What To Do When You Can’t Go To Disney

What To Do When You Can’t Go To Disney

If you’ve ever been to Disney Parks you know that there’s a little thing called Disney Depression that rears its ugly head as soon as you get home. Even worse, if you’ve never been to Disney, then you get Disney Envy as a result of all the Disney love you see on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Plus, all your blasted friends keep telling you how amazing Disney is, which doesn’t help! If you’re starting to feel like a Disney Vacation is something you dream about, in a galaxy far, far, away… then think again! No matter which little condition you seem to be suffering, take care! EVERY DISNEY VACATION is about these 7 things.  Replicate these 7 areas and the 35+ ideas here to get you feeling like you’re on a Disney Vacation. Perfect for your first or next visit. Even if it currently seems pretty far away. 

This post includes affiliate links to help fund our Disney travel and coffee addiction; which we share with you weekly. As an Amazon Associate, and affiliate publisher we earn a small commission from qualifying purchases and will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking the links. 

Thankfully, both  Depression and  Envy can be cured by the same methods. And there are parts of the Disney experience that you can capture at home to hold you over. That is, at least until you have a chance to get back to the most magical place on Earth.

Why is Disney SO Magical?

Last time we got back from a longer Disney vacation there was a serious issue with remembering how to drive.

Yes, HOW… does one drive a car? We totally forgot. 

See, at Disney the driving is done for you. But that’s not all! Coffee is always made, and available at the resort commissary. And there’s usually a Starbucks nearby. The rooms are always clean when you return home and toiletries restocked. You never have to worry about working out more, because walking those 10-15 miles a day in the parks takes care of that for you. There’s also usually plenty of sunshine available so no vitamin D supplements are required. And yes, dinner too is usually made for whenever you’re ready to eat it. It really is “Living the Dream.” So it’s no surprise that after you’ve visited Disney once you’re always waiting to go back. 

And if you’re envying the cute castle pics and gorgeous snacks online, wondering why you live in place where it snows, we hear you. Thankfully, there are many things you can do while you wait for your chance to visit the parks in the flesh.

That said, how can you stop dwelling on NOT Being at Disney!?! And start living like you’re on vacation. 

Disney Vacations are all about New Experiences

One of the most amazing things about a Disney vacation is that you never really know what’s around the next corner. The Dapper Dans could be serenading a nearby birthday girl while a Country Bear is strolling next to you. While you won’t find these elements of whimsy anywhere else, you can seek new experiences that give you the same sense of awe.

1. Take a Road Trip to a new place! Explore some wonders you never knew about in your home state. Maybe there are Indian caverns nearby, or a historic estate. No matter where you live there’s gotta be something you haven’t experienced within a 100 mile radius. Find it and go there. Check out our Road Trips for inspiration.

2. Grab a travel book and adventure from home. We love international book travelling, to France, and Australia, but just checking out all the Disney blogs, like ours, will help you feel included in the posh traveler, Disney vacationer lifestyle. And help prepare you for your next trip. 

3. Find a new place to shop. We’re suckers for good shopping. Take a trip to your local flea market, used book store or browse our favorite products on Amazon to discover new treasures. If you’re feeling like you really need a Disney fix, visit your local Disney Store or Hallmark. Both always make us feel like we’re on vacation. Blame it on Disney Springs but finding a classy shopping center to browse always makes us feel like we’re back at the House of Mouse.

And Experiences Close to Home Too

4. Take a Class. Art, Cooking, Dance… anything! Your local Sur La Table and Williams and Sonoma have cooking classes. You can even grab an art class as part of a wine and paint experience. These are popping up in many cities. And any gym will have fun dance classes as part of their workout class lineup. 

5. Visit the Sights. One of our favorite parts of any vacation is checking out the museums, the city, the national parks, everywhere. At Disney we usually find this same joy in visiting the resorts and galleries. See what you can find in your neighborhood.

6. Grab a Movie night on the lawn, or at a Drive-In. While Drive-Ins may be few and far between, maybe its time to find one in your town. And many smaller cities usually have a movie night in the park in the summers. Disney has movie nights on the lawn at each of their resorts, usually involving s’mores, every evening. So grab a s’mores kit and find a flick to watch outside to replicate the experience. We got this gourmet kit from terrain.com.


