Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
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.
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.
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.
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.Tweet
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