Do I need a Disney travel agent to book a Walt Disney World vacation?

Welcome to Magic Kingdom - 1

I see this question ALL THE TIME online, in every Disney Facebook group this question is asked at least once per week.  It’s a great opportunity for every travel agent in the group to pipe in with “I can help” (I’m convinced some of the anonymous posters are in fact agents looking to advertise!).  This is also the time where some of the group “experts” weigh in to tell you why you don’t need an agent.  With so many conflicting opinions on social media it is incredibly confusing to know what to do, so I’m going to give it to you straight.  I’m going to tell you exactly why you should have a professional travel advisor when you’re booking your Walt Disney World vacation.

Before we go ANY further – I have been a travel advisor myself for over 15 years and I own my own travel agency.  Did I write this post to advertise my agency?  Nope.  I am a true lifelong Disney fan. I want people to go and love it as much as I do.  If you have bad advice during the planning process, your experience can suffer.  This post is about providing the facts about planning a Disney trip.  The advice I’m giving could apply for any GOOD PROFESSIONAL travel advisor that specializes in Disney vacations.    

(Please note the caveat is a GOOD PROFESSIONAL ADVISOR.  Not one from a Multi Level Marketing agency or an order taker at a big box store – a real travel advisor.  For tips on picking one click here).

Here are 5 reasons you should have a travel agent when booking your Walt Disney World vacation

1  The advice you get online is not the same as a professional agent

Sure I’ve heard people say “but I like to do the research myself”  and I totally get that.  You want to read the reviews, get the opinions and understand what is available, after all – it’s your vacation! The problem with this is that these ‘experts’ online giving you their opinions vacation the way it makes sense for their family.  They are not in the parks looking for details, services or tips that would help YOUR family, they are enjoying their own trip with their family.

The best Disney travel planners never really get a ‘vacation’ in Walt Disney World (or anywhere else for that matter).  They are trained to look for things that help their clients by looking for things that impact people that have DIFFERENT needs than their own.  Some kids like to sleep in at Disney and maybe yours are early risers – do you want to take tips from the family that don’t get to the park until 2 hours after it opened?  Some have kids that won’t sit in a restaurant so they’ve never had a table service meal, do you want to take dining advice from them?

What works for the people on social media may not be what works for you.  Remember that you are getting advice based on what they experienced only.

A good Disney agent has years of personal experience, they are graduates of the College of Disney Knowledge and are supported by a professional team of Disney experts.  Don’t get caught up on the “authorized Disney vacation planner” title you see on some posts.  Disney’s Earmarked program status ONLY applies to the agency based on criteria that includes time in business.  The agent you’re working with at an Earmarked agency can be brand new, or the agent at a new agency can have 10 years experience.  It’s an important distinction.

Disneys Port Orleans French Quarter

Disneys Port Orleans French Quarter Resort

2  Disney math is hard

Disney is one of the few suppliers that regularly have promotions announced that can be applied to existing bookings.  Is the new deal always the better deal?  Nope!  Is it easy to tell that it’s not?  Not always!

With dining card promos, date restrictions and different discounts for different resorts – finding out what makes sense is not always easy.  Add to that the extensive wait times on the phone to call in and ask – and why would you WANT to do that yourself?

I have personally experienced clients who were convinced by ‘experts’ online that one discount was better than another and were quite angry that I hadn’t switched their reservation.  After a phone call and spreadsheet to explain the math – they understood that switching would have INCREASED their price by over $400 USD for the SAME reservation.  Every good travel professional has experienced this at least once sadly.

An advisor will let you know the best deals for you.  They will tell you if you could change your dates or resorts slightly to make it work or if you already have the best package available.  If they need to change your package to get the special offers then they sit on hold with the call center to get it done.  Sometimes they can switch it online (and are so thrilled when that happens!) but sometimes they have to deal with systems that don’t always “work”.  These travel advisors figure it out and navigate all of the complexities for your vacation package so that you don’t have to.  Why wouldn’t you want someone doing this for you?

