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  • Some Advice (Not) to Take

    Everyone’s got advice. Insider stuff. Just for you, of course.

    Have you heard it?

    Don’t pay full admission price. Get discounts. Arrive before opening hours. Get a FastPass. Etc.

    There is a world of advice out there about visiting Walt Disney World Resort.

    But what should you not do?

    There’s a lot of that, too.

    And while you probably don’t do any of these things, you might spot one or two that you might want to reconsider.

    And it might simply amuse you to know what others...unlike you, of course…should not…we repeat never, never…do these things during a Disney visit.

    Please don’t even think of doing it

    Beside this, we’ll give you what we term a “moral to the story.” Which might have some things you want to also consider…

    To get some idea of the type of behavior that is not appropriate at Disney (and a few other places as well), you merely need to look at blogs to see incidents like these:

    “I had something similar happen on Pirates of the Caribbean last year. A father was taking flash photos of his sons on the ride in front of us, so they were blinding us every 10 seconds, while the mom was recording a video of the whole ride with the flash on... so basically like using a flashlight on the ride. I asked them both to stop, but they didn't speak English (or chose not to) and continued to do it. We complained at the end of the ride and pointed them out. We were told we could use the FP line and go again, but what I really wanted was SOMEONE to tell that family they can't do that. It's not fair that one family can ruin the enjoyment of the ride for the whole boat and not having anything said to them. I'm sure they went and did that on every single ride that day.”

    Sometimes, everyday basic rudeness is the problem here. But you can see how easy it is for others to ruin what should be the happiest time.

    But it doesn’t take another rude person to bring chaos to your visit.

    You can ruin the visit yourself

    So here are 13 “not to do’s” to make sure your own visit is not ruined, and that it is a happy one (why 13? Why not? Isn’t that a lucky number, anyway?).

    1. Here’s a really elementary rule: don’t rush to the front of the park right after getting there. A lot of people…maybe even most of them…do this. You are probably accustomed or brainwashed to think you need to start at the beginning of the park, surely not the end. That’s like Alice in Wonderland.

    The moral:

    Go to the back of the park for areas where lines are shorter. If you go to the back, you will at least know where to exit and can plan the rest of your trip from that useful navigating point. If there’s already a line or two already there, consider this: studies have shown that most people given the choice take the right line (the right one, no?). Park people know this so they make that line longer. So go left, of course. You really won’t avoid all crowds that way but it helps. Actually, turning on the left side of your brain wherever you see lines is good advice anywhere you end up.

    1. Don’t get up early. That’s for poor slobs who don’t know getter. Sleep in. Very late. After you have stayed up most of the night. Lots of night spots at Disney. Surrounding it as well. You have to visit them all. Now you are ready for a long day’s entertainment. Roller coaster rides. Hot dogs. Cotton candy. Chocolate ice cream. What’s that? You need an Alka-Seltzer for your upset stomach? You need an aspirin, too? Your head hurts?

    The moral:

    You have to be ready to take on Disney. Fortunately, this does not mean the same as training six hours a day for two months for an Iron Man contest. But it does mean getting some rest from late night entertainment and getting at least a reasonable amount of sleep the night before. That’s the proper training regimen for this exercise. Stick to it.

    1. Don’t prepare at all. Your attitude in life is just to show up. What else do you need? You don’t do any research about Disney. You already know it all. You have talked to your friends. They have told you where to eat and what rides are worth it. You already know all you need to know before you get anywhere near the park.

    The moral:

    Do your research. Read the books. You don’t even have to buy any. Your public library if it is any size at all almost certainly has plenty of guide books. You can also do research on the internet. If you really know what to expect, such as crowds and perhaps very, very hot days, you have to know something else: how to prepare. And how to really enjoy the entire scene. And something to always keep in mind: No matter how much you know, nobody knows it all.

    1. Don’t bring your maid along. Oh, you don’t have one? Tough. She might be welcome for some visitors, of course, who leave their dishes on tables and benches (yes, really happens a lot). Disney robots will pick them up (and they do). Changing diapers is also not that unusual, but leaving them behind as souvenirs without price tags is not a happy remembrance of the magical time.