7. See a Show. At Disney you’ll see several shows, parades and fireworks throughout your vacation. But chances are you can find those at home too. Most baseball games include post-game fireworks in the summers, so you don’t have to wait for fourth of July. The winter months bring the Disney on Ice tour and every town has either a local theater or city nearby with a Broadway series.
Even if it’s just a one-time thing, adding a new experience to your life will help you feel like you’re on a vacation.

8. Learn Something New! You can learn anything but we love astrology. Our lives fall apart pretty much every Mercury Retrograde, horoscopes are usually spot on, and it’s difficult to beat a water sign at chess. So we’re always interested in learning more and then styling our lives to align with the stars. Check out the Astrotwins for the best enlightenment about your star sign.


And All about Lots of Family Time

One of the biggest parts of a Disney vacation that you may not have in real life is massive family time. Massive. While this could be a recipe for disaster, its one of the reasons why these vacations are so great. Your challenge here is to force some family time if it’s not already regularly occurring in your life so you can be ready to spend oodles of time together later on a family vacation.

1. Eat Dinner as a Family. Even with our big family, we make it a priority to get together every Sunday for family dinner. If you’re fortunate to still have your whole family living at home, then hopefully you’re eating dinner with each other more often. Part of a Disney Vacation involves being all together at the resort or dinner table, chatting and planning what’s next. Do this at least weekly and make it special.

2. Celebrate a lesser holiday together. Sure, you’ll be together for the big holidays, but that’s almost expected, thus sometimes making them “less special”. But what about Mardi Gras? What about Chinese New Year? What about Cinco de Mayo? Pick a small celebration and make it a reason to get together and have fun. Plan fun foods, make fancy drinks, and get a game going.

disney game night

3. Go on a hike together at a local park. Sure, you won’t be racing from ride to ride, but you can revel in the feeling of some of our favorite Disney resorts like Animal Kingdom Lodge, Caribbean Beach Resort and The Polynesian. All have walking paths and gorgeous views that help you stop and smell the roses. Find a trail and make a day of it.

4. Visit a smaller Theme Park, Zoo, Water Park or Lodge. Treat yourself to a fun day out somewhere new and maybe a little more local. True, it won’t be Disney but you may be surprised by how a day out can get rid of the blues.

Disney Vacations are all about New Foods and Snacks

We love food. And always seek out the best at Disney whenever we go. In fact, if there aren’t new foods we probably aren’t interested. In fact we wrote a whole post just on Rose Gold Cupcakes. Because why not? Here are a few ways you can start seeing food as the adventure it is!

1. Locate a new bakery. It’s time to find some sweet treats. Some fancy, some basic. In this day and age how often are you really allowing yourself a cake pop, cupcake, ice cream or cookie? Probably not a lot. What about a fancy macron? Take a minute to realize you’re allowed to enjoy life, and that it can include cupcakes. Go find yourself a fun new treat and don’t feel guilty about it.

2. Head to Starbucks. If you’ve been to the parks in the last few years, you know that Starbucks has a location in every park. For that reason, we’ve begun to identify almost every Disney Vacation with a Starbucks experience at the airport and in the parks. Because of this, whenever we’re feeling down or our vacation is just not coming fast enough, we head to Starbucks. Much like Hallmark and the Disney Store, nothing bad happens at Starbucks. And it’s a lovely place to hang out and de-stress.

3. Grab Mickey Ice Cream Bars from the Grocery Store. Did you know you can get those iconic Mickey Bars at the grocery store now? Yes, starting this month, you can find these little guys, perfect for all your Disney loving pics on socials, wherever you buy your food.

mickey bars in grocery stores

New Treats Both in Town and at Home

4. Plan a trip to a new restaurant. One of our favorite parts about a Disney Vacation is experiencing a new restaurant. Sure, we have our trusted favorites like Be Our Guest and Kona, but we do try to go somewhere new on every trip. Try this at home. Perhaps you’ve driven past a local restaurant that looked interesting. Give it a try. This is what the experience is all about. (We tried loads of purple potion treats on our last Disney vacation and didn’t like any of them… but at least we tried them! It’s all part of the experience.)

5. Visit a Street Fair or Food Truck Event. Grabbing food from a themed cart or food truck always promises a new experience you didn’t know you needed! And it gives you something to talk about later. We’re spoiled with amazing foods that pop up at the Epcot festivals, but chances are you have a rib cook-off, or taco festival in your town that warrants your attention.

