When Did WDW Become An Extended Vacation Destination?

DisneyNittany

Active Member
Due to the way our work travel was setup, my wife and I would always take advantage of our alternate travel, and we'd always arrive on Thursday evening and stay until the following Sunday. So, it seems like we're on par with a lot of other folks in this thread, where 10 days is the sweet spot for us.

It's the perfect time-frame to allow the combination of enjoying the parks at a leisurely pace each day + being tired and ready for home by the end + still feeling like it was oddly too short and that you're not ready to leave that happy place just yet. One a 10 day trip, I always feel like it's crawling (in a good way) by the time Wednesday rolls around, but when we're going to bed on Saturday night it then feels like it flew by.
 

Goofyernmost

Well-Known Member
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I remember someone I knew going there for their Honeymoon - when there was only one park. But I suspect that they made day trips to places that don't exist anymore, such as Cypress Gardens, etc.
The first years for us from 1983 consisted of 3 or 4 days in the parks, and the rest of the time going to Cypress Gardens, Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, Sea World, the Kennedy Space Center and even Silver Springs. We used Kissimmee as our base and wander to the others from there. When Universal opened we would spend a day there as well. We drove down from Vermont. That's a 1500 mile trip we were going to find some other places to see because there really wasn't enough to do to stay just for Disney at that point.

I kinda made a habit of that and have done a variation of it ever since. We always went in late February when the temperatures in Vermont were quite often sub zero. We were in no hurry to scurry on back up north. I loved just driving around taking in the green grass and palm trees. Up north during that time of year the scenery was always snow white and frostbite was something to watch out for.
 

Raineman

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
The first years for us from 1983 consisted of 3 or 4 days in the parks, and the rest of the time going to Cypress Gardens, Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, Sea World, the Kennedy Space Center and even Silver Springs. We used Kissimmee as our base and wander to the others from there. When Universal opened we would spend a day there as well. We drove down from Vermont. That's a 1500 mile trip we were going to find some other places to see because there really wasn't enough to do to stay just for Disney at that point.

I kinda made a habit of that and have done a variation of it ever since. We always went in late February when the temperatures in Vermont were quite often sub zero. We were in no hurry to scurry on back up north. I loved just driving around taking in the green grass and palm trees. Up north during that time of year the scenery was always snow white and frostbite was something to watch out for.
Yours is a perfect example of what I perceived the role of WDW to be in a central Florida vacation before WDW had really started to grow-WDW was a part of the vacation, but not the whole vacation.
I think, based on what I've seen in this thread, the answer to my question may be the mid-1990s: WDW had grown to 3 parks, 3 water parks, Pleasure Island, and more and more on-property resorts were opening. It was starting to turn into a situation where there was now enough to see/do on WDW property that you could spend a week specifically at WDW if you wanted to, and didn't have to visit all of the other points of interest to fill out your week.
 

ParentsOf4

Well-Known Member
So, we all know that for the first 11 years of existence, WDW was only one park, which increased to 2 when Epcot opened. My question is, when did most people start to consider it a place to take an extended vacation, ie more than just 2-3 days as part of a general vacation to central Florida that would normally include other local attractions as well? Was it at that point when DHS opened, or did it take adding DAK as the fourth park to entice more guests to visit for a week or more? Did the additions of Pleasure Island/DTD and the water parks have an effect as well?
In the late 1970s and 1980s, my sisters regularly vacationed at WDW for a week with their husbands, spending only a day or two at the park (later parks). Other time was spent golfing, shopping, dining, and poolside.

At the time, there was an entire ad campaign targeting those without children. They really wanted couples coming during the off season which, at that time, meant anything except summer and Christmas.

Although it's hard to believe now, a stay at the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Golf Resorts (now Shades of Green) were really good values for a quality hotel.

They were not cheap. Rates were today's equivalent of about $150 to $200 per night, but that was a great price for the quality of service you got.
 

