By Jen Grandmaison
Should I work with an agent to plan my Walt Disney World Vacation?
DID YOU KNOW a $200 deposit is all that is required to secure your reservation at one of Walt Disney World's on-site hotels, payment plans are available and using an agent doesn't cost you a penny more? In fact, you are already paying for our services as the cost of an agent is included in all package pricing and most ticket only purchases. The guest then has someone to work with them on their behalf who has personal experience with extensive knowledge about the planning process including but not limited to the parks, resorts and transportation...all while you are also supporting a small business. It's a WIN - WIN for agent and guest, at no additional cost to you! Some folks don't feel the need to use an agent and prefer to handle all of the planning themselves. For those of you who want to work with someone who knows Disney inside and out, having an agent who you trust and has knowledge to enhance your experience is invaluable. There are a lot of wonderful, knowledgeable agents out there. Do your homework and don't be afraid to ask for references in finding the agent who has not only the expertise, but seems like a good fit for you. I work very closely with my clients over the course of the planning process. Getting to know their family dynamic and what interests those that are traveling have, help me in making recommendations that can make your trip that much more memorable. Thinking about booking a Walt Disney World Resort reservation? If so, let's talk more - not only about what services I provide but also so you can familiarize yourself with the process and decide if working with an agent will be helpful for you.
What's the catch? Are there any hidden fees? How can working with a travel planner be free?
In today's world we find it's more of a Land of the Fee, not Land of the Free type of scenario. There is a cost associated with just about everything. Well, that may be true for most situations but not in terms of using my services for your stay at a Walt Disney World Resort on-site or partner hotel, as long as that reservation has been booked with me. Disney holds a portion of every reservation for an agent commission - just about all travel vendors do this actually so all vacations that I book are handled the same. If you book with Disney direct, Disney keeps 100% of those funds that you paid for your vacation package. When you book with an agent, those funds that were set aside are paid instead to the agency in exchange for assisting the guest. No additional cost is passed on to you and now there is someone to assist with aspects of your planning all for the same price you have already committed to paying for your vacation. In other words, if you book direct with Disney, you are essentially paying for a service that you aren't getting the opportunity to use.
How do I know this isn't a scam?
As a consumer, especially now in the day and age of the internet where there is an increase of online communication and purchases vs traditional in-person business like we had in the past, we all need to be conscious of protecting ourselves from scams, especially when dealing with a vendor or service facilitated online. I never take it personally when someone questions the legitimacy of my business because, after all, I would want to make sure I am working with a person who is indeed who they say they are and are providing the service that they claim they provide. In addition to our company's website where you can see my agent profile, I also have social media platforms that solidify my presence in the industry for the last several years with contributions and testimonials from various clients that I have worked with and certifications from Disney and other vendors that show that I am up to date on my training. I have worked with nearly a thousand families from not only the United States but places like South Africa, Taiwan, Canada and Australia over the last six years and many guests are either referrals from past or current clients or have followed my Disney World planning page on Facebook. Finally, after communicating with prospective clients and presenting them with some options for their Walt Disney World vacation package, I go one step further once they are ready to book. In most cases as time allows, I will make the reservation on the client's behalf and place it on hold. I will forward the held reservation showing all details, complete with confirmation number and terms and conditions to the guest so they can see the live reservation before they provide me with any payment information, which is ultimately done via a secure online form. We can even link that confirmation to your My Disney Experience account so you can see that Disney does indeed recognize that as a legitimate reservation. I want to ensure that my guests are completely comfortable every step of the way and always provide transparency as we move through the planning process.
What are the differences in payment terms, booking and cancellation policies if I book with you?
All policies and terms and conditions are identical to that of the Walt Disney World Travel Company since I book your reservation directly with Disney. Those terms and conditions will all be listed within the reservation that I send for your review prior to the deposit being placed. $200 secures your reservation - due within 3 days of booking in most cases - and payment is due in full 30 days prior to your check-in date. Disney requires no set payment due dates or amounts therefore making a flexible payment plan for the guest. You only must satisfy the deposit and the paid in full date - otherwise, you can make payments at any time. Payments are done with the agent so I will process them on your behalf within Disney's payment system. The Walt Disney Travel Co. will be the one that actually charges you. No funds towards your actual vacation package are paid directly to myself or the agency. The agency does however have a small cancellation fee, which is disclosed in the deposit authorization form, that is charged at the agent's discretion for cancellation of an existing reservation. This is done mainly to compensate me for my time in the event the reservation needs to be cancelled since commission is paid only after the guest travels. I put a lot of thought and time in planning for my guests so this fee helps to absorb the work that I have done up until cancellation. That fee if necessary, would be charged by the agency.
