Pros and Cons of an Adventures by Disney Trip

Recently, Adventures by Disney announced its first-ever trip to Iceland, departing in 2018.  Wait, Iceland? When you think of a Disney vacation images of theme parks, costumed characters, and cruise ships come to mind.  Where does Iceland fit into the mix?  Well, there’s another type of Disney vacation you may not have heard of – Adventures by Disney.  Launched in 2005, Adventures by Disney is the guided, group-travel arm of the Disney company.  Embarking to over 30 vacation destinations in 25+ different countries on 6 continents, Adventures by Disney is a premium, luxury world-wide family vacation experience.  But is Adventures by Disney right for your vacation?  Our family has enjoyed a number of Adventures by Disney trips, from a long-weekend in New York City to a week-long holiday Danube River cruise, and I can share the pros & cons of an Adventure by Disney itinerary.

Adventures by Disney Takes Guests to Iceland in 2018

In 2018, Adventures by Disney travelers can take in the unparalleled beauty of Iceland, including the magnificent Gullfoss Waterfall. Here, the River Hvita drops 105 feet in two falls, creating a one-of-a-kind, breathtaking view. Offering Disney-trained Adventure Guides on each trip, engaging activities, VIP experiences and personal touches throughout, Adventures by Disney vacations are crafted to excite and delight everyone. (Piotr Redliński, photographer)

Adventures by Disney’s offerings include weekend getaways, land-based trips, river cruises, and upgrades to a Disney Cruise Line vacation.  The itineraries are iconic “bucket list” destinations such as: classic European capitals, an African safari, the Great Wall of China, Costa Rican rainforest, Machu Picchu, Australian Outback, America’s National Parks, and more.  Of course Disney did not invent the guided group travel model, many other companies such as Austin Adventures, Tauck Bridges, and Thomson Family Adventures also lead trips to many of these same destinations.  So what makes Adventures by Disney different?  Ken Potrock, senior vice president of Adventures by Disney, said the difference includes “experiences that only Disney could provide, such as a private, after-hours visit to the Sistine Chapel, participating in an alms offering ceremony with monks in Laos, learning the art of Peruvian weaving from master artisans and more.”

ABD - Costa Rica

Before we go further, realize Adventures by Disney vacations are not for everyone.  These are group trips (up to 40 people), meaning you should feel comfortable sharing your vacation with other families.  As with any group trip, someone else controls the itinerary, when you go, where you stop, and how much time you spend at each place.  Adventures by Disney itineraries tend to be jammed packed, catering to travelers who “want to do it all.” If you’re looking for laid-back relaxation on the beach, this probably is not the trip for you.  Also, because Adventures by Disney caters to families, the majority of trips are when kids are out of school – meaning hot summer months and crowded destinations.  There are some Adventures by Disney vacations in “shoulder seasons” of spring and fall, but some of these are adult exclusive.  Finally, Adventures by Disney trips are not inexpensive value vacations.  They are high-end, luxury travel splurges.  For example, the week-long Adventures by Disney trip to England & France can cost a family of four (2 adults/2 children) approximately $20,000 not including airfare.  So what do you get for that price?

Big Ben - London, England

Big Ben – London, England; photo by Mark Ashman, courtesy Disney Cruise Line

As previously mentioned, Adventures by Disney includes experiences only Disney can provide.  Consider the “Disneyland Resort and Southern California” itinerary includes VIP tours inside the Jim Henson Company Studios, Walt Disney Imagineering, Walt Disney Studios, and Walt Disney Archives, none of which are open to the public.  These experiences define “priceless,” they are simply not available, at any price, other than through Adventures by Disney.  During our weekend in New York City, we not only saw Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway, we had a theater workshop where Disney professionals taught us the opening song and dance for the show.  No matter the destination, you receive this same VIP treatment on all Adventures by Disney trips.  Potrock added, “VIP service and experiences abound, and throughout all our vacations our guests are attended to by highly trained Adventure Guides, who serve as expert storytellers, bringing the stories of the world to life in fun, interactive ways.”

Adventures by Disney NYC

Broadway workshop on Adventures by Disney New York City long weekend, photo by Dave Parfitt

The Adventure Guides… these are the true Disney differentiators.  Adventures by Disney has a rigorous selection process to handpick guides from the 1,000s of Disney “castmembers” who apply.  The Adventure Guides are part Sherpa, part concierge, part photographer, part camp counselor, and ensure every detail of your trip goes smoothly and everyone in the group feels included.  Of our uber-extroverted guides on the Danube River cruise, Danny, played Genie in Disney California Adventure’s live Aladdin musical, and Veronika hosted a LEGO YouTube show called BrickVault.  These talents allow the guides to passionately translate stories of the destinations while creating an environment where families feel comfortable stretching boundaries and opening themselves to new experiences.  In addition to the Disney Adventure Guide, local experts join the group at each stop to share insider knowledge of the region.

Adventures By Disney Guides

Adventures By Disney guides on the holiday Danube River cruise, photo by Dave Parfitt

As far as family travel goes, Disney knows family – the company was founded on family entertainment.  Adventures by Disney is an extension of the family vacation business that began with the theme parks and expanded to Disney Cruise Line.  Therefore, all of the destinations and experiences on an Adventures by Disney trip will be appropriate for children and families.  Plus, the Adventure Guides will not only go above and beyond in keeping the kids happy, but making sure the entire family enjoys their vacation together, as a family.  As far as the group goes, most of the guests are fans of the Disney theme parks and cruise line, and bonding easily occurs over the shared love of Disney and interest in travel.  Speaking of that love of Disney, at the end of each day of the trip, very guest receives a special Disney pin.  A Disney collectible you can only get on an Adventures by Disney trip (or e-Bay).

Adventures By Disney

Take Away

Adventure by Disney trips are costly, but you get an all-inclusive, no-planning required vacation in the trusted hands of Disney with dedicated, experienced Adventure Guides leading the way.  You will not find Mickey and Minnie Mouse (or any other Disney character) on these trips, but, instead, true, authentic stories of the local destination sprinkled with the country’s own colorful characters and traditions.  If you can afford it, Adventures by Disney offers a luxurious, hassle-free vacation.  However, if Adventures by Disney vacation doesn’t fit in the family budget this time, check other tour companies such as Austin Adventures, Tauck Bridges, or Thomson Family Adventures.  Compare similar itineraries, and see which one has the destinations and activities most appealing to your family.

A similar version of this article appeared on US News and World Report. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on instagramtwitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.