Do you really believe that Walt Disney World is a once in a lifetime experience? As a vacation destination, WDW does have a reputation of “go big or go home.” If quick trips can be satisfying, then why don’t we hear more about the benefits of short but sweet jaunts to Orlando? And as much as we sometimes dream about it, I’m not sure that living 45 minutes from the parks would be ideal for me, if I’m being realistic. As a semi-local (loosely defined as being less than an 8-hour drive from Orlando) I’m in a great place geographically to enjoy Disney World to the fullest.
To start, I have three thoughts on why a shorter trip can be an excellent way to enjoy WDW.
1. Buying in bulk only makes sense some of the time.
Park passes get cheaper as you add days. This can be an advantage for those who visit occasionally, but for semi-locals, it’s a question of buying just what you want instead of being lured into a discounted rate. Discounts are great if they match exactly what you’re seeking to purchase. Otherwise they can distract you from planning the experience you really want. If someone only has 2 days of PTO remaining at work for the year, they aren’t necessarily gonna benefit from cheaper-per-day park passes.
2. Smaller portions can lead to increased enjoyment compared to a buffet mentality.
Let’s talk about limits. The idea of unlimited choices is alluring, especially in American culture. When you look at an all-you-can-eat spread, especially at Boma or Tusker House, you get a feeling of ultimate satisfaction. There’s a catch though, and the catch is this: even with all the availability, you won’t get to eat it all. There’s only a certain amount you can eat in a given time. There’s only a certain amount that you want to eat. This applies to park time as well. It feels good to have seven days of Park Hoppers, and sometimes that’s what fits the scenario. Flip side? Two days of single park admission can be just as rewarding for semi-locals.
3. Limited time often means more intentional park touring and activities.
When there is a limit on time, the choices made in planning become more deliberate. Instead of taking trips back and forth to the buffet, as in our example, we’d spend time enjoying a singular meal chosen from a menu. Time is the same way. Let’s do less in the same amount of time, and possibly savor the experience more. Brief, specifically themed trips can be fine tuned to a travel group, time of year, and special experiences. Some ideas are below.
On a short trip, a carefully chosen dining experience at Disney Springs or a resort hotel allows for the rest of the day to be spent leisurely shopping or even swimming. Pick a character breakfast or a signature restaurant for dinner. Paired with a separate day to visit a favorite park, your travel group will get the satisfaction of attractions and the park atmosphere. The park day adds just enough excitement without tiring travelers out before returning home.
Pick a day with either Early Morning Magic or Disney After Hours, and plan the short trip around this extra cost add-on to a park admission. The holiday parties are a way to experience Halloween and Christmas decorations at the Magic Kingdom during the school year for those who can’t take time off from classes. A long weekend might be coordinated with teacher work days or Monday holidays.
RunDisney weekends are perfect for short trips centered around a chosen race distance. The races are in the early morning, and allow for park touring afterwards. Or race one day, enjoy shopping, and add a character breakfast at a resort before returning home. The added benefit here is that some of your fitness motivation is tied in with your Disney fan needs.
A half a day traveling, a day of volunteering at an event, one park day, and traveling home the next creates a well-rounded weekend. The runDisney events require many volunteers. Give Kids the World Village also recruits volunteers for their Orlando operation. Done repeatedly and respectfully, this allows you to develop some expertise as a volunteer and brings value to the organization over time.
Shopping and dining seem to go hand in hand, especially at WDW. Start with the arrival day and enjoy late dinner with an advanced dining reservation at a special resort or Disney Springs restaurant. Take a day for touring a park, then spend a day shopping around Disney Springs with lunch or snacks as you go. The options for casual dining at Disney Springs keep expanding. Try shopping around the monorail if you have younger members of the family, or those who enjoy gift shops.
Examples of Semi-local itineraries:
4-day Fun and Magical Theme:
Day 1: Half a day travel, Hoop De Doo 8:30 seating
Day 2: Hollywood Studios
Day 3: Magic Kingdom
Day 4: Trattoria al Forno Breakfast with Rapunzel and Flynn, travel home
4-day Safari Style:
Day 1: Travel in, quick dinner at Resort
Day 4: Up early, breakfast at Boma, travel home
3-day Classic Fan:
Day 1: Travel in, hit World of Disney at Disney Springs.
Day 2: Magic Kingdom from rope drop til Cinderella goes home.
Day 3: Sleep in til checkout, 1900 Park Fare breakfast with Characters, travel late
3-day Spooky weekend (fall season):
Day 1: Drive in Saturday, movies by the pool at resort
Day 2: Halloween party Sunday night
Day 3: Breakfast at Cape May Café, travel home
Hocus Pocus! Minnie makes a splendid witch, but only during the Halloween season.
The combinations are endless based on what a person really wants to do. I’d love to see what itineraries others dream up!