This week, we're happy to feature Darren Wittko. Darren is a Disney Travel Specialist with Magical Vacations Travel and owner of The Best of Walt Disney World website. Like all of the agents we're going to feature, Darren's services are completely free! Here's our interview with Darren... enjoy!
|Photo courtesy of Best of WDW|
WDW Hints: Can you tell us your favorite resort, restaurant, ride, etc.?
Favorite Resort: Wilderness Lodge, Bay Lake Tower
Favorite Restaurant: Trails End Restaurant
Favorite Park: Tied for Magic Kingdom & Epcot
Favorite Ride/Attraction: Pirates of the Caribbean, Spaceship Earth, Splash Mountain
Favorite Character: Mickey - it all started with a mouse!
Favorite dessert: the Napoleon at Boulangerie Patisserie.
WDW Hints: What little known thing do you like to recommend to your clients to try at WDW?
Darren: That WDW is nearly 50 square miles, that’s twice the size of New York City! This ‘ain’t’ Six Flags! Be sure to make an itinerary, whether it be flexible or precise, but have a plan.
WDW Hints: What made you decide to go from a "Disney fanatic" to an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner? When did you become an ADVP?
Darren: I grew up going to Walt Disney World and had made such wonderful memories there. It became familiar to me, a second home of sorts. I read that booking through a Disney travel agent had more benefits than booking myself, so I started using Magical Vacations Travel. Once they saw how often I was going, I was invited to join the team. That was back in 2008 and I’ve been booking Disney vacations ever since.
WDW Hints: Do you find yourself going on Disney vacations more, less or about the same since becoming an ADVP?
Darren: I’m on a Disney trip about 6 times per year, or about every other month. Sometimes I have to leave my family behind, that part is never easy. As an agent, I do get some discounts and that helps me a lot.
WDW Hints: Is there anything tedious about the job?
Darren: For me, it’s having to doublecheck all the facts and figures, especially when I have several clients at the same time. There’s no room for mistakes on someone’s vacation quote,
so I will double check, even triple check, the figures before they go out to clients. That part is tedious, but so important.
WDW Hints: Do you book airfare for your clients?
Darren: I do book airfare if they request it. Many folks prefer to hunt down their own deal online, but I have no problem booking it if they wish. Sometimes they’ve done their homework on flights and just give me the info. to book it for them. Otherwise it’s a lot of emails back and forth as to flights, times and fares.
WDW Hints: What extra perks or special gifts do you give to your clients that other ADVPs may not give?
Darren: Even though we offer some magical extras like a customized newsletter with a crowds calendar, the Color Companion to Walt Disney World and a few others, the real benefit is our service. We double-check all the paperwork when it arrives from Disney. We search every day for better offers and promotions that we can pass along to our clients. Just having someone who is looking out for the client’s best interests is definitely our most valuable perk. If we didn’t offer exceptional customer service, people would just book online themselves.
WDW Hints: I enjoy booking my own ADRs right at 180 days out, if I were to book my vacation through you, can I still have control over my own ADRs or do you take over everything? (In other words, do you allow clients to be involved in their vacation planning as much or as little as they want?)
Darren: Absolutely! A client can book dining reservations themselves, and many like to do that. Other folks tell us what they want and ask us to fill up their calendar with dining. Yet, others will have no idea where to dine and really need some advice. In any case, the customer always has control of his or her reservation.
WDW Hints: What fun opportunities have you been given since becoming an agent?
Darren: For me, having the chance to meet other Disney fans, bloggers, website owners, and authors has been a lot of fun. As an agent, I work mostly with the online community so I’ve gotten to meet some wonderful people that way even been invited to few special events. One of the best opportunities was having Bob Sehlinger - CoAuthor of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World - ask to use a few of my photos in his book. I was so honored and he’s such nice guy!
WDW Hints: I just priced out a vacation using disneyworld.com, can you beat the prices I found or offer an upgrade?
Darren: Believe it or not, Disney is price controlled. This means that a Magic Your Way Package costs the same everywhere, just like an iPad will be the same price whether you buy it at the Apple Store or at Target. There are some rare exceptions to this however, otherwise we charge what Disney charges. It’s always worth checking to see if there are any unadvertised specials available with us.
For example, we have a great offer right now for August 24 Sept. 3 at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort: 2 adults, 2 children (ages 2 and 4), 5 nights, with 5Day Magic Your Way Tickets with Park Hopper comes to $1,733.11. If a customer booked through DisneyWorld.com, the cost would be $3,651.65. Our customers saved a whopping $1,919 by booking with us!
WDW Hints: Why should I book with a Disney travel agent if the prices are the same?
Darren: It is so important to build a relationship with a travel agent. Our loyal customers get the news on our agency exclusive offers before anyone else, such as our Grand Floridian offer. Sometimes our customers grab up all the discounted rooms and it never has the chance to go public! Make friends with an agent!
WDW Hints: What advice do you have for someone going to Walt Disney World for the first time?
Darren: If you’re going to buy a new car, appliance, or any other major purchase, don’t you take the time to research it a little? Let’s be honest, Disney World is a major purchase, many folks spend three to five thousand dollars on a trip. This is why it’s important to have someone work with you, someone who can answer your questions fast and prevent you from overpaying. If you choose to do it yourself, then find some good unofficial websites that offer tips and tricks.
WDW Hints: Why is it better to purchase tickets through Disney rather than a ticket wholesaler?
Darren: Unless you’re traveling with a large party, the savings might only be $3 - $5 per ticket and there’s a lot of extra hassles involved. For instance, they most likely have to be mailed to your house, and if you do this last minute, you will be nervous about them arriving on time. If you should forget them at home or loose them, you’re out of luck. Disney isn’t going to help you here. Disney will not confirm days on tickets over the phone, the only way you will know if they are going to work is at the gate, and by then it’s too late!
A benefit to buying them through Disney is that the tickets can be added to your Key to the World Card. Having your room key, park passes, and dining plan all on one card so convenient. And if it gets lost, Guest Relations will make you a new card. To me, that’s worth the regular price.
WDW Hints: Thank you so much for your time, Darren!
Editor's Note: Darren Wittko is the creator and author of the Best of Walt Disney World. He is a contributor to the The Unofficial Guide: The Color Companion to Walt Disney World (Unofficial Guides) guidebook and can often be found posting Disney World trivia and information on Facebook. You can always contact Darren via his website or facebook page and he'll be happy to assist you!