Opting for a VIP program at Disney and Universal Studios theme parks is not cheap, but offers ease and special access. // © 2013 Thinkstock
Planning a family theme park vacation can be challenging, but Universal Studios and Disney offer VIP tour programs at their theme parks in both California and Florida to help guests maximize their visits. While the additional cost for a VIP tour is certainly a consideration, the benefit of priority access and expedited entrance to attractions is undeniable and allows guests to experience much more.
Walt Disney Parks & Resorts
Disneyland California offers customized VIP tours led by VIP Ambassadors. These guides lead groups through the parks and provide a variety of perks along the way, including personalized reservation service, insider stories and park tips, such as how to unlock the secret games on Toy Story Mania. VIP Ambassadors also act as a FastPass, granting priority access to the most popular attractions as well as expedited entrance onto other select attractions such as “The Little Mermaid” and “Pirates of the Caribbean."
VIP guests can visit one park or both Disneyland and California Adventure. Tours also provide complimentary valet parking at the Grand Californian Hotel and VIP viewing for parades, select stage shows and nighttime spectaculars.
Similarly, Walt Disney World VIP tours are customized to give guests access to one or multiple parks. VIP tour guests at Walt Disney World receive door-to-door transportation; VIP viewing for parades, select stage shows and nighttime spectaculars; and priority FastPass access to rides and attractions. In addition to official VIP tours, there are also non-affiliated tours available that are commissionable, including Disney VIP Tours.
Universal Parks & Resorts
At Universal Studios theme parks, the VIP Experience is one step beyond the Express Pass, which offers priority access on high-volume attractions and up to one-third shorter wait times. The Express Pass only permits one admission to each attraction using the Express queue — after that, guests must wait in the regular standby line.
In contrast, the VIP experience is a guided tour during which guests are granted expedited entrance for rides and can visit the attraction more than once. In addition, tours can be customized to include one or both Universal parks, ensuring that all guests experience the attractions that they don't want to miss.
Universal Studios Hollywood’s VIP Experience offers the same escorted tour service and expedited entrance for attractions. However, since there are only four attractions (compared to approximately 25 in Orlando), the real benefit for California VIP Experience guests is a private trolley for the world-famous Universal Studios tour, allowing them to get off the tram and see movie sets up-close, such as the set from the Tom Cruise blockbuster “War of the Worlds.” Guests also receive behind-the-scenes tours of Universal’s sound department and prop warehouse.
According to one VIP tour guide, “[VIP guests] get to go into places that nobody else can see.”
Priority Access: Unlimited/unrestricted admission into FastPass or Express Pass queues, which have shorter wait times.
Expedited Entrance: Admission onto attractions via the exit, otherwise known as “back door entry."
- A private one-day/two-park VIP experience at Universal in Orlando is $2,750 for up to 10 guests per guide. The tour lasts eight hours and includes park admission tickets to Universal Studios and/or Universal’s Islands of Adventure. There are also other tour packages available.
- At Universal Studios Hollywood, the VIP Experience is a five- to six-hour guided tour including unlimited priority access to all attractions and a gourmet lunch in the private VIP dining room for $299 per person (children must be at least five years old). Park admission and valet parking are included.
- Disneyland VIP tours are booked with a six-hour minimum at a rate of $315 per hour ($355 during peak season). Tours have a 10-person maximum per guide. Park admission tickets are not included.
- VIP Tours at Walt Disney World have a six-hour minimum and 10-person maximum per guide. Pricing is $315 per hour for resort hotel guests ($355 during peak season) and $340 per hour for non-resort hotel guests ($380 peak). Park admission tickets are not included.