The Best Disney Travel Agents Share Their Booking Secrets
Disney World is the size of San Francisco. Disneyland accommodated 18.28 capital-M million visitors in 2015.1 It’s no wonder that travelers search high and low for the best Disney travel agents to help plan and book their Disney vacations! HAR had some incredibly smart and resourceful travel agents share golden nuggets (more like a goldmine) of wisdom for booking Disney trips. I present to you (drumroll please . . .)
Disney Tripping 101
Whether you’re a veteran agent or newbie, booking a Disney Cruise, Disneyland, Disney World, or an Adventures by Disney vacation, we’re here to give you a few more resources to add to your bag of tricks!
- Early Reservation Date Calculator for Disney Bookings: Input your client's departure date and—BAM!—we'll let you know the day you can make advanced reservations for different Disney events/restaurants.
- Printable Cheatsheet: Includes What to Consider when Selling Disney, and a brief index of Disney lingo (great for the Beginner Disney Travel Agent)
We got so much great feedback, we decided we'd have to post multiple articles on selling Disney to make sure we cover all our bases. Go big or go home, right? This post is the first of 4-part series on booking Disney, offering a birds-eye view of all Disney vacations.
- Should you book Disney?
- Disney commissions
- Charging a service fee
- Communicating about Disney trips with your clients
- Putting together a Disney price quote
- College of Disney Knowledge
- Other Disney Resources
Thanks to these stellar agents, you’ll have the equivalent to a FastPass+ when it comes to insider info on booking Disney.
Should I Book Disney Vacations?
Frankly, some of the travel agents I spoke with and emailed are die-hard fans of Disney vacations. Nikki Miller of Travel With Nikki told me she has visited Disney World a total of 36 times and got married there.
However, while booking Disney may not be for the faint of heart, the secret is that you don’t necessarily have to be a fanatic yourself to book Disney.
"My advice to build up your business is to find something very specific and go all out.” — Sarah Bergman of Park & Preston Travel
If you think Disney doesn’t mesh with your niche, you might be surprised. Disney has their hands in a lot of different travel markets including adventure travel, adult-only experiences, weddings, honeymoons and more.
Sarah Bergman’s agency is a perfect example of how Disney might intersect with your current niche. Her agency tailors her Disney vacations to runners. Last year, 90% of her business was specific to race.
Here’s what Sarah’s had to say about coordinating runDisney event weekends, “We’ve worked very hard to form a great relationship with the team at runDisney, and are able to send hundreds of runners to each coast to participate in these events. We contract bibs and rooms in advance and build custom packages for our runners. This has opened up a huge world of clients for us, and these clients keep coming back!”
Because Sarah’s niche has generated repeat clients, now her runDisney sales make up approximately 75% of her sales. So whether you do cruise, romance travel, golf, spa, or adventure (the list goes on, my friend), opening your door to Disney might help you tap into a broader client-base.
Getting Past the 10% Commission Thing
It’s no secret in the travel agent community that Disney vacations require a lot of work to plan. But, at 10% commission, Disneyland and Disney World packages are at the lowest end of the commission spectrum. For some agents, that’s a huge turn off. (Read more on travel agent commissions here)
Agent Crystal Smith discussed the advantages of selling Disney regardless of lower commissions; “When I first started my business, I thought Disney wasn't worth the effort because of the lower commission levels for Disney Resorts. Now, I realize, Disney vacations are never a budget vacation so it's certainly worth my time to be a Disney expert. Plus, some of those initial Disney visits turn into annual visits and sometimes Disney cruises.”
Consider charging a service fee for all your hard work.
It ain’t easy to plan and book a Disney Trip. And even if it is easy for you, it’s easy because of your years of Disney experience. Several of the Disney travel agents I spoke with mentioned they charge a concierge/service fee for their clients, and I personally think that’s a darn good idea.
“People are willing to pay for good service. And if they aren't, then maybe that's not the clientele you're looking for.” — Laurie Zeller of Travel Leader’s Apple Valley, a storefront agency through Travel Leader’s Network
As Laurie said, “People never think to ask a plumber, ‘Why should I use you when I can just go buy a wrench and watch a YouTube video on how to fix my leaky sink?’ They don't ask that because they know that a plumber is going to do an excellent job and that their leaky sink is now in the hands of a true professional.”
