Tag Archives: travel planning

Travel Agent Trial by Fire

DSCN0668I have always loved traveling and putting together trips. Disney is my happy place. I grew up near Disneyland and as a teen moved to Indiana, where Disney World became our go to theme park. It doesn’t matter the size of the crowd or the heat of the day, I LOVE being at Disney. I also adore Universal Studios (on both coasts), and cruising. I’ve also led about a dozen student trips both in the U.S. and in Europe, in hopes of one day seeing most of the world.

So when I saw an opportunity to become a Magical Vacation Planner back in August of 2019, I applied. I was thrilled when I was chosen and excited to start training. And boy was there a lot of training! Not that I minded as it was fascinating learning the ins and outs of vacation planning for some of my favorite destinations. I truly feel the knowledge I’ve acquired, my love of travel, and my attention to detail make me pretty good at this job.

After only a few months of getting the word out about my new business, I was even one of the top 10 agents on my team in January. It was so amazingly exciting!

And then the coronavirus hit. Talk about a trial by fire.

On the plus side, most of my trips are scheduled for later this year, but I had two clients scheduled for trips in March, and I was supposed to be leaving with my family on a Disney vacation for the first week of our spring break. In fact, I was scheduled to leave for Disney World the day after Disney announced they’d be closing Disney World. The park actually shut down on what would have been the third day of my trip.

20191230_110814It was a mad scramble to get trips canceled and rebooked. I spent several hours on the phone with Carnival Cruise Line and Disney World trying to get everything sorted out. I definitely had my share of frustration over some dropped calls. I’d been on hold with Disney for an hour when it seemed like someone picked up, but no voice could be heard, and I was transferred to the end of call agent customer service survey. There may have been tears. But I persevered, dialed again, and waited one more time until I got through.

At one point I was actually chatting with my client on Facebook Messenger while talking to a Disney agent in order to replan her trip. Although it started out stressful, the agent I talked to was simply amazing and I ended up getting my client an even better deal which included a small refund and an upgrade to her dining plan, which will end up saving her even more money once she’s at Disney.

It’s been a crazy few weeks, but I’ve been very impressed with how Disney, Universal, and the cruise lines have handled everything. I’m also so thankful I’ve been able to get things worked out for my clients and that I still have people talking to me about wanting to travel later on in the year.

Considering how easy it can be to book your own vacations online, I’ve had several people ask why bother using a travel agent. The last few weeks have been a clear testament to why travel agents matter. My clients didn’t have to do anything to get their trips canceled and rescheduled. They didn’t wait on the phone for hours, I did. They didn’t have to sort through all the emails and online information about the latest cancelation/rebooking policies, I did. They didn’t have to try to negotiate the best refunds/deals for rebooking, I did. All they had to do was tell me what they wanted done, and I got it done for them.

One of my funniest moments was actually when my cruise client emailed me about an email she’d gotten from Carnival with an updated cancelation policy the day after we’d canceled her trip. I’d already been on hold with Carnival for 45 minutes trying to make sure she got the better deal when her email came through. I gave her an immediate update via email, and when I got her a full refund, I called her to let her know.

It’s been a crazy few weeks and since I have another client scheduled to travel in mid-April, I expect I’ll have a few more crazy weeks, but I love helping people plan the best vacations I can, so I’m happy to do it. The world may be a bit up in the air right now, but remember that once things settle, I’ll be here to help you plan the perfect Disney, Universal, or cruise vacation. And you’ll get the same dedication, organization, and communication as all of my clients. I want to help people make amazing memories and see the world.

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Filed under bad days, cool places, cruising, Disney World, entertainment, Magical Vacation Planner by Shannon Schiller, ramblings, travel, what makes me me

We’re all “Disney mad” here

family with characters 2Recently a friend of mine texted me and told me I was, “Disney mad.” She said it in good humor to tease me a bit for all of my Disney posts. And I get it, I really do. Of course, she knows I’ve always been “Disney mad,” it’s just coming out more since I started working as a Magical Vacation Planner.

Of course, since I’ve just returned from four days at Universal Orlando where I had an amazing time and then four more days at Disney World, where I also had an amazing time, my posts about theme parks have quadrupled.

