What Our Disney Travel Agent Did and Didn’t Do For Our Family Trip to Disney World
When I casually mentioned to my husband that we should probably consider going to to Disney World for spring break the following year because our daughters were at the right age, I was surprised when he not only agreed, but was more enthusiastic about it than me.
“Yes! But at Christmas! And we can surprise them with it ON Christmas and leave THAT night!”
It appeared my husband had been harboring his own Disney Christmas dream for many years. I was charmed by my own Prince Charming, but also realized for that to happen in 8 months travel planning had to commence immediately.
We started reading lots of Disney blogs, scoured the review sites for feedback on different Disney resorts, and watched YouTube videos by so-called Disney experts.
And felt more confused than ever.
What was Genie+? How was that different from Lightning Lanes? What was the difference between a premium resort and the others? Just HOW busy did it really get at Christmastime?
We kept researching and our confusion continued. We both had extensively traveled around the world – solo at times! Heck, I WRITE about travel for a living. And yet, trying to plan a trip to Disney World in Florida left us completely stumped.
“I think we need a travel agent,” I said. Despite having worked in marketing for an online travel agency earlier in my career I had never actually used a travel agent, preferring to do the (what I considered to be) fun planning parts myself.
My husband nodded in agreement but groaned. “How much is THAT going to cost?”
Turns out, practically nothing.
The Cost of Using a Disney Travel Agent
Disney travel agents who work exclusively with Disney resorts don’t have much of a reason to charge you — because Disney pays them. Yup, they get commission from Disney for every Disney resort and ticket reservation they make.
After sending out a few queries, we ended up going with a travel agent who did charge an extra fee of a few hundred dollars, and by the time our trip rolled around we thought that was a total steal.
Read on to find out more about who we used and why we thought a small extra fee was totally worth it.
Who Was Our Disney Travel Agent?
We used Kerri Danley from the Enchanted Traveler because she came recommended from a good friend and we liked the extreme detail she paid to trip planning.
We talked to a few other travel agents who basically just did the reservation booking for the parks and resort and gave you some generic tips, but Kerri planned out a whole itinerary for us with an on boarding call and another call a few days before we left.
She told us which Lightning Lanes to book first and the order in which to do the rides. This helped minimize our line wait times.
She also recommended restaurants to reserve based on our interests, and even got up at 3am to make those bookings for us the day they became available! (Because they typically become available at 6am EST 60 days in advance and we are on the west coast, ugh. I talked to one friend who had recently planned a multi-generation trip to Disney on her own and was up at 3am three days in a row trying to get reservations. She said paying a travel agent $300 would have been worth it just for that reason alone!)
What Our Disney Travel Agent Did For Us
- Sent us break downs of our top three resorts.
- Booked our resort.
- Booked our park reservations.
- Woke up early to book our dinner reservations the day they became available to us. (And helped us get things sorted after some drama we encountered with a soon to expire credit card on our account, this resulted in our Disney account being locked for suspicious activities due to said credit card. Fixing this took hours and messed up the reservation booking process. But Kerri handled it all and she still managed to get us in everywhere we wanted.)
- Watched for cancellations to get other dinner reservations at our desired times that weren’t available at the 60-day mark.
- Put together a detailed itinerary for us using our feedback of rides and attractions that were important to us.
- Told us about Child Swap, which saved us a lot of time on Space Mountain and kept us from missing one of our Lightning Lanes for Guardians of the Galaxy (my new favorite ride by the way!)
- Made recommendations for “Rope Drop”.
What Our Disney Travel Agent Did Not Do
- Book our flights
- Reserve our Lightning Lanes (I can’t imagine any Disney travel agent actually does this since they’d need to be available all day, but just throwing it out there that this is not included)
And you won’t see any blog posts from me about Lightning Lanes or Genie+ and how they work because after 5 days of using it I’m still not sure I totally get it, plus it’s always changing — but it’s well worth the money, especially if you maximize it by having a travel agent who tells you when to reserve what and the order in which to do so.
Disney at Christmas Makes It Even More Important to Have a Travel Agent
Oh, and about going at Christmas. Kerri did tell us that it was the busiest week and a bit of a crazy time to go, but said that if she did her job right we wouldn’t feel the craziness or encounter long waits — and she was right!
However, we weren’t accounting for the craziness of air transportation this past Christmas. Our flight was cancelled as we were driving to the airport the evening of Christmas after days of delays and cancellations. There was no hope for getting on another flight out of Seattle for a week.
By some Christmas miracle we managed to find a flight out of Bozeman, Montana, so we drove there from Washington, stayed with a family member, and arrived in Orlando 48 hours later than planned. While we were scrambling to find flights, drive across multiple mountain passes, and just try to retain our sanity, Kerri was working behind the scenes to juggle around our park and dinner reservations for the day we missed. She even managed to extend our reservation at Animal Kingdom Lodge and have us not be charged for the night we missed. We were elated. And she did all this the morning after Christmas when I’m sure she would much rather have been resting after Christmas!
Kerri Danley is Awesome at Planning Disney Trips!
All in all, Kerri made our trip so much more manageable and enjoyable. We can’t imagine ever going to Disney without her help. Thanks a million Kerri!
You can reach Kerri through the Enchanted Traveler site or by email at [email protected] or phone, 425-270-7451.