What services do you provide?
Many first time guests, and even repeat guests can be overwhelmed at the amount of information they come across when they start planning. When you work with an agent, we take the guesswork out to help you be more prepared so your trip can be as stress free as possible. In terms of planning, I will assist the client as much as they'd like in regards to the actual Disney portion. I have many clients that have been to Disney several times and can certainly plan for themselves but like having someone handle all of the necessities for them and have a resource in their back pocket for additional information or questions that they may have. They also like knowing that I keep up with all of the changes and watch for discounts that may be released which if applicable and available, I will automatically apply for my clients. For others it is their first visit or they may have been there many years ago so they aren't familiar with Disney in general or the rules and regulations, special events and experiences, transportation, etc...My job is to help you make the most out of your time and money and use my expertise to provide you with information so that you can realistically see and do as much as your time and needs allow. Each client is different so all of my plans are customized. I strive to provide the guest with the information so that ultimately they can make an informed decision as to what will be best for them. I will offer details to help the guest decide on what resort and package fits their needs and budget. I will give recommendations for things to see and do based on what I know about your travel party to help enhance the quality of your vacation. I book all of your dining reservations and previously also handled fast passes (currently, the fast pass system has been temporarily paused until further notice) the day that the booking windows open so that the guest has the best chance at getting all of their desired reservations and fast pass selections. I create a baseline itinerary to help you tour smoothly and logistically around the park so you aren't wasting time unnecessarily. I also provide information in regards to touring and travel including specifics as to when and where you need to be in order to accomplish what you are planning. I want my guests to be able to enjoy themselves and not spend excess amounts of time trying to figure things out once they arrive. My services do vary based on package and ticket only pricing. Guests booking a full package with me at an on-site resort or partner hotel receive my full level of complimentary concierge services listed above while ticket only guests are offered a more limited level of services. As always, there is no additional cost to the guest over and above what Disney is charging. All agents offer different levels of services so be sure to know what is included when booking with your preferred agent. My services are fairly comprehensive with a full package. Customized touring assistance is also available for a fee for guests who have not booked their reservation with me or may be staying elsewhere but would like assistance in coordinating and planning for their visit to WDW. I do offer a discount on my paid planning fee option for those guests if they book a qualifying ticket purchase with me.
So, if you are planning a Walt Disney World vacation, consider planning with an agent if you feel like it could benefit you. If you have any questions about potentially using my services, feel free to reach out to me and I'd be happy to discuss your options and answer your questions. Check out my planning page on Facebook: We're Going to Disney World - Travel Tip and Planning and join us for discussion on our favorite vacation destination, WDW! https://www.facebook.com/groups/568335886610324
By Lindsay Mauck
Hello again! Today I take you to the northern shores of Europe. I have to say- some of these destinations are my favorite in the world - especially for summer travel. The weather is gorgeous but gives you a break from the full time summer heat - similar to Alaska depending on the port and the month you sail. There are so many fabulous ports of call - let's check out just a few of my favorite destinations.
By Lindsay Mauck
Italy....Spain.....The Greek Isles....The French Riviera...
Are you dreaming yet? I know I am! (I was supposed to cruising the Greek Isles in two weeks...) Cruising the Mediterranean is an excellent way to explore several countries on one trip, all while enjoying the warm, sunny weather the Med has to offer (and no packing/trains/planes between destinations!). Nowhere else can you choose to spend your days on shore in some of Europe's most popular city and historical destinations, OR relax on some of those famous (rocky) beaches. I like to think of cruising the Med as a great way to "taste test" different locales - this way I know where I love and want to go back to spend more time on land! For example - even with an overnight stay in Venice on my first Med Cruise, I know that I want to go back and spend at least a week sometime getting lost on those winding streets and popping in and out of restaurants and shops.
This is also a great way to tour Europe if you have little ones! In 2019 I was so lucky to spend 10 days on the Disney Magic with my whole family- including my 2 year old niece. She had an amazing time on "The Mickey Boat" itself - but also got to experience a taste of European culture.
