✩ Disney World News and Information


  • If you wonder where the theme parks of today are headed tomorrow, check out their newest attractions.

    Or their announced ones.

    And who doesn’t want to know their directions? It’s almost basic human nature.

    So a look at coming attractions might indicate where Orlando’s two major theme parks are headed.

    It should also help answer the question of which one will be the winner of future wars?

    Disney or Universal? (More on that later but first what directions are they headed?).

    Walt Disney World’s future: more emphasis on families.

    Universal Orlando: ditto.

    This may not be obvious when you skim over some of the bigger or more important announced additions to the two parks.

    Many new attractions

    Both have new attractions planned for next year and beyond.

    Among Disney’s new attractions for you to wander through in the near future include Frozen Ever After and the NBA Experience restaurant at Disney Springs.

    Universal Orlando Resort is going to offer you a chance to visit Skull Island: Reign of Kong in 2016 and a new water park, Volcano Bay.

    But what we will look at here are more major additions.

    Walt Disney World, after all, has in the past been accused of lagging behind Universal Orlando when it comes to spending on new additions. Is that true?

    As we have noted, both have additions.

    But the major and attention-getting ones at Walt Disney World include “Star Wars” and “Avatar.”

    On the one hand, Universal is offering “The Fast and the Furious,” and the Jimmy Fallon talk show.

    Talk show host as thrill ride?

    “Star Wars” is certainly not out of this world. But this was a film in 1977 that was aimed at 12-year-old boys…or didn’t you realize that?

    And then consider Universal: “The Fast and the Furious?”

    An action movie that first starred a bunch of unknown actors (though it did catch on, of course).

    And the other major breakthrough: A follow-up theme park attraction for someone associated with a late night interviewer and comedian Johnny Carson?

    A theme park ride based on evening talk show that follows the legendary talk show musings of Johnny Carson?

    Doesn’t that sound like more of a move towards middle age couples who might rather stay at home in front of the TV rather than venture to a theme park?

    And a ride based on a talk show? Sounds less than intriguing, doesn’t it?

    Jimmy Fallon just a teenager before hosting talk show

    And add this: Fallon grew up with no designs on the Tonight job (unlike O'Brien or Leno) and was just 17 years old when Carson retired

    What is Universal thinking, anyway?

    And what is Disney thinking as well?

    Universal, known best in the past for its thrill rides with movie connections, has long been known for the youngest teenagers. They may be its biggest fans.

    None of this is to overlook the family market that has been a given since Walt Disney World opened in Orlando in 1971, followed by what quickly became its major competitor, Universal.

    In case you have not paid attention to one trend: young families and teenagers are far from the only ones going to theme parks these days.

    Consider the adults

    Nearly one-third of the people who attend the Disney resorts in Anaheim, Calif., and Orlando, Fla., are adults who come without children, according to one study.

    This group even has an official name: “nonfamily guests.”’

    Another couple of thousand or so every year (estimates only since Disney does not release figures of this type) are not here for the rides in Orlando but to get married.

    Walt Disney himself once said that Disney’s success rested in part on creating “a believable world of dreams that appeals to all age groups.”

    So this is all in keeping with the concept of family theme parks, right?

    Well, maybe, let’s see.

    Still, Disney’s long delayed and hardly secretive announcement of a new Star Wars Land seemed to obviously have widespread appeal to all age groups.

    First movie was for the kids

    This may be something of a surprise but the original Star Wars from 1977 was aimed at 12-14 year-olds. Who says?

    George Lucas, of course.

    Since then, of course, the films and the concept has had far wider appeal.

    All audiences.

    But history is important here.

    At the ancient time of the first “Star Wars,” movies were aimed at either adults or kids.

    Hollywood generally produced family movies that are considered dark by today’s kid-focused movie standards and juvenile by adult tastes.

    But along came Star Wars to mix up the old standards.

    Whew…hard to believe

    The influence of Star Wars has been so well documented it is almost tough to believe all that is said about it.

