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Reader Email: Can you get a better deal by using a travel agent?

From the in-box this morning:

Chris:

What’s your take on using a travel agent when planning a Disney vacation?  Do you use one?

Thanks,

Paul
Ontario

Paul:

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.

10 Comments

  1. I agree completely. There are good times and bad times to use an agent. If I’m planning a huge family get-together, I don’t want to be saddled with all of that planning and sitting on hold! On the other hand, if your agent isn’t a great one, you can be left in the dark when you should be informed of a potential change or discount.

    Agents are great, but you’ve got to make sure you’re using a top-notch one! :-)

  2. I recently discovered that a friend from church is a travel agent. I, too, found out that it doesn’t cost to use a travel agent. I have decided, for this year, to use her for our trips.

    I am a control freak. I plan everything…ADRs, parks, hotel, yada yada.

    This will be a new experience for me.

    I only wish I had know about her last summer….when I planned a Grand Gathering for 14 for a week. :(

  3. Excellent information and very helpful for families planning vacations. Finding the best discounts can be time-consuming as I’ve learned through the years. After two years as a WDW Moms Panelist, I am now working as a Disney travel agent. I love to help families find the vacation that suits their dreams and their budget.

  4. AJ! So glad you had a wonderful time at WDW. Thanks for stopping by.

    Blondie, I’ve love to hear about how planning for a group that large went. If you’d like to write a guest post, let me know.

    Kim: I imagine it would be a very satisfying job. Congrats on being on the moms’ panel.

  5. We used Small World Vacations on our last trip..I emailed about 10 different Disney Planners and they were the nicest and promptest(is that a word?)
    Come to find out they were based in town too..was a nice surprise..
    They handled everything with no 1 single issue. I changed dining plans like a hundred times and Dawn didnt skip a beat.
    It was nice having someone do most of the work for us and the fact it didnt cost me any money out of pocket helped a lot!

  6. Chip, do you have a link?

  7. Kim, if you want to pass on your link, I’d love to check it out.

  8. I think Small World Vacations is who Mousesavers get all their tips from, and I trust Mousesavers!!

  9. We just booked a trip with Pixie Vacations. They did a great job with all our reservations and newbie questions. Ask for Lisa, she was super helpful. http://www.pixievacations.com

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