It’s not just about skipping lines. I had so many questions about having a VIP tour guide at Disney World like how private tour companies differed from the official Disney tours and when the services are worth it.
Here’s my best effort at answering questions regarding Disney VIP tour guides you may be considering for your Disney World vacation, which is definitely the indulgent and desirable “Enchanted Extra” in Disney speak, or “Expensive Extra” in my husband’s speak.
THE NEW CLUB LEVEL FAST PASSES
In 2018, Disney World is now offering club level fast passes for those who stay three nights or longer with 3-day or longer tickets. Club level guests of the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Beach & Yacht Club, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boardwalk Inn, Wilderness Lodge, and Contemporary are eligible for this new VIP Fast Pass offer. Also guests of the luxury DVC units like the Polynesian Bungalows, the Copper Creek Canyon Cabins, too.
These guests can book 3 extra Fast Passes that work for any park at the 90-day window and can be at different parks. This means that in addition to the traditional 3 Fast Passes available to all, these extra VIP Fast Passes can confirm you can book the new hot rides like Pandora or Toy Story Land in the summer of 2018. The cost is $50 per person per day, and parties are required to book these a minimum of three days, so a family of four will pay an additional $600 for this service, plus the additional cost associated with booking club level rooms.
Different Types of Disney World VIP Tours
There are both private companies like the one I recently used, My VIP Tour, and Disney World’s own tours, the most exclusive is the Private Premium VIP Tours or their lower cost group tours called Ultimate Day tours.
Comparing apples to apples, Disney World Private Premium VIP Tours cost significantly more than the non-Disney VIP tour companies. Most VIP tour companies that are not operated by Disney were founded by either a former Disney employee or trained by former Disney employees.
If you don’t use My VIP Tour, which I recommend without hesitation, stick with a private tour company that has been around a few years and check their Trip Advisor reviews. Be wary of any tour company that seems too good of a deal. Make sure that their customer service experience is responsive.
What are the prices of Disney VIP Tours? Minimum times? Maximum party size?
All Disney VIP tours are designed for parties of no more than 10 people. Both Disney and the non-Disney companies will require a second guide for parties larger than 10, and infants are included in that headcount.
The official Disney World Private Premium VIP Tours vary from $400-$600 per hour with a seven-hour minimum, bringing the total cost between $2,800 to $4,200 for the experience, before gratuities.
Non-Disney companies run from $150 to $200 per hour, typically with a six-hour minimum, bringing the total from $900 to $1,200. The cost per hour for all companies varies due to the demand of the season.
Tips for all guides should start at least $100 per day. The holiday week of Christmas and New Year’s Day is the busiest time of year when the VIP services are most useful and in demand. Book early.
Disney Ultimate VIP Tours
There are a few variations on the Ultimate VIP Tour that follow a set itinerary around a theme. One is designed for families with young children (Ultimate Day for Young Families VIP Tour). Another focuses on thrill rides (Ultimate Day of Thrills VIP Tour).
These tours have a per person cost between $249 and $299 and are group tours capped at 40 people, led by four tour guides on a set schedule. They currently run on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays only.
The goal of the Ultimate Disney classic VIP tour is to maximize rides in a day curated around the specific age group. Lunch is included, though transportation to the parks is not, nor are Park Hopper tickets.
Everyone follows the same itinerary for the tour that covers multiple parks. Families have the option of not riding a ride and waiting for the rest of the group, but it is not a tour with flexibility where families can substitute rides for others during the tour.
Ultimate Day Tours are not available during the peak season of the holidays from approximately December 23rd through January 2nd.
Ultimate Nights of Adventure VIP Tour
The newest tour, the Ultimate Nights of Adventure VIP Tour, focuses on Animal Kingdom’s newest rides. They experience both Pandora rides, a Kilimanjaro safari, and priority seating at Rivers of Light.
These tours run every day but Tuesday and Friday and last about 4 hours. Guests must be at least 44 inches tall, as that is the height restriction on many of the rides included like Expedition Everest.
When are group Disney tours best?
Who should book these tours? I think this is the best for parties of two or three people who have one day at the parks during a short weekend stay.
If I were planning an all-out weekend for a family of three, I would stay on site, likely at the Epcot resort area so that I could easily access Epcot for dinner with booked Fast Passes for Soarin’ at the end of the day since it is the one park not included in either tour.
