Imagine yourself for a moment, arriving with your child at the airport. You are SO excited because the day has finally arrived for your long anticipated Disney Vacation. Smiling and happy you check in with the gate agent only to find out the airline has no record of any reservations for you or your family.
I'm not sure which part is worse, being robbed or having to explain the situation to your child.
This nightmare is a true story.
It happened to a woman who recently emailed us for a Disney Vacation quote. Cheri was working with one of our Disney Experts and wanted all sorts of proof regarding the legitimacy of our Vacationkids travel agency. I asked Cheri if the two of us could schedule a phone chat to discuss her concerns. This is when she told me how she and other members of her family had been taken in by a recent discount Disney ticket scam. No wonder she was suspicious, I would be too if that happened to my family!
The con artists that targeted Cheri's family were extremely crafty and clever. They posed as Disney Employees. They forged documents. They were certainly professional criminals. It started with discount annual passes to Disneyland California. These passes worked for Cheri's immediate family so she recommended this deal to other extended family members and friends. It all seemed legitimate. Figuring she found a trusted resource, Cheri then booked a a week's vacation for her family to Walt Disney World Orlando complete with flights, Disney Resort and park tickets. It was a dream trip for her young daughter. She ended up losing thousands of dollars, not only on her own travel, but felt she had to reimburse family members for their losses. Now she also was trying to make good on the promise she made to take her daughter to Disney World.
First and foremost we notified Disney of this crime. Disney is passionately protective of its reputation. The security team at Disney instructed Cheri to file criminal charges in California. This criminal is known to Disney and hopefully with enough evidence they will be brought to justice and perhaps Cheri will receive some restitution.
Next we made reservations for Cheri's family so that her family can finally experience that Disney World Vacation next spring. We look forward to taking very good care of her.
I asked Cheri if she would mind if I shared her story as a cautionary tale to others and she wholeheartedly agreed. Her reply was "Nobody should have to go through this and if my story can help, I'm glad to tell it".
Let's face it, every family wants to save money whenever possible. This is especially true when it comes to Disney ticket discounts. Cheri, like most typical moms, didn't realize some of the major red flag warnings here that most travel agent professionals know.
So what do you need to know and how can you protect your family from similar travel scams?
1. Disney Discounts - This term is certainly an oxymoron. Disney is EXTREMELY protective of it's brand and it's price controls. Basically the all powerful mouse does not "allow" unauthorized discounts. Unlike other hotels and attractions, Disney limits the sale of their products through select channels and holds these companies to extremely high standards.
2. Disney Ticket Sellers - Disney does wave it's magic wand and bestow Discount ticket deals to a very small, handful of very high volume sellers. Tickets can also be purchases thru places like the Orlando Tourism board, AAA, Orlando area Walmarts, Costco and a view other high volume sellers.
Disney limits and controls the amount of discounts these venues can charge. Their margins are really tight so the discounts range range from 5-10% depending on the admission options you choose. It's not that big of a deal really. Anyone out there offering more of a discount should be considered suspicious.
Is it worth the hassle?- Sure every penny counts when you have to buy Disney tickets for the entire family. That said, guests absolutely love the convenience of Disney's magic bands. If you buy tickets in advance from one of these authorized ticket sellers you get tickets that WILL work with the magic bands. If you're not staying at a Disney resort, you can purchase Magic bands from the park separately for $12.95 each but that usually negates any of the savings and takes time away from enjoying the park.
3. One Day passes - Authorized Disney ticket sellers are not authorized to sell 1 day passes. If you see a deal for "free one day passes" be warned. Many timeshare sellers often will buy one day passes and offer these enticements in return for 90 minutes of your time. This usually means at least 3 hours of high pressure sales. Personally my vacation time is far too valuable for these shenanigans. Read the fine print and decide for yourself.
4. Craigslist and Ebay - This is a big scam that many folks fall for hook, line and sinker. "Unused" Disney tickets! Say someone bought a 10 day pass and only used 5 days in the park - now they want to "sell" the remaining days online. Usually there is some heartfelt reason - They lost their job, death in the family ect. Here is why this is EXTREMELY risky business-1. Most consecutive day passes for Disney are only good for 14 days from the first day they were used. You have no idea or proof of the first day of use.
2. There is no way to tell just by looking at the tickets if they are legit or forged.
3. Disney uses biometric fingerprint scans that are attached to each admission pass. If your fingerprint doesn't match your ticket or magic band you don't get in.
5. Check, Cash only or Wire Transfer Deals - This one should be a huge red flag for consumers. Most legitimate merchants offer credit card transactions which. in turn, offers a level of protection for consumers with the Fair Credit Billing Act. If a consumer makes a purchase using a credit card and believes there is a problem with the transaction, the credit card company will help act as a liaison if there is any dispute. Obviously crooks want no part of this, they just want to take your money and run. Here are Vacationkids, we only accept Credit and debit card payments for this reason.
Balancing the check book while trying to make dreams come true can seem like a monumental task. It's tempting to try to save money wherever and whenever possible. Disney Vacations are an investment of money but they are also an investment of family memories. In the scheme of the universe is it worth risking several hundred or even several thousands and dollars to save a couple of bucks? If you believe this to be true perhaps Las Vegas might be a better vacation spot for you because chances are you'll find better odds there.
My only wish is that Cheri had connected with us sooner. We could have saved her all of this heartache and angst. Most travel agents take the job of caring for our clients very seriously. We do everything possible to prevent this sort of fraud from happening. It is the reason why I've written this blog post. Perhaps it will help someone else from making a sad and expensive mistake. If you "think" you've found an awesome Disney discount from another source not listed here please tell us about it here. If it comes from a reliable and legit resource then 'Vaya con Dios". If we think it sounds shady, we'll warn you. In our humble opinion, the our best consumers are informed consumers.