Since I started our Disney planning, I’ve joked that it requires a Masters Degree, and it’s not far from the truth. The amount of infomration out there is mind boggling. There are tons of tips online, websites and books and blogs devoted to the Perfect Disney Experience.
I did what any sane person would do – I called a travel agency. After putting a plea out on Facebook for advice, a friend put me in touch with her friend, who highly recommended Travel Magic (www.travelmagic.com). So far I’ve been very pleased. They have been educated in All Things Disney and have a Masters Degree in Disney Magic, which is exactly what I needed.
You may be wondering why an internet-savvy gal like me would call a travel agency when I could do it all online. I did a lot of online research on the Disney site, and it was very helpful in helping me narrow down where we wanted to stay, how long, the type of tickets we wanted, if we wanted a meal plan, and what kinds of meals we wanted. However, the Disney site does not do 2 things: give prices for meal plans (which makes it REALLY hard to figure out a budget) or allow you to make reservations for more than 1 room/5 people. I needed to reserve 2 rooms, 4 in one and 3 in the other, as well as figure out what meal plan we could afford.
Susan and Kathy at Travel Magic were awesome. They answered all of my questions before I gave them a down payment, and talked me out of a budget hotel and into a moderate one, where I think we’ll be much happier. It did cost more, but they convinced me that a 10,000 room hotel, partially full of teenagers, would make the morning experience miserable. They painted a nice picture of us trying to get a shuttle or swim at the pool among 40,000 people. Yeah, we switched to a moderate hotel real fast. The other thing they did was get us a free meal plan. Not because they like me, but because they know when the deals happen. They noted that if I moved my trip back a week we could get a free meal plan. Since I had a 2 week window, I was able to do that. It saved us $800, not an insignificant amount, which almost paid for our flight.
By using the travel agency, I was able to tell them the things we wanted to do – visit each park once, Magic Kingdom twice, eat with the Princesses, eat at the Irish restuarant in Downtown Disney, etc. They know when the Extra Magic Hours are and were able to make our dinner reservations (again, for 7, which I wasn’t able to do online) for the parks where we would be spending that day (we decided to purchase the basic tickets instead of the park hopper tickets because it’s the kids’ first time going and I wanted to enjoy one park a day).
My very favorite moment was when I got my package from them in the mail a few weeks ago. There was a lovely, personalized Trip Tick-type itinerary with all of the information we’ll need. It had our reservations with confirmation codes, a list of park shows, parades, times, and attractions, and general information (like “get a Times Guide” while you wait for the park to open.”). Another book included a map of the campus as well as each park. We got pretty Disney luggage tags and vouchers for our hotel, baggage tags (they pick it up for you at baggage claim and deliver it to your room), and tickets to get the shuttle to the hotel. Its all tight there, in a purse-sized envelope.
I also picked up the book The Complete Walt Disney World 2012 after looking at a wide selection (it’s seriously amazing how many people fill books up about a single amusement park). I picked this one because it had full-page spreads of each attraction, which is what I was looking for. It’s helped me narrow down which things we want to make sure we do, and which ones we can safely skip (or, in some cases, avoid). I’ve also found that Googling a question is a great way to find an answer. Since Sass has a dairy allergy, I wanted to know if Soy Milk was available at restuarants, or if I should order some from the grocery store that will deliver to the room. Answer: they have it, no need to order it.
I still have tons to do – daily itineraries (you need to have a plan!), laundry, packing, and online checking-in. But I feel so much more comfortable knowing that I have some guidance. If you have any Magical Tips, please share them!
Disclaimer: Travel Magic and The Complete Walt Disney World 2012 have in no way compensated me for mentioning them.