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Disney’s Custom-Designed Travel

050806_disneyfinal1.jpg by Lisa Oppenheimer

Say what you will about Disney kitsch, but the entertainment giant definitely knows a thing or two about keeping travelers smiling. Now, the company that brought you Mickey Mouse is putting its mouse print on bona fide international travel with Adventures by Disney.

What is it?
Begun last year, the program offers guided tours á la Disney. Travelers can choose from week-long itineraries in Europe (Italy, France or England), Costa Rica, Wyoming, Hawaii, or the Canadian Rockies. Planned activities take advantage of the local terrain—surf lessons in Oahu, private cathedral tours in London, a thrilling zip-line run in Costa Rica, and trail rides in Jackson Hole.

Disney aims to give behind-the-scenes treatment to real-life locales. For instance, travelers in Calgary will meet competitors from the 1988 Olympics. The Italian itinerary cooks up a foodie fantasyland with cooking classes in Tuscany. In Hawaii, a vulcanologist leads expeditions to area volcanoes. In London, travelers rub elbows with performers following a West End performance of Mary Poppins.

Where to stay
Tours offer accommodations at a range of hotels. They’re not all high end (there are some pleasant, albeit ordinary, Marriotts mingled in with standouts like the Fairmont Banff), but the Disney moniker—an emblem carefully protected—suggests that all the hotels meet strict requirements.
Adventures are family oriented, which means mom, dad, and kids can do everything from hanging ten in Hawaii to cooking in Tuscany. The London journey includes a trip to the London Eye, and the Italy itinerary features a bocce ball excursion.

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Do read the fine print
There are age restrictions, however. Both Hawaiian trips are for kids age 6 and older, while kids must be at least 8 years for the other itineraries. A few select departures are for travelers 18 and over only.

Depending on your perspective, trips may seem pricey. For instance, the Legends of the Islands tour to Oahu and the Big Island starts at $2,699 per person for quadruple occupancy, with a $500 discount for children 6 to 14 (the third and fourth occupants in a room). The same trip costs $3,099 per person for a double. Airfare is extra, and you’ll want to budget some extra funds for things like white-water rafting in Costa Rica.

For reservations, schedules and more info, call 877/728-7282.

Photo captions: Learning How to Surf with Mom and Dad, Disney Adventures Hawaii.

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