Why use a Travel Agent for your Disney Vacation?

It is an inevitable question.  It pops up at least once a week on any given message board.  "Should I use a travel agent to help me with my Disney vacation?"  Well, since I am a travel agent, I bet you can guess what my answer is...ABSOLUTELY!  Now that I have confessed to my obvious bias, let me convince you why...

  • The service a travel agent provides is FREE!  Really!  Travel agents are paid a commission by the supplier (Disney) for the travel that is booked.  There are no behind the scenes mark ups or hidden fees.  Disney, in particular, has very standard pricing and they offer the same rates to all travel agents that they have on their website.  You may be wondering why Disney would pay a travel agent if they could book all of the travel themselves?  The answer is actually pretty simple - travel agents work to make your trip better.  The more fun you have on your vacation, the more likely you are to go back.
  • A travel agent specializing in Disney has knowledge and experience.  Not only do specialists have a love of Disney, and lots of experience, they also have taken tests to "earn their ears."  (Literally!  When I completed the College of Disney Knowledge Disney sent me a set of ears complete with Mortar Board and Tassel!)  Specialists also work hard to keep their knowledge current.  I often get calls from overwhelmed parents trying to plan the perfect Disney vacation for their families.  Let's face it, there are a lot of moving parts to a Disney vacation, from transportation, to choosing from a multitude of hotels, to sorting out all of the ticket options, to finding a place to eat, to figuring out which park to visit on which day, and even down to what to do inside each park.  It is a lot to figure out!  I like to get to know my families a little bit, figure out the budget, and help them make the most out of their time and budget.
  • A travel agent knows what the discounts are and where to find them.  I have worked with many clients who were very surprised when my quote was substantially less than the exact same vacation they priced out themselves.  My favorite story is about a family who called and said that they wanted to meet some friends at Disney and knew exactly what they wanted and just wanted me to book it for them.  My client was in a bit of a hurry, so I got the pertinent information and booked her vacation.  Shortly after we hung up, I realized that what she thought she wanted was not really the best idea.  I called her back and asked if she could check in 1 day earlier.  She did not have much interest in the idea until I explained that if she checked in 1 day earlier, her entire vacation would cost her almost $900 less!  Stay longer for less money - SURE!
  • A travel agent can usually retroactively apply discounts.  If a discount comes out after you have booked your vacation, and you otherwise would have qualified for the discount, then a travel agent can retroactively apply it to your reservation.  If you booked with Disney directly, you can do this too, but you have to make sure you constantly check for the latest discounts, and then commit to sitting on hold for an hour to get the discount applied.  I was just working with a family who was ready to make their final payment and I was able to give them the good news that their trip was going to cost them $800 less than they thought!  I honestly get ridiculously happy for people when that happens.
  • A travel agent can save you money in other ways.  Personally, I try to spend my clients money like I would spend my own.  Sometimes spending a little extra gives you a lot, sometimes spending a lot extra gives you very little.  In addition to lots of money saving tips, I try to let my clients know where they should splurge and where they should cut corners.  I have on many occasions tried to talk clients out of more expensive vacation packages.  While it is absolutely true that the more you buy the more commission I may make, I am much more concerned that at the end of your vacation, you feel like you got your moneys worth.  I would rather make less and have you trust me that make more and have you feel like you overspent.  You will be much more likely to share my name with a friend, and I will sleep better at night.
  • A travel agent is a great sounding board!  If you have ever called Disney directly, and asked whether you should do A or B.  You will likely hear something like "Oh, they are both fabulous choices."  Well, I have opinions that I will freely offer!  More than that, I try to tell you why I like something or not or why I think you would like something or not.
To be fair, using a travel agent might not be for everyone.  If you are an ultra type A personality in terms of vacation planning (ahem - like me) it can be a little hard to let go of the control.  Not that a travel agent is going to "control" your entire vacation!  But once a travel agent books your reservation, they have to make changes to the reservation. So if you decide at 9:45pm that you want to add a Park Hopper option to your ticket, then you will need to contact your travel agent to do it instead of calling Disney directly. 

Also, you should have a good feeling about your agent. There is no "travel agent law" that says your agent must rebook you with a discount if it comes out.  In those cases travel agents are actually doing more work to earn less money.  For me, my relationship with my client is all about trust.  I want my clients to know they can trust me to do the best I can for them.  In the long run, I know that working harder to reduce my commission is good for my client, good for my business and good for my conscience.  If you do not get a good feeling after your first conversation with your agent, just thank him or her and move on.

