When I tell fans of European travel that I didn’t likeParis, a common reply is something like ‘Well then you should stick to Disney World’. This is, in European travel fan speak, an insult. But as I walked around Epcot on day four of my last Disney trip, I began thinking about how similar the two types of travel really are—and not just because I was approaching the little fakeEiffelTowerin Epcot’s World Showcase pavilion.
Of course there are glaring differences—Disney is, in many ways, the antithesis of any real world location; Disney is an extremely controlled sanitized version of life. This is why people can accurately use it as an insulting reference. But the similarities may surprise you. As I can’t call Europe a ‘destination’—it is clearly an entire continent—I will compare aParis trip to a Disney vacation. But really, you could substitute in any European city or multi-city itinerary.
-In both Disney World and Paris you will need to become accustomed to standing in lines. Whether you are waiting to board a boat on Pirates of theCaribbean or waiting to enter the Louvre, you will be in line. And in that line there will be cranky children, smelly people, and loud tour groups.
-A working knowledge of the public transportation system and a good pair of walking shoes are indispensable in both Disney World and Paris. You will be walking a lot and transporting yourself–without the aid of your own car–farther than you ever would in your day-to-day life.
-On both trips, if you’re anything like me, you will find yourself setting your alarm every morning, possibly earlier than you do to get up for work. And if you don’t, you will suffer similar consequences in both locations. Sleeping beyond 8am will result in a very long line for the Notre Dame tower; doing the same in Disney World will result in a very long line—and a possible lack of fastpasses—for a number of attractions.
-It is very easy to over-plan a Disney Vacation or a Paris vacation (as is evidenced by the insane plan I made before ourParis trip last summer!) If you are not careful, you’ll find yourself running from one attraction to the next—be it from Space Mountain to Splash Mountain or Sacre Coeur to Notre Dame—without actually appreciating the in-between time. I learned to take Disney slowly by burning out inParis. I wish I’d learned this lesson in the reverse order, as a return trip to Disney World is much easier (and cheaper) to do!
-Speaking of cheaper—both vacations can end up being extremely expensive. I’ve written before of my friend who took her family to Disney World for a week and spent more than we did in Europe for a month. Disney is very good at relieving visitors of their money. Similarly, a flight to Europe is not cheap and the exchange rate can be painful. But in both cases there are things you can do to cut costs dramatically.
-Finally—and most importantly—the trip will only be as successful as you make it, no matter where you go. If you stand in line for Pirates of theCaribbean or for a taxi at Gare du Nord and freak out and stomp your feet…well, you won’t have a good time. Trust me. I’ve done both. But if you go in with an open mind and a flexible attitude, you’ll have a great trip. I promise.