Erie women moonlight as Disney travel agents
Three Erie women discuss their side jobs as authorized Disney vacation planners.
Sherry Trapp spends most of her working life cutting and styling hair.
The 52-year-old woman is co-owner of NoSH Hair Studio, 2320 W. 38th St.. But she spends her spare time fulfilling another one of her newly-acquired passions — planning Disney vacations.
Trapp began planning Disney vacations four years ago when she came across Magical World Vacations, a certified Disney travel agency that allows agents to plan Disney vacations from home in their free time.
If practice makes perfect, she is certainly qualified for the job. Over the course of 17 years, Trapp has visited Walt Disney World 20 times. She listens to Disney podcasts. She buys Disney editions of products. She most recently took her two daughters, Amanda and Morgan, on a trip over the holidays.
“It’s a job that you can do from home, but it certainly requires time,” Trapp said. “My daughters are grown, so I have my mornings to get my work done. I am sometimes up at 5:30 or 6 a.m., and then sometimes I’m up until midnight.”
The hours can be grueling and the juggling of tasks can be time-consuming.
Disney planners offer services like booking FastPass+ tickets for a vacation, which go on sale at 7 a.m. up to 60 days in advance of the guest’s arrival, and dining plan reservations, which go on sale at 6 a.m. up to 180 days before a guest’s arrival.
Trapp, like many authorized Disney vacation planners, offers her services for free for no upcharge or additional costs to the guest. She’s able to do this because she’s part of Magical World Vacations, and she is paid via a commission based on how many trips she books.
To begin her career in Disney planning, she contacted Magical World Vacations and took online training to graduate from the Disney College of Knowledge, a series of webinars Disney requires its authorized Disney vacation planners to complete.
“I ask them how much control they want me to have,” Trapp said. “There are people who want me to plan every second of their vacation and there are people who want me to give them a loose outline of where they want to go and when.”
Jenni Irving also ventured into becoming an authorized Disney travel agent as a secondary career.
Irving, 41, started working in event planning for the American Heart Association when she graduated from college in Buffalo, N.Y., where she planned the organization’s marathon training trip to Disney for around 300 people every year.
The transition was natural for her to try her hand in Disney vacation planning some 20 years later. A mother of three boys — 8, 12 and 14 — she also works as a substitute teacher at Fort LeBoeuf School District.
She has plenty of firsthand experience under her belt after traveling more than 30 times to the parks, including some things she’s had to learn secondhand.
“My ideal Disney vacation looks different than yours,” she said. “So it’s important for me to know every single aspect of the park. For example, I didn’t have the Disney princess thing with three boys, but if your family is into that, I can tell you exactly what you want to do.”
Irving also offers her services at no charge.
“We are directly hired from Disney, so I just continue to emphasize that our fees are already included in their prices,” said Irving, who works for Mississippi-based Love the Mouse Travel. “Plus Disney sends us alerts on discounts and promotions and tips and tricks for the guests to use.”
Laura Figurski, 41, works full-time as an office manager at Saint Vincent Hospital and plans Disney trips on the side as a travel agent with Academy Travel.
“It can be overwhelming, but it’s never a burden to me,” Figurski said. “I absolutely love it. The more I can talk about going to Disney and riding on Space Mountain, the better.”
Disney planners are really never off the clock. They answer emails, texts and calls at all hours of the day and night.
“I am always available to my clients and email or message back and forth,” Irving said. “I answer a lot of questions and make changes to reservations and coordinate travel. I hear questions from ‘How will I get from A to B?’ to ‘What kind of coffeemaker is in my room?'”
Most planners, like Trapp, Irving and Figurski, will monitor their clients’ reservations to search for any additional monthly deals or promotions Disney may release.
“I’ve never not saved one of my client’s money,” Irving said. “I’m a natural bargain hunter.”
All three said they don’t actually consider being an authorized Disney vacation planner a job because it’s fun for them.
“My husband always asks me, ‘Why don’t you just teach?’ Irving said. “And I feel like this is my job. This is my passion. This is what I love.”
Sarah Grabski can be reached at 870-1776 or by email. Follow her on twitter at www.twitter.com/ETNgrabski.
A Disney dictionary
Disney dining plan: Disney dining plans allow guests to pre-select and pre-pay for meals at more than 50 Disney restaurants in advance of a trip. Some of these include meals in which Disney characters appear. You can begin making dining plan selections up to 180 days in advance of your visit.
Disney FastPass+: Disney FastPass+ service allows you to reserve access to select Walt Disney World theme park attractions, entertainment and character greetings in advance with little to no wait. There is no additional cost to use FastPass+.
You can begin making your FastPass+ selections up to 30 days in advance of your visit, or if you’re staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you can make your FastPass+ selections up to 60 days prior to check-in for the entire length of your stay.
Disney PhotoPass Service: Disney photographers take your pictures while you’re visiting the parks. You can view them online or in the My Disney Experience mobile app and purchase Memory Maker to download and share your vacation photos.
Disney Magical Express: When staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you have access to Disney’s Magical Express, a complimentary roundtrip service that transports you and your luggage between Orlando International Airport and select Disney Resort hotels via a deluxe motorcoach.
Park Hopper option: Park Hopper tickets allow you to access to more than one park per day. You can visit any of the four parks in one single day: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Disney Epcot.
Authorized Disney vacation planner: A travel agent who has taken courses offered by Disney online to graduate from the Disney College of Knowledge. They are members of certified travel agencies that Disney has certified.