Adventures by Disney makes foreign travel less stressful


Editor’s note: Megan duBois was a guest of Adventures by Disney which paid for the trip. All opinions expressed below are entirely hers and were not subject to review by Adventures by Disney. 

Group travel was never on my radar as an exciting way to see the world. That was until Adventures by Disney took me, my mom and a friend to Peru for eight days. While this was branded as a “Disney” vacation, the only sight of Mickey Mouse I caught was in a magnet stuck to the side of a resident’s car in a small village, and the only other whiff of the brand I caught was when our guides played Disney music trivia with the group to help pass the time on a long bus ride.

As it turns out, this is apparently how most Adventures by Disney vacations are run—where families can travel to destinations on all seven continents and possibly never see a glimpse of Mickey or his pals. In Peru, tours are offered year-round and Disney claims this eight-day adventure is one of its most popular land-based options. It was easy to see why this trip is highly sought after. Just based on the itinerary on the Adventures by Disney website, I learned that our group of almost 40 adults and children would be white-water rafting, seeing Incan ruins and hiking and exploring Machu Picchu.

Our intrepid Adventure Guides during our Adventures by Disney trip through Peru, Rudy (left) and Armando. Rudy is a native Peruvian who was able to help everyone on the trip immerse themselves into the local culture through his own stories and perspectives. Armando, an American from Miami, was always making guests laugh and giving us a confidence boost when needed.

Our intrepid Adventure Guides during our Adventures by Disney trip through Peru, Rudy (left) and Armando. Rudy is a native Peruvian who was able to help everyone on the trip immerse themselves into the local culture through his own stories and perspectives. Armando, an American from Miami, was always making guests laugh and giving us a confidence boost when needed.

Adventures by Disney

The real “magic” is in the guides

While seeing all of the major sites in Peru was an obvious highlight, the real “magic” I found in this trip was with our Adventure Guides. On my trip to Peru, two guides were leading the group. The first was Rudy, a native Peruvian who was able to help everyone on the trip immerse themselves into the local culture through his own stories and perspectives. In addition to English, Rudy spoke Spanish and Quechua, a language widely spoken around the Peruvian Andes, which was helpful in many situations. The second guide was an American named Armando, who hailed from Miami and was always making guests laugh and giving us a confidence boost on what would turn out to be a strenuous trip.

These guys were always ready to go, with smiles on their faces, games for the kids to play on long bus or train journeys, and plenty of stories about Peru to share with the group. They both also had remedies, like ginger candy, which I ended up munching on for a few days at the beginning of the trip to combat altitude sickness.

Rudy and Armando made the trip incredibly easy and if something wasn’t going according to plan, they never gave a hint to the guests. They held all of our tickets for entry to the top sites and gave them to us at the end of the trip as keepsakes. They pre-ordered meals for us so no one had to wait long for lunch after a 40-mile bus ride between the Sacred Valley and Cusco (during which our group made multiple stops for photos and to see a llama farm). They planned movie nights with all of the kids, who were dubbed “junior adventurers,” so adults could have a date night alone. They even made sure everyone’s luggage appeared in their hotel rooms before check-in—almost as if by magic.

Peruvian alfajores, a buttery cookie sandwich with dulce de leche in the center.

Peruvian alfajores, a buttery cookie sandwich with dulce de leche in the center.

Steven Diaz

What impressed me most about our two Adventure Guides was the way they seemed to create memorable moments out of nowhere. For instance, I was chatting with Armando one evening about what to do in Cusco when he said he had something for me. I was a little shocked because I wasn’t expecting anything when he reached into his backpack and pulled out an envelope that contained a recipe for Peruvian alfajores, a buttery cookie sandwich with dulce de leche in the middle that I had fallen in love with during lunch the day before. I still have no idea how Armando knew I wanted that recipe, but it’s now one I treasure because someone I had only spent a few days with was kind enough to find it for me.

