Only 189 days left: Time to start getting serious about planning!
Walt Disney World is an ideal trip for those who like to plan ahead, make schedules, and dream about their trip well in advance. Your WDW experience will definitely be better if you do at least some planning (unless you are someone who goes very often).
I have 189 days left in my trip, which means in 180 days I will need to make my Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs). Since I'm going in value season with low crowds, making reservations this far out isn't necessary if you don't care about when and where you eat. However, I have a couple of places in mind that will fill up pretty quick and we like to eat during the typical dinner ours. Therefore, I plan to make most of my ADR's around the 180 mark.
Step 1: Choosing an Agent
Did you know that official/certified WDW agents are free? Further, they might help you save money. WDW already wraps up the cost of the agents into their pricing, so if you purchase from Disney directly, you are paying for an agent without using one.
If you have plenty of time, like to research and pre-plan, and don't mind making phone calls early in the morning....you don't need an agent. However, it wouldn't hurt you to have one in case you need trouble shooting.
I love planning and I intend to make all of my ADRs and Fastpass reservations online. Still, I got an agent. My main reasons were time and phone calls. I arranged my trip via email with my travel agent, which was way easier than dealing with Disney's site or phone system. Further, I want the best possible discount when they are released for winter packages. My agent will be up before dawn calling Disney to make sure I get the discount applied to my package, and will do the math to figure out the best possible discount for me.
Also, if I fail to get an ADR that I wanted, or if I have an issue with the Disney system, or want to book a tour (I do!). My agent can handle all that. Less phone calls and stress for me!
To find an agent, I went to what I consider my most trusted Disney resource on the web.....touringplans.com! They write the "Unofficial Guide" which has to be in the top two most popular Disney guides. They have been collecting LOTS of data for years. And as a scientist, I love going by the data!
I went to the above link and I scanned all the entries in the best agents list. I selected my favorites based on their specialties and how they sounded. I selected my top 15 candidates, and then emailed them this:
I'm getting ready to go to Walt Disney World in late January and I'm looking around for a travel agent. I'd like to be up front and say that I am e-mailing multiple agents in an effort to find one that matches my needs.Thank you in advance for reading my long e-mail, I know your time is valuable.
I'm not in need of a quote just yet, as I'm still working out the exact details of the trip. Further, in the past five years, I've gone to WDW twice, during the same time period, and have stayed at two very different resorts. So, I have an idea of what to expect price-wise
I'm a planner, and part of the reason I love Disney is the planning involved. I wish to book my own fastpasses and plan most of the dining. I also love making touring plans so I am set on that front. My main reasons for getting a TA are to make the phone calls for me (my job makes phone calls challenging during the day and I don't really like phones anyway!), getting the hard-to-get fastpasses and dining reservations, and giving me some extra ideas to make my trip a little bit more magical and different than the last one (perhaps a tour, dessert party, etc...)
My party consists of two adults and no kids. However, you should think of us more like an adult plus a kid. I love childish things and I can easily ride It's a Small World five times in a single trip, and I have no desire to spend anytime on the Boardwalk or Disney Springs. I trade pins, collect tsums and will wait in line to hug a character. I go to Disney to be a kid again. My husband is fascinated by the customer service, quality and magic of Disney, and loves seeing me so stress-free. We are planning on staying at a value resort, but we'll be there for awhile (8 days?).
Now that you know a little about me, here are some questions for you:
1) Do you mind if your clients handle their own fastpasses, touring plans, etc...?
2) Do you wake up super early for clients, or check repeatedly when needed, to get discounts or good Fastpasses/reservations?
3) Do you think we'd be a good match?
Sorry for the third-degree grilling, and thank you so much for your patience reading this. I appreciate your time, and the hard work you do.
One of the things that mattered most to me was their response time to the email. I want a TA that will respond quickly. I appreciate that they all have lives, but I need someone who will be there promptly when there is a problem.
Other than that, I looked to see how well they read my email....if they were just spewing the standard bits, or if they actually addressed what I wrote personally. As well as how they answered the question.
I crossed out people on my list when I wasn't liking the vibe, and added stars next to their name when they responded in a way I approved.
It came down to two Amanda from Small World Vacations, and Mike from Magic for Less. The thing that tipped it was the fact Mike hosts a podcast that I've listened to on many occasions, and I like this personality on the podcast. His enthusiasm really shines through. That ultimately tipped the scales in his favor.
Mike has been great! Friendly, fast, efficient and thorough! I'm very pleased with my decision!
Here is his travel agency: http://www.themagicforless.com/
And his podcast: http://www.beourguestpodcast.com/
You can also read his description on the touring plans site: http://blog.touringplans.com/2016/06/01/best-travel-agents-2016/