With your expertise and experience, you stand to save spare your client heartache and vacation turbulence, so don’t be afraid to value the hard work you put into booking a trip! (Want more data or ideas on service fees? Discover what 550+ agents charge for their service fees!)
Still not your cup of tea? That’s okay. Some agents don’t want to touch Disney with a ten foot pole. So if your client insists on a Disney trip, refer to them to the best Disney travel agent you know. (Don’t know any? We just so happen to have stellar Disney travel agents included in this article! 😊) It’s totally up to you.
Communicating with the Disney Client
“Selling the experience is the best way to connect with them and makes this an emotional decision. I indulge them in how they will feel when they first see the castle, or that first time their little ones hug Mickey. They don't want to buy a package, they want to have an special personalized travel experience.” —Denise Lorentzen of Dreams Travel Consulting, an independent contractor with Gifted Travel Network
- The Disney Client: Regarding the Disney client, Nikki told me, “[When] working with Disney, you’re working with a lot of emotions. It’s almost like you’re working with someone’s wedding. It might be only one or two trips they take with their family, so they really want to create an amazing experience.”
- So whether a client is going to Disney for the first time or wants to pass along childhood Disney memories to their own children, the stakes for booking a Disney trip can run high.
- Selling the Magic: Agent Denise Lorentzen, owner and travel consultant at Dreams Travel Consulting, elaborated on highlighting the magic of Disney when talking to a client, “My best tip for selling Disney World (or any Disney vacation) is to sell them on the ‘magic.’ I indulge them in how they will feel when they first see the castle, or that first time their little ones hug Mickey. Selling the experience is the best way to connect with them and makes this an emotional decision. They don't want to buy a package, they want to have an special personalized travel experience.”
- Listen, listen, listen: As a Disney travel agent, it can be easy to get excited about Disney. But even if you do know everything about it, you want to be sure that you’re taking a client-centered approach, and not getting caught up in a Disney Fact-a-thon. According to Laurie, “too many [agents] focus their efforts on proving what they know. They tend to compete with each other to figure out who knows more than the others regarding resorts, parks, restaurants, FastPass+, etc. then vomiting way too much information onto the client all at once. Overwhelming them. Which makes the agent no better than the internet. More time should be spent listening instead of talking.”
Disney Travel Agents on Booking Direct vs. Tour Operator
We have so much love for tour operators and the value they bring to agents. But when it comes to booking Disney, all the agents I spoke with recommended booking directly through Disney. Here's two main reasons why:
- Pricing Control: A Disney travel agent knows it's not your average destination. Disney is such a behemoth in the travel industry, and they have complete control over their branding and pricing. This means that promotions come directly from Disney. So the Disney travel agent will always get the bottom line when booking Disney directly.
- Handling Client Concerns: If a Disney travel agent books through a tour operator and things go south for your client, Disney will not work with you. So another advantage to booking directly through Disney is that you'll be better able to field customer concerns should they arise during your client's Disney vacation.
Do you book Disney through tour operators? We'd love for you to play devil's advocate. Let us know in the comments below!
Putting Together a Disney Price Quote:
Crystal offered some great details to consider when giving your client a Disney vacation quote. So the first four points below I'm basically quoting Crystal's awesome advice, word for word! Credit where credit's due!!!
- "Be Honest! Disney isn't cheap, it will never be cheap. That's just the facts, don't allow them to go down there with unrealistic budgets, thinking they are going to eat breakfast in their room, pack a lunch everyday and not spend any money in the park. Money will be spent, so be prepared!"
- "I never give a bare bones quote. Even if they seem to want the absolute cheapest, I still give them options. I start by getting detailed feedback from my client on what they want to experience. The children's ages, likes and dislikes or all the family members, adults included. I ask if they are the type that opens the park, closes the park, or sneak out after lunch for a nap at the resort?, etc. Then based on that feedback, I start preparing my quote. I always quote Disney resorts, never off property. Unless my clients are very specific, I usually quote a Deluxe resort, a moderate and a value resort. That seems like a lot, but for families that are shopping they can quickly see there's not always a huge difference. Many times, they choose the more expensive resort. I use the compare tool on the Disney travel agent site, it allows you to compare 3 different properties and print a nice PDF."