Moments like this were happening throughout the adventure to the guests on the journey, which made everyone feel extra special.

Our group, hiking in Peru during our trip with Adventures by Disney. The company's eight-day Peru trip is pretty strenuous.

Our group, hiking in Peru during our trip with Adventures by Disney. The company’s eight-day Peru trip is pretty strenuous.

Adventures by Disney

Disney’s Peru trip is very active, but that shouldn’t deter you from going

Heading into my trip with Adventures by Disney, one thing I was most concerned about was how active the Peru trip looked. Our group would be doing everything from hiking along salt pans to exploring Cusco on foot through narrow alleys and crowded streets. I am not an avid hiker or outdoors person. I have run a few half-marathons but the extent of my experience with “hiking” is walking around EPCOT at Walt Disney World and attempting to drink around the World Showcase with my friends.

The more physically demanding activities didn’t start until day three, when our group went white-water rafting and climbed 200 steps to the top of the Incan ruins in the quaint town of Ollantaytambo. On day four, our group hiked to the bottom of the Moray Ruins, then along a rocky path near the salt pans of Maras.

A look at the Salt Pans of Maras in Peru. They were mined by the ancient Incans and are a hiking destination today.

A look at the Salt Pans of Maras in Peru. They were mined by the ancient Incans and are a hiking destination today.

Megan duBois

As usual, our two amazing guides were always at the ready to assist those who needed a little more help with some of the more strenuous hikes, like my mom. At 63, she was nervous about this trip but made it to the end of each activity with the guidance and lovingly outstretched hand of Rudy or Armando.

There were always alternative options for those who did not wish to participate in the more strenuous activities during the trip. While we were rafting, for example, those who didn’t want to participate could wait at the exit point for the group while enjoying the beauty of the Andes Mountains, and those who didn’t want to hike at the salt pans could take the bus to the bottom of the pathway and wait there.

A wide look at Machu Picchu in Peru and the mountains that surround it.

A wide look at Machu Picchu in Peru and the mountains that surround it.

Megan duBois

Machu Picchu was worth the hype

One of the main reasons people take this particular Adventures by Disney trip is because it goes to Machu Picchu—the ruins of an ancient Incan city dating back to the early 15th century—which we did on day five. Our day started early with breakfast at the stunning Tambo del Inka, a luxury hotel run by Marriott in the heart of the Sacred Valley. This hotel acted as home base for our group for part of the trip.

After breakfast, the group gathered in the lobby to board mini buses to the train station, where we boarded PeruRail’s locomotive to Aguas Calientes, the small town where you transfer from the train to a bus to Machu Picchu. We saw plenty of other tourists when we stopped, but while they had to use public transportation to get to Machu Picchu, Disney had two private buses for members of our party—which is another way potential stress was cut from the trip.

The entrance to Machu Picchu, the site of ancient Incan ruins in Peru.

The entrance to Machu Picchu, the site of ancient Incan ruins in Peru.

Megan duBois

Once we reached the entrance to Machu Picchu, which looked more like the gateway to your typical national park than whatever I had pictured in my head, we needed to show our passports. This was the only destination on our adventure where this was required, and our Adventure Guides checked with each family before departing the hotel to ensure everyone had theirs.

The hike to the top of Machu Picchu was much harder than I or others on the trip were expecting. Like I said, I’ve run multiple half-marathons, but that didn’t prepare me for climbing what amounted to 36 flights of stairs —according to my Apple Watch— throughout the day at the iconic site. After we let a pack of llamas pass us on one set of stairs and turned the corner on the last set, the awe-inspiring landscape of Machu Picchu was in sight.

The vista overwhelmed me and I couldn’t believe I was at what’s recognized as one of the new seven wonders of the world. But what made me even more proud was my mom, who faced her fears of heights and falling over the edge of the very narrow steps that didn’t have handrails in many places to reach the pinnacle.