Talk to your travel agent about the destinations you are interested in exploring and they can help find the perfect cruise for you! There are so many options year round that fit every taste. Here's a photo tour from a couple of my cruises in the Mediterranean to get you excited to start planning the vacation of a lifetime.
By Lindsay Mauck
Cruises are definitely my favorite form of travel. (Shoutout to my High School Band Director Mr. Milbrand for taking the whole band on a cruise my sophomore and senior years - I was hooked!) Unpack once, visit several destinations, and have fun while the travel happens. And I LOVE getting first timers on a cruise. After years of talking about how great they are, I finally got my parents on a cruise (Disney Fantasy). My mom called me crying after getting to their room on embarkation day to tell me "How silly I must have thought she was for not ever going on a cruise. Everything is so wonderful!!" That was only on day one. At least 2 cruises a year later, and I'm proud to say she's hooked too.
Today I want to talk a little about the great variety of cruise options - there's some for every type of traveller - really! Then, stay tuned throughout this week, I'm going to highlight some amazing destinations you can visit by boat. I've personally sailed on 17 cruises and been to 51 ports of call all over the world. I can't wait to tell you about some of my favorites - and to visit more soon.
Ocean Cruises - Larger Ships
When most people think of cruising, this is what you think of! Popular cruise lines for US travelers include Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival. The ships provide a huge variety of amenities and onboard activities. Many offer kids clubs/activities, broadway-quality entertainment, casinos, and even race-tracks and ice skating! If you're planning a multi-generational vacation, this is definitely the category to focus on. (Adults Only? Virgin Voyages launches this fall- and is an 18+ cruise line - I can't wait to check it out!)
By Magic Plus Travel
Where to begin...your trip is almost here and you don't know what to pack. Don't fear, there are so many guides and lists available to you online.
Here are just some of our favorite must packs to share with our clients (in addition to your every day outfits).
Autograph books and fine tip permanent markers or thicker pens
The iconic Ears
Disney pins for trading
Princess dresses or character costumes
Pennies and Quarters for the coin press machines
Backpack for your park items
Face masks with ear loops (Disney has released that neck gaiters and scarves/bandanas are not allowed)
Hats and Sunglasses
Sneakers and Sandals (depending on what you feel comfortable with on your feet for long periods of time)
Wicking socks (one of the best purchases you can make for your feet!)
Lightweight sweatshirt or long sleeve shirt (if by chance you get wet and then enter the air conditioned buildings)
Necessities for the weather:
Cooling Towels (Mission and Frog Toggs brands are an agent favorite)
Spray fan (the water bottle fans are very popular)
Disney gift cards (can be used pretty much anywhere)
Rechargeable battery packs/cords
Reusable Straws (most places are either not giving them out anymore, or they are paper and will disintegrate within the first few sips)
Water Bottles and snacks (plenty of options for delivery to the resorts if you don’t want to travel with them)
Reusable water bottles
Moleskin (for those blisters on your feet after walking miles through the parks-trust us, it is a game changer!!)
Plastic sandwich bags (endless uses-for those large lollipops that aren’t fully consumed upon first lick, to freeze and hold your cooling towels)
Waterproof phone cases
Expandable USB wall charger for your resort room
Stroller (If you don't want to travel with one, rentals are available for the duration of your vacation-ask your agent for recommendations)
Stroller cover (can be added to your order if you choose to rent)
Hand Sanitizer (clip on containers and spray)
First Aid kit (ointments/bandaids)
Adult and Children's Tylenol or Advil (very expensive in the parks)
Glowsticks from local stores
Past purchases of bubble wands (so you can save on another purchase)
Other cheap souvenirs that you can easily pack (leave one out next to their clothes for the next day so they have something new and can deter from visiting every single shop in the parks each day)
Flying Trick with kiddos:
Go to the dollar store and grab a bunch of projects that you don’t care about getting lose or thrown out. Buy a totally different set for the way home and pack in your suitcase. That way they are entertained with things they have never seen and you don’t feel bad throwing it all away.
By Shannon and Tom Renick
One question people ask us quite often is, “What is the difference between Disneyland in Southern California and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida?” Don't worry, you will get your dose of Disney magic at either park. However, here are some key differences that may affect your decision.
