A trip to Walt Disney World might sound like a very busy vacation. Indeed, it’s often joked that if you’re visiting the Most Magical Place on Earth, you’ll need another vacation just to recover from the experience. This doesn’t have to be the case though.
While it may be tempting to fill every moment of a Walt Disney World vacation with rides, dining, and character experiences, there are some real benefits to planning time into your trip where you can slow down. Not only is some unhurried time important for your energy levels and sanity-- having the freedom to slow down for part of your trip opens a whole new world of possibilities within Disney parks, hidden experiences beyond attractions that really set Disney apart from the competition.
If you’re a frequent visitor like a Passholder or Disney Vacation Club member, you may already have the option to do this over your visits. Even if you’re not, however, you can still accomplish this by either deliberately planning downtime into your trip or just planning to visit more than the average 4-5 days.
Curious? Here are ten of the best ways we found to enjoy Walt Disney World when you actually have time to SLOW DOWN.
1. Pin trading
Disney pin trading is an insanely popular secret activity that most guests don’t even know exists. The premise works very simply: guests can trade Disney themed pins of just about any type with cast members to build a fun collection. All you need is some Disney-themed metal pins, even if you didn’t purchase them in the parks (buttons don’t count).
Throughout the parks, you may notice cast members with lanyards, belt clips, or giant cork boards full of Disney pins. You can approach these cast members and ask to trade one of your pins for any of their pins (except their nametag). You keep your own pin backing, make the exchange, and it’s as simple as that. The only extra rules are that certain teal colored lanyards are only for children to trade from, and you generally can only trade three pins at a time.
Once you get the bug, pin trading becomes seriously addicting, especially when you realize that cast members often are given exclusive pins at the beginning of the day that cannot be bought in shops (these are marked with a silver hidden Mickey). You’ll quickly find your eyes roving like a treasure hunter every time you spot a new lanyard or giant corkboard. Over time, you can build up lanyards and collections of your own, and kids especially really love the activity.
You can either purchase pin starter packs in Disney parks or you can go the cheap route and buy some online via eBay, Facebook, or even Amazon before your trip. Do be cautious who you purchase “grab bags” of trader pins from as knockoff Disney pins are common. While these don’t affect the average pin trader at all (cast members don’t care), fake pins are a point of extreme frustration to collectors who don’t want to accidentally trade for a bogus pin. Whenever possible, do your research and go with a reputable dealer.
2. Indulge your senses exploring World Showcase and Epcot’s Festivals
Epcot is one of Disney’s best parks if you just want to slow down—there is just so much to experience if you’re willing to take your time. World Showcase alone offers an entire collection of gardens, art galleries, and immersive courtyards best enjoyed without hurrying. Our favorites are the gardens in the Canada, Japan, and China pavilions, as well as the winding streets of the Morocco pavilion.
Depending on when you are visiting, you can also use your unhurried-time to enjoy one of Epcot’s eclectic festivals. Throughout the year, the options are the International Festival of the Arts (January-February), The Flower and Garden Festival (March – June), The Food and Wine Festival (August – November), and the Festival of the Holidays (December). All four festivals offer unique activities for guests to enjoy throughout the park, as well as unique food offerings available at booths and other select locations.
Each festival has a strong point. The Festival of the Arts is a great time to peruse the work of artists displaying their wares, as well as to enjoy creative activities and Photopass opportunities. The Flower and Garden festival holds up to its namesake with stunning floral displays and topiaries, as well as a lovely butterfly garden. The Festival of the Holidays is best for its decadent sweets, light displays, and holiday treats, and finally, the International Food and Wine Festival is the best for FOOD, FOOD, FOOD. If you have to choose one of the four, definitely go with the food and wine festival! Some of our favorite items continue to be the Kenyan/Berbere Beef at the Africa booth and the Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle!
3. Start a photo collection (or Instagram)
Walt Disney World is a great place to take up photography, especially if you’re willing to fore-go the classic shots everyone else chooses and pay attention to details. If you have the opportunity to take your time at Disney, make it a point to slow down and start a photo collection.
We touched on this briefly on our guide to upping your Instagram game, but the trick is to identify something you really love about Disney and go from there. Maybe it’s the food. Maybe it’s unique encounters with characters. Maybe it’s tiny details like flags, banners, and hidden Mickeys. Whatever your Disney passion is, take time on your trip to capture it. You can even enlist the help of some Photopass photographers to help you get there! Often, they are willing to take photos with guest phones if you ask! Keep an eye out for anything that matches your theme and build a collection of photos you can enjoy once your trip is over and share with friends and family.