Easier to Book Your Own Trip, Right? | Disney World

  • The bad news is we have a very short quiz for you. The good part is that there is no pass or fail.

    It is also short. Only one question.

    And it might involve something you’ll want to know more about.

    What’s that?

    Getting some help with your visit.

    Not only from us, but others as well.

    Say you are booking a Walt Disney World Resort vacation package.

    Those are direct from Disney. No discounts.

    But there are other rules and stipulations.

    With this type of package, you have to pay the first night’s room rate as a deposit within seven days of the reservation. But next year, the requirement changes.

    Keeping up with these changes, however, is hardly a part-time job.

    So bear with us just one more quick minute for the quiz.

    Question: How many days do you need beforehand to cancel a Disney hotel reservation without penalty?

    A.3 days. Or B: 5 days.

    The answer is B, unless you are doing an online booking. Then it’s 6 days or C (yes, not on this quiz).

    See what we mean?

    It’s almost enough to discourage you from doing your own bookings.

    Disney Travel Agent

    And that’s where a travel agent helps.

    So whatever you think of doing yourself, and however much you may be your own expert, the best advice is to consider this: help from others.


    To save time, first.

    To save money, second,

    Saving money is obvious. And everyone wants it.

    What is your time worth?

    Time. Not so much.

    But when you think about it…

    Imagine yourself on vacation. A limited time.

    You’re on your way to the Walt Disney World Resort.

    You have gotten up early to be there before the park opens.

    You know that’s a good time to start getting in line for the most popular rides.

    You are thinking how smart you are to have this special knowledge.

    You are content.

    Now you are Disney-bound from downtown Orlando. A 15-20 mile trip. At 60 miles an hour, less than 20 minutes.

    You are driving on the main road to get there, I-4. But everyone else this day is on that road.

    And there’s is a huge accident on the interstate.

    Someone was talking on their cell phone. And crashed into the truck in front of them.

    Then, a whole line of vehicles collided, stringing out an accident along four miles.

    It takes you three hours instead of 20 minutes to get there.

    And every mile in blocked traffic, you are stressed.

    Finally: arrival, or maybe

    Then, you’re just at the gates.

    You have to park, then take the shuttle to the ticket office, buy your tickets, then stand in line for the monorail…

    You get the picture. More delay.

    This is your vacation time. And you’re spending it inching forward on a highway…instead of getting on rides.

    Maddening, isn’t it?

    So if you had an alternate way of driving, saving you time, you would certainly appreciate it.

    And there is one, trust me. But you have to know it, and most visitors don’t.

    No, no matter what you do, there are no guarantees that you can avoid wasting time or saving money by turning to others for help.

    But it is at least possible.

    Probable, in fact.

    To understand why we say this, let’s look at your options for a visit.

    You can assume you already know all you need to know.

    And are making all your own arrangements.

    Buy your Disney tickets beforehand.

    Make travel arrangements (whether that includes jumping in your car to drive here, or booking an airline reservation or even taking a train….perhaps the least likely option).

    You might also decide where you will stay.


    Choices and more choices

    Get a hotel?

    Or better, use one of those couch sharing or other sites as a cheaper alternative to a real hotel.

    You will also be deciding what else you might do while you are here in Orlando.

    Stay at Disney all the time.

    Or visit other attractions?

    Go for a swim (hopefully, it is warm enough if you want that as an option)?

    Visit a dinner attraction?

    Go shopping?

    All kinds of alternatives when you are not busy at a theme park.

    Even meals.

    Deciding where you might eat.

    And we mean lonesome here for your decisions. No help from anybody, unless you ask a partner or someone else about their particular preferences.

    Do it all yourself or ask for help

    Sure, possible.

    But we all need some help.

    Keep in mind another fact:

    Walt Disney World Resort is 47 square miles.

    That is larger than the entire city of San Francisco.

    It’s twice the size of Manhattan (and if you’re been there lately or at any time, you know how big that is, and how distracting for thinking…noisy with sirens, etc.).

    So you might want to talk to friends, relatives, anyone who might normally give you advice.

    Assuming they have been here, they might very well have useful advice.

    No one knows it all, of course.

    What are your other options?

    Do it all yourself.

    Go to the Disney web site. They have a lot of information.

    For the most, it is very believable.

    Even objective.

    Disney itself has some good advice

    That is not a terrible choice. In fact, it’s a good one. And works well for most guests.

    But perhaps there are even better choices

    Travel agents.

    And Disney trained agents.

    Why would you want help…no matter your own situation?

    Here is an admittedly positive post from a blog written by a Disney visitor:

    “I always, ALWAYS planned my own families’ vacation. The amount of research that can go into finding all the best deals can be very time consuming. And it was for me and for typical families and others who want a great deal but don’t have the time to do all the research. So I found an agent who looks out for me. My visits now are a lot easier, and a lot happier.”

    The blogger had a good time at Disney. No complaints. But she had an even better time when she got help.

    Others point out that with overwhelming choices, it’s always helpful to get more advice. And the catch of asking is that there’s no cost.

    The travel agent business, in common with many others, has changed a lot in recent years. So what that means to you:

    Free, sure

    Yes, it exists (but no, not always).

