The first time I met Jill Cooper she was serving as the Adventures by Disney Specialist on the 2011 Walt Disney World Moms Panel. She and I both had been selected to represent the Moms Panel at the Disney Dream Christening Ceremony and Christening Cruise, and we were thrilled to meet up with each other as we traveled to the festivities. As a teacher, college counselor and self-described incurable Disney fan, Jill resides in New Jersey with her husband and their tween son, Brian, and she’s always spinning in a constant cycle of lesson plans, college plans and vacation plans.
She’s a planner among planners, yet her warm personality and genuine heart give her well-thought out ideas and suggestions a practical and sincere approach. She and her family have been to Disney parks, resorts, ships and destinations many, many times, and she disperses her expert opinions on all things Disney at DisneyWorldMoms.com. For TravelingMom.com, she recounts her very first journey with Adventures by Disney, and looking back, how the investment turned into a lifetime of magical vacation memories.
Once upon a time, there was an incurable Disney fan who dreamt of taking her husband and ten-year-old son on a guided tour through the land of their ancestry, Germany. Alas, neither the Disney fan nor her family members spoke German or had any familiarity with the transportation options, currency, or customs of that faraway land.
Fortunately, Adventures by Disney introduced the “Once Upon A Fairytale” itinerary, which guides families through five magical and iconic German destinations. Knowing that she could count on Disney to put together a trip characterized by engaging storytelling and exemplary guest service, she took a leap of faith and booked her family’s first Adventures by Disney vacation. As a result, she quickly learned that when it comes to taking your family on an international escape, Adventures by Disney is definitely a mom’s best friend.
By now, I’m sure you’ve figured out that I am that aforementioned “Disney fan” and have since become an enormous advocate of Adventures by Disney (ABD). In late 2010, just months after returning from our trip to Germany, my enthusiasm for ABD caught the attention of the management team for the Walt Disney World Moms Panel and I was invited to join the panel in 2011 as their Adventures by Disney specialist. Since joining the panel, I have found nothing more satisfying than sharing information with guests contemplating an Adventures by Disney vacation.
Although I have been fortunate to travel many places in my life, our “Once Upon A Fairytale” trip to Germany was undoubtedly the best vacation we have ever experienced, and I am delighted to have this opportunity to share with other “traveling moms” what sets ABD apart from other international family vacations.
Let me start by saying that Adventures by Disney understands the challenges families face when they embark on a lengthy jaunt across time zones. They address these challenges so effectively that everyone, including mom, can have the most exciting and hassle-free vacation ever. For instance, let’s talk luggage. My two new favorite words after this trip were “luggage pull.” What is a luggage pull, you may ask? They are the two most comforting words to a parent responsible for schlepping bags for a family of three on a ten-day European adventure. Some nights we slept on the third story of a seven hundred-year-old castle.
Can you imagine lugging three huge suitcases up the imposing wooden spiral staircase to our room? (Insert shrieks of terror here.) Fortunately, we didn’t have to worry about our luggage at all during this trip. On the morning of our departure from one city, we would simply line our suitcases up at the door of our hotel room before the designated time for “luggage pull.” Then, as if by magic, they would be picked up, loaded on the bus, and ultimately delivered to our hotel room at our next destination. I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful this service was. Adventures by Disney has found so many ways to make European family travel fun and easy. This is but one example.
Adventures by Disney also understands that Junior Adventurers (Disney’s name for children traveling with them as guests) enjoy meeting and exploring the world with other children. One of the things that most appealed to us about traveling with ABD was the opportunity for our son, an only child, to meet and interact with other kids. Brian embraced this opportunity whole-heartedly. By day three of our adventure, our then ten-year-old son had eight wonderful new friends that felt like extended family.
He played tag with them on the castle grounds in Trendelberg, rode bicycles with them through the German countryside, played cards and board games with them at the end of busy days, and sat with them in the back of the luxury motorcoach as we were transported from location to location. Brian is not an overwhelmingly outgoing kid so it was sweet to see him blend effortlessly in to the group of Junior Adventurers ranging in age from 6 to 16. Meanwhile, my husband and I enjoyed some lovely time enjoying the company of the other adults on our excursion and each other.
The most important advantage Adventures by Disney offers travel-planning moms like me is its ability to provide an itinerary chocked full of exclusive opportunities that only they can offer. Over the course of our vacation, the itinerary unfolded like a brilliant novel, with twists and turns and excitement building along the way. We just never knew who we might encounter around the next corner. One day it was Little Riding Hood scurrying through the streets of Alsfeld.
Next it was a medieval knight crossing the bridge at Trendleberg Castle. We were granted a private
, behind-the-scenes tour of Heidelberg Castle followed by an exclusive wine-tasting event with the mischievous 18th century court jester, Perkeo. We watched with pride as our son broke two balloons after a private archery lesson, rolled out hand-made pretzels in Rothenberg, and stuffed his very own Steif animal. Then, as our trip neared its end, our excitement built to a crescendo.
On the last full day of our journey we walked in the footsteps of Walt Disney himself as we explored the breath-taking Neuschwanstein Castle, so obviously an influence for the castles that appear in Disney’s theme parks worldwide. There’s simply no way that an average person could put together such a magical trip on his or her own. Moms everywhere can count on Adventures by Disney to put together a vacation that will delight guests of all ages.
I sort of giggle when I think back to the days I struggled with the decision to book our first Adventures by Disney vacation. I worried whether a trip could possibly be good enough to justify the investment we would be making in that adventure. The cost was more than twice what we were accustomed to paying for vacations. Knowing what I do now, however, I say with full confidence that the experiences we had and the memories we made were simply priceless.
I’m still trying to figure out how Adventures by Disney could squeeze so many tours, scrumptious meals, and magical moments into our itinerary for what we paid! I can verify first-hand that what the ABD promotional videos say is true; once you’ve traveled with Adventures by Disney, you’ll never want to travel any other way.
Although Jill and I are members of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, our opinions do not represent Disney, and she and I each received a vacation for our immediate families for our 2011 term on the panel. Presently, I am on a hiatus from answering guests’ questions on the Disney Moms Panel site, but Jill answers any and all questions related to Disney vacations at DisneyWorldMoms.com. For 2012, Elisabeth Lackey serves as the new Adventures by Disney Specialist on the panel.