    The moral:

    At the very least, clean up. Do what mom told you, something about “cleanliness being next to Godliness.” No, not exactly that and hardly true anyway, but you know what we mean, don’t you?

    1. Expect to just pop in to any restaurant anytime you want or drop in to sample the food at a character meal with you and your family. You just pop in for the character meals because you want to avoid the crowd of those poor people standing in line for autographs.

    The moral:

    Yes, people do think this is just an impromptu event. Some of them think it but of course, it does not happen. But restaurants are often crowded, particularly at this time of year near the Christmas season. And character meals do need reservations. Come to think of it, it always helps to have a restaurant reservation at a crowded theme park -- unless your visit comes just as hurricane winds tear at the park. So be realistic. Even though you are looking for magic, keep your eyes and ears open, your feet firmly grounded and don’t expect any miracles.

    1. 6.Don’t take your time to enjoy anything. Do rush from stop to stop frantically. You see this all the time. Couples or young families with small kids tugging their hands being pulled, even dragged, from one ride to the next ride, rushed, looking like a family version of firefighters rushing to get to the next blaze.

    The moral:

    Yes, enjoy the rides and the parades, and the characters along the way. But stop to see the meticulous landscaping, the stately statutes, the eye-catching gardens…all the dedicated work of Imagineers who have taken time and effort to present this kaleidoscope of color for your enjoyment.

    In other words, you are in another place, practically another country. The Disney parks are full of wonderfully creative details. While walking down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, look up to the store windows. You will find the names of influential people here. Study the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom with its 300 animal carvings. These are all things that do not cost a cent but are highly entertaining. And enjoyable. The street performers are also worth watching. Many have great talent and the shows at Epcot’s World Showcase are going non-stop. Stop to appreciate the characters. There are wonders everywhere. How often do you even do simple things like riding a monorail such as Disney’s? It’s routine here. Just an everyday thing but appreciate it. So stop to smell the flowers, please.

    1. More on this subject: Don’t ever stop. You will be sorry if you do. You have to be careful not to waste your time here. Live in fear of that happening. After all, this is not a cheap trip to an inexpensive drive-in restaurant for hamburgers or a cheap trip visit a free local history museum.

    The moral:

    Take a break. Take a lot of breaks. No one will think you are lazy if you sit on a park bench for a few minutes. Watch the crowd. Let that be part of your pleasure of visiting the park. Talk to cast members. Or stop at the French restaurant in Epcot for a longer meal with dessert ala European-style (they know how to enjoy food in Europe in places like Paris). There is no such thing as wasted time at Disney. All your time there is worthwhile. So soak up the enjoyment.

    1. Don’t stop complaining endlessly about the price you are paying so dearly to be here. Yes, they can’t fool you. Prices are high. Admit it. This is far from cheap thrills. Think of it. Not just the price of a ticket to get into the park. But what it costs to get here with airfare and staying at expensive hotels, for example. And what they charge when you’re in the park for food and for souvenirs. You can’t find a 50-cent hot dog anywhere. You can’t find one for a dollar, either. PS: in case you don’t know it, there are no dollar stores within 20 miles or so of theme parks.

    The moral:

    Do something about it. Don’t waste a lot of money on souvenirs that will sit neglected in a closet back home. Get some free ones. They are there. Maps and cards, for example. Eat more often at inexpensive restaurants. Or bring your own picnic food. And don’t waste your time looking for dollar stores, either. You will have to find them a long ways from the parks.

    1. Don’t bother to pick a place where everyone can meet up. Just in case they get lost. That would not happen to you, would it? So what if this park is as big as San Francisco. You never get lost. No worry, mates. No sweat.

    The moral:

    This actually happens. All the time. Families get separated. Get lost. It’s not a comfortable feeling. And easily avoided. You already know what to do but pick a meeting place. Just in case.

