Private transportation, backstage parking and skipped lines: What it’s really like on a Disney VIP tour
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As once smirked by “The Lion King’s” villainous lion, Scar, “Life’s not fair, is it?”
You see, even though all are welcome in the happy place that Walt built, not everyone waits in the same lines to ride Dumbo or Space Mountain. In fact, some barely wait in lines at all.
There’s a way to experience Disney World without a hot trek through the parking lots or long waits for rides, but with perfect fireworks-viewing areas reserved just for you and with almost zero advance planning required. And on top of that, there’s a way to get all-day access to a Disney expert with pockets full of pixie dust and keys to backstage shortcuts, who can guide you and troubleshoot any problems that arise.
This magic isn’t a fictional fairytale or reserved for A-list stars. All of this (and more) is available to anyone willing to pay for the very real Disney VIP tour guides.
This small army of top-tier magic-makers is employed by Disney and can be spotted around the parks in their signature plaid vests whisking small groups of very fortunate guests into back entrances and to the front of the lines.
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After waiting several hours to straddle a banshee and ride Avatar Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom, you may be desperate to know how you can have one of these Disney “magicians” whisk your group out of the sun and into the fun.
While I’ve done the three-hour wait to ride a banshee myself, I’ve also now experienced the magic of not waiting. Here’s how the Disney VIP tours work and exactly how much magic you can actually squeeze out of the day when you say goodbye to the long waits.
What’s a Disney VIP tour?
A private Disney VIP tour is kind of like having your own assigned Mouseketeer and personal set of keys to the kingdom.
While I’m sure they could give you a more traditional tour of Disney World if that’s what you wanted, it’s really not exactly a tour.
When you are on a Disney VIP tour, you’ve got your own official Disney guide who can plan your day, serve as your own unlimited human FastPass, drive you to and from your Disney resort and from park to park with cool and efficient backstage parking. Most people who buy a Disney VIP tour do it to skip the bulk of the lines and experience as much of the parks as possible in a short amount of time. This is why TPG’s founder Brian Kelly purchased the VIP tour with his nieces and nephews for a one-day visit to Disney World.
But it’s not just the quicker ride access that is special. Even before you know you need it, the guides can also make bottles of water, rain ponchos and Mickey bars seemingly appear out of thin air.
These tours must be booked for a minimum of seven hours and you can have up to 10 people on the tour for the same hourly rate. Just don’t have an 11th person because then you need a second guide and your cost doubles.
Related: What it costs to visit Disney World
What we did on our Disney VIP tour
We gathered up exactly 10 Disney-loving friends and family members and booked a seven-hour VIP tour.
In the end, we went a bit over those initially planned seven hours as we had a few more things we wanted to do when the original time limit expired. In total, our tour was about eight and a half hours from start to finish.
We lost about 15 minutes on the front end when we couldn’t find our youngest daughter’s MagicBand as we were walking out the door and then had some forms to sign when we met up with the tour guide. In hindsight, we should have skipped looking for the band and done the forms in advance. We also lost some time for lunch — more on that below.
Counting transportation to and from our resort and the transfer between the two parks, we spent probably a little over an hour in transit. That means we had a bit under seven hours of true park experience to work with that translated into 16 attractions.
Here’s how the time on our Disney VIP tour played out.
- 10 a.m. Official start time.
- 10:19 a.m. Depart Disney’s Wilderness Lodge for the Magic Kingdom.
- 10:26 a.m. Clear security through side-gate entrance with no line and park in a backlot to the side of Main Street, U.S.A.
- 10:29 a.m. Officially walk into the Magic Kingdom.
- 10:33 a.m. Watch a cavalcade (aka a mini-parade) as it passed by the castle.
- 10:40 a.m. Try to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, but it was down and would stay down much of the day.
- 10:49 a.m. Ride No. 1 — Magic Carpets of Aladdin.
- 10:56 a.m. VIP guide got waters for everyone and “pixie dusted” my youngest with Dole Whip since her favorite ride, Pirates, didn’t work out.
- 11:09 a.m. Ride No. 2 — Splash Mountain.
- 11:35 a.m. Ride No. 3 — Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
- 11:55 a.m. Ride No. 4 — Haunted Mansion.
- 12:19 p.m. Ride No. 5 — Peter Pan’s Flight.
- 12:26 p.m. Bathroom break and hunt for hidden Pascals near the “Tangled”-themed bathrooms at the request of my daughters.
- 12:49 p.m. Ride No. 6 — The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
- 1:03 p.m. Ride No. 7 — Mad Tea Party.
- 1:21 p.m. Ride No. 8 — Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
- 1:42 p.m. Ride No. 9 — Space Mountain.
I ordered lunch in the Disney app by 1:10 p.m. but it wasn’t actually ready until about 1:50 p.m. We weren’t all done eating until about 2:10 pm., so while some in the group kept riding rides during that time, it also was a pretty inefficient part of the day for those who were scouting for tables and waiting for food. Waiting 40 minutes for chicken fingers and fries and fighting for a table isn’t a great use of time when you are paying for a guide by the hour.
- 2:17 p.m. Depart for Hollywood Studios.
- 2:39 p.m. Arrive at Hollywood Studios and park in backstage parking near Tower of Terror.
