Europe Family Vacation Planning: Is an Adventures by Disney Tour Right for You?

I’ve taken two Adventures by Disney guided tours in Europe, Adventures by Disney Viva Italia and Adventures by Disney Scotland, A Brave Adventure. Both itineraries are fantastic and provide families with an incredible way to experience these destinations. But it’s not as simple as a rave review; deciding how to travel in Europe with your kids is a big decision.

Although I’m an avid independent traveler, there are times when taking a guided tour is the best call. The destination, trip goals, and the available time on the ground — and to plan a trip — all factor into the pros/cons of each approach. To help with the decision making process, I’ve created an Adventures by Disney Sniff Test, in other words, things to think about when mulling over if an ABD guided tour is right for your family vacation to Europe:

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All-family cooking lesson by an award-winning cookbook author in Tuscany

Adventures by Disney Sniff Test

Do you want interactive information provided throughout an itinerary?

Adventures by Disney trips include both dedicated guides who travel with the group, as well as specialty guides who are experts in different destinations. The plethora of online/offline content available today helps provide context and information about a given place or attraction, but nothing replaces a live explanation (assuming the information is qualified), and having the opportunity to interact and ask questions.

Pairing Adventures by Disney guides and local guides at every stop provides families with consistent, deep information throughout their itineraries. This is a huge perk for information-seeking families. On the other hand, some families prefer a more relaxed, ‘soak it all in’ approach with no defined information dissemination.

Do you value VIP access?

Disney is one of the world’s most prominent brands, and with that prestige comes access. Adventures by Disney tours include experiences otherwise unavailable to independent travelers (or at least unavailable at a reasonable cost) — like the private after-hours tour of the Vatican Museum in Italy and the private dinner in Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.

Everything is organized in a way that any sort of waiting in line is minimized. There is no way to have this level of efficiency and access throughout an independent itinerary, unless you are on private guided tour, although that doesn’t guarantee the Disney level of special access.

Do you want kid-focused guides and entertainment?

There is no brand that understands children better than Disney; kids’ needs and interests are meticulously woven into every family Adventures by Disney itinerary. The two Disney guides who travel with the group love children and they know how to interact with them; they are paid to keep kids safe and entertained, which means that parents have downtime, something that is prized when traveling in Europe with kids. Parents and Junior Adventurers (what kids are called on trips) both have dedicated activities during every itinerary, in addition to all-family experiences.

Some families want travel to be their time to connect as a family unit. This is more difficult to do in a trip when there is a mix of together and independent time in a group environment. At the same time, finding caregivers in a foreign country to give parents a break is not always easy or affordable. If you know you need/want downtime, having it built into an itinerary is a great solution.

Do you find group travel appealing?

Adventures by Disney only offers group itineraries. This format may be an instant deal-breaker for some families who don’t want to deal with group dynamics. The risk of a group trip is that you may be stuck with people who annoy you. On the other hand, the upside of a family group trip is that kids can play with other kids besides their siblings, or in our case as parents of an only child, have other kids on a trip at all.

Do you like to be on the go when traveling?

Adventures by Disney itineraries are busy. Although there is an ample amount of free time built into each trip, every day is scheduled to some degree, which is how so much is accomplished within a short amount of time. Kids can be overwhelmed by all the action, so it’s important to consider the minimum age recommended for each trip.

If you like to be on the go and see as much as possible, these trips are a dream, as the itineraries cover some serious ground. We experienced more in 8 days in our Viva Italia Tour than most travelers experience in a 14-day trip. Those who like significant time without any structure at all will find the set up onerous.

Are you OK with a bus?

I have to admit that the thought of bus travel in Europe would normally give me hives. However, I found the big, bright side with Adventures by Disney. Instead of stressing about how to get somewhere on small European roads with fast drivers, I could sit on the bus and let someone else worry about the logistics.

Some of the busses have WIFI and they are equipped for movie watching, which certainly helps keep kids entertained when getting from point A to point B. Also, parents get the chance for both to look out the window and soak in the scenery. The bottom line is that I learned that the benefits outweigh the cost.

Do you have a flexible budget?

Adventures by Disney is not a budget brand. These trips are designed as upscale experiences and priced accordingly. You aren’t paying for glitz and glamour, but you are paying for service and the trip cost includes accommodations, activities, and most meals.

Considering what’s including and what you do on these trips, Adventures by Disney is a great value for the money spent, which is why their guest return rate is so high at 50%! This doesn’t change, however, the fact that the trips are priced at a premium. The Italy itinerary pricing, for example, is $5,000-6,000 per person.

Are you a foodie?

Many meals are included in the Adventures by Disney itineraries. They thoroughly vet every resource used, so you know any restaurant Disney includes meets minimum quality standards. That said, restaurants are selected to please a broad spectrum of people and their children, which is a tall order.  The food is all good, and some meals are downright amazing, but not every meal is a rich culinary experience. Note, however, that in places like Italy where food is part of the cultural experience, Disney goes out of their way to provide access to food experiences like our amazing cooking class at a farm in Tuscany with an award-winning chef.

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Exploring the spectacular Dunnottar Castle in Scotland

Another big element of these trips is the hands-free luggage experience, where you don’t carry your bags after arriving at the airport until the departure day. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think this is not a perk, so I didn’t include it in my Sniff Test, but it’s certainly a trip benefit for those of us — ahem — who are not light packers.

If you have questions about Adventures by Disney, feel free to ask us on info{at}ciaobambino.com.

Relevant Links:

Adventures by Disney Italy review

Adventures by Disney Scotland review

The Disney Difference

Review of Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii

Editor’s Note: Disney invited us on media trips to both Scotland and Italy to experience their itineraries first hand. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy.

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