You’ve finally made the mental leap and decided to take the whole brood to Disney for a vacation. OK…so…now what? Where do you start? Walt Disney World in Florida or Disneyland in California? Or maybe a Disney cruise? How long do you need to stay? Should you stay in a Disney hotel or is a nearby off-site hotel better? Do you need a rental car? What about park admissions? Isn’t there a breakfast where your kids can eat with the princesses? How are you going to get around? What documents do you need? How do you get to the cruise terminal?
These questions, and hundreds more, are very common for most folks who are planning a Disney vacation. The simple fact is that Disney, just within its domestic United States operations, features 6 major theme parks, two water parks, two major shopping districts, two 2,400 passenger cruise ships, a private Bahamian island, 27 resort hotels, the sixth-largest marine fleet in the world, the busiest monorail system in the world, and over 27,000 acres of land. Disney is a huge operation with a mind-boggling array of options offered to travelers. How in the world are you supposed to wade through all of the information and options to design the vacation that’s perfect for you?
Well, you have one of two options. First, you could spend hours and hours and hours online visiting the thousands of web sites that specialize in Disney content. You would have to determine from that information what is fact and what is not, whether the writer’s opinions, preferences, and tastes match yours, and where you would then go to begin making vacation arrangements. You could talk to friends and neighbors who have been to Disney and ask their opinions. You could spend hours on the phone talking to others who might or might not be interested in helping you find the best deal on the best vacation.
Or, you could simply contact a travel agent that specializes in Disney and let them do all of that and more for you. For Free.
If you have never used a travel agent before, the process is very simple. A travel agent’s job is to take the time and ask the right questions to find out from you exactly what your ideal vacation is. They then use their experience and expertise to custom-tailor all of the available options to assemble the perfect trip for you.
While there are many different kinds and flavors of travel agents available, the sheer volume of information and options available from Disney make choosing the right travel agent even more important when planning a Disney vacation. Having a travel agent that specializes exclusively in the Disney product will increase your chances of landing the best deals, best itinerary, and best overall Disney vacation.
Authorized Disney Vacation Planners are travel agencies who have been recognized by the Walt Disney Company for their expertise and experience in planning Disney vacations. These agencies have earned the Authorized Disney Vacation Planner designation through a demonstrated proficiency in outstanding customer service and extensive Disney product knowledge. Always make sure the travel agency you select for your Disney vacation is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
In addition, your individual travel agent should be certified by Disney as a “Disney Specialist.” Disney specialists have completed the College of Disney Knowledge, a course offered by Disney that requires demonstrated knowledge and expertise in Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and the Disney Cruise Line. Your personal travel agent should also, of course, have detailed and extensive personal knowledge of the Disney products through their frequent and repeated visits to the various Disney resorts and cruise ships. (Yes, a tough job, but someone has to do it…)
How Does the Process Work?
Upon contacting a Disney specialist travel agency, your travel agent should take the time to find out what is important to you for your Disney vacation. Details such as travel dates, length of stay, hotel preference, party size, special occasions, transportation preferences, dining preferences, and many other details should be gathered by your travel agent so that a personalized quote can be created just for you.
You should expect to receive prompt and accurate information regarding your personal trip request. This information should include pricing and details for the Disney or other resort hotels, theme park passes, any applicable packages, discounts, and available options. Your Disney travel agent should also make sure you are getting the very best deal possible for your vacation by booking the lowest rate up front and by automatically rebooking your reservation for you if a better rate becomes available later. Your agent should also offer to help you with many other details like dining reservations, tour reservations, show reservations, and recommendations for other lesser-known or “hidden” attractions and activities.
Once you have reviewed and approved the information presented, your travel agent will book all required reservations for you and provide you with a detailed confirmation. From that point on, your travel agent is your single point of contact for everything having to do with your Disney vacation. There’s no need for you to call multiple Disney departments or phone numbers (In fact, Disney will not allow you to make changes or cancellations to a reservation if it was made by a travel agent).
Is It Really Free?
Yes, it is. Really. Disney travel agents make their living from a small commission paid to them by Disney for booking your vacation. This commission does not increase the price you pay. The price you are offered by your Disney travel agent will be exactly the same or better than you would get if you booked the vacation on your own.
Your travel agent wants you to have the perfect Disney vacation, and works hard to make that happen. The commission is his/her compensation for doing so (along with the glowing trip reports and referrals you will provide upon your return). Please respect the travel agent’s time and effort by not asking them to do the work and then booking elsewhere.
