Walt Disney statue and Magical Kingdom.

Join a behind-the-scenes tours of top attractions at Disney World or Disneyland or venture farther afield on a river cruise to remember on a stress-free getaway accompanied by an Adventure guide. (Getty Images)

When you think of a Disney vacation, images of theme parks, costumed characters and cruise ships likely come to mind. But recently, Adventures by Disney announced its first-ever trip to Iceland, departing in 2018. Where does Iceland fit into the mix? Launched in 2005, Disney's Adventures by Disney is the company's guided, group travel arm. With trips to over 30 vacation destinations in 25-plus countries on six continents, Adventures by Disney offers a premium, family-focused vacation experience.

[See: 10 Common and Costly Mistakes Travelers Make at Disney.]

So is Adventures by Disney right for your vacation? Here are the benefits – and the drawbacks of an Adventure by Disney itinerary.

The Upsides

You Can Enjoy One-of-a-Kind Experiences

Adventures by Disney's offerings include weekend getaways, land-based trips, river cruises and upgrades to a Disney Cruise Line vacation. The itineraries typically include iconic bucket-list experiences such as trips to classic European capitals, an African safari, expeditions to the Great Wall of China, hikes to Machu Picchu, exploring highlights in America's national parks and more. Of course, Disney did not invent the guided group travel model. Many other companies, including Austin Adventures, Tauck Bridges and Thomson Family Adventures, also lead trips to many of these same destinations.

So what makes Adventures by Disney different? "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," says Ken Potrock, senior vice president of Adventures by Disney,

You'll Gain Added Perks and VIP Treatment With an Adventure Guide

The Adventure Guides are a top Adventures by Disney differentiator. Adventures by Disney has a rigorous selection process to handpick guides from the thousands of Disney cast members who apply. The Adventure Guides are part concierge, part photographer and part camp counselor, and ensure every detail of the trip goes smoothly and everyone in the group feels included. What's more, the crew members aim to create 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.

[See: 8 Things to Avoid at Disney This Summer.]

And as far as family travel goes, Disney knows how to cater to 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. As a result, all of the destinations and experiences on an Adventures by Disney trip are 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 far as the group goes, most of the guests are fans of the Disney theme parks and cruise line. Even better, at the end of each day of the trip, every guest receives a special Disney pin – a Disney collectible you can only get on an Adventures by Disney trip.

The Downsides

You Won't Have Much Down Time for Solo Exploration

Adventures by Disney vacations are not for everyone. These are group trips with 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, including when you go, where you stop and how much time you spend at each place. Plus, Adventures by Disney itineraries tend to be jam-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 you'll be traveling during hot summer months in crowded destinations. There are some Adventures by Disney vacations available in the spring and fall shoulder seasons, but keep in mind that some of these itineraries are exclusive to adults.

If Price is Your Top Priority, You May Score a Better Deal on Another Disney Vacation

Adventures by Disney trips are not inexpensive value vacations. They are high-end, luxury trips. For example, the weeklong Adventures by Disney trip to England and France can cost a family of four (two adults and two children) approximately $20,000, excluding airfare. So what do you get for that price? 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 are one-of-a-kind and are unavailable, at any price, other than through Adventures by Disney.

No matter the destination, you'll receive VIP treatment on your Adventures by Disney trip. "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," Potrock says.

[See: 10 Top Budget-Friendly Disneyland Hotels for Frugal Families.]

The Takeaway

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 rather authentic stories of the local destination sprinkled with the country's own distinct traditions. If you can afford it, Adventures by Disney offers a luxurious, hassle-free vacation. However, if Adventures by Disney vacation doesn't fit into your family travel budget, consider another Disney trip or an adventure vacation with a reliable outfitter. Compare similar itineraries, and see which one has the destinations and activities most appealing to your family members' interests and needs.


