For years I had heard about the incredible quality of service provided by Adventures by Disney (ABD), and considered going on one of their adventures. ABD offers guided, structured tours to many different places all over the world. They offer longer adventures to Asia and Europe, and shorter adventures to places like New York City and Southern California. From my research, I knew that these trips were premium experiences; however, the traveler reviews always seem to say that it was “worth every penny.”
Since the trips are run by Disney, you get the legendary Disney service, but you don’t have Mickey Mouse leading your tour group. Instead you will become part of a group of 30-40 guests who are interested in visiting a location, with two amazing tour guides who know the area and whose number one priority is making sure you have a great vacation.
Even though my whole family enjoys traveling, from time-to-time my husband or I will take a solo trip (or as I call it, a me-cation), sometimes to Walt Disney World, or sometimes to another location that only interests one of us. We decided it was my turn to take one of these trips, so I started thinking about where I would want to go, and if an ABD trip could be right for me.
A Little Bit About Me
I enjoy touring Disney Parks with my family, as well as by myself; I also describe myself as an introvert. While extroverts tend to get energized by being around other people, introverts tend to get energized by being alone, and often prefer spending time with people they know. That means when I tour a park alone, I’m not that likely to strike up conversations with the people around me. With ABD travel groups being 30-40 people, I wasn’t quite sure that a group trip by myself was going to be fun for me. Plus, I needed a relatively short trip, since I’d be away from my family for that time.
Then I heard about an upcoming DIS Exclusive Backstage Magic ABD trip to Southern California, which included two nights in Hollywood, and three nights at the Disneyland Resort, with behind-the-scenes tours of Jim Henson Studios, Disney Studios, Imagineering, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure.
I decided that five nights was a reasonable amount of time for me to be away from my family. Plus, it was open only to people who heard about it on the DIS, so I knew I would instantly be with people who had similar interests. Plus, this trip would be attended by Pete and Ryno from the DIS Unplugged Podcast! After only a day or two of consideration I booked the trip, and was glad I did, because it sold out! I admit that I did have a few reservations entering the trip, mainly around the uncertainty of if I would enjoy group meal dining and the lack of knowing the exact itinerary ahead of time. In the end, I enjoyed this trip so much! I saw some cool things, made some new friends, and even got a few new Twitter followers.
Here are some of the top reasons this group trip was perfect for a self-proclaimed introvert like myself:
Touring around Hollywood I learned how my feet measure up to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
The Tour Guides are Amazing!
The tour guides on our trip were amazing, and this seems a common theme with all ABD adventures. They knew the local area, were highly knowledgeable and trained in all things Disney, and were very committed to ensuring everyone on our trip was having an awesome time.
My trip got off to a rough start with a 13-hour flight delay, and I missed the welcome dinner, but our tour guide still met me at the door to my hotel at midnight with all the information I needed. The next day, the guides made an extra effort to introduce me to everyone, and all the folks on the trip were great about catching me up on anything I missed. Throughout the trip the tour guides were friendly, accessible and always willing to go the extra mile. One thing that I really appreciated as a solo traveler was all the pictures they took for us. I never had to worry about asking someone to take my picture (though I'm sure no one would have turned me down)!
Our tour guides, Summer Rose and Lauren, were fantastic!
The Itinerary Is Action-Packed - If You Want It to Be
Going into this trip I was a bit nervous because I had heard that these would be long days and that there was a lot planned, but my itinerary only had a rough outline of what we were doing each day. I knew there would be some “on-our-own" time, but I didn’t know how much time that would be. There were some things that I wanted to see and do, and I wanted to make sure I had the time to do everything.
Once the trip started we got a more detailed schedule of the events. There certainly was scheduled on-your-own time, though sometimes a surprise event (like an ice cream party at Ghirardelli’s) would pop up during that time. Honestly, I surprised myself by attending most of these types of events, but still made sure I did the things I really wanted to do.
For the Disneyland part of the tip, I was very prepared to have lots of park touring time on my own, and I was looking forward to doing that. But with the dynamic that developed within the group, I wound up touring the parks with a few other people who liked the same rides and wanted to do the same things. What I liked about this was that it was entirely optional for me to be part of a group or to head off on my own. There were no judgments, just folks who loved Disney and wanted to have a good time.
An impromptu photo with most of the group. Thanks Jim! (Photo credit Jim VanOstenbridge, @vanomedia on Instagram)
The Group Dynamics are Dynamic
On this trip there were 33 people in our group, including three that were associated with the DIS. The rest of the trip consisted of couples, different types of families (i.e. mother/daughter, sisters, or families with adult or teen children), and a few solo travelers like myself. The welcome dinner was designed to introduce people to each other, and this was the only meal that had assigned seats. I think the goal of the assigned seats the first night is to help set up some chances for finding folks that you can connect to.
With ABD trips being quite long, there is plenty of time for connections and friendships to develop naturally. This was a DIS exclusive trip, so I already had a lot in common with these folks. If there was ever a time we needed a topic to connect on, we could always talk about Disney or the DIS Unplugged podcast. Over the next couple of days though, we saw some pretty amazing things together, and would discuss what we liked about the different things that we saw. Some people naturally connected with some more than others.
One thing I noticed also is that even though most travelers had one or more "traveling buddies,” that didn’t mean they wanted to all see the same things at the same time. It felt very natural for me touring different places with the group, and I would sometimes wander into different conversations or activities with different folks. Overall, I felt I had the opportunity to engage with others when I wanted to, and to take a step back and be by myself when I wanted to.
I would highly recommend an Adventures by Disney trip. Don't let uncertainty about group travel hold you back. These trips can be enjoyed by extroverts and introverts alike!
Being in Disneyland before park opening is one experience from this trip I'll never forget!