When I started selling Disney travel, I did it as a hobby. Honestly, the real reason I started doing it was because I was already going to Disney and helping friends get to Disney at the time and I figured if I could make a little bit of money doing it, why not?
My first year, I had three clients. One transferred over to me after I begged her. Another was a co-worker. The third was my family.
Now, five years later, I’m still not to where it’s a full-time job paying me enough to not do anything else, but it’s a steady gig. I think I sent about a dozen or so families to Disney in 2016. I’ve already got 7 or so booked for 2017 trips.
With my current employment status, my goal is to obviously grow that as much as I can. I would love for one day for this to be my “job” and help pay the bills. Truthfully, travel agents don’t make a lot of money. But it’s a rewarding job, especially the Disney part, so I enjoy it.
But the biggest obstacle I have faced in growing the business is not being able to sell potential clients on using a travel agent. If every one of my friends and family members that travel to Disney or Carnival would book through me, it would be a full-time job. Not a single month goes by that I don’t see one of my Facebook friends in Disney or on a Carnival cruise that didn’t book through me.
Sometimes when I ask, I get “Oh, I didn’t know you could do that.” But more often than not, I get “Well, I just did it myself online…” or “I called some 1-800 number and they booked it for me.”
And that leads me to a question that I’ve had a lot of people ask. Why should I use a travel agent?
The answer is very simple. Why not?
If the person bagging your groceries offered to walk the basket to your car and help unload the groceries for free, would you refuse? If a gas station attendant offered to pump your gas for free while you sat in your car, would you refuse?
Some fast-food restaurants offer a service where you order and they bring the food to your table. Would you refuse that and just stand at the counter until your food is ready?
That’s how I look at it, at least.
I provide a service, free of charge, for your convenience. I do it because I love it and because I’ve trained extensively in it. Most times, I’ve experienced it first-hand, so I have knowledge of what you’re heading into.
I can certainly understand not wanting to use a travel agent that builds in a commission to their price. I get that. The extra fees, I wouldn’t want to deal with that either.
But FTJ by Brady is a fee-free agency. That means I don’t charge anything for my services. Disney, or Universal, or Carnival give me a portion of the package price as a commission. It’s not an addition to the price. If you booked it online or booked it through me, it’s the same price.
So, why then, Brady, would I go through that extra step of booking through you if I can just do it myself? Fair question.
And here’s the answer. Because after you book that trip online, they’re done with you. They’re not going to call you and make sure you don’t need any help making dining reservations or purchase any excursions. They won’t email you and remind you to make your FastPass+ selections 60 days before your trip. They won’t send you a list of the popular character meals and what kind of food you should expect and how much it should cost.
Probably biggest reason is once you book online, that computer is not going to call you when a promotional rate has come out. You already paid for the trip, they’re fine with that. Travel agents continue to look for cheaper prices and when they come out, will apply them to your trip to save you money.
Once you do your booking online, you’re on your own. And I’ve been there. I booked our Honeymoon through a travel agent, face to face in the old days. She was nice, she gave us good ideas and all that. But when we got home that night, we were lost. I ended up shelling out more money to buy a couple of guide books so we knew what we were getting into. We did Disney and it was overwhelming. Once we started doing the research, we realized we weren’t going to be able to do everything we wanted.
If I had a committed travel agent to field my questions, I probably would have known not to waste four hours at Disney Quest. I would have known to NOT skip Festival of the Lion King, because the title sounded a little cheesy. I would have known about Whispering Canyon’s zany atmosphere. I mean, seriously, when you hear Whispering Canyon, don’t you think of an art gallery with wine and cheese pairings? It’s anything but.
As a travel agent affiliated with an authorized Disney Travel Planner, it’s my duty to keep up on the latest in Disney. So I can tell you when a food court is undergoing refurbishments, or when a ride is going to be down during your trip. I keep up with crowd calendars, so I can tell you what day is a good day to visit Magic Kingdom and what day you want to go to Epcot.
I can tell you which restaurants will be good for your 7-year old daughter and which would be good for that shy 13-year old teenager. I can help plan your entire trip, from the moment you arrive until the second you check out of your resort and head home. I can be as hands-on or hands-off as possible. Want a full itinerary to follow? I can do that. Want some suggestions so you can make your own plan? I can do that too.
It’s personal service. It’s not a computer. And you get it for free. No matter if you book it through me or through the computer, someone is getting a commission off that trip. Why not let that person be me? And why not make me work for it. I’ve had clients call me while in line for one ride to ask me if it’s worth waiting 20 minutes for the next ride or if they should just skip it.
I’ve had clients call me at 11 p.m. to ask if there was a way they could extend their trip for one more day because they were having too much fun to check out and go home.
Whatever the problem, whatever the question, I will be here to answer it. And that’s what travel agents (at least the good ones) do.
So, next time you’re considering a vacation, and you wonder if it’s worth using a travel agent, I say give it a shot.
It doesn’t cost you anything and you can let go of a lot of the stress that comes with making dining reservations, picking FastPass+, calling to make changes to your reservation, etc.