Splurge or Save: Which Disney Perks Are Worth the Money


Photo Gallery
Mickey and Minnie Mouse are seen walking through Sleeping Beauty Castle at the new Disneyland Park on September 1, 2005 in Hong Kong.
Guests leave Walt Disney World's Epcot October 8, 2003 near Orlando, Florida.
Family eating meal at outdoor restaurant together.
Young girl with parents hailing taxi.
A young man checking his smart watch.
Family greeting host at restaurant.
Girl writing on Calendar
Family with travel agent.
A family sits in a car with a full trunk.
|

Dodge exorbitant price tags on your Disney vacation with these insider secrets.
Let's get this out of the way: Between character meals, multiday park passes and stays at Disney-affiliated properties, visiting the Happiest Place on Earth isn't exactly geared toward the dedicated penny pincher. Even if you snag a package deal or plan a low-season trip, the price of a Disney vacation can soar quickly. But happily for budget-conscious visitors, there are ways to cut costs with a few insider tricks. To help you determine when to spring for extras, U.S. News tapped top Disney experts. Here are the perks and services you should – and shouldn't – splurge on to get the most out of your vacation.
(Getty Images)

Save time and money by browsing reliable resources for discounts.
Disney often advertises discounted packages that bundle extras such as free meals and complimentary park tickets, says Jason Cochran, editor in chief of Frommers.com and author of "Frommer's EasyGuide to Disney World, Universal and Orlando 2016." Aside from searching for current promotions online from Disney, he advises checking sites such as AllEars.net to review menu prices and money-saving tips and Disney-planning site MouseSavers.com to look for available coupon codes. Don Munsil, president of MouseSavers.com, also recommends getting a subscription to Touring Plans ($12.95 per year) to get a customized plan for visiting popular attractions and rides at less-crowded times.
(iStockphoto)

Splurge on a Magic Your Way Park Hopper ticket.
When it comes to choosing how to get around Walt Disney World's four theme parks, it's often a wise idea to invest in Park Hopper tickets to get the best bang for your buck, explains Tom Bricker, the co-founder of Disney vacation-planning site Disney Tourist Blog. Consider your travel companions' ages and interest in exploring multiple parks, advises Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, a family vacations expert at About.com. If you're traveling with older kids who may want to explore different parks each day, the Park Hopper can offer added value, she explains. You'll maximize savings by booking a multiday option (a seven-day adult Park Hopper Ticket costs around $440, while a three-day ticket costs around $345).
(Getty Images)

Save on the Disney Dining Plan.
If you're the type of traveler who likes to pay for vacation expenses upfront, the Disney Dining Plan can offer added convenience, Munsil explains. But in terms of value, you won't scale back costs unless you're planning to dine on premium dishes (think: steak) everywhere, he says. While signature deluxe restaurants can cost up to $55 per person, table service restaurants charge around $35 per person and counter-service restaurants offer more cost-effective pricing, Munsil explains. "If you are trying to save money, pay a la carte," he says. Alternatively, quick-service meals can offer plenty of value and don't require purchasing a dining plan option.
(Getty Images)

Splurge on Disney-affiliated accommodations.
"Regardless of budget, it is always smart to stay on property at Disney," says Nanci Weinstein, a travel agent with Moments of Magic Travel, an authorized Disney vacation planner. With complimentary transportation to the parks and free transfers from Orlando International Airport, you can shave hundreds off your Disney World vacation, she explains. Plus, guests staying on property can secure FastPasses 60 days in advance, while those staying off property can book passes 30 days ahead of their trip. What's more, you can enjoy Extra Magic Hours in the morning before crowds arrive, Bricker says. There are fewer advantages to staying on-site at Disneyland, as many hotels are within walking distance, Bricker adds.
(Getty Images)

Splurge for Extra Magic Hours.
Walt Disney World resort guests are granted early park entry – an extra hour in the morning or up to two hours in the evenings – giving them extra time to enjoy top attractions (Disneyland Resort Hotels guests can enjoy an extra hour on select days). "Morning Extra Magic Hours make the biggest difference," Munsil says. You can slash wait times significantly at popular rides such as Peter Pan's Flight in Magic Kingdom or Frozen Ever After at Epcot. If you don't plan to get to Disney World within the first 10 minutes when the Extra Magic Hour starts, your best bet is checking out the other three parks instead for shorter lines, Munsil adds.
(Getty Images)

Splurge on specialty meals.
If you're traveling with youngsters, you'll likely want to spring for a character meal at Be Our Guest Restaurant or Cinderella's Royal Table at Magic Kingdom. While you won't snag many discounts for these experiences, you can increase your chances of getting a coveted reservation by staying at a Walt Disney World property, which allows you to book your table beginning 180 days from arrival, Cochran explains. Plus, if you decide to use a Disney Dining Plan, you can leverage value through credits, Weinstein says. Another pro tip: Log onto the Disney site at 6 a.m. EST 180 days out to secure your reservation, says Shannon Albert, author of Disney World Planning site WDWPrepSchool.com.
(Getty Images)