6. Try a new dessert recipe at home. In preparation for our vacation to Port Orleans Resort we learned how to make Beignets, courtesy of a Disney Princess cookbook. Once perfected we added them to the blog so you too could make them. You can find loads of Parks copycat recipes online. From the notorious Dole Whip to the lesser famous POG juice. You can start creating your magical lifestyle from the comfort of your kitchen.


Disney Vacations are all about Cute Photo Ops and Style

So, let us just say that even though we’re at Disney all the time. We still don’t feel like we’re ever there enough. For all of you out there mourning the park life you don’t yet have, let us just say these things definitely do help if you’re dealing with Envy. So, grab a good camera, take some photography classes, and start now.

1.Create your own Disney space. If you’ve been following any of the Marie Kondo hype you know that the physical space you create for yourself affects you emotionally. That said, if you want to feel amazing, you better make your space amazing. Clear out anything that is no longer “You”. Old gifts, old clothes, anything from your emo phase, etc. After you clear away whatever isn’t needed find the Disney things you most desire to include. Cute Mickey purses, new Mickey ears, jewelry, tsum tsums, a mug. Whatever you think will help you feel most like the Disney person you are. Check out our favorite quotes and make a quote wall.

2. Take time to plan cute outfits. Sure, you may have grown up clothes, or a uniform for work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sport your Disney style everywhere else. A Mickey T-shirt and jeans. Toy Story Vans. A Dooney and Bourke Bag. A couple key pieces in your wardrobe can make all the difference to solidify your place in the house of mouse style stratosphere.

3. Find all the best Photo Props. Remember those window shopping trips to the Disney Store? Well, sometimes they have great photo props on clearance. A cute journal, or an ornament for your perfect Disney Christmas tree picture. Even just collecting a few things to litter your social media feeds will make you feel more like a vacationer in training. 

4. Get an Official Starbucks Disney Parks Mug. These exclusive parks mugs are finally available only in the Parks, but sometimes you can find em on ebay. Absolutely collectible these mugs could carry your Disney life until you get a chance to get to the parks yourself!

disney starbucks mugs what to do when you cant go to disney

Disney Vacations are all about Convenience

A blessing and a curse, the fact that Disney plans for everything, pretty much means you’ll be inept to pick up where you left off in your regular life once you return home. Either way, we’ll take these much needed life breaks wherever we can find them. 

1. Get a Refillable Mug. Or any old travel tumbler. As part of the Disney Dining Plan guests receive a refillable mug, they can fill at the resort commissary. While we love this mug, there are no refill stations in Ohio. This is a huge inconvenience and often leaves us wondering where our next coffee is coming from. That said, we try to replicate the experience by putting the coffee maker on auto brew so that when we leave for work, the coffee is made and we can leave, Disney mug in tow.

2. Easy Access to Everything. We love magic bands, but we can’t use them to pay for things where we live and they don’t magically open our doors. Maybe this is why I sometimes feel like the garage door opener is pretty magical, because the door just opens, and I don’t have to get out of the car. Of course we still need keys for everything else. The best alternative in real life we’ve come up with for a magic band replacement is storing credit card info in Apple Pay or at least in the Starbucks app, so we don’t have to dig through our purses like normal people and instead can pay with our phones. Part of being an experienced Disney Vacationer is knowing the absolute easiest way to get everything done.

3. Someone else drives you everywhere you need to go. Ok, so we wouldn’t want to necessarily replicate a Disney Bus experience. BUT, don’t discount the joy of just letting someone else drive you sometimes. If you’re going on a date night, hire an uber. Or maybe you’re heading downtown and can just take the train. Don’t underestimate the power of breaking from your regular routine to make you feel like something magical is about to happen.

4. Have your day pre-planned. On a Disney Vacation, if you’ve done your planning right, you can pretty much just show up and have fun! In regular life your day is filled with loads of decision, so off loading those ahead of time will help you feel like you’re on vacation more. Plan meals for the week and outfits ahead of time. Decide which days include eating out, a show or a date/play date ahead of time so your thinking can be spent on enjoying life instead of figuring it out.

5. Have Good Food Readily Available. Order a box from Hello Fresh and get a few nights of amazing meals that don’t take too long to prep. While you will have to make the food, the fact that all the ingredients arrive at your home with instructions is a huge help! And experiencing a meal service for a few weeks will add some new things to look forward to in your life.

polkadotsandpixiedust cheese souffle beauty and the beast

Disney Vacations are All about Little Luxuries

Disney really is all about the most top notch customer service, amenities, and that wow factor you just don’t get anywhere else. Hence why we’re always mourning the Disney experience whenever we travel anywhere else. Everything just feels more luxurious at Disney. Try these ideas for some extra luxe in your life.

