how to jumpstart your career as a Disney and Universal Studios travel planner in 5 steps
For Disney fanatics, becoming a Disney Travel Planner is a DREAM job. We get to use our immense knowledge of Disney theme parks to plan magical vacations and get paid for it! Forget the Prince, this JOB is a dream come true.
A few years ago, I had no idea that people still used Travel Agents. Like most people, I thought the industry died once websites like Expedia became popular. Turns out, there is still a high demand for Travel Agents!
The reason being is that Expedia or disneyworld.com can’t answer specific questions like “Is the dining plan worth it?” or “Is Be Our Guest any good?”
Disney Travel Planners give their unbiased opinions to clients and are much more reliable than using the general Disney reservation hotline. Due to the complexity of planning a theme park vacation, many people opt for hiring an expert to do the work for them.
That said, you’re here because you want to learn how to become a Disney Travel Planner. To get you started, I’ll briefly describe the process of starting your career as a Travel Agent that specializes in theme park vacations.
Now, if you’re serious about changing careers, I encourage you to sign up for my free 5-day email course. Each day, I expand on the steps below and help you jumpstart your new career as a Travel Agent!
Learn more about the free course in the video below! You can sign up by clicking here or fill out the form below the video!
P.S. This post may contain affiliate or referral links to products I love. I get a small portion of the amount, but it doesn’t cost you a penny extra. Don’t worry, I only endorse things I truly believe in! Terms & Conditions
Additional Helpful Resources
- FREE 5-Day Course: Jumpstart Your Career as a Disney Travel Planner in 5 Days
- How to Start a Home-Based Travel Agency
- The Travel Institute
Step 1: Choose What Kind of Agency You Want to Work For
The first step is to decide whether you want to work at a Travel Agency, start your own business, or join a Host Agency. In my short course, I define the three options and go over the pros and cons of each.
For now, let’s focus on joining a Host Agency because that’s what most Disney Specialists end up working with. For new Travel Agents, I highly recommend you join a Host Agency before starting your own. This will give you the opportunity to learn about the industry and reduce the initial investment of starting a business.
What’s a Host Agency?
A Host Agency is a Travel Agency that employs Travel Agents as Independent Contractors. You won’t be a full-time or part-time employee and you won’t receive any employee benefits like medical or a 401K.
When you file for taxes, you’ll fill out a 1099 form rather than a W-4. Agents are also required to provide their own office supplies like a laptop or cellphone.
The awesome part is that most (if not all) Travel Agents who work for Host Agencies work from home. You have the freedom to work in your sweatpants (or the freedom to work in no pants at all!)
The main benefit is that you have access to book travel without your own IATA or CLIA number. Without going into too much detail, these are booking numbers given to Agents or Agencies who have sold a certain amount of travel. Typically, you’re given your own IATA/CLIA number after selling about $5000 worth of commission in one calendar year. To learn more about IATA/CLIA numbers head to this article by Host Agency Reviews.
The secondary benefit is that most Host Agencies offer some marketing tools, booking tools, and sometimes even training. You’ll have the support of a larger Agency at all times.
What’s the catch of using a Host Agency?
You’ll have to find your own clients by using your own marketing techniques. More on marketing for yourself in a bit! Host Agencies also take a small cut from your commission. This pays for any of the resources and fees that they are paying for.
Note: You should NEVER have to pay for anything in addition to the commission cut. If an Agency is asking for money from you, it’s a scam.
Step 2: Set Up a Simple Marketing Plan
This sounds intimidating, but I assure you it’s not! This can actually be quite simple and will put you in a better position than the Travel Agents who don’t have a plan.
I don’t have a business degree and I was able to set up a plan for myself that helped me attract plenty of clients in my first year.
You should create a marketing plan before you start applying to Agencies. This will put you a cut above most of the applicants that Host Agencies receive. A lot of hopeful Travel Agents think the only requirement to become a Disney Travel Planner is to have a love for Disney.
This will assure the Agency that you are passionate about the job, but not that you can do it well! Having a plan will assure them you have an idea as to how to get clients.
There are a lot of different ways to use marketing to find clients. You can use word of mouth, social media, paid ads, wedding expos, and even blogging or vlogging. I use all of these methods to advertise my services, but I primarily use my blog to get my name out there.
If there’s one important thing you can take away from this article is that you need a newsletter to send to your clients.
