From the in-box this morning:
What's your take on using a travel agent when planning a Disney vacation? Do you use one?
Thanks for reading my blog and for sending in your question. In the past, I never used a travel agent because I erroneously thought it would cost me more, but last year a friend of mine recommended one she trusted and I decided to check it out. I ended up getting a one-bedroom at Wilderness Lodge for around $200 less per night than I would have paid on my own. The reservation was nine months out and as it turned out, just slightly better than the general public discounts that came out later that year, but I was also able to get that room and have that peace of mind well in advance. Plus, there's never any guarantee that Disney will announce these discounts or that the room you want will be available, as discounted rooms are limited and go quickly. As it turned out, I needed to change that reservation and she was able to do so very easily and I didn't have to spend time on the phone with Disney.
So if travel agents don't charge you extra, how do they make their money? Well, they get a commission for everything they sell from Disney. Some do charge for making cancellations or changes to your reservation, so ask about that in advance. Also, all agents charge for making plane reservations, since the airlines do not compensate them for selling tickets.
I don't think you have to use a travel agent to get the best deals, but one reason I would advise someone to consider using one for Disney in particular is because of the way Disney prices its rooms. Full-price Disney rooms are pretty expensive; the one thing I always tell people who ask me about Disney resorts is never, ever pay full-price. Many of these rooms will be available for a discount during the year, the question is whether or not you'll find out about that discount. If you're the type of person who follows a site like Mousesavers or Disboards and you frequently check for discounts, then you may see it. Or you may receive a pin code, which is a discount code personal to you, from Disney itself. If so, that's all well and good. But if you're like most people, it can be difficult to keep up and sort through all the latest news. In this case, booking with an agent who will not only get you the best price at the time you make the reservation but should continue to check for better deals right up until your trip, is a great option.
One further reason for considering an agent is that Disney vacations can be complicated. There are four parks and two water parks and countless lodging and dining options. One benefit of having an agent is that not only can she find you the lowest rates, but she can point out some things you might not have the time to research, whether it's a special tour or some dining option you might not be aware of. Your agent can make your dining reservations for you. She can also simplify a trip for a larger group. Finally, a good travel agent will smooth out any difficulties you may encounter once you are on your vacation.
If you're booking a Disney vacation with a travel agent, you'll want to find an agent who is Disney-certified. That means they earned a certificate that is recognized by ASTA (The American Society of Travel Agents) and were later certified by the Disney College of Knowledge, which is Disney's special travel agent school. I don't personally recommend a specific agency, but if you're looking for an agent, check around on Disney message boards for agencies that posters recommend. Also, many Disney websites have agencies they recommend or who sponsor them. If you trust that website and the information you've read there, you might want to look into their recommendations.
Ultimately, I'm probably not the kind of person who will always use an agent, but keep in mind that I like to plan and I find it entertaining to keep up with the latest discounts. You really have nothing to lose by consulting with one and seeing what kind of deals are out there, while at the same time checking on your own for a better deal. Good luck and happy planning.