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Best Travel Agent Disney World
I am a Disney World expert who runs my own travel agency. Here are my top tips for an affordable — and headache-free — trip to the parks.
Not Your Average Neighbor: Disney World Planning In Progress
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This article is based on an interview with Alison Mertzman, a 37-year-old former elementary school teacher who runs a travel agency.
Which specializes in Disney vacations and is located in Los Angeles, California. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I have been to Disney World over 50 times and I go to Disneyland every few weeks. I went to Disney World for the first time when I was nine months old.
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I have had such fond memories with Disney my entire life. Upon entering a Disney park, you will immediately feel enchanted with the characters. They pump the smell of the bakery onto Main Street, so the air smells different when you walk in. I experienced it with my parents as a child, and now I go with my two daughters, ages four and seven.
I have become an expert at planning Disney trips, not only through my own excursions, but also by planning vacations for friends and family who ask for help. When it comes to a Disney vacation, you really need someone who is an expert because it requires covering a lot of details, including dinner reservations and resort locations, in relation to the parks and other attractions.
Many people think you can go to Disney and wing it. It has to be planned.
In January 2016, I posted on Facebook that I would help anyone planning a Disney vacation. The first person I worked with was a referral from a friend, then it spiraled from there
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This year alone, I have worked with 250 different clients. I plan trips to all Disney destinations including Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Olani and Adventures by Disney. I sell Disney World trips the easiest because it’s the most popular destination, but my favorite to plan is Adventures by Disney because those clients travel all over the world and have really unique and fun trips. I have five agents who work for me part-time.
I started as a travel agent to pay for my Disney trips. It was a side hustle for a long time and became a full-time job in 2018 when I opened my own travel agency. I quit teaching because we were moving from Michigan to California after my wife got a new job. We collectively decided that sending our daughter to daycare was too expensive, and that my teaching salary did not exceed the cost of childcare.
I have 846,000 followers on TikTok and 145,000 followers on Instagram. I pursued my social media during the pandemic as a fun pastime and gained many subscribers that way.
I am a member of the Cruise Lines International Association. Every year since 2016, I have also graduated from the College of Disney Knowledge, which requires approximately five hours of Disney-specific training annually.
Disney World Itinerary (6 Days Planned By An Orlando Local)
I charge a planning fee between $150 for the basic experience – which includes customized options for hotel and flight planning – and $450 for more detail-oriented planning. Every client receives reminder emails and recommendations on what to book and when and what special add-ons they can purchase 90, 67 and 37 days before their trip. I set up their bookings for hotels, helped them with flight and park tickets, decided the best places for them to check out, and helped with logistics. One of the most common requests I get from clients is help choosing dining and hotels based on their budget.
Many people think that a Disney vacation will cost them $10,000, but there are many ways to make it affordable.
Visiting a Disney attraction is still a luxury, but I can work within the client’s budget to make sure they don’t lose the mortgage on it. My travel agency exclusively monitors any deals, and I automatically apply them to any reservations I make.
Weekdays are usually cheaper than weekends. Traveling during Christmas and Spring Break is always more expensive, so if that’s the time you can go, accept the fact that it will be crowded. This year, I looked at deals for Disney Plus members and Disney Visa cardholders. Often, these deals can only be applied to packages, so I recommend booking your hotel and park tickets together.
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Each Disney Resort room has a refrigerator or cooler. I suggest having an early breakfast in your room so you can get to the park early when it’s less crowded. (I’d say the two hours before the park opens are the least crowded, as well as after the fireworks show in the evening.) Any guests staying on Disney property are admitted half an hour early. This is the best time to go on the most sought-after rides.
I recommend eating lunch in the park rather than dinner, because you never know where you’ll be by evening, and you might be too tired to stick around. Always make advance reservations for your meals in the park.
If you need to find the nearest restroom, ask a Disney cast member. They are very common throughout the park and are usually informative.
I really enjoy the after-hours events that start at 9 or 10 at night, especially if you’re a night owl. Then you have less crowds, so you can easily get to the more popular rides.
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Apart from the Covid-19 lockdown, the biggest challenges I have faced are weather-related, such as hurricanes and tropical storms in Florida. I take care of all re-scheduling in such situations, which is baked into my planning fee.
I work really hard to set expectations for the people around me so they know what to expect when they work with me. I’ve walked people through the gate.
One person in particular sent her a three-page long email with everything she wanted. I knew right away that she was someone who would be constantly unhappy if things didn’t go her way (which was often on vacation). When another of my agents offered to take him on, I sent an email with a nearly paragraph introduction, to which he angrily replied that I was being personal and couldn’t believe I passed him over. I then sent a long email reply apologizing and explaining that we wouldn’t be a good fit – to which he responded with bullet points about everything he had done wrong in the conversation. I’m glad I trusted her instincts.
But I love the challenge of creating magical, multigenerational vacations for families, and I can’t imagine stopping anytime soon. When someone gets back to me and says, “Allison, this trip was amazing. Your recommendations were spot on. My kids had a great time. Thank you” – it means everything to me. There are many aspects of a Disney trip that require planning, such as choosing dates, purchasing tickets, making park pass reservations, deciding which hotel to stay at, deciding whether you want to purchase Genie+ — We can go further. So why do it all yourself when you don’t have to figure it out alone?
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While it used to be easy to show up to a Disney park without planning, times have changed and planning is an essential part of maximizing your time at the parks. If you’ve been to Disney World or Disneyland Resort in the past few years, you probably have a general idea of how to plan the trip this time around. But whether you visited a Disney park yesterday or haven’t been in 10 years, here’s why you should use a Disney-certified travel agent!
What you may or may not know about using a travel agent is that their services are completely free! We know..it may be hard to believe, but travel agents earn commissions by helping you book your travel. Disney World vacations come with a lot of expenses, so the fact that you can get some planning assistance at no extra cost should alleviate that concern.
Travel agents love to help you plan and book trips and give you more time to relax and think about fun things to do. Victory, sounds like a victory!
Before you actually get into the car or