Save by visiting at off-peak periods.
Avoid crowds by planning a Walt Disney World trip when kids are back in school, Cochran says. Late August often offers reduced rates and fewer lines, he adds. But if you don't want to pay a premium accommodation rate or navigate through a crush of tourists, skip an August trip or popular travel periods such as Christmas, New Year's and long holiday weekends. And if you're planning a trip to Disneyland, keep in mind most visitors are local, translating to soaring crowds and prices during the weekends, Kelleher says. She advises seeking out weekday packages for lower rates and fewer tourists.
(kate_sept2004/ Getty Images)

Splurge on a travel agent.
If you want to leave vacation planning to a pro, you can rely on the help from an agent without paying a steep fee. "They don't charge for their service, and there's simply too much for the first-timer to know to plan efficiently unless they make it a full-time job," Bricker says. Assistance, expertise and planning services "are always completely complimentary to my clients," Weinstein says. However, not all travel planners are created equal, Albert explains. "So be sure to focus on one that specializes in Disney World travel and is willing to book both dining and FastPass+ reservations," she says.
(Getty Images)

Save by securing your own transportation.
"While Disney's transportation is free and effective, it's not the fastest way to go," Munsil says. You're better off driving if your top priority is convenience. To eliminate parking costs, it can be a smart idea to stay at an affiliated Walt Disney World resort since many offer complimentary parking. Another bonus of bringing your own set of wheels is the chance to enjoy cheaper food just a mile away from the parks, Cochran says. And because Orlando sees millions of tourists each year, you can easily snag a car rental for around $25 a day, making a vehicle a cost-effective and headache-free way to get around, Cochran says. Plus, affordable car rentals abound in Anaheim, California. Kayak currently shows car rentals available for as low as $14 a day.
(Getty Images)

Mickey and Minnie Mouse are seen walking through Sleeping Beauty Castle at the new Disneyland Park on September 1, 2005 in Hong Kong.
Guests leave Walt Disney World's Epcot October 8, 2003 near Orlando, Florida.
Family eating meal at outdoor restaurant together.
Young girl with parents hailing taxi.
A young man checking his smart watch.
Family greeting host at restaurant.
Girl writing on Calendar
Family with travel agent.
A family sits in a car with a full trunk.

Dodge exorbitant price tags on your Disney vacation with these insider secrets.
Let's get this out of the way: Between character meals, multiday park passes and stays at Disney-affiliated properties, visiting the Happiest Place on Earth isn't exactly geared toward the dedicated penny pincher. Even if you snag a package deal or plan a low-season trip, the price of a Disney vacation can soar quickly. But happily for budget-conscious visitors, there are ways to cut costs with a few insider tricks. To help you determine when to spring for extras, U.S. News tapped top Disney experts. Here are the perks and services you should – and shouldn't – splurge on to get the most out of your vacation.
(Getty Images)

Save time and money by browsing reliable resources for discounts.
Disney often advertises discounted packages that bundle extras such as free meals and complimentary park tickets, says Jason Cochran, editor in chief of Frommers.com and author of "Frommer's EasyGuide to Disney World, Universal and Orlando 2016." Aside from searching for current promotions online from Disney, he advises checking sites such as AllEars.net to review menu prices and money-saving tips and Disney-planning site MouseSavers.com to look for available coupon codes. Don Munsil, president of MouseSavers.com, also recommends getting a subscription to Touring Plans ($12.95 per year) to get a customized plan for visiting popular attractions and rides at less-crowded times.
(iStockphoto)

Splurge on a Magic Your Way Park Hopper ticket.
When it comes to choosing how to get around Walt Disney World's four theme parks, it's often a wise idea to invest in Park Hopper tickets to get the best bang for your buck, explains Tom Bricker, the co-founder of Disney vacation-planning site Disney Tourist Blog. Consider your travel companions' ages and interest in exploring multiple parks, advises Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, a family vacations expert at About.com. If you're traveling with older kids who may want to explore different parks each day, the Park Hopper can offer added value, she explains. You'll maximize savings by booking a multiday option (a seven-day adult Park Hopper Ticket costs around $440, while a three-day ticket costs around $345).
(Getty Images)

