When I shared with people that I was heading off to Scotland with Adventures By Disney to write about their new “Brave” Scotland Family Vacation, I got many blank stares. Word isn’t quite out that Disney offers much more in family travel than theme parks. Adventures by Disney started offering escorted group trips in 2004, and for those in the know, it’s the best thing going — evident by the 40% guest return rate for these global itineraries.
I must admit, as a passionate independent traveler, I had my doubts about experiencing an international destination as a group through the Disney lens. I was worried about too much Mouse and not enough authenticity. It turns out my concerns were completely unfounded. I discovered that the very fact that the trips are run by Disney provides a huge advantage.
Why? It all comes down to the Disney difference:
Disney is one of the world’s most successful global brands and this position opens doors. We had unbelievable access to one exceptional experience after another in Scotland. Like, our private viewing of the crown jewels in Edinburgh Castle. Like, an archery lesson on the lawn of the castle where the Queen’s Mum was raised. Like, the first-ever tour of the oldest tapestry factory still running in Scotland.
Disney works hard to have a brand that is synonymous with safety and security in everything that they do. This means that in environments they do not control, Disney goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure a near-flawless guest experience.
This provides incredible piece of mind. Bruce Austin, Disney’s Regional Manager for Europe, Africa and Asia, develops Adventures by Disney itineraries; Bruce accompanied us on our Scotland tour and described the unprecedented due diligence his team goes through when selecting different components of a trip. Take dining for example, where no stone is left uncovered during the selection process from food procurement to meal preparation. Even animal welfare is taken into account to ensure partners adhere to Disney’s ethical guidelines for human and animal interaction.
In more extreme foreign destinations like Africa and Asia, this is not an insignificant benefit, with or without kids in tow.
We all know about tour companies who think that taking an adult-focused tour and adding a kids’ menu at meals will create a kid-friendly tour. Disney’s approach couldn’t be further from this paradigm. Trips are designed from the ground up to be fun for kids and their parents. Storytelling is important, as is adult-only and kid-only time, so everyone can unwind completely.
This approach means that some of the adult destination content is more lightweight than you’d get on a more adult-oriented tour, but kids are so happy in this heavily kid-customized environment that this is a price worth paying.
Disney receives an average of 1,200 resumes every year for their Adventures by Disney tour guides; of this applicant pool, only 12 people are selected as guides. Talk about a rigorous hiring process!
Adventures by Disney guides are trained together to meet Disney standards and run these trips with a professional, consistent approach. Our guides in Scotland had an infinite amount of energy, enthusiasm, and patience. As expected, they both clearly loved children and went out of their way to cater to their every need.
Before the trip, I wondered if we would be picked up at the airport by Mickey Mouse and friends … I didn’t know what to expect. It turns out that the Mouse Factor on Adventures by Disney trips is kept intentionally low to enhance the authenticity of the destination experience.
Scotland is the only itinerary based on a Disney movie. The only characters present on the trip were on the pins handed out every day after visiting different attractions. The Disney trip elements relate to quality, not theme parks.
Stay tuned for my full review of our Adventures by Disney Scotland adventure. The only negative to note is that these itineraries are already sold out for 2013! 2014 and beyond is still available …
Editorial Note: Adventures by Disney provided complimentary access to their new Scotland itinerary. As always, our opinions on Ciao Bambino are our own.
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