Imagine this: You spend all night on a flight between New York City and Bergen, Norway. You finally arrive, gather your luggage, and exit the terminal. Right at the exit, there is someone waiting for you with a big Adventures by Disney sign. You approach him, and he greets you with a big smile. He quickly calls over a driver who takes your luggage for you and whisks you away to your hotel in a private vehicle. You get to the hotel and there to greet you, are two Adventure Guides with a big welcome packet full of goodies. Your luggage is taken to your room and you don’t have to handle it again until you return to the airport to go home. What happens between arrival and departure is magical, and it’s due in large part to the Adventure Guides.
Adventures by Disney can take you to nearly every corner of the world, but there is one thing that is the same on every trip: Disney’s famous customer service. On an Adventures by Disney trip, this comes in the form of two highly trained “Adventure Guides.” Not only will your Adventure Guides take care of EVERY detail, they will also ensure you’re immersed in the culture and traditions of whatever area you choose to visit.
In this installment of Travel Advice by Cody, you will learn why the Adventure Guides are the best part of an Adventures by Disney vacation.
#1: You get TWO Adventure Guides and one is a LOCAL!
It is fairly uncommon in a group travel setting to have two tour guides, and it made a world of difference. Depending on which Adventure you choose, the number of people allowed on the trip will vary, but will never be more than 40. Having a ratio of 20 guests to 1 guide, is almost unheard of.
When my wife and I traveled with Adventures by Disney to Norway, our two Adventure Guides were named Kira and Torgeir (pronounced Tour-Guy). Kira was from the United States and had been a Walt Disney World cast member for several years. She had also been doing Adventures by Disney tours during the summer months for at least five years. She was a pro at handling anything and everything. Torgeir was from Norway. In fact, he was from one of the villages we traveled to during the week. He was a tourism major at a local university looking to gain some good experience during his summer break.
We LOVED having a local as one of our Adventure Guides. It made an incredible difference as we learned about the country and the culture. We went on our adventure with several other travel agents, writers, and a talk show host and crew, and let me tell you, Torgeir was asked everything imaginable. He knew almost everything, but if he didn’t know, he found out. It was also pretty special because as we adventured around Torgeir’s “hometown” we could see his farm on side of the fjord and his mother came out to wave at us one afternoon. It really made everything much more personal and authentic having a local as an Adventure Guide. As we understand it, if Adventures by Disney can, they will always have a local as one of the Adventure Guides.
Kira was no slouch either. She made sure all the details were taken care of. As a seasoned Adventure Guide, it felt like she could see things from a mile away. She took care of everything from providing the hand sanitizer “flavor of the day,” snacks on the bus, sticky buns from the local bakery, toilet money when there was a charge, etc., etc., etc. No kidding, she thought of everything. She even had Tinkerbell deliver a six pack of Diet Coke to someone’s door every morning when they mentioned in passing that they were sad they couldn’t find it in Norway. Somehow, “Tinkerbell” found it and had it waiting for him every morning. Service like that just can’t be beat.
#2: Your Adventure Guides take pictures and you get them for FREE!
Every family has that one person who spends the entire vacation behind a camera. On an Adventures by Disney trip, that will still likely be the case, but your Adventure Guides are there to help. Consequently, you will likely have more than a few pictures with the ENTIRE family.
On our trip to Norway, Kira and Torgeir each had their own waterproof digital camera and were constantly snapping pictures. This was particularly helpful during our water adventures when we didn’t want to take our personal camera. The best part though? On an Adventures by Disney trip, all pictures taken by the Adventure Guides are available after the trip free of charge.
Near the end of our trip, our Adventure Guides also printed out a few pictures for every family that were actually postcards so we could send them home if we chose. They also put together a slide show that we watched at our farewell dinner on the last night using the pictures they took.
Reason 3: Your Adventure Guides pay all the gratuities along the way
Before our trip to Norway, we received a booklet outlining everything about the trip including what to pack, expected weather conditions, a basic itinerary and tipping guidelines. We were told specifically not to tip drivers, bellmen, or excursion guides. This felt so uncomfortable at first! However, it became very obvious very fast that between the number of people our group interacted with, that it was a major convenience for us as travelers, not to have to tip everyone we came in contact with.
For example, on the mornings we would be transferring to another hotel, we would put our luggage out in the hall and it would “magically” get loaded on the bus. We stayed in four hotels, and never handled our own luggage and never tipped a single bellman.
