I am an introvert and I love going to Disney World. At first, this may seem like a contradiction. Theme parks SHOULD be an introvert’s worst nightmare. Being around too many people is incredibly draining for me. Plus, I am camera shy in one of the most Instagrammed places in the world. There have been times when the crowds are too thick to move and I ask myself, “Why do I still come here?”
I go for the magic. As an INFP, I have a strong tendency towards escapism and fantasy. There is no other place so far removed from the real world than Disney. I feel like I am transported to another realm where my reality can’t find me. Lucky for me, it’s driving distance from my home. These frequent trips have given me the opportunity to experiment with different strategies. Some were keepers and others were magnificent failures. I think there are three issues that most introverts need to come up with a strategy to handle; overstimulation, getting “lost” in large groups, and social anxiety from interacting with strangers.
I’m sharing with you my own strategies, but you really need to experiment to find out what works best for you. Introverts are pretty good at knowing their own limitations and this is a great characteristic and asset to have while navigating theme parks and their stressors.
There is A LOT to take in at Walt Disney World, from the vibrant sights to the celebratory sounds, and let’s not forget about all of the smells. All of this can be overwhelming on their own, but then add massive crowds and the overstimulation can be unbearable. The best strategy that I have found to cope is to know the right timing and locations to lessen the stimulation overload.
There are plenty of resources out there to strategize the best time of year to go to Disney World. I would recommend checking out some crowd calendars to get an idea of what common crowd patterns are throughout the year. Going during the week is obviously going to be more manageable than a weekend. In addition to the time of year you chose to visit, it’s also important to consider the time of day. I know some people prefer to get there as soon as the park opens and leave at midday.
I actually take a different approach. I like to go to the parks later and stay until closing. I don’t want to start my day with the anxiety of feeling rushed in the morning, and the heat from the sun can often be an additional stressor that I would rather avoid. For me, the After Hours events and holiday parties during the week are an ideal way to experience the parks. However, these are an additional cost and I have found that going to the parks during the last few hours of operating time have been pretty pleasant and manageable.
The next strategy for dealing with overstimulation is knowing where you can go to recharge when the excitement of the parks gets too much to handle. These locations could be a low popularity attraction, a dark quiet restaurant, or hidden path or garden. Here are some of my favorite places to recharge in each of the parks:
Carousel of Progress- The Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland is rarely crowded and is great place to sit without waiting too long to get inside.
Hall of Presidents- This isn’t my favorite attraction, but it’s a long enough show that gets me out of the sun and crowds to recharge.
Polynesian Resort- I’ll sometimes head over here on the monorail for my Dole whip and some rest and relaxation at one of my favorite resorts.
Japan Pavilion Gardens-The gardens by Katsura Grill offer ample shade and a tranquil spot to sit away from the hustle and bustle of the World Showcase.
Impressions of France- Like Carousel of Progress and Hall of Presidents, this show is long enough to rest and cool off. I actually find the film itself to have a calming effect on me too.
Morocco Pavilion- The shops and galleries in the back of this pavilion are a great little hideaway. I like to get a Moorish coffee at Tangerine Cafe to pick me up as I walk around in a relatively quiet part of the park.
The Sea Pavilion- This spot can get a little loud, but it’s a nice, cool dark place to take a rest. Watching the sea creatures is quite hypnotic and relaxing. I’d recommend bringing a pair of headphones or earbuds to drown out the noise with a calming playlist or podcast (which is great for introverts to have at any park).
Epcot Resorts- The Epcot resorts are an easy walk or boat ride away from the International Gateway entrance. Sometimes just sitting in one of these lobbies is all I need to collect myself, but there are also plenty of restaurants to choose from too.
Walt Disney Presents / One Man’s Dream- I will take any opportunity to watch this film about Walt. It’s one of the few places in Hollywood Studios that doesn’t feel chaotic and I wish there were more places where props and animatronics were on display.
Sci-Fi Dine-in- The quality of food has declined over the past few years, but I still enjoy the atmosphere of the Sci-Fi Dine-in. The film nerd in me loves the movie clips…Bela Lugosi, yay!!! It’s a great place to cool off with a milkshake.
The Treks and Trails- I love wandering around some of the treks and trails in the park. It’s a great break from the crowds and lines in Pandora. I’ll take my time to complete a couple of different tasks in my Wilderness Explorers guide during each visit too.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch- While currently closed for refurbishment, I find this to be a great retreat and interacting with the animals is always calming for me.
Getting “Lost” In Large Groups
Another problem for introverts is getting lost in large groups. Every introvert has that nightmare story of being trapped with a group of people who would not hear their needs or we were simply too afraid to speak up against the group. It can be really stressful and ruins the fun if we feel invisible in the group. I think picking the right mix of people to spend the day with is crucial for introverts to have a good time at Disney.
I’ve planned enough class field trips to know that the right group combination can make it an amazing or terrible experience. My first strategy is to make sure the group is a manageable number. I try to keep it to no more than six people. Next, I consider what are the priorities and personalities of the group. I put people who have a strong interest in going to the gift shops and taking their time together. They’ll obviously have more fun with people who also enjoy these activities. I have a problem staying in one place for too long and walk at a relatively brisk pace so I normally have a group of students who can keep up with me.
Even if the groups aren’t perfectly matched, I think keeping the number of people small helps introverts feel like we will not get lost in the group and makes it easier for us to speak up.
The last issue I encounter at Disney is social anxiety from interacting with strangers. What causes social anxiety for one introvert might not be a problem for others. I know a lot of introverts have a problem with audience participation activities. This has never been a problem for me because my evil Disney queen eyebrows do a pretty good job of protecting me from ever getting chosen.
I do, however, find the parades to be incredibly anxiety inducing. I don’t like feeling trapped in one spot with a bunch of people I don’t know. The combination of the crowds, noise and sun is too much for me to handle. I make it a point to know what time the parades occur and avoid the parade areas as part of my park strategies. Certain line queues are also problematic for me when I start to feel trapped in confined spaces with strangers. I’ll only experience those attractions if I have a FastPass or if there is a wait time of 30 minutes or less.
What causes an introvert’s anxiety to kick in is unique to the introvert and each of us has a different threshold to handle these stressors. Luckily, most of us are aware of what we can and can’t handle which is really the most important part to having a fun time at Disney.
Do you have any great park strategies for introverts?