The ultimate guide to planning an exclusive, luxury Disney World vacation, when price is no obstacle

February 28, 2013, 2:40 PM · Planning a vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort? Sure, you can find plenty of articles offering advice to families on a budget. But you're not looking to skimp on your holiday get-away. What about planning an ultra-luxury trip to the world's top vacation resort, instead?

For the "one percent" of family vacationers, we offer our Insider's guide to the best of Walt Disney World's most exclusive vacation options.

Start planning your get-away with a call to Walt Disney World's VIP Tour Services at +1-407-560-4033. Disney's VIP Tour guides will pick you up at your hotel and escort your family through Disney's four theme parks. On a VIP Tour, you'll skip the lines at most attractions and enjoy priority seating at your choice of Disney's top restaurants. Why wait for a space on one of the Disney parade routes, when a VIP host can reserve a private viewing for you?

Reserved parade viewing

VIP Tours start at $275 per hour, with a six-hour minimum, in addition to your park tickets. Of course, while Disney's VIP hosts can provide expert insight about the resort, you didn't get to where you are in life without doing some research on important issues. And what's more important than enjoying a wonderful experience with your family? So let's explore some of the other exclusive options you also might consider during your Walt Disney World vacation.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Let's start with where to stay. For the best experience during your vacation, consider a club level room with a theme park view at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (starting at $942 a night) or a Savanna view club-level room or suite at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (starting $473 a night for rooms and $912 for suites). From the Grand Floridian, you're just a monorail ride away from Disney's Magic Kingdom theme park, which you'll be able to see from your room's window. At the Animal Kingdom Lodge, you'll watch the wild residents of Disney's Animal Kingdom from the privacy of your own room. Both hotels offer top-quality dining and award-winning customer service in addition to the resort's best views.

Speaking of dining, you won't want to leave Disney without experiencing the most exclusive dinner available at the resort: The Chef's Table at Victoria & Albert's in the Grand Floridian, rated as one of only three five-diamond restaurants in Florida by AAA. Only one party per evening is seated for this three-hour, 10-course dining adventure, with prices starting at $210 per person, with wine pairings available for an addition $105 per guest.

Inside the parks, don't miss the new Monsieur Paul, at Epcot's France pavilion. Under the guidance of legendary French chef Paul Bocuse, this gourmet restaurant serving classic French cuisine recently replaced Bistro de Paris, a three-time winner of the Theme Park Insider Award as the world's best theme park restaurant. Entrees start at $38.

For a spectacular end to a day visiting Disney's theme parks, head to Disney's Contemporary Resort for a late dinner at the California Grill, where you can watch the Magic Kingdom's fireworks for the dining room atop the Contemporary. The California Grill's currently undergoing a transformation with a fresh new interior design and menu from Chef Brian Piasecki, featuring the latest in California-inspired cuisine. The restaurant will reopen in September.

In the mood for a luau? Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian Resort (located one monorail stop from the Grand Floridian) offers an all-you-can-eat tropical feast, along with the spectacle of hula and fire-knife dancers. The best seats range from $70-74 per person for adults and $36-40 for children.

If you have a young daughter, treat her to an afternoon at the My Disney Girl's Perfectly Princess Tea Party at the Garden View Tea Room in the Grand Floridian.

Perfectly Princess Tea Party

You'll enjoy a delightful tea service while a Disney princess visit your table. Young guests each take home an 18-inch My Disney Girl doll dressed in a Princess Aurora gown as a memento of their special afternoon. ($176 for children ages 3-11 and $90 per person for adults)

While a VIP Tour is the best way to see Disney World's four theme parks, Disney also offers behind-the-scenes experiences you won't want to miss. Get a closer look at the residents of Disney's Animal Kingdom with the Wild Africa Trek, a three-hour safari adventure through the park's Safi River Valley. You'll closer looks at hippos, crocodiles, giraffe and rhinos than regular park visitors, while Disney photographers capture the highlights of your tour. The $189-249 price (depending upon season) also includes gourmet snacks, such as smoked salmon, brie, tandoori shrimp or chicken curry salad, as well as a complimentary gift at the end of your adventure.

Want to explore the seas instead? Sign up for Disney's Epcot DiveQuest, a 40-minute dive into one of the world's largest aquariums, Epcot's The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion. You'll swim with more than 6,000 sea creatures, including sea turtles, dolphins… and sharks! If you're not SCUBA-certified (a requirement for the DiveQuest tour), don't worry. Choose the Epcot Seas Aqua Tour instead, a 30-minute snorkeling adventure in the aquarium. The total DiveQuest experience lasts about three hours and costs $175 per person, while the Aqua Tour lasts about two and a half hours total and costs $140 per person. (The rest of your tour time will include a private backstage tour of the pavilion.)

