Adventures by Disney world tours get a little cheaper

People often complain that Disney's too expensive, and they have a point. But now and then, the company comes through for money-savers, as it did when it created the Value category of hotel room at its Florida resort. Now, perhaps spurred by the necessity of the recession, the company has just announced a cheaper version of its luxury-priced Adventures by Disney escorted tours.

They're called the Gateway Collection, and they're made less expensive because they strip out some of the activities that fill the itineraries of the more expensive versions, plus replace the top-line hotels with quite decent mid-line ones. There are currently three scaled-down tours on sale, and naturally, they're of the most popular destinations: Costa Rica, Italy, and a London/Paris combination.

Thoughtfully, the company lists side-by-side comparisons of the cheaper and more expensive tour versions. The hope is that you'll feel like springing for the higher-priced one, but in fact, you'll probably feel like those tickets to The Lion King in London aren't worth the inflated extra cost they would bring.

How do the prices compare? Well, they're still pretty expensive, but there's a marked difference. For example, the "Path to Pura Vida" tour of Costa Rica, which includes round-trip airfare, hotels, all food and tours, starts at $3,309 for adults and $2,979, depending on when you depart. But the Gateway version knocks a chunk off that: $2,489 for adults and $2,239 for kids, and you don't miss much more than gourd painting with the locals and two dinners. Most of the slimmed-down vacations knock off a similar proportion of the cost.

The new versions of the trips aren't planned from morning to late night, the way most of the company's trips are. This is good news to me, because when I travel, I need lots of free time to make my own discoveries, and I don't need my hand held the whole time.

Being required to find your own dinner for a couple of nights is a blessing, too, because it enables you to search out cozy, romantic places on your own without the stampede of your fellow coach tourists cramping your style.

You can still see these destinations cheaper on your own. But when it comes to the value of an escorted tour with accredited guides and plenty of kids' activities, it's good to see Disney is being responsive to people who need to spend a little less these days, and what's more, to be so frank about it.
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