Now that I (hopefully!) have you convinced that using a travel agent is a good thing, let me convince you why you should use TMC Travel - The Mouse Connection for your next Disney vacation.
  • You deal with one agent.  We do not pass you around from agent to agent.  We are not a call center.  We want to get to know you and use that information to make your trip better!  We work for you - not Disney.
  • We are available outside of regular office hours.  We work from our home offices, so we have great flexibility!  I often meet families in person on the weekends if that is convenient. I have hung up the phone with a client at 11:45pm, once the last dining reservation was made.  And if I get an email at midnight I will answer it at 12:15 if I am still awake!
  • We offer free gifts to all of our clients who book a 4 or more day vacation package!  We have a lot of "goodies" that can make your trip a little more special and fun.
  • We help you tame the crowds.  Believe it or not, there is some science behind which is the best park to visit on any give day.  Crowds can swing wildly from day to day for any given park.  We try to use our "Disney Crystal Ball" to your advantage!
  • We help with dining reservations or recommendations.  With more and more families taking advantage of the dining plan, "Where should we eat?" is a much bigger factor to consider.  We are happy to make some recommendations for you, help you find some menus to peruse, or even make dining reservations for you! 
  • We keep you organized!  We have some great tip cards that are personalized for your trip.  Sized to fit in your back pocket or park bag, we will make sure you know park hours, parade times, fireworks times, magic hours, and the dining reservations we made for you for each day of your trip!  We also have other great tip cards that cover everything from the best snacks in "the World" to how to enjoy Epcot's World Showcase with children.
  • We accept transfers.  If you booked your trip yourself  and are unsure about it or just need some extra help, we can transfer your reservation to our agency and help you just as if you were our client from the beginning.  And  you will still get all of the goodies and extras that we offer all of our clients!
  • We are an "Earmarked" and have EARNED the title "Authorized Disney Vacation Planner"- We are proud that Disney as awarded us with the title of Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. To be chosen as an Earmarked agency, we have attended training classes, visited the parks, cruised the seas and demonstrated a dedication to planning Disney vacations for several years. In addition, we meet benchmarks set by Disney to qualify for and retain our designation. It is truly an honor to be chosen as one of Disney's top agencies. It is a testament to our hard work and our love of all things Disney.

And to be fair, I guess I should give you a reason not to use TMC Travel for your next vacation...or at least a reason not to use me.  Using me makes you a Disney-enabler.  Each trip you book with me only furthers my Disney addition.  If you can live with that, give me a call or send me an email and let me help you plan your next vacation!

TMC Travel - The Mouse Connection -


Last minute Disney Trip???

Lori Potter with TMC Travel has a great guest blog post today....

I had a family contact me this week who has simply had enough of this long, cold, wet winter.  Their solution?  Pack their bags and head to Disney!  But, they wondered....can you do a last minute, spontaneous trip to Disney World?  And I can absolutely understand their questions.  We read about these crazy things like planning your meals 180 days in advance (when you don’t even know what you are having for dinner tonight), making attraction Fastpasses 60 days in advance and ordering Magicbands ahead of time.  So, what does that mean for the spontaneous traveler?  One, who like this family, wants to just pack up, escape the cold and head to the Happiest Place on Earth? 

Good News!  It IS absolutely possible to have a last minute trip to Disney!  And while advance planning makes things easier you can certainly have a very magical trip to Disney World even if you plan it 7 days in advance!  The biggest key to a last minute trip trip is to have flexibility.  The closer you are to your travel dates may mean that your top resort choice has limited availability.  I suggest having a back up choice for your resort.  Flexibility also carries over to dining reservations.  Some families who travel last minute opt for the Quick Service Dining Plan so they don’t need any table service reservations.  However, even 5 days out there are popular dining reservations available.  When you are in this window you are often getting cancellations as other folks are changing their plans.  If you are willing to do a late lunch instead of a prime dinner time or an early breakfast instead of lunch odds are you’ll be able to snag some good meals!  The same thing also applies to Fastpass+.  Flexibility is key.  Now, we’ll be real, likely you aren’t going to snag the elusive Anna & Elsa Fastpass 7 days in advance but there are so many Fastpass+ attractions to chose from that some of your favorites are sure to be included.  Just try to be flexible with the times that are available and build your trip around that. 

