Sometimes we make career changes because we want to and sometimes, the health of a child makes us rethink our priorities. Today, I’m introducing you to Christine, who is my husband’s cousin. On the birth of her second child, Christine had to learn the meaning of the word Craniosynostosis and brace herself for the kind of pain and fear a mother feels when their child is ill. This is why she became a Disney Vacation Planner
Can you please introduce yourself, tell us what you do and where you do it?
My name is Christine, I’ve been married to my husband Mike for 4 years, and we have two beautiful children Michael (3) and Riley (20 months). I am currently a Travel Planner who specializes in Disney vacations and a stay at home/ work from home mom.
Your first career was in insurance at a radiology facility. Was this something that you enjoyed doing and why?
I truly enjoyed my job as an insurance verification coordinator at a local radiology facility. The team of women I worked with were like no other, and they made working and being away from the kids much more enjoyable, especially after I had my daughter, they kept me sane and were so supportive. They were a great group to vent to and I truly miss working with them.
You went back to work after the birth of your first child, can you explain why you didn’t after the birth of your second?
My daughter was born in February 2016, and she was born with a birth defect called Craniosynostosis. It is a condition in which one or more of the fibrous sutures in an infant skull prematurely fuses by turning into bone and changing the growth pattern of the skull. The only cure for Craniosynostosis is surgery. This was something we found out about when she was 2 months old. So I did go back to work in May of 2016 after my maternity leave for a couple months, then our department had a huge layoff. I was part of the layoff which was a blessing in disguise since our daughter needed to have a major skull operation.
Can you give us a timeline of what you went through after the birth of your second child, leading up to and after her surgery?
Riley was born February 20, 2016. She was diagnosed with Craniosynostosis on April 21, 2016. That following week my husband and I met with three highly ranked surgeons in NYC where they told us she would need to have a major operation on her skull at 6 months old to correct her Craniosynostosis. May of 2016 I went back to work until August. Within those months we were at the doctor constantly with our daughter for evaluations and testings to prepare her for her surgery.
On August 23, I donated blood for the first time (I was 27 years old with a BIG fear of needles) but I donated it for my daughter in the chance she may need a blood transfusion during surgery since I was a direct blood match. (She did need that transfusion.) On September 6th we checked into an apartment across the street from the hospital where my husband, son, mom, dad, and brother all stayed while I slept in the hospital with Riley. On September 7, 2016, at 6 am she was being prepped. At 9:50 am with my husband walking beside me, I was in a wheelchair holding Riley and they pushed us to the operating room floor. I had to hand her over to the nurse to take her into surgery, this was by far the hardest thing I ever had to go through, so bad that I would not let go of her and they had to remove her from my arms. I stood by those operating room doors for 5 minutes. It felt like forever. I was just numb and crying, so afraid for our little girl.
Throughout the five hours that she was in surgery her surgery team kept us updated on what was going on. We finally saw our little girl at 2 in the afternoon. Five hours is a long time for anyone, but five hours in a hospital while your daughter is having surgery felt like years. We spent four days in the hospital and a week in the city just to make sure everything was okay before heading home. Her brother Michael was a champ throughout this whole process and loves his sister more than anything.
We have continued following up with her surgeons and just recently found out that her surgery did not correct her Craniosynostosis, and she may possibly need a repeat surgery. The nightmares continue, but she is the happiest little girl.
Your family goes to Disney World as a big group with Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, etc. How long has this been going on and how many people usually attend?
We have been going to Disney World for at least 20 years as a family, and on our most recent trip, it consisted of 33 people, from my grandfather all the way down the family tree to my kids.
This year, after returning from Disney, you signed up as a Travel Planner specializing in Disney Destinations. How did you learn about this opportunity and why did you sign up now?
Being a Disney Travel Planner has always been a dream of mine. It was and is always the most memorable vacation trip, from 30 people wearing matching shirts to singing Disney songs on the transportation buses, to the countless character experiences and large dinner reservations, they are memories I will never forget. Our family would have Disney Planning Parties every couple of months leading up to the trips and there was just so much fun and excitement in the planning, that I decided I want to have this much fun planning memorable vacations for other families. On our most recent family trip of 33 people, we were lucky enough to have our 2 children there for the first time. The excitement in their eyes when they saw the castle for the first time, and seeing the first characters really touched my heart. Being able to share this joy with them has made me even more excited to start planning vacations for children and their families.
What’s involved in the process of becoming a Disney Travel Planner? How long and where was the training completed?
I googled Disney agencies and applied to all that I found. The week after we returned from Disney I got a call from Destination Mouse for an interview and within the week I was hired. Disney’s training is online through their College of Disney Knowledge, which I completed within a few days because I was so eager to start planning vacations.
How do you help people who want to travel to Disney? I imagine you must specialize in assisting large groups/families who want to go to Disney?
By using a Disney travel planner, we help book their vacation from the time they put down their deposit all the way up to the day they travel and even when they are on vacation. Disney vacations are not like your standard vacation, a lot of planning goes into it. You need your resort, ticket and dining packages, restaurant reservations, and fast pass reservations for rides. Disney makes it very affordable to be able to go on one of their vacations. They only require a $200 deposit per room, and the rest can be paid off up until one month before travel, such a perk in my book. A payment plan for a vacation! I have not gotten many large groups yet, but large groups are definitely my specialty.
What’s exciting at Disney this year?
In 2018, the new Toy Story Land will be opening up at Hollywood Studios which is a must see. Epcot will have a new dessert party and Disney Springs is opening five new restaurants. Pandora just opened in 2017 which is still a popular attraction and fast passes are so hard to obtain. Also, their promotions which are very limited will be great for 2018, including room, ticket and dining packages, and percentages off rooms rates.
Can you share what’s the best advice you received while starting your new career? In turn, what advice can you give to someone else looking to transition into an at home job?
The best advice I received while starting my new career was to have fun, network, put yourself out there. With Disney, there is so much that goes into the planning. The end product is the most important, it’ s about your clients and the memories they made and the memories that they will share because of the time, thought and effort I put into their vacations.
If you’re looking to transition into an at home job, I say go for it 100%. Especially if you have kids, there are opportunities you get with them that you wouldn’t if you were working outside of the house. You get to make your own schedule, don’t have to feel bad about calling out sick, or going on vacation. I mainly love it because I get to be around my kids all day– I don’t have to miss any of their “first” experiences now, and I get to spend more time with my husband who is always working.
(All Pictures used in this post were provided by Christine and used with her permission.)