Since I was a small child, I have been going to Disney World. Partaking in Disney magic meant rides, character greets, parades and much more. There was even a time when kids could just run up to some of the characters and give them hugs without the formalities of lines and character handlers. Rides didn’t have 50-minute waits and some of the stores on Main Street were actual specialty stores, not just endless Disney paraphernalia vendors.
I’ve watched as Disney World went from one park, Magic Kingdom, to four. I’ve witnessed lines get longer, character encounters become more formal, with each character having their own assigned handler in order to keep order and lines moving. Disney has computerized everything–from your entrance into the parks to scheduling meals and rides on an app. You can even unlock your hotel room from the same app. Disney now provides their visitors with Magic Wristbands. The wristbands are your tickets into the parks, open your hotel doors, and purchase your food and–of course–countless souvenirs.
Planning your Disney vacation has become a science. One hundred and eighty days out, you can begin to reserve your Disney dining on a Disney meal plan. Ninety days out, you can reserve your three allotted Disney fast passes for the day if you are staying in Disney properties on site. People have dedicated hours figuring out what parks are best to visit based on past crowd sizes. There are crowd calendars that map out which parks will be the least crowded on a given day and will be the best to visit for the ultimate experience.
Since starting a family in 2004, we’ve gone to Disney World every year and a half or so. Sometimes, it is the five of us and sometimes with extended family. Typically, we stay about 5 days. Each visit, we plan it to a tee. Dining plan with restaurant reservations, hotels on site (our favorite being The Disney Beach Club because we can walk to Epcot), and fast passes thoughtfully planned out.
When we decided to go again, we chose to try out the Disney VIP Tour Orlando. After spending a couple of days with using the Disney VIP Guide, I compiled a list of pros and cons to using the Disney VIP Tour Service.
What is the Disney VIP Experience: An Overview
The Disney VIP Tour is a Disney-enhancing park guide service that allows visitors to have the ultimate Disney day. A Disney tour guide is provided to you for an additional cost for the day, park tickets are not included in the price of the VIP experience. The guides dress in a recognizable plaid vest and blue pants. They are required to be with you for a minimum of seven hours and can accommodate up to ten people. The VIP guide will stay with you the entire time and will help you plan your ultimate Disney itinerary.
The VIP Tour allows you to ride all rides with only waiting in the Fast Pass Line. They also have designated viewing areas for most parades and evening shows. There are more specialized Disney VIP Tour Services you can chose from like an all thrill rides experience, classic rides experience, and Animal Kingdom at night four-hour tour. Park tickets are not included in the Disney VIP Tour.
6 Reasons Why To Use The Disney VIP Tour Services
1. Private Transportation
The Disney VIP Guide will pick you up at your leisure at your Disney hotel. They will transport in private cars to the park of your choice. You do not have to take the Disney public transportation, cutting down on wait times.
The VIP guides use their own parking entrance. Upon pulling into the parking lot, there are typically “cast members” waiting there with snacks and water for guests of the Disney VIP Tour Service. The one caveat is you cannot take pictures in the area, as it is the same entrance for the employees.
From the parking lot, guests of the Disney VIP Tour Service are escorted into the parks through a back entrance. You will avoid the long entrance lines and bag checks that most visitors must endure to get into the parks.
2. No Waiting In Line (Sort of)
The Disney VIP Tour Service will let you avoid the long Disney lines for the rides. However, you still have to wait in the Fast Pass lines. There are a few rides that you will get into the front of the Fast Pass lines, but most you still have to wait. The longest we had to wait was ten minutes. Disney has all of this information written on their website under the VIP Tour Service. So if you have heard that the guides get you into some secret back door, right to the front of the line, you have heard incorrectly. You will still have to wait for a short time.
3. Special Viewing Areas for Parades and Fireworks
If you are anything like me and love the Disney parades and fireworks, then you will be thrilled with the VIP Tour Service having designated viewing areas for the VIP guests. You get to sit in viewing areas that will allow you to have almost near perfect sight lines.
