Are We Earmarked?
Are you an earmarked agency? We, as professional travel planners, get that question a lot from potential Disney-bound vacationers. New clients, who are out perusing the internet for "sound advice" when it comes to their future WDW getaway, get all sorts of recommendations when it comes to what to do or what not to do. But one of the bits of advice we witness a lot is, "only work with an authorized Disney vacation planner." When an agent or agency touts that they are an "authorized Disney vacation planner," they are saying that they are also a "Disney earmarked" agency.
Disney gives that status to agencies that produce over a certain amount of dollar volume in a given period of time. Disney does not announce what that volume is, but once you hit it, Disney may then reach out to that agency and invite them to be earmarked. For some agencies, it is their goal to become earmarked because it then gives them the right to officially claim themselves to be "authorized" by Disney to sell Disney vacations. But therein lies the confusion to the general public.
An agency that is not earmarked is NOT selling Disney illegally etc., yet the term "authorized" carries with it a certain connotation that anyone not earmarked should not be selling "official Disney vacations." As it is with most of my posts, I try to cut through the double-talk, fluffy, mamajahambo and speak clearly and honest. And just so you don't think this is some self-serving post, I want you to know that I am speaking on behalf of a lot of travel agencies that are great at what they do and who sell Disney vacations frequently, yet are not "earmarked." A good travel consultant who sells Disney vacations will have done two or more of the following:
1) They will have taken and passed Disney's specialist training that every earmarked AND non-earmarked agency has access to. I and a lot of other agents and agency owners have multiple certificates showing completion of that course from year to year hanging somewhere in our offices.
2) They will have visited one or more of the Disney destinations (i.e. WDW and DL) personally on their own vacation time.
3) They will have taken a Disney cruise at some point along the way
4) They will have stayed at every level of resort that there is at WDW and/or DL (Value, Moderate, Deluxe etc).
What I mentioned above is what any travel professional can do in order to properly equip themselves to plan and sell Disney vacations to their clients, regardless of being earmarked or not. And we here at H&K have done all four which is why we would consider ourselves proficient when it comes to Disney vacations regardless of us also being an "authorized Disney vacation planner."
So let me repeat again, assuming someone does two or more of the above, the difference between an "authorized" (earmarked) Disney vacation planning agency and any other professional agency is the volume of sales that agency produces for Disney.
My agency is an earmarked agency . But we focus our expertise on a broader range of destinations than just Disney. I like it that way and will keep it that way. I like to be able to help clients with destinations such as Universal Orlando, Mexico, the Caymans, Japan, Hawaii etc in addition to helping plan Disney-related vacations. But I am also proud of the fact that I have a team of agents who rival any agency's Disney experience and knowledge. And again, we collectively have stayed at every onsite resort. we have collectively ate at every onsite restaurant. We have sailed on the Disney Dream, Fantasy, Wonder and Magic. I don't care how many conferences someone attends, nothing replaces first hand experience when it comes to Disney vacation planning. Are we experts at planning Disney vacations? Yep. And so are a lot more agencies out there who may or may not be "earmarked."
So when choosing a professional vacation planner for your next Disney vacation, don't let fluff and titles make up your mind of whom you should use. Simply ask if they know a lot about Disney and if they have personally been before and then go with the person that you know, like and trust.