Murphysboro, Illinois — Don’t be surprised if you see pixie dust twinkling around Tonya Walker.
Walker, who is affiliated with Embrace the Journey Travel, joins an elite group of travel industry professionals who have attained a special knowledge of the Disneyland® Resort, Walt Disney World® Resort, Disney Cruise Line® Adventures by Disney®, and Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. As a recent graduate of the College of Disney Knowledge, Walker has now become part of this elite group.
“The College of Disney Knowledge was extremely beneficial to me,” said Walker. “It was a fun and informative way to learn more about the Disney vacation portfolio. I also feel more confident about selling Disney destinations.”
Anyone who plans to visit the Disneyland® Resort, Walt Disney World® Resort, Disney Cruise Line® Adventures by Disney®, and Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa will benefit from Walker’s added expertise. “The College of Disney Knowledge has taught me how to add more value to each Disney itinerary so that I can help make every client’s magical dreams come true,” said Walker.
Kristi Peek Becomes Cruise Expert by Earning Prestigious Top Rank in Princess Cruises Academy
ENIS, Texas – Kristi Peek has achieved prestigious Commodore status in Princess Cruises’ Academy training program, certifying her as an expert cruise professional. As a Commodore, Peek of Embrace The Journey Travel joins an exclusive group of travel agents who are now recognized by Princess at the Academy’s highest level for their unique qualifications and knowledge as a cruise planning professional. Peek earned this distinction after completing the minimum 25 courses necessary to graduate from the program.
“We at Princess are very proud of Peek’s dedication, as she put in extra effort to offer clients exceptional knowledge regarding our cruise vacation product as well as our worldwide destinations,” said Jan Swartz, Senior Vice President of Customer Service and Sales at Princess. “Travel agents who reach this top level in our Academy program have completed hours of course work to become a cruising expert, which will prove invaluable to providing clients with a great vacation.”
Princess Academy is the cruise industry’s most comprehensive online training program available to travel agents in the U.S. and Canada. Agents who complete the extensive coursework become experts on a wide range of topics, offering travelers full knowledge of important details about a Princess vacation such as the different passenger amenities on the line’s 17 ships, the company’s worldwide destinations and the many special programs available onboard.
“I’m thrilled to be a Princess Commodore and expand my expertise about cruising. The knowledge I’ve gained makes me a more valuable resource for my clients, and enables me to recommend the very best vacation which matches all of their needs,” said Peek.
To become a Commodore, travel agents must fulfill 25 required and elective classes, representing approximately 15 hours of total course work covering worldwide destinations, onboard programs, and customer service skills. As they complete courses, agents receive their “stripes” through four levels: First Officer, Staff Captain, Captain and finally Commodore. Agents can continue to take elective courses to expand their knowledge and keep their Commodore status current.
I love to find ways to go the extra mile with my traveling families. Beyond planning for the trip, there are details and resources that help create memories. Recently I had this conversation with my client Jadel… “You know memories will last a lifetime…that’s why you plan so many wonderful things to do with Delaney and Donnie. I’ve been thinking about your trip and all of the fabulous discoveries you are going to make at Walt Disney’s first park…and I know how excited you are to visit Southern California and Disneyland and I thought you might want a ‘souvenir’ that will capture those memories.” Enter Photography by Jaana… she is a local California photographer who is able to enter the parks with you and capture vibrant, iconic photos of your family during a 2-3 hour photo session.
Photo credit: Photography by Jaana
Here’s how she describes her passion….
My name is Jaana and I’m a Vacation Photographer for the Southern California area. I know… that sounds like a made-up job. I guess it kind of is! I was struck with inspiration after one of my many trips to Disneyland where I watched families struggle to take selfies, get the kids to cooperate, or just shoot a decent photo at all! I knew I could provide a service to make that easier for people. And my little world of vacation photography was born.
Now, I realize that booking a vacation photographer might be the last thing that crosses your mind while planning a trip. But here’s why it works:
1) Southern California is a prime vacation destination. We’ve got it all — from mountains to oceans to theme parks galore. Tons of options, mixed with great weather, which serve as a backdrop for beautiful family photos. And if you’d like suggestions of locations that fit into your travel plans, shoot me an email. I’m happy to help!
2) Vacation is usually a time when you’re all just happy to be together. Free from the stresses of schedules and school work and the day-to-day grind. It’s the perfect time to capture genuine smiles and excitement (and maybe a tantrum or two). All part of the experience.
3) When you return home and go through your photos, you will have creative, high quality images of everyone together. Mom and Dad can be in the photos and, quite simply, be present and in the moment to soak in all that family goodness. A priceless souvenir and tangible memory that can be shared for generations to come.
I hope that gives you a little glimpse into what I love to do and why I love to do it. Booking is limited, so let’s start planning your vacation photo session today! Contact me via email with your travel dates so we can work out the details. Congrats on taking this first big step to being part of your own family vacation!
I spoke with Jaana earlier this week – getting to know her a little better and chatting about my families who were traveling to California in the next few months. We worked together to create a special offer for all Embrace the Journey Travel clients and friends… as a THANK YOU! for supporting us and Jaana when you book a photo package with our referral code “EmbraceTravel”, Jaana will offer you oneadditional credit for 1 more edited digital image (a $25 value) on top of the ones included in your chosen package.
If you are interested in setting up a session with her, just let me know and I can help coordinate and connect you both.
If your cc/debit card has a daily or transaction limit, be sure to consider this when making plans for your final payment. (In other words, daily/transactional limits may require several smaller payments leading up to the final payment date or a call to your financial institution for an override.)
For Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line packages:
You may use Disney gift cards – be sure the gift card is for Disney RESORTS & PARKS (and not just valid at Disney Stores).
