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In general, waiting in line is not my cup of tea, which is why I highly value TSA PreCheck, CLEAR membership and Global Entry. When it was time to take my niece and nephews on a family trip to Disney World this summer, I decided to do whatever I could to minimize waiting in line and maximizing having fun.

Since we only had one full day together on the ground, we went all-in on a private Disney World VIP tour. To set the scene, my three nephews and one niece are all under 6 years old, and I wanted to squeeze in more than a few rides myself on a busy day when I hadn’t had the luxury of lots of advance theme-park planning and FastPass maximizing.

For us, this tour proved to be well worth the money. Here’s why I thought a Disney VIP guide is worth the investment, if you can swing it — and what to do if it’s a bit out of your budget.

Related: TPG Guide to Visiting Walt Disney World

Pick-up and arrival

I knew the day was off to a great start when our personal driver greeted us at our hotel, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is included in the cost of the VIP tour. Our driver was super friendly and helpful right off the bat with water at the ready for everyone inside the cool, air-conditioned van.

Once the seven of us all piled in (the price for a VIP tour guide is the same whether you have one person in your group or 10), we made our way to the Magic Kingdom. There, we entered through a secret entrance and got dropped off right in front of Main Street. Disney cast members welcomed us to the park with snacks and more water, which was perfect given the summer heat.

The park experience

Our first stop was Space Mountain, which had a two-hour wait, but we were able to get through the first time in six minutes and rode a second time within 20 minutes thanks to the unlimited FastPass+ access that comes with the tour guide. I almost felt guilty passing the same people twice, but that alone made the VIP tour well worth the splurge for us. In addition to jumping to the front of lines, our guide was also super attentive and helpful with the kids by pushing the stroller and even offering to watch them so the adults could have some fun on the rides.

Our guide, Clark, was excellent — he wasn’t just our personal FastPass for the day, but he was also a walking Disney encyclopedia and fascinating to talk to about the park.

In the seven hours we were there (the minimum length of time required to hire a Disney VIP tour guide), we were able to ride 11 rides, have dinner and finish up the day with a fireworks show at Cinderella’s Castle.

The fireworks were the perfect end to both our day and the whole VIP experience, as we were able to enjoy them in a private, crowd-less spot in the VIP area with a great view.

When it finally came time to head home, we were able to get out of the park with ease, even as a mass of people were heading out after the fireworks. Instead of heading toward the bottleneck at the main exit, we were ushered through a private gate with no foot traffic. All-in-all, it took us about 20 minutes to get from Magic Kingdom back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge on the other side of the Disney World property (which is about the size of San Francisco). It felt very efficient.

Pricing and booking a private Disney VIP tour

If you want to book a Disney VIP tour, you’ll have to do it over the phone by calling (407) 560-4033. All tours are booked for a minimum of seven hours and maximum of 14 hours. As for the price — it’s a lot. The private tours start at $425 an hour, but exact pricing depends on the season. For example, I paid $525 an hour for my late-June weekend trip. Each tour can accommodate up to 10 guests (infants included) at no additional charge, but if you want to add more people, you’ll need to book another guide at the hourly rate. The tour also doesn’t include park admission, so you also have to purchase those tickets separately. If you plan to visit multiple parks with your tour guide (which is allowed), you will need Park Hopper tickets. (Here are the best ways to use points for Disney tickets.)

For your $425 per hour (or more), you receive:

  • A very knowledgable personal guide for a group of 10
  • Door-to-door private Disney transportation from beginning to end in an air-conditioned van
  • Unlimited FastPass+ access
  • Complimentary snacks and water
  • VIP tour of Disney with access to otherwise private areas
  • Preferred viewing area for fireworks and parades

Since purchases from Disney can code as travel, entertainment or something else entirely, I used my Chase Freedom Unlimited that gives 1.5% cash back (or 1.5x points) on everything to be on the safe side. New Freedom Unlimited cardholders can actually do better than that since they get 3% cash back (or 3x points) on everything in the first year (up to on $20,000 in charges). In the end, I earned 5,374 points on the charge, which when moved to my Chase Sapphire Reserve, are worth about $107 in travel by TPG valuations.

While this won’t help you on VIP tours specifically, Disney Resorts can often be found on Hotels.com/Venture, which means you can earn 10 miles per dollar booking that way with your Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. Alternatively, you can use the points from that card to offset the cost of your Disney hotel or a Disney hotel and ticket package at a value of 1 cent per point.

Overall, this splurge cost me $3,565, which is by no means cheap — but the number of things we were able to do, the lack of stress and the reality that this was done last-minute and without a bunch of advance planning with such a large group made it well worth it for us.

Related: Best Credit Cards for Theme Parks

Express service without a VIP tour

Even if a private VIP tour isn’t on the radar for your next trip, there are ways to replicate some elements of the tour at a much lower price. First, if you can handle the early morning wake-up call, consider Extra Magic Mornings, which can speed you on select rides in the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios for about $79 per person.

Toy Story Land during Early Morning Magic (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Toy Story Land during Early Morning Magic (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Disney also offers group VIP tours with behind-the-scenes access, knowledgable guides and walk-on rides from a couple hundred dollars per person.

Finally, Disney World lets all guests pre-reserve three FastPass+ attractions per day (30 or 60 days out, depending on if you are staying at a Disney resort) for no additional fee. With advance planning, you can have a very short wait for a few key attractions, and then continue getting additional FastPass+ attractions throughout the day using the Disney app after you use your original three. If you have the budget for Club Level access at at Disney Resort, you can purchase three extra FastPass+ reservations at a cost of $50 per person, per day on stays of three nights or longer. You can book these FastPass+ rides 90 days in advance, so they are extremely useful in getting quick access to popular rides.

Bottom line

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the door-to-door service from beginning to end. Our Disney guide was extremely attentive and super helpful, which added to the experience. Given that theme parks have a reputation for long lines that can wear you down a bit (especially with young kids along), I found the VIP tour to be well worth the money. Even though our family time was brief that weekend, we were able to maximize the time and fun we had together.

Read on for more tips for planning an Orlando theme park vacation:

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