I had a long chat yesterday with a friend about the various vacations we’ve been on in our lives. I mentioned in another thread that I’ve spent around $30,000 on just five WDW vacations in the last three years and I’ve sometimes wondered what else I could have done with the same money. Skiing trip? Alaskan cruise? Dream safari? Singapore? Taj Mahal?
I’m reasonably well-travelled in Europe (London, Paris, Barcelona, Venice, Rome, to name the big ones) and pretty widely travelled in the US (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, DC, Atlanta, New Orleans, Chicago, San Antonio, Denver, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon, … many of these multiple times).
I haven’t visited much of the rest of the world: I’ve been to Hong Kong (including Disneyland!) and Australia (Sydney, Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef). I’ve skied in France, the US and Canada, again multiple times.
So what kept me returning to Orlando after my first serious trip in 2017?
I’ve always found America a tremendously exciting place to be. I get an adrenalin jolt as soon as I exit the plane and enter the airport. The air smells different. It’s usually much hotter than I’m used to. The road signs are different. The cars are bigger. Everything is bigger. People speak English so there’s no stress about communication, but it’s clearly a different country to my own. There are skyscrapers. There are amazing food choices, and the food is often great and always plentiful. It’s never boring.
But I did reach a point in the 1990s, when I was in my twenties, where it did start to feel a bit samey. I did a very successful “Grand Tour” in 1996 — a two month East Coast to West Coast and back again trip. It was awesome. The first half was with a small tour group — we were driven around in a minibus and mostly camped out overnight. The second half I city-hopped by plane and stayed in hotels.
I planned a second, six week, trip in 1999. But I cut it short after two weeks. I felt really alone (I almost always travel solo) and I felt like I was just arriving at a city, checking into a hotel, and then ticking off the must-see places in the guide book. After a while, one art gallery is pretty much the same as another.
Visiting WDW (and UOR) almost feels like cheating. The insane level of planning aside, it’s just so easy. Everything is right there. If you’re on property, there’s no worrying about how to get around. If you’re not, well, there’s Uber and Lyft. Not forgetting the boats, monorail and Skyliner, for when you’re in the parks themselves.
There’s every type of food, much of which is really great. The restaurants are often visually really interesting, and some have some form of entertainment — character meals and so on.
Everywhere seems really safe and everyone — for the most part — seems really happy. The staff are typically really friendly. You do a lot of walking, but it’s not far from one thing to do to the next thing to do. It’s not like getting from the gallery to the science museum, which is a trip across town, and you better hurry because it closes at 5pm.
There are better places for thrill rides — even in the UK — but there are no better places for themed rides. And some of the rides are quite unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else: Flight of Passage and Spider-Man are two stand-outs for me.
There are multiple immersive lands — Batuu, Pandora, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Amazing shows, parades and spectaculars.
And, yeah, I love the planning and the comforting control it gives me.
So, given the choice, I still think I’d rather go to Orlando than on an Alaskan cruise, or a real African safari.
(You American types should appreciate how lucky you are. For me, it’s a nine hour flight. That’s long. And expensive. And then we have the misery of typically at least an hour waiting in the immigration line. For you people the flight is at most about half that, and you sail through the arrivals gates. Some of you drive for much longer hours, but that’s a far better experience than flying.)