DISNEY VIP Tour Guide Service
For all those wondering about the Disney's VIP Premium Tour, I searched endlessly and found very limited up to date or recent info and chose to write this informal but informative review for those considering it. This post will focus on the Disney Owned and Operated VIP Premium tour that only they offer. This is not referencing the many knock off tour companies in Orlando and California that use "VIP tour" in their titles but can NOT offer direct unlimited priority access to attractions, shows, and Disney reserved seating. Please forgive spelling typos and grammatical errors (not proofreading) as this is not meant to be fine poetry but useful information for those interested. My goal will be to provide info on what to expect and what not to expect as well as make comparisons between VIP Premium tours at Disneyland (Anaheim) as well as Walt Disney World (Orlando). I have participated in both of these and recently completed my first Disneyland trip this Christmas 2015 for which I booked a Premium VIP tour. I have gone to WDW in Orlando over 100 times with my family since we have family in Orlando and did the premium VIP tour there approximately 2 years ago so some procedures may have changed at WDW but the Disneyland VIP tour info is as recent as it gets! We also chose to stay on property even though we have family in Orlando and for those with family and in-laws know why! I will try to address certain topics and compare the two when appropriate. The first thing to remember is this review is referencing the Disney VIP Premium Tour Only and not the other hundreds of tours Disney offers. This is the ultimate premium VIP experience and as you can imagine is NOT CHEAP but is convenient and every person who reads this review will need to determine if the experience is worth the money. This info is not meant to be gospel but the info presented here is based on my personal recent experiences and may not reflect current offerings but is current for me. Here we go...
COST: This will vary depending on the time of year you visit and obviously the holiday times are the most expensive and you do pay by the hour (6 hr minimum at both DL and WDW). I paid $550/hr on our recent Disneyland (DL) Christmas trip and about $400/hr on our past WDW Christmas trip. However, like all things at Disney, prices change and usually if not always go UP!. The WDW website now lists the cost to vary between $400-$600/ hr. This buys you and your group of up to 10 people a private VIP guide (wearing plaid) . If you have more than 10, a separate guide will be required and same costs apply for each guide! So if you like someone enough to share a tour guide that may average out cheaper per person but you may not get as much done having a full group of ten or separate families who may not agree on what to do next. Either way it's beyond EXPENSIVE, but to me worth it for my family of 5 to do alone. I can't tell you how many times I've said standing in a 2hr line for a 2 min ride "Oh what I would pay to get priority access", but it has to make sense for you.
SEPARATE ADMISSION REQUIRED?: YES, in both DL and WDW separate admission is required and is in addition to the cost of the tour, so buy those park tickets. If you plan on park hopping you better buy park hopper tickets and not single park, single day tix or you will be stuck in that one park. Be aware.
RIDE ACCESS: Be aware this is not instant "front of line" access despite the cost. As a general rule, most if not all attractions that offer Fastpass (FP) access allow you priority access. This means your guide can get you through the fast pass line as many times as you want to go. Know however, there may still be a short wait, but my recent experience at DL took a 110 minute standby wait to 5 min with our VIP guide.
Ride access also varies between DL and WDW. In DL, most of Fantasyland is not available for premium access due to size of exits we were told and for $550/hr this was disappointing. (we could not get premium access to some of our favorites like Peterpan, Snow white, Mr. Toads, Winnie the pooh, Dumbo etc. mostly the small kiddie rides. ) At WDW, most of Fantasyland was accessible) This was a big difference between the two parks. All of the big rides at DL and WDW (FP access) are included and save a ton of time. Some rides you just enter the FP line with your guide where other rides you and your guide enter through the exit (even faster access) It really depends on the particular attraction.
RESERVED SEATING: This is another nice feature which is included in the VIP tours at both DL and WDW. There are special reserve seating areas for the Nightime Fireworks and other BIG shows specific to each park as well as the Parades. The key to this is to remember you have to arrange this seating for the specific shows you want to see when you call the Disney VIP number to book your tour. The reserved seating of the VIP tour is a nice perk for several reasons...first- since it is reserved seating you don't have to start finding a viewing spot along the parade route or in front of castle for fireworks an hour and a half or longer before the show!! This gives you a ton more time to continue to ride attractions with your guide... second- in many cases the Disney cast members and characters know where the VIP sections are and tend to acknowledge you and make an effort to wave or smile at your kids or party. third... if certain shows involve picking someone out of the crowd to help or participate in a show, you can bet it usually is a VIP tour party individual that is selected. (coincidence? I think not)This may not always be the case but still another great photo opportunity if it happens. REMEMBER to book or at least request this reserved seating at the time you book the tour.