- The moving parts of a Disney vacation quote: Here’s what Crystal keeps in mind when putting together a Disney quote:
- Ticket package (maybe Park Hopper)
- Disney Dining Plan
- Memory Maker Photo Package
- Magical Express
- Do the Math. "Some clients will say automatically they aren't interested in the dining plan or want the Quick Service plan. I ask them if they are planning on doing any Character meals. If so, just do some basic math to see if a which dining plan is best. Dining plans will save money, but my job is to explain it to them. Don't push it, just explain it."
- Break it Down: Putting together a Disney package isn’t a one and done deal when it comes to hashing it out with a client. When discussing a Disney package with a client, you want to avoid sticker shock or a deer-in-headlights stare. Planning and booking Disney is complicated enough for a Disney expert, so imagine how confusing it must be for clients.
Nikki offered a great strategy for how to parse out information to clients: “I try to only talk about the most upcoming cut off dates for dining, park passes etc..” Since Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and character reservations can be made up to 180 days before, she’ll discuss those add-ons before FastPasses, which can be made 60 day before (or 30 for client’s staying off resort).
Since things fill up fast, it’s important to prioritize bookings in the order you need to book them. Don't know what those cut-off dates are? Well dang, do we have something amazing for you: a Disney Advanced Reservations Timeline Cheatsheet. All you need to do is enter your client's arrival date at the top, then see the earliest date you can book accommodations and activities and add-ons (in red):
College of Disney Knowledge: A Disney Education
Most (if not all) the Disney travel agents I spoke to “attended” College of Disney Knowledge (CDK) via Disney’s agent portal. While the CDK isn’t mandatory to sell Disney, travel agents who do complete it will have access to special Disney perks including agent resort rates and access to selective Agent Experience Programs (AEP).
While CDK might provide a great foundation for knowledge, Nikki emphasized the importance of having your own personal Disney travel experience(s)—*ahem* coming from an agent who's been to Disney 36 times—to get a handle on insider info such as what rides to go on when, which rides you’ll definitely want to use a FastPass and other nitty gritty trip details.
Keeping Up with the Disneys:
Disney is constantly changing, so since you’ll be booking trips (especially cruises) eons in advance, you’ll really want to make sure you’re staying up to date on Disney news. Just during the time of writing this article, it was speculated that Disney Magic Kingdom will be replacing the Wishes Fireworks Show. . . . And this is just one of four announcements today from Disney blogger, Kenny the Pirate (see link below!).
Maybe swapping out the Wishes Firework Show is no biggie to the average Joe, but if you have a client that is expecting to see that firework show, you’ll need to let them know. Take it from the pros:
“One of my clients had seen the Mainstreet Electrical Parade with her family many years ago and was excited to repeat that experience with her kids. But they stopped showing it two weeks before her trip. When that happens, I explain all the other magical moments that they’ll have.”
— Nikki Miller of Travel With Nikki
Nikki offered a few strategies to make sure you’re keeping your finger on the pulse of Disney’s constant evolution.
- Tap into a community of other Disney Agents Nikki is a part of multiple Facebook groups that focus on Disney. Some are open to the public, and some are private with more rigorous eligibility requirements.
- Read Disney News: Nikki offered a few resources she subscribes to stay on the pulse of Disney changes.
- WDW News Today
- Blogger, Kenny the Pirate
- Keeping Clients in the Loop: Nikki also offered an ingenious way to keep clients in the fold of these up-to-the-minute changes. She creates a Facebook group just for her Disney clients to inform them of any changes that might impact them.Having a segmented Disney group on her Facebook page helps in a few ways:
- Save time notifying a group of clients rather than contacting them one by one.
- Since Nikki sells more than Disney, posting these updates in a group (rather than on her travel agency page) prevent visitors from thinking she only books Disney.
- It’s dang fun to have a community of people who share a love of Disney magic!
The Magic has Just Begun
Didn't find your answer here? Well don't fret, this article is not the end all be all. In fact, you can consider this the rope drop to booking Disney. Though Steph and I may not dress up in lavish Princess costumes2 to lead you deeper into Disney territory, there is definitely more to come.
This blog is the first in a series of 4. Our future articles will explore the specifics of different Disney destinations—Disney Cruise, Disneyland and Disney World—and we have a few magic tricks up our sleeves of our own, so stay tuned.
Do you have a few tricks of your own? Blogs you like to follow? Facebook groups you like to join? Marketing secrets to getting clients on board with Disney magic? Don't be shy! Weigh in below!