50th Birthday Trip Planning: Advice, Feedback, Suggestions - I'll Take It!

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Joined: 09/12/2010
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50th Birthday Trip Planning: Advice, Feedback, Suggestions - I'll Take It!

Well, first off Joe told me I should be posting this in Trip Planning for Seniors. *Whatever*

Next year is my 50th birthday. Ow. Boy did that creep up on me. We want to do something really memorable. And fun for both of us.

We're interested in the Adventures by Disney trips, and have been doing a bunch of research. I've seen where Kristen and others have posted about it as well. No doubt, they can be really pricey.

What attracts me to it, though, is (a) we don't have to plan much and (b) we feel very comfortable in the hands of Disney for something like this, because we've never done a guided trip before, we've never traveled internationally, and we know we cannot plan it ourselves and feel comfortable we've considered everything. But I still haven't lost sight of the pricing, especially since airfare to the location is over and above. Owsies! But you only turn 50 once biggrin

I've come up with a working list of 7 possible options - several are AbD, and some are not. And we would really, really, really appreciate any feedback (good, bad, no matter) on any of the locations, itineraries, weather...anything Smile

Here is some general info that goes with the planning:

  1. We would be traveling in mid-September 2013
  2. Neither of us has ever traveled abroad, and at least one of us may have fears about international travel (some rational, most not)
  3. Weather is going to be important. I want warmth and sun. I don't want to be cold, and to me anything below 70 degrees (F) is going to be cold

The AbD trips we are looking at are Adult Exclusives.

So with that in mind, here's what is currently on the list of possibilities:

Adventures by Disney: Cities of Knights & Lights
8 days and 7 nights at the following cities: London, Windsor, Stonehenge, Paris and Versailles. Too touristy? Too much moving around?

DisneyLand and Aulani Combo
3 nights at DisneyLand and 7 nights at Aulani. DisneyLand intrigues me, and we've always talked about Hawaii once in our lifetime. There's a cool horseback riding excursion I have my eye on too. It would be kinda nice to break up the flight to Hawaii from the East Coast with a stop in CA.

Adventures by Disney: Viva Italia
9 days and 8 nights at the following cities: Rome, Orvieto, Tuscany, Artimino, Florence and Venice

Disney World Park & Cruise Combo
4 nights at Polynesian and 3-Night Bahamian Cruise on Disney Dream. Neither of us has ever been on a cruise either. We'd have the familiarity of WDW, a stay at the Poly, which is on my list of must-dos, and would probably build in some fun tours.

Disney's Aulani Resort & Spa - Hawaii
Somewhere between 7 - 10 days at Aulani. A pure Hawaii vacation. Could we find enough to do for 7-10 days? Neither of us can just sit on the beach for an extended period of time. But they do have a number of excursions available (for a fee, of course). And I'm back to the idea of horseback riding in Hawaii!

Adventures by Disney: Scotland: A Brave Adventure
9 days and 8 nights in Edinburgh, Inverness, Loch Ness, Isle of Lewis, Isle of Skye. This would be with Deb Wills from Allears.net. I can only imagine Deb would have some extra magical things planned, and she would be an incredible person with whom to travel. But I'm really concerned about the weather in Scotland in September. Has anyone been there in September? And PS - I just *know* I would be the one to find the Loch Ness monster!!

Adventures by Disney: Backstage Magic
Hollywood and Disneyland(r) Resort. Raise the curtain and take a peek behind the magic of Hollywood and Disney. Feel like a VIP on back stage tours of Walt Disney Studios, Imagineers' workshops, The Jim Henson Studio and much more. Might not be as exciting as the others, but sure sounds fun! But is this something we could really do any time?

So......thoughts? Anything you would suggest alternatively?

Thanks in advance. clapping

JoAnn C's picture
Joined: 05/20/2011
Posts: 6757

These are all awesome ideas. I don't know if I could decide between them. I would have to put them all in a hat and pick one.

