Every once in awhile someone will ask me, “What is the best Disney Destination?”
But, as much as I love talking about Disney, there is no simple answer to this question.
When it comes to traveling, every family has their own opinion on what makes a perfect vacation. Some crave rest and relaxation while others want to stay busy and experience new things during their vacation.
Each Disney destination is special in their own way. But, just like the Guests who travel to these locations, no two destinations are the same.
Which Disney Destination Is Right For You?
I would love to include every single property Disney within this post.
But, for the sake of time and readability, I have decided to compare only the most popular destinations within the United States.
This means comparing Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort, the Disney Cruise Line, and Aulani – A Disney Resort and Spa.
Each Disney property is magical. This is why they have been able to expand as they have. But, they each have their flaws.
So, which destination speaks to you and your family?
Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World is undoubtedly the most popular vacation destination in the world. One step into this magical kingdom and it’s easy to see why.
One thing that Walt Disney World does better than any other destination is total immersion.
Thanks to Disney’s Magical Express, the magic begins at the airport. You feel like you’re at Walt Disney World before you even drive through the “Walt Disney World” arch.
While Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure has their own areas of immersion, the Disneyland Resort is built on a much smaller piece of land. So, you don’t quite get the feeling of being taken out of Anaheim and transported into a magical “Land” quite like you do in Walt Disney World.
When you’re on Walt Disney World property, the “real world” doesn’t exist.
Walt Disney World has grown so large, there are many steps involved in planning your vacation.
Which of the dozens of Resorts will you stay at? What restaurants are you going to want to make reservations for? Which fastpasses are you going to want to try and grab ahead of time? The list goes on…
Because each of these steps have their own timeline, Guests tend to start planning far in advance.
Of course, a last minute vacation can be just as magical. But, no matter when you book, there will be a lot of planning and a lot of stress.
Disneyland is Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom.
It’s the only Park Walt Disney personally walked in. He had a hand in everything that went into that original version of Disneyland.
Every original detail or attraction is like a museum, in a way. Behind each attraction is a story of the past.
And because of that, the history and the nostalgia that surround Disneyland is something that no other Disney destination can recreate.
California is a pricey place to be. And Disneyland is no different.
The Disneyland Resort is small, especially when comparing it to Walt Disney World. So, if you are on a budget, this oftentimes means leaving Disney Property to find an affordable hotel.
If you’re used to staying off property, then this isn’t a big deal. In fact, to many, the intimate size and walk-ability of Disneyland and its Good Neighbor Hotels make this a huge positive.
But, for families looking to immerse themselves in everything Disney, this can be a tough change. The “real world” is apparent and finds a way of sneaking into your vacation.
When you Cruise with Disney, you’re getting an itinerary filled with entertainment, relaxation, and adventure.
A Good Mix of Relaxation and Adventure
Planning is pretty minimal, so all you have to do is pack and show up to embarkation.
Disney cruises are different from other destinations simply because of the the ability to travel to one or more different places within one trip.
Excursions become a once-in-a-lifetime adventures, yet you don’t have to sit on a stuffy plane for hours to get there.
Travel time is your own. So, you’re free to swim, slide, eat, and play as much as you’d like as you make your way to your next destination.
You are at the mercy of the weather. This may mean you’re not able to dock until the weather cooperates, or not docking at all.
This can mean heartbreak to some who had their hearts set on a particular Port of Call, like Castaway Cay.
If you are able to dock, your time off the ship is limited. While you get a glimpse at other cities, there just isn’t a lot of time to fully explore new cultures.
Cruise ships are on a tight schedule. So, just because you docked late, you still have to be ready to embark the ship at the regularly scheduled time.
Aulani – A Disney Resort and Spa
Welcome to the beautiful state of Hawaii.
Aulani is a true Resort destination and the epitome of relaxation. The beaches are breathtaking and the Resort stays true to authentic Hawaiian traditions and architecture.
Hula Dancers, hunts for Menehune, fire pit storytelling, and nature walking tours are just a few of the activities that show the beauty of Aulani.
But, in true Disney fashion, you also get your share of Disney meet-and-greets, character dining, and Mickey Mouse ears on everything. After all, it is a Disney vacation.
Aulani is expensive. And, due to it’s location, for many Guests, your trip will involve long, expensive flights, as well.
Aulani is also set apart from other tourist locations. With all there is to do at Aulani, you may not feel the need to want to stray from the Resort.
But, for those who want to experience other things, finding transportation and time spent traveling may be a huge negative.