Travel Chats with Lara and Grand Luxe Destinations - Libertyville Area Moms

We would love to hear about your career as a Travel Agent!

I never thought I would be a Travel agent and had a career I was happy in. But after my daughter was born my focus shifted and I knew I had to find something else. I’ve always been passionate about Disney from the movies and books to the theme parks. They say do what you love and that’s when I combined my customer service background and my love for Disney into a career.

How long have you been a Travel Agent?

Since 2010

Have you loved traveling your whole life? When did you realize it was your passion?

I grew up traveling with my family on road trips and planes but my most fond memories are flying to California to visit my Aunt, Uncle and cousins. We would go to Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and the beach. The road trips to Michigan to visit my grandparents were amazing, plus we would sometimes drive to California. We would stop at the Grand Canyon and other amazing places which I will always remember.

How did you decide to become a Travel Agent? (I know you wanted to be an animator for Disney when you were younger!)

I used a Travel agent for my first 2 trips to Disney World, I’d grown up going to Disneyland but didn’t know much about Disney World. These agents were wonderful and helped us find the best hotel, transportation, tickets and explained the “ins and outs” of what we needed to do. After a fews trips, I thought this would be a great way to combine my love of Disney and help other families too!

Tell us what you love most about your career.

WOW, so much! I really enjoy getting to know my clients on a personal level, it helps me create the perfect vacation just for them. Plus when they tell me how much they enjoyed their vacation and become repeat clients, that’s the best. Also when they tell their friends and family about what a big help I was, that makes my day!

What are your favorite trips to take with your family and friends and why?

That’s hard because there are so many. We love going to Disney World and Disneyland because it’s like we are coming “home”. We get to experience our favorites but also things that are new to the parks. Road Trips are also fun because you can be a little more spontaneous and if you see something that looks like fun, you just stop and check it out! Of course I have to mention Disney cruises, they are so relaxing with that wonderful Disney touch. There is something for everyone and it’s a great way to do multiple families and friends on a fun vacation.

What’s the best piece of travel advice that you’ve received?

I’d have to say, do your research. I’ve always been a planner and even if you are using a Travel agent, it’s good to get an idea of what you want prior to speaking with one. Second piece of advice, be patient, things will go wrong but don’t let that ruin your vacation.

Since the pandemic has changed so many things, what are a few things our readers should keep in mind for traveling in this new era?

Double check the cancellation policies before you book, so much has changed from when you can cancel to change fees. Also I highly recommend getting Travel insurance, it can be a real life saver! Lastly, pack your patience “pants”, the hotels, airlines and theme parks are still under staffed and are trying their best they can to help you.

What is unique about Grand Luxe Destinations, the travel agency you work with?

That’s a great question! Grand Luxe was created by a good friend of mine who was tired of working for other agencies that didn’t support their agents. I’ve worked with Laurie at another agency, and found that we have the same ideals and work ethic, so it was a perfect fit. Laurie and I have even travelled together, which was such a great experience. We are a small agency and each of us has destinations that we are passionate about and specialize in. For instance I specialize in Disney Parks, Universal Parks, Disney Cruise Line and Hawaii, but if I have a client that wants to go to Mexico, I can give them to an agent at Grand Luxe who will take great care of them who specializes in Mexico.

What sets you apart from other agents?

In one word “HEART”…I really care about each client, it’s not about how much commission I will make. If you don’t have a wonderful vacation that is perfect for you, I take that personally. I have put in hundreds of training hours for each of the destinations I specialize in and take pride in that. Plus I continue to visit those destinations as much as I can so I can offer my clients a real view perspective.

Do you specialize in certain types of travel?

Yes and I believe that if you go to a travel agent and they say they specialize in everything, I’d be very careful. It’s just like the medical field, you have multiple doctors because they can’t do or know it all. I specialize in Disney Parks, Universal Parks, Disney Cruise Line and Hawaii.

Tell us more about Disney World, Disneyland and Disney Cruises…

What are the best times to travel to Disney World and Disneyland?

At the Disney Parks, in non-pandemic times, the least crowded months are generally January, February, certain parts of April/May, late August, September and early November. Disney parks do have several special events and festivals that can impact your vacation as well. For Disney cruise line it is January, February, September and October but this can very as well.

Can you share your top five pro tips to share about going to each destination?

Number one, use a Travel Agent that specializes in that destination.