We also went on at least one excursion each day, i.e. rafting, fjord safari, stave church tours, etc. We never had to worry about tipping those guides. We could just focus on enjoying what was around us and the amazing experience we were having.
That being said, it is suggested that you tip your Adventure Guides at the end of the trip. However, suggested amounts are outlined in the adventure booklet you will receive and it’s fairly straight forward. Besides that though, we did not have to worry about tipping anyone, and it was awesome.
Reason 4: The EXTRAS no one expects
Periodically throughout our trip, our Adventure Guides would pull out something unexpected. For instance, for every day of the trip, a special pin exclusive to that particular Adventure by Disney vacation is given to the guests. The Adventure Guides would typically give them to one of our excursion guides to give to us as the perfect moment during the day.
At least one night during the trip, the Adventure Guides take the junior adventurers (your kids) to have a party of their own. What?! A night to yourselves on a family vacation?! That’s just plain awesome. Not to mention, what the kids get to do is pretty fun. On our trip, they made all sorts of American food (a refreshing sight after eating nothing but local cuisine), did karaoke, troll making, and other fun games and activities. Your kids won’t miss you while you take some time to yourself and it’s all thanks to the Adventure Guides.
On our adventure, we spent a fair amount of time traveling on the nicest motor coach Norway had to offer. It had Wi-Fi, plugs for electronics, and was very comfortable for a bus. However, it was still a bus. Kira and Torgeir would periodically get on the microphone and tell us about where we were going, or what was right outside our window. That was very nice, but also expected. However, what were not expected were the games they played with us along the way to break up the monotony. We played everything from Disney trivia to “Name that TV show.” Overall, they did their very best to make the not-so-fun bus rides, a very memorable part of the trip.
Reason 5: They become your friends
Almost like magic, Kira and Torgeir learned our names very quickly. Our adventure had the maximum number of people allowed at 40, and no kidding, less than two days into the trip, they knew everyone’s name. Not only did they know our names, but they treated us like friends and family. They weren’t afraid to share about themselves and were curious to learn about us as well. To be made to feel important was truly one of the best parts of this trip. With group travel, it is easy to fade into in consequence, but Kira and Torgeir did an incredible job at helping everyone feel they were important and that they were glad we were with them.
Our Adventure Guides truly made our Adventures by Disney trip one of the best vacations we have ever had. If you choose to go on an Adventures by Disney vacation, I can almost guarantee you will feel the same.
– Cody Woodbrey
When people think of Disney travel there are often several stereotypes that come to mind. Most people think of the famous Disney theme parks, particularly Disneyland and the Walt Disney World Resort. The stereotypes associated with these parks include attractions with long lines (hint: there is no need to stand in line, contact me the next time you go for help not to), parades, music, characters, and world-class service. Granted, for most people this is exactly what they want for their Disney vacation. However, few people realize that Disney travel extends far beyond the theme parks. In fact, Disney travel can take you to nearly every corner of the planet. How, you ask? Adventures by Disney!
This past summer I was granted the immense honor and pleasure of being invited on an Adventures by Disney trip to the magical land that inspired the world phenomenon “Frozen,” – Norway! When my wife and I were invited, we were floored. We have known about Adventures by Disney since it was launched and have spent quite a bit of time dreaming where we would like to go with them. Needless to say, it didn’t take us long to decide to accept the invitation and go.
Adventures by Disney offers everything from long weekend trips in New York City, to 12-day vacations in China and almost everything in between. Adventures by Disney trips are similar to other tour operators in that you are traveling with a group as large as 40. However, since Disney is in charge and has put their name to these vacations, you can rest assured that you will be kept in as luxurious of circumstances as possible at your destination.
For us, our vacation was eight days, seven nights in Norway – the land of fjords, trolls, lots of sheep and goats, and brown cheese. My wife and I learned as soon as we were picked up from the airport in a private car, that this was not going to be any ordinary tour of Norway. We were treated to the finest accommodations; our Adventure Guides would have, and did, bend over backwards for us, we were treated to the best daily excursions in the country, and all was done while we dove headfirst into the country’s beauty and culture.
In looking back over our trip, I can honestly say it was truly incredible. Over the next few blog posts, I will try to convey what it really means to take an Adventure by Disney. If you’ve ever wondered about Adventures by Disney, or if it is right for your family, my hope is that my experience with them will help you understand what you can expect from every angle possible.
For now, enjoy a few sneak peak photos and stay tuned for my next blog post dedicated to helping you learn about the Adventure.
– Cody Woodbrey