You can get even more of an insider's look at Disney's theme parks with the seven-hour Backstage Magic Tour, which will take you behind the scenes of all four Disney World theme parks, including a look inside the Magic Kingdom's "secret" tunnel system that runs underneath the park. You'll also learn how Disney creates the live and animatronic shows that have made Disney's theme parks the world's most popular attractions. ($229 per person)

The Walt Disney World Resort offers more than theme parks, too. You can challenge yourself with a round of golf on a PGA Tour course at Disney's Osprey Ridge, or take some high-speed laps in a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche on a former IndyCar track with Disney's Exotic Driving Experience. Or just have some fun with the family while water-skiing, wakeboarding or parasailing on Disney's Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon at Sammy Duvall's Watersports Centre. Finally, if you're looking to unwind after all that excitement, treat yourself to an afternoon at the Mandara Spa at the Dolphin Hotel, or anyone of the other world-class spas located in hotels throughout the resort.


Replies (11)

February 28, 2013 at 2:59 PM · I had sticker shock by the end of the second paragraph. By the time I finished reading this I wound up in a sticker coma. :P
February 28, 2013 at 3:56 PM · I'm surprised that the Luau dinner show doesn't have a special VIP seating area. When I went to Hawaii, many Luau's offer special VIP seating that can sometimes cost $40 more for close-up seating, a picture, food, and drinks. Also, I am sure you can look up more expensive specials. I didn't see much in this report.
February 28, 2013 at 4:19 PM · How do I arrange to win the lottery? ;-)
February 28, 2013 at 11:08 PM · So, Robert, what was the grand total cost of such a vacation? Say a 7 night trip for a family like yours.
March 1, 2013 at 12:10 AM · Rough, back-of-the-envelope figuring, for a week in the Grand Floridian theme park view room, seven-day park tickets for four with the park-hopper option, the VIP tour guide for four of those days, with the Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Backstage Tours on the other days, plus top-of-the-line meals, some spa treatments and a few sports extras -- I figure between $20,000 and $25,000 total for the week. And that's not including airfare or any significant shopping.
March 1, 2013 at 4:57 AM · For a much, much, much, much less expensive room with a view, my family always gets a 3rd floor Polynesian room with an MK view. It's beautiful to watch the fireworks on a balcony literally 10 steps from your bed. The view is mostly uninterrupted, and it goes right down the center of the Magic Kingdom, meaning that you can see a few of the taller rides as well (I actually took a picture from my hotel room showing a log on the top of Splash Mountain. You can actually see the log.) The room costs about half of the view ones in the AK lodge.
March 1, 2013 at 6:58 AM · When my wife and I visit WDW we always visit Victoria and Albert's. Its a pricey evening for most but you do get what you pay for and it is worth every nickel. It's less of a restaurant and more of a supper club. A great experience and well worth what they charge.

Speaking of club level hotel stays. Try the Boardwalk Inn Resort Club Level. You get basically the same amenities as at the Grand Floridian at a less insane price. Plus, its within walking distance to EPCOT, a much better choice of locations for adults with no children.

March 1, 2013 at 9:35 AM ·
By the way - Nice legs Robert..
March 1, 2013 at 10:01 AM · Here's the thing: Most visitors are going to enjoy something in between the ultra-cheap vacation and the ultra-luxe one. Pick elements from each -- what you're willing to splurg for and what's left you can afford. Then go enjoy what you've put together!

Some people stay in cheap motels on 192 so they can afford a dinner at Victoria & Albert's. Others eat counter service in the parks and skip all extras so they can afford a really great on-site hotel room with a view. (And a few people can afford to do it all and experience a vacation like I described anove.) You've got a wide range of options at Disney. It's your call on how to use them.

March 1, 2013 at 10:30 AM · We certainly couldn't afford the vacation Robert describes but we did build in one or two 'treats' to our stay, including the Wild Africa Trek he mentions. I can't speak highly enough of this. For $180 each (I think) we got the best three hours or our two week vacation and a set of amazing photos to remind us of it all. We also used our (free) dining plan wisely to trade up to several meals at signature restaurants, (not quite Victoria and Alberts but still pretty darn nice). We didn't skimp but ended up paying the equivalent of what we would have spent in an 'ordinary' restaurant somewhere but instead got several fantastic dinners in Jiko, Narcoosees, Citricos and, best of all, Artist Point. Vacations are supposed to be about memories and we have plenty thanks to Wild Africa Trek and the dining plan....
March 4, 2013 at 9:33 AM · The Fireworks cruises are an awesome splurge, too.

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