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7 Reasons to SLOW DOWN On Your Next Disney Vacation

Some vacations can feel truly exhausting…

It’s not a great feeling getting back from a family trip only to feel like you need another vacation to recover from the experience. It’s a sadly common sentiment experienced by many after a visit to Disney parks—somewhere, your magical family escape spiraled into an exhausting sprint from one attraction to the next, a dawn-‘til-dusk travail in a fantasyland-gone-wrong.

While some may thrive moving at a brisk pace when visiting Disneyland and Walt Disney World, there’s something to be said about the benefits of slowing down when visiting the Most Magical or Happiest Place on Earth. A vacation should be exactly that—a time of fun, refreshing, and connection. Many longtime parkgoers will agree that there’s something truly freeing about making the shift to enjoy Disney magic at a gentler pace.

Giving yourself permission to slow things down on your next Disney trip can involve a major shift of mindset—for those who prefer things high speed or careful planners, it might sound completely counterintuitive.

Need some incentive? Here’s the top 7 reasons we found why it’s worthwhile to slow down on your next visit to Disneyland or Walt Disney World…

1. Stress is a lousy vacation companion

The crowds!… The lines!… The noise!… AHHHHHHHH!

Disney parks can be a bit of a stressful place for the unprepared. Even for veteran guests, stress can invade at the most inopportune times.

Too many Disney vacations are ruined because we assume that tension is a necessary evil for the experience. We lean into it, packing our itineraries and blistering our feet from moving at a nonstop pace–go here, catch this reservation, get in this line…

Some conflict and things going awry is normal on a theme park vacation, but it’s a different story if stress is the only thing you remember about your visit to Disneyland or Walt Disney World. Just because stress may crop up randomly doesn’t mean we need to book it a ticket and make it a permanent member of our party—it’s a lousy companion.

One of the best choices you can make to reduce stress on your trip is to purposefully slow down for portions of your next visit. This can be a challenge for intense planners and those who prefer moving at a constant jog. An easy way to adapt is to plan buffers into your day—purposeful blank space to reduce pace, enjoy flexibility, or just have some extra time to deal with any Murphy’s Law incidents. The greater the margin for the unexpected, the less the stress, and the more opportunities you can reduce pace and enjoy your vacation.

2. Some of the best stops aren’t rides

It’s easy to assume that a trip to Disney parks is all about rides. It makes sense—after all, every ride is a potential magical experience, and Disney is known for some pretty incredible ones (Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Avatar Flight of Passage are perfect examples). It’s not surprising that you may assume the key to a great visit is to experience them all.

Here’s the thing though: some of the best experiences at Disney parks aren’t rides. It’s easy to miss this in Disney’s most ride-saturated parks such as Magic Kingdom or Disneyland, but it’s true—there’s much more to a visit to Disney parks than rides.

Dining is part of the magic. Self-guided attractions like Tom Sawyer Island or the walking paths at Disney’s Animal Kingdom provide wonderful opportunities to explore at your own speed. Ultra-immersive lands like the World of Pandora, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and Avengers Campus, and even the pavilions of Epcot’s World Showcase are all places you’ll want to take in slowly, enjoying the atmosphere and details. In truth, they are attractions in and of themselves. Some of these areas even include hidden experiences you’ll completely miss if you’re sprinting from one ride to the next (such as the fun of playing Star Wars Datapad in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or letting the kids chase serpentine jets of leaping water outside of Journey to Imagination).

3. Enjoy the atmosphere

There’s a significant difference between theme parks like Walt Disney World and Disneyland versus amusement parks—while both include a notable emphasis on entertainment and rides, in theme parks, atmosphere is key.

A Disney vacation is meant to feel like an invitation into another world—a world of dreams where tales of childlike wonder are brought to life with stunning realism. Just walking through the park is part of the experience as you’re saturated in otherworldly settings, sounds, and scents.

Slowing down gives you the opportunity to take in this atmosphere of wonders. Go ahead and gape at the Millennium Falcon. Read the wanted posters in New Fantasyland. Marvel at the floating islands of Pandora. We’re not saying to stop slack-jawed in the middle of busy thoroughfares, but embrace the permission to step off to the side and just enjoy your visit without having the spend the whole time moving at speed or waiting in line.

