I hadn’t been to Disney World in Orlando since I was about 13 years old, so I knew things must have changed quite a bit. I’d been to Disney Land California and Hong Kong a couple of years ago but they’re not quite on the same scale as Disney World. Needless to say when I found out that I’d be visiting Disney World on a press trip with Visit Florida, as a VIP, I nearly exploded with excitement. I mean, it’s magic! It’s magic sprinkled with nostalgia and topped with fantasy. My inner child was sweating, screaming and crying all at once, the excitement was borderline overwhelming. HOW did this become my life?! Honestly, it wasn’t until we were driving to Orlando blaring Disney tunes, my lungs nearly exploding from singing along to every song, that I really started to believe that it was actually happening. Now, obviously a VIP tour at Disney is a pricey experience. The kind of thing I (and most of you reading this, I’m guessing) would struggle to afford had I not been on a press trip. So I thought I’d give you a sneak peak into how absolutely ridiculous and magical a VIP Disney Tour really is. It’s a proper once in a lifetime experience, unless you’re absolutely loaded, and I’m going to tell you everything!
What it’s Like to be a VIP at Disney
My VIP Disney Guide
Jennifer, our guide, is as close to a human embodiment of Belle as I can possibly imagine (sorry Emma Watson, well, not really). She seemed to glide everywhere as if she was floating. Everything about her was magic. I reckon there must be a sort of Disney finishing school and Jennifer absolutely aced it. She was infinitely polite, always smiling, had a great sense of humour and no shortage of patience (absolutely needed when dealing with a group of loud journalist from the UK and Ireland). It was as if Disney World was a living breathing entity and Jennifer was a part of it. She knew every inch of the map and every attraction inside out. As she guided us around the parks Jennifer would point out things that we would have otherwise never known existed. For example, Disney World has some particularly famous walls. Yep, walls. You can thank Instagram for that. There’s the purple wall in Magic Kingdom in Tomorrowland and there’s the moss wall in Animal Kingdom in Pandora. When we went on rides she knew everything word for word, it was so funny watching her recite the script flawlessly. She knew that each car on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios played a different Aerosmith song and depending on which car you chose it nearly felt like a different ride. And not just that, she knew the best seats on each ride and made sure that we got them.
Jennifer was also an absolute natural when it came to posing for those in-ride photos. You know, the kind where you’re mid-drop, letting out a blood-curdling scream, hair covering half your face and then you see the dreaded flash of the camera. Every time we looked at our photos post-ride we’d all look horrendous with eyes closed, mouths wide in terror and Jennifer would be beaming into the camera like a pro. After day one I just asked her where the camera was on each attraction so that I could try and cheat the cameras too. One thing I found particularly magical was that despite wearing the most flat of flat dolly shoes that you could possibly imagine and guiding us around the parks for up to 13 hours a day, Jennifer insisted that her feet did not hurt. I kept worrying about her arches collapsing because I am, apparently, my mother. My feet still haven’t recovered from 3 days walking around the parks, and I was wearing runners with cloud foam insoles! Also, her hair was pretty much always perfect even though it was long and down all the time. I’m not sure if that’s a skill they teach you in VIP guide training school, but if it is, I need to know the secret. For me it felt like birds were nesting at the back of my neck with all the knots I had going on in my hair due to the heat, sweat and the friction from some of the harnesses on the rides. I’m completely in awe of her, I have no idea how she does it. If I hadn’t seen her devour an entire molten chocolate cake at dinner I wouldn’t have believed that she was human, haha.
**DISNEY SCARY STORIES** – I asked Jennifer if any of the rides were haunted or had any ghost stories attached to them and she let us in on the secret that Pirates of the Caribbean in Magic Kingdom is apparently haunted by a ghost called George. Every day the staff on the ride have to say “Good Morning George!” and “Good Night George!”, to appease him and make sure that the ride runs smoothly. If they don’t, well, who knows what might happen! One of my favourite stories she told us wasn’t so much a ghost story, but it’s pretty ghastly all the same. According to Jennifer about 20 times a year people bring the ashes of their dead relatives with them into the Haunted Mansion and dump them out into the ride somewhere. I’m not exactly sure what part, if it was me I’d go for the ballroom scene where the ghosts are all dancing together. But either way, the staff then they have to shut the whole ride down and people in hazmat suits have to go in and clean it all out. Isn’t that completely mental?!