Newsletters are old school and not as flashy as social media. They are also 40% more effective than any other advertising method out there. If your agency doesn’t give you an email address, you can set one up yourself.
Have no idea how to create a marketing plan? I created a marketing plan template for my free email course. Sign up here to get the template, which I send on Day 2 of the course!
Step 3: Apply for a Host Agencies
I know, I know. Easier said than done! Basically, what you’ll want to do is research Host Agencies using a few of the resources I’ve listed below.
One of the best approaches is to ask in a Facebook group. Make sure the group allows you to post about Travel Agencies. Some groups don’t like it because they are often affiliated with their own Agencies. Also, beware of MLM’s! They do exist in the Travel Agency world.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are Agencies that specialize in Disney and others that don’t. This doesn’t necessarily mean the Agency won’t allow you to book Disney or that you only have to book Disney. This is something you can ask about when applying.
These are the most popular Host Agencies that specialize in Disney. As expected, they’re a little more difficult to get into because they are popular. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!
I’m not affiliated with any of these companies and haven’t worked with them so my referrals are simply suggestions!
7 Popular Travel Agencies that Specialize in Disney Vacations
- Glass Slipper Concierge
- Small World Vacations
- Mickey Travels
- Be Our Guest Vacations
- Key to the World Travel
- Magical Moments Vacations
- Mouse Bound Vacations
Also, check out the Authorized Disney Vacation Planner Agency Locator here for more ideas! This is helpful if you’re looking to work for a brick and mortar Travel Agency near your city.
Step 4: Attract good quality Clients
This is when you actually get to use the nifty marketing plan you made in Step 3! Advertising your services will be just as important as the work itself. It will also take about 50% of your efforts. Like I mentioned before, you’ll use social media, ads, and an enticing newsletter to pull in prospective clients.
The real trick is to find clients who aren’t tire-kickers. Meaning, someone who will waste your time and resources without committing to you. Those aren’t your ideal clients. There are plenty of people in the world who are willing to work with you so they can have a super magical vacation.
One way to do that is to charge a planning fee, rather than giving out free quotes to entice clients. If you do plan on giving out free quotes, I still advise having your client sign a contract saying they are willing to work with you. This will give them the incentive to stay with you and not waste your time.
Whether you charge a planning fee or not, you will still be earning a commission from Disney and it will come at no extra cost to your clients. I explain in detail the pros and cons behind charging a fee versus giving out free quotes in the 5-day challenge.
*This section originally described how to attract high-paying or luxury vacation clients, but that’s not necessarily the goal. They don’t have to be high-paying to be good quality clients. They just shouldn’t waste your time comparing your prices to Costco or AAA. They should work with you because they need your unique help and services.
Step 5: Keep Your Most Valuable Clients
It’s important to find high-paying clients, but a higher priority should be keeping the good clients you already have. It’s easier to convince someone to work with you again when they already know, like, and trust you. After you’ve worked with a great client you’ll want to keep them so they keep coming back for every vacation!
The easiest way to follow-up with two short emails once they get back from vacation.
I usually send the first one about 3-4 days after they get back and another about 3-4 weeks after. The first can be a simple check-in to see how everything went and if they had a great time. The second email will be a polite request for a testimonial that you can use on your website.
The BEST way is to start a simple newsletter that you send weekly or monthly.
This is a little easier said than done, but it’s the most effective way to get and keep clients. Since this is a complicated process, I list some great resources you can use to start your own newsletter in my free Travel Agent course.
Wrap-Up: My Best Advice to New Travel Agents
Join a Host Agency that allows you to sell travel outside of Disney theme parks. Disney can still be your specialization, but this way you can widen your client pool. You can plan vacations for other theme parks like Universal Studios, cruises, international tours, and other destinations you’re an expert on. This will bring in more sources of income and high-paying clients.
I’m sure there are a few more questions floating around in your head right about now. Like, how much do Disney Travel Planners make? When do I start getting paid? Do I get free vacations if I become a Travel Agent? I answer a few of those questions in my article: The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Being a Disney or Universal Travel Planner
Ready to jump in and start your new magical career?
Sign up for my email challenge by clicking here or filling out the form below. For 5 days, I send you an email that details each step to becoming a Disney Travel Planner. I expand on this article in great detail and help you motivate through the process.
Any Questions? Comment below and I’ll respond!
Don’t lose these tips!
Hover over the Pinterest “P” and pin this post to your favorite board!