We wanted to see the Magic Kingdom Festival of Fantasy Parade while we were there. Our Disney VIP guide reserved a designated area for us to sit and watch it completely unobstructed. We were seated right at the area where the parade comes to an end. Our kids and myself got to sit right next to a roped off area as the floats came through before they trailed off out of sight. I’m short, and so I’m usually standing on my tiptoes trying to just catch a glimpse of the floats.
This time I had full view. I didn’t have to try to jump or peak around others. For once, I just got to enjoy the parade sitting still.
We also had a special designated spot for the Magic Kingdom fireworks show at Disney World. If you have been lately, you will know that this show is always packed and everyone stands to watch the event. Cinderella’s Castle is transformed into a magical display of Disney movies through projections and lasers while fireworks are set off throughout the show. It is a must see. Having a designated area, off to the right behind the circle by the castle is really helpful. However, like mentioned, everyone stands. So my view and kids view was obstructed a bit.
4. Insider Information
We all love finding out secret information about Disney. Did you know there are secret Mickeys all over the parks, rides and hotels, or that the employees move around the parks through underground passageways? The Disney VIP guides are a plethora of information and are willing to share some insider info with you. I found out such cool facts like:
- The walkway at Pandora at Animal Kingdom has specific little areas along the paths that light up. Also there are small lights in the trees made to look like lightning bugs.
- The flamingo island on the Safari Tour at Animal Kingdom is in the shape of Mickey. A hidden Mickey.
- Did you know McDonalds once sponsored the Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom? When you stand in line close to getting on the ride you will notice pipes that are red, white and yellow. They are colored for the most popular condiments at McDonalds, ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard.
- The Slinky Dog ride has posters all around the waiting areas and there is one with a price tag for $19.95 and 11 -22 on it. This is actually the date the first Toy Story movie came out
- At the end of the Slinky dog ride, there is a proof of purchase sign with the numbers 1011971, the same date Disney opened Magic Kingdom, 10/1/1971.
- Epcot stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. This was Walt Disney’s vision for a future community.
- In the Haunted Mansion, the woman ghost blowing at the candles at the dinner party is hovering over a large plate with two small plates placed above it for the ears. A hidden Mickey.
I loved finding out about all of these insider tips and would’ve spent the day asking and learning more, but knew I couldn’t take over the entire conversation all day long.
5. Flexible Start Times
If you have traveled to Disney World and have stayed on property, you know that there are Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours are when specific parks will open up an hour early or stay open and extra hour or two. This allows for those visitors who are paying to stay on site to take advantage of the additional time to hit the rides before other non-on site guests arrive.
When using the Disney VIP guide, there is no need to stress about using the Extra Magic Hours. You can always take advantage of staying later at night for those extra hours, but morning times are at your leisure. You can take advantage of that extra hour of sleep knowing full well that you will be picked up by private transport and will avoid the lines no matter what. This is great when the day before you spent 10-12 hours walking 10-12 miles through the Disney parks and you are all a bit tired. That additional hour of sleep is just what you will need to get your through the day at Disney.
6. Park-Hopping At Its Best
If you are going to use the Disney VIP guide, you better have a park-hopper ticket. A park-hopper ticket is a Disney ticket that allows you to visit any park at any time of the day while the parks are open.
Having the Disney VIP guide and a park-hopper ticket is a perfect combination. You don’t have to wait for Disney transportation to get you to the next park and you can hop on into the park through the VIP employee entrance. You have just shaved off about 30-40 minutes of commuting time. Now you have more time to hit up the rides.
5 Reasons Not to Use The Disney VIP Tour Service
We did appreciate having the Disney VIP Tour Service, however we felt that the entire experience felt a bit disingenuous. The entire Disney organic feeling disappeared and the experience felt a bit forced. I have put together a list of reasons why not to use the Disney VIP Tour Service.