    A book called “How Star Wars Conquered the Universe” detailed this particular journey. It starts like this:

    “In1973, a young filmmaker named George Lucas scribbled some notes for a far-fetched space-fantasy epic. Some forty years and $37 billion later, Star Wars–related products outnumber human beings, a growing stormtrooper army spans the globe, and Jediism has become a religion in its own right. Lucas’s creation has grown into far more than a cinematic classic; it is, quite simply, one of the most lucrative, influential, and interactive franchises of all time.”

    A promotional piece for the book goes on:

    “Since the first film’s release in 1977, Star Wars has conquered our culture with a sense of lightness and exuberance, while remaining serious enough to influence politics in far-flung countries and spread a spirituality that appeals to religious groups and atheists alike. “

    All that?

    But perhaps even more surprising is not only the adult love of the concept but it’s wide appeal to anyone young enough to talk and understand language.

    A parenting group called “Circle of Moms” a while ago debated the right age for a child to see “Star Wars.”

    There were differences of opinion on the right age, of course, but it was often very young. And not unusual for parents to say that despite the often comic-book violence of the movie, children as young as five were routinely exposed to it -- without noticeable harm.

    At least one parent had a sense of humor about it all:

    “My husband is THE biggest Star Wars fan and so our two boys were brought up on a steady diet of it! They regularly switch on the light sabre app on his mobile and know various pieces of incidental music (that have been hummed to them from birth!), have a picture book of The Empire Strikes Back and make X wings out of Duplo…The only thing that concerns me slightly is that my 3 year old prefers to be Darth Vader.... this tendency towards the 'dark side' is a little worrying!”
    And what about Avatar and Pandora?

    Pandora – The World of AVATAR is described as a “key part of the expansion of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and will feature awe-inspiring floating mountains, a nighttime jungle of bioluminescent plants as well as an amazing new attraction called AVATAR Flight of Passage.”

    The e-ticket attraction will allow guests to experience what it’s like to fly with banshees, Disney says.

    “We’re creating a transformational experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life,” was the somewhat hyperbole comment made by Inagineer Joe Rohde.

    It all starts with a canoe ride

    Opening in 2017, the Na'vi River Journey is the land's second attraction, offering a D-Ticket class family river ride through Pandora's bioluminescent rainforest.

    The river cruise will provide an alternative experience for those guests who may not wish to experience the land's more thrilling AVATAR Flight of Passage attraction.

    Disney describes the new land as family friendly.

    A preview of the ride starts this way:

    “The adventure begins as guests set out in canoes and venture down a mysterious, sacred river hidden within the bioluminescent rainforest.”

    Canoe rides?

    Whatever else they might be, canoe rides in Orlando (unlike say the wild Snake River in the western United States) are smooth, tame rides that are pretty-much wave-free.

    Family fun, for all ages

    The widespread popularity of Director and creator James Cameron’s Avatar is evident in one recent poll that showed that 56 percent of children aged anywhere from ages 13 to 17 loved the concept. But almost half or just less than 50 percent of adults felt the same way.

    Remarked one respondent:

    "The only people who don't like Avatar are the people who haven't seen it yet."

    Another said:

    “I don't know one person who has watched the show and hated it.”

    He added:

    “I am 30 and   have been something of an Avatar proselytizer to people in my age group since   I got into the series. I have personally evangelized at least 9 people in my   age group to this show. This show transcends age groups like Star Wars, and   is an ideal universe for the adult geek crowd that likes properties like Star   Wars and Lord of the Ring and Harry Potter and Marvel and DC and all those,   but because this show was on Nickelodeon, it flew under the radars of a LOT   of the audience that would have eaten Avatar up with a spoon. So every year,   more and more new adult fans are discovering the show like some kind of   hidden gem that was right in front of them all along.”

    Fast and Furious

    And how about “The Fast and the Furious?”

    The franchise dates back to 2001. That’s when a group of young actors (Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordanna Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez) essentially remade a somewhat neglected movie called “Point Break” with cars instead of surfing.

    When “The Fast and the Furious” came out, no one could have imagined where it was headed.

    That was the case because the age of the franchise was still new.

