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Why Disney World is a Real Vacation (and Other Vacations Aren’t)

cinderella's castle

Sometimes taking a vacation with young children feel like more work than fun. Packing the bags, planning meals, lugging the bags around, navigating to your destination, making food while you are there, etc. etc. can be exhausting. I’m sorry, but taking a family “vacation” to a house at the beach is just moving my daily work to another location.

I keep going to back to Disney World because it is a real vacation for me. I’ve traveled extensively around the U.S. (45 states and counting) and quite a bit internationally, and Disney remains my favorite place to visit. Don’t get me wrong, I love the adventure of visiting new places, and I don’t mind all of the planning and work involved. But when I want to just relax, recharge, and enjoy quality time with my family, I head to Disney. Why is Disney World so much different than other vacations? Read on, friend…

little girl and grandmother riding dumbo ride at magic kingdom

(Note: Some of what follows applies to staying at a Disney-owned resort. It is totally possible to stay at a Disney resort on a tight budget. If you need convincing, just check out this post and this post and this post! This post isn’t sponsored by Disney, I’m just sharing my honest feelings about a place I’ve been visiting for over 30 years. )

So here are my top reasons why Disney is a real, actual vacation:

#1: I Don’t Have to Drive (or Navigate)

magical express

One thing I get a break from on a Disney vacation is driving. We grab a cheap flight into Orlando (usually with free Southwest miles) and take Disney’s Magical Express to and from the airport. Magical Express is a coach bus service that is complimentary with any Disney resort reservation. We also take advantage of free Disney transportation (in the form of busses, boats and the monorail) around Disney World property and grab an occasional taxi.

man riding disney's bus transportation

Mr. Frugal South enjoying a bus to ourselves

I completely love not having to drive or worry about directions the entire time I’m on vacation! All I have to do is find the right bus stop, and I’m good to go. At first I questioned if I would like riding buses around on vacation, but now I wouldn’t do it any other way. It is so much less stressful than trying to drive, navigate, get stuck in traffic, and park.

#2: I Don’t Have to Handle My Luggage

little girl with minnie ears sitting in a stroller

Traveling light at the Mouse House

For me, part of the stress of traveling (especially with little ones in tow) comes from lugging all of our stuff around. I have tried to drag my giant rolling duffel bag with a car seat AND two other bags balanced on top through the airport before and it is NOT FUN!

At Disney we barely handle our luggage at all. We apply special tags (provided as part of a Magical Express reservation) to our checked bags before we leave, and check them curbside or right inside the airport. The next time we see them is when they are “magically” delivered to our resort hotel room at Disney. I love this feature of using the Magical Express, especially when traveling with kiddos.

pool at resort

Heading to the pool instead of lugging our bags around

I also don’t have to bring a car seat when traveling to Disney, since you can not use them on any Disney Transportation. I’m not the only one who loves not having to travel with a car seat – our daughter loves it, too! So much so, in fact, that we have a hard time convincing her to sit in her car seat once we are back home. 🙁

When it is time to return home, I usually call bell service for help getting my bags to the Airline Check-In desk at my Disney resort (I tip $1-$2 per bag). Then I check my bags at my Disney resort and don’t see them again until arriving back home. No dragging my bags through the airport or even around the resort = a great vacation.

#3: I Don’t Have to Cook or Do the Dishes!

BBQ rib plate

When we take a trip to visit family, camp, or rent a house somewhere, I end up doing the same amount of cooking (or more) than I do at home. Since a lot of my daily workload involves food, I really don’t get a break from my regular routine on these types of “vacations”. I don’t mind preparing food at home, in fact I usually enjoy it, but I love getting a break from cooking sometimes!

At Disney World, I don’t prepare a single meal the whole time we are there. I do bring along supplies for breakfast (fruit, yogurt pouches, bars, etc.) which we eat in our room. We eat lunch and dinner at either counter service or table service restaurants throughout our trip. I think not shopping for, prepping for, cooking, and cleaning up after meals is the best part of a Disney vacation for me!

salmon plate

One of many affordable quick service options

Of course eating out every day on vacation adds to the overall cost of the trip quite a bit. But dining at Disney doesn’t have to break the bank. Some of my favorite restaurants at Disney are quick service restaurants, where entrees are around $10 each. I drink water with my meals and skip dessert in favor of a treat from a bakery later. Sometimes meals are even big enough to share between two people! It is definitely possible to stay within a budget and not cook any meals on a Disney vacation. We also sometimes get a package during the free dining promotion which really helps! Did I mention I don’t have to wash the dishes!?!

