 at 5:20 AM

I have planned my first solo trip to Orlando in Sept. I can't wait!
64.134.197.218

Published: April 18, 2014 at 5:49 AM

Honestly, this is why my girlfriend and and have talked and both agree to not have kids until later in our life. Yeah they seem like a blessing, but things really do get cut off on the traveling part of life. Her and I want to see lots of national parks and theme parks. It's easier and cheaper with two people compared to a whole family. I think two people is perfect. My Dad and I have traveled the whole United States and I feel like that you did cut costs and had a blast at the theme parks. With only two people, you can still do single rider lines and ride whatever you want whenever you want (well besides Ellen's energy adventure... That's a time commitment there). Alone just feels too weird. When I get off an attraction, I feel the need to explain how I feel about that attraction with someone. How would I be able to do that alone?
144.30.123.176

Published: April 18, 2014 at 5:54 AM

I have traveled alone to Orlando IOA/Universal, Busch Gardens Tampa, Sea World and had a great time. Met some really interesting folks and went through the park on my own pace. Rode what I wanted as many times as I liked, and didn't mind eating by myself. Actually, went out to dinner/drinks with some new friends from England I met at the parks. Note: You cannot outdrink an Englishmen when it comes to pints of beer!
Jo M

Published: April 18, 2014 at 6:30 AM

My first trip to WDW was with others, who RUINED the experience for me. Since then, I have gone...eight or nine times, and went solo all of those times except one. It is 100% different by yourself than with others.

Beyond the obvious benefits Robert gives above, you get added bonuses, like:
- the ability to dance along with parades or sing along to songs without anyone you're with looking embarrassed to even know you right now
- Want to go on a ride? Go on it. Don't want to go on a ride? Don't go on it.
- Want to stay from park opening to park close without leaving? No arguments about it.
- Don't feel like waiting 45 minutes in line for Fantasmic? Skip it.
- You decide when it's time to sit on a bench for a half hour because your feet are sore and when you can keep going.
- Hungry? Eat wherever you want.
- Are you an introvert? The people watching is FANTASTIC, but if you need to recharge, you can easily find somewhere quiet and relatively hidden somewhere in the parks or on property to sit and enjoy your solitude. On top of that, you can dial up or dial down your social interactions as you see fit. Disney transportation is a great place to play "we're like friends!" with strangers for fifteen minutes and then retreat to quiet time.
- Extrovert? You probably have no problem randomly conversing with new people, so this works for you, too.
- Unlike going to a random city by yourself, Disney Parks are filled with enough entertainment opportunities where you will rarely feel bored or lonely when you are there solo. And you can explore on property in relative safety.
- Ease of getting through crowds.
- The only person you have to worry about whether or not they are having fun is you.

And yeah, Single Rider line is awesome. I have yet to go through the real line at Expedition Everest, and I get pulled onto elevators much faster on Tower of Terror.

66.243.23.37

Published: April 18, 2014 at 6:35 AM

I recently went to Universal Studios Singapore alone while in the city for business and found that visiting a park alone was still a lot of fun. I was there when the park opened and managed to walk around to all the key rides in the park in less then an hour. For whatever reason almost nobody uses the single rider line there unlike Orlando where waits can be 20-30 minutes. This gives you a huge advantage to being on your own. I walked directly onto Transformers 3 times in a row with no wait via the single rider line and when I got to the Mummy I was literally the only person in my entire vehicle since most people hadn't made it to the back of the park yet. That made for an interesting on ride photo and rather awkward moment when I pulled into the exit area by myself and was greeted by 3 employees to help me get off vehicle. Sure, it is more fun to be with people but, as a theme park fan, it is certainly worth going on your own if you happen to be by a new park with no friends around. You can do whatever you want, when you want. I will say some rides are more awkward then others such as when I piled into the circular Jurassic Park river raft with a group of Singaporean strangers and they were clearly wondering what an adult American man was doing there by himself. You also have to accept that people will stare at you a bit when traveling alone as a westerner in Asia.
O T

Published: April 18, 2014 at 7:01 AM

I loved going on vacation alone when I was younger. I once went to Egypt. Nothing booked or anything. That was crazy, I tried 2 days in a row to get a train ticket from Aswan to Luxor but they refused to sell me one until I asked some German girls who had tickets and I found out you had to be there before noon. The other day I could leave.
I met people backpacking and shared restaurants and hotel rooms with, great fun.
I also did Florida on my own. I loved the freedom. But the parks are not a great place to meet people although I met a girl in a bus from Epcot to my (and her) downtown Orlando hotel who I met 2 months before in New York, that was great. It's a small world for sure.
101.127.24.249

Published: April 18, 2014 at 9:45 AM

much rather travel alone then to travel with people whom you can't get along with.