There are a few housekeeping items around last minute trips that should be noted.  First, those little booklets that Disney sends you with your “Magical Extras” likely won’t be able to be printed if your trip is within 10 days of booking.  It will, however, be sent to the resort for you to pick up at check in.  And Magicbands!  If you book your trip and order your bands up to 10 days in advance the bands will be sent to your home.  If you book your trip between 9 – 5 days in advance you can still customize it on My Disney Experience and they will be waiting at the resort check in desk for you.  If you book your trip within 5 days of arrival you will still get a Magicband at the resort it just may or may not have time to be customized! 

Of course, I recommend you working with a Travel Agent specializing in Disney Destinations for all your trips, including last minute ones!  We are here to assist with finding dining reservations and guiding you through the Fastpass process and anything else you may need to make your trip a magical one! 

 So, if you are like me and have absolutely had enough of this winter – let’s go to Disney!
Need help planning your last minute trip? Contact Lori at for more information.


Magic Band Decorating 101


I have the blessing of being a pretty creative person…but the curse of being both a terrible artist and craft impaired.  In my head I have all of these great ideas that I cannot make my hands do.    I have finally learned the hard way, after flushing many a dollar down the drain on failed craft projects ( and that was BEFORE Pinterest!) that I need to focus my creativity on figuring out what I can actually do and make look good.  So when I decided to decorate my Magic Bands, I had to scrap all of my grand artistic ideas of characters and swirls and glitter for something that I could actually execute.


I was really surprised at how easy it was to decorate the bands and how well they stood up to being used in the parks.

First of all, here are some of the supplies that I used for the project:

The directions are so simple; I do not even need to show photos!  It really is that easy, y'all!
The solid pink and the solid blue bands have a few coats of glittery nail polish that I scored on a Target run.  I used the color “Fairy Dust” by China Glaze (how appropriate that?).  I put a few coats of nail polish on, avoiding Mickey’s head so that it would be highlighted.  Keep layering coats of polish until you achieve a level of bling that you are satisfied with. I finished with a few coats of a nail top coat.  In this case, it was Orly Glosser.
The  green band, is use a few coats of OPI’s “Charged up Cherry” and a clear top coat over Mickey’s head.  I set of Mickey’s head with a micro point sharpie in Black (correct color not pictured).  It does look better if you Sharpie first and then paint the pink over top.  A few lighter coats of nail polish are better than heavy gloppy ones.
My “Tribute to Frozen” band in blue was probably the easiest of all.  I hit up the scrapbook sticker section of my local craft store and then did a little peel and stick.  I decided Mickey’s head needed a little something extra, so a few coats of a light blue nail polish (I raided my daughter’s stash and I am unsure of the specific color or brand)  and a few coats of “Pixie Dust” did the trick.
At this point, I started to feel a little smug over my results thus far, so I tried my most ambitious band to date….the “Minnie Polka Dot”.  The white dots were made with  simple acrylic craft paint that cost $0.99.  I used a stylus as my polka dot maker.  You can Google “polka dot stylus”, check your craft store, or check in the nail art section of a beauty supply store.  The major key to success is to PRACTICE before you start.  While I was running a bunch of polka dots across my practice page, I learned that I needed to dip the stylus straight into the paint and then dot it straight on the band.  No wiggling, no odd angles.  I also learned that to get the most consistent results, I needed to dip the stylus back into the paint after every dot.  I was concerned about a clear coat smudging the dots, so I opted to use the top coat brush and did clear polka dots over my white dots once they were totally dry.  Once the clear dots were dry, I painted the entire band with a tip coat for a nice finish.
Other ideas to try:
  • Mickey head jewels that you can stick or glue on
  • Temporary tattoos or stickers of your favorite characters sealed with clear polish
  • Swarovski crystals
  • A nod to your favorite sports team
  • A seasonal band for the time of year you are visiting
  • An "I'm Celebrating" band to share your special day
  • A family themed band
 And there you have it, an easy-peasy Magic Band Craft for the craft challenged.  Hope it helps get your creative juices flowing!





Disney for the Expectant Mama….

A little over a year ago, we decided to take one more trip as a family of 4 before our littlest guy joined us in April.  I am just now reporting on this trip because, well, the baby is now one and I finally have time.

