Walt Disney World is comprised of four theme parks, a shopping and dining district, two water parks, and over 25 Resort hotels…and that’s just scratching the surface!
Planning for a Disney trip can be overwhelming, even for the most seasoned Disney visitor. There are SO many things to consider and learn. Where do you stay? What’s the dining situation like? What types of tickets are there? Don’t worry, you do NOT have to figure this all out on your own.
A decade ago, planning your Disney trip was do-able…and even fun — like the anticipation of seeing all of the presents under the tree before Christmas. But today, things are different. With Park Pass Reservations, Disney’s Genie+ and Individual Attraction Selection in place, dining that needs to be booked 60 days in advance, literally dozens of hotels on property and hundreds off-property, dessert parties, memorable behind-the-scenes tours, activities, and more…it’s just plain overwhelming to try to figure it all out. Disney World is about TWICE the size of Manhattan…and just as packed with options.
So, if reading this article is starting to give you anxiety, take a deep breath… let it out… and repeat this mantra, “Fish are friends, not food.” Ok, ok, not the mantra you’re looking for, but Disney vacations are supposed to be magical, right? Not drive you panic-driven madness. Those tear-jerking commercials all involve happy families without a care in the world, not anxiety-riddle adults on the verge of exhaustion, desperately trying to mobile order lunch (yep, that’s a thing…) before their hangry family launches into full meltdown (we’re not speaking from experience at all… ).
So, how do you become one of those carefree families in the commercials? Well, that might take a bit of planning…
If you’ve been to Disney before, you may have a general idea. Maybe a specific idea. Maybe a very specific idea, including a spreadsheet and a three-ring binder detailing every move your family will make once they pass beneath that magical archway.
But regardless of where you fall on this planning spectrum, using a Disney-certified travel agent will help ensure not only that you’re checking off all of the right boxes, but that you have all of the right boxes on your checklist, to begin with!
Disney Certified Travel Agents are FREE
You may think it costs more. And that there are hidden fees they don’t tell you about. But as it turns out, Travel Agents don’t cost you a penny. Disney-certified travel agents do not charge clients for their services because they earn commissions from Disney.
So you pay no extra fees and can spend more time anticipating and enjoying your vacation. It’s a win for the Agents (who genuinely love doing this stuff) and a win for you.
Finding the Best Discount
Travel Agents, especially those considered “Authorized Disney Vacation Planners,” know what deals are out there ahead of the rest of us. If a new deal comes along after you’ve already made a reservation (e.g. Disney+ Discounts, Annual Passholder Discounts, etc), they can rework your existing reservation to save you some cash. They can also run the numbers to see which deal is going to be the better value.
They do the math for you. So, you can put away your high school economics book and spreadsheet for finding the break-even point on discount rate versus park days ratios. And the best part is, they’ve been doing this a REALLY. LONG. TIME.
So they probably already know what deal is best. Before it’s even announced. And since they usually get a little head’s up from Disney about upcoming discounts, they can work it onto your existing vacation for you, usually before you even know it’s an option! So not only do you not have to worry about doing the math (phew!), you also don’t have to worry about missing out on the discount (since sometimes those bad boys are limited).
Planning Tips & Advice
Your agent’s got your back. They can advise you on resort choice, vacation package, and tickets that will suit your family’s unique needs. Overall, they make sure everything runs smoothly from start to finish. They’ve been there and done that, and they can tell you the most stress-free way to have your best vacation ever.
Now let’s talk reservations and planning for when you’re actually on Disney property! Here’s where a Travel Agent can be a super-valuable asset. Disney travel agents know:
- The most popular restaurants and when they need to be booked
- How to get those super-coveted reservations (and might be able to snag them FOR you!)
- Alternatives to those restaurants if they’re full
- What rides, attractions, and events will suit your family’s unique needs
- How to help you plan an extraordinary trip within your budget
- How to craft a trip where you get to do everything you want to do…and still get enough sleep and real, honest-to-goodness “vacation” time when you’re NOT chasing your brood around the theme parks.
An Authorized Disney Vacation Planner can make suggestions for you based on which park you’ll be in for the day, making dining recommendations, and tips for planning your park days to get in all of your must-do attractions.
In short, they’ll help you narrow down those 200+ restaurant choices, hundreds of ride choices, activity options, and more, and make sure to help you hand-craft the perfect vacation for YOUR family. (Or you can grab our DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining, t00.)
Something you may not know about Disney travel agents is that in order to maintain their Disney-certified status, they have to maintain their Disney training. Disney is constantly changing, growing, adapting, innovating, and improving, so these travel agents know the latest, greatest, best, and newest of everything Disney has to offer.
