Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Disney Vacation Myths

So, I'll have to credit my mother for today's post.  As I was speaking to her about beginning work planning Disney Vacations with an Authorized Disney Travel Planner, she promised me that she would make sure to pass along my information to anyone they new that was going to Disney World.  That got me thinking...how many people think of a Disney Vacation and immediately assume it's a Disney World or Disneyland only vacation?  Or even how many think that a Disney vacation isn't for them because they don't have or don't want to travel with their own children (or anyone else's kids!)?

I'll be the first to admit that I was unaware of the many offerings that Disney had.  Of course, anyone even remotely familiar with the Disney brand knows of Walt Disney World in Orlando, and Disneyland in Anaheim.  Many also know of Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disney.  Thanks to recent commercials and, unfortunately bad press for another company, many are now starting to hear about Disney Cruise Lines and what they have to offer.  Fewer know that Disney just opened a brand new resort in Hawaii on the island of Oahu called Aulani, and only a select few have even heard of Adventures by Disney, where the traveler can take a road less traveled in parts of the world thought exotic and out of reach.

Let's begin where it all began for Disney...Disneyland.  Called the "Happiest Place On Earth", Walt Disney created a fantasy land where the average person could forget their problems and spend time with characters and in settings that allowed for the fun and fancy-free frolicking of youth to abound with rides, experiences, scenery, and interaction.  Fast forward a few decades and we come to today's Disneyland, still the fantasy it
once was, but with plenty for all walks of life.  Sure...there are still characters, experiences,  and rides for kids, young and old, but it's much more.  With upscale restaurants, world class spas, and high class accommodations, Disneyland has as much to offer an adult couple on holiday as it does a family with kids.  There is plenty more to discover, both within the resort, and beyond.  It's really a playground for all people, nestled just south of the thriving metro area of Los Angeles.

Heading across the country to Walt Disney World in Orlando, we find literally thousands of experiences for the traveler to have.  I recently had a conversation with a neighbor about where he and his wife were going to go on their next "adults only" trip (they have 3 kids...they just need a break sometimes, as we all do!  :) ).  I suggested Disney...he giggled a bit and said she wouldn't go for something that had too many kids.  One of the best things about Walt Disney World is that you can have as much interaction with others, both young and old, as you wish, with certain factors in mind.  The biggest is time of year.  Of course, going between September and December and the from February through April, most of the younger crowd will still be in school.  Of course, there are few exceptions, but the bulk of the youngsters will not be there unless it's a holiday.  The next biggest is what events are happening.  If you are visiting during events like Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, expect plenty of kids.  If you are visiting with the purpose of attending Epcot's Food and Wine Festival, there won't be as many kids.  Do some research.  Check out the best times to visit.  That can help tremendously  if you are trying to avoid a certain crowd.  On the other hand, if it is the experience with the kids that is making you think Disney, then certainly look for time and dates that include experiences geared towards kids.  The Halloween Party is a great one!  The Holiday's are another great time to visit with families.  If you don't mind the heat and humidity, I love being there in the Summer.  I look forward to the evening fireworks and parades so much more after a fun, but very warm day exploring the parks. 

During our last visit to Walt Disney World, my wife and I discussed exactly how long it would take our family (of three) to experience all that we wanted to at WDW.  We settled on 14 days.  That may seem like a lot, especially if you are assuming that WDW or even Disneyland is only about rides and characters.  It's so much more...much more than I can even talk about on this humble blog.  Don't believe me?  Spend about 5 minutes in any book store in the US.  Find the travel section, and check out the section on Disnyland and Disney World.  It'll most likely take up not just a shelf, but SHELVES!  You can tailor an experience that fits exactly what you'd like, and avoid what you don't. 

Disney's Aulani and the Disney Cruise Lines are both in the same realm of travel, blending the family atmosphere with adult experiences.  Both offer adult-only areas, and experiences that won't draw young families.  Both also offer plenty of family friendly activities, and, in some cases, day care of sorts where the kids can do their own thing while the parents enjoy some alone time!  My biggest advice would be to talk with a Disney Travel Professional (like me!!) and they can help build a vacation that will make everyone...yes EVERYONE...happy!