Resort size is the most noticeable difference. Disneyland Resort consists of three hotels, Downtown Disney and two theme parks. Several good neighbor hotels are very close to the parks. One benefit of this for us is you can walk pretty much anywhere! With having small children, it was nice to be able to walk to our destinations. We didn’t have to mess with folding up the stroller to get on a bus. It was also convenient to go back to the hotel for a midday break. We typically plan three park days when we visit Disneyland. If you have more time, you can travel down to San Diego or a local beach!
Walt Disney World Resort is much larger. The resort includes over 30 hotels, four theme parks, two water parks and Disney Springs. Because of the size, travel around the resort is usually done by bus, boat, monorail or Skyliner. With a resort this size, people can spend a full week and still not experience it all. We recommend at least planning four park days so you can experience each of the main parks once. We tend to plan at least a week to give us ample park time and time to relax and enjoy our resort.
Fastpasses: The systems have different ways of offering them at each location.
Disneyland has two systems. They have a FastPass system, which is a free system. You can obtain these passes by inserting your park tickets into FastPass kiosks around the parks. Another option they have is the MaxPass system. This option does have an additional cost. With this option, you can reserve attractions via an app on your phone once you are in the park. For us, the convenience is worth the extra cost. You can select one pass at a time for your travel party. You will be eligible for a new pass either once you use your existing pass or after a certain amount of time has passed.
Walt Disney World Resort allows you to pre-book three experiences per day in the same park via the My Disney Experience app. Once you have used your initial three passes, you may reserve additional selections one at a time based on availability.
Food: The food options at the resorts also vary.
There is much more variety at the Walt Disney World resort. However, Disneyland does have some delicious options. Our favorite Disneyland restaurant is Lamplight Lounge. Currently, dining reservations may be made 60 days from your stay at both locations. In the past, Walt Disney World Resort has allowed you to make dining reservations 180 days in advance.
Rides: You will find many of the rides at both resorts, however, there are some unique attractions at each.
Unique to Walt Disney World Resort, you will find Pandora and Toy Story Land. At Disneyland, you can visit Pixar Pier and Cars Land, which is unique to that location. One thing to keep in mind is that some of the rides with the same names are slightly different at each park. Also, during Halloween and Christmas at Disneyland, some of the attractions get different overlays. Our favorite overlays were the Nightmare Before Christmas at Haunted Mansion and the Holiday themed It’s a Small World!
**Please note, this discussion references how these experiences operated pre-COVID 19 and assume that we will return to those operations in the future. However, using a travel agent will ensure you have the most up to date information for your trip. Things to keep in mind: Fastpasses are currently not available for selection at Walt Disney World and Disneyland is not open at this time. Character meals are also currently not available for reservations (except for modified character experiences at Topolino's Terrace-Flavors of the Riviera at Riviera Resort and Garden Grill in Epcot's Future World).
Hopefully, this list highlighted some of the more notable differences for you.
We would love to talk with you more about each of the parks and help you pick the best destination for you.
By Shannon and Tom Renick
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
One of our favorite things to do is to travel to National Parks. A National Park trip may be a great option with the current pandemic. Most of your time will be spent outside with ample room to social distance. One of our favorite parks to visit is the Grand Canyon. You can drive into the park and stay at one of their lodges. Another option is to stop in Williams, AZ, and take the Grand Canyon Railway into the park. Our family loves doing this! We have two children that love trains, so this makes the experience extra special.
The accommodations at the hotel are nice and clean. We recommend spending at least one night there. The hotel has a restaurant, and there are several small eateries in Williams. The hotel offers several packages that include hotel stays and train tickets.
You can ride the train to the park and back on the same day. If you want more time in the park, you can book a package with an overnight stay inside the park. We recommend spending one night in the park so you can have more time to explore and catch the sunrise and sunset over the canyon! If you are in the southwest, this could be a weekend adventure. If you are from further away, we could add on additional Arizona destinations or some of the National Parks in Utah! When you are visiting the National Parks with children, make sure you swing by the Visitors Center early in your trip to get information on the Junior Ranger program! Also, if you choose to take the Grand Canyon Railway, be sure to check out there Steam Engine Saturdays.
By Shannon and Tom Renick
Hopefully, you had a chance to read our post from yesterday about Alaska at Sea. I will tell you again that this is a must at least once. During the summer, the weather in Alaska is pretty warm with some rain. The most we needed was a light jacket!
If you have more than a week, I recommend a one-way cruise so that you can venture out into Alaska a little more.
Typically itineraries are northbound and southbound. If doing a northbound cruise, you would plan to do your land tour after your cruise portion. With southbound voyages, you would do them before.