How a VIP Disney Tour Works
OK, let’s get down to the factual bit, how does a VIP tour of Disney actually work? Well, first things first, you meet your guide. We met Jennifer upon check in at our hotel, the Grand Floridian. She escorted us to dinner and basically took care of everything, we didn’t have to worry about anything. She picked us up each morning in a lovely air-conditioned mini van and drove us to our park of choice. There were always bottles of water in the van which is definitely necessary in that Florida heat. We entered the parks through the back entrance for VIPs and cast members only. I don’t want to tell you too much about that part, we’ve got to preserve the magic! But essentially it just meant that we didn’t have to queue or show tickets or anything like that, we just strolled right in with our guide. Then, when it comes to rides/attractions, your guide is your fastpass, no need to book any. Jennifer would just walk up to the fastpass lane, tell the staff how many people were in our group, and then they’d just count us as we sailed through. On some rides your guide will actually be able to bring you in a side entrance, which made me feel like I was in on some big secret. It seems to only be the rides where they corral you all into a room and show you a video before the actual ride, like the Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom and the Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom. Apparently the ride staff don’t always appreciate this if the guide doesn’t let them know they’re doing it. The staff refer to the VIP guides as having “Plaiditude”, becuase the VIP guides wear plaid (tartan) waist coats, and can take a few liberties here and there, haha.
Usually you do two parks in a day, driving from one to the other at some point during the day. But obviously that is completely up to you and your group. Whatever you want to do your guide is happy to organise. When you arrive at your second park there’s a team there to meet you with snacks and water bottles for your refreshment. I remember getting out of the mini van and being greeted by a smiling face with a tray full of Lays, Starburst, cookies, crackers etc and bottles of cold water. I was like, “Wow, this is what famous people must feel like!”. It just makes you feel important, not unlike when you arrive at an all inclusive resort and there’s a team waiting to hand you a refreshing cocktail and check you in. If it rains, your guide magically produces Disney ponchos. He/she can normally organise entry to the VIP standing area during the various fireworks displays too. Jennifer organised this for us at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios in the evening and they were incredible locations for snapping a few pics. When you’re on the rides your guide can either ride with you or they’re happy to take your bags and meet you at the exit. Personally I tried to only give Jennifer my bag when the rides had a lot of water involved. I didn’t want to use her like a pack mule! But she was more than happy to take several of our bags. If you want a picture perfect moment make sure to ask your guide because they know all the best spots with the best angles.
When it comes to meals, if you want to organise lunch or dinner somewhere special within the parks make sure to ask your guide for their recommendations and, if necessary, their help in securing a reservation. We were able to get a table at the “Be Our Guest”, Beauty and the Beast, dinner because Jennifer pulled a few strings. We were very lucky and I reckon in peak season that definitely wouldn’t have been possible, but it’s definitely worth asking. Then, when you’re ready, he/she will magically whisk you back to your hotel at the end of the day. Depending on how many hours your guide has been working they may need to call another guide to come and pick up your group as Disney has very strict rules about when they can and can’t drive. So a couple of times Jennifer had to phone one of her guide friends to pick us up, which was fun as we got to meet other guides. They were all just as friendly and welcoming as Jennifer, of course!
How Much Does it Cost & is it Worth it?
Ok, so I hope you’re sitting down. Hiring a VIP guide at Disney World costs $425-600/hr depending on the season with a minimum spend of 7 hours and a maximum of 14 hours. So that’s a minimum of $2975/€2552/£2235. The cap on a group is 10 people plus the guide. In fairness, if you split it between 10 adults that’s not TOO bad, like you could do it for a big occasion. And considering it gets you easy access to all the rides that otherwise you might have to queue 2 hours for then I definitely think it’s worth it. You save SO much time. For example, I went on Flight of Passage (only the best ride in all of Disney World) in Pandora, Animal Kingdom THREE TIMES, because we had a guide. I know people who couldn’t even get near it because the fastpasses were impossible to get via the app/online and the regular queue was more than 2 hours long. So, you’ve got to weigh up how important comfort and getting the most out of your visit is to you. Now, that price doesn’t include park tickets or food. So it is expensive. BUT, if you could get 10 of you together I’d go so far as saying it’s not unaffordable. £223/€250 per adult for 7 hours isn’t extortionate. I just don’t know if I have that many friends who’d be into Disney as much as I am! haha.
If you want to read more about VIP Disney World Tours then click here
to check out the website for further details.
*I was a guest of Visit Florida and Walt Disney World during my stay, however, all opinions are, as always my own.*
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