#4: I Don’t Worry About a Sorry Hotel or Poor Service

Disney's Beach Club Resort and Pool

Disney’s Beach Club Resort

When we travel to destinations other than Disney and stay in a hotel, I’m never sure what we’re going to get. I have stayed in hotels owned by reputable chains that ended up being dirty and run-down. I’ve experienced poor customer service at more places than I’d like. I just never feel like I know what I am going to get in terms of quality and service, even after I have researched a hotel on TripAdvisor!

disney value resort room

You’ll find quality at all Disney resorts, even the Values

At Disney, I know that my hotel room will be clean and in good repair. I also know that I will receive incredible, world-class hospitality no matter what resort I stay at. I have stayed at almost every Value and Moderate resort (as well as many of the Deluxe resorts) and I have never been disappointed in Disney’s customer service. The employees (called “Cast Members”) at Disney will try to exceed your expectations in every situation. When we had trouble with our Magic Bands once at Animal Kingdom Lodge, the cast member gifted my daughter with a large plush giraffe. It was totally unnecessary since we were only out a few minutes of our time, but wow, did it make our girl’s trip.

Staying at hotels costs a lot of money, so I want to be sure I’m going to get good quality for what I pay. And I never worry about that at Disney!

#5: Someone Else Takes the Pictures

little girl meeting cinderella

I know I’m not the only mommy/family photographer out there. I’m usually the one trying to capture memories of our daily life with my phone or camera, while on vacation or otherwise. At Disney, I let the PhotoPass photographers do some of this work for me.

Disney positions photographers all around the parks – at all of the character meet & greets, around the icons of each park (Cinderella Castle, etc.), and other random places all over. You may know about the pricey Memory Maker package that you can buy, but did you also know that the PhotoPass photographers will take pictures for you with your own phone/camera? Just ask them politely to take a few pictures for you and they will always kindly oblige. It’s part of their job, so don’t feel bad about asking!

family meeting mickey and minnie mouse

Also, if you don’t want to shell out $149 for Memory Maker, which allows you to download all of the PhotoPass pictures taken during your trip, there are a few other options.  If there is just one photo that you would love to download and print, you can pay $14.95 for that one photo. Or, if there are a bunch of photos from the same day that you really like, you can buy unlimited downloads of your photos from this day for $59.

#6 Disney Magic is Real

little girl enjoying marshmallow treat

Enjoying her first ever marshmallow courtesy of an awesome Cast Member

Finally, just a few more notable difference between vacations at Disney World and those elsewhere. First, I challenge you to find a more kid-centered vacation experience than Disney. Cast Members there are on a mission to acknowledge your children and make them feel special. I long ago lost track of all of the nice things Cast Members have done for our daughter. Kind words, princess wands, stickers, glow cubes, etc. are showered on my daughter on every trip. Everything from pools to attractions is designed with kids in mind.

We also always seem to be granted some extra magic on our trips. I’ve been given totally unasked for and unexpected room upgrades, free food, FastPasses, etc. just to make our trip extra special. It is such a nice surprise to have your expectations surpassed when you least expect it!

little girl with a mickey balloon

Another family gifted us with this Mickey balloon

And last, I love that Disney attracts folks from all over our country and world. We always enjoy chatting with others guests on the buses, in lines, or just around the parks. Almost everyone is friendly and happy to share how their trip is going. We’ve met people from countless countries all over the world on our vacations, which is a nice change of pace for us. Folks just seem to be nicer at Disney, which I chalk up to Disney magic as well. 🙂

So, for all of these reasons, I feel like I get to truly relax and enjoy myself on a vacation at Disney World. Guess what? I’ll be going back next year.

How does a Disney vacation compare to other trips you’ve taken? Please share your thoughts in a comment below!

why walt disney world is a real vacation and other vacations arent pinterest image

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Monday 14th of November 2016

I can only whole-heartily agree with everything you wrote!

My aunt and uncle generously let us stay for free at their beautiful beach house every summer, and I am grateful. However, in addition to the meal planning and preparing, like I do every day at home, we also have to clean the house before we leave. I would say it is not a "real vacation."

I will continue to go back to Disney World as often as possible, and now I am sending my daughter and her family!

It is always truly a magical experience!:)

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