Although these Ultimate Day tours are a less expensive option for small groups, families of four or more should hire a private company that tailors to their needs and schedules and take advantage of additional concierge service that can really make the experience feel luxurious.
What exactly do Disney VIP guides do?
This is where the experience differs between the official Disney VIP Tours and the non-Disney companies. Disney’s Private Premium VIP Disney Tours only offers park advice during your tour.
On the other hand, the non-Disney companies like My VIP Tour offer more planning services upfront in terms of helping manage the whole vacation. They can advise on accommodations, length of trip, best meal options, and create a park-touring plan based on their planning conversations with you. They’re ready to arrange airport transportation or even private jet service to Orlando if needed.
Think of them as a full-service concierge for an Orlando vacation. And they also take clients to all the theme parks like Universal for continuity if you hire them for multiple days.
Both a Disney Expert and a Luxury Travel Expert
What I loved about using My VIP Tour was that I was able to have honest, objective discussions about area hotels and restaurants that I knew weren’t weighted towards the Disney’s properties.
I have found some disappointments trying to see which Disney restaurants offered the best food worth their price tag. I could tell when talking to the owner, Katie, that I was talking to another discriminating foodie who could steer me right.
Katie launched Orlando Foodie Tours to showcase the amazing boom of farm-to-table restaurants in the Orlando area. It’s an incredible way to try three of the Orlando’s best restaurants in one night on vacation while you are chauffeured from place to place with a guide. I reviewed that experience and my favorite Orlando restaurants this spring.
Katie is used to working with a very discriminating clientele who eat well at home and on their travels. She is a fellow luxury traveler, too, in addition to being a Disney expert, so her expertise was exactly what I was looking for. She and her team reminded me of a crew of real life Disney Princesses with the street smarts to win Amazing Race.
Before our Disney VIP Tour
I received a call from our assigned guide, Cori, a few days before our park visit to go over what we wanted to see. We arranged a plan where she picked us up from the Four Seasons Orlando, and we were off. She chauffeured us to the park after introducing herself to our children with small little souvenirs. My son started out shy, but by the second ride, he kept standing up in his stroller to turn around and talk to her.
Cori used her detailed knowledge of the rides, their duration, their wait time patterns, and their locations to maximize our time so that we saw as much as possible. She asked what we had never done and weighed in one rides we should try at least once.
During the Disney VIP Tour
In addition to a park plan, there are several concierge-type experiences that Cori offered. At each ride, she parked our strollers and waited for us with our stroller at the exit. She would go get waters, popcorn, or iced tea while we were on a ride and had them waiting for us.
Cori took pictures of us with her phone, and she extracted my camera from around my neck a few times so that we now have proof that I was actually at Disney World with my family, a wonderful perk for me that lasts long after the tour.
Towards the lunch hour, she took our orders, set us on rides, and then we met her at the Columbia Harbor House where she waited for us with our plates of salmon and broccoli at the table. My husband thought this service was worth its weight in gold.
I think all of these services would be standard with any guide from My VIP Tour, but there were additional perks that came specific to Cori’s personality.
She had a way with kids, and my son, who is four, felt comfortable with her quickly. After my daughter, husband, and I rode the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, (because my son had no problem waiting with Cori while we rode the coaster) my daughter asked to ride again and Cori took her by the hand, and off they went.
I was waiting for them to come down the hill where I could photograph them, and a few minutes later, I see Cori with my daughter in the very front row with her arms up in the air.
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It was such a bonus to have someone who loves doing this. I don’t know the specifics, but I am guessing that private guides are paid better than the Disney guides and simply try harder.
The perks of a true Disney World expert
They were, of course, many moments where Cori’s park knowledge surpassed my own, and I loved it. On the Buzz Lightyear ride, my son’s favorite, I typically sit with my daughter, and we’re playfully competitive as we shoot lasers at Zurg’s various targets.
Cori sat with me and showed me where to shoot my laser gun. By the time we had gone through the first room she had already maxed out the score pad that read 999,999. Sit on the left side. Now I know.
She knew right where to stand in the Haunted Mansion so that we were next to the mystery door that opens. Lots of little insider tricks of hers made the rides more fun.
After we finished our day with Cori of My VIP Tour, we pulled into the Four Seasons Orlando, my daughter gave her a big hug, and I was so grateful to experience Magic Kingdom in a way that felt like a real vacation for me.
