This post brought to you by Christina Wood of Pixie Vacations, the preferred Disney vacation travel planner of The Disney Blog.
You may have noticed my articles popping up over here at the Disney Blog for a while now and I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Chris, and I write here and at my own blog, Everything Walt Disney World. I’m also part of the Mouse Chat podcast team and I’m a travel agent with Pixie Vacations. I spend about 55 days (and counting) a year in the parks, both in Walt Disney World and Disneyland and I’ve been fortunate to cover everything new that’s popped up over the last couple of years. In short, I have a little bit of a Disney obsession.
As a travel agent and a blogger, I walk the fine line between selling Disney and giving readers the most honest opinion possible about my experiences in the parks, resorts, and restaurants. Fortunately, Disney makes this pretty easy: It’s a great product. When it’s not such a great product, I make sure my readers know. Hopefully some bean counter at Disney sees it and passes it on to someone who can make a positive change.
As a travel agent, I get two questions all the time: 1) How do I get your job and 2) what can you do for me? I’m going to concentrate on the second one. First, if you’re a Disney fan or even if you’re just planning your first trip and you don’t yet know if you’ll even like Disney (you probably will), go with an agent who specializes in Disney, known as an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. You’ll want to look for the “Earmarked” designation which tells you that this agency sells mostly Disney and that its agents are all trained by Disney. It doesn’t have to be a huge agency, or even one that’s that well-known, but find an agent who travels to Disney frequently, keeps up with changes and, just as importantly, with whom you connect.
One of the biggest things we do as agents is watch for discounts. When they come out, we apply them automatically. Quite often, our clients don’t even know that the discount has been released until we send them an email telling them how much they’ve saved. We also offer itineraries and advice. When you’re in the parks as much as I am, you know when a restaurant has started to slip, where all the lesser-known gems are, and which waiter you want on that big night out.
When My Disney Experience was announced, a lot of travel agents thought it was the end of our jobs, but what I’ve found is that it’s made me more useful than ever to my clients. Now I can work with them on Disney’s online system to make dining reservations and choose fastpasses. Quite often, we’ll sit down and pick out fastpasses for the best rides, working around their dining and other reservations. That’s one of the fun parts of my job.
One thing I’ve found that clients appreciate the most is always talking to the same person. When I first talk to a client, I always spend the first 30 minutes or so getting to know them: How often they’ve been to Disney, what their likes and dislikes are, what their goals from this vacation are, if they have food allergies, physical limitations, and the like. All of that information goes into their file. In fact, I’m looking at a file right now that says “X-Ray Tech–Military Mom” on my desk. That might not sound like much, but that helps me remember that mom and that it’s a graduation trip. Doing this helps me get to know that individual and give them the best, most personalized vacation possible. So six months after I book their vacation, if a dad with a kid with sensory issues calls me to say he wants to eat at T-Rex, I can tell him that it might be too much for his little one. Personalized service is a huge benefit.
Of course, the question is, what do you give up when you work with an agency? The answer is pretty simple: Nothing. Never go with an agent who charges you for her services. We are compensated by Disney. Many agents, including myself, offer gift cards or some sort of incentive for bookings, particularly for cruises. If you want to make your own dining reservations, you can. Basically, you take as much or as little of my services as you wish.
I hope you enjoy reading my travel tips here. In fact, I’d love to hear about what you’d like to read about in the upcoming months in the comments section. Thanks!