    The first “Harry Potter” and first “Lord of the Rings” landed just that year.

    “Iron Man” and the Marvel revolution were years away.        

    These days everyone would be signed to a multi-film contract, but Vin Diesel didn’t even show up for the first sequel. Nor did director Rob Cohen.

    One recent reboot opened to $147.2 million in just three days. It earned five times what “The Shawshank Redemption” earned in its entire cinematic run.

    So who can dispute its wide-ranging appeal?

    And now we come to another new ride at Universal: “The Race through New York,” planned to open in 2017 starring Jimmy Fallon.

    Wrote Jason Surrell, a creative director with Universal:

    "Jimmy wanted a fun and hilarious adventure that was also a valentine to his hometown of New York City — and that's exactly what you're going to experience when Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon' opens at Universal Studios Florida in 2017."

    Fallon himself likened his ride to the popular Harry Potter rides at Universal.

    Just what the ride will be is not entirely clear but it does mimic the celebrity races that are popular in Fallon’s Tonight Show.

    This all goes in keeping with Universal Studios Florida’s long association with placing guests in the middle of their favorite movies and television shows.

    You’ll rocket through the streets—and skies—of New York City, from the deepest subway tunnels to the tallest skyscrapers. You will encounter colorful characters, famous landmarks and anything else that comes to Jimmy’s mind.

    And “that is some weird, wild stuff,” said one observer.

    Fallon fans come in all ages

    One recent study found they were primarily men between the ages of 18 and 49 (many of them also bought tickets to “Star Wars”).

    But that does not rule out older audiences. The median age for Fallon’s Late Night show was 49.8, according to Nielsen.

    So all these major new theme park initiatives…

    …Maybe a perfect fit, after all?

    So let’s give credit to the efforts of both Disney and Universal.

    But if this was a card game, Walt Disney World offering “Star Wars” and “Avatar” deserves aces over Universal’s competitive but falling short full house.

    So Disney wins.

    So far.

    But what else does Universal have up its sleeve? ###

    This is for you.

    You know who you are.

    Fans.

    Fanatics. For Disney.

    You know it all.

    You think there’s nothing new anyone can tell you about the Walt Disney World Resort? Because you are fans.

    Famous bands and past presidents

    But did you know it played a small part in the break-up of the world’s most famous band, the Beatles?

    Or that a now disgraced US President played one of his last major roles out right here?

    Maybe not.

    So here are some things that may surprise you that you may not have known.

    We say surprise you because you may know some of them…

    About the Beatles. You’ve heard of them.

    Maybe you know about their long-running squabbles.

    They began to be as famous for that as for songs like “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

    Their arguments did not involve what rides to share at theme parks.

    But more serious stuff such as George Harrison courting Ringo’s wife.

    And John Lennon wanting to perform with Yoko Ono.

    But the end was really over financial matters.

    Beatles’ RIP news came here

    And when it came, it was in Orlando at Disney where John Lennon put the rumors to rest.

    He was with his family, staying with them at the Polynesian Resort when, on Dec. 29, 1974, he announced it was all over.

    The Beatles would go their separate ways.

    A somewhat less familiar name to modern-day theme park goers was US President Richard Nixon.

    He is in the “Hall of Presidents,” of course.

    Way back when he was Vice President under Dwight Eisenhower during the 1950s, so-called “Tricky Dick,” his wife, Pat, and their children often visited Disneyland in California.

    But it was in Orlando where Nixon made his famous speech during a convention of the US’s Managing Newspaper Editors.

    He spoke to 400 of them at the Ballroom of the Americas at the Contemporary Hotel. At that time, he was plagued by rumors of his involvement in the Watergate domestic spying scandal.

    "People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook," he told the media. The headline the next day:

    ‘I am not a crook’

    More than one newspaper writer covering the event later lost his or her job by failing to observe that this highly unusual and dramatic declaration was the major news of the day.

    At one point during the discussion, Nixon gave a morbid response to an unrelated question about why he chose not to fly with back-up to Air Force One when traveling. That was the usual security protocol for presidential flights.

