“Mom, can we skip Disney next year?” asked one of my daughters last summer?
My first thought was – Where have I gone wrong?? But my second thought was – Hmmmm, maybe it might be a good time to take an Adventures by Disney trip with them!
If you’re not familiar with Adventures by Disney, and I’ve sure run into a ton of people who’ve never heard of it, it’s basically the division of Disney that does group tours all around the word: North America, Central/South America, Europe, Australia, Africa, Asia. There are lots of companies who do this sort of work, but none who do it quite like Disney.
I knew this first hand, because I had gone on an Adventures by Disney trip in 2010, without the kids, to visit Hollywood and Disneyland. It was a fantastic experience, and while my kids were young then, I knew one day I would want to take them on a trip like this: where every detail is taken care of for you and you get to do things the average visitor just does not get to do.
So we pulled up the Adventures by Disney web site and started investigating trips. My girls would be 10 and 13 at trip time, and I knew it had to be something that would be active and have a “cool” factor. I narrowed down the nearly overwhelming list of choices Adventures by Disney offers using a few other simple criteria important to me: cost, time of year we could travel, and my perceived appeal to kids the same age as mine. I knew we would all be miserable if they had no one to bond with (aside: another reason Adventures by Disney is great for families!). I ended up showing the kids two sets of itineraries: Costa Rica and Wyoming (my oldest had just done a big project on Yellowstone and had expressed an interest in visiting). Their choice was unanimous, and for the same reason – Costa Rica for the ziplining!
My travel agent suggested the July 12, 2014 trip, which was billed as Teen Centric, and this turned out to be perfect for us!
We decided to arrive a day earlier than the tour started to get our feel for the place before the official start of the trip. I chose to arrive early rather than extend the trip at the end for a few reasons, and knowing what I know now, I would make the opposite choice. But it’s really a personal decision, and certainly a lot of people just follow the plan of the trip without adding any extra nights before or after.
We had a layover in Orlando on our way from Boston to San Jose, Costa Rica, and it was very strange to be in Orlando and not get off and visit the parks!
We arrived in San Jose, in the rain, mid-afternoon on Friday, and Adventures by Disney greeted us and ferried us directly off to our hotel. The hotel was beautiful and we spent some time wandering around, exploring it, and taking a nap. We had had a very early morning and traveling always exhausts me!
Saturday was a day on our own too – we spent it shopping (I picked up a local SIM card for use in my phone so I’d have access to data while in country), and a taxi driver took us to a restaurant in the city that was a big hit with us. Great food and an even better atmosphere.
We also walked through a pedestrian mall nearby where the cacophony of the people was the prime attraction. We even saw a taste of Disney.
Then we found another taxi to take us back to the hotel (that is actually a story in itself, but I won’t side track now).
Meanwhile we had also come across our guides, Ronald and Frankie, who were busy greeting fellow adventurers as they arrived, and giving us instructions for the next morning. They seemed almost apologetic to tell us we’d need to meet just after breakfast at 7:30 in a conference room before boarding a bus for our first adventure. No need for an apology – we were thrilled to be on our way!
The next morning in the conference room each family introduced themselves to the group. We had 10 families, for a total of 36 people. I believe this is about the largest group Adventures by Disney accommodates (my trip in 2010 had 22 people). All of the interested teens, ages 13-18, were whisked out of the room to be issued Nikon cameras for the duration of the trip to capture Costa Rica through their eyes. Completely unexpected and a very cool bit of magic to start the trip! We had 4 kids from 9-12, and the rest were teens, with the bulk of them in the 13-15 range. They were all fantastically behaved and formed quick friendships. I don’t think the cameras hurt in that regard! David Roark was the photography guy, and as we learned later, he is head of photography at Disney. He was amazing to talk to, and having him on the trip was a HUGE part of the magic for all of us.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Adventures by Disney Costa Rica trip where the itinerary includes planes, boats, and… pineapples! Where’s the ziplining? For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.