If you’ve ever wanted a family vacation, either domestically or abroad, that is thrilling and adventurous, but also maintains that quantifiable Disney magic, then Adventures by Disney is for you. The organization, a leader in family guided travel, supervises one-of-a-kind vacations here (Wyoming) and overseas (in places like Italy, China, and Costa Rica), that combine an unforgettable getaway with insights and embellishments that only Disney could achieve. And their latest getaway is a doozy–it’s a central Florida experience that emphasizes the four amazing Disney Parks in Florida while also providing an authentically Floridian experience too, with visits to Kennedy Space Center and a private ranch, where you can horseback ride, kayak, and glide down a zip line. This is your chance to experience Walt Disney World as a VIP, while also taking in some truly unforgettable Florida moments.
I recently sat down with Bruce Austin, a manager of trip development for Adventures by Disney, who talked me through the amazing central Florida Adventures by Disney trip.
Take me through the central Florida trip — one of the big draws is that you get a Walt Disney World component and with that you get behind-the-scenes access that’s exclusive to Adventures by Disney.
So, for years we’ve talked about Walt Disney World as an opportunity to build as one of our adventures. Partly because we saw a huge opportunity—there are somewhere north of 22 million visitors a year, which is huge, and the fact that we operated the successful program in Southern California that featured Disneyland. Our Southern California trip is not only about Disneyland, there are elements of LA, Walt Disney’s Hollywood connections back in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, the Disney studios, the Muppets—the Jim Henson experience, and so on and so forth. We saw elements there to put together a pretty compelling program that was both focused in Los Angeles and also at Disneyland. So we wanted to take that kind of template and put it into Florida as well.
Walt Disney World is the lynchpin of our trip, and we spend six nights at the Polynesian Resort, that’s where our guests are going to be lodged. We’re going to visit all four parks, and the Polynesian is also our hub for our activities that we do, featuring backstage access, VIP dining experiences that are unique to us, and we have some Imagineers coming in at a couple different points during the week to interact with our guests and share some amazing stories. I think this is really going to particularly resonate with the type of guest who are just fascinated with the history of Disney in general.
And addition to Walt Disney World, we’re going to spend two days outside of the park environment during the week. We’re going to spend one day at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral and we’re going to do a program there, it’s a half-day long and it’s called “Fly with an Astronaut,” an actual astronaut is going to spend half a day with us and going to be our tour guide as we go through the visitor’s complex and have lunch with us in our own private venue. We’re going to get to see behind-the-scenes of the Kennedy Space Center in a similar fashion that we do at Walt Disney World, a little VIP access that the average day guest does not have the advantage to see. So that’s been fun and exciting to do that.
The other day outside of the park is called “Old Florida,” and this is where we’re going to take our guest into the natural landscape of Florida, introduce them to the forest and the waterways that are very, very close to the parks. You step into a cypress swamp and it’s like you’re the first person that’s been there. So we’re going to feature some kayaking on a quiet little creek, we’re going to go on an airboat ride across Lake Toho, and then we’re going to end up on a private estate that’s 5,000 acres of natural Florida landscape that’s been preserved and protected by the family that owns it. There we’re going to start off with a Florida-themed lunch, and following lunch guests can choose from several activities: they can go horseback riding on the property, they can jump on a swamp buggy, with the eco tour you’ll see some great wildlife, and last but not least they one of the most amazing zip lining courses that we’ve ever seen outside of Costa Rica, including the one and only rollercoaster zip line course in the continental US. So not only are you flying along a zip line, but it goes up and it goes down, and you’re hooting and hollering the whole time. It’s just an amazing, fun experience. We have a full afternoon of these great activities that are fun for families, and if you’re not really an outdoorsy person, you can hop on the swamp buggy and go on an eco tour at the very least.
Can you talk about the tours through the parks?
We knew that this adventure experience was going to be of interest to high-level Disneyphiles in the sense that many of our potential guests have already been to Walt Disney World one or multiple times with their families. What could we do that was new and unique, or compelling, or created a different type of experience there that was over and beyond anything that they have ever done before? So that was our brief going into the development and design concept of this. We were fortunate to get hooked up with someone from the operation team in each of the four parks, people that run the attractions, people that can get you through the front doors, as well as the Imagineers who are based there at Walt Disney World, and some really compelling programming also at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
They were also really excited to see Adventures by Disney come in because we worked with them for years, going to places such as South Africa, where it’s all about the game drives and wildlife viewing and it’s always been about the partnership of the team and animal education team at Animal Kingdom, so here we are coming into their venue with our guests, so this is an exciting opportunity to take that immersive experience that Animal Kingdom already offers the average guest but to take it one or two steps further. We’re going to have a private one-on-one encounter with an animal education expert. These are often world-class scientists, high-caliber people who work in that realm of zoology or wildlife conservation who are going to come with their computers and tell some amazing stories and take us through some of the work they’re doing.
So this will be a truly fresh perspective for die-hards?
We definitely believe this is true.
Adventures by Disney changes as you get feedback from guest, right? It’s always evolving?
It is indeed, every guest that goes with us, no matter where we go in the world, when they get home they get an email sent to them with a live link, a link to a web page and we solicit a lot of feedback to guests and we listen very closely to what they have to say about their experience with us. We’re always adjusting the dials of the radio to get the clearest signal; the guests are a great part of that listening process.