I've been Europe twice in mid-September. The temps were very much like they are here. You should be ok, weather wise; although I can't speak for England and Scotland. I've only been to Italy, France and Germany. I didn't have any issues with international travel. I found it quite easy. Traveling in between European countries is pretty much like traveling between states.


JoAnn C's picture
Joined: 05/20/2011
Posts: 6757

If you choose one of the international options, apply for your passport early to avoid expedite fees. According to the State Department's website the current processing time is 4-6 weeks. I applied in May for my first Europe trip and received my passport in less than three weeks. That was in 2004, so it may take a little longer today. Better to apply early than have to worry if you'll get it back in time. Here's information on getting a passport.



Jess's picture
Joined: 03/04/2011
Posts: 3280

Wow....that's alot of choices and all of them are different...here's my opinion...and it's purely that considering the only places I've been out of all of that is WDW and Paris.

The first one with Paris- If it was me I would say no to because I went to Paris in highschool and just didn't really like it...I much preferred the countryside of France better then the actual city of Paris itself. I also got pick pocketed there....all my money and my passport gone just like that

The choices with Aulani in them....Out of the two I think I would choose the one where you go to Disneyland as well just because I've never been to Disneyland so it would give me the chance to do that and I'm not really a beach person so not much in Hawaii would interest me.

As far as the overseas one's I think I would choose Scotland for the scenery and Italy for the food.

I also like the option of staying at the Poly and going on a cruise but is that something you might do on your own without it having to be a special ocassion?

That backstage magic one sounds really cool although I think I would rather it be at WDW then DL. And you said it might be something that you could do anyday but I have a feeling it's different then the tours that you could take everyday if they have a special tour for it.....I don't think any of that was probably any help...lol


Kris1971's picture
Joined: 08/10/2011
Posts: 2350

What a great selection of choices. They all sound fantastic in their own way.

Having been to Hawaii (my cousin lives on the Big Island), I can honestly say there is way more to do than just beaches, and if you can work in an Island Hop over to the Big Island, there is nothing like hiking an active volcano to get your adrenaline pumping! And I like the idea of a Disneyland Aulani combo. The only thing I didn't like about Hawaii was the long flight, so breaking it up would certainly be my recommendation!

Of the other choices, Adventures by Disney: Scotland: A Brave Adventure would probably be my pick personally. My sister in-law's parents are from Scotland and they always go back to visit in late August/early September. They say its a nice time to visit weather wise. I've always wanted to go to Scotland, and the best part of making that your first trip abroad is that English is the first language (which makes for a much easier transition). Not to mention the robust history and absolutely gorgeous countryside!

Truthfully, I don't think you could go wrong with any of the options! It sounds like its going to be one heck of a 50th birthday!


RobynPrincess's picture
Joined: 03/14/2010
Posts: 2859

If you want warm don't choose Scotland! Weather is very unpredictable here but is even worse in Scotland.

If you decided to do the first list I would be more than happy to offer advice, I used to live in Windsor and would still be there now given half a chance. Plus I spend half of my life in London, and go to paris at least once a year (going there again in less than 3 weeks) and been to Versailles. That isn't a huge amount of moving around as those places are fairly close together Smile though I would never use a company to plan it, would be super easy to plan it yourself.

Hawaii and DL would be my choice personally and it's what we're planning to do in 2014 for my 30th Laughing out loud


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Cinema Too's picture
Joined: 08/02/2011
Posts: 122


I have been to Scotland many times. They were all work-related trips. (When you work in whisky, Scotland is a bit of the Holy Grail). I would encourage anyone to visit. It is beautiful, historic and magical. (is it possible to type on this forum without using the word magical?)

That being said, I have some concerns.

1). Weather. You will probably not see a lot of warm weather, and you may see very cool weather and you likely will see wet weather.
2). Food. From your recent trip postings, I know food is a big deal. While the food in Scotland has improved dramatically over the years I've visited, I am not sure it is as adventurous and varied as you might like.
3). 9 days! A typical trip of that length puts you on a lot of buses and has you changing hotels a couple (few) times. Check the itinerary and see if it is that type of trip. I find them to be very restrictive in getting to spend time away from the group.