1. You Miss Out On The Small Experiences
Part of Disney is experiencing the little things as a family. Like stumbling upon a show or discovering a small store in Epcot that serves free tastes of sodas from around that world. Maybe watching Pixar shorts movie or digging for Dinosaur bones in a Dinosaur graveyard. What about pulling the sword out of the stone in the Magic Kingdom or hiding in Pooh’s tree at the Winnie the Pooh ride? Sometimes Pooh and friends are even hanging around there. What about watching performances like Finding Nemo at Animal Kingdom or Little Mermaid at Hollywood Studios? Some of these experiences are lost out when traveling with Disney’s VIP Tour Experience because visitors become so focused on getting on the rides that they miss out on the other important details and experiences that makes Disney, Disney.
Had we not known about the sodas in Epcot, the rest of our group would’ve never learned about it with the Disney VIP guide. It’s part of my kids’ favorite thing to do in Epcot. They love to drink as much soda as possible and make themselves sick only to do it again later.
They also love spending time in the aquarium after the Nemo ride. My kids still love going over to Tom Sawyer Island in Magic Kingdom. They will spend almost an hour running around the Island exploring. We didn’t get to do this with the Disney VIP Guide, nor would we, as we knew we didn’t want to pay the guide to sit around while the kids ran around the Island. These moments can be lost with the Disney VIP Tour Service.
Miss Out On Special Family Bonding Moments
This may sound a bit crazy, but some of our favorite family memories and bonding moments have been made standing in lines. It is literally uninterrupted time spent together as a family unit. We have done it since the kids are young, watching them hang off the line barriers, create games together dance together, have conversations with us and with each other while in line. We have watched as their excitement builds in anticipation for getting on the ride, not knowing what to expect. As they get closer to getting on they can’t contain their excitement and start bouncing off the walls (we have some great pictures from that).
3.You Don’t Enter Through The Main Gate
I know I mentioned that one of the pros of having the Disney VIP guide was avoiding the crowds entering the main gates, but it’s also one of the cons. Although there are a lot of people waiting to get into the park, Disney knows how to move a crowd. Part of the excitement of entering a Disney park is entering through the main entrance. Getting the picture of your child or family as they are about to enter into the magic of Disney. There is an excitement of entering through the main Disney park gate.
4. The Disney VIP Experience Feels Very Manufactured
Using the Disney VIP guide takes away the organic feeling of Disney. You feel rushed to get to all the rides. There are no longer those random moments sometimes experienced at Disney. It’s as if being with the Disney VIP guide puts you on a mission to get to every ride as you only have so long with the guide. So you are no longer carefree with your day to create little moments, organic moments because you are so caught up in your allotted time with the guide and your mission with the guide.
So many times we have been to Disney, we have watched our kids run after the ducks that frequent the parks. They have spent countless hours chasing ducks with the intention to catch them. Even now that they are teens, they still try to catch the ducks. These organic special moments are lost with the guide because you need to get to the next ride as fast as possible.
5. Must Travel With a Group
The Disney VIP guide will only take up to 10 people. So if you are traveling with a larger group, you will have to hire more than one guide. The cost for one guide is extremely high so two guides is astronomical. In order to take advantage of the guides’ services you must all stick together as a group. This can be a disadvantage if the age range is diverse. Say you have a three year old and a thirteen year old together in the same group. This poses an issue, as the three year old cannot do a lot of the same rides the thirteen year old can do and the thirteen year old is not going to want to do a lot of the same rides as the three year old. Sadly, the three year old with end up sitting around a lot at some of the parks like Epcot or Hollywood Studios while the older child hits up the more intense rides.
Using the VIP Tour Service Again….
In short, no. Sometimes the smallest experiences are just as important as the big experiences. Yes, the rides are a big part of the fun at Disney World, but they are not what make up the entire Disney experience. The little moments are just as important and help create the memories. I really missed out on those little moments when we had the Disney VIP Tour Service and look forward to going back to having them again. I may not get on every ride or may have to wait in a 40-minute line, but that’s ok as it will be time and moments spent with my family.
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