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What's the Real Story Behind Disney's Theme Park World Tour?

June 17, 2022, 6:46 PM · Let's talk about Disney's around-the-world trip to all of its theme parks.

If somehow you missed the news, Adventures by Disney has announced a Disney Parks Around The World – A Private Jet Adventure tour that will take guests to all 12 Disney theme parks in 24 days next year. For how much, you ask?

Try $109,995 per person. And that's for double occupancy. If you want a room to yourself on this trip, it'll cost you an extra $10,995, bringing your bill up to $120,990.

And for all that, this trip won't actually go all the way around the world, as advertised. The tour begins in Southern California and ends in Orlando, meaning that you will need to book your own flights to and from those cities - at your own, additional expense - to complete the circumnavigation.

The audacious price and indulgent itinerary seem designed more to grab public attention than just to book seats - though I have no doubt that Disney will be able to sell all 75 available spots when the tour goes on sale next week. This is a product for the richest of the rich, but Disney knew that mainstream news organizations around the world would run with the story, helping assure that millions of readers would associate "Disney theme parks" with aspirational travel.

Ultimately, that can help sell Disney theme park tickets and vacations to people who don't make $100K in one year, much less drop that on a single trip. People want vacations that help them feel better, and better about themselves. Experience has shown consumers will save up - for years, if necessary - or borrow the money to book those trips. Disney promotes its theme parks as the place where dreams come true, and people's aspirations to experience that are why Disney theme parks remain filled season after season.

"Disney Parks Around The World – A Private Jet Adventure" is just one more dream to inspire Disney fans.

For this specific tour, however, the main product is not the Disney theme parks. It's the social cocoon within which the 75 participants will be traveling. They won't be taking commercial flights from city to city. Adventures by Disney will fly them on a chartered Boeing 757 from Icelandair - which appears to be the same jet used by National Geographic for its Around the World by Private Jet tours.

Configured in a 2x2 arrangement for the 75 customers, rather that the 757's standard 233 seats in 3x3 rows, the private jet will feature "comfortable VIP-style leather seating with adjustable leg and headrests and a 45-degree recline." On the ground, participants will stay at the Grand Californian at Disneyland, the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, Disney's Hotel New York - The Art of Marvel at Disneyland Paris, and the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World.

You could book a similar itinerary - with the same hotel rooms and business class tickets on commercial airlines - for less than half the cost of Adventures by Disney's tour. Google Flights is not showing airfares yet for July 2023, when this tour is scheduled. But plugging in the same cities for a mid-March 2023 trip (which I think would be more pleasant, anyway), I found non-stop, business class fares from Los Angeles to Tokyo to Shanghai to Hong Kong to Paris for a total of $11,820 per person. Those flights would be on Singapore, ANA, China Eastern, and Air France, respectively.

There are no non-stops that I could find from Paris to Orlando, but a one-stop on Icelandair - the same airline that provides Adventures by Disney's plane - costs $1,376.

This brings up a debate among connoisseurs of luxury travel. Is it better to travel in private, on chartered jets, or in upper classes on regularly scheduled commercial flights?

I can sense your eyes rolling here. First World problems, sure. But when you have $100K+ to drop on a vacation, you get to make some choices that lie beyond we mortals' ability to consider. But let's try to imagine the pros and cons of both options, anyway.

Private jets are, well, private. But they do not have the range of the biggest commercial airliners flying long-haul routes. That means more stops to refuel. But on commercial airliners, you share the plane with economy travelers, even though your exposure to "the rabble" can vary greatly by airline.

If I can imagine being super-wealthy for a moment (pause to laugh), I would rather minimize my travel time by reducing the number of times I ascend and descend on a trip than to avoid being on a plane with economy travelers, even if I won't see much of them. So I would rather fly from California to Tokyo in the forward classes on Singapore Airlines than to take a private jet that has to stop to refuel in Anchorage, Alaska - as the Adventures by Disney tour will.

That calculus works when booking trips between major cities - in which all Disney parks except Walt Disney World are located. (Sorry Disney World fans, but Orlando is not a major world city - not like Los Angeles, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Paris.) When booking trips to a destinations where commercial flights require connections anyway, the private jet then becomes the preferred choice.

National Geographic's tours typically visit UNESCO sites far from major cities - and their many gates for wide-body aircraft - which is why the Boeing 757 provides a superior choice for those itineraries. Regardless, luxury tour operators such as National Geographic and its corporate sibling Adventures by Disney have cultivated a client base that prefers traveling within a relatively intimate group who are provided with attentive, personal service. That also supports using a smaller chartered plane over commercial flights. For some among the economic elite, the private option is always the way to go.