Save on the Disney Dining Plan.
If you're the type of traveler who likes to pay for vacation expenses upfront, the Disney Dining Plan can offer added convenience, Munsil explains. But in terms of value, you won't scale back costs unless you're planning to dine on premium dishes (think: steak) everywhere, he says. While signature deluxe restaurants can cost up to $55 per person, table service restaurants charge around $35 per person and counter-service restaurants offer more cost-effective pricing, Munsil explains. "If you are trying to save money, pay a la carte," he says. Alternatively, quick-service meals can offer plenty of value and don't require purchasing a dining plan option.
(Getty Images)

Splurge on Disney-affiliated accommodations.
"Regardless of budget, it is always smart to stay on property at Disney," says Nanci Weinstein, a travel agent with Moments of Magic Travel, an authorized Disney vacation planner. With complimentary transportation to the parks and free transfers from Orlando International Airport, you can shave hundreds off your Disney World vacation, she explains. Plus, guests staying on property can secure FastPasses 60 days in advance, while those staying off property can book passes 30 days ahead of their trip. What's more, you can enjoy Extra Magic Hours in the morning before crowds arrive, Bricker says. There are fewer advantages to staying on-site at Disneyland, as many hotels are within walking distance, Bricker adds.
(Getty Images)

Splurge for Extra Magic Hours.
Walt Disney World resort guests are granted early park entry – an extra hour in the morning or up to two hours in the evenings – giving them extra time to enjoy top attractions (Disneyland Resort Hotels guests can enjoy an extra hour on select days). "Morning Extra Magic Hours make the biggest difference," Munsil says. You can slash wait times significantly at popular rides such as Peter Pan's Flight in Magic Kingdom or Frozen Ever After at Epcot. If you don't plan to get to Disney World within the first 10 minutes when the Extra Magic Hour starts, your best bet is checking out the other three parks instead for shorter lines, Munsil adds.
(Getty Images)

Splurge on specialty meals.
If you're traveling with youngsters, you'll likely want to spring for a character meal at Be Our Guest Restaurant or Cinderella's Royal Table at Magic Kingdom. While you won't snag many discounts for these experiences, you can increase your chances of getting a coveted reservation by staying at a Walt Disney World property, which allows you to book your table beginning 180 days from arrival, Cochran explains. Plus, if you decide to use a Disney Dining Plan, you can leverage value through credits, Weinstein says. Another pro tip: Log onto the Disney site at 6 a.m. EST 180 days out to secure your reservation, says Shannon Albert, author of Disney World Planning site WDWPrepSchool.com.
(Getty Images)

Save by visiting at off-peak periods.
Avoid crowds by planning a Walt Disney World trip when kids are back in school, Cochran says. Late August often offers reduced rates and fewer lines, he adds. But if you don't want to pay a premium accommodation rate or navigate through a crush of tourists, skip an August trip or popular travel periods such as Christmas, New Year's and long holiday weekends. And if you're planning a trip to Disneyland, keep in mind most visitors are local, translating to soaring crowds and prices during the weekends, Kelleher says. She advises seeking out weekday packages for lower rates and fewer tourists.
(kate_sept2004/ Getty Images)

Splurge on a travel agent.
If you want to leave vacation planning to a pro, you can rely on the help from an agent without paying a steep fee. "They don't charge for their service, and there's simply too much for the first-timer to know to plan efficiently unless they make it a full-time job," Bricker says. Assistance, expertise and planning services "are always completely complimentary to my clients," Weinstein says. However, not all travel planners are created equal, Albert explains. "So be sure to focus on one that specializes in Disney World travel and is willing to book both dining and FastPass+ reservations," she says.
(Getty Images)

Save by securing your own transportation.
"While Disney's transportation is free and effective, it's not the fastest way to go," Munsil says. You're better off driving if your top priority is convenience. To eliminate parking costs, it can be a smart idea to stay at an affiliated Walt Disney World resort since many offer complimentary parking. Another bonus of bringing your own set of wheels is the chance to enjoy cheaper food just a mile away from the parks, Cochran says. And because Orlando sees millions of tourists each year, you can easily snag a car rental for around $25 a day, making a vehicle a cost-effective and headache-free way to get around, Cochran says. Plus, affordable car rentals abound in Anaheim, California. Kayak currently shows car rentals available for as low as $14 a day.
(Getty Images)

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Tags: travel, vacations, Disney travel


Dave Parfitt is a reformed academic with a PhD in neuroscience, and began writing about his family travel adventures after surviving a trip to Walt Disney World as father of two budding princesses. As owner and editor of AdventuresbyDaddy.com, Dave offers family travel advice and escapist fun from Dad’s point of view. You can follow Dave on Twitter @AdventuresByDad, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.

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