I asked Katie what most of her clients look for when hiring them, and she said, “Most parents hire us to help them reduce wait time and keep the parks easy on their kids. But they always finish the day saying they didn’t realize how much better the day pleased them, too. To experience the parks in a fun, relaxing way is what every family deserves on vacation.” That sounds about right.
What if you already know the Disney parks really well?
I can only share my own experience here. From my past Disney visits, I know enough about the crowds and Fast Pass system to avoid lines when we visit Magic Kingdom. But I know far less than many who know the parks inside and out, so I rely on my logistical planning skills.
I still found Disney VIP Tours different because I was able to remove my hat as the family cruise director and enjoy the day as a guest instead of the guide. I smiled a lot more. Having someone with us so that I could truly check out and not be in charge as the family cruise director was a wonderful break.
Another benefit is how the dynamics shift when a neutral party is involved and in charge. If you are traveling in a group where more than one person would have wanted to take charge or no one would have stepped up, a tour guide is a wonderful addition to the equation to make everyone happy, especially for multi-generational trips where there are many family members used to calling the shots.
When to splurge for Disney’s Premium Private VIP tours for ultimate backstage access
With the Premium Private VIP tours, you are paying for their VIP Fast Pass for any ride that offers Fast Pass reservations.
I have had access to every Fast Pass, and I won’t lie, it was cool. But I think its value is best when people want to ride rides repeatedly. Another time it is worth it is for new rides that are difficult to secure like the Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom’s Pandora.
Younger children’s energy will put a ceiling on the special access you have paid for, and some attractions offer no Fast Passes, so you are still going to wait in line for things, even with a VIP escort and the magic Fast Pass they offer.
I would splurge for the official Disney tour guides during the holiday week where the VIP Fast Pass is worth every penny.
Which parks and attractions work best with Disney VIP guides?
Magic Kingdom’s number of rides puts it in its own league compared to the other Disney World parks. It has more Fast Pass experiences than any other park, and the layout is vast and can be overwhelming for newbies. The timing of all the attractions and crowd formations is not easy to learn if you’ve only been a few times.
If a family were planning on spending a day at each park, I would hire a VIP guide for a day at Magic Kingdom and visit the remaining parks on our own. If a family were planning to visit more than one park each day, I would also hire a VIP guide to maximize park-hopping. There’s an art to it.
I think a lot of has to do with the age of the children. If you have young children who will have limits to how much they can do, stick with the first plan, but if you have tweens and teenagers, and you are up for a more fast, furious, and compressed park experience, consider a park-hopping day with a VIP tour guide.
Cori had toured a family the day before our own tour where she broke her Fit Bit record of steps. There’s a reason she wears workout clothes. If you park hop, you should, too!
So should you book Disney VIP Tours? And which ones should you book?
If I were traveling during the Christmas peak time with people who hadn’t been to the parks before, I would ABSOLUTELY book a private tour for Magic Kingdom. Crowds run highest at this time of year; I wouldn’t want to invest so much in a vacation without it.
If I were organizing a multi-generational trip to Disney World, I would also use the services of a VIP tour to assign the leadership to a knowledgeable nonmember of the family to keep everyone happy on a vacation that the grandparents or parents spent a pretty penny on for the grandkids.
I would also book a tour if I dreaded the idea of going to Disney World and wanted the “One and done” approach so I could check it off the list for my kids. Warning: I thought I was going to be one of those people, but several thousand dollars later, Disney has the last laugh.
How do I make the tours more affordable?
Most people who book Disney VIP Tours have an understanding that Disney vacations cost a great deal. It is not a good option for penny pinchers. Hotels may be the best place for wiggle room to spread out your Disney vacation budget.
There are families who will only stay at the Four Seasons or a deluxe monorail resort, but switching to offsite accommodations, for even a few days, can save hundreds of dollars and help find the money to cover the cost of a tour.
Read our guide to staying at offsite Disney World resorts for luxury travelers or those who seek value and luxury.
Besides, when we stay at the Four Seasons, (check rates), or Waldorf Astoria, (check rates), we don’t even want to leave property. We always stay on Disney property at the start of our vacation for the park days and finish the vacation at one of the area’s five-star resorts.
After I vetted the many private tour companies, I chose My VIP Tour who offered a tour for the purpose of this review. Send Katie your travel dates for a no-obligation quote.
Headed to Universal? Check out why the Universal VIP Tours are worth every penny from Solo Mom Takes Flight.