Is a Travel Agent Worth It?

January 28, 2012
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For someone like me who’s very controlling about our vacations, using a travel agent was never an option I’d seriously considered in the past.  I’d used travel agents for other trips or booking locations off site but I wasn’t sold on someone else having my Disney magic in their hands.  On our most recent trip, my outlook changed.  As you might know, I’m almost six months pregnant so between dealing with all the fun of that, the stresses of my full time job, volunteering at my son’s school, planning our local breast cancer walk and so many other things, I didn’t have the time to devote to vacation planning as I would have liked.  There was also more pressure with this trip – my mom and step dad were making their first trip to Disney during part of our stay.  Knowing what a Disney nut I am, I’m sure they had some expectations about how things would go and that I’d have good plans to get us through the days.

After some thought, I decided to ask a friend (whose husband is a travel agent) for some help and advice.  Her husband, Joe DeFazio of Off to Neverland Travel, got back to me almost immediately with room availability, tons of dining suggestions and reassurance that everything would be alright.  I truly wanted to believe him but I’m an overly cautious person by nature.  My husband and I talked about his suggestions and I agreed that we would use Joe to book our rooms and dining package for the trip.  I still wanted control of meal reservations and park touring plans despite Joe’s offers to help with those items too.  He also helped my parents get their accommodations booked as well.

Our trip continued to get closer and closer and the pressure was mounting.  My to do list was growing and I became so frustrated with myself about not having more things planned for the trip.  About two weeks before our trip, I emailed Joe asking for help fitting in some Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs)  that I just couldn’t seem to get when I was searching for them.  I provided a list of places we’d like to get into with dates and times that would work with our travel plans.  Before long, I had an email back with confirmation numbers for what I’d asked for and more!  While we did change some things up a bit at the parks, overall it was just what I’d asked for.

While I truly love planning all the details of our Disney trips, it was nice to have someone who loves Disney as much as I do as my “back up”.  I’ve already emailed Joe about our trip in October 2012 (our baby’s first trip!!).  He’s certainly convinced this Disney planning obsessed mommy to let someone help them make the most magical trip possible and was even able to give me some tips for taking our new little one next year since he’s taken his children when they were young.  If you’re considering using a travel agent to help plan your trip, here are a few tips:

  • Make sure they know Disney.  Even if you don’t know it all (who does really?), make sure they’ve at least been to visit the Mouse before and have some good information to help make your trip awesome.
  • Feel comfortable.  If you can’t talk with your travel agent, you’re not going to have a great trip.  I’m always worried about hurting other people’s feelings but came to realize this is money that I’m paying for this trip and need to speak up for what I want.  Be sure you and your travel agent are a good fit for each other.
  • Know when to ask for help.  There might come a time in your trip planning that you need a little help with something – a room request, dining reservation or something else.  Ask your travel agent to help you out.
  • Know the costs.  You shouldn’t have to pay to use a travel agent.  Be sure you confirm this when you meet with them.  If they do charge a fee, I would recommend finding another agent to work with.
  • Travel Agents work great for groups.  Instead of trying to juggle and track everyone’s payments, balance and things like that, let them all make their plans through the same travel agent and the agent will manage the details for you.

Do you use a travel agent to help plan or book your trip or do you do it all yourself?

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2 Responses to Is a Travel Agent Worth It?

  1. Stuart on January 28, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Great article Lynn and welcome back to the Zone!

    Your article reminded me of how I came to choose my Disney vacation planner. In the days going back to when I first started listening to podcasts I was using a non-Disney specialist to book my vacations. I would call my agent if I heard of a special discount or offer and they would tell me they would look into it. When they would get back to me the answer was always the same that the offer/discount was limited and no longer available. Needless to say I stopped using that agency. My experience showed me the importance of how careful and selective you have to be when choosing a Disney vacation planner.

    Having had a bad experience with a travel agent caused me to plan my own Disney vacations and it took a long time before I found a travel planner I believed I could trust. There are a lot of excellent Disney travel agents out there and I found one vacation planner that seemed to stand above the rest but that wasn’t enough to convince me just yet. I was and still am an avid listener and fan of both WDW Radio and WDW Today. It was on those shows that I first heard Beci Mahnken and Annette Owens. It didn’t take long to realize that not only do Beci and Annette have great passion for all Disney vacation destinations they have great expertise and that’s what finally convinced me to go with MEI & Mouse Fan Travel. I couldn’t be happier with my travel planner, Sara Varney who also happens to be the co-host of the great Passporter Moms Podcast whose expertise and passion for Disney comes through loud and clear on each show. I also know if a discount becomes available to lower my costs it will be taken care of without me having to contact Sara and ask for it.

    I think you are providing some great and helpful advice and you too Lynn would make a great Disney vacation planner!

  2. Kurt_Illinois on January 29, 2012 at 8:08 PM

    Welcome back! I couldn’t agree more! I always do my own booking for my trips to WDW, but when I needed to book a surprise trip to Disneyland for my family I researched first and then called Mousefan Travel to compare notes. Stephne Hilgendorf not only found me a better deal, she was able to combine offers that I didn’t even realize were available! Hats off to Beci, Stephne, and the rest of her team!

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