NelleBelle

Well-Known Member
I remember Cypress Gardens from when WDW was just MK. Over the years FL has had many fun places to visit. Some have been a bit quirky, and many are long gone, but there's always something unique.

There's just to much to list, everything from natural parks/beaches to historical places, museums, shopping, glimpses of the uber-wealthy.

I feel bad for people who never vacation beyond the theme parks, because FL just has so much to offer that is special.
When our kids were 6 and 4, we did a Halloween trip and included MNSSHP. We brought my MIL with us and did a 7-nt stay at WDW. At the end of that stay, my SIL flew in and met us at our resort and we all drove down to a vacation home in the Keys. It was so fun! We did all kinds of activities.

Now I am totally desperate to drive our Airstream down from Seattle and stay at FL state parks along the panhandl’s beaches, hit WDW staying at FW, and driving to the keys! I wanted to do this next year as a final big road trip before my oldest goes off to college but DH insists on banking weeks of his vacation! So I don’t think that the 3-weeks he uses in the summer would be enough. I figure that will have to come when he retires 😐
 

HouCuseChickie

Well-Known Member
For us...it wasn't until sometime between 2000-2010 that we started to see it that way.

My first trip was in 1985...Day 1 Sea World, Day 2 MK, Day 3 EPCOT, Day 4 Kennedy Space Ctr, Day 5 drive to Sanibel and stay there until Day 8. All of our family trips in the 80s and early 90s were this way. It wasn't always Sanibel, but we never devoted an entire trip to Disney and the Disney parks and it was always split with something beachy.

When we moved to FL in the early 90s, if we went to any Disney park...it was just a pick a park 1 day sort of thing. It was the same approach for all of the FL residents I befriended or dated. It wasn't until the 2000s when people in our circles started making it this Disney only, never leave the bubble, long vacation. It was also around this time when my parents did their first multi day trip where they stayed at a Disney resort for several nights but didn't visit any parks. It wasn't until 2010 when we finally took this approach for a Disney trip for us and spent a week onsite doing nothing but Disney lodging, food and parks. We contemplated doing this a few years earlier when it first started happening with our friends and family, but decided we wanted to wait on our kids being a certain age before a first trip.
 

Goofyernmost

Well-Known Member
Yours is a perfect example of what I perceived the role of WDW to be in a central Florida vacation before WDW had really started to grow-WDW was a part of the vacation, but not the whole vacation.
I think, based on what I've seen in this thread, the answer to my question may be the mid-1990s: WDW had grown to 3 parks, 3 water parks, Pleasure Island, and more and more on-property resorts were opening. It was starting to turn into a situation where there was now enough to see/do on WDW property that you could spend a week specifically at WDW if you wanted to, and didn't have to visit all of the other points of interest to fill out your week.
Don't forget the infamous Magic (prison) Bus service from the airport. That went a long way to making it a stay-cation on Disney property.
 

DisneyFreak

Well-Known Member
Here is a listing of our family trips early in WDW and my history...

October 1979 - 3 night reservation at Poly, while there extended to 5 nights
October 1983 - 5 night reservation at Poly, while there extended to 8 nights
June 1985 - 10 night reservation
June 1987 - 10 night reservation
June 1989 - 10 night reservation
June 1991 - 10 night reservation
June/July 1993 - 10 night reservation

So, obviously for us it really started in 1985. Beginning that year we would leave Chicago around 4am and drive to somewhere south of Atlanta and north of Valdosta, GA. We would arrive in Kissimmee on Sunday and stay a night on 192 and usually mini-golf and visit Old Town. Our reservation would beginning at the Polynesian on Monday and we would be there until the following Thursday. Then take our time driving back to Chicago and arrive home on Saturday night.
 

"El Scorpion"

Premium Member
In the Parks
No
My routine back in the mid-80's was a 7 nighter. All the nights were spent on property, but the parks (MK/EPCOT) and River Country got 4 days. 1 Day was the early am drive to Busch. Then there was a day at Circus World. And a day doing other touristy things like Mystery Fun House and Disney Market Place..
 

