The biggest upsides to Adventures by Disney include some things I expected, and a few things that caught me by surprise. Thankfully, there’s no reason any of these should be unique to the Adventures by Disney San Francisco Long Weekend.
For starters, the Adventures by Disney guides were phenomenal. I’ve heard before that only Disney’s best Cast Members and seasoned tour group leaders make the cut for Adventures by Disney. I now have no doubt that this is true. Quality guides is actually something I partially expected, but not to this extent.
Our guides were knowledgeable, friendly, helpful, and really played well off one another. One guide did a great job providing comedic relief, while the other was excellent at offering background information about each place we visited. They were really that good.
One thing that stood out about the guides is also how they facilitated group bonding during the experience. Whether it was getting conversation started at lunch or utilizing various ice breakers, they did a great job at getting everyone in the group to feel comfortable with one another.
A concern of mine was being stuck in a group with awkward interactions, but that was not even remotely an issue. This was a positive group dynamic, and that was in part thanks to the guides efforts.
The other part of this was due to a common shared interest among group members: Disney. Another thing I had never considered, but now seems obvious. The majority of people on these trips will be Disney fans, so even if you have nothing else in common with others on your trip, you likely at least have that. This made for a pretty natural ice breaker, itself.
I’ve heard of people forming long-term friendships on Adventures by Disney trips, and I could see how this occurs. The Disney connection makes it easy for parents and kids to make quick connections with other guests. (I’m actually surprised Adventures by Disney doesn’t cater more to solo travelers–it seems perfectly suited for this demo.)
It’s also easy to see how Adventures by Disney would hold a lot of appeal for families. It reminds me a bit of Disney Cruise Line in this regard, with its own ‘alternative programming’ for different ages if the adult aspect of the itinerary won’t appeal to kids or is inappropriate for them (such as wine tasting).
Unlike Disney Cruise Line, the kids activities are better-integrated into the main activities, so it’s not like adults and kids spend the bulk of the day separated. Likewise, there are alternative options for guests who are not physically able or interested in partaking in certain activities (such as a bike ride). For families, I suspect this cross-generational appeal is one of the biggest selling points of Adventures by Disney.
It’s not something that matters to us right now, but I’m mindful of the fact that some of things Sarah and I do, and even the way we travel, wouldn’t work as well with kids. From this perspective, I could see Adventures by Disney having appeal down the road for us.
Speaking of the way we travel, this is where another selling point of Adventures by Disney lies: transit. While we enjoy navigating public transit in foreign cities and feel getting lost is a part of the experience, I’d be lying if I said it’s always pleasant. This is especially true when you’re changing hotels for the fourth consecutive day and lugging a suitcase onto a crowded train at rush hour.
This type of experience about brings me to my breaking point when it’s just us (and we travel light, with just carry-ons wherever we go). I cannot imagine how it’d be feasible once we have kids. With itineraries that criss-cross a country with multiple stops, having someone else handle transportation would be great for families. Heck, it’s something I’d appreciate even now.
Likewise, these multi-stop trips that travel outside of major cities often would require a rental car if you’re on your own. The Europe itineraries are a good example of this. When you’re in Paris or London, using the rails is completely workable; once you get to the countryside, this is not true. (For example, a rental car is almost a necessity for going to Normandy from Paris.) Not having to hassle with a rental car, tolls, and traffic in a foreign country is a big plus.
Then there are the exclusive experiences. Each Adventures by Disney itinerary has its own exclusive experiences you could not do on your own. In some cases, the word “exclusive” is used liberally. Even though you couldn’t do these things on your own, other tour providers could provide the same, or substantially similar, access. In other cases, they truly are exclusive, and doing an Adventures by Disney trip is the only way to partake in the offering.
This post still probably misses a lot of the pros and cons of doing Adventures by Disney, but I at least wanted to share some of my thoughts and anecdotes based on our first experience, particularly since it’s unlikely we’ll be doing another Adventures by Disney trip in the near future. Even with a lot of the praise that we heap upon Adventures by Disney here, the matter of cost is pretty much a threshold issue that is tough for us to get past.
Determining whether Adventures by Disney fits your budget and travel preferences is a personal decision. We aren’t quite there with it, and that’s in large part because it feels like a lot of the upsides to Adventures by Disney would be more pronounced with kids. I think we will likely wait until/if that happens, and re-evaluate Adventures by Disney at that time. Since I’m expecting to invent something really cool (jetpants or maybe a jetpack banana suit?) or perhaps win the lottery a few times, at that point money probably won’t be an issue. 😉
In terms of recommending an Adventures by Disney itinerary, I’m not really qualified to do that given our lack of experience with the other ones. In large part, it’s also going to depend upon your personal preferences. Where do you want to go? What’s your budget? Which itinerary contains experiences that appeal to you?
In terms of getting the most out of an Adventures by Disney trip, I’d recommend choosing the destination that interests you and is also furthest outside of your comfort zone. Don’t do something like San Francisco or New York City, because you could easily do those on your own (and if you don’t think you could now, you certainly could after taking an Adventures by Disney trip to China or Europe and getting a bit of travel under your belt).
I’d also recommend looking for itineraries that take full advantage of the perks listed above. Look for trips that fly into one city, travel through countryside that’s inaccessible by public transit, and fly out of another city. Find trips that frequently change hotels and have a lot of meals provided. Basically, what I’d recommend is finding the intersection between what appeals to you most, and would be the biggest hassle to do on your own.
We’ve done many of the destinations on these itineraries outside of Adventures by Disney, and there are a lot of great spots that several of these itineraries hit. The China Adventures by Disney itinerary is excellent, and even includes 5 internal flights (but also is quite pricey). The Germany vacation has great stops, and checks off a lot of the boxes I mentioned above. There are elements of both the France itinerary and England/France itinerary that I like, but neither are ideal. (The England/France trip is pretty straightforward and you could easily do it yourself.) If only there were a ‘Castles of Disney’ tour that covered France and Germany–that would be perfect!
Ultimately, though, just like budget and personal travel preferences, choosing an Adventures by Disney itinerary is also a personal decision. Obviously, no one should pick one of the above ones because they sound attractive to me and best make use of the Adventures by Disney benefits. Determine which destinations sound best to you, research what they entail, and choose what appeals most to you. To that end, I recommend requesting the Free Adventures by Disney Destination Guidebook, so you can read about the various destinations in greater depth.
Have you done an Adventures by Disney trip? What did you think of the experience? Was it worth the money? What did you feel were the pros and cons of the Adventures by Disney trip? Would you do another one? Any ‘dream itineraries’ that Adventures by Disney offers that you’d like to do? Any other considerations we’ve missed in this analysis? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts or questions in the comments below!