WHEN TO BOOK: As with Dining reservations or FP reservations, it pays to call or reserve as much in advance as possible to ensure availability. DL books VIP tours 90 days in advance and last I knew WDW books 6 months in advance. Confirm these dates on the websites as this may have changed. I called exactly 90 days out to book our Christmas DL VIP tour since Christmas can be so crazy. Also reserve seating is on a first come first serve basis so you don't want to book a tour a week before Christmas and then act surprised or worse get upset that all reserved seatings are booked! PLAN AHEAD.
HOW LONG IS TOUR? There is no set time as far as a maximum number of hours but there is a minimum for each day. Current minimum is 6 hrs at both DL and WDW.
IS FOOD INCLUDED? No, food and beverages are NOT included with the VIP Premium tour. It is also up to you whether you want your guide to join you or not while eating. If they do, you are not expected to pay for their meals but we chose to do that since we considered them more a part of the family for the day rather than just a human FastPass ticket. One thing to keep in mind, especially during the busier times of year and holidays is that even with Dining reservations it can take at least an hour to an hour and a half to eat a sit down meal. Keep this in mind if rides are your priority. It can wind up being the most expensive sit down meal you've ever had at $550/hr plus the cost of your food and the meter keeps running while you eat. I'm lucky in that our kids are picky with food and one has a Gluten allergy so we usually hit the quick service or counter ordering locations to avoid wasting time sitting for a long meal on the clock. I'm not suggesting to NOT make dining reservations and if the princess dinner or lunch in the castle is a must for you then by all means, do it...after all, you dictate the pace and priority of the day. It's your tour and you're paying a lot of good money for it.
CHARACTER GREETINGS: Nothing eats up more time if you have young ones wanting to meet, take pictures or get autographs with the Disney Characters . Thankfully, many of the more popular characters now offer a FP meet and greets or are present at "character" meals. The character meals are nice because you kill two birds with one stone. You feed yourselves and the characters come to you!!! No waiting in a random line that suddenly appears where the character is standing. On our recent DL trip, we had a private meeting with Mickey and Elsa and Anna. This was nice and did not feel rushed through. No other characters were accessible on the tour. Thankfully my kids are getting tired of the meet and greets and have started and never finished about a dozen autograph books. Parents know what I am talking about here. WDW seem to have better access to characters and bypassing lines than DL. If there is a certain character you must meet and don't want to wait in the endless line, ask the VIP cast member when you call to book the tour.
OTHER VIP TOUR PERKS: Even though WDW and DL now offer a Disney Photopass service which is where their photographers take the shots and then give you a card to view them later is convenient, you are at the mercy of where these photographers are located. Plus you don't own the pics and have to pay for them. For me, family photos and memories are priceless and the more , the better. Having a VIP guide allows me to actually be in the pics with my family rather than looking at years of photos where I only exist behind the lens and not in the picture!!! Your guides can also assist with having purchases you make in the park get stored at the exit to pick up or transported back to your hotel. Beats carrying them around all day. VIP Guides can not get you employee discounts on items and meals so don't ask.
CLUB 33: For those Disney Veterans and those who know about it, the highly coveted reservation or ability to eat at the exclusive private club 33 in DL is not accessible from the tour. Sorry, I tried too. I did not ask to see the Cinderella suite in WDW Cinderella castle or Walt's private apt in DL, or the Disney Dream Suite in DL so I can't say if the guide would have accommodated. I doubt it but it never hurts to ask.
TIPS FOR GUIDE: This topic continues to be a confusing one. When at WDW, our VIP guide said tips could not be accepted. This was NOT the case this Christmas trip to DL. Our guide was happy to accept one and in my opinion earned it. We had him for a full day tour for 2 days back to back. What is appropriate? Up to you, but I heard a one hr rate tip is good and a 2 hr rate tip is for an excellent experience. I went between and paid a 1 1/2 hr rate tip for our guide. Yes, this can be a $500 -$1000 tip but if you're fortunate enough to be booking the Premium VIP tour, just go with it and reward your guide..
At the end of the day, each person has to decide if this VERY EXPENSIVE VIP experience is worth it. We were able to ride everything we wanted to in DL and had reserved seats for all the shows and parades at Peak Christmas time. This would have never been possible without our VIP guide. A prime example of this is where we completed three of the big rides and were done in 25 mins. Total wait time otherwise would have totaled over 270 minutes without our guide.!!!! Is it worth it? You decide! Hope this was helpful and informative. Walt and his creations are timeless and truly amazing. Enjoy them how you wish and Thanks for reading.
Visited December 2015
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