The wait is over! It’s been a little over a month and I’ve finally had the time to gather my thoughts and organize my photos so that I can give everyone a proper update on my recent travels. (I bet you thought this day would never come… LOL). In late November I spent two weeks park-hopping and city-exploring across Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Japan and wanted to provide a few general thoughts as well as an overview of my itinerary to catch everyone up-to-speed. This will be a no-holds-back blog entry full of my honest thoughts and suggestions (no matter how unpopular they may be). My goal is to provide another point of view along with some helpful hints as you plan your own upcoming vacations!
Before I launch into how I split my time, let me state the obvious – I tried to do too much. I would NOT recommend following in my footsteps unless you really like vacations with little-to-no sleep and constant transit. That said, I can now confidently say how I WOULD do this if I had the opportunity to do it all again.
With that said, here is how I split my time:
Day 1 – Travel
Day 2 – Shanghai Disneyland
Day 3 & Day 4 – Hong Kong Disneyland
Day 5 & 6 – Tokyo
Day 7 & 8 – Osaka and Nara
Day 9 & 10 – Kyoto
Day 10 – Tokyo
Day 11-14 – Tokyo Disney Resort
Day 15 – Travel
Now, how would I redo this if I could? First, I’d pick a lane and stick with it. What I mean by that is if you want to do all three Asian Disney Parks, just do those parks and the cities they are in. My biggest mistake with my itinerary was trying to do all 3 parks and also explore 4 cities in Japan with only 2 weeks of vacation time. In my opinion, these should have been two separate vacations (seems obvious, no?)
The other thing I’d like to say about this itinerary is that when I visit any Disney theme park for the first time I like to really take my time in that park, especially if I’m traveling halfway across the world to get there. I generally don’t like trying to tackle a new park in a single day (even if people say it’s a “one day” or a “half day” park). There’s too much pressure in that for me and I really like being able to take in the little Disney touches that make these parks so special. I realize not everyone has the same travel style, nor the same Disney parks style, so my suggestions may not be for everyone.
There is SO much ground to cover with this trip that no single blog post would do it justice so I’m going to go with broad observations and leave the city and park specific thoughts for each of those individual posts.
My biggest takeaways from this trip:
Now for the fun stuff…
WHICH WAS MY FAVORITE THEME PARK?
This is a question I’ve been getting A LOT and my answer will likely surprise most people. I went into this trip thinking that Tokyo Disney Resort would for sure be my favorite park (not only on this trip but of all the parks I’ve ever been to) and I came out of it saying that Hong Kong Disneyland was actually my favorite. Why, you ask? Well, because I felt the most Disney “magic” at this park. It’s the smallest of all the Asian parks (similar to Disneyland but different). It had the cutest merch, cutest food, and the kindest cast members. I also felt like it was the “easiest” of all the parks. There didn’t seem to be as big of a language barrier here and a lot of the things we expect from a U.S. Disney park, you can receive here but with a distinctly unique flair. I’ll go into greater detail on this in my upcoming Hong Kong Disneyland blog post.
WHICH WAS MY FAVORITE CITY?
Hands down, Kyoto. I wish I could have spent an entire week in this beautiful city. It had everything I could have ever wanted in a vacation: culture, food, and activity but in a place that felt frozen in time and yet modern, all at once. It felt slow-paced but never boring. I found that there was a surprising amount to do here and it’s very close to many places that make great day trips (like Nara). I can’t wait to go back to Japan and really immerse myself in Kyoto for at least 5 days.
WOULD I GO BACK?
Heck, yeah! This was the trip of a lifetime and I can’t wait to share more stories and pictures with all of you. It was so special to see how Disney resonates so deeply with people in other countries and to come back to America with a greater appreciation for the parks we have in our own backyards. Seeing how different people have embraced the spirit of Disney abroad has also inspired me to make my own Disney style more uniquely “me”. I loved being able to try new things and meet new friends and connect over a shared passion for something. This trip has also reinvigorated my love of travel. It had been a full year since I’d last been out of the country and I didn’t realize how much I need this in my life until I got out again. Expect to see many more trips in 2019!
As always, thank you for following along with my adventures. I can’t wait to share more of them with you. Hopefully you’ve found this helpful as you plan your upcoming vacation, and if you’ve been to any of these places and have additional thoughts/tips please leave a comment below!