Machu Picchu was one of the definite highlights of the Adventures by Disney trip through Peru. The eight-day journey was full of moments to treasure.

Machu Picchu was one of the definite highlights of the Adventures by Disney trip through Peru. The eight-day journey was full of moments to treasure.

Megan duBois

Before descending into the ruins, our group was broken into three smaller ones and assigned a local expert who would guide us through and bring more context to the ancient sights we were seeing. The local expert was incredibly passionate about sharing the history of Machu Picchu with everyone, and when our tour was over I was sad to see him go.

Just before leaving Machu Picchu, Rudy gave everyone in our group a necklace with the Incan cross on it. He explained the significance of the three steps on all four sides, which represents one of the three worlds in the Incan belief system: the lower world, middle world and upper world.

A chef prepares lunch during day two of our trip to Peru with Adventures by Disney. The meals are all included in the price of travel.

A chef prepares lunch during day two of our trip to Peru with Adventures by Disney. The meals are all included in the price of travel.

Steven Diaz

With Adventures by Disney, I felt truly immersed in the local culture

You might not think immersion with the local culture would be possible when traveling with a company as big as Disney but that was not my experience during my trip to Peru with Adventures by Disney. The company went out of its way to not only highlight the major photo-ops of Peruvian tourism, but also the smaller pleasures. One of the highlights came on the second day of the trip, when we were treated to a weaving demonstration at the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, where I was enamored by the bright colors the women were able to achieve with natural ingredients like leaves and parasites that live on cactuses.

The foodies in the group, myself included, were thrilled when we were taken to a local food market in the Sacred Valley. This optional activity was one that I had been looking forward to since I first read the itinerary. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer number of vendors, the vibrant colors in the marketplace and the aromatic smells that surrounded us. When I walked into the market, I truly felt like I was in a culinary wonderland, where purple corn, blush-hued potatoes and freshly roasted coffee beans from the neighboring Amazon rainforest were all at my fingertips.

A plate of roasted guinea pig, or cuy, which is a delicacy across Peru. The animals are frequently eaten because of their abundant population and the protein their meat contains.

A plate of roasted guinea pig, or cuy, which is a delicacy across Peru. The animals are frequently eaten because of their abundant population and the protein their meat contains.

Megan duBois

You can’t call yourself a foodie without trying a local delicacy, which in Peru happens to be guinea pig (aka cuy)—thanks to its fast rate of reproduction and ample amount of protein. This stop on our journey was also optional, but I found myself getting off the bus to take a picture with a large guinea pig statue dressed like an Incan king before going to a food stall with some of my fellow travelers and our intrepid guides to try roasted guinea pig. While the dish wasn’t for me, I’m glad I tried it.

On the final day of our adventure, our group was treated to a walk through one of the most Instagrammed places in all of Peru: Cusco’s Calle Siete Borreguitos (Street of Seven Little Lambs). According to Rudy, this street was anything but safe and friendly before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the citizens of Cusco wanted to make it a desirable destination, so families started to clean it up, painting flowers and butterflies on walls and power poles. Then, residents brought their own flower pots to be decorated by a local artist and hung them in the public corridor. While there, we were lucky enough to see Rudy’s flower pot, which is dedicated to his family.

The author, Megan duBois, poses in front of Machu Picchu in Peru. Hiking to the top of the ancient Incan ruins was an unforgettable moment among many during the trip with Adventures by Disney.

The author, Megan duBois, poses in front of Machu Picchu in Peru. Hiking to the top of the ancient Incan ruins was an unforgettable moment among many during the trip with Adventures by Disney.

Megan duBois

Would I travel with Adventures by Disney again?

Throughout our eight days in Peru, I was continuously blown away by the forethought and hospitality of our Adventure Guides, the stunning sites I got to see and, of course, being able to say I’ve wandered Machu Picchu. Will I take another vacation with Adventures by Disney? Absolutely. In fact, I’m already looking at booking an adults-only trip to Greece or Southern California.





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