MickeyLuv'r

Well-Known Member
Excellent point about Magic Express- how could I forget! ME was also added in 2005; about the same time as MYW tickets. That is when WDW started to heavily market the idea of WDW as a full week destination, though as others have said, it wasn't WDW's first attempt at marketing it that way.

I think the trouble with your characterization, Raineman, is that ALL American vacations tend to fall into maybe 4 lengths: day-trip, weekend, week, extended. Our 7-day week is simply a standard unit of time. The destination isn't important.

The shortest house rental rates for a house anywhere are often by the week, even remote cottages in the woods, where there is NOTHING but woods. On top of that, while commercial flying has existed for many decades, it was still pretty common to drive to vacation destinations into the 1990's. It was the rise of the low-fare carries like Southwest that really brought the cost of flying down to the point that the cost of flying (instead of driving) really flipped. For many, weekend trips to FL (in general) weren't, and still aren't feasible.

Florida snowbirds long pre-date WDW; back at least to the advent of popular automobile travel; the Ford Model T. Snowbirds were already a thing when the Great Miami Hurricane hit in 1926. Before that, there was Flagler's East Coast Railway. Snowbirding also gained popularity during the Depression, when migrant workers came south for winter agricultural work.

Roy Disney visited Cypress Gardens back when the Disney brothers were first discussing the feasibility of Disneyland.
 

marni1971

WDW History nut
Premium Member
So, we all know that for the first 11 years of existence, WDW was only one park, which increased to 2 when Epcot opened. My question is, when did most people start to consider it a place to take an extended vacation, ie more than just 2-3 days as part of a general vacation to central Florida that would normally include other local attractions as well? Was it at that point when DHS opened, or did it take adding DAK as the fourth park to entice more guests to visit for a week or more? Did the additions of Pleasure Island/DTD and the water parks have an effect as well?
I’d suggest mid to late 80s. Although as a kid, coming from the UK, we did two or three days in 1979 and 1981, followed by five in 1987 and 1990 as part of a three week split centre trip (two week on 192 and a week on the beach)

After that it was multiple days during a two or three week trip.
 

marni1971

WDW History nut
Premium Member
Did anyone who wasn't local ever add Circus World to their trip? I remember looking at the brochure (favorite activity at the state welcome centers!) and thinking it looked like a rather unremarkable theme park..
No, but I remember going to Boardwalk and Baseball to find it had just closed down.
 

Goofyernmost

Well-Known Member
Here is a listing of our family trips early in WDW and my history...

October 1979 - 3 night reservation at Poly, while there extended to 5 nights
October 1983 - 5 night reservation at Poly, while there extended to 8 nights
June 1985 - 10 night reservation
June 1987 - 10 night reservation
June 1989 - 10 night reservation
June 1991 - 10 night reservation
June/July 1993 - 10 night reservation

So, obviously for us it really started in 1985. Beginning that year we would leave Chicago around 4am and drive to somewhere south of Atlanta and north of Valdosta, GA. We would arrive in Kissimmee on Sunday and stay a night on 192 and usually mini-golf and visit Old Town. Our reservation would beginning at the Polynesian on Monday and we would be there until the following Thursday. Then take our time driving back to Chicago and arrive home on Saturday night.
I have to say this... I don't know if I would get out of there alive if I stayed that long. I realize that my attention span is limited, but the longest I ever stayed onsite (with a vehicle) was 7 days and by the end of it I was looking for a mouse trap big enough to catch a 5 foot Mouse. I was going out of my mind. I felt trapped and drained of money all going to one place.

