So you have decided to take a family vacation and have decided that it is going to be at Walt Disney World.
Planning a trip to Walt Disney World can seem overwhelming with 4 Theme Parks, 2 Water Parks, more than 20 Disney Resort hotels, a multitude of dining, recreation and other fun things, you can throw your hands up in the air wondering where to go first or what to do!
In a series of articles I take a look at some topics with the help of veteran Disney travelers to give you some advice:
Second- Using a Travel Agent:
In my last article, I spoke with Ray and Rachel Pilgrim about traveling to Walt Disney World with someone who has special needs. In this one, I take a look at planning your Walt Disney World vacation by yourself or with help from a Travel Agent.
For my family’s’ first trip to Walt Disney World, like most people, I did not know what I was doing and just called the 407 number and spent lots of time asking questions and trying to figure out what Walt Disney World was all about. It was very time consuming.
Stuart Sternberg, co-creator of the website, WDWFANZONE, a website where Disney enthusiasts can bring all their stories and provide advice to other Disney fans, explains, why using an agent might be worth it. "Anyone planning a first trip to Walt Disney World it isn’t as simple as going online or picking up a phone to make your reservations.” Stuart further says, “The size of Disney property, the parks, and the crowds can be overwhelming for someone on their first Disney trip so you have to approach each day of your trip with a plan and the understanding that you will not be able to do everything there is to do.”
This is an important point to remember. Walt Disney World is huge. When Walt Disney World sent us a map after we made our reservations, the point was driven home just how big the park was when we actually arrived and drove around the Walt Disney World Resort property.
“I would very strongly suggest that a first timer to Walt Disney World not only use a travel agent but one that is a no fee agency specializing in Disney vacation planning.” Stuart recommends.
Why? You might think it might be more expensive however, in a previous interview I did with Beci Mahnken, President of MEI & Mousefan Travel. Beci explained that people struggle with vacation planning and that is where someone like her, an “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner,” can help. Beci explained that having the specific designation means (1) you have specialized knowledge of Walt Disney World and Disneyland, having graduated from the College of Disney Knowledge and (2) that specialized knowledge saves your clients’ money. “This means you will pay the same price, or in many instances, less than you would if you booked directly with Disney.” Beci explains, “Disney pays us … and we don’t feel the need to try and nickel and dime our clients by tacking on additional needless fees.”
However, not everyone uses travel agents. Ray and Rachel Pilgrim, who run WDWAutism, a website where they post their travel ideas about taking trips to Walt Disney World or Disneyland with someone with Autism, explain that they did it all themselves: “We did it ourselves due to discounts that were available to us. We were somewhat familiar with Walt Disney World as we had been to Disneyland several times and I had been to Walt Disney World once as a child. We bought all the typical planning books and watch the Disney Planning DVD.”
Ray and Rachel have become experienced Walt Disney World travelers over the years, having learned through trial and error. “One thing we didn't really think about was crowds and the last day we were there it was Easter and we learned next time look at the calendar for holidays.” Rachel explained, “Looking back I can see the many benefits to using a travel agent for the first time to have that support. It usually doesn't cost extra if you book it yourself and they can answer many questions. Also, again we now have a huge Disney community on the Internet as well as great Disney Bloggers like Michael that sheds important information to those planning Walt Disney World.”
Stuart agrees that when it comes to planning a Walt Disney World trip you really need to sit down and do some homework. “Do your research, get travel agent recommendations from friends and family who have been to Disney World.” Stuart explains, “Once again it goes back to doing your research before you go to Disney. There are several excellent Disney planning guide books on the market and tons of information online. Try to find ones that caters to your needs. That includes the ages of everyone in your traveling party as well as anyone you are traveling with that may have special needs or dietary restrictions.”
Mike Rahlmann, host of the BeOurGuest WDW Trip Planning Podcast and Magical Mouse Radio, where you can get your Disney fix when you need it, is also a travel agent with the Magic For Less Travel agency, which specializes in Disney vacations.
As a travel agent, Mike knows that when it comes to trip planning some people can get a little stressed and no matter if you plan your vacation yourself or using a travel agent, Mike’s got some important tips to remember:
“First, you are going to have a magical time,” Mike explains, “you are in the happiest place on Earth, and things are going to be great. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you miss a parade, there will another one. If someone doesn’t like a particular meal, there are other options. If an attraction is down, there are countless other things to do. If you are flexible and trust that you will have a great time, it will be amazing.”
That’s a good point – many times we forget that when on vacation we should relax and enjoy where we are.
Another point in vacation planning is doing prep work, and Mike knows this as well: “Next, have a plan of some sorts. Do some homework. Know the general park hours, Extra Magic Hours, special events, etc. You don’t have to memorize these things, but just have a general game plan before you leave home will give you a leg up on the other guests, and more importantly, give you peace of mind.”
Peace of mind, we always want that during our vacation, right?
"Finally, you will never see it all and don’t try to.” We stressed this point earlier, Walt Disney World is huge. “If you enjoy Walt Disney World, you will get to come back. Take in what you can, and leave time to swim, rest, laugh, take pictures, etc. Enjoy what you can while you are there, and leave some memories to experience new in the future!”
Thanks to everyone who gave so many great points, I appreciate you taking the time to contribute to this article. Walt Disney World is a great place and you can find more information about trip planning at everyone's sites:
You can find more about Stuart Sternberg at his website, WDWFANZONE.