It’s pretty convenient to book your own vacations these days using the wide variety of good online sources and tools. However, when it comes to a Walt Disney World vacation, the sheer magnitude of available options makes it more challenging to do on your own than almost anywhere else. You’re likely to find conflicting advice and opinions for just about every question you may have.
This is where the professional services of an experienced Travel Advisor and Disney Travel Specialist will be a big benefit.
How Do You Know if a Disney Specialist Travel Agent is any Good?
The problem is: how do you know whether a travel agent is really the Disney expert that you think they are?
Sometimes you may come across someone who has taken five or 10 personal trips to Walt Disney World, and who then considers himself or herself to be a Disney travel expert. Unfortunately, several family vacations to Walt Disney World does not make someone an authority–certainly not when you’re entrusting them with your family vacation.
When you are spending thousands and thousands of dollars on your family’s Walt Disney World vacation, you want to be sure that your travel advisor knows the ins and outs of every corner of the 43 square miles that is Walt Disney World Resort. A friendly smile and pleasant demeanour are excellent qualities in a travel agent, but don’t forget to ensure that the individual you are considering to book your family’s magical holiday also knows exactly what they are talking about when it comes to Disney vacations.
How would you know what to ask if you are unfamiliar with Walt Disney World?
While there are (fortunately) a lot of very good and knowledgeable Disney travel agents out there, there are even more (in my experience) travel agents who deliver cookie cutter or run-of-the-mill Walt Disney World itineraries and advice to their clients.
One thing is certain about Walt Disney World itinerary planning: one size does not fit all.
So it is unfortunate when you receive a basic cookie-cutter itinerary, because you are likely expecting a certain level of expertise that you simply are not getting.
How do you know if your travel agent is the Walt Disney World expert that they claim to be?
The Six Questions to ask any Travel Agent Planning your Disney Vacation:
Q1. How many times have you visited Walt Disney World?
There is no substitute for practical, long-term, onsite experience. A travel agent who has visited Walt Disney World Resort on a personal level over 50 times is likely an expert in Walt Disney World travel. A travel agent who has visited over 75 times over the course of several decades is even better. Actually being there and experiencing everything first-hand is how you gain the kind of experience that you need in order to be a true Travel Advisor to others. Ten or 20 personal trips is great for a fan, but you owe it to yourself to do your own due diligence and be sure that you’re satisfied that the person you’re working with is a true Disney travel expert.
A note about the “College of Disney Knowledge.” Disney’s travel training is mandatory, even for rookie travel agents. So don’t take the College of Disney Knowledge to be some sort of proof that the agent knows his or her stuff beyond surface level. Every agent has to pass this online module to sell Disney travel. So do not confuse it to be some sort of MBA of Disney travel. It is not.
Q2. Have you stayed multiple times in every Walt Disney World Resort that you book or recommend?
Would you trust the recommendations of an agent who has never stayed in the property they are placing you in? You don’t really get to know the intricacies of any hotel anywhere without staying there…a lot. So be sure that you are comfortable that your agent intimately knows every property that they sell. One or two visits to a property is not enough.
On top of that, FAM trips (travel agent familiarization trips to a destination) are not even remotely the same as staying in a hotel, so don’t be misled if you get that response from an agent as if it were something of significant value. A FAM trip (walking through a resort and looking at a hotel room) can never replace multiple weeks at a resort as a guest.
Q3. Do you have strong opinions about Walt Disney World travel planning that you will share and stand by?
After nearly 50 years of Walt Disney World vacations and approaching 100 trips to Walt Disney World Resort (including over 1,000 visits to Disney Parks), you can bet that I have some very strong opinions that I do not hesitate to share with readers. For example, I generally recommend against purchasing a Disney Dining Plan. Even when I was a Luxury Travel Advisor I recommended against purchasing the Disney Dining Plan, even though I would earn more commission if I sold it to you. But I strongly believe that the plan is not good value for 95 per cent of Disney travelers.
Nowadays I provide Disney vacation itinerary planning services to a select group of travelers. I follow my own unique Discovery Process and recommend what is best for my clients. I charge a flat fee for my travel consulting service and I am not driven by what you buy or don’t buy.
Strong opinions backed by solid examples of first-hand experience over a long timeframe are a good indication that the travel agent is a seasoned veteran. Do not settle if your intuition is telling you that a travel agent may not be right for you.
Q4. What is your process for getting to know me and my family?
It is absolutely crucial when booking Disney vacations that your agent takes the time to get to know you and your family. You do not want the dreaded cookie-cutter itinerary.
I have a very strong philosophy when it comes to planning Disney vacations and it all stems from getting to know each individual traveler and their family. Every itinerary that I create is based on a client’s unique situation and every single itinerary is custom-made for that client. So beware of any agent who offers a trip itinerary without ever asking for any in-depth information about your family. You will likely be getting a cookie cutter off-the-shelf vacation plan. You may as well get one of those for yourself off the Internet and book your vacation direct with Disney.
Q5. Do you have a Disney travel specialty?
Generalists are okay, but by definition you will not be receiving the same depth and value of advice that you will receive from a specialist. Specializing in Disney vacations is a start, but this is such a huge category that there are many travel agents with sub-specialties within the Disney travel niche. If you take the time to look around, you’ll find one that matches your needs exactly. So don’t settle for a generalist when you can get the services of a specialist.
For example, I specialize in Deluxe Disney vacations because this is what I have done for nearly 50 years. I know Deluxe Disney inside and out. Some travel agents may have other areas of specialization. You’ll get the most value and likely the best overall Disney vacation experience if you can find a Disney travel agent you like within your specialty. So be sure to search for a travel agent with that in mind.
Q6. Why should I do business with you over any other Disney Travel Agent?
This is the most telling question of all.
The answer you receive to this question will tell you everything you need to know about a Travel Agent and how professionally they approach their business.
If your travel agent cannot answer this question to your satisfaction, you will see through them pretty quickly. They should not have to stutter or stammer for a response when you ask them. You want to deal with a professional, not an amateur. A travel agent with no value proposition will likely fall back to stating the number of times they have visited Walt Disney World Resort. Remember, if that number is less than 50 times and if the first year they have ever visited starts in the 2000s, you’re going to want to dig a little deeper into their actual depth of knowledge and experience and likely continue on to the next Disney Travel Agent on your list.
No Cost Doesn’t Mean No Risk
Always remember: just because a given Travel Agent may be working for “free” doesn’t mean you should be any less diligent in whom you choose to work for you. A well crafted Disney vacation plan will leave your family with wonderful Disney memories. A poorly planned Disney vacation can have a big negative impact on your overall vacation experience.
So ask these questions, choose wisely and you will no doubt have a magical Disney vacation that will have you coming back for years to come. Beyond these questions, you’ll also want to know how they will communicate with you and keep you updated on your Disney travel plan, among other things. So don’t be shy about asking questions! It’s all about being a good fit between you and your agent.
Planning a Walt Disney World Deluxe Vacation?
Be sure to read my Guide to Planning A Walt Disney World Vacation and my post on the Five Golden Rules of Walt Disney World Vacation Planning.
Mike Belobradic: The Finer Side of Disney Travel
Canadian Luxury Travel Blogger – Deluxe Disney Travel Specialist
The Finer Side of Travel™