    He told the crowd that by taking just one aircraft he was saving energy, money and possibly time spent in the impeachment process: “if this one [plane] goes down,” he said, “they don’t have to impeach [me].”

    Nixon was trying to be funny, but in fact the scandal was taking a toll on his physical and mental health.

    In Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s book All the President’s Men, Nixon is described at this time as being “a prisoner in his own house—secretive, distrustful… combative, sleepless.”

    Nixon’s protestations of innocence with regard to the Watergate cover-up were eventually eroded by a federal investigation.

    Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974.

    He was not seen at Disney since.

    This is history, of course.

    More surprises

    But perhaps there are other surprising things you didn’t know about Disney.

    For example:

    Who are those names in the shop windows at Main Street?

    Answer: Imagineers (Aha. you certainly knew that already).

    Here’s another one you probably know:

    EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype of Tomorrow. Not the case, but Walt envisioned it as just that. His death detoured the plan. But Disney in recent years has been building a lot of its own housing. Whether that is the stuff of the future has yet to be determined.

    Why the names Rose and Crown for pubs at EPCOT?

    Those are the two most common found in pub names in Great Britain?

    While we’re are it, the massive castle structure behind the German pavilion at EPCOT was meant to house a boat ride that simulated a trip down a famous river, the Rhine River

    Why does Disney have those famous underground tunnels?

    The best story is that Walt was walking through Disneyland when he saw a Frontierland cowboy walking through Tomorrowland. Not good for illusions. Creating the wrong mood. The tunnels were built so that these situations could be avoided. Characters could change in the tunnels and emerge from them at their own particular lands. Cast members would move through the park out of sight from guests. This maintained guest illusions

    Why is Disney so famous for its cleanliness?

    One reason is that they are so inconspicuous about it. Trees that need cutting down are often switched during the night with fully grown ones as replacements. Garbage cans are never more than 30 feet apart. Disney lore has is that Walt himself ordered that after noting that visitors to parks would not walk any farther to dump their trash.

    You know the Cinderella myth that is virtually symbolic of the entire park and her glass slipper. But what is that based on?

    The version of Cinderella that we all know and love is based on a story called Cendrillon written by someone named Charles Perrault in the 1600s sometime. It was later retold by the Brothers Grimm. That story was retitled Ashenputtel. A grimmer and more gruesome version.

    A footnote to that: the particular movie scene where the Fairy Godmother transforms Cinderella’s torn dress into a ball gown is said to be Walt Disney’s favorite sequence of animation. That was also said to be his personal favorite film.

    The park that never happened

    What park was proposed that never happened?

    Actually, several.

    Walt was always fascinated with history. He proved it with Main Street. At one point, after his death, his successors came up with another famous park, devoted entirely to Americana. It would be called Disney’s America.

    It would have included a recreation of Philadelphia’s famous Independence Hall. Then President Michael Eisner and Imagineers were looking for a less expensive park after the opening of Euro Disney. Colonial Williamsburg was the model. A prime location 20 miles from downtown Washington, DC was the site.

    But believe it or not, the proposed park became highly controversial. Just the title of the theme park stirred up controversy.

    Some critics complained that calling the park “Disney’s America” implied a sense of ownership over the nation on the part of Disney. Because some of the academics who they hoped would support the project were insulted by the title, Disney started considering a name change to something “less presumptuous” such as Disney’s American Celebration.

    But the unpredictable weather in the area was another issue (one avoided in sunny California and Florida). There were fears the park would have to be closed often because of bad weather.

    Bad history?

    Finally, there was opposition from powerful name-rich and long-standing families in the area who hired others to urge an end to the project.

    Even historians objected, saying that Disney was not true to real historical events. They complained the park would bulldoze real historical Civil War battlegrounds such as Bull Run. There was little truth but the Disney forces backed down.

    Still another question

    What’s the real size of Disney World…with all those acres of unused land?

    The best answer is the size of San Francisco or Two Manhattans.

    There’s a lot of hotels around Disney now but there was not when it opened. How come?