Another perk of slowing down to enjoy the atmosphere at Disney parks? You’ll increase your chances of having some great encounters with wildlife at places like Disney’s Animal Kingdom or The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Next time you visit The Seas or the aviaries in the Maharajah Jungle Trek or the Gorilla Falls Trail, find a spot out of the way and settle in to see what the resident animals do. You never know what you might see.

4. Take in the details

This point is closely related to the matter of atmosphere—Disney parks are a place where it’s worth paying attention to the details.

Disney Imagineers put painstaking work into the lands and attractions of Walt Disney World and Disneyland—from hidden Mickeys to Easter eggs, taking in the details can prove surprisingly satisfying. This goes especially for self-guided areas like World Showcase or ultra-immersive lands like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge—indeed, Disney made an entire game to draw curious guests specifically to hidden interactive details hidden throughout the Black Spire Outpost of Batuu.

Try to recognize all the props in Dok Ondar’s Den of Antiquities. Learn about the bioluminescent flora of Pandora. Meander through a festival at Epcot. Decipher ancient symbols on the Indiana Jones Adventure or translate the Aurebesh at Star Wars Launch Bay. Pull the rope that says, “Don’t pull”, and try to find all of Pascal’s friends in his garden in Fantasyland. In short, have fun with the details!

5. You’re more likely to spot characters (and other magic moments)

It’s been a weird season at Disney parks, but characters are slowly making their way back into the streets of Walt Disney World and Disneyland in more than just cavalcades. Enjoy a fun encounter with your favorite characters? Your best bet to spot them is to slow down.

This was true at Disney parks long before pandemic changes—if you’re darting from ride to ride, you’re likely to miss the best character encounters at Walt Disney World. It takes a keen eye and a willingness to detour to catch Disney’s best character encounters, like Gaston shamelessly haranguing rivals or Vi Moradi stealing secret plans from stormtroopers. You don’t have to come to a complete stop to catch these moments—just keep an eye out and be willing to pause a few minutes if you spot an intriguing character. You may end up enjoying more of a show than you expected.

6. It can help solve pace differences

Disney parks can be a tricky place to navigate if you and your family can’t agree on anything—especially the pace to tour the parks. One family member might be an ultra-planner while someone else is unabashedly spontaneous. One person wants to explore at warp-speed while others prefer sloth-speed.

Making the purposeful choice to slow down for portions of your Disney vacation can, in some cases, help abate the conflicts that can arise from pace differences. Being forced to slow down can be frustrating for those who prefer a brisker pace, but it’s easier to manage if you do so with a purpose in mind, such as the above opportunities to enjoy atmosphere, self-guided attractions, or other Disney magic.

Some compromise will be inevitable in situations of pacing differences, but often, it’s easier for guests who move quickly to slow down than it is for slow guests (especially those with mobility issues) to speed up. Instead of fighting it, give that slower time some purpose to help abate the itch to sprint to the next attraction. Even if you have to get creative to keep the family on the same page, purposefully slowing down from time to time can help the whole family feel valued and included during your vacation.

7. Cherish the memories

The best gift you can give your family on a Disney vacation is to be present… something that often requires a purposeful choice to slow down.

If we’re always looking backwards at what we just missed or forwards to the next thrill, we can miss the joy of simply being in the moment with our loved ones. This same thing goes for solo travelers—visiting Disney parks solo is a unique opportunity to make some unforgettable memories moving entirely at your own rhythm. A vacation is a temporary escape, but memories can last a lifetime.

On your next vacation, make the choice to embrace moments to slow down. Enjoy the company of your family. Put down the phones to have a conversation with your loved ones. Take some pictures and videos that aren’t homogenized through the same Photopass frames and poses. Savor the taste of a Dole Whip. Listen to the birds. Pause to enjoy the music.

Make the choice to take a breath, slow down, and be present… In short, have a magical vacation.

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