    1. Don’t waste your time, either, by arriving early to get the best spot to see the nightly parade. Try to wait in line just after breakfast. In reality, that sounds silly, but not so far-fetched. Visitors sometimes start staking out a spot as early as noon or at lunchtime. Yes, they are pretty eager for that parade. But there really are no special best seats. You’ll be able to see the parade almost anywhere.

    The moral:

    You might think it’s worth be worth the wait because it’s a long-standing tradition that you will see new floats, etc. But to waste hours spent getting the best spot is to mistake your priorities. You are here to enjoy the park’s many attractions. Consider spending your time enjoying the rides, shows, etc., and view any parade-watching as nice but a secondary event not worth wasting long waits. Your time is worth more than that.

    1. Don’t waste your money, either, by staying at a Disney property. They are all expensive. You can’t afford it. You’re only going to sleep there, anyway,

    The moral:

    Disney properties in recent years have gotten far more affordable with more options. If you can afford it, the hotels offer other amenities in addition to proximity. Don’t rule them out just on affordability because they might be worth your time. Hotel costs are often less than you think because of the added free amenities such as parking, etc. Also, if you’re really concerned about saving money on hotels, consider the eastern side of Orlando off the I-4 exits, even as far away as the bedroom suburbs of Seminole County. Hotels farther away from Disney tend to be cheaper. But remember that you will also pay for it in added time on the highway and congested I-4 to get to Disney. Up to you, of course, but we urge you consider your time.

    1. Don’t expect to eat well. The typical food at Disney is tasteless. Nothing more like hamburgers and hot dogs.

    The moral:

    No way. You can even get true gourmet food here -- outside of Epcot’s various pavilions as well. Ask a cast member. That’s one of the best ways to find out.

    1. All rides are for all ages. Simply put: they are not.

    The moral:

    Some attractions…let’s face it…are scarier than others. Some are obvious. You won’t take three-year-olds to Tower of Terror.

    Or maybe even Haunted Mansion. But little ones won’t want to miss It’s Tough to be a Bug. Obvious, yes. But Disney also does a good job of telling you what rides are all about. So just follow their advice on height and other restrictions.

    Do remember to have fun. Enjoy every minutes. Oops, how did that get in here? That’s good advice. And worth remembering. ###

    There are always some big questions you can’t answer. What is the meaning of life may be No. l.

    We have no idea and won’t attempt it.

    But there are a lot of other more down-to-earth questions we can answer. They are simpler.

    For example, we can tell you the best time to visit the Walt Disney World Resort. And should you really try to sneak an extra person or two into your Disney hotel room?

    And we can suggest a lot of other answers to questions you might have.

    Let’s start with the best time to visit. This is a question always near the top of the list for just about everyone.

    You may think you know the answer

    And maybe you think you already know the answer.

    But you could be wrong.

    That when-to-go issue is a good question right now because Christmas is the busiest time of the year just about everywhere -- including theme parks.

    Kids are out of school.

    Parents and those without kids love to travel now.

    We don’t recommend Disney for everyone now, however.

    Not if you really hate crowds, at least.

    Everyone, it seems, wants to be here now.

    But be aware that crowds come year-round.

    So much so that you probably read and are aware that Disney not so long ago raised admission prices.

    Disney will not admit it but there’s no doubt it was intended to actually reduce crowds.

    Disney is no fool when it comes to crowd conditions.

    They went more attendance, of course. But they also know too many people can discourage fellow visitors.

    Don’t like crowds: join the club

    Crushed crowds mean long lines for rides. Long lines to buy a turkey leg. Long waits for the Monorail.

    Perhaps worst of all: Lower levels of personal service and attention.

    Did you know that 62 million people visited Orlando last year?

    Most of them came to Disney.

    One estimate is that 50 million made it there (Disney does not give out attendance figures, so you have to guess).

    When to go?

    Our answer…please, about time.

    It depends (sorry about that)

    So the best time, we say, it depends…on you.

    We say that because crowds are smaller in the very hot (for Central Florida) summers.

    So if you are willing to get your shorts and t-shirt and open-toed scandals for more breathing room, summer is a better time to visit Disney.

