Thursday, February 2, 2017

The best way to book your Disney vacation

This has been a frequently asked question so I'm here to share what I've learned.  If you have any additional suggestions or thoughts, please leave a comment!

Basically, there are two ways to book your Disney vacation - directly with Disney or through a travel agent.  When I use the term "Disney vacation" I'm referring to a Disney package which includes accommodations at a Disney resort, park tickets and possibly a dining plan.  There are obviously other ways to vacation at Disney.  You can rent a home or stay at a hotel outside of Disney.  For purposes of this post, I'm only focusing on packages.

Booking with Disney

You can most definitely simply call (phone numbers are on their website) and speak with a cast member who will assist in any way possible but personally I have found Disney's website to be most helpful in making decisions.  You can check the cost and availability right there yourself, running as many different scenarios as you'd like.  I do suggest checking under the "Explore Our Special Offers" link to see current promotions.

Then why use a travel agent?

If you haven't researched the life out of a Disney vacation, a travel agent can be extremely helpful in guiding you through the process, which includes advance dining and Magical Express reservations, and FastPass+ selections.  A travel agent can even handle all of those for you.  The biggest benefit to using a travel agent is that he/she is aware of Disney's special offers so if you've already booked your vacation and a promotion is released after the fact, your travel agent can rebook your vacation.  Keep in mind that Disney doesn't automatically update existing reservations when promotions are released.

I've booked directly with Disney and I've also used a travel agent.  Why would I use a travel agent when I know so much about Disney?  Well, this one had their own agency exclusive offer which resulted in significant savings versus booking directly with Disney.  My agent also handled the Magical Express reservations for me.  I took care of dining and FastPasses because, you know, Type A.  If you're looking for a Disney travel agent, I would recommend Magical Vacations Travel.  They were pleasant to work with and extremely helpful when I added that day on to the beginning of our vacation last year.  

A few suggestions on picking a Disney travel agent:
  1. If you come across a Disney travel agent who wants to charge you a fee (say $200), I'd keep looking.  These agents are paid a commission from Disney and the majority of them do not charge you, the client, a fee.
  2. If you aren't well-versed in Disney-speak, I would use an agent who has vacationed at Disney.  Most will have a little bio or openly advertise their personal Disney experience.  There are some Disney travel agents out there who have never been to Disney which to me is a little like reading the manual but never actually using the equipment.  
How do you know when a special offer has been released?

You can check Disney's website or follow Disney Parks Blog (they have social media accounts.)

Disney has a history of releasing similar offers during certain time periods.  For example, free dining during the fall.  If you google "Disney historical discounts" several links will pop up of sites that track historical discounts.  You may find this useful in planning future vacations as it will give you an idea of what discounts have been offered and when. 

I hope you've found this helpful!   


Teej said...

Ha, this post made me smile a little because there is a blogger I sometimes read who I kind of love to hate (why read it then? I don't even know. I guess it satisfies some inner catty/pettiness, sigh) who is a travel agent who both charges for planning Disney trips and who has never been, at least recently!

Right now, we are planning a trip to Animal Kingdom in April during my son's spring break. Just one day at AK because I grew up in Orlando, and we stay with my Mom and do lots of other things than Disney when we are there, but I am feeling kind of bleh about it. I know it is going to be crazy crowded, and Animal Kingdom itself is kind of bleh in my opinion. But the kids have never been to that particular park, and my husband wants to go. According to the crowd calendar it is going to be a 9/10. :p Any tips for me?

Bernice said...

You should become a Disney Travel agent, you do such a great job of giving advice on Disney:)
I have only one suggestion ask if there are any marathons, competitions etc going on,our neighbor who thought this would be good time to go texted this past Wednesday that MK was pact she asked a CM and found out a National High School Dance compition was going on at the sports complex,when not competing the teams along with parents etc were hitting MK, Also along the same line check on what rides will be closed due to refurbishment.
I have complimented you before but will do it again your pictures of landscapes oceans etc,and of course your darling girls are beautiful.
Thanks for reading this:)

Sarah said...

Teej - That blogger sounds like she's making $ off who she is and not her expertise. As for Animal Kingdom - eeek! crowd estimate of 9/10 - I would get there first thing for rope drop. I feel like the parks are busiest midday. Get there early and get FastPasses.

Thank you, Bernice!! That is a really good point. I've heard that All Stars during LIttle League week is a nightmare!

Anonymous said...

Being such a Disney fan, do you know about the relocation cruises they have to, and from Europe? I am taking the transatlantic cruise this May with my family. The prices are cheap, considering it is 15 nights cruise, with 5 European ports on a Disney ship.


Sarah said...

Alexandra - I'm sorry. I don't know very much about cruises. Have you looked on the disboards? Usually there's a ton of info over there if you search. Sounds like an interesting cruise.