Chicago North Shore Moms is taking you on a ride with the sponsor of our Travel Guide, Travel Agent and Disney destination specialist, Take the Trip Family Travel.
Shawn learned to appreciate travel growing up with adventurous parents, and now loves exploring new places with her own family. Like many families, Walt Disney World was one of their stops and out of a not-so magical experience came an unexpected passion for planning Disney vacations! She’s made it her mission to change the way many view visiting a Disney destination. From Disney to family focused resorts beyond, Shawn handles the details, so you can simply arrive and enjoy your time away!
She is a wealth of information surrounding family travel, and is sharing useful information about booking your next trip. For example, did you know that in most cases it costs you zero extra dollars to book with a travel agent? This, and more, in our exclusive interview with Take The Trip Family Travel.
Hi Shawn. Please introduce yourself. Where are you from originally? What city do you live in now?
Hello, I’m Shawn! I grew up in Michigan, and moved to Chicago after college. I prefer walking to driving and love living near the water, so Chicago fit. When we decided to leave the city, Chicago’s North Shore was an easy decision. We’re now in Kenilworth, adjusting to suburban life. It’s a big change, but great for the kids. We love that good food & fun is always a quick bike ride away!
Tell us about your mini Disney fans.
I have 2 boys, 7 & 9, and they keep me on my toes! I grew up a girly girl, more interested in Ballet & Barbies than sports, so becoming a boy mom was/is an adjustment. I think that’s partly what lead to me working within the “Disney Bubble”. While I don’t get into sports so much, we all loved Frozen, Monsters Inc, (my youngest was obsessed with Mickey), etc. They couldn’t wait to meet their favorite characters- and I couldn’t wait to watch their reactions. Fast forward 5 years later & strangely enough, it’s kind of become our thing… which turned into a job that I could do while still being present daily with them.
Please fill us in on your involvement with Disney! When and how did this career begin?
Funny enough it started with a disastrous trip to Walt Disney World! Our first visit was what most parents perceive a Disney World visit to be. A lot of frustration, & a lot of meltdowns- myself included! My parents winter in Florida and while visiting we had decided to work in a last minute Disney World stay for a few days. I didn’t realize the amount of planning required & we were in over our heads! When we decided to visit again I dove into the planning – and we had a great visit! After returning I realized that I really enjoyed the planning process & wanted to help other parents avoid making the mistakes we did.
I looked into travel agencies that specialize in Disney destinations and knew that if I was going to do this, I wanted to work with the best & luxury focused. I wanted to show parents that Disney doesn’t have to be a horrific experience and that it can be enjoyable. Glass Slipper Concierge is an EarMarked Platinum Authorized Disney Vacation planning agency, who focuses on the luxury side of Disney. The fit felt right and as I learned more about the boutique, woman owned agency, I knew that was where I wanted to be.
I trained with one of Glass Slipper Concierge Premier Advisors, graduated from Disney’s College of Knowledge and began working with the team in 2018. The agency is really special in that it’s very small in comparison to many, yet maintains a Platinum status because of high sales performance. The owner, Cara Goldsbury, wrote the book The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World, and the agency as a whole truly represents that. Cara leads with grace and is so well respected in the world of Disney travel, and beyond. We joke that we feel like royalty when visiting a Disney destination for meetings! The agency also has a sister agency, GSC World Travel, which is a member of Virtuoso, a network of the worlds best travel agencies, hotels and tour companies. So we don’t only book Disney, most agents are well versed in luxury travel around the world. The company is unique & I feel fortunate to be part of the team!
What are one or two things people would be surprised to learn about you or your business?
First and foremost, that I’m not an ultra-Disney fan girl! I don’t collect merch and I don’t obsess over the hottest snack items in the parks. LOL. I DO visit often, though, to be up-to-date, fine tune touring plans and continue to seek out the best ways to visit each destination.
Every travel agent has their own style of what they believe is the way to “do Disney”, and you have to find that right fit for you. I like nice hotels, good food, convenience and a balanced mix of fun and relaxation. Those things aren’t usually associated with Disney, but can absolutely be. Disney can be enjoyable, even for the non-fan.
A Disney vacation can feel overwhelming. What advice do you have for hesitant families?
