- Allison Mertzman turned her Disney travel agency side job into a full-time job in 2018.
- It charges up to $450 to help customers book parking tickets, flights, reservations, and hotels.
- He has helped over 250 people plan trips this year and has more than 800,000 social followers.
That being said, the essay is based on a conversation with Allison Mertzman, a 37-year-old former elementary school teacher who runs the travel agency. Adventures with Allison Wonderland It specializes in Disney holidays and is headquartered in Los Angeles, California. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I’ve been to Disney World more than 50 times and I go to Disneyland every few weeks. I was nine months old when I first went to Disney World.
I have very happy memories of Disney all my life. When you step into a Disney park, you immediately feel the magic with the characters. They pump the smells of the bakery onto the Main Street, so even the smell of the air is something else when you go there. I had this with my parents as a kid and now I’m going to visit with my two daughters, four and seven years old.
I became an expert in planning Disney trips, not just with my own trips, but by planning vacations for my friends and family who needed help. When it comes to Disney holidays, you really need someone who specializes in it because it requires covering so many details, including dinner reservations and resorts related to the park and other attractions.
A lot of people think you can go to Disney and wing it. It needs to be planned.
In January 2016, I wrote on Facebook that I would help anyone who wants to plan a Disney vacation. The first one I worked with was a recommendation from a friend, then he drew a kind of spiral from there..
This year alone, I’ve worked with 250 different clients. I plan trips to all Disney destinations including Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani and Adventures by Disney. I sell trips to Disney World as it is the most popular destination, but my favorite to plan for is Adventures by Disney because these clients travel all over the world and have some truly unique and fun itineraries. I have five agents working part time for me.
Planning Disney outings was a side job that turned into a full-time career.
I started out as a travel agent just to cover the expenses of my Disney trips. It was a side hustle for a long time and became a full time job when I opened my travel agency in 2018. I quit teaching because we were moving from Michigan to California after my wife got a new job. We collectively decided that sending our daughter to daycare was too expensive, and my teaching salary was no more than the cost of childcare.
I have 846,000 followers on TikTok and 145,000 followers on Instagram. During the pandemic, I grew my social media followers as a fun pastime and gained a lot of customers that way.
I am a member of the International Cruise Ship Association. I’ve also been graduating from the College of Disney Knowledge, which requires approximately five hours of Disney-specific instruction per year, every year since 2016.
I charge a planning fee of $150 for a basic experience with customizable options for hotel and flight scheduling, and $450 for further planning. Every customer receives reminder emails and advice on what and when to book and special add-ons they can purchase 90, 67 and 37 days before their trip. I make hotel reservations, help with plane and parking tickets, decide on the best places to check-out, and help with logistics. One of the most common requests I get from clients is for help with dining and choosing hotels based on their budget.
Many people think a Disney vacation will cost them $10,000, but there are many ways to make it affordable.
Visiting a Disney attraction is still a luxury, but I can make sure they don’t lose a mortgage by working within a client’s budget. My travel agency specifically tracks all the deals and I automatically apply them to all the reservations I make.
Weekdays are usually cheaper than weekends. Traveling during Christmas and spring break is always more expensive, so if that’s the only time you can go, accept the fact that it will be crowded. This year, I’ve seen deals for Disney Plus members and Disney Visa cardholders. Often times, these deals may only be available for packages, so I recommend booking your hotel and park tickets together..
Every room at a Disney resort has a refrigerator or cooler. I recommend having a quick breakfast in your room in the morning so you can get to the less crowded parks earlier. (I’d say it’s least crowded the first two hours the park is open and after the evening fireworks display.) Any guest staying at a Disney property is also allowed a half hour early check-in. It’s the best time to go on the most wanted journeys.
I recommend having lunch in the park instead of dinner, because you never know where you will be in the evening and you may be too tired to walk around. Always make a reservation in advance for the meals you will eat in the park.
If you need to find the nearest restroom, ask a Disney member. They are very common in the park and usually have this information.
I really enjoy after-hours activities that start around 9 or 10pm, especially if you’re a night owl. Then you’ll have fewer crowds so you can get on the more popular rides more easily.
Despite some setbacks, this is something I plan to continue doing full time.
Aside from the COVID-19 restrictions, the biggest challenges I’ve had to deal with are weather related, like hurricanes and tropical storms in Florida. I take care of all rescheduling in such cases, which is added to my planning fee.
I work really hard to set expectations for what I can do for people so they know what to expect when they work with me. I passed people just outside the door.
One person in particular sent me an email three pages long containing everything he wanted. I quickly realized that there is a person who will be constantly unhappy if things don’t work out (which usually happens on vacation). When one of my other reps offered to pick him up, I forwarded the email with an approximate introductory paragraph, and he angrily said that I was being impersonal and couldn’t believe I had missed him. I then sent a longer email response apologizing and explaining that we wouldn’t be available – she responded to this with bullet points about everything I did wrong in the interaction. I’m glad I trusted my instincts on this one.
But I love the challenge of giving families magical, multi-generational vacations, and I can’t imagine stopping anytime soon. When someone comes back to me and says, “Allison, this trip was amazing. Your suggestions were spot on. My kids had a great time. Thank you”, that’s everything to me.