Ever wondered how to start your own Travel Agency & get it right? I may not be able to help you there, but I can tell you about my personal journey of mishaps, mistakes and serious mayhem. Let's begin at the beginning, with a bit of begging, attempted bribery and even a wee bit of bamboozling.
While I call myself a "Disney Travel Agency Owner" in the title of this series, it's important you know there is NO such thing! I own an agency which specializes in Disney Destinations & Cruises. Much like we grab a "kleenex" when we really mean tissues, "Disney Travel Agent" is a part of the venacular. I invite you to read all about why using an agency which claims to be a part of, employed by or otherwise on the inside track with Disney is a bad idea. LATER! First, read the rest of this article. I wrote it just for you.
In 2003, our family was victim to a crime of senseless and horrific violence toward our children, and we were very nearly destroyed by the pain of it all. Just like a person who's escaped death begins to look for new ways to embrace life, so did I look for ways for us to embrace family life together. The problem was, we couldn't find our joy. But then, through a small financial windfall, we were able to visit Walt Disney World Resort for 8 days & that is where the miracle happened. We found our laughter, again. We began to see joy as something we could feel as a family. We had our new beginning.
When we came home to more healing and harrowing days, we still managed to carry some of that returned exuberance with us, and I began to wonder how I could give it away to others. I had such a redemptive experience, along with 6 other members of my family - my parents, husband and 3 precious children. How could I take what had happened to me and them and give it to others, like a gift?
For the first time in my life, I considered going into the travel industry. But, how?
I began to research while the kids slept & quiz my husband, David. Would he be up for this? Honestly, I expected a big NOPE. David is as stable, secure, consistent and solid as they come. I married him to be my rock, fully realizing it meant he would be difficult to move or sway when the going got rough. But what about when I actually wanted to GO somewhere, and DO something? We'd been married for 11 years when I pitched my latest idea to him. We had NO money, no resources, no connections. I think it dawned on him that meant we also had NO risk. What could we lose? He gave me the go ahead to start this journey. And I was off!
I was Stopped!
When I say we had no money, I MEAN we had NO MONEY. After the crime was committed, we were able to use some money from the crime victim's compensation fund to help us transition during our move away from the scene where it occured, but then we had to deal with financial fallout from the changes we needed to make to facilitate our children's healing. We were scraping by, month to month and day to day. All I had was time and emotional energy to give to my cause.
I researched start up costs I couldn't get away from. I figured out exactly how many hundreds of dollars it would take, just to be compliant with licensing, memberships and insurance. I figured out how we could sacrifice some things to make that happen. But I didn't want to spend it, if I couldn't make it. What WAS this College of Disney Knowledge I'd learned about in my research? When I was in college, some courses were easy and some were difficult. Where did this fall? How could I find out? Remember, this was in the day before social media, when Yahoo was used more to search than Google, when you had to wait for a connection every time you logged in online. What little information was out there, I'd consumed and reconsumed on a daily basis. I wasn't sure how to move forward. I couldn't justify taking this risk with my family's little bit of resources, unless I knew I could make a go of it. I racked my brain for answers, until one day.....I had an idea!
If I were ever asked what the key was to my success, I'd have many answers. In today's story, it's a complete lack of pride. That can get you a long way, people! My hands shook as I sat there, screwing up my courage to ask for help from the people who held my future in their hands. I knew the person who answered the phone wouldn't know how important this conversation was to me, or my family's future. If I'd had any inkling of an idea of what this journey would hold for so many people, I can't imagine how scared I would have been! Believe me, I was scared enough!
This was long enough ago, I called on our landline. The phone beeped. I can still hear it as I type. The memory is so strong.
As soon as someone answered, I could feel myself shaking on the inside so badly, it was hard to hang onto the phone. I began to sweat. Please God, let them help me! I need to know if I can do this.
I petitioned the woman on the phone, telling her I was interested in taking the "College of Disney Knowledge" but I needed to know how difficult it was, how much I would have to spend. I worked hard not to overwhelm her, to share just enough where she would consider helping me. I didn't want to beg, but I imagine there was a wee bit of that in my voice.
She accelerated my call to Guest Services.
Now, I know that's what was happening because I've been moved to a Guest Services Cast Member more times than I can count & it's not a monumental experience, but in that moment it felt like a HUGE victory. It meant, there was hope!
I made my case a second time. Then, a third. I offered (bribed?) to pay before I ever took the course - I just wanted to see it. Before I was done that day, I'd made my case multiple times to many people and when I got off the phone, I had it! I had the key to turn the door and see inside. They had made a plan for me, telling me they'd never done it before, nor would they again. They were going to make an exception for my special circumstances. And what did they do? Walt Disney Travel Company had given me their log-in as a temporary cast member, so I could go ahead and see what I was getting into, before I spent my family's money to realize my dream of opening an agency. They required nothing of me, and did it all in good faith. I hung up and cried thankful, grateful tears.
Back then, they actually mailed you a copy of the College of Disney Knowledge Curriculum. When you graduated, you were sent a Mickey Ears Mortarboard and a diploma. I still have mine. I graduated in 2005, and here is what I found out, as I earned those ears.
The College of Disney Knowledge was (and is) crazy easy. I had my small children take it with me, and my preschoolers could pass. While that tells you it's not much of a challenge to meet the guidelines required by vendors like Disney, to someone like me who loves to build and create, it was (and is) amazing! I knew I could create a process for my clients based on what I knew to be the best plans, best care, best gifts. I found out I had already educated myself well enough to teach their classes, much less take them. All I needed to do now was jump off that cliff and TRY!
And as I'm sure you've figured out, I DID.
As soon as I finished with all I needed to know as an unofficial Cast Member, I tore up the log in and information needed to re-gain access to their website. I waited for my own credentials to arrive, so I could create a log in as "3D Travel" owner Carol-Beth Scott. It felt like it took forever. Then, one day it arrived.My envelope with my certificate and information had come, at last! I walked the 1/4 mile driveway to the mailbox with my boys & baby girl, and it was finally there! I rushed back home and created my account. Finally, I was on my way!
But, how in the world would I let people know about me? About my company, vision and dream of giving the gift of Disney to people who needed it most? You'll have to visit the next segment of my story to find out. My next chapter includes a freezer falling on me & the beginning of my nervous breakdown. I'm positive you won't want to miss it!