    Some short history has to be considered here…

    Many travel agents, at one time, made much of their income from selling airline tickets. Which ended when the airlines took over the business of ticket selling by themselves.

    Saved them money. Made them happier. Did nothing for their customers.

    Today, agents still sell airline tickets. Some charge for it, while others do not.

    Maybe made them happy but not their customers. They found it confusing. They had to wade through mountains of information and small type notations of exceptions, and “wherases” and what ifs?

    For most agent users, the main difference today is that many…though not all…travel services come without charges to the user or consumer.

    Instead, airlines add their costs to tickets. And Disney (among others) builds agent commissions into their prices.

    It sounds elementary, but if you just glance at advertisements, you will quickly see many consumers are not aware of that.

    Some things change

    What has not changed: The really good agents go above and beyond.

    They will answer questions or handle problems at 3 a.m.

    They actually return telephone calls.

    Usually promptly.

    But before we sound like a PR man selling you on agents….consider there are pros and cons to them.

    For the pros, how can they save money…

    By finding the best deal, of course.

    Right now, there are dozens of special discounts at Disney.

    You could find them yourself. But you might miss the one that applies to you.

    Or you might get tired of reading all of them and miss it for that reason.

    But there’s also the time savings.

    This comes not only in making arrangements.

    Which, as we have seen, can take hours.

    But as an aside…Have we been neglecting what sites such as ours can do for you?

    Maybe. But we’ll get back to that later.

    First, more on agent help.

    Finding you alternate routes to get to the park when there are traffic tie-ups due to accidents…as we detailed earlier.

    What good agents know

    What should you look for when finding an agent, Disney certified or other?


    You can find this on their web site where they often list the background of their agents.

    Also read what others say about them.

    A long list of satisfied and happy campers who detail what an agency did for them is obviously positive (though when the agencies themselves start bragging about their “amazing service” or offering the “very best service” or “unprecedented help,” take it with a grain of salt, as they say. Amazing is an overused word, just to pick on one description).

    Look for real down-to-earth and specific accomplishments that agents did for their clients.

    Generalities are not convincing.

    What can good agents (Disney certified or not) help you with?

    • The best time for you to go.

    It’s easy and simplistic for an agent to say don’t visit a park on Easter vacation when children are out of school. But good advisors take into account your particular situation (children or none, perhaps children who attend a school that has vacations or off times that don’t coincide with most kids so that you would be better off during certain periods).

    Agents can also advise you about other ongoing events in the area that might appeal to yourself or your family.

    They can also suggest restaurants that fit into your or your family’s particular preference such as dietary restrictions, for example.

    Such seemingly mundane matters as where to park (not so routine when you have to walk for a half a mile, and it’s raining heavily) are also examples of what others can do to help your vacation.

    Where to stay is always important

    And of course, hotels. Which are right for you?

    We are thinking here not just about price. But there’s more.

    Let’s take a very quick look at just one example among many: Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge has rooms with bunk beds. But you have to request them.

    You might get it anyway because you might hear about it from the booking person, but no guarantees.

    Free maps and aps are available that you might find very useful. That might include typical wait times at popular rides so your scheduling is simpler and certainly more effective at using your limited time at the park.

    Anyone in the family have a disability?

    Again, help is there.

    Airline tickets? Agents are often useful at finding the cheapest and sometimes even more important, the most convenient way to get from here to there.

    Difficult or hard-to-get dining reservations?

    Many require 180 days in advance.

    Another example: you have a large family. Consider Deluxe Villas at the Disney Vacation Club. They not only offer suites and full kitchens but do not charge extra for additional adult guests beyond the first two (as some others do).

    There are also agent negatives

    By this time, you must wonder:

    There must be disadvantages to agents.

    Otherwise, wouldn’t everyone use them?

    Of course, there are minuses.

    People who want to have control and place a high value on it will not be content trusting others to make their arrangements. They will be suspicious and second guess arrangements.
    Also, changes in the program, say hotel reservations, might have go through someone else. Some people simply don’t like that.

    And once someone else makes your schedule, your flexibility to make sudden and last minute changes is eroded. You can be locked into your schedule times.

    There’s also always a chance the agent will try to upsell you, or sell you more than you want. Not really likely with Disney agents, but it can happen.

    Keep in mind that travel agents who are not specialists in Disney are generalists. And spending a few hours on a blog site will almost always let you know more about your trip than just about anything known by a general travel agent.

    Tips for you

    Here’s two general tips for dealing with agents.

    1. Some agents will undoubtedly try harder than others to understand what you want and get you the best deal for you. If the first agent is not doing what you want, say thanks, end the call. Try a new one.
    2. Also keep in mind that many people cancel reservations. So if your dates don’t work at the time, ask your agent about alternatives or call again in the hope that a date you wanted opens up (even though you are using the help of others, you still need to make some efforts of your own).

    So all of this also brings us to sites such as ours.

    All of these contain information.

    Most (the vast majority) of them are well-intentioned.

    But some are better than others (not just for honesty, but for the type of information that is not just informational but has real use for you).

    Sure, you can find all this out by yourself.

    But you have to take the time.

    And there’s a lot of information to sort through.

    Like anything else in life, it’s easier if you have the right help. ###