Lastly, and I'll conclude with this, are the Adventures by Disney.  I've had an awesome younger life.  Due to the work my father was doing with Texas A&M (Gig 'em Aggies!!), I had the unique opportunity to travel all over the world, from Japan to Russia, from Australia to China, from Europe to South America, and plenty of points in between.  I even had my second birth day in 1978 in Cape Town, South Africa.  Most people never get to experience what I've experienced, and many would be overwhelmed if even asked to consider a 2 week trip to Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, or how to schedule a 10 day cruise through the Galapagos Islands.  Disney does that for you with the Adventures by Disney itineraries.

I can hear it now, though, all you naysayers..."Why would I travel half way around the world just to see characters and ride rides?!?"  Of course the answer is you wouldn't!!  These experiences are about getting to the destination and connecting with those that call it home, whether it's in Scotland, or Italy...Greece, or South Africa...Ecuador or Alaska.  The experiences are tailored to create a congruence with the destination for the traveler that is unparalleled among travel.  Sure...you can read, research, and book your own once-in-a-lifetime trip to one of the fantastic destinations that are offered, but you wouldn't get the same experience.  Having been to a number of the destinations listed myself, I'd be hard pressed to find a better collection of experiences than what Disney has put together.  It's truly designed to have a life long effect on those that take the trips.  For those of you who would like an experience with out kids, nearly every destination offers dates that are adults only departures...yes...no kids on a Disney trip!  What a concept!! 

The bottom line is that Disney is more than the mouse and the castles.  It's about the destinations...the experiences...the memories...and the fun!  Whether its a 7 day cruise to the Bahamas, a 12 day trip in Australia, a short 4 day trip to the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot, a Honeymoon in Hawaii at Aulani, or even a 2 day excursion to Disneyland while on business in Los Angeles, Disney will truly offer you an experience that can be tailored to your likes and dislikes, and will leave you planning your next trip on the plane ride home from this one.

Until next post, have a Magical Day!!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why Visit Disney?

I've often been asked why our family loves Disney so much.  That's honestly a difficult thing to say, really.  It's a number of small things that, when combined, create an experience that is second-to-none for adults and children of all ages.

Let me first start with the biggest of those small things...the attention to detail.  I would wager that most of us have, from time to time, visited a theme park of some sort, whether it's that one with the number of flags, or the ones with the large black and white sea mammals, or another location with thrill rides, characters, restaurants, and lots to do.  Most are the same...general theme, well done, manicured grounds, lots to do, eat and see, etc.  What set's Disney apart from these other parks is their incredible attention to detail that is shown to every aspect of the theme park experience.  This permeates through everything that a guest experiences, from the time they arrive to the time they depart.  It's the little things like never seeing trash being taken out of a park (they have a series of passages so guests don't have to see it), or topiaries sculpted like the various Disney characters.  One of my biggest notices is the lack of anything that needs "fixing."  I'm not saying that the other parks have stuff to fix...just that Disney doesn't let anything even look like it needs it.  I've never (okay...well, maybe VERY VERY rarely) seen peeling paint, cracked sidewalks, missing or damaged signage, or any thing else that could detract from the whole experience.  I've never really even seen workers engaged in any type of maintenance either.  I know that they have to do it some times (I get periodic updates on which attractions, pools, parks, and other areas are being refreshed) because it ALWAYS looks pristine!  I've just never seen it!  It's like they have a group of fairies, or magical dwarves, or....wait....uh....never mind!  All in all, the parks, resorts, restaurants, and attractions all seem to emit an aura of perfection, and that's just they way Disney wants it.