We did a northbound itinerary on the Royal Princess, which docks in Whittier.
Whittier is close to Anchorage. However, it is remote. We recommend a prearranged transfer. If you opt for a cruise tour through Princess, your transportation to your destination will be on the train. Princess truly makes the cruise tour stress-free. They take care of lodging, transfers, and luggage.
Because we had a large group, we booked a private transfer to Anchorage to drop off some of our group at the airport and pick up our rental for our land tour. Our transfer included a stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. The driver was knowledgeable about the area. He shared some history of Alaska on our journey. They do have concessions here if you want to grab a snack. We had the reindeer sausage, which is an Alaskan specialty. You have to try it while you are in Alaska.
Once we picked up our rental, we headed to Talkeetna. While in Talkeetna, we took a flightseeing tour of Denali with a glacier landing. If you include Talkeetna on your land tour, this is a must-do! I have included some pictures below. The flight tour was by far our favorite experience! One of the photos is a picture of “base camp” at Denali. This location is where people acclimate before or after climbing the mountain!
The final part of our trip was driving to Denali National Park. We stopped at the Mt McKinley Princess Lodge on the way for lunch. This location provides spectacular views of Denali. If you are a fan of the show Treehouse Masters, you can visit one of their treehouses with a stunning view of Denali. The lodge is beautiful as well. The lodge would be a perfect place to stay on your Alaskan journey.
Once in the Denali area, we took a guided 8-hour bus tour through the National Park Service. They do offer shorter and longer versions of the tour.
There were plenty of bathroom stops along the way. We did get a snack box, but I would recommend bringing some food. We packed sandwiches, fruit, and waters. The park is beautiful. We saw lots of wildlife and stunning views of Denali. If you have more time, you can come back into Denali and hike on your own. There is a bus route that goes through the park for drop-offs and pickups!
We highly recommend Alaska and can help you in visiting this beautiful location. Feel free to reach out with any questions!
By Shannon and Tom Renick
Alaska is one of our favorite vacation destinations. There is so much to see, and the amount of untouched land is mind-blowing. If you haven’t experienced Alaska, you should put it on your bucket list. A great way to see a lot of what Alaska has to offer in a short amount of time is to go on an Alaskan cruise. Many of the major cruise lines have itineraries to Alaska in the summer months.
We have done both the roundtrip from Seattle and a one-way itinerary from Vancouver to Whittier. Both of our cruises had the same ports. They were Ketchikan, Skagway, and Juneau. However, the glacier viewing you will get during the one-way is superior. We were able to go further north, which gave us the ability to see College Fjord. College Fjord was such a beautiful area that we would love to go back to experience again. Also, if you do a one-way Alaskan cruise, you can add a land tour before or after to experience more of Alaska! More on that tomorrow!
Here are some of our favorite Alaska photos from our cruising adventures!
By Shannon and Tom Renick
Hello! Thomas and I have been a part of the Magic Plus Travel team since 2015. We both have a deep love for Disney and traveling in general. Throughout our childhood, we made many trips to Disney parks. I was a Disneyland girl while Thomas frequented Walt Disney World.
After dating for a few years, we took our first trip to Walt Disney World together. During this trip, Thomas proposed to me in the Rose Garden at the Magic Kingdom. This trip solidified us as a Disney family. We have taken several trips together since then and love making magical memories as a family.
We were drawn to the travel industry because we wanted to share our love of Disney and what they have to offer with others. As we have been in the industry for a while, we have slowly expanded our scope and can assist you with trips to most destinations. No trip is too big or too small!
One question we often get is why someone should use a travel agent. The most important reason is that there are no additional fees for using a travel agent. If you don’t use an agent, the big companies get to keep the commission they would have paid your agent. Most people love supporting small businesses when they can, so using an agent is an AMAZING way you can do this without spending any extra cash. Additionally, you have an expert in your corner. We take the time to learn about what you are looking for from your trip and make personalized recommendations based on what you tell us.
We can also take care of the tasks that aren’t all that fun in trip planning. We can make phone calls, put together easy to follow itineraries to make your travel a breeze. The final benefit is that if something goes wrong before or during your travels, we can help you navigate the situation and come up with a solution. Most of the time, we can take care of the issue while you continue to enjoy your vacation.
Thomas and I hope that you consider us for your future travels. We look forward to sharing some of our favorite destinations with you this week.
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