Why Disney Theme Parks?

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer

For many families, a trip to a Disney theme park is a special once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation. After all, Disney is not the least expensive option, and there are many other destinations for families to visit. So why do some families choose to return to the Disney parks time and again? We asked our Parenting Panel: Why Disney? Why do you repeatedly take your vacation budget to Disney theme parks?

Chris, also known as GusMan, is always planning his next family trip to the Walt Disney World Resort and loves to help others plan their trips, as well sharing his experiences. Chris writes:

Over the past decade I’ve been asked numerous times why my family keeps going back to Walt Disney World as our choice for a vacation destination. While I think some may get tired of hearing this question, I think it is a fair one to ask. After all, there are so many places to take time off of work with the family and really enjoy each other. But for me, after my family and I took our real “get out of the state and get away” vacation at Walt Disney World, I was hooked. I think I was hooked because I saw a lot of things happen that can only be described as special, surprising, and yes, magical. Of course, when you see such things happen, you want to go back just to see what they can come up with next.

I consider my Disney vacations one of those sacred times with my family where I decide to cut myself off from the rest of the world—or at least as much as possible. I don’t necessarily say that because of the cost of the vacation, but because I know that it is one place where I feel like I can really truly escape the “real world” and make the time count. From the moment I arrive at Orlando International or see the welcome signs when I drive in, I know my vacation has started, and it's time to have a neverending smile for the next several days.

I also know that for the next few days, I have my kids' undivided attention and they have mine. It's not that I don’t take time for them the rest of the year, but I have to admit, they see me at my best when I am on vacation. Even then, it has helped me understand and value every moment I spend with my family regardless if we are on vacation.

I am a real believer that you get what you pay for. At the same time, I also know that spending more of my vacation dollars does not necessarily get you better service. However, if there is one thing I can say about Disney is that I feel like I get a lot of value for my vacation budget. I know that vacation destinations are going to be a bit more expensive than other locations, but I know what I am going to get at Disney. My personal vacation history tells me I am going to get great service no matter which resort I pick and I know that the entertainment and attraction options are plentiful and second to none in quality. I know if there is an issue or a concern, I can bring it up and it will be addressed quickly not only for my benefit, but for the benefit of other guests. I constantly compare other vacation spots with Disney, which I think may seem unfair at first. However, it shows me nearly every time that my return on my vacation investment returns better dividends in the long run, all things being equally compared.

I think it is fair to say that my family and I have come to really love the Disney brand. I know that may sound like a commercial, but for every picture we took, every plush we collected, shirt we got from a resort, or song that we heard at the park, it brings back a memory. They are conversation starters between our family members and guests in our home. A smile comes to our faces each and every time we share those memories. To me, those are connections that money cannot buy. It becomes even more worthwhile when our friends become equally as “hooked” into the Disney lifestyle and we see how they are building memories with their families each and every trip.

Elizabeth, who posts on our MousePad message board as eabaldwin, has been a Disneyland Annual Passholder since 2010. She and her husband have two daughters, Katie (3) and Josie (14 months). Elizabeth writes:

I have been an annual passholder since 2010. We love going to Disneyland, and had a fabulous trip to Walt Disney World this past spring. There are several reasons why I currently have an annual passport to Disneyland and why we spend so much money there...

First, we are a military family, and eventually we won’t live close to Disneyland. I have an annual passport, so we get all of those benefits, and my husband uses the Military ParkHoppers, which helps stretch our Disney budget further. If we did not live close enough to make day trips, I would not have an annual passport, and we would not visit as frequently as we do.

Second, Disney parks are family-friendly. Disneyland is somewhere we can go as a family where there is something for everyone to enjoy. While they don’t watch a lot of television, our girls love to see their favorite characters from their favorite shows and movies. Characters from books we have read together come to life for them at Disneyland. There are attractions that the kids love, and attractions that the adults love. My husband enjoys the food. From corn dogs to nicer table service restaurants, we enjoy eating at Disneyland. And, of course, we all love going on rides!

Third, as an amusement park, they do a lot of things right. It is clean. Disneyland is the cleanest amusement park I have been to. We appreciate general maintenance of the parks. The cast members really help make the experience enjoyable. For the most part, interactions with cast members are positive. Our girls have only ever had great interactions with characters and they seem to really take the time with them. There are many different ways to enjoy a Disney park, with shows, rides, and experiences. In my opinion, there isn’t another amusement park that has so much variety, of the quality that Disney has. There is so much to do that it is possible to go several times and do different attractions or experiences each time.

