By Stacy Turner
In addition to a 25-year friendship, Tricia Scott and Darlene Porter, her friend who eventually became her sister-in-law, each shared a passion for all things Disney. As children, they each visited the parks numerous times. In fact, Darlene made over 30 trips to Disney when her family took advantage of the company’s fabulous discounts for military families. When the two had the opportunity to become cast members at their local Disney stores, they each jumped at the chance.
Darlene was sent to Disney in Florida for a week of intensive training, since Disney Store employees all receive the same training that theme park cast members receive. Tricia experienced the same training at her store in Ohio. “Whether you’re visiting a Disney Park, property, or a store, we’re here to take care of you,” Tricia explained.
Her job gave her the ability to share the magic of Disney with children of all ages, although she especially enjoyed engaging with the store’s younger guests. “We would sing, dance, and give our guests the best 30 minutes of their day.” A few months after her Disney store closed its doors, she felt as though she had lost that magic. That’s when her husband and friends suggested she become a Disney travel agent to share her love of all things Disney with local families.
She did the research, and together with Darlene, formed the travel company they call Visit Mickey. With over 50 visits to Disney locations between them, Tricia and Darlene share tips they’ve gleaned from inside the system -- what’s new, how to get around, as well as the best of where to stay and what to eat. “It’s fabulous to share what we love with other people!” Tricia gushed.
In their first three years of business, Visit Mickey focused on helping families plan their dream Disney and Universal Studios vacations. Eventually, those two dream makers grew to include a staff of over a dozen, each licensed by the state and certified as an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. It’s important to note that Visit Mickey does not charge for their planning services. “Disney pays us to take care of you,” Tricia explained. Just another reason she loves being part of the Disney family.
Visit Mickey also specializes in planning trips for families with special needs. It began when Darlene wanted to share her love of Disney with her young son who has special needs. Although she knew the parks and attractions well from years of visits through her childhood and into her adult life, she had never looked at them through the eyes of a special needs child. That trip prompted her to figure out how to help her son best enjoy the Disney experience.
Over the years, Darlene has found a multitude of tips and tricks, and her experience has helped countless other families with special needs children capture the magic of Disney as well. In fact, four of Visit Mickey's 13 dream makers have a personal touch with special needs travel -- both Darlene and Tricia, as well as another agent each have children with special needs, while a fourth agent worked as a special education teacher.
“It’s important to note that at Visit Mickey, we serve guests, not clients. We interview all of our guests at length about their wants and needs for a pending trip. For special needs families, we find out the child’s likes, needs, and particular sensory considerations that need to be considered,” Tricia explained. They have planned trips for families with children that have cerebral palsy, MS, seizures, and autism, and have helped those in wheelchairs or scooters successfully navigate magical Disney vacations. “We check in with the family along the way, she explained. “We’re on the phone, contacting people to make sure it goes well. We haven’t had one fail, and that’s so important to us,” Tricia marveled.
Roughly 75% of their business is Disney-related, which includes trips to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruises, Adventures by Disney and Disney’s Aulani resort in Hawaii.
Two years ago, they launched an offshoot called VMV Travel to help families and individuals make non-Disney vacation plans. Through VMV Travel, they are Universal Orlando Authorized Travel Professionals, and offer a variety of all-inclusive resorts and a variety of cruise line packages as well. Tricia and her team are driven to provide very memorable vacations for all, regardless of destination.
Thanks to their affiliations with Disney, they’re well informed on all the latest developments, including details on Toy Story Land, which just opened at Disney World in Florida in June. Although not all the staff at Visit Mickey are full-time travel planners, each individual shares Tricia and Darlene’s passion as experts in all-things Disney. This level of expertise makes Visit Mickey unique, since many companies don’t require that level of ability.
For a typical vacation, Tricia and her team encourage their guests to plan at least six months in advance. “We’re with them from the day they book until the day they return home,” she explained. Although discounts for lodging and housing aren’t typically available until 100 days prior to travel, Tricia and her team automatically work to help guests receive the best available rates when discounts are available. Typical savings can range from 10–15% on hotel costs. “It’s a wonderful moment, “ she shared, “when I can call a guest and tell them I just saved them $1,600 on their vacation.”
Prior to their trip, every guest is provided with tips and tricks to make their vacation successful. They have the same agent throughout the planning process, and they’re given their agent’s phone number, as well as the office number, in case any issues arise during their trip. Tricia explained that they approach each trip with the idea, “If I knew nothing what would I need to make this trip successful?” This way of thinking has made them successful.
“I contacted Darlene after a friend recommended Visit Mickey to book our first trip. It was a little hard for me to have someone plan details of a trip for me but boy am I glad I did,” Shaun Oles shared. “Darlene had plenty of advice and because of her, my family and I had the greatest vacation ever. She was there for every question or concern I had––and I had plenty. One of my sons ended up getting sick, and being out of town, I didn't know what to do. Darlene got us the help we needed and checked up on us the following days just to make sure we were doing well. I couldn't think of planning that trip without her and have already contacted her about a future trip.”
For more information or help planning your next Disney vacation, see Visit Mickey online at visitmickey.com
, call 1- 800-681-4941, or see Visit Mickey on Facebook.
For help with your non-Disney travel plans, visit vmvtravel.com
, call 844-VMV Travel, or visit their Facebook page.