I also know that if you’ve liked my MVP FB page, you see not only my regular posts, but my business posts too. And I appreciate that.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a “salesperson.” I HATE the idea of trying to get someone to buy something. I’d constantly worry they may not really want it. Or that I was being pushy. Or that I was bothering them. I’m not aggressive like some salespeople and I don’t have the natural ability to just chit chat with people like others.

My husband has been in sales for decades now and I don’t know how he does it. It’s funny, because of the two of us, most people would pick me as the outgoing, social one, but that’s only if I know people, and fairly well. I’d much rather be at home, curled up on the couch with a good book or Netflix. My husband has been known to reach his social threshold at parties in our own home and just walk into the den and get on the computer to avoid talking to anyone else. And yet, give him a phone, products he knows about, and strangers, and he thrives. 

Of course, anyone who knows me, also knows that if I truly believe in something, I cannot stop raving about it. I was once shopping at Godiva when a fellow customer was trying to figure out what to get his wife for some holiday. The clerk was new (and I know this b/c I used to spend a LOT of time at Godiva) and was struggling a bit with suggestions. I jumped right in, talked to him about what his wife likes, gave him some great suggestions and ended up helping him create a box for her. The manager had come out at this point and offered me a job on the spot. I declined, because I had a great teaching job, small children at home, and frankly, I’d already done my time in retail. But I’ve done similar things in Lush, DeBrand’s, and yes, Disney.

Whatever it is that made me jump in at Godiva has always been a part of me. I think it’s probably why I became a teacher. I like sharing what I know. I like helping people. I like connecting with people over something we have in common. Which is why becoming a Magical Vacation Planner makes total sense to me.

I grew up with Disney. We had annual passes to Disneyland when I was a kid. I consumed a heavy diet of the movies, books, TV shows, and the parks. I have been to Disney World about a dozen times and shared those incredible experiences with the people I love most in this world (except for my BFF who gets horrible motion sickness and won’t go with me). A few of those trips were shared with my dad and step-mom, who both passed away a few years ago, so those memories and pictures are even more precious to me. Six years ago, I took my own children for the first time and knew I was passing on something precious to them.

My husband and I were annual passholders for Universal Orlando. We lived in Florida for about six months (we thought we’d be there longer), early on in our relationship and it was an absolute blast. We had great little dates where we’d go ride a few rides, get some dinner and see an IMAX movie. It was so much fun.

For me, being a Magical Vacation Planner isn’t about selling anything. It’s about helping people explore the world (because I can book way more than just Disney World and Universal) and create their own memories. My favorite part is talking to people to find out what they want to do and helping them figure out how to make it happen. I actually haven’t made a penny on this endeavour yet and have no illusions that, or desire for it to replace my first career love: teaching. I’m doing this because it is fun, and I love the idea of helping people create those life-long memories that are so much more precious than a new video game system or fancy phone or whatever people are thinking about buying right now. I’d take a trip somewhere with people I love any day over some material possession.

So, yeah, I’m going to keep reaching out and being “Disney mad” and “Universal kooky,” “cruising crazy,” and “internationally wacky,” because I love it. It makes me happy and yes, I want to help make you happy too.

And yes, even if you’ve been on a dozen (or more) trips yourself, I can still help plan your next one. It’s not that people can’t plan travel on their own. It’s the digital age. There are tons of options out there (although that alone is crazy confusing at times). What I am offering is someone to listen to what you really want, do all the research, make all the phone calls and get all the payments made. You won’t have to worry about remembering reservation dates, Fast Pass dates or payment due dates, because I’ll send you those reminders. You won’t have to slog through the menus of the over 200 eateries at Disney World to figure out the best one for your family, I’ll help do that for you. And when you have questions, you won’t have to go and try to track down the answers. I’ll get them for you.

And none of this concierge service (because really, working with me is like having a personal concierge just an email, phone call or text away) will cost you even one extra penny. Most people don’t know this, but I’m not paid by you. You’ll pay the same price whether you book with me or on your own. Although, if you book with me and some new promotion comes out, I can help get those promotions applied to your account. The difference is, that if you do book with me, I do all the leg work for you, while you sit back, relax, and well, enjoy your vacation.

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Filed under chocolate, cool places, Disney World, education, entertainment, good days, love, Magical Vacation Planner by Shannon Schiller, married life, my crazy family, ramblings, travel, Universal Studios, what makes me me