DOING DISNEY With Adventures by Disney
Which of Disney’s travel experiences would you guess has the highest percentage of repeat customers? Disneyworld? A Disney cruise? The answer is one of Disney’s best-kept travel secrets: Adventures by Disney. You may not have heard of Adventures by Disney, but ABD is Disney’s group travel branch. My husband and I recently tried our first ABD trip, and it exceeded all our expectations!
Adventures by Disney offers hassle-free trips all over the world – from Australia to Iceland to Europe to Japan. There are also ABD trips in the United States and trips that are embedded within a Disney cruise. The trips are all-inclusive, and the cost covers lodging, activities, almost all meals, and more! What makes an Adventures by Disney trip so special? From my experience, it’s Disney’s high level of service, attention to detail, and VIP access that makes ABD the best group travel experience around.
My husband Mark and I chose the ABD Rome Short Escape. From the time our plane touched down, ABD took great care of us. A driver was waiting to take us to the hotel. There was no need to tip the driver, because Disney takes care of all tips and fees. (The only exception is a tip for the adventure guides at the end of the trip.) At the hotel we were greeted by an adventure guide. Every ABD trip has two adventure guides – think combination cast member/camp counselor – and one local guide. Our adventure guide shared the day’s schedule with us and even escorted us to a nearby restaurant since we were early and our room wasn’t ready.
The adventure guides were always available, friendly, and helpful. Our group of 40 included about six kids ten and under and a number of teenagers as well, and the adventure guides were great at keeping travelers of all ages involved and engaged. Our local guide, Simone, was the best tour guide I’ve ever heard. He was incredibly knowledgeable and great at pulling the younger kids in while not compromising the high level of information he shared. The adults learned from what he had to say – there was not a question he couldn’t answer – and the kids loved holding his hand and helping him find the animals in the statue, or whatever challenge he had for his “junior adventurers.”
There were many small touches during the trip that added an extra level of fun. When our group finished touring the Pantheon on a very hot June day, the adventure guides were ready with gelato.When we arrived at the Trevi Fountain, they had coins to give us to toss into the fountain. Each day everyone in the group received a special ABD pin that combined Disney with the location. For example, we got a pin with Pinocchio, whose story is set in Italy, in front of the Italian flag.
One of the best things about an ABD trip is VIP access. For example, our group was allowed on the floor of the Colosseum, enabling us to see the amazing structure from the perspective of the gladiators. Another highlight was an after-hours tour of the Vatican Museum. Our amazing Italian guide showed us the priceless treasures with no one around except for the museum cleaning crew. Definitely an experience I’ll never forget!
Each trip also includes hands-on experiences. Sometimes this is a cooking class, an opportunity to learn a local game, or a chance to sing a song on a Broadway stage. For our trip, after viewing the mosaics in St. Peter’s Basilica, our group went to a mosaics studio in Vatican City to create our own mosaics! My husband’s mosaic said “Roma”, but I couldn’t resist making mine with Mickey Mouse!
Mark and I loved the opportunity to get to know the other couples and families on our trip. Some ABD trips are adults-only trips, and most have a suggested age. In our group we had a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, several empty-nester couples, adults in their twenties, children, and teenagers. Our trip began with a Welcome Dinner, where we began getting to know strangers who soon became friends. At each meal we ate with a different group, and it was fun to see how much we all had in common.
Our trip was over too soon, and we were sad to say good-bye so quickly to our new friends. The last night we enjoyed a special Farewell Dinner in the Vatican Gardens, and the next morning ABD took care of our luggage for us and had a driver take us to the Rome train station, where we continued our Italy trip on our own. Mark and I felt like the experience was worth every penny we paid, and our decision now is where to take our next Adventures by Disney trip!