NEW YORK (Sept. 18, 2008) – Everyone who visits a Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort theme park on their birthday in 2009 can get in free, as Disney Parks embraces a newly identified family travel trend called “celebration vacations.” In this new national trend, American families are hitting the road to mark life’s special occasions – birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, reunions and more – with a “celebration vacation.” In 2009, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts will lead this growing trend with new entertainment and services that allow guests to turn their personal milestones into magical Disney experiences. And to kick it all off – a first-ever opportunity for guests to receive a free ticket to one of the Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme parks on their birthday in 2009. “Birthdays are the one occasion that we all share every year,” said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, at an announcement event today in New York. “We thought a free birthday ticket would be the icing on the cake as we extend this new ‘celebration vacation’ trend to Disney Parks.” Disney parks provide the perfect setting for this new style of vacation that celebrates the special occasions in life, Rasulo added. Whether a guest is celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, Quinceañera or any special occasion, Disney parks already are filled with favorite characters, world-class attractions and entertainment, and legendary guest service – exactly the “something for everyone” that trend-watchers say families look for in a “celebration vacation.” “The special moments in your life become truly magical when you celebrate at a Disney park,” Rasulo said. “Sharing a milestone at Disney connects families, friends and generations.” Nationwide Survey Reveals ‘Celebration Vacation’ Trend A nationwide survey of nearly 4,600 adults conducted by Ypartnership – co-author of the influential National Travel Monitor – showed that 70 percent of U.S. leisure travelers have taken a vacation with the primary purpose of marking a special occasion in their lives – a “celebration vacation,” as Ypartnership President and CEO Peter Yesawich termed it. Respondents mentioned a broad range of events worth celebrating with a special vacation – not just birthdays and anniversaries but a first vacation with children, a job promotion or recovery from an illness. Whenever something positive happens in their lives, people seek out ways to make them more special, Yesawich said, and vacations are clearly perceived as both an appropriate and desirable way to do so. Time does pass quickly and there is a growing trend to slow down our frenetic lifestyles and stop to rejoice around the things that matter,” he said. “Families on ‘celebration vacations’ are looking to truly commemorate moments in their lives – in special places everyone can enjoy.” Research showed that when they take that “celebration vacation,” families are looking for destinations that provide activities for children and – better yet – activities adults and children can enjoy together. Given these findings, it’s not surprising that Disney Parks topped the list of destinations where families would most like to celebrate these special occasions,” Yesawich said. Turning Life’s Special Moments Into a Personal Disney Celebration “We see our parks as the ideal setting for a personal celebration,” Rasulo said. “Guests can immerse themselves in their favorite stories and their favorite characters, creating a visit they’ll never forget. “And when our cast members get involved, it feels as if the entire park is celebrating along with you.” At Walt Disney World Resort, guests can add on to the fun, choosing from more than 200 experiences ranging from breathtaking (magical fireworks cruises, sunrise safaris, diving the depths with undersea creatures) to mirth-making (Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, character dining, kids’ pirate adventures). At Disneyland Resort, celebrants can book more than 50 magical experiences, including “My Disneyland Birthday Party” and unique Disneyland guided tours. With all there is to do in Disney parks, guests can tailor their celebration with favorite attractions, favorite characters and special experiences. Maybe they have a “princess” day with themed meals, shows, attractions and perfectly princess merchandise at Disneyland. Or they turn Walt Disney World “wild” with trail riding, bass fishing and water skiing. Even before the Ypartnership findings, Disney noticed the celebration trend happening in its parks, Rasulo noted. For instance, guests have visited the parks to propose marriage, celebrate a child’s passage into high school, or pull the whole family together for the golden anniversary of their parents. “But Walt Disney World and Disneyland are now poised to champion milestone vacations for families and friends in a breakthrough way,” he said. “We’re asking our guests, ‘What will YOU celebrate?’ “Part of the celebration is all the firsts that magically happen at Disney Parks,” Rasulo said. “Guests become the star of their own celebration. It could be a first trip to Disney or a first family vacation without the stroller. We want to make a first visit – and every visit – even more memorable.” Even if they’re not celebrating, Rasulo said, guests will be immersed in a “Celebrate Today!” spirit, making every day a party. Making it Easier than Ever to Plan Planning any event can be a challenge. With Disney’s new celebration planning tools, it’s easier than ever for guests to plan celebrations large and small, customizing and personalizing each experience and tending to all the details, from a special cake to an elaborate one-of-a-kind celebration that only Disney could create. Thanks to new Web tools, guests can discover magical experiences, unique events, dining enhancements and more. Disney’s planning services allow guests to stay focused on what really matters – the people closest to them. And vacation packages make celebrating at Disney right for any budget. Customizing Your Celebration Depending on the Disney park they are headed to, guests can order everything from special dining to princess tea parties, from yacht cruises to treasure hunting on a pirate sailing adventure, from a quiet trail ride to parasailing thrills. Or they can opt for magical experiences for their group – from dessert parties to a Magic Kingdom fireworks cruise to special entertainment. Among add-on experiences guests can choose to customize their “celebration vacation”: * Custom Bakery Cakes and Signature Desserts: Disney chefs create an unforgettable finale to a special dinner with a beautifully decorated cake themed to any occasion or a new line of celebration desserts. * For Lovebirds: Sweetheart dinners for two in which couples can clink “Celebrate Today!” champagne flutes. * Family Portraits: Capture the memory with a portrait session with Walt Disney World photographers. Build a custom photo album with Disney’s PhotoPass. * Personalized Souvenirs: Mark your occasion with personalized Mouse ears, character T-shirts and collectible pins. * Decorate Your Disney Guest Room: Step into a resort room decorated to fit your celebration theme with confetti, banners, surprises and more. * Stay Inside a Dream Theme: Book a themed guest room at either destination – princess-themed or Mickey-inspired at Disneyland or – coming in 2009 – pirate-themed at Walt Disney World Resort. * Set Sail: Book a private romantic cruise on a yacht or set your party afloat on a shared magical fireworks voyage. * Go Inside the Magic: Behind-the-scenes tours take you inside the storytelling, adventure and history of Disney Parks. * Disney Story Book Experiences: Choose from pirate adventures, tea parties, princess makeovers and more – all with the magic of Disney. * Disneyland Parties: “Celebration Roundup and Barbecue at Big Thunder Ranch,” all-new, is a full-blown party complete with frontier entertainment, goodie bags and a surprise treat for everyone – no matter what they’re celebrating. “My Disneyland Birthday Party” features cake decorating, party hats and even Mickey and Minnie pay a visit. Celebrating in the Parks Disney is unwrapping all-new entertainmentwith memory-makers in mind, allowing guests to focus their celebration on favorite characters, favorite attractions and favorite stories to create a custom celebration in the park. New park experiences coming in 2009 for all park guests to enjoy: * Street Parties: Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Park come to life with interactive street parties. The call to “Celebrate Today!” goes out to guests, music floods the streets, dancing kicks into high gear and the parks become “the happiest party on Earth.” Tomorrowland Party: A high-energy, retro-futuristic music video dance party features Stitch, an interactive dance troupe, and a DJ celebration host who’s inviting all Walt Disney World guests to come party, dance and celebrate. * Park Décor: The parks will be decorated with colorful banners, balloons and festive party hats – as if awaiting your celebration. * Buttons: Complimentary celebration buttons will help Disney cast members and fellow guests recognize you and your celebration. Memories to Last a Lifetime Disney parks are the ultimate setting for any celebration, turning a special occasion into a magical Disney experience. And with the opportunity of free admission to a Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort theme park on your birthday in 2009, it’s even more special. All it takes is a valid ID including proof of birth date. Guests can get more details and start the process by registering their birthdays at www.disneyparks.com. “We believe Disney parks are uniquely positioned for any celebration and offer the ultimate setting for marking a cherished milestone,” Rasulo said. “People trust Disney to make an occasion truly magical. And now more than ever, Disney will help guests seize those special moments and turn them into memories that will live forever in their hearts.” For more information or to book a Disney “celebration vacation,” guests can visit www.disneyparks.com, call 407/W-DISNEY or contact their local travel agent.