- 2:56 p.m. Ride No. 10 — The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
- 3:11 p.m. Ride No. 11 — Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
- 3:57 p.m. Ride No. 12 — Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
- 4:21 p.m. Ride No. 13 — Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
- 5:02 p.m. Ride No. 14 — Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
- 5:28 p.m. Ride No. 15 — Slinky Dog Dash.
- 5:44 p.m. Ride No. 16 — Toy Story Mania!
- 6:24 p.m. Arrive back at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
As you can tell by some of the time gaps between rides, you don’t always have a zero-minute wait to ride. Some rides, such as Runaway Railway and Rise of the Resistance, still had a bit of waiting involved.
At other times, such as with Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Aladdin and more, you essentially got to walk right up to the start of the ride.
It’s worth a mention that we didn’t need to compete with thousands of other guests at 7 a.m. for a Rise of the Resistance boarding pass, as one ride without a pass is included with the tour.
The VIP tour is really at a huge advantage right now as waits for most rides on this day were over an hour. And since FastPass has not yet returned to Disney World, there weren’t many others in the FastPass line.
The guide, Annie, and I chatted about what we would do next and adjusted plans on the fly.
As the afternoon Florida rain came and some attractions were temporarily unavailable, we’d adjust plans again. When she’d pose a ride that we didn’t want to do (like “It’s a small world”), it was no big deal and we kept on going to the next thing. She was available to go on rides with us (which was really fun as she knew some awesome “secrets”) and she was also available to skip the ride and do other things while we rode, such as order water or hold a bag.
While we did our tour during the day, the tour guide can let you access special, reserved VIP viewing of fireworks if you do it in the evening. And while we only went to two parks in one day, you can go to all four if you want. It’s essentially your time to use however you please.
What does a Disney VIP tour cost?
Here’s the bad news. A Disney VIP tour costs $425 to $750 per hour, depending on the season. And that’s on top of your park admission tickets, which aren’t included withe the tour.
There’s no way to know exactly what your tour will cost without calling 407-560-4033 or working with a Disney vacation planner as we did. You can only book the tours 60 days in advance and they do sell out, so plan ahead. Remember, you need to book at least seven hours, so the minimum price for a Disney VIP tour will be $2,975 for up to 10 people. You can do a tour for up to 10 hours, so while the minimum price is $2,975, a 10-hour tour in super peak season could set you back a staggering $7,500.
On our July date, the tour was $550 per hour and we spent a total of $3,850 on the initially planned seven hours. (And sadly, this did not code as a travel charge, so use the credit card that awards you the most on everyday spending — I went with my Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to earn 2 miles per dollar on the charge.)
With our added time, the grand total came to $4,675 before the tip. That’s $467.50 per person on our tour, if you want to think of it that way. (In terms of the tip, while it is at your discretion, this is a Disney position that can accept cash tip. It’s common to go with 15 – 20% of the amount of your tour or tip the equivalent of one hour.)
While not all 10 people did every single ride, I’m going to assume they did here for simpler math since they all had the opportunity.
At $467.50 per person, given that we did 16 rides, that’s kind of like spending $29.21 per “FastPass” access. That’s not exactly a fair way to look at it as there were plenty of other perks to the tour including the door-to-door transportation, awesome insider knowledge from the guide herself, etc., but it’s a decent starting point.
Additionally, throughout the tour, our group was given about 25 bottles of water ($3.50 each), 10 Mickey bars ($5.50 each), 10 rain ponchos ($12 each), one stroller rental ($15) and a cup of Dole Whip ($5). We were also each given a special Disney VIP tour pin which you technically can’t buy, but we’ll put the price at about $12, which is in line with the cost of other Disney pins.
The retail price for buying those goodies on your own at Disney is around $402.50, or $40.25 per person. If you factor that out of the total cost, the cost for quick access drops a little from $29.21 to $26.70 per person per ride.
Obviously, if you didn’t stop for lunch, started right on time and moved at a quicker pace than our group, then you probably could have a higher ride total. You could even start right in the park if you don’t want transportation and squeeze in more rides that way, too.
But our goal wasn’t to rack up ride totals for the sake of impressive math, it was to enjoy the heck out of the rides we love the most with the friends and family we’ve missed too much over the last year and a half. And while you could argue using time getting picked up and dropped off at our resort was a waste, with 10 people ranging from 6 to 70 years of age, it sure didn’t feel that way.
There’s absolutely no way we would have done those 16 rides in eight and a half hours on our own. Given what crowds and wait times were like at Disney during our trip, it’s unlikely we would have done half that number on our own. Even if we had, it wouldn’t have been predominately the headlining rides.
It’s not necessary to spend a small fortune on a VIP tour to have a great time at Walt Disney World.
I’ve successfully been to the park dozens of times and never before had a Disney VIP tour guide at the ready. Timing your visit during the less busy days, being at the park when it opens (which is before it says it opens), doing rides during fireworks and close to closing time are also great ways to pack more attractions into your day without spending more money.
However, right now with the high crowd levels and no other FastPass options, if there was ever a time to rally a group of friends and go for it on a planned upcoming trip, there’s no doubt the VIP treatment dramatically increased the enjoyment factor for our group.
Featured photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.
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