Second is the experience as a whole.  From the transportation from the airport (via Disney's Magical Express) to the themed rooms at the resorts (we love Disney's Pop Century...it's like a home away from home), the experience is as much getting there, as it is being there, and, more to the point, wanting to go back as soon as you leave.  (We, as well as our close friends, have been known to begin planning our next trip on the plane ride home from the last trip!)  Almost every cast member (that's what Disney calls their work force...see....it's the experience!!) that we've ever encountered has made our trips magical, fantastic, and really special for us all.  A true test for me as far as the experience is concerned is how the complete staff help with the overall environment.  It would be very easy for the support staff (housekeeping, grounds staff, maintenance, etc.) to allow those that are in the "front of house" to attempt to create the proper environment, while they do their jobs without concern for the guest's experience.  At Disney, from the grounds staff pretending to use magic to trim a hedge, to the housekeeping staff sculpting animals from towels, the support staff are just a big a part of the overall experience as the front desk clerk or the performer on stage at Beauty and the Beast Stage Show (in Hollywood Studios, but the way....I'll get to that in future posts!).  You are truly transported to Walt's imagination and get to experience the magic just the way he'd have wanted.

The final piece to the puzzle of the Disney experience is the ability of Disney to truly create an experience that EVERYONE can enjoy.  If you are a thrill ride person, they have it (the "Mountains" in Magic Kingdom, Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom, Aerosmith's Rockin' Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's California Adventure...and many more).  If you are a show person, they have it (Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, The Festival of the Lion King...and many more). Relaxation your key to a great vacation?  Disney has you covered, with world class spas, pools, beaches (yes...even at the resorts...check out the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World...it's by a lake, but hey!  It's sand, and sunny...it's a beach!), and deluxe accommodations for even the most discerning traveler.  Have a little one traveling with you?  Still lots to do!  Many of the attractions are geared toward those princesses and princes who are not yet big enough to go on the big rides.  Our little princess loved Dumbo, Aladdin's Magic Carpets, and of course, the quintessential It's A Small World.  Disney even has many attractions where you can "Parent Swap", where both parents wait in line at an attraction and, as you arrive at the end of the line, one parent goes while the other stays with the child, and then, when the first parent comes back, the second goes with no wait.  What a great idea, right?

Truly, Disney has gone to great lengths to make their resorts and parks set apart from any others in, well, the world!  Take the time to check out all the offerings.  Not sure what to do, where to go, what to reserve?  No problem!  The Disney Travel Company staff would be glad to help, or you can contact a Disney Vacation Planner (I'm one, by the way!) who can help you decide how best to build a vacation that you and your family will remember for the rest of your lives!

Until next time, remember to Just Keep Swimming!


Monday, March 18, 2013


Welcome to my Blog!

I am a self-proclaimed Disney Freak...well, Disney SUPER Freak, actually.  I absolutely love all things Disney!   My love affair started a long time ago, but recently had a bloom with my daughter, and seeing the magic of Disney through her eyes.  She's 5 now, going on 16, but she still lights up when she sees a character, a favorite movie, or sings a song.  I love that!

I'm starting this blog to help provide some information for those who are fellow Disney Freaks such as myself, or for those who have never felt the Disney magic.  I've visited the parks and resorts many times, and through those times, my family and I have learned a lot about how to maximize the Magic, and minimize the stress.  Nothing that I write here is concrete, nor is it the end-all-be-all for a particular situation.  It's simply the best way we've found to do certain things (through trial and error...LOTS of error!), and we hope to pass that along to you!

We also want to show that the magic of a Disney vacation isn't outside of the reach of ANYBODY!  We believe that every person can have a great experience at Disney, whether that's with or without your children, grand children, or even great grand children.  You can have a magical experience whether you are pinching pennies, or have an unlimited budget.  You can have the vacation of a lifetime whether or not you are a ride person, a show person, a character person, or a food person.  Disney is one of the best vacation destinations you can find to fit any person's personality, and we want to show everyone how to do it!

I hope you enjoy my weekly posts and articles.  As this blog progresses, I'm sure there will be different versions that are up.  Please follow me and suggest anything that you would like to see.  I love speaking with other fellow Disney Freaks, and I welcome your ideas and suggestions!

Until our next meeting, Have a Magical Day, and remember to Always Think Happy Thoughts!