Disney Private Tours: Are the Exclusive Experiences Worth the Cost?
What would your dream day at Disney World Resort look like? Do you want to ride the “mountains” — Space, Splash and Big Thunder — over and over again at the Magic Kingdom? Experience time in the wild at the Animal Kingdom Theme Park? Or have a prime viewing spot for one of Disney’s fabulous parades or shows?
With the typical crowds at Disney World, and the lines for the most popular rides, such an ambitious schedule could be just that — a dream — unless you sign up for a Disney VIP Tour. Your specialized tour guide at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., or Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Calif., will work some Disney magic to scoot you to the front of the line, show you some behind-the-scenes activities not accessible to the general public, share nuggets of fascinating Disney history and guarantee maximum efficiency for your Disney day.
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
“The Disney private VIP tour is like having a fairy godmother grant all your wishes,” said Summer Hull, director of travel content for The Points Guy. “You aren’t going to really have to deal with waits, you get to park backstage to save precious steps along the way, and cold waters and frozen ice cream treats appear when you need them.”
But, as you can imagine, a private Disney tour isn’t cheap. Just how much does it cost for a magical day — and is it worth it?
The Disney VIP Tour
The basics are the same whether you book a VIP tour at Disney World or the original Disney park, Disneyland.
The Tour Cost
At Disney World, the tour costs between $425 and $850 an hour, with the actual price depending on the season. You must book a minimum of seven hours, meaning your bill for that amount of time will range from $2,975 to $5,950. That price is good for up to 10 people, including babies.
The red-carpet treatment at Disneyland starts at $3,500 — or $500 per hour, with the same seven-hour minimum.
Travel agents said their clients are willing to pay the fee to get the most out of their Disney experience, especially post-pandemic.
“Due to the pandemic, people were unable to have the full Disney parks experience for some time, and now that the parks are open again, they may have hesitations due to the number of guests at the parks,” said Michael Belmont, owner of The Park Prodigy, an online travel agency dedicated to the Disney and Universal theme parks.
“As a result, travelers have become more likely to spend money on the private tour experience, as it will make their Disney park days more comfortable and ensure they can experience Disney in full with their vacation time. “
Many are willing to pay to maximize their vacation experience, too, said Jonathan de Araujo, the owner of The Vacationeer Travel Agency.
“We find that a lot of our customers at higher income levels have a lot of disposable income and not a lot of time,” he said, “so spending the extra money for a VIP tour is a no-brainer for them, because they can experience in one day what others may take two or three days to experience.
“When I’ve been on Disney VIP tours in the past,” he added, “I’ve found that it’s definitely a worthwhile purchase. First of all, you can bring 10 people total, so you can share the cost with friends. At the busier times of year when the parks are wall-to-wall people, it’s amazing to be whisked around from ride to ride and not have to wait in the long queue lines. It’s an experience like no other.
“The guides cannot be overlooked either. The VIP tour guide position is one of the hardest-to-get jobs at Disney parks, and they’re very picky about (whom) they choose. The guides are extremely helpful, knowledgeable and accommodating. Don’t forget that a large part of their compensation comes from guest gratuities, so be sure to factor that into your budget.”
Booking Your Tour
You can schedule a VIP session directly with Disney or with a travel agent experienced with Disney vacations, but you can’t book your trip more than 60 days in advance. Travel experts told GOBankingRates that you’ll want to book as soon as that window opens to guarantee availability and the best prices.
The price of the tour includes your guide, who will customize your experience based on your wish list, but it doesn’t include park admission. You’ll need to buy your park ticket — or a park hopper pass if you plan to visit more than one park on the day — in addition to paying for your tour. You’ll also need a Disney Park Pass reservation.
Ways To Save on Disney VIP Tours
Unfortunately, Disney doesn’t offer discount coupons for the admission tickets when you book a VIP tour, but there are ways you can save. It starts with expanding your circle of friends and family to fill up a group of its limit of 10 to reduce the per-person price.
“Many Disney goers will join up with friends or other Disney lovers from Disney groups such as Facebook to make sure they have 10 people so they can all split the cost and make it more affordable,” said Sondra Barker, who often writes about Disney on her website, Cuisine and Travel.
A travel agent also can play matchmaker to put a party together.
“I have made the price more reasonable by combining my clients that are all traveling at the same time, but don’t know each other, into groups to share the expense,” said Robyn Kravitz, a travel agent with Unlocking the Magic Travel. “Because I know my clients well enough, this pairing has always been a fun way for folks to meet new people and enjoy the parks.”
Kravitz had another tip: Be mindful of how you spend your time on the VIP tour.
Eat a big meal before heading out for the day so you don’t need to grab anything but a quick snack while at the park. And, if you’re staying at a Disney hotel, your tour guide will happily pick you up and chauffeur you to the park. But since the clock on your tour starts the moment you meet your guide, Kravitz suggests getting yourself to the park and starting the tour at the first attraction you plan to visit.
How else can you save money on a tour? Be flexible on your travel dates, Kravitz said. Stay away from the busiest times of year, especially the winter holidays, and opt for early fall, just after school starts.
Is a VIP tour at Disney worth the expense? From the viewpoint of travel professionals, if it fits in your budget — absolutely.
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