A Disney World or Disneyland vacation IS overwhelming! A lot goes into the planning, especially at the moment. There have been new policies implemented based on health precautions, as well as technology constantly changing the game with apps and services. On top of that there truly are tricks to making park days or cruising more enjoyable. That’s where professional planning comes in. My experience makes your trip easier. I test run it all multiple times a year! Enlist help & alleviate the stress. That’s the first step in creating a great vacation.
The second is to embrace the “magic” and let go of parent-FOMO! Your kids are going to be so excited. Share in that excitement & try to see things through their eyes! That said, don’t try to do it all in one visit. You simply can’t with young kids. Choose a few things to see each morning and take a break mid day. Tell yourself that anything extra in the evening is a bonus. I think families hear horror stories of Disney Parks visits after pushing kids & themselves over the limit! Standing in long lines or walking through crowds in the heat is not fun. Know when to call it & head back to the resort for a break each day. You may see a little less in the park each day, but you’ll enjoy the visit much more. Kids won’t know what they’re missing, only parents will = parent-FOMO!
Lastly, yes, there might be hard moments while away with kids, but aren’t there hard moments when home?! There’s a brief window when kids believe it all & I highly suggest at least a day in a Disney park or a cruise at that time. There’s nothing like seeing your little wave to their favorite character or get excited to be IN Elsa’s house. On the other side of that, once your kids can ride the bigger attractions, a Disney parks visit can be a lot of fun for parents too! I had the best time with my seven-year-old on our last visit. He had finally reached all of the height requirements & could stay up later. It was slow paced, but with all of the thrills!
Once a potential client inquires about planning a vacation, how does the process work?
I’ll start with a phone call to understand how they like to travel and what they’re looking for within their vacation. From there I’ll send quotes for resort packages based on what we discussed. Once a deposit is made, I’ll start the planning process, booking all dining + activities, strollers, etc, and eventually create daily itineraries to guide each day. I’m available for questions within the entire process of course, but before traveling we’ll schedule a call to go over everything and answer any questions. My goal is that once a resort is chosen they can simply arrive and enjoy their time together!
I’ve yet to have a client return from a vacation who didn’t enjoy themselves. More often than not I receive texts while still traveling like “Even my husband is having the best time!” or “Thank you for making this so easy!”. I take into account each client’s personality, concerns, and wants and customize to what I think will work best for THEIR family. Especially with Disney. I’ve stayed in every Deluxe Disney resort along with the Four Seasons, I know the transportation options well, and I’ve been through the trenches! I try to guide clients based on extensive, up to date experience rather than what they may have heard from a neighbor who visited in 2018 or a blog, and I take the guesswork out.
I imagine the travel bug hits you hard while planning others vacations! Where are a few favorite destinations you’ve visited recently? Where to next?
This comes as a shock to even myself, but some of our favorite vacations recently have been on Disney Cruise Line. I never thought that I would enjoy being on a cruise ship, but it’s pretty amazing with kids! There’s a great balance between relaxation & activities, and having a kids club that kid’s actually ask to go back to is a huge bonus. We’re never bored, but also never feel stretched or exhausted. Everyday can be what you want it to be. I also love leaving the ship for a nice resort while in port, but not having to pack and unpack to visit new areas.
We visited Bakers Cay, in Key Largo last year. We loved the laid back vibe. I’d like to visit again & see more of the keys. The area has become really hot because of US travel being more popular. There are so many new boutique hotels, resorts and restaurants that are upscale and unique.
Now that our kids are older I’m looking forward to more ski trips, heading across the pond & getting more adventurous with them.
How do you promote your business? Does social media play a role?
It’s very much referral based. When a client enjoys their vacation it means everything to me if they share that experience. Let’s face it, Disney is an investment & everyone is an expert, so much of my business is based on referrals- and earned trust!
I do have social media, @takethetripfamilytravel, and try to update weekly with information that may be helpful in planning. It’s a little cheesy, because I have to keep it fun, but honest and straight from my own experiences! I stepped away from Facebook years ago, but have realized it’s a necessary evil because of the way people communicate through the platform. I’ll likely give in & add a Facebook page soon as well.
How can interested families contact you?
I can be reached through the contact information below, as well as through DM if you’d like to peek at my Instagram prior;) I’m also in the process of revamping my website, takethetripfamilytravel.com which should be live soon, and I can be found on the Glass Slipper Concierge website.
Thank you for taking the time to get to know me! I look forward to helping with your vacation needs! Continue to check out Chicago North Shore Moms for more travel and local fun ideas!