The 20 Year Old’s Guide to Disney World

This past weekend I took an impulse vacation with one of my lovely study abroad friends, Tess! It was my first trip since returning to the US, so what better way to spend it than with one of the people that made my last one so enjoyable?


Tess and I in Liverpool, England. October 2014.

I flew down to Disney World for a little amusement park therapy, complete with fairy dust. I never experienced this All-American vacation as a child, but that only made me enjoy and appreciate it more at age 20.

I didn’t really know what to expect, although many people told me their favorite rides and I read quite a few blog posts. Tess and I spastically planned in the hotel room at 11 p.m. the night before (not recommended). Our excitement and my nerves because I’m a wimp when it comes to roller coasters made me a bit conflicted.. but as soon as I saw the sequin mini-ears and Disney Starbucks, I knew I was in love.

It was bound to be a great weekend because I was with a wonderful friend and the weather was above freezing, but I really cannot compare this “get away” to any other vacation I’ve taken. Maybe it’s cliche, but with graduation day and big kid jobs looming, a little Peter Pan-esque “Never Grow Up” message was what I needed. I don’t want to lose my glitter flats and hair bows that exemplify my personality and I hopefully never will.

Tess and I dined at breakfast with the princesses Saturday morning alongside many families with 7-9 year old girls. They looked so happy and without any concern. It was refreshing and I tried to channel my young Allison too. With almost all of the conversations in my life consumed with plans for after graduation, my new waitressing job and the final semester’s course load, I needed to recall life before all of that stress. I’m pretty sure a care free attitude makes the food taste better too.


Sleeping Beauty and I both love sleeping and the color pink, so I guess it’s no shock that we got along so well.

When I was researching for my trip, I felt like I never found the proper 20 year old’s guide to Disney. Everything was either two extremes: “parts of the park  to avoid with a stroller” or “drink your way around Epcot in 80 days” So… after my two day mini-Disney adventure, I’ve concocted a few tips and tricks directly applicable to the awkward overly glittery 20 year in your life.

1) Timing is everything.

We picked a fantastic pre-spring break weekend because the flights were cheaper and the longest wait we had for a ride was 35 minutes. It also turned out the weather was a brisk 65-75 degrees (avg summer temps for some of us Buffalonians -lol!), keeping some of the locals away. According to the Today Show; October, November (except Thanksgiving) and December (except Christmas) are the least busy times to go.. but just before spring break times seemed pretty good too from personal experience.

2) Magic Kingdom is the only park that really matters.

As a young adult currently in limbo between upcoming student loan debt and prior study abroad expenses, a budget is extremely important and my vacations need to be cost effective. Epcot was fun**, but after traveling around Europe a little bit, I could have just seen Magic Kingdom and been pretty satisfied. The reconstructions of foreign territories doesn’t include a change in the drinking age* (sorry Mom) so if you are a 20 year old crunching the numbers and 2 parks seems like a stretch, just stick with the iconic Magic Kingdom.

*I plan on returning for my 21st, but thats for another blog post.

**If Epcot is in your future, Soarin and the Ellen Degeneres/Bill Nye simulations are the best! Also, France has budget and tastebud worthy lobster bisque and baguettes.

3) None of the rides are scary.

Maybe this piece of advice will only impact wimpy 20 year olds like myself, but hey somebody should have been clearer about this. There wasn’t one ride that rivaled Darien Lake’s Superman roller coaster in Epcot or Magic Kingdom*. Also, anyone from 1-100 years old should ride the tea cups.

*If you like one decent sized (50 foot) stomach drop, splash mountain is a good time. If you don’t like your stomach lurching, I still double dog dare you to try it once.


Bonus points if your tea cup matches your outfit.

4) 2 people is the perfect number.

Most of the rides seat 2 people in a car/clamshell/toboggan seat etc. I believe another one of the reasons we got through the lines so quickly was due to the tiny size of our party, in contrast to the big families surrounding us. Also I’ve always been a firm believer that dating back to middle school, people in odd numbered groups can be a recipe for disaster, but I guess that’s just more life advice. If in a theme park swarming with 5 year olds, you and your party can be more mature than them, go with as many people as your pretty little heart desires.. you just might have to wait longer in line.

5a) Hotels have hidden fees, even through Groupon.

“Hello! Welcome to the Park Inn! I need a credit card from you to charge $48 worth of completely bogus fees for resort services we know you won’t utilize while you’re here, because you’re only here for Disney!” ..okay maybe the lady at the front desk didn’t say quite that, but when you are pinching pennies for a Disney getaway, remember to include the made up things they will charge you for at the front desk in your budget.

5b) Some non-Disney hotels want you to be 21 to reserve a room.

I found this out when I was trying to reserve a room in London last September. Sometimes the credit card holder just needs to be over 21, sometimes the guest does, sometimes if you are under 21 you will need to sign a waiver and sell your first born child if you break anything. Other times they don’t care at all. Read the hotel’s age policy or call and ask.

6a) Friar’s Nook, near the new Snow White ride in Magic Kingdom (that you NEED to go on), has awesome inexpensive Mac N Cheese.*

As a lover of carbs and cheese, among other food groups, I love Mac N Cheese. Friar’s Nook has a decent sized portion of $8 Mac N Cheese with breadcrumbs on top. I might ask for a little less breadcrumbs, but YUM.

*Friar’s Nook has crappy carrot cake.

6b) You can order the kids meal at age 99 (or 20) and Disney will support your decision. You are in a park for kids, you want to feel like a kid and eat like a kid on a kid sized budget so do it! More room for awesome worldly snacks around Epcot.

6c) Don’t eat at Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney. It’s a tourist trap with crappy service and freezer burnt Coconut Shrimp. Instead, go to the Ghirardelli chocolate store. And the lego store. Take a picture of the cool dragon in the water made out of legos.

7) If you decide to follow tip 4 and go to Disney with 2 people, not all of your photos have to be selfies or only include one of you. The super nice photo pass people will take pictures on your cell phone. They may even recommend an instagram filter because they’re that great.

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Channel your inner sassy mouse, like Tess.

That pretty much ties up my tips and tricks for a 20 year old visiting Disney. If Walt was still around, I would give him advice on having rainbow sprinkles at the frozen yogurt and soft serve ice cream stands, but hey maybe Minney reads my blog. I’ll have my people get in touch with her people.



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