It’s something every visitor who comes to Walt Disney World eventually must face. No, not the turkey legs, though those are everywhere too. I’m talking about dealing with the end of your vacation. If you’re anything like I was before I moved to Florida and became a theme park junkie, about halfway into the trip it dawns on you that soon your visit to the place where dreams come true will be over. Soon you’ll have to return home to the real world; back to a place where wearing mouse ears on your head is largely frowned upon. This is especially true if you happen to work in a law office – just trust me on this one. While leaving is hard, here are some ways to make saying goodbye easier.
1. Take lots of pictures. I know, this one seems like a no-brainer, but I’m surprised by the amount of people in the parks who never seem to take a single one! I’ve been to the parks hundreds of times now, and it’s rare that my wife and I are there without a camera. For many, I think there is this mindset that “I’ve been there once before, why do I need to take pictures,” but the beauty of Disney World is that there is always something different to see and capture, and having photographs to look back on is a great way to re-live memories of your trip. You could even start a new tradition, say, a family photo of everyone on your first day, and then on your last on every trip.
2. Experience a character meal. Some guests shrug off the idea of dining with the characters, feeling it silly to eat in the presence of cast members wearing costumes. To those people, I say “What costumes?” Seriously though, whether you stand in line to meet all the characters when at the parks or knock them out of the way as you rush towards It’s a Small World for another thrilling ride (it’s so much better these days now that they’ve added that 50 foot drop at the end, anyway), character meals are a lot of fun, and a great way to say goodbye and remember your trip. Depending on your schedule, you can do a dinner the night before, or a breakfast the morning of your departure. For most people, the go-to character meal is going to be Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort, but if you can’t get in there, or have a fear of monorails (hey, watch it, it’s a real thing), then I also recommend Tusker House at Animal Kingdom or Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom. Since these last two places are in the parks themselves, park admission is obviously required, so you may have to plan on doing your farewell meal earlier in your visit.
3. Do some last minute shopping. This is probably easier for those folks who have a later flight out or those driving, so if that’s you, before you leave, head to Downtown Disney and pick up some souvenirs for yourself, and for family who didn’t get to go with you because there was just no way you were going to spend an entire week with them in a tiny hotel room. After all, nothing says “I missed you while I was having fun at Disney World” like a coffee mug shaped like a duck’s butt. If that’s a little too weird for you, there’s also one shaped like Mickey’s shorts. Personally, both of them make me uncomfortable, but I still sell a ton of them to people on Ebay. Don’t forget to pick up some goodies for the trip home, too, especially if you have unused snack credits. My suggestion would be to get one of those giant rice crispy treats. They’re so packed with butter and so dense that eating one can take hours – but hey, it’s still better than airline food. If you can’t make it to DTD before you leave, but you’re flying out of Orlando International Airport, never fear, travelers, Disney has two stores at the airport that are filled with stuff to buy and that will gladly take whatever money you have left before you head home.
4. On your last day, do your favorite park and attractions. Again, depending on your departure schedule, your last day might be the morning of departure or the day before. Whenever it is, your last day in the parks on your visit should be spent in your favorite park(s) experiencing the attractions and shows that you enjoyed most. Want to try and beat your high score on Buzz Lightyear Spaceranger Spin? Go for it! Want to ride Space Mountain until you puke? Good for you! Do you want to experience the beauty of California one last time at Soarin? Then do it. Don’t spend your last full day, or your last few hours of your trip doing something you won’t enjoy; leave with happy memories of a great vacation and excited about what you will do when you return.
If none of these suggestions work for you, you could always adopt Chris’s tradition. On her last full day in the parks at Walt Disney World, she spends the entire day at the Magic Kingdom, taking in the attractions, the parades, the fireworks, and the food. At the end of the night, as the park starts to empty out, she stands on Main Street and just stares at the castle. And she continues to stand there, in fact, until she is the only one left in the park, and two cast members have to drag her out while she is kicking and screaming “No, I’m not ready to leave yet, you can’t make me!” I only wish I was joking about this last paragraph. At least Disney finally caved and let her have an annual pass, and now she gets to visit any time she wants. (Editor’s note: That’s kind of true. -Chris)
Bob is a Disney travel agent and Central Florida local. You can follow his exploits here and on Facebook. Email him at Bob@PixieVacations.com for free concierge-level help in planning your next Disney vacation.