Working with Travel Agents Specializing in Disney Vacations
The amount of research necessary to plan all the details of a Disney vacation can be too time-consuming or even intimidating for some people. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the options, a great (FREE) solution is to use the services of a travel agent who specializes in Disney travel.
“Disney Specialists” have completed the College of Disney Knowledge, an online course offered by Disney that covers Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney. This is a great starting point, but frankly it’s not enough. Believe it or not, a travel agent can easily become a “Disney Specialist” in a few hours, without ever having visited a Disney vacation destination in person!
For that reason, we recommend picking an agency such as Small World Vacations that focuses on Disney travel and requires its agents to have advanced experience with Disney destinations, including in-person, on-site visits.
Normally the client pays nothing extra for the service provided by a travel agency. Travel agents make their living from a small commission paid by the travel supplier (in this case, Disney) for the resort hotel rooms, theme park passes and vacation packages they book. The agent is compensated by this commission for the time, effort and attention she provides to the client.
Some agencies do charge for making changes or cancellations. The agency we recommend, Small World Vacations, does not charge any fees, including cancellation or change fees.
Travel agencies always charge a fee for making air reservations, because the airlines no longer pay commission. Small World Vacations does not book plane tickets for that very reason: it’s cheaper and easier for you to do it yourself! (Read our advice and tips on booking your own airfare.)
Because they work on a commission basis, it’s unfair to ask a travel agent to do a lot of research for you, and then book elsewhere. Likewise, a reputable travel agent normally will not take over the booking of a trip from another travel agent, because this is considered “stealing” someone else’s earned commission.
An agent who specializes in Disney travel should be able to provide you with accurate information, including pricing, for Disney resorts, theme park passes and packages. She will book your trip and seek out the best deals for you — even rebooking your trip when better rates come up, if possible. Additionally, the best agents will help you with “extras” like booking your Advance Dining Reservations.
Once you book with a travel agent, he or she becomes your single point of contact for all changes in your travel plans. You cannot make changes or cancellations directly through Disney if you are working with a travel agent. For most people this feature is convenient, but if you prefer to control everything yourself, booking with a travel agent is not for you.
Travel agents are generally geared toward long-term planning (one month in advance or more). That’s primarily because it can take 3-4 weeks for them to get the paperwork from Disney once they’ve made your reservations, and then they have to get that paperwork to you. If you’re planning a last-minute trip, it’s usually better to do it yourself.
One of the most important things you need to find out about a travel agency is how they handle payments. The agency should send your payments immediately and directly to Disney. If you give them a credit card number, the card payment should be processed by Disney. If you write a check, it should be made out to Disney, not to the agency. That is how the agency we recommend (Small World Vacations) processes payments. They don’t hold your money — it goes straight to Disney.
DO NOT use an agency that collects your money and holds that money in its own accounts! Agencies that hold your money may have cash flow problems. They may be using your money to pay their suppliers for earlier clients’ vacations, and then hoping to use future clients’ money to pay for your vacation. It’s sort of like a pyramid scheme, and it can have the same result if their cash flow dries up.
When you let an agency process your payment through its own accounts, you have no guarantee that they’ll actually pay Disney for your vacation. There is also a risk that they’ll delay paying so long that your reservation may be canceled. If you have booked a Disney cruise, full payment must be received by Disney by a certain date so that you can reserve excursions and make Palo reservations, but if the agency sits on your money, you may lose your chance to make those reservations.
Some agencies are bonded, but if they default or close their doors, the bond may not cover all the money they’ve been collecting from clients. In some states, agencies that process payments are legally required to put your money in an escrow account for your protection, but many states don’t require this. In any case, there is no reason why the agency should earn interest on your money!
By the way, we don’t recommend paying for a vacation by check or debit card. You have much better protection against losing your money if you pay with a credit card.
The travel agent we use personally, talk with all the time, and can recommend wholeheartedly is Sue Pisaturo, whose company is called Small World Vacations.
Sue and all of her agents are Disney Specialists and College of Disney Knowledge graduates. Small World Vacations agents are required to have actually experienced the Disney destinations they sell. (In other words, if they are booking Disney cruises, they’ve actually been on a Disney cruise — often several cruises — themselves.) In addition, Small World agents complete ongoing education programs on-site at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Universal Orlando.
Small World Vacations is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, a special designation given by Disney to its top booking agencies. Sue Pisaturo, the owner and founder, is acknowledged as a Disney “expert among experts” and has contributed to The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and other guidebooks. Sue was selected as one of the 2009 “Enterprising Women of the Year” by Enterprising Women magazine.
Small World Vacations is included in Travel Weekly’s 2017 Power List of the most successful travel agencies in the USA. They’ve been on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies for six years in a row, and is one of very few agencies in the world to earn Platinum status (the highest level) in Disney’s EarMarked program for travel agencies. Small World Vacations has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. They are insured, bonded and have been in business for over 20 years.
Here’s how the process works. Small World Vacations uses a quotation system that helps them offer the best discounts available and also directs your request to the best agent for your needs.
- Based on your needs and your location, Sue partners you with a specific agent who will work with you right up through the time of your trip. (Sue is located in the Northeastern US, but she has agents around the US and works with clients around the world.)
- The agent will contact you by email with your quotation and provide you with a toll-free number that allows you to reach her directly and discuss the details of your vacation.
- From that point on, your contact is one-on-one with the agent and completely personalized.
Sue’s agents are extremely knowledgeable about Disney travel and wonderful to work with. They are very oriented toward saving you money and will constantly monitor your reservation to make sure you are getting the best available deal. They understand and use the various discount codes that may be available, and they know all the best tricks for maximizing your time and money when planning a Disney vacation.
You will always receive helpful planning information and literature when you book with Small World Vacations. There is never any charge for their services. They often offer special gifts and incentives as well. Be sure to subscribe to the FREE monthly MouseSavers Newsletter, since Small World frequently offers extra goodies for newsletter subscribers.
The agents at Small World Vacations are genuinely enthusiastic and knowledgeable about all things Disney, and we know they’ll take great care of you. We have received many, many “thank you” emails from readers who had a wonderful experience working with this agency.
- Special offer for 2018! Through the end of 2018, Small World Vacations is offering a FREE subscription to TouringPlans.com when you book a Walt Disney World Magic Your Way vacation package valued at $2000 or more. TouringPlans.com is a fantastic resource for planning your Walt Disney World vacation, including tools for generating custom park touring plans and a crowd calendar that shows when each park is busiest. One subscription per party. Offer expires on December 15, 2018. One subscription per qualifying package. Valued at $14.95.
- Delicious Offer for 2018! Book a Walt Disney World Magic Your Way Vacation Package with the Table Service or Deluxe Dining Plan and Small World Vacations is happy to give one FREE digital Disney Food Guide eBook valued at $19.95. This book is packed with more than 650 pages of tips and information, but it begins with a 5-step guide designed to get all your major worries out of the way. After that, you’ll get page after page of great info that can help you plan and optimize your dining decisions.
- Get a vacation quote from Small World Vacations! Please note that Small World Vacations has a minimum booking requirement of 3 nights, except for room-only bookings (with no tickets or dining plan) of standard Value resort rooms, for which the minimum booking requirement is 5 nights.
- Small World Vacations can also book Universal Orlando vacation packages as an add-on to your Walt Disney World trip or Disney Cruise vacation, or even as a stand-alone trip. Read more about booking a trip to Universal Orlando with Small World Vacations.