Last, I have a lot of wonderful childhood memories of going to Disneyland with my family. It was my Grandma’s favorite place in the world, and all of our extended family enjoyed going with her. As an adult, I went with my sister and her family and I loved seeing how much my nephews enjoyed being there. It is wonderful to go and make memories with my own children, while remembering being there as a child. I am a sentimental kind of person, and I really think of my Grandma every time I walk through the turnstiles. I truly treasure these times at Disneyland with my own family. I know that our girls will hardly have any memories of being at Disneyland since they are so young, but we will have lots of photographs!

Disneyland might not be the cheapest place to bring your family, but we find value in the experiences that we have there as a family. We have fun and really enjoy going. We plan on enjoying it as long we can!

Mary Kraemer is an avid Disney fan and travel consultant with CruisingCo/MouseEarVacations who loves to travel with her husband and children to Disney destinations as often as possible. Mary writes

As a travel agent, I have the good fortune to draw on not just my own family’s experience but also see how a great many other families decide to spend their travel budget. And even though, I’m a full-service travel agent who can book clients on any type of vacation anywhere in the world, I do an extraordinary amount of Disney business.

I have clients who love to plan a yearly (or every-few-months) visit to Disneyland or Walt Disney World. It makes them happy, and they don’t see any need to go elsewhere. They anticipate planning their trips, making dining reservations at their favorite restaurants, and (moreso at WDW), trying out new resorts for their stay. If they don’t go more than once a year, they’ll try a different ‘season’ to experience the different event such as the Food & Wine Festival and the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or the holiday decorations and the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, or the springtime International Flower & Garden Festival.

I have other clients who not only love Disney theme parks, but also travel elsewhere, but always with a Disney-branded vacation. They like Disney, feel comfortable knowing the level of quality and service will be great, and understand that they are getting a premium experience for their vacation dollars. These clients take Disney cruises, and enjoy not just the Bahamian and Caribbean itineraries but repositioning cruises such as the Panama Canal and transatlantic sailings, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Mediterranean. Over the years, it’s been amazing how many places that these clients have sailed, considering that there are only four ships in the Disney fleet, and two of them ‘only’ sail the Bahamas and Caribbean itineraries! Dedicated Disney cruisers love the beauty of the ships, appreciate the expansive kids areas where their kids are happy onboard, and feel a sense of comfort at being familiar with their surroundings. Cruises are often the choice of grandparents for multi-generational travel, so that everyone can enjoy a little different pace, and they know the kids will be happy.

Another option for a Disney vacation is to enjoy time at one of their resorts: Vero Beach, Hilton Head, and the newest (and most publicized), Aulani. I have Disney-fan clients who’d never been to Hawaii, never been interested in a resort type of vacation, suddenly demanding a vacation there. (And I’d like to thank the Disney Channel for all the great marketing it provides.) The Vero Beach and Hilton Head properties have previously been more of a destination for Disney Vacation Club members, but Aulani has given the spotlight to the concept of resort vacations, and it’s a fabulous choice!

Adventures by Disney is less like a cruise or a theme park vacation because guests are traveling anywhere in the world— from experiences in the North, Central or South America, Asia, Europe, or South Africa. Adventures by Disney provides more guides than its competitors, and my clients trust that for trips such as these, Disney has vetted the locations they visit, the hotels where they stay, and besides taking care of all the details, there will be a sprinkle of pixie dust and special attention and activities for the children! This is also a popular multigenerational choice, especially for grandparents who are not as interested in the theme parks and characters but still want a quality experience that the entire family can enjoy together.

So, by now, you’re probably thinking, “OK, that’s great if you have kids, but what’s there for me, as an adult who doesn’t really want to spend my time with kids?” It might surprise you how many adults without children are Disney fans (well, maybe not here on MousePlanet…) For example, there’s an entire group of very dedicated Disney fans who are runners, who travel to the resorts on both coasts for endurance events. There are several half marathons at both resorts, a full marathon at WDW, as well as 10K and 5K races—which sell out and attract large numbers of runners—many of whom do not run races other than Disney’s.

The Fairytale Weddings department is proof that Disney weddings are enormously popular, on land and sea, and there’s even a large (and very busy) wedding chapel by the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World. I know couples who visit WDW for ‘scouting’ missions to make their plans, spend their ‘weddingmoon’ there, and often take anniversary trips to celebrate!

The Food & Wine events are also extremely popular for adults, there are adults-only areas onboard the ships which are lovely and a respite from the family areas, and I would be remiss if I did not mention that Adventures by Disney had exclusive adults only itineraries, which were developed based on guest feedback for travel experiences without the youngsters.

With offerings such as these, it’s pretty easy to see how folks who love Disney don’t feel the need to ‘stray’ in their vacation choices because literally, the world (or the World) is theirs!

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!