    You would have to remember the oil crisis of those times. Original plans called for more hotels but they were cancelled.

    Speaking of hotel rooms, which ones were built offsite?

    The Polynesian and the Contemporary were built elsewhere, then slid into the building frames.

    Why can’t you get a straw or cup lid at Animal Kingdom?

    Disney doesn’t want the animals to get hurt. Humans might throw them where they can get them. 

    Some say there are dead people at Disney? True?

    Sure. There is a tradition of guests bringing the cremated ashes of loved ones and scattering them at various places, including the Haunted Mansion. This is illegal, of course. There’s even a story that Disney has special vacuums to clean up the, shall we call it, debris? Only rumors of that, however.

    The price of admission used to be cheap

    What did it cost back when Disney opened? 

    Believe it or not, admission on opening day was $3.50.

    Is Disney World really its own governing city?

    Yes, basically. It straddles Orange and Osceola County. It has its own taxing district and governing autonomy.

    Has Disney ever been closed? And why?

    Answer: Sure, several times, because of Floyd, Frances, Charley, etc. Those were threatening hurricanes. And on Sept. 11, 2001, during the 9-11 terror attack.

    And did you think Disney was just for kids?

    Adult only experiences include dining at very upscale Victoria and Albert’s restaurant, where meals can easily cost upwards of $200 a person, or drinking alcohol at Epcot’s World Showcase.

    What was the last ride personally overseen by Walt?

    Pirates of the Caribbean.

    There are strange rules for Disney employees but did you know they are told never to point with one finger (can be considered rude in some cultures but also two fingers makes it easier for children to see).

    Why is Walt’s brother, Roy sometimes referred to as the forgotten founder or even a hero in the creation of the Orlando park?

    Roy was always a quiet, stoic type who handled finances for his more creative brother, Walt. You may recall that Walt announced the park but died well before it opened.

    One week after Walt Disney died, Roy spoke to a group of Disney Company executives and creative staff in a projection room at the Disney Studio.

    He was going to postpone his retirement.

    “We are going to finish this park, and we’re going to do it just the way Walt wanted it,” Roy told them. “Don’t you ever forget it. I want every one of you to do just exactly what you were going to do when Walt was alive.”

    One of his first decisions was that the Disneyworld project would be officially renamed “Walt Disney World.” Roy was insistent that people be reminded that this was Walt’s project.

    Roy at that time was 78 years old. He wanted to retire and spend more time with his grandchildren.

    Instead, Roy devoted his few months left to the difficult task of building the park, including raising the almost $400 million for the project (an unheard of sum at the time).

    There were numerous problems with the marshy ground of the thousands of acres acquired in the near tropical tropical nature of Central Florida.

    He got the job done

    Roy was hardly charismatic, but he got the job done, partly by surrounding himself with capable and talented people (he was like Walt in being a good judge of talent).

    Roy became somewhat known locally while he and his wife stayed at the Hilton Inn South near International Drive, where he was known for working long hours and frequenting local hardware stores.

    Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971.

    At the dedication, Roy was asked by reporters why a grandfather had felt the obligation to tackle this impossible project at this point in his life.

    “I didn’t want to have to explain to Walt when I saw him again why the dream didn’t come true.”

    Later, Roy spent time in a boat on the Seven Seas Lagoon in front of the Magic Kingdom and when asked why he wasn’t in the park to handle all the media attention, Roy quietly remarked, “I want them to remember my brother today.”

    Roy returned to California and never came back to Florida.

    Later that year, he fell into a coma and died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Room 421 at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank, California, the same hospital where Walt died five years earlier.

    A newspaper writer said of Roy: “They say a little of Roy left when Walt died in 1966 of cancer. But not much could have left. He was the keeper of the flame and had to be the curator of the spirit that Walt Disney created.”

    But sure, you probably already knew that. ###

     

    When it comes to your visiting Walt Disney World or other theme parks in Orlando, you don’t need any advice.

    You know it all.

    If that is the case, good for you.

    Don’t read on.

    But no, of course that is never the reality.

    Not for any of us.

