Travel Weekly's Michelle Baran toured Wyoming with Adventures by Disney. Her dispatch follows.
It says a fair amount about what the Disney brand has come to represent that over the past few days as myself and several media members — mainly family-oriented travel bloggers — journeyed together on an abbreviated Adventures by Disney, Quest for the West itinerary through Wyoming, everyone quipped that regardless of the activity or the circumstances, Disney very likely had it all under control.
The sentiment was sort of uttered in jest, but it alluded to a very real expectation of Disney, of over-the-top preparedness and execution when it comes to vacation experiences. It became a slightly comical, quasi-calming mechanism and a running theme throughout the trip even in situations whereby Disney clearly doesn’t have any more control over the experience than any other travel company would.
Nevertheless, as we strapped on our life vests and helmets and prepared to go whitewater rafting on the Snake River, those of us who were feeling apprehensive about what getting booted out of a raft by Category 3 rapids might actually feel like, were able to falsely soothe ourselves by believing that Disney wouldn’t let anything bad happen to us.
And as we plunged into rapids that soaked us with water, kids shrieking in what seemed to be a mix of sheer terror and sheer delight, it became clear that while the moment and the memories being created with each rise and fall of the raft were very much Disney-curated, the unpredictability of nature was not.
But aside from things that Disney really and truly can’t control like the weather or wildlife sightings, everything Adventures by Disney could control was as seamless as one would expect from a global company that has made its mark by pleasing and entertaining families the world over.
I’ve always been a bit intrigued by the concept of travelers opting for an organized tour here in the U.S. There are obvious advantages to traveling abroad with a tour operator — language and cultural barriers, to name a couple.
And there are equally obvious advantages to traveling as a family with an organized tour, such as kid-friendly activities and assistance with childcare. But why travelers, and in this case families, would take an escorted tour in North America seemed less apparent to me. Until now.
Sure, you could easily take a road trip through Wyoming with your little ones and see and do a lot of what we did on this trip — whitewater rafting, exploring Jackson Hole, seeing Old Faithful, and horseback riding or fly fishing.
But what Adventures by Disney offers, for a premium, is the help of two knowledgeable guides who assist both adults and children alike with age-appropriate information and activities (s’mores anyone? Wait, were those supposed to be just for the kids?), as well as pre-scouted, pre-selected, upscale properties like the unforgettable Brooks Lake Lodge, a full-service ranch with daily horse rides, hikes, fly fishing and other outdoor activities.
Adventures by Disney also affords families the opportunity to spend quality time together and, perhaps more notably, some quality time apart. Both are priceless. Not to mention the usual escorted tour benefits such as taking care of the luggage, the driving and the itinerary planning from start to finish.
As the trip neared its end, the only encounter Disney hadn’t been able to conjure up was a serious wildlife sighting. And we just couldn’t help but kid that surely some bears or bison would be planted before our departure to ensure a completely satisfying Wyoming experience.
And sure enough, as we were leaving Brooks Lake Lodge, en route to Jackson Hole, a group of us finally spotted a small herd of buffalo grazing near the side of the road. We couldn’t help but suspect that it was the work of Disney’s magic wand.
Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.