Disney Virtual Vacation Tips

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Happy Virtual Vacation Day 2021!

Before we get to talking Disney, there’s an obvious question: what’s the difference between a staycation and a virtual vacation? The answer: a staycation is the response to that thing that happens where you grow up in New York City, but you never go to the Statue of Liberty until you’re 16 and your parents’ friends who are visiting from England want to see it.  Staycations are about being a tourist in your own town, or doing relaxing activities that are focused on your own backyard. Virtual vacations, on the other hand, are about maintaining that vibe and excitement of traveling to other places while still not leaving your own house.

Picture of homemade Dole Whip
Homemade Dole Whip – Yum!

Over the past year, many of us have done some tiny (or not so tiny) amount of virtual vacationing.  Some families did amazing re-creations of Disney rides in their own living rooms. Erin’s family went on a No-Cruise Cruise to Nowhere for New Year’s Eve. My family made Dole Whip at Christmas so we could close our eyes and have a five-minute taste of the parks.

The expectation is that daily life will soon begin tilting back towards a pre-pandemic normal, but travel restrictions, employment changes, and ongoing pandemic issues mean that for many families it might take a while for their vacations to get back on track. Virtual vacations do require a bit of out-of-the-box thinking, and (just like a regular trip) a little planning and research can take you a long way. But if this sounds like just your ticket, here are some tips to help you get started.

Plan

A great Disney virtual vacation will focus on what makes Disney special for your family. Just like a regular vacation has a financial budget, a virtual vacation has an effort budget, so lay out some ideas early on and then decide what is achievable and what isn’t. Every family’s Disney touchstones will be different, but for many families anticipation is part of the fun — consider letting the rest of your family in on this planning step.

Picture of T-shirts to be packed
I probably don’t need a suitcase to pack my extensive collection of Grumpy gear

Pack

Are you into DisneyBounding, or do you just stick to a pair of your favorite mouse ears when you go to the parks? Are you going to include a princess or pirate makeover for your kids as part of your day? Maybe you need to order some new garb for the occasion? Whatever it is, make sure you’ve got it laid out and ready to go.

Set the mood

When you travel, there are never any questions about when your trip begins and ends.  For a virtual vacation, it’s important to mark the beginning of your trip in some meaningful way in order for it to feel different from your regular routine.  Some ideas:

  • Begin the day playing one of the Sunrise Series episodes from Disney+ – these 60-minute episodes each take you through sunrise in a different park.
  • If you don’t have Disney+, YouTube is your friend – many vacationers have written about how Must Do Disney with Stacey is part of their resort experience, and you can find her there.
  • Put on a Disney Parks playlist. Both Apple Music and Spotify have official playlists from Disney that include music from the parks and rides. Quite possibly you have never consciously noticed this music as you were strolling around, but if you have been to the parks even a couple of times you may be surprised by how instantly it will take you back.

Activities!

The sky is the limit here, and it really will depend on your family.  Attractions are a big part of the Disney experience, and the Virtual WDW YouTube channel has a large collection of 360º 3-D virtual ride-throughs, including non-ride attractions such as the monorail and the Skyliner.  You can view these in 3D using a smartphone with an appropriate headset, such as Samsung VR or Google Cardboard.  Put together a half-hour touring plan of your virtual favorites, complete with breaks to play games in the Play Disney Parks app while you “wait in line”. Outside of the rides, any activity that you can see a way to carry off is fair game.

Eat

Food often plays a starring role on vacation, and your family probably has Disney favorites. You can order the aforementioned Dole Whip from Amazon, or you may have the ingredients for churro bites in your cupboards already. Many Disney recipes are available online and at home you can mix-and-match, creating meals you could never eat in the parks because the dishes all come from different restaurants.

 

Remember

Even if you don’t whip up a character photo op as part of your activities, don’t forget to take pictures of your vacation!

Dog under the table
He’s very cute, but he’s a terrible Photopass photographer. Maybe I should give that task to one of my kids.

Will it be exactly the same as a real trip to Disney? Of course not! I’ll be honest: although we loved our Christmas Dole Whip, we all agreed that without the sweat and the sunscreen it didn’t have the same je ne sais quoi that it does when you eat it at Aloha Isle. But if your family is anything like mine, vacations are about taking a break from #CrazyChaosLife and focusing on each other. It’s about making those shared family memories that will tie us together when the kids are grown and we’ve gone our separate ways.  Whether you just add a few Disney touches to a staycation or go all-out for a Disney virtual vacation, I’m sure you’ll find that your experience can make those memories for you.

Have you ever done a virtual vacation? What ideas would you like to share? Let us know in the comments.

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Jennifer Heymont

Jennifer Heymont has a background in math and biology, but since she couldn't pick between the two she ended up in Data Science where she gets to do both. She lives just north of Boston with her husband, kids, and assorted animal members of the family. Although it took three visits for the Disney bug to "take", she now really wishes she lived a lot closer to the Parks.

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