Since it's a long haul from Hong Kong to Paris, this trip won't include just Disney park visits. As the 757 will have to stop to refuel anyway, Adventures by Disney has thrown Agra (the Taj Mahal) and Cairo (the Pyramids of Giza) onto the itinerary. But Disney has included other non-parks stops on this tour, as well. During the initial stop in Southern California, the tour will take a day away from Disneyland to visit the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. From LA, the tour will continue not to Tokyo, but first to the Bay Area, where it will visit the Walt Disney Family Museum, Lucasfilm and Summit Skywalker Ranch.

While those are wonderful parts of The Walt Disney Company's story - and well-established stops on previous Adventures by Disney tours - they are not essential parts of the Disney Parks experience. I would rather skip the Disney Studios tour to get a full day at Disneyland and at Disney California Adventure on my dream "Disney Parks Around the World" tour. (Adventures by Disney's tour combines guided tours of Disneyland and DCA into one day.)

The Adventures by Disney itinerary includes plenty of VIP park tours, but also gives participants the option of ditching full, unsupervised (but with "expedited access") days at the Tokyo Disney and Disneyland Paris parks in favor of outings to other local attractions. That further supports the notion that the product here is not the Disney theme parks. It's the exclusive trip around the world - one that just happens to provide guests with a robust taste of those parks, without having to deal with the masses within them.

The tour also allows participants the opportunity to hear from some respected experts from within The Walt Disney Company, including Becky Cline, Director of the Walt Disney Archives, and Dr. Mark Penning, Vice President: Animals, Science and Environment for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. But if you buy a D23 Gold Membership and book some of their events, you can get face-to-face access to Disney experts and behind-the-scenes tours for a tiny fraction of the cost of the Adventures by Disney tour.

But you won't get to spend three-plus weeks in an exclusive, jet-setting travel cocoon.

So if I had $100K to burn, would I book this trip? Probably not. The social cocoon does nothing for me. I would rather construct my own itinerary, not just to save money but also to have more time in the parks - at least one full day in each. And frankly, I would rather do the parks in a different order. Save the best for last and wrap a Disney Parks Dream Tour in Tokyo, with a start in Anaheim then moving around the world to the east.

The hotel selection is fine, and I absolutely would include meals at Walt's and Magellan's, as the Adventures by Disney tour does. But let's skip the Bay Area stop and the Studios tour in LA, as well as the extra stops in India and Egypt.

But none of that really matters, because Disney achieved its primary goal by offering this Adventures by Disney tour. It's gotten me - and all of you who have read this far - to think more about Disney theme park visits, and to dream about the ultimate vacation of visiting all the Disney theme parks on one trip.

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Replies (14)

June 17, 2022 at 11:17 PM

"The audacious price and indulgent itinerary seem designed more to grab public attention than just to book seats - though I have no doubt that Disney will be able to sell all 75 available spots when the tour goes on sale next week. This is a product for the richest of the rich, but Disney knew that mainstream news organizations around the world would run with the story, helping assure that millions of readers would associate 'Disney theme parks' with aspirational travel."

I gotta disagree here, I think this would hurt Disney's image more than help it because it furthers the narrative of Disney only caring about the rich that has been becoming more pervasive in recent years. I think the sole reason they are doing it is strictly because its an easy way to make a lot of money off of their loyal customers who don't care about the price of anything...which lets be serious here...is something Disney is really good at.

As anyone that has worked at a in the Disney resorts knows, or worked in VIP tours knows, Disney has a huge amount of regular customers that don't care about how much money they spend at all. They are DVC members, Club 33 members, do VIP tours, send their families on Adventures by Disney trips, eat at all the fancy restaurants frequently, do valet every day they are there, and many of them have a house in Golden Oak...and they tip very generously. Disney World has a huge fanbase of these people. A trip around the world doing all the Disney Parks is something that they have actually suggested many times, so Disney knows by doing something like this they can easily get 75 people and make tons of money.

I'll give you an example: I was at Riviera and struck up a convo with a VIP tour guide who had just dropped his people back off at the hotel. His day consisted of picking up the two girls (who appeared late teens/early 20's) at the hotel, driving them to MK, and then they went and ate at Club 33 and sat there for a few hours, then they wanted to go back to the hotel so he drove them back. So whoever these girls parents were booked them a VIP tour guide and all they did was go to Club 33 and go back to the hotel. And yes they do have to pay full price for the VIP tour guide and they tipped him as well. These are the kind of people I am talking about.

