Why Use a Vacation Planner

Why use a Vacation Planner and How Can I Find a Great One?

So, you are ready to book your next magical vacation. Of course you could make all of the trip arrangements on your own but many people have discovered a valuable piece of info that has resulted in less expensive, hassle free and more magical experiences. What is this little nugget of wisdom? It’s simply that contrary to popular belief, travel agents (aka vacation planners) are not dead.

And… believe it or not, we have not been rendered obsolete by the internet. There are numerous travel professionals around the globe who are alive and well and dedicated to being an advocate for you and your vacation dollar.

So why use a Vacation Planner?

Save time
Sure… you could spend hours in front of your computer screen searching websites, fan sites, and listening to podcasts for the latest deal. But don’t you have other more important things to do with your time? A Vacation Planner, especially those who specialize in your dream destination, has their finger on the pulse of the current offers and can match you to the best savings to fit you.

Make sense of the options puzzle
With the sheer number of package options, hotels options, ticket options, stateroom options, flights options, dining options, activity options, view options, options for other options…. It can really be overwhelming, especially for the first time visitor. Tap into the knowledge of an experienced Vacation Planner to help narrow down all the copious amounts of information and guide you through the labyrinth.

Take advantage of services
You will find services aplenty with a professional Vacation Planner. From dining reservations and activity arrangements to one-on-one planning sessions, Vacation Planners will provide unbiased guidance every step of the way by listening to your needs and desires. Over time he/she will get to know you and anticipate your needs before you even know you need them.

And when things don’t go quite as planned…
Despite all of the efforts to plan a flawless vacation …. Sometimes you may encounter a little turbulence along the way. Cancelled flights, overbooked hotels, unexpected illness, and bad weather conditions are just some of the unexpected happenings that a Vacation Planner can step in to assist and help relieve some of the stress.

What do we all want? Save money
Even for you uber-planners who consider the planning process part of the fun, a Vacation Planner can enhance the experience without taking the fun out of it by proactively watching for new offers and applying them for additional savings. This is one of the most coveted services a Vacation Planner can provide, and calling a client to say “Hey! I just found an offer that I applied to your booking and saved you $700!”…. That phone call, right there is why we love doing what we do!

And in most cases – the services are FREE!
This is the best part of all. Travel suppliers, like Disney, foot the bill. Disney pays commission to the travel agency so you can take advantage of all these extra services for the same price and even less expensive then if you call Disney directly. This is because a vacation planner may know of a special deal that Disney may not proactively offer. Small caveat here… some full service agencies do charge fees but most that truly specialize in Disney do not. Always ask to be sure you are working with someone who is fee-free before assuming they are and to the point above, ask them if they will proactively apply new offers without a fee, so you know the policy ahead of time.

Caution…. Do Your Homework
So how do you know who to book with? Here are some ideas to help you navigate the options:

  • Choose your vacation planner like you would a doctor or lawyer.
    Travel decisions are based on personal preferences that reflect your unique lifestyle and needs. The more detailed and honest information you can provide on your likes & dislikes will result in a better experience so you need to feel comfortable. One way to narrow the list is to ask your friends, family, and co-workers who they trust to plan their hard earned vacations. Personal recommendations are a big plus!
  • Choose an agency that is properly licensed and insured
    You wouldn’t work with a doctor or lawyer without a license or liability insurance…. Would you? The truth is anyone can put up a website or facebook page and say they are a travel agent so ensure you are dealing with a reputable company that has taken the steps needed to comply with consumer laws and financial security where it’s required.

Licensing is actually regulated at the state level. There are currently 13 states that have specific laws for registration, licensing and bonding of a travel agency as a “Sellers of Travel”. Regardless of where they are based, if they doing business via the internet, they should at least have CA, FL, IA & WA seller of travel registrations checked off the list. Be sure to ask your vacation planner, or check their agency website, for what licenses their agency holds. If they are doing business on the internet but don’t hold licenses’ as seller of travel in those states, it may be a red flag they aren’t fully aware of the regulations. If you aren’t sure about what your state requires of a travel agency you can contact your Consumer Affairs division to check.

Be sure to ask the agent if they have Errors and Omissions Insurance. (This is not the same as travel insurance). While E&O Insurance is not required to be a travel agent, as a consumer it’s a good idea to verify the agency you are entrusting with your plans and personal information has a policy in place to cover their business transactions… just in case.

  • Look for professional credentials
    The agency website should indicate their associations, or just ask. Here a few to look for:

Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (aka Earmarked) – This is a special destination from Disney to recognize an agency for their strong support of selling Disney destinations. This includes an agency commitment that at least 50% of their frontline agents have graduated from the College of Disney Knowledge.

But don’t just rely on this designation alone as Disney does not have requirements for licensing and insurance which offer consumer protections. Here are just a few additional resources to look for:

IATA/IATAN – International Airlines Travel Agent Network – An organization that registers agencies for identification.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) – Check for a listing and/or rating.

Industry association like America Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) – ASTA is one of the largest and most influential travel trade associations in the world. It maintains a Consumer Affairs Department that monitors travelers' problems and keeps members in the loop so it can be passed on to consumers. Membership requires compliance with a stringent code of ethics and demonstrates dedication to consumer awareness.

So why use a Travel Agent?
The more important question is…. Why not?

A Vacation Planner can be a powerful ally in your quest for the perfect vacation at the perfect price. There are many very talented Vacation Planners who are extremely skilled at their craft and are addicted to Disney too! All you need to do is invest a little time in checking out the company, have a conversation to ensure your planner provides the service touch that fits your needs, and you’ll have a travel professional in your corner for life.

Beci Mahnken, CTC-MCC is the Founder, President and CEO of MEI-Travel & Mouse Fan Travel – An Authorized Disney Vacation Planner – Beci has over 12 years vacation planning experience, specializing in vacation packages and cruises, with a team of over 75 affiliates nationwide.
Visit: www.MouseFanTravel.com or follow her on twitter @beci_mousefan