    But there are reasons why you want to go beyond internet research, the helpful and well-meaning advice of friends and more information sources even before you get in your car or board a plane to the theme park capital of the world

    Travel agents can help you answer two questions:

    1. Can they make your trip more enjoyable or add to it?
    2. Can they save you money?

    There are a lot of misconceptions about agents. And a lot of assumptions about travel in this internet-age.

    Online air not always best or cheapest

    For example, many people think they will always get the cheapest airline ticket when booking online.

    Sorry, wrong.

    Not always.

    Keep in mind here that whatever your experience-background, and no matter your age…or even if you have already been visiting here many, many times….there is a lot to think about when vacationing in Orlando.

    Tickets, sure. The cheapest is not always the best, either.

    There’s also lodging, which eats up the largest part of any budget. Should you stay at a Disney World hotel or elsewhere such as someone’s sofa?

    Then, there’s where you eat. Yes, everyone has to do that.

    And when to go, of course. The best time.

    The least expensive time.

    And this list of what to consider goes on and on.

    Cheaper to use an agent or not?

    Not long ago, the internet question came up from Roberta who posted a good question: Whether it was cheaper to book her own vacation….or use a travel agent.

    The best answer…and you might not have to search too hard for it on the internet…is to use an agent.

    But what is not always included is this fact:

    If they are free, of course.

    That does require some further explanation.

    Even in today’s times, not everyone knows the truth about paying or getting free advice from agents.

    They had their peak of popularity (and income stream) years ago when they charged air carriers for tickets for their passengers.

    Agents in those times were even courted by the airlines, who depended on them to fill their airplanes.

    Agents can tell you of elaborate parties they attended, hosted by the business-seeking airlines.

    But times change.

    And so does travel.

    You have to have a small sense of history here.

    Smart agents saw this coming: the airlines decided to take matters into their own hands.

    They hired people to take reservations directly.

    The common phrase applies here: eliminate the middle man or woman. Agents.

    Agents: no more automatic airline commissions

    This cut out the biggest source of income for many agents: airline tickets.

    Since then, there have been predictions that agents are a thing of the past.

    Do-it-yourself- booking sites via the internet have also combined to made them obsolete.

    As endangered as the dinosaurs, you might say, and about as useful in these times.

    But guess what?

    Agents made a comeback

    Many these days make their living by booking luxury travel where travelers really don’t care what a trip costs. And an add-on service from an agent is worth the price (if price is no object).

    Other agents have reduced office expenses by working at home or specializing in niches.

    Some even specialize in airline tickets.

    They can buy in bulk and re-sell the tickets at marked up prices, for one thing.

    They have found other ways to make money, either through airline tickets or some other form of personal service that includes a charge.

    All of this brings us to what they can do for you.

    For free, anyway.

    Even if you are a born planner, and love to plan…and even if you have all the time in the world to carefully, painstakingly work out your trip…an agent can be of use.

    Many travel agents these days are simply paid by the travel provider.

    That could be a hotel chain, to cite just one example.

    But did you know, for example, or consider:

    Some agents even specialize in Disney World and/or theme parks

    Authorized Disney Travel AgentThey can book your entire trip, from start to finish. --> dial 888-WDW-CHEAP for example 

    No effort on your part except to ask them.

    That is certainly among their major advantages.

    Disney and other parks offer numerous deals. But unless you are a full-time person looking at which are the best, you have disadvantages. Specialists can sort through this often bewildering array of offerings to find the best for your particular situation.

    Keep in mind that the best specialists will not only search for your best deal, even if their commission is less, but they will also continue to watch for deals after you have already booked your trip.

    But you don’t want to just ask anyone, do you?

    You want someone you trust.

    So you do have to make some effort in finding that particular person, don’t you?

    Once you find them, however, they can do most of your work prior to going to the particular park of your choice.

    And don’t forget this either: a long-standing advantage of an agent is when things go wrong.

    They can help when the airline overbooks and denies you the last seat on that day’s flight or the hotel lost your reservation and sorry, all rooms are occupied at this busy time of year.