We chose to visit Disney in December for several reasons:  1. It would not be too hot.  2. It was my son’s (and my) birthday.  3.  We would be able to see the parks decorated for the holidays.  4.  I was well into my 2nd trimester, but still far enough from my 3rd to not have to worry about giving birth at Magic Kingdom.  And 5.  The crowds were low.  We made a last minute decision to switch from Art of Animation to The Contemporary so it would be more convenient for me to come back and rest.  Best decision ever.  Listen here all you mamas-to-be…that was worth every extra penny.  If you’re going to splurge on something for your Disney vacation as a pregnant woman, a Deluxe resort convenient to Magic Kingdom (and maybe a prenatal massage at the Grand Floridian), is where it’s at.  We absolutely loved the Garden Wing rooms at Contemporary.  The first floor rooms have patios, and if you splurge for a Garden View room, you can sit out and watch the water parade go by at night!  If this is out of your budget, a trip to Disney while pregnant is not out of the question, you just may need to call it quits well before your tired feet/legs/back/butt/family gives out on you so you have the energy to board the bus and make it back to your resort before you crash and burn. 

One of my concerns when planning the trip was whether or not I could even enjoy Disney while pregnant.  I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of activities and rides I could experience!  There were very few rides in each park that I couldn’t do, and I didn’t mind resting when the other three rode something that I couldn’t.  Hubby’s splurge of choice was to do the Pirates and Pals Fireworks tour that leaves from the Contemporary.  This was an awesome way for us all to see the Christmas party fireworks at Magic Kingdom.  It was extremely entertaining for the kids, and I could sit in the boat comfortably and not have to risk getting bumped or jostled in a crowd.  On a side note, the beach at the Polynesian is another great spot for viewing the fireworks without too much of a crowd, or, if you are in Magic Kingdom, we sat in Town Square on the train station side so that we could jet out in front of the crowds when the fireworks were over.

I can’t go without stating the obvious…wear comfortable shoes, layer clothing so that you won’t get too hot/cold, take breaks throughout the day and for goodness sakes, stay hydrated and nourished!  Don’t overdo it and make sure to know when to say when.  Having a sweet and understanding hubby who will take the kids swimming while you nap helps too (thanks babe!).  Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and enjoyable Disney can be to a mom-to-be.  The only thing I missed was the glass of wine to end the day as we watched the water parade float by! 


Rainbow Loom Mickey Mouse

If your house is like mine, Rainbow Loom has taken over. For the uninitiated, Rainbow Loom is a
(relatively) inexpensive craft involving tiny rubber know....the kind your orthodontist used to give you.

I think Rainbow Loom is great for hand to eye coordination and figuring out spatial relationships. I am sure it is somehow enhancing the math faculties in my kid's brain.  I not sure, however if my vacuum cleaner is ever going to recover from this trend.

My oldest has become quite the Rainbow Loom whiz and has created a fantastic Mickey Mouse pattern.  I am not sure exactly how she figured it out, but in terms of leaving rubber bands everywhere this craft, I think she is darn near a genius.

I hope you enjoy the video, in two parts.


Free Dining Alert! Room Discount Alert!!

Attention Disney Visa holders!  Ready...Set...Go!  Some great new discounts have officially been announced.  Look for FREE DINING if you for check in dates from September 2-25.  Look for a ROOM DISCOUNT from August 15 - September 28.   

Attention everyone else!  Ready....Set....and get ready to go later this week when we expect the same announcement for the general public!

Free Dining

It looks very similar to other free dining promotions.  A free quick service dining plan will be available for guest staying in Value resorts.  You can upgrade to the regular dining plan for just the cost difference between the two plans. 

Guest staying in a moderate or deluxe will get the regular (plus) dining plan free.

The Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation, the campsites at Ft Wilderness, and the 3 bedroom villas are excluded from this offer.

Room Discount

  • 5% off – all Deluxe suites, All-Star Movies, Animal Kingdom Lodge (Savannah view and Club Level), Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas, Bay Lake Tower, Contemporary (theme park view & Club Level), Port Orleans-French Quarter
  • 15% off - Art of Animation (family suites)
  • 20% off – All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, Contemporary (standard rooms), Grand Floridian, Pop Century, Polynesian
  • 25% off - Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans-Riverside, Ft. Wilderness Cabins
  • 30% off – Animal Kingdom Lodge (standard/pool view rooms) Beach Club, Beach Club Villas, Boardwalk Inn, Boardwalk Villas, Old Key West, Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Saratoga Springs, Wilderness Lodge, Yacht Club

  • The Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation, the campsites at Ft Wilderness, and the 3 bedroom villas are excluded from this offer.


    Only one discount per room, so let us crunch the numbers to figure out which discounts are best for you!
    Not all room types are available for any given set of dates.
    There are a limited inventory of rooms available for the discounts! The sooner you book, the better chances of finding what you are looking for!

    And as always...

