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Mike Scopa

Top Disney World Internet: Passporter.com

Friday, March 7, 2003
by Mike Scopa, MousePlanet staff writer

In our continuing series on top Disney Internet sites, let's turn our attention this session to a Web site that has set the standard for establishing an online presence that not only mirrors, but compliments, a published book.


Used by permission of PassPorter.com.

The site is Passporter.com, and our hosts for this unique site are Jennifer Watson and Dave Marx. This team has put together a Web site that makes a real connection to their Passporter Walt Disney World Planning Guide.

Birth of a Web site

This site first graced cyberspace in 1999 just prior to the initial publishing of the Passporter book.

As Jennifer Watson recalls, “It was mostly a collection of articles on planning WDW trips at that time, and we weren't really spreading the word about the site yet.”

It was the incredible outreaching power of the Internet, however, that resulted in something that Jennifer and Dave were not prepared for. “The funny thing is that someone stumbled across it, saw that we were coming out with a book soon, and started spreading the word for us,” said Jennifer. “In fact, because of their enthusiasm, we ran out of books in the first month! We hadn't quite expected they'd be so excited.”

In a few years, both the site and the book have grown beyond what Jennifer and Dave could have ever imagined. In that time, the connection between the book and the site has evolved into quite a bond.

A tour of Passporter.com

Those who are familiar with the Passporter guide should feel quite at home at this site. The site does not limit itself to information on Walt Disney World and Florida, but also extends towards helping visitors plan vacations for such destinations as the Caribbean, California, and New York. For our purposes, let's explore the WDW areas of the site; very much the strongpoint of the site.

The site offers its visitors help and tips in planning, traveling, lodging, touring, dining, and doing those extra special things on a WDW vacation. The site also offers its readers an assortment of fun things to do such as:

  • A message board that builds the Passporter community.
  • A Sunday night trivia game.
  • Fun contests and prizes.
  • Several mailing lists from which to choose to register for announcements, discussions, or just to receive tips.
  • A guest book to sign in and register with the community.
  • A ratings area to help others plan and a feedback area.
  • A Passporter Club and forums both nurturing the Passporter community.

Unlike All Ears Net and WDWMagic, the first two Disney sites we have covered, Passporter.com takes great steps to not only provide information but also to provide community. It's obvious that Jennifer and Dave have created a special magic of their own, and are using that magic to connect with their Passporter family. This is seen with the design of the site to offer guests a chance to share their experiences and to discuss issues, thoughts, and ideas on WDW vacations.


Used by permission of PassPorter.com.

The second appealing aspect of this site is how it connects with its hard-copy sibling, the published version of Passporter. In today's world where the printed page sometimes becomes outdated well before the ink dries, Jennifer and Dave have figured out a way to remove that obsolescence by offering their readers online updates to their printed Passporter guides.

The update section is well-designed and offers the date of the update, what page is affected, and the actual update information. Readers can thus keep their book as accurate as possible long after they leave the bookstore. In essence, the site has helped make the book a living document.

A sense of pride and accomplishment

You can sense the feeling of accomplishment when Jennifer proudly said,“Passporter.com exists primarily as a support for our books — it's a companion site for the guidebooks. In-depth information that won't fit in the books goes to the Web site, and we offer ways for people to register their books, send in surveys, ask questions, get updates to their books, and so on.”

Jennifer is especially proud of one aspect of this bond. “We were one of the first travel guidebook sites to offer a page-by-page list of updates for the books. In 2000, we added a message board system, which really took off, so now our readers can meet other readers and vacationers at our site, ask their questions, share their adventures, and have a good time,” Jennifer said. “These days, the message board is a very big draw, and many people spend a good portion of their day there reading and posting. It's a good community!”

Dave and Jennifer recognize that there is a thirst for knowledge in cyberspace, especially for those readers who are above all fans of the Walt Disney world Resort.

Looking ahead

What does the future hold for the site? “More in-depth articles, more planning tools, and more message board topics,” Jennifer said. “As our guidebook series grows, so will the Web site. Anything we can find that will help our readers plan and enjoy their trips — that's what we want to add to our site!”

Always thinking of innovative ways to reach their audience, Jennifer muses “Perhaps some automated vacation planning tools that go hand-in-hand with the Passporter planning system, and more downloadable pages that can either standalone or be placed in Passporter.”

So as the site grows in popularity will the focus of the site change? Not according to Jennifer. “No matter how big the site gets,” she states, “our wonderful readers will always be our primary audience — they are the reason we're here!”

And I guess that's what it all comes down to...knowing and serving one's audience. Passporter.com certainly fits that order. That, plus all the other reasons noted, are why I salute Passporter.com as one of the top Disney sites on the Internet.

Next time

Disney sites devoted to saving you money.

Class dismissed.


Contact Mike at mike.scopa@mouseplanet.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.

Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.

Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.

Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.

You can contact Mike here.

OTHER LINKS

Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:

Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)

Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)

Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)

Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, “The Trip Planner” for more travel planning information.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”

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