photo: Steven Diaz/Disney

Plan Your Disney Vacation with AMA’s “EarMarked” Specialists

By Ted Davis

The dream of a Disney vacation is a powerful one—especially for families with children. But so vast are Disney’s immersive resorts that parents may wish for a sprinkling of magic when planning their visit.

That’s where AMA Travel counsellors come in. Travel agencies with trained Disney specialists are “EarMarked” by the House of Mouse. AMA Travel is one of a select few agencies in Alberta with this exclusive distinction; Disney-bound travellers are assured above-and-beyond expertise at 17 AMA centres across the province.

AMA’s Disney specialists earn their ears from the College of Disney Knowledge, an online training program that’s a veritable encyclopedia about Disneyland in California, Walt Disney World in Florida, the Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney tours, and Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii. EarMarked agents who complete the program (there’s even an exam) become Authorized Disney Vacation Planners. They’re encouraged to take short assessment courses each year, and to regularly visit the parks to refresh their knowledge.

Deb Fong is one such specialist. She’s adept at helping clients craft a game plan for tackling a Disney park in a way that’s both fun and efficient. “Without a plan, a family might waste a whole day figuring out what they want to see and what rides they want to take,” says Fong, who works out of AMA’s Calgary Crowfoot centre.

The tools Fong brings to the table have been honed by many visits to the two U.S.-based Disney resorts. She’s been to Disneyland on eight occasions, and Walt Disney World nearly two-dozen times (most recently last November). She graduated from the College of Knowledge 18 years ago and still does refreshers to learn about new rides, attractions and other changes.

Everything you need to know for a perfect Disney vacation

Thanks to her Disney education and numerous park visits, Fong is able to provide a menu of helpful pointers for Disney-bound clients:

• Be ready for an active vacation: You and your kids will be doing as much as possible on a Disney holiday. Buy your Disney pass in advance at an AMA centre to save time when you arrive at the park. Plus, your AMA agent can alert you to special offers.

• Walt Disney World FastPasses allow you to pre-book your spot on available rides up to 30 days before your visit. (60 days if you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel). Book them early to ensure the greatest ride availability.

• Get familiar with the Rider Switch program, whereby parents can take scheduled turns going on rides that some of their kids may be too short to enjoy.

• Book dining experiences in advance or you might miss out. Fong recommends Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant and Cinderella’s Royal Table, both at Walt Disney World.

And, of course, block off ample time to discover the latest and greatest attractions. This year, that means the brand-new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge experience, opening at Disneyland in summer 2019, and at Disney World in late fall.

Disney Cruises: Travellers can discover the magic of Disney aboard one of four cruise ships, which ply the waters of the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii and the Mediterranean. Every element on each ship is dedicated to conjuring an immersive Disney experience for families. An entire deck is devoted to activities for kids. There are also live shows, pool parties and Disney character encounters­—not to mention an adults-only nightclub, pool and restaurant, spas and more.

How AMA Travel provides seamless assistance if you need to change your travel plans

disney vacation toursAdventures by Disney: Like Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater, you can now hit the road on Disney-branded tours—whose itineraries are designed with families in mind. Expert guides lead guests on memorable adventures throughout Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and the Americas, sharing the best stories, experiences and food along the way. Each trip offers a world of possibilities, including special Junior Adventurer activities for young travellers.

disney vacation aulani resort hawaiiAulani, a Disney Resort & Spa: About 30 minutes from Honolulu International Airport, Aulani is perfect for Hawaii-bound broods. There are no rides, but the Oahu resort boasts plenty of kid-friendly diversions: swimming and snorkeling at Ko Olina beach, pool parties, supervised activities at Aunty’s Beach House, and catamaran and horseback excursions. Hawaiian culture is highlighted throughout the property (definitely book a table at the luau), and Disney characters roam the grounds.

Visit to book with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner today!