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Practical tips for Walt Disney World travel
|A Visit with a Disney Specialist: Part I|
In the confusing and complex world of Disney travel planning, the ally who can greatly enhance and help with your needs is the Disney specialist. Unlike a regular travel agent, a Disney specialist has special knowledge of the Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World, Disney Institute, and Disney Cruise Line. Disney specialists have your best interests in mind, they are not an agent, affiliate, or employee of Disney.
In this session, we meet Sue Pisaturo, a Disney specialist and a College of Disney Knowledge graduate.
Sue hails from New Jersey and was "bit by the Disney bug" on her very first trip to Orlando with her family. She soon began helping friends and family plan their Disney vacations, and enjoying it more and more. Someone suggested to Sue that she should teach a class on Disney vacations and she thought, "Why not?"
She conducts courses on Walt Disney World vacation planning and appropriately titles these courses, "Walt Disney World, Do it Right!"
About six years ago, Sue was approached by some of her students to help them plan and book their vacations, and who were willing to pay her for her services. As Sue spent more of her time providing vacation planning services, she wondered if there was a career staring her right in the face.
She found that vacation planning was so much fun that she took some courses, which led to her becoming a travel agent. She approached a local agency, and became an outside travel agent working out of her home. Sue's Walt Disney World trip planning courses had created a market, and she found herself living the dream job of helping people plan and book their Disney vacations.
After working several years as an outside agent for a local agency, Sue decided to start her own agency. She named her agency Small World Travel. The name has a bit of a Disney flavor to it, don't you think? Today, her agency includes a number of outside agents. And although it sounds like this all happened overnight, it took Sue years and a lot of work to understand what it takes to be a travel agent, and to eventually establish her own agency.
Sue has learned an important rule: "People depend upon you as their travel agent, so it's important to understand that you cannot make mistakes in this job!"
Because Sue must keep up her knowledge of these Disney destinations, she and her family have and continue to experience the wonders of Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and the Disney Cruise line whenever they can. "It's a tough job but somebody has to do it," she says with a smile.
"There is no one rule for everyone to go by when putting together a Disney vacation," says Sue. Having booked thousands of vacations, "No two clients are alike," she says, "So no two vacations are alike either." Some people are comfortable with packages, while others are not. Sue takes pride in making sure that each of her clients receives the necessary attention to make the best match for their individual needs.
Sue feels it is best to first book your room, then build from there. Once accommodation needs are satisfied, she then encourages her clients to think about their itinerary, which help determine admission media and dining needs.
What about the best time to go? "Anywhere from Thanksgiving to two weeks before Christmas is a good time to go," says Sue. "The resort is empty, and everything is beautifully decorated."
"Another good time to go is mid-May," she adds.
Like all agents, Sue has her own special tips for her clients.. "There are several things that I tell my customers. If you know which restaurants you want to visit, then make your reservations before you go down -- especially the more difficult dining experiences like character meals."
One special tip she suggests is to "make a 7:30-7:45 p.m. reservation at the Rose and Crown Pub in England in Epcot. If you're lucky you'll be able to dine on the back patio and watch Illuminations."
How to Best Help Your Travel Agent
As a potential client, what can you do to help your travel agent? "Clients who book as early as possible will find the easiest time booking the rooms they want at the time they want them," says Sue. "Booking early also gives the travel agent time to monitor specials along the way and get the best rate for their clients."
"For those who wait until the last minute to book their vacations," warns Sue, "they must be flexible. When you book late you have to realize that you may not get your first preference on rooms or dates so you may need to be flexible on both accounts."
Most importantly, Sue asks her clients what is more important to them: convenience or price. She said her job gets easier once she knows her clients' priorities.
"When clients first come to Small World Travel, I explain to them that a Walt Disney Vacation comes down to two budgets: a time budget and a money budget," says Sue. "Time and money are equally important. Once they understand that, then it becomes a lot easier for me to work with them to meet the needs of both budgets."
Sue strives to save money for her clients. "It's real helpful if my clients have had any previous experience with discounts. Any experience they may have can only help me work with them in helping them save money on their next trip."
The most confusing aspect of booking a Disney vacation, according to Sue, is in dealing with the travel divisions of Disney. You should not only recognize which travel division of Disney to talk to when booking a vacation, but also what the policies of that division are. For example, policies differ among the Walt Disney World Central Reservation Office (CRO), the Disney Club, and Disney Travel Club.
In our next session, we continue our visit with Sue Pisaturo and learn more about these Disney travel divisions and their policies.
Next time: A Visit with a Disney Specialist Part II
*The term, "Disney specialist," indicates a special knowledge level of the Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World, Disney Institute, and Disney Cruise Line. Not an agent, affiliate, or employee of Disney.
Photos on this page by Brian Bennett unless otherwise noted
Here's a list of the trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives!
Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, "The Trip Planner" for more travel planning information!
The first Disney trip report that I ever read was a report by Mike Scopa that I downloaded from the America Online travel library in late 1994. The report was a detailed description of the Scopa family's trip to WDW in the summer of that year.
As soon as I was done reading it, I was hooked.
I picked my own brain and documented my own trips and the things I'd learned from my own experiences. Then, in 1995 I actually wrote a report as the trip unfolded. I took a laptop with me and spent some time in the evenings documenting what had happened that day. (I've repeated that process for my own reports ever since.)
In July 1996, I started my Disney trip planning Web site. Besides including my own reports, I asked for permission from the authors of several other reports and added them to the offering. Since then, the number of reports has expanded greatly. In 1997, I added an information summary for each report to make it easier to sort through the reports that are available.
I still 'blame' Mike for hooking me on this Disney habit.
MousePlanet® is not associated in any official way with the Walt Disney Company, its subsidiaries, or its affiliates. The official Disney site is available at www.disney.com. This MousePlanet Web site provides independent news articles, commentary, editorials, reviews, and guides primarily about the theme park resorts of the Walt Disney Co. All information on this site is subject to change. Please call destinations in advance to confirm the most up-to-date information.