Why Shouldn’t I Just Call Disney Directly?
Great question. While anyone call pick up the phone and call Disney directly to book their vacation, what exactly will they get? Will you get the best deal? Maybe, if you have done your homework, and keep working to make sure a better discount doesn’t come along. Will you get the best resort for your family? Possibly, if you know the right questions to ask. Will I ever talk to this Cast Member again? Very unlikely, once your reservation is made, you are just a number to Disney.
When calling Disney, think about who they are working for, compared to working with a Disney specialist:
Disney Cast Member: They work for Disney, and their loyalty is to Disney. While they won’t cheat you in any way, they also won’t go out of their way to find a better deal for you either.
Disney Specialist: They work for you, just as your attorney or accountant does. Their job is to make sure you get the best deal possible, whether it is available now or not released for 6 months down the road, and that you are 100% happy with what you have paid and what you get for your money. Your Disney specialist is always on your side, and takes care of you every step of the way.
Do you really want to fight the Disney machine by yourself, or would you rather have an experienced specialist on your side?
While there are several outstanding Disney travel agencies, we at MouseMisers highly recommend Mouseketrips as a premier Disney specialist travel agency. Mouseketrips is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, and each and every one of the Mouseketrips travel agents is a graduate of the College of Disney Knowledge. In addition, Mouseketrips travel agents visit each of the Disney theme parks and the Disney Cruise Line on a regular basis, and have exhaustive personal, first-hand knowledge of the various details and options available.
We have booked a disney vacation with a local travel agent. We will be there 5/2/09-5/9/09. Our group has 11. Is there anything special that week? I have a disney visa and am having no luck figuring out how to schedule the free meet and greet with the characters that the card says I’m entitled to. Any suggestions?
This is where a Disney specialist would have really helped you out. 😉
There isn’t any way to schedule the meet and greet, you just show up. It is every day between 1:30 and 4:30 in Innoventions West (Epcot), just show your Disney VISA to get in.
Jose Alves says
Hi. I am beginning to plan my yearly trip during my son’s Spring Break. I am interested on a Disney cruise. My only concern is that we are a very small party consisting of my 7 year old son and myself, a single dad. Any recommendations?
If I book a Disney World vacation (room and tickets), can I add the dining plan anytime so long as I do 48 hours before check-in? Also, if a free dining plan is offered, can it be added to an existing reservation or is it usually only for new reservations? Thanks!
Yes, you can always add the dining plan in the future. Currently, the requirement is 48 hours in advance (though they do charge a small fee inside of 14 days in advance to add it, currently $10). Both of those requirements could change at any time.
If a discount comes out after you book your reservation, you can apply the discount, based on availability of course. Any decent Disney only travel agency will actually apply any future discounts for you, you should consider working with one to save you money as discounts are released.
judy richards says
I am a Disney Vacation CLub Member and feel that we are getting short changed regardign the food plans being offered to Dinsey guest who may visit one or two times in a lifetime. The club is not cheap and food is expensive at Disney. Why has the FREE FOOD PLAN not been offered either at a discount or FREE FREE to resort club owners. Thank you
Judy – I am a DVC member too, and we do get some great benefits in addition to the great savings we get on our DVC stays. I think it is fantastic they have made the dining plans available for purchase to DVC members, that was not always the case. You can understand why they don’t offer free dining on point stays. Disney makes no money at all when you come to WDW and stay with points, other than your park pass purchases (and souvenirs). When you purchased your DVC points, you paid for the construction and other costs of the villas. Sure, Disney made some money, but that was a one time deal. How could they afford to give you free dining?
We went earlier this year, stayed for 11 nights and paid about $1,500 total for tickets. That was it, our total cost, screaming deal, right? We also paid about $3,000 for the dining plan, which ended up being a great deal too, our meals would have been over $4,000 alone without it.
In the past, I have chosen to not use my points and use the free dining options at one of the other resorts. Just do the math, decide which option works best for you.
I am a Disney Travel Agent so thanks for writing this article! Many people don’t understand the process or think there must be SOME type of fee or it’s a scam. Do you mind if I share this article? I always like to ask permission, especially since you have a sponsored travel agency. If not, no problem 🙂
Hello we are using a Disney specialist as a travel agent. I was wondering if it is standard to tip and if so how much?
Heather – No, definitely not standard. If they did a great job for you, I am sure a thank you note or small Disney gift like a Vinlymation from your destination would be greatly appreciated.