Without a doubt, becoming a Disney travel agent can be a fun and rewarding career path. However, many new Disney travel agents are unaware of the pitfalls and challenges they may soon encounter. Here are a few things you should expect when trying to become a Disney Travel agent.
Most host travel agencies categorize their travel planners as “independent contractors.” This means your sole source of income will be a commission from booking the client’s travel. In other words, you will not have a salary or wages to rely on. Rather, the number (and cost) of trips you book will determine your income.
The commission split between the host agency and travel agent varies with each Disney agency. Agents usually receive a higher commission on clients they find themselves vs. leads given to them from the agency. Novice vacation planners can expect to have a 50-60% split with their host agency to start off
with, and up to around 70-80% as the agent books more and more trips. The best percentage splits you can expect to find will be around 80/20 (agent/agency).
We recommend that you steer clear of any agency that pays out less than 50% to begin with. After all, you’ll be doing the bulk of the work and we think you should be fairly compensated (50%+) for your efforts.
Since Disney pays travel agencies a 10% commission rate on booked travel, this means that a best-case scenario on a $5,000 vacation would result in $400 commission to the booking agent ($5000 x .10 = 500 x .80 = $400). Some agencies charge their agents an annual E&O (Error & Omissions insurance) fee – as well as other fees – so be sure to research what you are expected to contribute before signing up to work with a host agency.
* For the Disney agency with the best commission splits, see our recommendation at end of the article.
When a Disney travel agent books travel on behalf of his or her client, Disney pays a 10% commission to the host agency, and then the host agency forwards the agent’s share of the commission to him or her. Be aware that Disney does not pay out the commission until AFTER the travel has been completed. Therefore, expect a lengthy delay from the time you book a vacation until the time you get paid.
In most cases, this lag time usually takes anywhere from a couple of months to up to a year, depending on how far in advance your client books their vacation. Many people who research “how to become a Disney travel agent” may be unaware of this drawback.
Becoming a Disney travel agent isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. While being a private contractor seems like it would provide you with lots of freedom, the truth is, successful travel agents have early mornings, late nights, and “crazy” clients. So be prepared to accommodate your client’s schedule and not always your own.
Like many sales jobs, Disney travel agent jobs require good communications skills. Effective agents are calm, cool, and collected, as well as upbeat, articulate, and helpful. This doesn’t just apply to phone conversations, but also to the written word.
Since much of your communications with the client will be done through email, make sure you proofread everything you write before pressing the “send” button. It’s not always easy to convey a pleasant tone via texts and emails, so avoid writing anything that sounds abrupt, angry, or unsympathetic. Be timely with your responses and helpful with your advice. Clients can be sensitive!
Clients depend on Disney travel agents to take the headaches out of planning and booking their trip. As their travel planner, these hassles now become your responsibility. You must possess excellent attention to detail when you book travel, as one slight error can complicate or even ruin a Disney trip.
Disorganized travel agents are bound to encounter confusion and mix-ups at some point. Having a good organizational system in place is key to keeping all your information in order as you juggle multiple client trips at once. Keep your information easily retrievable in case a client calls with questions. You will need an efficient system to track all the key dates, dining reservations, payments, etc. The worst call you can make to a client is “I screwed up.”
Proactive and Prompt
Not only should Disney travel agents be proactive and prompt in addressing their client’s questions and concerns, but they should also be proactive and prompt in re-booking the client’s vacation package if a new Disney promotion is launched. You will be looking out for the best interests of your client, so if a deal pops up that can save them some money, be ready to act!
Level of Knowledge
There’s a lot to know about Disney Destinations. Disney travel planner’s universe of knowledge shouldn’t be limited to just Walt Disney World and Disneyland, but also Aulani (a Disney Resort & Spa), Disney Cruise Line vacations, and Adventures by Disney. Various Disney travel agencies book Universal Studios, Sandals & Beaches Resorts, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line packages as well, so your breadth of knowledge may need to expand beyond Disney, depending on which destinations your host agency books.
To become an effective Disney travel agent, you really need to be well-versed in each destination. This means spending quality time researching not only your favorite destinations but also the “ins and outs” of the destinations you have never visited and the ones that don’t interest you (if that’s even possible!). If a client asks you where to swim, play golf, rent a stroller, a great spot for a day trip, or whatever, you should be prepared with an answer. You should certainly know the best restaurants and rides at Disney, but it would also help to be ready with some The Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips in case your client chooses to experience Universal Orlando Resort as well.
That brings us to our next point. The best Disney travel agencies have a good support network in place. They should promote an open and friendly (i.e., non-competitive) dialog/communication system between each of the agents.
There will inevitably be agents that know more about certain destinations, while others will know less. If you are just starting out as a Disney travel agent, it’s understandable that you will have plenty of questions. The best Disney travel agencies won’t just throw you to the wolves to fend for yourself, but rather, support you along the way as you learn the ropes.
For the most part, Disney vacation planners are on their own to find client leads. Some of the larger, more established agencies may have a prominent social media presence or high Google search ranking, in which case you may get some client leads handed to you. Some agencies pay to advertise their brand – at no cost to their agents – so this certainly is a bonus from an agent’s standpoint. However, for the most part, Disney travel agents are left in the cold to fend for themselves when it comes to acquiring new clients.
It helps to have a large circle of friends and acquaintances to pitch your services to, as well as some marketing savvy to build your own brand. Since your compensation is entirely commission-based, an effective marketing strategy will be key to your success.
Avoid Disney travel agencies that are run like multilevel marketing schemes. If you encounter an agency with upfront training course fees, registration fees, etc., this should be a red flag. These types of agencies are usually more interested in making money off you from the get-go than making you a “valuable team member.” Training should always be provided by your host agency – free of charge.
Legitimate Disney travel agencies will have IATA (International Air Transport Association) and/or CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) accreditation and require their agents to complete the College of Disney Knowledge (a correspondence course for Disney travel agents to learn about different resorts, cruise line, etc.).
There are probably more considerations we could add to our “how to become a Disney travel agent” list, but those ones will get you started!