I had my first taste of Adventures by Disney, their worldwide, guided group travel brand, when we embarked on an epic tour of Scotland last year. There are many things about Scotland that make experiencing this country through Disney compelling, among them is the fact that the tour is inspired by the smash hit movie Brave and this connection creates instant engagement for the kids on the tour.
But Italy? Independent travel in Italy is Ciao Bambino’s sacred sandbox and taking a group tour with an iconic American brand like Disney seems counter to our mission at first blush.
I was invited on their recent media trip to try their new Italy itinerary and was excited to understand more about this very popular Adventures by Disney experience. The trip was full of wonderful surprises! Not only did I learn new things despite having visited Italy countless times over the years, but I realized that an independent trip is not the end all be all and that there are many reasons to consider Adventures by Disney Italy as your path to La Dolce Vita.
50% of Adventures by Disney guests return for another tour. Clearly, I’m not the only one who thinks they do an amazing job. Here’s a look at the Disney Difference in Italy:
Disney’s “Paddle of Power” is exactly that … the Disney brand is respected and recognized around the world and vendors, service providers, hoteliers, and attractions bend over backward to work with them in a meaningful way.
This means VIP access to everything, which in Italy is significant given the sheer volume of year-round tourists. The Adventures by Disney Italy tour is filled with extraordinary moments, but the one that will be seared in our memory banks forever is our after-hours tours of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, which sees an average of 25,000 people per day.
25,000! Ticket or no ticket ahead of time, this means a constant stream of people are competing to see this museum’s numerous treasures. Our group of 39 people wandered the halls with a guide and we were able to get up close to everything. We spent 45 minutes in the Sistine Chapel alone soaking in Michelangelo’s masterpiece without a soul moving us along. The value of this experience? Priceless.
From the theme parks to the Disney Cruise Line, the Disney service level and attention to detail is phenomenal. In addition to the local guides that met us for city tours, we traveled with two Disney guides who ensure guest needs are met from the start to finish of the trip. Given the diverse needs of any group trip, this is no small endeavor.
Our guides, Marco and Landon, were absolutely incredible with each and every person in our group. These guides have mastered the art of service and work tirelessly to help ensure all ages and interests are happy and comfortable. Although Italy is enjoyable, like any foreign destination, there are trying moments.
For families with children, kid-oriented leadership is crucial and these guides were amazing with the children during their kids’ night out (while the parents went wine tasting and enjoyed a lengthy gourmet meal). Likewise, the guides are unflustered by adult needs, like when we left a mobile phone at a restaurant across town in Florence just in time for our bus to leave. Oops.
Unanticipated mishaps are a fact of travel and Disney guides are trained to deal with practically any situation with professionalism and ease.
A travel trip is distinct from a family beach vacation in the amount of work required to figure out where to stay, what to do, and how to get from place-to-place. On a beach vacation, you can just show up at a resort and decide at-will what to do; meanwhile, a travel trip with multiple stops is much different as there are things to know. Add in international complexities and there is real work involved in planning a successful travel-oriented vacation, hence the value of guidance resources like Ciao Bambino.
Adventures by Disney provides as close to a logistics-free travel experience as you can have in Italy. The only decision to make each day is what you want to eat and drink, and activities for free time. Otherwise, there are limited-to-no lines for museums and attractions, there are no driving directions to argue over, or parking instructions in Italian to figure out. Disney guides even hand out water and snacks throughout the day so parents have to prepare very little. This is a true vacation from our busy family lives!
A real — and valid — concern when traveling with an American brand in Europe is if the experience will be authentic. I learned that Disney considers offering a true taste of local culture and life part of their Adventures by Disney mission.
Local guides lead all city tours and provide extensive commentary and information. In the countryside, we had a cooking lesson and lunch at a family-run working agriturismo, Fattoria Poggio Alloro. Sarah Fioroni, an award-winning cookbook author, taught our class and we also briefly met her father while he was working around the property.
At every turn I feel like Disney goes the extra mile to go well beyond the typical tourist view of each stop and a big part of that is interacting with locals along the way.
We stayed at two 5-star hotels and a 4-star hotel in the Tuscan countryside. Disney is synonymous with quality and they exhaustively research everything and anything used during a tour, from the guides, to the restaurants, to the hotels. You know you are getting reliable quality and a high-end travel experience at every stop.
As much as having kid-focused guides and activities is a big selling point for these trips, a myth is that an Adventures By Disney experience is ONLY about entertaining the kids. On the contrary, there are incredible parents-only activities on every tour. On this tour — Italian wine lovers unite — there is wine served at every Disney sponsored meal and two wine tasting sessions with local experts.
There’s also at least one evening where the kids have Disney childcare and parents have the chance to eat on their own.
> Group travel is not for everyone. You aren’t as nimble in each destination, although Disney is good at creating options and flexibility. That said, the tradeoff is the social environment for kids on group trips, which at the end of the day means more freedom for parents.
> This trip is rigorous with limited downtime. Although Disney does an excellent job of mixing activities so you tour one day and do a group activity like a cooking lesson the next; they definitely make use of every minute and walking is a big part of exploring Italy which is tiring for young kids. I recommend this particular itinerary for ages 8 and up.
> The trip uses a bus for transportation both in and between cities. Many people have bus aversion, but it is a fact of group travel as you need efficient transportation to get from place-to-place. The upside is door-to-door service and no stress around self-driving in busy cities like Rome and Florence.
> Adventures by Disney is a high-end tour operator and priced accordingly. At a starting price of $5,599 per adult and $5,319 per child, this trip has a consequential price tag, but it’s a fair value for what is essentially a flawless travel experience that comes with a dedicated staff of people who are doing things for you, VIP access, and top-quality hotels.
Next up: I’ll share some trip photos and review our stops in more detail. And yes, they are fantastic.
Editor’s Note: Adventures by Disney invited Ciao Bambino on a media trip to experience their new itinerary. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy
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