Some of you may be aware from my earlier Facebook posts, the Walt Disney Travel Co. in the USA decided at the end of October that international agents were no longer permitted to book directly through them and had to instead make use of local channels.
This decision directly impacted our ability to make bookings for Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Aulani, as this was our chosen avenue of booking in order to secure good prices with great flexibility.
Unfortunately, this decision came from Disney's legal team and not their commercial sales team, so we were unable to appeal for its reversal. As you can imagine, this has left us in a bit of a quandary.
It is business as usual for Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland. They are operated by different companies and still permit international bookings, so no worries there. We can also still assist with non-Disney accommodation, flights, transfers, tours, cruises etc. I also need to stress that all existing bookings are totally unaffected by this decision, it relates to new bookings only.
We don't normally get a huge interest in Aulani but we shouldn't have trouble booking rooms here for people through Expedia or Orbitz if they'd like us to help them out.
Disneyland is a little easier to deal with than Walt Disney World and we will hopefully start taking quote requests again for those of you travelling there early in the New Year. We can book Good Neighbour Hotels through local wholesalers or direct with individual properties, tickets can be booked through our local wholesaler or Expedia and Disney hotels can be booked through Expedia (and local wholesalers but that usually costs more). Anyone booking accommodation and tickets through us will have our premium itinerary planning service included free of charge. This inclusion should hopefully offset any difference in prices.
Walt Disney World is proving the most difficult destination to sort out due to its complexities. We can book packages through our local wholesalers without any problems but the prices are higher, sometimes substantially so, depending on when you're travelling. There are a number of reasons for this, they obviously have staff to pay, they build in a buffer for changes in the AUD and use year round, as opposed to seasonal pricing, among other variables. We fully acknowledge that this solution won't work for those looking for the cheapest option. However, it might be suitable for those wishing to hand over their entire trip to us and not have to worry about a thing themselves - where convenience is more of a priority than cost. We're in the process of investigating another potential alternative but it has its limitations too. It's possible that we won't find a suitable replacement for making Walt Disney World bookings at this stage, so we're hoping to fill that void another way.
We are working on offering a premium itinerary planning service and a custom touring plan service that will be available for separate purchase. This is targeted at those who have booked their Disneyland and Walt Disney World packages through Disney directly (or are considering doing so and require our advice/guidance) but would still like assistance with their planning. Anyone that books a package with us, will have the itinerary planning service included free of charge (this doesn't include the custom touring plans). Since this service goes a little more in depth than our current service, there's some set-up required behind the scenes that I've been slowly plugging away at.
We hope that these are only short term fixes and that in the long term Disney comes up with an alternative for international agents and we can pick up where we left off both planning AND booking trips for our clients with ease.
Whilst we're not thrilled with this turn of events, we are trying to look on the bright side and are taking it as a sign that maybe we need to scale back a bit. It's been nice to step away from the computer and do more things together as a family - I've even been baking Christmas goodies with LJ.
Being a small business, we never really stop working and sitting in front of the computer for all hours of the night and weekend have been the norm for the past three and a half years. I love helping people plan their holidays (and am determined to continue doing so) but it's been refreshing to be able to step away from the screen a little bit too (ok, so that's mostly been on the weekends - I haven't been to bed before 1am in a few weeks). Who knows? Maybe I may even find myself with enough spare time to finally publish more in depth trip reports!
Hopefully this answers any questions you may have had about where we currently stand with future bookings. I'm doing my best to get the planning service up and running as quickly as possible but in addition to working on the resources needed for that, I'm also our webmaster and I'm crazily planning to launch a site upgrade at the same time! If you are planning a trip soon please send us an email if you'd like our help with planning. We should be able to fit you in.
From our Magical Mouse family to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May 2016 be full of magical memories and plenty of special Disney magic. We've got trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World planned for 2016, so we'll be sharing those with you as they happen. LJ has been growing like a weed and at a couple of weeks shy of turning three is 103cm tall. This opens up a whole new world of attractions that I can't wait to share with him. Here's hoping he takes after his Mum and isn't scared of everything like his Dad!