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Disney parks news + my chat with Sue – PREP265

Disney parks news + my chat with Sue – PREP265

Shannon discussed the latest Disney Parks news and gave her opinion on the most recent changes. She also chatted with Sue, the owner and found of Small World Vacations.

These are notes from this episode. There’s much more info included in the audio so be sure to listen to the episode for a better explanation.

The Basics

Shannon went over the latest Disney Parks news, including Disney Magical Express ending, Extra Magic Hours getting replaced with Early Theme Park Entry, FastPass+’s future, and the Disneyland annual pass program being discontinued.

She also discussed how to become a Patron and the small tight-knight community that’s been created (it’s capped at a maximum number), which is “the beauty of it,” according to Shannon.

Finally, Shannon chatted with Sue, who is the owner and founder of Small World Vacations.

Sue and her team are expert travel planning professionals, who specialize in helping clients plan Disney-related vacations.

Sue opened up about how she became a travel agent, her love of Disney, and briefly discussed Small World Vacations partnership with WDW Prep School.

Small World Vacations

Disney Parks News (announced in January 2021)

Shannon said she thinks Disney has other plans in mind, despite Magical Express ending service beginning with arrivals Jan. 1, 2022.

Disney ended their Magical Express contract with Mears, who announced their own transportation between the Orlando International Airport and Disney World called, Mears Connect. This is set to launch in January 2022.

She understood why guests are upset with the end of Magical Express, but also said to stay tuned, because more than likely Disney will announce something new.

Disney's Magical Express

As for Early Theme Park Entry replacing Extra Magic Hours, the latter will allow on-site guests to enter any of the four theme parks 30 minutes early every day of the week. Early Theme Park Entry is set to begin in time for the 50th anniversary.

Shannon found the new offering confusing, especially since the parks already open 30+ early every day to all guests. She said there’s probably more to Early Theme Park Entry, but we’ll have to wait and see.

The Disneyland annual passholder program was discontinued in favor of a membership program (the Legacy Passholder program, which wasn’t known at the time of the podcast).

disneyland legacy passholder

Shannon said Disneyland’s annual passes are very different compared to Disney World, since the former has a much higher number of passholders. The new Disneyland program shouldn’t affect Disney World’s Annual Passholder program.

Shannon also discussed FastPass+ at Disney World, which has been temporarily suspended since the parks reopened in July 2020.

She wouldn’t be surprised if Disney World starts offering a paid FastPass system like Disneyland’s MaxPass and Shanghai Disney Resort’s Premier Access.

Chat with Sue (origin, growth, and more)

Shannon said Sue is “near the top” of nice people in the Disney community. Sue started Small World Vacations in 1996 and said “this is truly a dream come true for me.”

She got the idea to begin a Disney travel agency after coming back from one of her first trips and being “bitten by the Disney planning bug.”

Sue thought it would be a great idea if there were travel agencies in Disney stores to help people and she even sent her idea to Disney.

They replied that the position she applied for didn’t exist, so Sue decided to make her dream a reality on her own.

She first started teaching a class in northern New Jersey called “A Parents Survival Guide to Walt Disney World.”

One day, a student came up to her and said she would pay Sue to plan a trip for her, because it was all too confusing. That’s when the lightbulb went off for Sue.

it's a small world

After going to local college and learning how to be a travel agent, Sue created Small World Vacations. The agency grew exponentially and after 25 years in business they are a diamond-level authorized Disney vacation planner.

FYI: Diamond-level is the highest recognition to achieve from Disney for being Earmarked. There’s also bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. As of 2020, Sue said only she and two other agencies that she knew of had achieved diamond-level status.

For Sue and her team, she said this is their full-time jobs and not a hobby. She even said it is a “privilege and honor” that people want to work with them.

Sue is looking forward to going on a cruise again, especially one of the new Disney Cruise Line ships. She said a new ship is like “Christmas morning.”

She’s also excited for new attractions coming to Disney World and Disneyland, along with the opening of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel.

disney wish cruise ship

“I’ve been a longtime fan of WDW Prep School and you,” Sue told Shannon.

She added that the idea of working and learning from Shannon “is the best thing that has come out of 2020” after her first grandchild who arrived in February 2021, of course.

Key Takeaways

  • A new form of Disney transportation to and from the Orlando International Airport could replace Magical Express
  • Early Theme Park Entry is a bit confusing and we should stay tuned for more details
  • Disney World could introduce a paid FastPass system
  • Disneyland’s annual pass program shouldn’t affect Disney World’s respective AP program
  • Sue started Small World Vacations 25 years ago and is now a diamond-level authorized Disney vacation planner

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Shannon Albert