Middle of the Magic is a Disney travel agency based in Orlando. Traci Elswick, the owner, sat down with us for an interview.
Tell us about yourself.
Growing up, I loved all things Disney. I had Disney birthday parties, mouse ears, Disney movies: the whole nine yards. The first gift I ever got from my husband was a Little Mermaid doll.
I was 30 before I ever got a view of Cinderella’s castle, and have been smitten with it every since. But my Disney story is more about my son, Lucas, than it is about me.
Lucas has autism. When he was young, he was drawn to Disney as well: mostly movies and toys. The only words he would say were lines to Disney movies. Hearing,“To infinity and beyond!” meant the world to me!
When you take a special needs child to Disney, it requires a lot of detailed planning. I had to make sure I was very well-organized with touring plans, dining reservations and scheduled down time. I also had to take into account the crowd, the change in environment and his behaviors. I also researched the guest assistance card (now DAS card) to make sure I was able to modify his waits in line due to his behaviors.
Lucas’s first visit was just a day trip, but the next year we went for an entire visit – and boy, did he fall in love! He loved Pooh Bear at the time, and was over the moon having lunch at the Crystal Palace with him and his friends. I still look at the picture from that day, and see that small child’s face beaming with happiness that we would never see otherwise. After that visit, and the next, we found ourselves heading to the most magical place on earth as much as possible. We just loved the interaction we could get with Lucas, and the way Disney would treat us like any other family while we were there. I love the sense of “normalcy” I felt when I was at Disney with Lucas.
After working with a wonderful travel agency for over five years, the most exciting thing happened: my husband got a job in Orlando, and we were moving to Disney! I realized I could have my own unique niche of being in the “Middle of the Magic” planning Disney vacations – and so Middle of the Magic Travel was born. I love helping families plan their own Disney vacations, and making sure kids (especially kids with special needs) have the most magical time possible. This is my calling in life!
I visit the parks weekly with my family. One of the perks of living in the middle of the magic is we get to experience Disney’s evolution firsthand: I was one of the first people in the new Fantasyland on the first testing day. We watch the castle light up for the first time at Christmas every year. I got to walk through the Osbourne lights for last time on the very last night. I love being able to share this firsthand experience with my clients when putting their own travel plans together.
As a family we have also been to Disneyland in California multiple times, and are Platinum Castaway Club members with Disney Cruise Line.
Middle of the Magic Travel earned the title of an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner in 2015, and for 2016-2017, I will serve on the Disney’s Earmarked Program Travel Advisory Council. (In a select group of 20 agency owners, I feel so blessed to have been chosen!)
What makes Middle of the Magic unique?
Middle of the Magic Travel is based in Mickey’s backyard in Orlando, Florida. We are unique because of the family atmosphere we have created. We treat each client as though they’re part of our family. We pay attention to every little detail and make sure each client is getting the most out of their vacation. We have a blend of Annual Passholders, Castaway Club members (Platinum, Gold and Silver) and we even have former Cast Members working with us! We have special training opportunities and team building exercises regularly to tinker with the ways we make our clients vacations seamless and stress-free 🙂
What’s your best tip for families heading to the parks?
My best tip is to add down time to your vacation! It’s not a Disney World marathon. Enjoy the parks at a leisurely pace. Schedule your vacation with enough time to see all of the parks and include a day of rest as well. Disney has some amazing pools and some exciting things to do outside of the theme parks. And, you don’t want to go home from your trip exhausted!
What do you recommend as the best time to visit the parks now?
We really enjoy visiting Walt Disney World in the fall. Winter is awesome as well. I’d just recommend avoiding major holidays. However, during every season (even the holidays) there are times you can enjoy the best of what Disney has to offer without the peak crowds. We help our clients find the perfect time to visit, based on their vacation time and priorities!
What has been the one trip you planned that you wished was yours?
The one trip I planned that I wish had been mine was an Adventures by Disney Alaskan itinerary. Adventures by Disney immerses you in the culture and provides you a unique way of seeing the World! Who wouldn’t want to whitewater raft on the Nenana, take a bay cruise and see the marine wildlife and watch a dog sledding demonstration with an award-winning dog musher. I think Adventures by Disney should be on everyone’s bucket list!
Speed round questions!
Favorite Park- Magic Kingdom
Favorite Ship- Disney Dream
Favorite Attraction- It’s a Small World
Favorite Character- Minnie Mouse