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What do you get in a VIP Tour at the Walt Disney World Resort?

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Published: August 3, 2011 at 10:11 AM

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - During our Orlando visit this month, my family and I got our first VIP tour of the Walt Disney World resort.

This wasn't some special perk for me because I publish Theme Park Insider. Our tour was arranged by a family member, who got it through her job. In fact, Disney's VIP tours are open to the public... for a price, of course. Starting at $175 an hour, with a six hour minimum, you can hire a Disney Guest Relations host to escort you and your family or group around the park. That's just for the tour guide, though - you have to provide your own park admissions in addition to the tour cost.

Brian at Disney's Hollywood Studios
We started our day at Disney's Hollywood Studios

What do you get for that price?

For experienced Disney World visitors, the VIP host essentially serves as an unlimited FastPass for your entire group. The VIP host can escort you into any FastPass line at any time, regardless of when the posted return time is or if the ride's FastPasses are all distributed for the day.

For less experienced visitors, the VIP host also serves as a knowledgable guide to the Walt Disney World Resort. He or she can answer almost any question you have about the theme parks, and suggest options or strategies for visiting the parks that best reflect your group and its interests.

If you have park-hopper tickets, the VIP host can take you to as many parks as you care to visit during your tour time. And don't worry about parking and long walks into the parks. Your VIP host will meet you at your hotel, then drive you to backstage parking areas that put you close to the action in all the parks. (For your first park of the day, you'll first have to walk back to the park's entrance and exit the park, then re-enter through the gates to activate your tickets. But for subsequent parks during the day, your VIP host will hold your tickets and scan them at each parks' guest services for you while you ride.)

The VIP tour we booked still wasn't the top-of-the-line experience that Disney offers. We had to go through FastPass entrances to rides - not the backdoor VIP corridors that are available any several attractions. And if a ride or show didn't have FastPass, we had to wait in line like everyone else. Pay more per hour, and you can skip even those lines.

While we made strong use of the unlimited FastPass, I thought the best feature of the VIP tour was the reserved seating for the Magic Kingdom parade. With a VIP tour, you sit in a designated area on the Liberty Square bridge. There, you have no other guests around you, and no one sitting on the opposite side of the parade route. That means that the parade characters are giving you their undivided attention, allowing the kids in your group to get handshakes from dozens of Disney characters.

Here are a few looks at the views I had from our VIP parade seats.

Pinocchio float

Meeting Captain Hook

Character flood

Belle says hello

So what did we do in our six-hour tour? We started the day at Disney's Hollywood Studios, where all of us rode Toy Story Midway Mania. (The posted FastPass return time was 4:05 pm when we rode at 10:30 am.) After that, three of us rode Twilight Zone Tower of Terror before we all walked back to the van that was waiting for us behind Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. From there, we drove to the Magic Kingdom, where we parked behind Main Street. After visiting Mickey Mouse in his new digs, we walked over to Liberty Tree Tavern for lunch.


I chose the turkey dinner, with stuffing, mashed potatoes and some yummy green beans.

After lunch, we split up. My daughter and I walked over to ride the Haunted Mansion and my sister, her husband and daughter went with my mother over to Dumbo while our VIP host took my son and wife to Frontierland to ride Big Thunder Mountain. Then we all met up and the VIP host took several of us onto Winnie the Pooh before we walked over to Tomorrowland and split again. My son and I rode Space Mountain while the rest of the group went on Buzz Lightyear. After that, we returned to Liberty Square to claim our front-row seats for the parade.

Is a VIP Tour worth the cost? That's for you to decide. We could have been much more aggressive with packing extra rides into our time. But my family is a bunch of Disney theme park veterans. We've ridden everything before, and welcomed the chance to revisit some of our favorites on a busy summer day at a pace we otherwise would have to wait until the park was empty in early November to enjoy.

We also used part of our tour time for a leisurely lunch with our guide, chatting her up about the parks and planning the rest of our day. FWIW, you don't have to pay for your host's lunch (he or she will get a separate check), but it's a bit foolish (and even rude) not to invite your host to join you for the meal. It's such a great opportunity to talk and plan with a real theme park expert.

