By Thomas Cackler, PassPorter Guest Columnist
Those who have planned trips to Walt Disney World know just how much time the planning can take. All the components involved in making a memorable vacation can tax even the most studious trip planner. So, what do you do when you find out that a friend or loved one is planning a trip to Walt Disney World to celebrate a truly special occasion? What makes a unique and personal gift? If you have the time and determination, you could plan their trip for them!What?! Plan a trip for someone other than myself? Absolutely. If you have the knowledge and the will, you can design a trip for that special someone. Creating a custom trip is a great way to say "Congratulations!" or "I love you!" to that person headed to the happiest place on Earth.
While this article will not look at every step involved in planning a trip to Walt Disney World, it will look at three areas that present special challenges when you plan a trip for someone else. Does that mean it is hard? Not at all -- all it takes is taking the great planning skills you already have, and applying them in a slightly different arena. By determining the desires of the people going, the details of the trip, and the delivery method of the gift, you can help someone have a magical time celebrating that special occasion.
First, you need to determine the desires of the person going. A simple way to do this is to use the old newspaper reporting standard of, "Who, what, when, where, why, and how?" Ask your friend to describe their dream trip. Although the budget might preclude some of these dreams, planning veterans know that shifting a trip even just a couple of weeks can result in savings that might make that dream come true!
It is a good idea at this point to encourage your friend to look at some planning books or the official video from Disney. This gives them a great launching point for discussing their desires and what is likely to happen. You may want to give them one of these books as part of the gift, too. If you do, do not wait until they leave to give it to them. By involving your friend early in the planning process, you will increase their excitement as their trip draws closer.
Although you are taking care of the details, it is important to remember this is their trip and make it a point to find out what their wants and needs are. It is also important to find out what items here are "deal breakers" and which things they may need to forego due to time or finance constraints. For example, the person might consider it vital to go to Universal's Islands of Adventure, or another might demand a couple days at the beach. Remember, you are planning this trip as a gift, so you want it to be extra special. By finding out their desires, you can customize their trip to be exactly what they want.
Next, you will need to determine the details. Here is where the planning comes back to earth. Consider everything - from who is going to the time they want to go. You will need to find out the person's budget (or yours, if you are their Fairy Godmother and are paying in addition to planning!) and make sure their desires are realistic. It is also important to discuss the level of detail they want and you think they will need. Do not be afraid to be assertive at this point. While this is their trip, it is your knowledge that they need to tap. If their desires are unrealistic, do not hesitate to say so.
Also, make sure and detail out every part of trip and who will take care of each one. If your friend just wants you to take care of the Walt Disney World portion of the trip but they will book the airfare or rental car, make sure that everyone agrees early on and is kept abreast during the planning process. Nothing ruins a trip more than a crucial item forgotten because one person thought the other one was taking care of it. Make sure to have a written checklist with target completion dates to be certain no one overlooks an important detail, just as you would if you were going on this trip yourself.
Finally, you need to determine the method of delivery. A great way to give them all their information in one location is to use a PassPorter with their tickets, itineraries, and so on in the PassPockets. As mentioned earlier, if you elect to go this route it is important to get them this present before the trip itself so they can look over the descriptions. Because of the journal nature of the PassPorter, it does encourage people to make notes about their trip that in turn, makes more memories.
Additionally, if you use a travel agent to book the hotel, copy your friend on those emails so they can see the progress on the trip. In addition, sending your friend post cards from their favorite character congratulating them on their momentous occasion and wishing them safe travels to Walt Disney World adds a magical touch. Finally, a gift basket with all their details, some Disney Dollars, and other items related to the occasion or the trip makes a great way to kick off the celebration in style.
Planning a trip for someone else does present a certain set of challenges and is not for the novice. However, there is nothing more satisfying than talking to a friend after their celebration and discovering they had a magical time at Walt Disney World. By remembering a few simple steps, utilizing your existing trip planning skills, and a desire to make someone feel like a Prince or Princess, you too can play travel agent for a friend, creating truly magical memories that will last a lifetime.
This article originally appeared in our May 12, 2005 newsletter -- subscribe to our popular newsletter today for free!