Planning a Theme Park Vacation around a Birthday

How Easy (or Difficult) Is It to Accomplish on the Parks' Web Sites?

June 25, 2009

Planning a vacation and event? See how well the Web sites for DisneyWorld, Six Flags, and Colonial Williamsburg help you achieve your goals. This test drive follows Mike as he attempts to book a vacation and birthday party at a theme park location.


Mike and his family want to take a family vacation that overlaps with his son’s seventh birthday. This test drive looks at Mike’s scenario, with its Moments of Truth and metrics. As he checks out how well DisneyWorld, 6 Flags, and Colonial Williamsburg can accommodate his needs.

After time on each site, Mike chose 6 Flags (despite its chapter 11 protection status) as the destination of choice for the following reasons:

  • Clear navigation through the site
  • Transparent pricing and complete details on all aspects of the vacation
  • The ability to pre-order almost everything directly from the site
  • How easy it was to plan and order the vacation and birthday party details

This test drive is actually a pretty basic vacation scenario with the caveat of a sub-scenario of planning a birthday party at the venue during the vacation. Although this scenario looks at the specifics of birthday planning, you can extrapolate for planning any specific activity. And the lessons that can be learned from Mike’s experiences on the sites are relevant to any Web site design.


Celebrating Bobby’s Seventh Birthday at a Fun Remote Location

Mike and Carla want to do something special for their son Bobby’s seventh birthday. In a family of five children, Bobby, the second from the youngest and the quietest, often got overlooked in favor of his more boisterous and demanding siblings: Maureen, 15; Katie, 12; Sam, 9; and Molly, 3. This is a good year for the entire family to travel to some fun destination for the birthday celebration—Mike has accumulated enough frequent flyer miles to pay for most of the airline tickets, and travel prices are particularly attractive at the moment. Besides, Bobby has never been on an airplane, and the trip would be a nice bonus adventure for him.

Fun for All

In order for the trip to be any fun, the whole family has to have activities that interest them, or else there will be lots of crabbiness and complaining, including from Mike and Carla. So Mike wants to make sure the birthday destination has a lot to offer.

Scenario Specifics

So let’s look at the specifics of Mike’s scenario, “I want to have great vacation, including a birthday celebration for Bobby, that the entire family enjoys.”

Free Birthday Admission at DisneyWorld

Free Birthday Admission at DisneyWorld


© 2009 Walt Disney World & Patricia Seybold Group

Illustration 1. The home page of DisneyWorld proudly announces that admission to the park is free on your birthday. When you click on the link, you get another page of info, with two separate links for the same information.

MOMENTS OF TRUTH. In every customer scenario, there are a number of moments of truth, the key showstoppers that will stop customers in their path to successfully achieve their desired outcome. In this scenario, we’ve identified four moments of truth:

  • I can’t book a birthday party at the venue.
  • There aren’t activities available that are appropriate for each family member.
  • I can’t get pricing information easily on venue, activities, and accommodations.
  • It is too difficult to arrange the details of the celebration.

Conditions of Satisfaction. Moments of Truth can often be clarified by conditions of satisfaction—what the customer wants to happen and how he wants to feel in the specific context of the current scenario. Mike refines his moments of truth with the following two conditions of satisfaction:

  • I can arrange for birthday-specific activities and merchandise (e.g., a customized cake, party hats, etc.).
  • I can avoid long lines at activities so the kids don’t get too antsy.
  • The cost, including hotels and meals, is within budget.

MEASURING SUCCESS. For each moment of truth, there are metrics which determine whether it is being successfully met. These metrics are typically, though not exclusively, measured in terms of number of options, time, effort, and money. And, for some moments of truth, there may be multiple things to measure. For Mike, his success metrics are as follows:

The venue provides at least one option for specifically booking a birthday party.

I can identify at least two fun activities for each family member; I can identify at least three activities that the entire family can enjoy together.

Pricing information is presented within two clicks of looking for pricing.

I can book the party and activities from the Web site within a half hour.

The metrics for the conditions of satisfaction include...(more)

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