Assistance During Your Vacation
You may not know this, but Disney World is in Florida (shocker, right?). And Florida gets hurricanes! In fact, hurricane season lasts from June to November, so chances are, when you’re visiting Disney World, it might be during hurricane season! And inclement weather can impact special Disney events (like after-hours parties), delay flights, and even close down parks, in extreme cases.
And your Agent’s support doesn’t stop when you get to your resort. No matter what problems arise during your getaway — if your shuttle is canceled, your room isn’t ready, or you need to find a doctor — your Agent knows who to call to put your vacation back on track. They’re just a phone call or text message away, no matter what goes down! Because as much as we wish it, life doesn’t pause while we’re on vacation!
So whether you’re a color-coded spreadsheet-toting Disney veteran or a first-timer at the Disney parks, utilizing the skills and expertise of a Travel Agent may just surprise you. Even locals can implement the skills, discount access, and overall knowledge of a Disney Travel Agent!
Choose the Right Travel Agent
There are a lot of Disney-certified travel agents out there. If you Google it, you’ll be scrolling for days. As long as they have their certification and are designated as “earmarked” by Disney, you can likely expect good service and solid knowledge.
But if you want our recommendation, we always choose Small World Vacations.
1. They’ve Proven Themselves:
DFB’s AJ Wolfe and Sue Pisaturo, the owner of the agency, have been friends and colleagues for years. Small World Travel is also respected and used by other leaders in the Disney Media and Travel industry by people who KNOW DISNEY and have been in the Disney travel arena for dozens of years. Small World Vacations isn’t just our preferred Disney Travel Agent, they are also preferred by, MouseSavers, and Sehlinger’s “Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.” (So, you don’t have to just take our word for it…)
2. They Have a Reputation for Excellence:
Small World Vacations is one of the biggest Disney-focused agencies in the world, BUT all of their highly-qualified agents work full-time. This is exceptional in the travel planner arena. It means that all day, every day, Small World Vacations agents are planning Disney trips for clients — learning everything they can about how to create magical vacations and getting the depth of experience necessary to make sure your trip is a dream come true. It may sound like a little thing, but it offers huge benefits when it comes to working with an agent.
3. Testimonies from Guests (like you!):
Just take a look at some of these real-life testimonies of other Disney guests who’ve used their services.
I am writing this email to simply share how grateful my husband and I are for the help and support we got from Riley in planning our trip to Disney World. It was the first time for both of us and we have a 7 & 8 year old daughter – so we didn’t even know where to start. Riley’s responsiveness was outstanding and a little unbelievable at times – and we learned to count on it! She would make herself available for calls and made sure we were aware and on top of all the deadlines for registrations or adding special items on (Genie +, etc.). Honestly – we might not have gone given how much there is to know in planning a trip like this – but she made it simply and clear so that when we got there we had nothing to worry about. She was open about options for cost and locations and we felt like we had all the information needed to make the right decisions. I will continue to recommend Riley and will certainly reach back out should we plan another vacation with Disney! We are so grateful! —Allison
I would like to take this time to say, it has been a pleasure to work with Nikki at Small World Vacations. She always goes above and beyond to help. We had to cancel and reschedule a cruise due to Covid and Nikki was stellar. She has earned our Disney business going forward.. — Tracy
II’m writing to let you know about the simply exceptional service I’ve received from the marvelous Marion Carlson over the past year. I found her via a Google search and approached her in May of 2021 to help me plan a Christmas trip to WDW to surprise my 7-year-old daughter, Alice. Marion is amazing. She makes me feel like I am her only client, even though I know that couldn’t be further from the truth. She told me that she was thinking about me and Alice over Christmas, and I am certain that she was. Really, Marion basically IS Disney World. She is magic. I know we won’t go to WDW every year forever. And Alice won’t be this perfect WDW age forever. This is a special time in her childhood, and I’ll always be grateful to Marion for her help in giving our girl such a magical present after the terrible pandemic time (virtual school, quarantine, all of it). I am willing to bet I’m not the first of Marion’s clients writing to let you know how outstanding she is, and I’m certain I won’t be the last. — Lora
DFB Readers Get Something a Little Extra Special
Yep — if you do decide to book with Small World, you just note that you heard about them through Disney Food Blog and you could get a special, unique surprise! Click here for current details!
Phew. Don’t you feel better now? A Disney vacation can cost A LOT of money, and has A LOT of tricky nuances, but you don’t have to panic. There are pros available to help you every step of the way, and you’ll always have us to send you tips, news, and updates to make sure that your Disney vacation is as magical as possible!
It’s time to get started! Simply head over to Small World Vacations and Let the Magic Begin!
Are you going to Disney World in 2023? Let us know in the comments below!