It's a great place to play golf, if that interests you!

Just some thoughts.

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Mase's picture
Joined: 03/02/2011
Posts: 5438

I guess if I had to pick any of them I would go with the combo of DisneyLand and Aulani Combo. Just sounds like a good combo.


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I am not going to be much help here. I am sure all of you already know how my vote is going to go. I would go with the Poly/Cruise trip. I would also do it in the reverse order of how most would do it. I would do the cruise first so if I ended up bored I would at least have the Poly/Disney World part of the trip to look forward to. I will say the Aulani/DL could be fun but it would come in 2nd place for me.

DisneyDee27's picture
Joined: 04/02/2012
Posts: 1600

I'd reverse the days on the WDW/cruise choice. The 3 night cruise is way to short and the 4 night with the extra day at sea really makes a difference.
I'm not sure about weather in Europe for fall, we went in the summer and had a blast. Hawaii is fun but I wished I had spent more time in Tokyo the first time. We stayed 8 days on Oahu and 5 days in Tokyo. I'd reverse that even at Aulani. I grew up in Southern CA so palm trees and sunsets aren't all that interesting to me after a few days.
Europe is a fun time. We met lots of super nice people especially in Brussels and really had a blast seeing the historic sites and being a tourist. The Guiness and Jameson tours are a must for Dublin btw totally awesome!
We had a great time in England as well.


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Molitva's picture
Joined: 03/18/2012
Posts: 127

They all sound fantastic!! Whatever you choose I'm sure you'll have a great time!

That said-I feel like Disneyland/Aulani/Cruise are trips that you could easily plan yourself. Whereas, international trips are a bit more complicated and having a travel company do all the leg work for me sounds even better!

I'm very partial to Scotland and studied there for over a year. September can be wet (it's a wet country) but September isn't the wettest month. It's not a tropical paradise but the highlands are wonderful, the people great, and if I'm not mistaken, the heather should be blooming in Sept.

The Cities of Knights and Lights also interests me but like you questioned, maybe it's a bit too much moving around. You wouldn't really get to absorb each city.


Joined: 09/12/2010
Posts: 4703

Thanks so much for all your feedback. I really appreciate it.

I've ruled out the Scotland thing - fun as it sounds, I want good, solid warmth!

I don't think Italy or London/Paris trips are really my style for a big birthday.

So I think I'm down to 4 that I really would enjoy the most:

1. Disney Cruise WDW Combo #1: Cruise first; Park last. 4 nights on the Disney Dream, and 4 or 5 nights at the Poly

2. Disney Cruise WDW Combo #2: Park first, Cruise last. 4 or 5 nights at the Poly, and 3 nights on the Disney Dream

3. DisneyLand/CA Adventure Aulani Combo. 3 nights at DL/CA Adventure, 7 nights at Aulani

4. Disney's Aulani Resort & Spa - Hawaii. 10 nights at Aulani.

In the end, I just have a hard time pulling myself away from a Disney park for the big event. I has such a great time when we were there in 2009 for my birthday - it just feels like "me" and what I would enjoy most biggrin

Scrappy and Dreams, thanks for your suggestions in particular. I looked again and found a 4-night cruise that actually would start a few days before my birthday, and if we did that first and the park second, I could wake up on my birthday on the Dream, and then spend the afternoon and evening at the park! Now that would be a pretty cool birthday!

So, I've passed all this along to Joe, and now I have to wait. gaah

In a sad and related note, I did a quick countdown check today, and I am now only 460 days away from turning 50! ACK! I'm sure not going to create a countdown calendar for that!