What would build into a six-hour VIP Tour itinerary? Even if this is something you'd never consider actually buying, I think it's fun to imagine what you'd do to get the most value from the experience. Please feel welcomed to share your VIP tour plan in the comments.

Readers' Opinions

From Tracy Bates on August 3, 2011 at 10:32 AM
While cool, $175 per hour for a six hour minimum is a lot of money. (Especially since it's just me and my wife.)

I've done this same basic tour at Busch Gardens and it was $200 per person, so $400 for me and my wife and it was great. (Also, the tour guide had a camera and took pictures of you doing all the various things and then you could buy a CD of all the pictures they took for $40. I think the price on that has gone up, though, because that was an amazing steal.)

From Anon Mouse on August 3, 2011 at 2:07 PM
$1056. That's a lot of money. I'd rather stay at the best resort instead. Or eat at the most expensive restaurant(s). If I had the money (and there are many who do), then the price is not a hinderance. It isn't a issue of it being worth it. It is sorely needed to survive a busy and hot day at the park.
From Robert Niles on August 3, 2011 at 6:16 PM
Obviously, the more the merrier for Disney's VIP tour, given the pricing structure. Only the uber-rich could afford to hire a VIP tour guide when rolling solo. But for a group of 10? Then the per-person cost comes down to the level charged by other parks for sometimes less impressive benefits. (We had eight in our group, but our guide drove us in a 14-seat van, so I would assume the upper limit on a single host would be around that.)
From Eric G on August 3, 2011 at 2:26 PM
I hope that summer tour came with air conditioning.
From Dominick D on August 3, 2011 at 4:52 PM
It would all be up to my parents, but I would totally do it! And I must say the chicken nuggets are delicious at the Liberty Tree Tavern!
From 173.78.23.75 on August 3, 2011 at 7:06 PM
Robert how much did it cost you through your family member? Tell us how we can get the good deal!
From Anthony Murphy on August 3, 2011 at 9:08 PM
Facinating
From Robert Niles on August 4, 2011 at 2:46 AM
It didn't cost me anything, as my family member got the tour as a perk through her job. If that wasn't clear, my apologies.

Would I spend out of pocket for this? If I were bringing a large group of new visitors into the park during a very busy time of the year, yes.

If I were just with my immediate family and looking for a good skip-the-lines upgrade to a theme park vacation, I'd opt to stay at a Universal Orlando resort hotel and skip the lines there, instead. I think that's the better financial deal for a solo visitor, family or small group that's interested in those parks.

If I wanted to skip the lines at Disney in those situations, I would look to visit at another time of year, or make aggressive use of our theme park voodoo strategies (arrive at opening, juggle FastPasses, eat at off hours, leave high capacity attractions for middle of the day, meet characters at Epcot World Showcase, etc.) to minimize waiting time.

From 64.255.164.106 on August 4, 2011 at 6:44 PM
Robert, how do you book the top of the line experience and what do you get with it? How much is it? Sounds like fun!
From Robert Niles on August 5, 2011 at 9:27 AM
Follow the first link in the article for the current phone number and pricing. You'll have to book over the phone, but they can answer questions about the tours, too.
From Michael Gilmore on August 6, 2011 at 9:56 PM
I LUV this site. Finally, the Greatest Place On Earth takes a lesson from the Happiest Place On Earth and offers guides...which have been provided since Day ONE at Disneyland via Walt himself.

I love to get more behind-the-scense details, without all of the false information. BUT, unlimited FASTPASS, count me IN.

I have used the expensive VIP passes from Universal and they have been WELL WORTH the money...expecially on their "Fright Night" tours...not for young children!!

Save a space for me Mickey...I'll be there with EARS on!

From 173.66.204.173 on August 7, 2011 at 10:36 AM
Robert, do you have any idea how much the more expensive version might be? I would be interested to know how much for the true VIP lines experience.

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