    There are charts and facts and figures, and all sorts of answers on the best time to go. To avoid crowds and long waiting lines everywhere, that is.

    But the simplest answer is to go when the schools are in session.

    That does not prevent families with children. But it does discourage them and reduce their numbers.

    You can also go at Christmas, of course. But it will be crowded.

    However, the first couple of weeks in December are also good times. Crowds are thinner and the temperatures in Central Florida are cooler.

    More questions:

    Q: We’re on a budget but would like to stay at an on-site Disney Hotel? We know some Disney hotels cost upwards of $200 a night easily. Are these some economical ones?

    A: Sure. For just about $100 a night, you can book Disney’s Pop Century Resort or The All-Star Movies Resort or the All-Star Music Resort or the All-Star Sports Resort. The Pop Country has a retro feel from the 1960s the 90s. Anyone who likes movies will appreciate the All-Star Movies. It has a lot to like. All 1,920 rooms. Also, a Hockey rink pool. The Music for less than $100 has standard rooms and suites. For sports fans, also a lot to like. Almost 2,000 rooms dedicated to your athletic heroes.

    Friendly hotels…maybe not

    Q: What is a “Good Neighbor” hotel?

    A: If you have not heard of it, it usually has a ticket shop in the lobby. It sells full price tickets. Other than that, it does not mean much for you, the occupant (you can always buy full price tickets anywhere). Some of these are excellent while others are run-down and poorly run. So don’t be overly impressed with the idea of a “friendly neighbor.”

    Q: What else do we need to know about Disney resorts? And can we sneak someone in?

    A: Value resort rooms are normally equipped to sleep only four people. There are a few exceptions such as Caribbean Beach where many rooms offer a pull-out bed. Standard and deluxe rooms sleep more. So how strict is Disney about these rules? Disney enforces them whenever possible. They cite fire department rules that make them safer for you, of course. So sneak if you want but you will probably get caught.

    Q: What’s the difference between the real upscale resorts such as the Dolphin and the more affordable o- site or value hotels?

    A: Discounting themes, each hotel has its own special offerings. These include longer hours, free transportation, the ability to make better and quicker travel arrangements, various discounts and others. There are a lot of tempting perks for staying at a luxury Disney hotel. In fact, there are so many discounted advantages that you might re-consider that initial cost which becomes lower when you add up all the accompanying features.

    Q: We have a family member who has trouble walking? How far will we have to walk? And can you help?

    Walking time

    A: How far you walk varies but it is not unusual to walk anywhere from five to 15 miles, according to most estimates. You can rent an Electric Convenience Vehicle ECU while here. Walks from parking lots generally are very short, either from bus stops or tram or monorail.

    Q: We have a car and want the best place to stay on property to save walking?

    A: Almost certainly the Wilderness Lodge. Rooms, all of them, are in the main building. There is also valet parking.

    Q: We’re not renting a car…where should be stay at Disney?

    A: The most convenient hotels: the Contemporary and the Grand Floridian, both among the most expensive. The resort monorail has direct service to most places, though you have to take a bus to Animal Kingdom.

    Q: While we’re on the subject of overnight stays, what about alternatives such as vacation homes?

    A: Instead of hundreds of hotel choices, there are thousands of individual places offered by chains and individual home owners. There are also couches and other newer rental options. Houses usually offer a lot more room than hotels and help lower costs by giving access to kitchens. Ditto shared homes, though space here is seldom if ever as spacious as you will get renting an entire home. Disadvantages include transportation. They are often not on bus routes. So you will probably need a car. Other options such as sharing smaller homes or apartments with owners/occupants are often huge money savers. Don’t ever count on someone saying they are close to Disney, however. By their definition, that might mean 50 miles away (That is “close” for some). But we urge careful investigation, check references, and carefully evaluate web sites.

    Animals are welcome

    Q: What can I do about my pet Iguana?