1. Sleep In. You may have to actually plan a “sleep in” day. On a Disney Vacation we usually have at least one day where we sleep in and have a brunch planned somewhere. This is the epitome of luxury! Especially in a life where you work all the time. Make a plan to sleep in.

2. Schedule a Spa Day. Whether this spa day is at an actual spa or just involves a nice smelling face mask and fake nails is up to you. Either way, taking time for yourself is important and if you were going on a vacation you probably would have already gotten your nails done, a facial, and a bunch of stuff waxed. So, doing this at home will help you feel like you’re vacation-ready. A mindset you should always have.

3. Take Tea Time or visit a Wine Bar. The Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World has this great tea room. So even when we’re not there, we’re in search of a princess tea, or a high tea… or anything with small sandwiches and tea. We’re also always up for a good charcuterie board and some wine. But go with whatever makes you feel special, luxurious and extra princess-y.

Tea at Garden View Tea Room Disney's Grand Floridian

4. Visit a Fancy Hotel in your area. Frankly, if you live in Asheville, just go to Biltmore Estate. Because that’s sorta like a Disney castle. If you live anywhere else though chances are there is at least one place that is pretty grand that will have a fancy lunch or even just a nice a garden or lobby to browse. Your goal here is to be in awe at your surroundings. So find a fancy looking place and enjoy the afternoon.

5. Order Special Something from Disney Floral and Gifts. Need a monogrammed picnic bag with Mickey on it? Or just some magical snacks. While a little pricey, sending yourself a special gift from the Parks will make you feel extra special.

6. Buy the Disney Resorts H20 Line. The most amazing smelling shampoo, conditioner, and sea salt body wash ever. This stuff runs like 25 dollars a bottle, BUT once you start associating this smell with Disney Vacations you can return anytime via your shower.

disney h20

A Disney Vacation is All About Planning Your Next Vacation

One of the things you learn quickly on a Disney Vacation is that you’re not going to fit everything in on this one trip. When you find out Wilderness Lodge has a hiking trail that leads to the campgrounds, and there’s a miniature golf course over by the Boardwalk, and The Little Mermaid Restaurant, Sebastian’s Bistro, just opened at Caribbean Beach Resort you’ll see you need a lifetime of trips.

This last tip is probably going to be the most therapeutic for whatever your ailment. Grab your computer, our favorite planning tool and a cup of something cozy. Whether this is your next Disney Vacation, or your First Disney Vacation, planning will help you feel like you’re taking action instead of just wallowing in despair.

1. Watch the Disney Planning Videos. We love perusing the Disney website, but you can get an inside look at all your options with the planning videos. The Free Disney Vacation Planning Video series stretches across Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani, Hawaii, and Disney Cruise Line. So tons of options for your next vacay!

2. Order our Favorite Disney Planning Tool. We created a whole series of printable vacation planners to help you tackle Walt Disney World, festivals and the holidays! Check out everything we have in the shop to get started. 

3. Start Saving. Grab a cute Mickey bag or container to store your vacation savings. Our best tip to feel like a real Disney Vacationer is to save money in the form of Disney Gift cards. Even if you only buy a $10 gift card one at a time, this will help you make sure your savings actually goes to a Disney Vacation and not something else less magical.

4. Sign up for the Disney Parks email list. Being part of the list will get you deals. And even if you can’t really afford this just yet, Disney will have your name! Which means you will also get things in the physical mail to help entice you to visit. In fact, the more you peruse the Disney website and don’t purchase a vacation, the deeper the discounts you may receive in emails. We’ve heard rumors of 40% off deals showing up for some folks. Register with Disney Parks here. 

Everything You Can Do When you Can’t Go To Disney

Hopefully, this has given you a few ideas of everything you can do to help your Depression and Envy. Disney truly is the most magical place on earth and a magical vacation is possible for EVERYONE. No matter where you are in your vacationer journey, we’ve pulled together tons of posts on this blog to help you get ready for your next visit to the parks, or your next Disney day at home. Take a look around!

what to do when you can't go to disney disney depression disney envy



Co-Founder and Director at Polka Dot Pixie Co LLC | Website | + posts

Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.

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