-For Disney World, Disneyland and Universal Studios, create a budget, people don’t realize how much it can cost to stay at a Disney or Universal hotel and you can go off budget quickly.

-Stay on property, even though it may be more expensive, there are perks to being closer to the parks that will save you time and money.

-Consider having groceries delivered to save on food costs at Disney or Universal. Most rooms have a mini fridge and the villas have ovens and microwaves.

-Be flexible on your dates if possible. Disney and Universal offer promotions throughout the year and it could save you a lot of money if you travel during those promotional dates.

-For Hawaii, a car rental is a must and September is one of the least expensive times to go. Also the Hawaain people are very proud of their islands, so respect their traditions.

Are there any inside tips you can share about booking and going on a Disney Cruise?

BOOK as early as you can, like a year out. This gives you more stateroom availability and better pricing. Try to do at least 5 nights, the 3 and 4 night cruises don’t give you enough time to enjoy the ship and your destinations. Always bring something for motion sickness even if you don’t normally get sick. Try not to over pack, I know it’s hard but you are limited to how many suitcases you can bring.

Can you share your top advice for someone who has never been to Disney before with their family?

I know I sound like a broken record but work with a Travel Agent. Disney World especially has so many things that you need to do by a certain time. They are constantly changing and expect guests to educate themselves. If you call Disney to book your reservation, they will only ask you the bare minimum, so if you don’t ask the right questions you won’t know. As a Travel agent, I make sure to tell you everything you need to know and whenever you need anything just ask, that’s what I do.

What are the pros and cons of the Dining Plan, Memory Maker and Fast Pass?

Currently only the Memory Maker is being offered, Disney has yet to reinstate their dine plans and Fast Pass.

-Memory Maker gives you those amazing Disney photos in some of the most iconic settings with the entire family but it is pricey and you only get digital photos.

-The Dining plans help you budget your food costs because it is prepaid. I find that unless you have a large family that eats A LOT, these plans do not save you money but they do keep you on budget.

-Fast Pass allows you to wait in a shorter line for some of the most popular rides BUT you have to select a time window to go to that attraction. This means that you have to plan your day around your fast pass times.

Do you have hotels that you recommend near Disney World and Disneyland for each budget?

Definitely but that depends on the age of your children, how many people are in your family and which theme parks you want to visit the most. Plus your personal preference, like do you want a spa or multiple dining options at your resort? For instance, my family is going over Labor Day this year and we want to spend a few days at Epcot to enjoy the Food & Wine festival. So we are staying at Disney’s Beach Club resort which is a short walk from Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

What is your favorite thing to do at Universal Studios?

We are HUGE Harry Potter fans and can spend an entire day just exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It really does feel like you’re in the movies with so many fun details and experiences. Plus both parks are very close to each other (unlike Disney parks), so less time getting from park to park.

Your husband proposed in Magic Kingdom! What are your other favorite family memories from these destinations?

One of my favorite memories is the first time my daughter saw Mickey in person. She was only two and we waited in line but when it was our turn Mickey had to take a “cheese” break. About five minutes later he came back and the smile on her face was priceless! She does not remember this moment but we will never forget it.

Another would be when we first got our “magic wands” in Hogsmeade and got to do magic, something I highly recommend. I took my daughter and mother on a Disney Cruise for my daughter’s 10 birthday and she was very excited. I had ordered a birthday celebration package for our stateroom so when we walked in, she saw all of these birthday decorations. Plus our room attendant made sure to make things extra special for her…each day we would come back from exploring and he had a surprise for her. I could go on and on!




Are you able to share the biggest benefit to using a Disney Travel Agent?

Definitely the best benefit is their knowledge of the parks, resorts, ships and everything you can do and experience while on your vacation. Also most agents will notify you when a Disney promotion comes out and will apply it to your reservation if available. I can’t tell you how great it is to tell my clients I just saved them hundreds of dollars on their Disney vacation!




Our motto is “Giving Moms the gift of time,” how do your services mirror this benefit?

If you have ever tried to plan a vacation while working and taking care of your family, then you know how valuable time is. As a Travel Agent, I will do most of the work for you from pricing options, resort suggestions, airfare searches and much more. I try to take away the stress of the planning so you can just enjoy the journey and all of this for Free.


*This post was sponsored by Travel Chats with Lara


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