If your family is anything like mine, and it probably isn’t, but just go with me here, then your children may have reached an age where ideas around travel are changing. That is, the family vacation is no longer dependent upon so many theme parks (not that there is anything wrong with that), and it is time for the kids to experience parts of the world that don’t fit in a well-manicured showcase (but man, we love those, too). My point, Disney Parks offer some of the best family vacation opportunities ever invented, and they will always be a great, big, beautiful part of our travels, well past the teen years and straight on till morning. But I digress.
My boys are 15 and 12, respectively, and while I am a fan of as much travel as possible at any age, they are certainly in the sweet spot. They are old enough to understand and respect people, art, culture and customs, yet young enough that their natural musk of innocence still overpowers the body spray. They are old enough to make memories that last forever, and young enough that my wife and I will still pay for it. The sweet spot is pretty sweet.
Needless to say, we were thrilled when Disney announced their new Disney Signature Experience: Disney Beyond the Parks. (Yes, I just used ‘Disney” three times in one sentence. You’re welcome SEO.) From Mr. Mouse:
“Families can experience magical Disney vacations “beyond the theme parks” when they set sail for adventure with Disney Cruise Line, explore six continents with Adventures by Disney, bask in a Hawaiian paradise at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, and enjoy a wide range of themed resort accommodations with Disney Vacation Club (DVC). Each of these vacation options deliver the legendary service, storytelling and attention to detail that families have come to expect from The Walt Disney Company.”
Welcome to the crossroads.
According to the dictionary app thing on my laptop, a crossroads isn’t just where Stevie Vai and Ralph Macchio got their string on, but also “a point at which a crucial decision must be made that will have far-reaching consequences.” Fortunately, all of the options are awesome, so any far-reaching consequences will most likely be t-shirt related.
And then, sometimes, you can order the sampler platter.
For example, we recently took a press trip with Adventures by Disney that showcased, among other things, the ability to book trips with DVC membership points (which we have!), and also add an experience to either side of a Disney Cruise (we didn’t take a cruise, but we did tour the Disney Wonder while it was in San Diego, and it’s lovely). As an added bonus, our Adventures by Disney trip included a Disneyland Resort visit. Hence, the sampler platter.
We were on the “Disneyland Resort and Southern California Short Escape” Adventures by Disney trip, which included a backstage tour of the parks—the highlights of which were behind-the-scenes stops in Indiana Jones Adventure, Radiator Springs Racers, and the mind-blowing opportunity to stand beneath the giant screen in Soarin’, which allowed us to see lots of swinging feet, and, funny enough, the backside of water.
Additionally, we toured the Walt Disney Studios (including the Disney Archives) and Imagineering, plus a few points of related interest around the greater L.A. area.
Fun fact: We’re hooked. We think Adventures by Disney, which offers tons of amazing experiences like guided trips to Japan, a 10-day Seine river cruise vacation (combining two days of in-depth exploration of Paris on land), and more, is the perfect way to see the world as a family.
Of course, the other Beyond the Parks offerings are equally magical. Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, is in Hawai’i, so what else do you want? Disney Vacation Club (the press trip we took used the hashtag #DVCDads, use it on social media to check out the family trips that others went on) pays for itself in no time (seriously, we tell people all the time that it’s the best thing we’ve ever bought), and Disney Cruise Line offers Star Wars and Marvel trips, plus some of the best food and entertainment to ever sail the seas. The horn is a nice touch.
What it comes down to is that Disney’s Beyond the Parks may be a crossroads, one not entered into lightly (or cheaply), but rather than having to take the one less traveled by, families (and non-families, you do you) can chose their own adventure, putting together truly magical, even life-changing experiences.
To be fair, this is a pretty sweet spot, too.