Contemporary Resort Full Room

3  Picking a resort and tickets isn’t always easy

With all of the Disney resorts on property they have organized them in to categories.  Value, Moderate, Deluxe and Villas – and those are just the Disney ones!  This can be an overwhelming list of resorts, especially if it’s your first time.

How do you choose where to stay?  “We’re only in the room to sleep” is the advice I see all the time from the die hard Disney fans online.  For some people the most important thing is to have a bed to sleep in, but this isn’t the case for everyone.  Transportation needs, pools, restaurant and food options are a few of the factors that should be considered.

Do you want a pool with a slide?  How much time do you want to spend GETTING to the Magic Kingdom in the morning?  Do you want a bus that has 4 stops before leaving the resort?  Is someone afraid of heights and wouldn’t be able to get on the Skyliner?  How far do you want to walk to get coffee in the morning?  These are just some of the things that can take an ‘ok vacation’ to a wonderful experience if you’ve considered them before booking.  If someone goes all the time and stays at All Star Music – how would they know about the amenities at the other resort hotels?

Tickets are another fun thing to explore.  Date based pricing, park hopping, water parks and more – how do you decide what makes sense for your family?  Sure you can get advice from the group – but I promise that the various opinions will make your head spin!  Disney vacation planners will guide you through the options that make sense so you have the best vacation possible

4  There are new things ALL THE TIME

Walt Disney once said “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world” and that holds true today for all of the Disney parks and resorts.  Even Disney specialists find it is hard work to keep up with all of the changes.

With Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightening Lanes, virtual queues, Memory Maker and Magic Bands, it is so easy to get outdated or misinformation from well meaning people online.

While new attractions, resorts, room categories and activities add opportunities for fun, they also offer opportunities for disappointment.  Imagine telling your kids that you can see the fireworks from your bed only to discover you booked the wrong room category and you are staring at the parking lot?  How about telling them they’d have their own ‘pull down’ bed only to arrive and find out you didn’t book the 5th sleeper?  Will you get sick on the newest attraction?  Are your kids tall enough? What about telling them they’re going to see all sorts of Star Wars stuff only to arrive and realize you didn’t have plans for Hollywood Studios?  If you think it can’t happen to you – it can.  It is so easy to misinterpret or just miss some critical information.  I hear this story all the time and it is so sad because it’s completely avoidable.

5  You always have control

The best Disney Travel Agents are there to guide you, but you make the decisions and are always in control.  Agents offer advice and information that you may not have known or considered, and it’s tailored to your family.  You don’t have to weed through 47 conflicting opinions online to try and decipher what is really important and what is actually true.

As an agent, podcaster and blogger focused on Disney I have heard it all.  Stories of booking the wrong hotel, the wrong parks even the wrong STATE!  (Grand Californian and Grand Floridian do sound similar, but that didn’t help the man at the check in desk!).  I have people that reach out to me all the time with their horror stories and they are looking for advice for their next vacation.

While I may have shared with you some of the more extreme cases of issues, there are many more that are just annoyances that will make your trip less than a magical experience.  My question is – why take a chance?  Why wouldn’t you use a professional travel advisor with the extensive training that can help you every step of the way?

Don’t just take my word for it.  There is an op-ed written by Sarah Milner called “Why I Won’t Use Costco For Travel Again” that captured exactly what I’ve been saying perfectly.  Sarah wrote about her own experience with Costco Travel and how she advises against it.  You can read her article here for the specifics of her trip.

For my best advice on how to find a good agent – visit my blog on 6 Questions to ask your Disney Travel Agent or speak with one of my agents at Playcation Travel.  Remember that not all Disney travel agencies are created equal – and not all agents will be suitable to work with you.  Find the one that is not only qualified – but one that you CLICK with!

(Ok yes that last part is a plug for my agency – but honestly, I want people to go and have the most magical Disney vacation possible!)

Do I need a Disney travel agent to book my vacation?
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x