    Etc. Etc.

    Agent advantages seen even by online providers

    We all know how things can go wrong on even the best planned trip.

    It’s not just us that say agents have their uses.

    In fact, the number of travel agents is on the rise.

    Which should tell you that there is still a demand for them.

    And even Internet travel sites these days are more inclined to add them.

    CheapAir.com is a fine place for what they advertise. But they are among sites that advertise they provide travel advisers for ticket-buyers. These advisers not only take care of your ticket issues, but also can be used for other issues such as hotel reservations.

    So all of this brings us back to agents

    So how do you know who to pick?

    You don’t want to spend a lot of time on this. That’s for sure.

    So let’s just reduce it to six considerations or questions.

    Why use agents

    No. 1: The first question to pose: fees. After your travel professional supplies you with a vacation package estimate, make sure to ask if there are any additional fees. And is the cost of an agent's service is included in the quoted vacation price? A small footnote here: If the sight of "service fees" has you rethinking the use of an agent, keep in mind that an agent's on-ground contacts and affiliations can possibly get you more free extras and discounts that you wouldn't necessarily be eligible for if you made the travel plans yourself.

    No. 2: Certification. The long-standing and generally reliable American Society (of) Travel Agents (ASTA) is the only professional association representing travel agents. They are well-grounded in ethics and other issues (you don’t want advice from an agent who is also getting paid by a hotel chain, for one example) and other issues. So you know to know about their membership, which is easy to determine.

    Friendly agents

    No. 3. Friends. Their advice. Ask them.

    You certainly know some who have used agents in the past.

    Good agents try for long-lasting relationships. That is the case simply because it is good business. And referrals are to their advantage, of course.

    No. 4: Check credentials. Say you don’t have anyone who has ever used an agent. You can go beyond ASTA to the accreditation system from Certified Travel Counselors. Agents get this through the Travel Institute (which without getting too confusing….designates destination specialists in certain areas). This is not a guarantee but it could help you decide on an agents.

    No. 5: Business codes of conduct. Don’t like or trust ASTA or other agencies?

    Go back to old fashioned times. Check the old reliable: the local Better Business Bureau.

    They may have a new name these days but they are still often associated with the local chamber of commerce.

    So you should have no trouble finding them. Or whether one agency or another racks up a suspicious number of complaints.

    Do some of your own thinking

    No. 6. Do some critical thinking.

    Travel agents should demonstrate reliable characteristics, so ask them questions. Consider their answers. Do they seem to have the answers? Even more critical: Do they know enough or are they honest enough to say when they don’t know?

    But if they don’t know, will they find your answer? That is a reasonable request.

    So if you wonder why agents might save you money, the answers are not complicated.

    They (agents) often have many connections and relationships with vendors and others for discounts…though these can even extend to theme park tickets.

    They also are aware of barely-promoted deals, some of which may be advertised locally but not online.

    They are also aware of your travel budget and can help you stay within it, which is not as easy when you are doing this all yourself.

    Travel agents may not be utilized as much due to the ease of the internet, but just because something is easily accessible doesn’t always mean it’s better.

    Are human beings better than the internet?

    So at this point, you may wonder why agents may at times be better than online travel options?

    One example is airline tickets. With online agencies, you can’t guarantee your seat and price until payment is made. Agents can put your tickets on hold, which reserves them. It also guarantees the price until your departure. No charge.

    When you book online, your space or price is not confirmed until full payment is made. Prices can change. What if you change your mind or are forced to by outside circumstances (such as a car accident or illness for example)?

    Agent advantages, continued

    Does this also save you money?

    Sometimes.

    Because basic marketing principles are such that when supplies start to run out, demand goes up…and so do prices. But your agent has locked you into the available inventory. Online agencies usually don’t offer that option.

    Booking online also requires you to pay in full at that time. Using an agent eliminates that requirement because of deposits. Your space can be reserved.

    So as we said at the start of this article, you may not really need an agent…but you might want at least to try one…if for no other reason than to get a second opinion.

    In the end, no one knows it all. ###