I know it is just me and that others really enjoy long stays there, but I'm afraid that isn't in my DNA. The ironic part of that is that I have loved WDW since the first day I drove on to the property 37 years ago. There was a time when that was the number one priority in my life. I tried to devise a plan where I could do work for Disney, holding seminars in my home town area, convincing people to visit WDW because of the excitement it projected to me. Then I got the idea of getting a commercial drivers license so I could drive bus at WDW when I "semi" retired. Over the years and because of the pure hassle that going there has become (not to mention the cost), I still love WDW but not with the intensity that I once did. And after that one week stay onsite I was almost angry about how dollar motivated they were and I became someone that didn't mind spending money to go there, but that I felt an obligation to spread the cash around to someplace other then Disney. Even if it cost me more to stay offsite, (it didn't) I just couldn't handle being that hooked into that club.
 

Raineman

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
My routine back in the mid-80's was a 7 nighter. All the nights were spent on property, but the parks (MK/EPCOT) and River Country got 4 days. 1 Day was the early am drive to Busch. Then there was a day at Circus World. And a day doing other touristy things like Mystery Fun House and Disney Market Place..
When I saw your avatar, all I could think of was "I could murder a curry!" :D
 

rwdavis2

Active Member
The minute it got expensive. Mindset changed to "Well if were gonna shell out this dough to go, might as well go for an extended time and come back in 6 years" LOL. Just me though ;D
This is exactly how we do it. every 4-6 years. :last trip in 2016 was 8 nights. The next not until at least 2022.
 

DorothyW

New Member
I’m from Australia and for as long as I can remember which has been about 25 years I have always gone for minimum of 2 weeks my last holiday was 3. There is so much to do and as I save year round for the holiday and you are looking at least 21-22 hours of flying not including layovers and customs.
By the time you go to the parks which I feel are too big for one day each, then if there are any special events on, then a couple of down days then Disney springs that’s like 12-14 days before you blink. In saying that I always spend at least 5 days in Disneyland and that’s much smaller.
 

tl77

Well-Known Member
We've been staying for about a week since 1979, but a room at the Poly was only $30 a night then and included breakfast. A trip broke down to... a couple days at Magic Kingdom, then a day for River Country, Discovery Island, Shopping Village, and Hoop-Dee-Doo & Luau, and some "hanging out at the arcades" in the Poly and Contemporary because that was still "a big deal" back in the day, plus the Poly pool too. Main Street And TomSawyer Island were "something to explore" back then, The People Mover, Train, and River Boat had "something to see"... There was a lot of stuff to do on property, it just cost less and was a more "laid back" vacation than the "micro managing of every minute" you do today at an inflated price
 

jbird327

Member
My first trip was in 1976 (after two trips to DL in 72 and 75). Until Epcot was built, a trip to WDW was a long weekend - 3 to 4 days with driving from Philadelphia, so about 1 and a half days in the MK. Once Epcot opened, the first trip there was Feb 83, probably 5 days with driving (and staying at the Contemporary). It was in 84 that we flew down and spent a full 6 days in the park, so I would consider that my first extended Disney vacation - and no side trips outside the park. 87 was my first 7 night stay at the Poly. Since then most of my trips have been 7 nights, although two have been for 8 nights...a bit too long for me. Since 2000, I have been using the Auto Train.
 

"El Scorpion"

Premium Member
In the Parks
No
I’d suggest mid to late 80s. Although as a kid, coming from the UK, we did two or three days in 1979 and 1981, followed by five in 1987 and 1990 as part of a three week split centre trip (two week on 192 and a week on the beach)

After that it was multiple days during a two or three week trip.

Crazy thinking about 192 back in those days isn't it? I remember Xanadu House of the Future. A place called Cheffie's. I also remember other off the beaten path things (not on 192) like Mystery Fun House. Maingate back then was okay. Nothing like it is today.
 

marni1971

WDW History nut
Premium Member
Crazy thinking about 192 back in those days isn't it? I remember Xanadu House of the Future. A place called Cheffie's. I also remember other off the beaten path things (not on 192) like Mystery Fun House. Maingate back then was okay. Nothing like it is today.
Was just watching home video today of driving along 192 in June 1990. Wouldn’t recognise it today.

I also loved the Mystery Fun House :)
 

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