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Image: Disney

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

Expedition Everest Yeti
Image: Disney

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

Rocking chair on deck at Tom Sawyer Island
Image: Jett Farrell-Vega (@MyKingdomForAMouse Instagram)

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

Green milk held up in front of Millennium Falcon
Image: Jett Farrell-Vega

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.

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