    Please let me know if I can help you plan your vacation!  We have the same prices that you find on with no extra charges or fees.  In addition to our free planning services, we also offer free gifts as a thank you for booking with us!  I would love to help!


    Details for Fast Pass +? It is in the fine print!

    The internet rumor mill has been all aflutter for MONTHS concerning the so called "Next Gen" project, subsequently referred to as X Pass, then FastPass +, and now officially My Magic + .  There as been much speculation about how FastPass+ is going to work, and I think I have some pretty good scoop on the subject, but first...

    My Magic+ consists of three enhancements:
    • My Disney Experience - My Disney Experience is the collective name for the revamped internet presence.  You can view this new site via the same old website that has been updated with a nice new look and feel as well as a Smartphone app.   Both have a new modern look and feel and appear that they will offer a more customizable approach to planning and tracking your vacation details.  I will warn you, as with all new technology, there are still a few kinks that need to be worked out, but the site as a whole seems to be geared toward getting guests information they need when they need it.  All parks now have free Wi-Fi access making it much easier to get online.
    • The Magic Band - We have heard rumors of "the bracelet" for some time and it appears that it is coming to fruition soon.  The bracelet will be worn for the duration of your stay and will replace your park tickets. You will get a bracelet as part of your ticket purchase, but it appears that you can "upgrade" your boring bracelet to a fancier version with your favorite character.  Well played, Disney.  So what will the Magic Band actually mean?  A simple wave of your wrist and you can:
      • Open the door to your resort
      • Make a retail purchase
      • Enter a theme park
      • Store your photopass photos
      • Obtain a FastPass
      • Store your FastPass + selection
    • FastPass+ - Disney has done a fair amount of testing of the FastPass Plus system, but there has been very little information about how it is going to actually work. We've known that you are going to be able to schedule your FastPasses, but not much else.Well, you know that fine print that pops up when you sign up for an account on a website?  I am the nerd that actually reads it (well, sometimes).  When I signed up for a new My Disney Experince account, I did read the find pring and found some really interesting information.
        • ONLY ONE FASTPASS+ PER RIDE PER DAY AND ONLY ONE PARK PER DAY  - "You may make FastPass+ selections for one park per day. You may only select and redeem aFastPass+ selection for a particular attraction, entertainment or restaurant experience once per day."  EDITED: This is not one pass per day, but one pass per attraction per day.  This will actually make things more inflexible for guests that know how to effectively use FastPasses.
      • Free for RESORT GUESTS ONLY? - "A confirmed FastPass+ selection is not valid for admission to any theme or water park and valid park admission is required to make a selection and redeem a FastPass+ selection. To make aFastPass+ selection for you or your Friends, you must retrieve a Resort package reservation including valid park admission through your account or associate valid park admission to your account. "
      • A PAID ADD ON FOR OFF PROPERTY GUESTS? - "Ticket holders holding passes or tickets with block-out dates may not make FastPass+ selections for any block-out date without the purchase of separate valid park admission and assigning that admission entitlement to your account. "  I am not sure exactly what that means!
      • AVAILABLE AT SOME QUICK SERVICE RESTAURANTS - "A FastPass+ selection for dining at a FastPass+ designated table service or quick service location secures your arrival window and allows you to order meal prior to your arrival window. Each guest who has ordered ahead must have a FastPass+ selection for the same arrival time and location confirmed by the Site/App."  I am not sure that I would bother using  my sole FastPass+ for the day on a quick service meal, but maybe it is worth it to some.
      • THE SUPER FINE PRINT - You can start booking 60 days prior, the number of Fastpasses is limited and subject to availability, FastPass+ times will continue to be strictly enforced, can be used for shows, special viewing areas for fireworks, attractions and dining, times or attractions may be changed due to operational issues related to a particular attraction.
    So what you you think?  I think I am on board with FastPass+, I think it will be a nice enhancement without feeling you have to schedule every second of your vacation.  I like the Magic Band idea, but I am not sure how much I would enjoy a semi permanent plastic bracelet on my wrist in the heat of summer.  I think it is going to take a while for me to warm up to the My Disney Experience website.  While it is pretty, the glitches are driving me a bit crazy.  I am hopeful that they will be resolved sooner rather than later.  It is a little more cumbersome to set up but gives a nice reward for the effort..  The "vacationer" in me will ultimately enjoy it.  I am not sure the "travel agent" in me will ever love it in it's current format.  "A little more cumbersome" times many, many families really adds up.  That said, I am looking forward to taking it for a spin for my family's vacation this spring!