TBH if you work at Disney it's kind of funny to see the power sturggles between departments. Like when Rise of the Resistance opened and the operations people mandated that the VIP tours could not ride unless they did the whole reservation charade in the morning and got a spot, the sh*tstorm that ensues when these people have to get denied. The VIP tour guide/fancy resort managers beg and plead...but the problem is there are so many of these really really wealthy people that all want to skip the line that it actually creates a big problem so the operations people pushed back and said no.

June 17, 2022 at 11:32 PM

I realized in my post above I made a very judgmental assumption by saying "their parents booked them a VIP tour guide" but considering their age and the vast amount of wealth they were reaping the benefits of, I feel safe with my assumption neither of them were the one that earned it.

June 18, 2022 at 6:47 AM

I once saw on the BBC a tour trough a huge London home that was bought by a 1%'er and was re-decorated top to bottom for the 1 or 2 weeks they actually visited the city.
The reported looked around and told the interior designer with a decent amount of disdain; "this looks like a hotel."
The interior designer sighed and nod; "you are unfortunately right, the fact they have a ton of money doesn't mean they have taste."

June 18, 2022 at 8:40 AM

I’m agreeing with The Man. This just seems like yet another example of how Disney execs are okay with sacrificing public image for short term profits.

June 18, 2022 at 3:45 PM

@the_man, I agree 100% with what you’re saying. Disney is definitely catering towards the very wealthy by doing this. Disney is a business. Like any company, they’re just trying to make as much money as possible.

But let’s be honest, if you had this kind of money, wouldn’t you do it? I know I would. Yes, it caters to the extreme wealthy. But, if you and I had that kind of money…no doubt we would do it too.

June 18, 2022 at 4:03 PM

Even if I could afford it, I wouldn't do it. #1 I hate tour groups. I'd rather experience things at my own pace or my family's pace. #2 Most ridiculously wealthy people I've met in my life are people I wouldn't want to be stuck with on an around-the-world trip. But to each their own.

June 18, 2022 at 5:06 PM

Disney has been wise to the exclusivity game for quite some time (cf. Figment popcorn buckets). Exclusivity is what they're using to justify the price. Even if most tourists (myself included) would much rather plot out our own trips and itineraries (for a much more reasonable price), the participants of this experience own the most luxurious of luxury goods: bragging rights. To the target demographics of this package, it's worth paying more to get to say you paid more.

My concern about this trip is the following: what happens if Shanghai Disneyland remains closed or Hong Kong continues the 14-day mandatory quarantine for visitors? $110k is quite pricey for a 2-week mandatory hotel stay...

June 18, 2022 at 6:58 PM

Oh yeah, this trip is fantasy right now. Remember, Japan also is closed to tourists. Disney’s betting it can pull this off in a year. If not, everyone gets refunds - but Disney gets the attention no matter what.

June 18, 2022 at 8:30 PM

Surely the question is why companies advertise very high cost items in the mass media. I don’t think Patak Philippe thinks you’re going to plunk down $250,000 for their watch instead of a Timex because you saw their ad. Nor does Mercedes hope you splurge for a $150,000 car instead of a Chevy because of a pretty commercial. Yet these companies buy TV, Facebook and magazine space for these luxury products to sustain their image that they are the best of the best, even though almost all people who see their ads can’t afford their stuff. PT Barnum said there is no such thing as bad publicity. Oscar Wilde said the only worse thing than being talked about is not being talked about. Seems to me that on these criteria Disney’s campaign is highly success.

June 18, 2022 at 11:05 PM

@Robert: Does this qualify under the "tour groups" clause?
https://thepointsguy.com/news/japan-reopening-for-tour-groups/

June 19, 2022 at 6:36 PM

It seems like it could.

June 20, 2022 at 3:05 PM

I would not be surprised if they turn this into a reality show of some kind, for Disney plus. Also expect clips from this in the preview of movies and tv shows.

June 20, 2022 at 3:10 PM

And yes there is a strong Disney following among the very Rich. A golden oaks house ( enchanted something ) its listed for resale at $ 9, 250, 000 usd. Now they are getting serious.

June 22, 2022 at 9:44 PM

I know a few people who will probably be booking seats for this trip, because you name the Disney-related event, they’ll be there, whether it’s a D23 special event, Club 33 event, or whatever. Disney makes enough from these folks that they couldn’t care less about the optics. And TBH, if I could afford it, my wife and I would be on that plane with them.

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