Watching the in-room TV during your last trip to Walt Disney World you might have seen families exploring Inca ruins, Italian villas, and African safaris. Adventures by Disney (ABD) markets itself as a way to experience the world with the comforts of Disney. Through serendipitous events I went on the Disney (and film) theorist dream tour, Backstage Magic.
One of the first draws was the location, having worked many years at Walt Disney World, California and Disneyland possess a touch of the exotic. Second, the tour grants access into exclusive venues, which with the right connection you might get into a selection, but without the efficiency or totality of the tour. Finally, I wasn’t able to get into the archives for my research, and was willing to pay even to just get in. It was also February and a great time to head to So Cal.
So, come join me on my trip.
Roughly one month before our departure the nifty package pictured above appeared. The fun box, which was mostly empty space with with great designs, held our welcome letter, countdown calender, itinerary booklet, and surprise the best backpacks (highlight to read).
One of my concerns before the trip was the interest of my travel companion. My mom has joined me on many Disney excursions in Florida due to her availability and the ample sunshine. This trip posed a challenge for me to ensure her entertainment as many events focused heavily on Disney or film history. She conceded that the totality of the tour package was her draw. On her part, she enjoyed being a passenger rather than a planner. More on that later.
We chose to travel in February due to a price special and our schedules. Past experience taught us mid-February is a great time to travel, but we forgot that California observes Presidents’ Day (unlike many of the states near us). Some elements of our trip were adjusted to compensate for closures and availability. It was also the week leading up to the Academy Awards, causing many shifts, delays, and general commotion. Here is the disclaimer that our specific experience may not reflect the all possible trips. Second disclaimer, one of ABD’s hallmarks is surprises . I will do my best to preserve these surprises, and in the interest of being complete such spoilers will be noted.
The official Adventures by Disney planned trip covers six days, but much like cruises, the first and last day are partial. We frequently found ourselves comparing it to a cruise, and with the highly publicized cruise troubles leading up to our departure, a cruise on land seemed like the best of both worlds. The trip covered weekdays, so we extended our stay on both ends to maximize our vacation time and reduce flight costs. This also gave us a chance to explore both Los Angeles and Disneyland independently, with the security of the tour to cover the major points. In total, we traveled for seven days, utilizing the Adventures by Disney accommodations and transportation.
A my first planned vacation in many years, I over analyzed all of my options. I created a chart plotting out our time and meals as covered by ABD verses ourselves. Flying in on Saturday afternoon we lost most of the day to traveling and settling into our hotel. This left the first full day (day 1) and second afternoon (day 2) in Los Angeles, and four meals. I then began to come up with our “Must Do” list for the area. Mom bowed out of this activity as she saw the tour’s advantage as not having to do any planning. I had the Griffiths Observatory on a lifelong list of places to visit, so that was locked in.
Once I remembered the D23 Presents Treasures of the Disney Archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library would be closing shortly after out trip it was high on the list. Although the ABD tour includes the actual archives, I was unsure how much material we would be able to see and what we would miss because it was on display at the Reagan Library. It took some convincing to use up our whole free day, and to drive a rental car in California traffic, but the tickets were eventual bought. This meant missing out on other, smaller activities such as the farmers market, Getty museum, Paley Center, and Santa Monica Pier to see my aunt’s old home. We left some room for spontaneity with the meals, but our activities dominated the free time.
For our post tour days we simply extended out stay in the hotel, and the entry tickets already included a fourth day. This simply meant we were maximizing our per-purchased tickets, and allowed us to pack the following morning. For the Disneyland leg, I had complied a list of food to eat thanks to Disney Food Blog and left the rest to our whims.
Up next, Arrival and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library…