    A: Many if not most hotels these days allow dogs and cats, and even some campsites such as Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Campground allows them. No pets can join you in the swimming pool. And you can expect in many cases to pay additional for them. But there are also organized kennels. But you can probably find a temporary home even for your type of pet.

    Q: The tipping issue. Do you tip Disney employees? Does everyone in the world expect a tip?

    A: Not really. Tipping can be very simple if you know and follow the general rules. Of course, you don’t need to tip Disney employees or even the character actors. Hopefully, they are well paid enough to live on what they make. But other rules are fairly simple. At the airport, if you arrive that way, do tip (they do expect it). That goes for anyone who handles your luggage. But otherwise, skip it. Mass transit buses and other over-the-road vehicles to get you to Disney and hotels usually have signs that no tip is necessary. So that’s up to you (if you get superior or special service, for example). A dollar a bag of luggage is standard and very acceptable. If you take a taxi, he or she may expect a tip. But that’s up to you. Tipping is for good service. So whenever you feel that is the case, think about a tip.

    Q: What is Disney’s Fast Pass Service?

    A: Quite simply, it avoids waiting in lines as an alternative to waiting at the most popular attractions. If you choose it, you insert your theme park ticket into the machine. Out comes the notice of when to return. One hour windows are normal. There is little or no wait. What’s to dislike?

    Q: Does Disney ever close…like when there are hurricane warnings or even when it rains?

    When the weather turns nasty

    A: Rain is no problem or Disney would have to close permanently (because it rains often, nearly every day, in the summer). If you hate the rain (and many find it helpful because it cools them off), indoor entertainment choices are common. As for hurricanes, a few times, but not likely.

    Q: When we visit, might some rides and attractions be shut down? And why is that?

    A: Yes, at almost any time. Particularly now that the new Star Wars is under construction. But anytime of the year, rides are shot down for inspections, or maintenance or updating. This often lasts only a few days (not so now with a new land being built). Some rides have to be shot down for weather. To give them credit, Disney usually schedules these shutdowns during slower periods. So this is also a hint for visitors looking to avoid crowds. Right after peak seasons are often a time when many rides renovate. It might well be worth of it for you to visit when some rides are shut down. There are always plenty more, after all.

    Q: We have a friend with a disability. Should we discourage him from going?

    A: No. Not at all. There are all kinds of help around. Check the DIS Board disABILITIES forum, to name just one. There are others as well.

    Q: How about special dietary needs?

    A: The Diz-Abled.com website lists menus from most Disney restaurants and other information.

    When to avoid price hikes

    Q: When does Disney raise prices so we can beat the new price of tickets?

    A: Alas, it’s like the meaning of life. We don’t know. No pattern anymore. Typically, tickets go up in price once a year. It used to be Disney did this during the first week of August. But that changed to February this year and in 2014. So when? You’ll have to guess, as we do. But one thing is sure…they will cost more

    Q: Is there a combo ticket with Universal Studios and Disney? Are they the same park?

    A: Heavens, no. Most people know that. But just to say it again: They are two separate, competing entertainment companies and theme parks. There is no combo ticket that includes both.

    Q: While we’re on the subject, are there discounts for seniors or armed forces people?

    A: Seniors, sorry. No breaks here for old age (even if they asked). As for military people, discounts are available at the Shades of Green Resort near the Magic Kingdom Park (for military personnel only).

    More ticket matters

    Q: What if we bought tickets a year ago and never used them. Still valid?

    A: Yes. Disney honors all unexpired tickets.

    Q: Are theme park tickets transferrable so I can give them to someone else for unused or remaining days?

    A: No. Once the ticket is used, no.

    Q: Do I need a ticket for the events at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex?

    A: Most events do require tickets.

    Q: It surprised me but a Canadian neighbor said she got special discounted tickets? Did she make that up or imagine it?

    A: There have been times when Disney offered various deals to Canadians on packages and even hotel rooms. But these were usually made when Canadian money had favorable exchange rates with US dollars. So don’t count on a discount…even if you are a Canadian. ###

    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.

    Why?

    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.

    Friends?

    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?

    Experience.

    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. ###