Was in London alone and it was a awesome experience.

Being alone in the themeparks are also very interesting session.

Single rider!

38.121.129.3

Published: April 18, 2014 at 11:02 AM

I travel solo all the time. Do what you want, when you want with no whining. Such as BTM 4X's in a row at midnight. As long as a restaurant has a bar, no problems. They offer the same menu as table service. Plus,there's usually some game on the TV over the bar.
tom bagnell

Published: April 18, 2014 at 11:32 AM

I've been able to go to WDW six times since 1979, and 1/2 of the time I've gone solo. My most recent solo trip was in October 2013, and it was my first time at Universal Orlando.
I've always had a great time, no conflicts about what to ride or where to eat, no problem getting to the parks before opening, getting a good view of a parade or fireworks has never been a issue. Many hotels charge per room rather than per person. Other than not being able to split a cab, and getting asked "Only one" at restaurants (gets old after a few days), I highly recommend it.
Anon Mouse

Published: April 18, 2014 at 2:08 PM

The benefit of solo traveling is seeing everything you want without delay. The unfortunate thing is once you done it, you're done. No reason to return. When I travel with family, I enjoy it more, but I never see it all since it is quite unaffordable to pay for everyone's expenses so you make choices and compromises. Thus I will want to return to try something I missed previously. One disadvantage of solo dining is it is harder to enjoy the food by yourself. You just want to eat and run.
Chad H

Published: April 18, 2014 at 3:56 PM

The best part of going solo is the flexibility. You don't have to work around someone else's wants, needs or availability, so you can book the nice low peak times when hotels are screaming out for your dollar to help keep the doors open, those obscure times when flights or trains are cheap, etc.
Teddy Gingerich

Published: April 19, 2014 at 9:11 AM

I go to Disneyland alone frequently (AP holder). I love going with my 25-year-old daughter, but a few days solo are great. Go where I want, do what I want, sit and read if I feel like it. It's a nice break for me - no responsibilities, just time for relaxing.
38.103.208.34

Published: April 20, 2014 at 8:34 AM

I've traveled to theme parks many times by myself & I do enjoy it for the most part. On one hand, I love it b/c I can get through the park fairly quickly then move on to another park (if it's a multi-park trip). I can ride what I want in the order that I want w/o having to wait on other people who may want ride the scary stuff I don't want to ride or vice-versa. My poor hubby, bless him, I love to be able to ride rides together but he doesn't ride coasters anymore so he paitently waits for me, holding all the bags, etc. til I get done w/one ride then we'll go to another ride, where he'll wait again & so forth & although he rides the water rides, I feel guilty that he has to wait on me so in that respect, I do like going alone b/c I don't have others waiting on me. Plus, going alone means I can go as fast as I want inside the park then leave when I get tired or 'done'...great way to do it on those multi-park trips knowing I don't have to wait on someone else who may want to go at their own pace which may be slower than mine, especially if I'm w/someone who has to make multiple trips to the restroom or want to stop for a bite to eat which I generally don't so, to me, it wastes time having to wait on others, selfish, I know but I like to get in & get out & move on to something else for the day.

On the other hand, going alone means no one to ride with. Yes, I do strike up conversations in line & generally get to ride w/someone on the coasters or someone may see me alone & offer to let me ride w/them on the smaller rides but most of the time, on the circular rides, water rides, etc. if I'm there alone, I generally always end up having to ride alone...whatever happened to ride operators filling up the cars on certain rides like the log flume, the bobsled, spinning coasters, the tilt-a-whirl or the scrambler, etc. I always thought that was fun, getting to ride w/other people but nowadays, the ride ops don't tend to do that & so if I just hop in from a single rider line, the other riders in the car look at me like "what are doing??" so I just end up riding alone & that's no fun sometimes.

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