You may be able to find discounted gift cards – which will save you even more of your vacation dollars!
Be sure to keep all of your Gift Cards, if for some reason you were to receive a refund, Disney applies the refund to the original forms of payment.
Visiting Disney Parks With A Special Needs Family Member
As the mother of a child that has autism and is nonverbal, I understand the concern with taking your special needs child to Disney Parks. There are so many questions and fears that run through your mind. “Will my child have a meltdown? Will my child have the ability to wait in a long crowded line? Will Disney be accommodating to my family?”
I’m sure that you have heard the saying, “If you’ve seen one child with autism, you’ve seen one child with autism.” This simply means that no two children with autism are the same! Ultimately, you know your child the best and what they are able to handle. I’m here to tell you that you CAN take your special needs child/family member to Disney Parks and have a magical time! I will explain what you need to do to get a Disability Access Service (DAS) pass for your family member and how to utilize and maximize it’s use. I will also explain the differences between Walt Disney World Resort Parks in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland Resort Parks in California.
How To Obtain a DAS Pass
The process to obtain a DAS pass is virtually the same at both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. You will need to go to Guest Relations at the first park you visit and tell them you would like to get a DAS pass for your family member. The family member will need to go with you as they will take their picture and link the pass to their ticket or MagicBand. Everyone in your party will need to go as well. They typically limit the number of guests that can be included on the DAS pass. This is why your entire party needs to be present. Sometimes exceptions are made for the number of guests included on the use of the DAS pass.
The Cast Member at Guest Relations will ask you some questions about why the guest will need a DAS pass. Tell them why your family member will need it.
Do they have a hard time in a crowd?
Are they prone to meltdowns when too close to a lot of people?
Do they have a medical issue that makes it difficult to wait in line for an extended amount of time?
Make sure the Cast Member knows your concerns. You do not need a doctor note and, if you try to give them one, they will not even look at it due to the different medical privacy and confidentiality laws.
Quick Tip: If your special needs family member has a mobility issue, they may not be eiligble for a DAS pass. Disney has done a fabulous job of widening the queue lines for wheelchairs and scooters. You can ask for a tag to put on a stroller. This allows you to use the stroller as a wheelchair in the attraction queue lines.
Walt Disney World Resort DAS
Walt Disney World (WDW) has a great FastPass+ system in place. If you have a WDW Resort hotel reservation, you will have the ability to select FastPass+ for your travel party for your length of stay 60 days before your check in date. If you are staying at an off property hotel, you will be able to select FastPass+ at 30 days prior to each day that you plan to visit the park(s).
You can use FastPasse+ in conjunction with a DAS pass to maximize the amount of rides and attractions that your family will be able to do while avoiding most triggers for your special needs family member.
One way to maximize the use of a DAS card along with FastPass+ selections is to leave a gap in between my Fastpass+ selections and then fill in the gaps with nearby attractions using my daughters DAS card. For example, on your way to use a Fastpass+, stop at another ride entrance and see a Cast Member. The Cast Member will scan the ticket or MagicBand of the guest with the DAS pass for you and enter a return time. The return time and ride or attraction should show up in your My Disney Experience account so you can see it on the app on your smartphone. Go to the ride that you have a FastPass+ for and use that FastPass+. When you are done with that ride it should be close to the return time to use the DAS pass. FastPass+ selections are usually good for one hour so that should be plenty of time between FastPass+ to use the DAS pass between your FastPass+ times. AND, the time on the DAS pass does not expire until you use it so don’t worry if you don’t get there at the return time. You also can only have one return time at a time on the DAS pass. You must make sure that the guest with the DAS pass scans their MagicBand FIRST when returning to use the DAS pass before anyone else in your party.
The family member that the card is for MUST be riding the ride that you get a return time for. However, the family member does not have to be there when getting a return time for a ride or attraction. You can send someone from your group to get the return time put on the special needs person’s ticket or MagicBand. This is good for us, because my daughter has a meltdown if we try to go get a return time with her there. She wants to go on the ride if we walk up to it and does not understand that we need to leave and come back at a later time.
Disneyland’s system is a little different and, frankly, I like it much better. When you go to Guest Relations at one of the main entrance locations to register for a DAS pass, if your family member qualifies, they will receive a DAS pass to obtain a return time from a Cast Member. The Cast Member will write the name of the ride and the return time on the card for you.
Instead of having to go to the actual ride or attraction to obtain a DAS return time, there are Guest Relations kiosks set up in different locations throughout the parks where you can get your next return time. This works so much better for us than having to go to the ride or attraction and walk away. You can still get a return time at the ride or attraction, but sometimes the kiosk is so much more convenient. For example, we used a return time at The Haunted Mansion. When we exited the ride, there was a kiosk just across the walkway. We walked up and asked for a return time to Star Tours which was on the other side of the park. By the time we rode a ride on our way to Star Tours and got there, it was time to use the return time.
Disneyland Resort parks also has a FastPass system in place, but it is very different from FastPass+ at Walt Disney World Resort. Disneyland still uses the paper FastPass system where you walk up to the distribution centers and insert your park ticket into the machine to receive a FastPass for the ride or attraction to use at a later specified time. You can use FastPasses in conjunction with the DAS pass.
Planning your Disney Trip with your Special Needs Family Person in Mind
Are you ready to plan a journey with a special needs family member to one of Disney’s parks? Would you like assistance, including tried and true tips & tricks from someone who is experienced and understands what it’s like visiting with a special needs person?
I would love to help you! My family has been traveling to Disney since my daughter was an infant. She is almost 20 years old now! Disney is her favorite place to be so we have had many, many adventures in the parks with her.