There are so many decisions that go into a Disney trip. One of the first is whether or not to use a travel agent.
Do I need a travel agent?
It is totally possible to plan a trip without a travel agent. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with Disney policies and booking procedures, so you can maximize your trip. Some people prefer to handle all their own planning and even enjoy it! I’ll be writing about trip planning soon!
But here’s the thing. Travel agents are free. That’s right. Most travel agents who specialize in Disney vacations are paid commission from Disney, not you.
When we learned this, it was a no-brainer for us to have expertise and assistance at absolutely no cost to us.
What should I look for in a travel agent?
All travel agents are not created equally. They each have their own planning style and commitment level to their clients. I’m sometimes flabbergasted by folks’ experiences with travel agents who just don’t seem to care. This shouldn’t be the norm and can be avoided really easily, by asking your travel agent about their services before you book. If you’re going to use an agent, it only makes sense to look for someone who will go above and beyond their obligations (which are to book your resort and tickets package).
Most travel agents will handle your fast passes and dining reservations, but they aren’t required to. So, make sure your agent is prepared to help with these details, unless you want to be the one stalking the Disney website at dawn when your windows open!
Some travel agents will also write a touring plan for you, but, again, they aren’t required to. If you aren’t familiar with the parks and how to most efficiently move throughout them, hitting the highlights and street entertainment, these can be invaluable. I highly suggest asking about this service too. Their expertise can make magic happen, like catching a parade right outside of the restaurant you have a dining reservation at.
The rare, magical travel agent will also help you book any “extras”, things they don’t make a commission on and that are far and above their obligations to you as a client. These are things like first haircuts at Harmony Barbershop and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointments. If you can find one of these magical unicorns, book through them. These are the agents that are deeply invested in your vacation and making sure every detail is handled.
Our family travel agent is one of those unicorns. She goes through every detail of our trip, looking for ways to maximize our value and incorporate all the fun we are looking for. Before she writes our touring plan and books our FastPasses, she sends a spreadsheet with all of the attractions listed and a column for each member of our travel party. We rank our “must do” attractions, along with everything we want to do, and then she goes to work. Before our trip, a book arrives with our touring plan, suggested snacks and quick service meals, fun things to look for, important phone numbers and information, and all kinds of other details. It really is like magic.
How do I find a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations?
My suggestion is to always start by asking a trusted friend or family member. They’ll be able to tell you about their experience, so you feel comfortable. I also see many people post on Facebook and within groups asking for suggestions. You can also google travel agents and find an agency that appeals to you.
However you find a travel agent, just remember to ask them about their services upfront, so you know what to expect!
How do I book through a travel agent?
Each agency works differently, but generally, you’ll speak directly with your agent, either by phone or in person, about your trip. They may want you to have decisions made about travel dates and Resorts, but a good agent will be willing to help you figure out these details.
We give our travel agent a general travel window and budget and she finds us the best value within those two constraints.
Most agencies will have their own system for processing payments. Once we’ve made our travel plans, our agent sends us a secure authorization link that we fill out and submit, which she then uses to process payment through the vendor’s website (Disney, Universal, whatever). We have the option of making a down payment, payments along the way, or paying for the trip in full. We typically opt to make a down payment ($200 for packages or the cost of our first night’s stay without a package) and then pay in full shortly before our balance is due.
Can I still plan my own vacation with the help of a travel agent?
Absolutely! Travel agents should let you handle as many details as you want! You still have complete control over your vacation details and can make changes to things like FastPasses and dining reservations at any time through the Disney website or app. The only changes that can’t be made without your agent are things like travel dates, room categories, tickets, or dining plans, because those are all attached to your payment (which is handled through them and how they earn their commission).
What do travel agents make commission on?
Travel agents generally make commission on resort stays, tickets, dining plans, and VIP tour experiences.
Some folks understandably are concerned about their travel agent having their best interests and bank accounts at heart. The thing is, a good travel agent wants you to be a customer for life. That means that they’re focused on planning the absolutely best vacation for your family, not upselling you.
All of the pricing and information is also available to you on the Disney website, so you can always spot check to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Again, a good agent will make sure you’re getting that best deal and check in with you when new promotions or discounts are released. Our agent often calls us to apply a new promotion or present a new option.
This post is not sponsored, presented, or influenced by any travel agent or agency. The opinions and information are completely our own!
If you’ve read this post and feel like a travel agent is right for you and would like a recommendation, feel free to email us for our agent’s information.