A trip to any Disney resort can be a big undertaking.  Lots of decisions to make, deadlines to remember and tricks and tips to memorize.  This is where an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner agent comes in to save the day!  Or not.  When should you consider calling in the professionals for your next vacation?

Consider Calling a Travel Agent if…

…this is your first trip.  Navigating through on-site, off-site, Good Neighbors, theme parks, tickets, dining, FastPass, PhotoPass and more is enough to make even a seasoned traveler throw up his hands when planning that first trip to Disney.  While tons of great information can be found online when planning, sometimes it’s nice to talk to a human who knows the ins and outs of Disney and has a passion for it.  Chances are your agent will be able to make recommendations based on personal experiences to add to the magic of your vacation.

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…you’re planning for a group.  Planning a great vacation for your immediate family may be like second nature, but when you start adding in grandmas and grandpas, uncles, aunts, neighbors, 5th cousins and their friends, the game changes quickly.  An agent can help corral everyone’s opinions and make impartial decisions when asked.  I know I’ve been able to squelch a few lodging issues recently simply by interjecting a little firsthand Disney knowledge.  If traveling with a large group like a team or church, your agent may be able to work with Disney on getting a group package that might even feature some discounts.

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…you want your vacation to be waiting for you.  Several of my guests book their reservation, throw out a few preferences and leave everything else up to me.  Truth be told, these are kind of my favorite trips to plan because this is how I plan for my family.  I love sprinkling a little magic here or there: California Grill reservations during fireworks, sending a family down an empty Main Street USA, planning park days around special events.  If you’re the type who doesn’t want to sweat the details that go into a Disney vacation, an agent can be your best friend!

Get Agent Wise: Make sure you’re very up front with your agent about likes, dislikes and budget.  This will help him or her make the best possible recommendations for you and your vacation.

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Do-It-Yourself if…

…you’re detail-oriented and can’t bear to hand over the reigns.  This is me.  100%.  I thought about using a travel agent once, and my control-freak little heart just couldn’t do it.  I wanted to be up at the crack of dawn 180 days before our vacation to make sure we were eating the first available breakfast at Cinderella Castle.  I couldn’t wait to hear back from an agent about a question when I knew I could call Disney myself and figure it out within minutes.  I flip-flopped over resort reservations several times, mulling over everything from location to theme to pool amenities to decor.  If this is you, do yourself and your possible agent a favor…DIY.  You’ll be much happier during the planning process and know that your vacation is completely in your hands.

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…you’re paranoid.  You’ve no doubt heard the recent story about the unscrupulous travel agents who bilked a young dance team out of thousands of dollars.  That’s enough to make anyone leery about handing over your precious vacation funds to a relative stranger.  Let me interject that these losers are bad apples and by no means represent the great people I’ve met and worked with during my time as an agent.  Additionally, most reputable agents do not take cash or checks directly and instead take credit card information and make your payments directly to Disney.  I do understand that credit card information is sensitive, as well, so if you’re going to be worrying about what your agent may be doing with that information, avoid the stress and book directly.

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Get Agent Wise: If you’re considering booking with an agent, do your research before handing over your credit card information.  While word of mouth is my favorite way to reach new guests, there are a few other ways to make sure you’re using a great agent or agency.  Check social media, chat with their guests, take a look at their affiliations (like, are they the official agency of your favorite Disney site?).  If there’s not much out there or what’s out there makes you uncomfortable, look elsewhere or book yourself.

…you enjoy the planning.  In addition to being a bit of a control freak like I mentioned earlier, I also just like the planning aspect of a Disney vacation.  Obviously, you can still be in charge of the planning when going through an agent, but when you’ve booked on your own, you have more immediate access to your reservation.  In the months leading up to a Disney vacation, I love adding this or tweaking that and planning small surprises so our family and friends enjoy a plussed experience at the parks and resorts.  Once we arrive, it’s great to see all of the planning in motion and playing out in front of me.

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So, what’s your trip planning strategy?  Do you use an agent or are you a DIYer and why?