Joined: 08/30/2008
Posts: 3555

My vote would be the cruise and park combo. But then again, I'm biased! Smile



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Joined: 09/12/2010
Posts: 4703

I agree, Zz! That's my leaning, in case anyone happens to be reading this *hint hint ahem hint*

And in case the Disney planning peeps are reading, it would be *really awesome* if the dates for MNSSHP in 2013 can include September 19!! biggrin awesome biggrin awesome biggrin

JustCar's picture
Joined: 08/24/2010
Posts: 1042

well use because it will steer you in this direction lol

we'll be in WDW mid september 2013 yay

I would have voted for viva italia, I still have family in FLorence and Rome so I have a wonderful soft spot there. I wasn't really down with Paris. London was lovely

But I do think AUliani would be gorgeous as well.



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Hey Jeff, I think you should have you birthday dinner after you get back to the park -at Victoria and Albert!!!




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Jessi5989's picture
Joined: 12/27/2011
Posts: 580

ZapperZ wrote:
Hey Jeff, I think you should have you birthday dinner after you get back to the park -at Victoria and Albert!!!



good idea! I second this suggestion!

emmaanne's picture
Joined: 10/20/2011
Posts: 432

My vote is for either the Aulani/Disneyland combo OR Italy... I LOVE LOVE LOVE Italy.. and it is your 50th birthday!


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Lizzy_B's picture
Joined: 10/25/2010
Posts: 3246

If I were making this decision, I would make it based on the "specialness" of it. In other words, would I be doing this anyway at some point? If so, I would rule it out. IMHO, I think the cruise/Poly option fits into this category. While it's a splurge, I have a feeling that you'll make that happen at some point anyway. mickey

I really really think that the DL/Aulani trip would be amazing for you. It would be domestic, so you wouldn't have to mess with passports or customs. You'd be seeing something - two things - you've never seen before. And you'd be sharing it together. And since you've voiced concern before about a cruise maybe not being a good fit, this rules out that anxiety.

I can't wait to hear what you decide. Whatever it is, I just know it will be fantastic.


Vettelover's picture
Joined: 03/28/2009
Posts: 4658

^^^ Lizzy I totally agree. awesome Hey! Jeff listen to the lady.


Joined: 10/07/2011
Posts: 272

I agree, for you, Aulani/DL seems to be the good fit.

But if I may - If I was choosing I would go with Italy. Having been there before I can say it's honestly incredibly romantic, fun, interesting, and relaxing. Quiet dinners in small restaurants where the owner is your waiter and chef (or the chef is his wife). Hanging in pubs during Soccer(football) games or Rugby games. TONS AND TONS AND TONS of history to experience. And think about how relaxing it would be to sit in a vineyard tasting different wines and olive oils. AH to go back!

However, I don't think I would do it with Disney it would be to fast paced for me. I went with my family and it was great because we all put in our own opinion and did a little bit of it all.

ChipnDaleFan's picture
Joined: 05/02/2010
Posts: 882

I have to say that I have always been an only-Disney vacationer. I hate sitting and I hated islands. That being said, Hawaii was the most amazing place ever and I hope to be able to afford to go back one day! I'd certainly vote for the Aulani trip- there is so much to do on the islands!


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Allie's picture
Joined: 06/26/2012
Posts: 5477

Wow, all of those options sound amazing! I'd be jealous of any of them! I'd personally pick the Italy trip just because I've always wanted to go, but it sounds like Aulani/DL would be the best for what you're looking for, but I don't think you could really go wrong with any of them!

Joined: 09/12/2010
Posts: 4703

Thanks for all the responses! I think it's really coming down to the Cruise/WDW combo or the DL/Aulani. Italy or Europe might be a better anniversary trip for us. Birthday screams ME as the center of all attention. And I think I'm going to want to feel young that day Tongue

Then again, I change my mind every 3.62 days.

Kristen K.'s picture
Joined: 09/01/2011
Posts: 23803

I would go for Disneyland/Aulani however I would switch the nights to maybe 4/6 or 5/5. I know everyone says Disneyland is small and doesn't need a lot of time. I just plain disagree. wink