A relative texted me recently: “Do you want to go on a VIP tour of Disneyland?” I immediately texted back: “Um, yes.” It was the easiest question anyone has ever asked me.
Let me provide a bit of background. My husband and I live in Southern California. As part of the state residency requirement, we must purchase Disneyland annual passes. No, just kidding. We go to Disneyland so often, though, that it only makes sense for us to buy annual passes. After many years of being an extremely unimportant person at Disneyland, I welcomed a little special treatment.
In this post, I will describe the advantages and disadvantages of a Very Important Person (VIP) tour at Disneyland. I will also provide practical tips on how to manage such an adventure.
Ha! I tricked you. Obviously, there were no disadvantages to my free VIP tour of Disneyland. I suppose we should talk about the actual price tag in this section, though. A (minimum) six-hour tour for ten people costs $2,400 (before tip). If your relative is the one paying, this seems like a bargain. I highly recommend that other people pay $2,400 for your VIP tour of Disneyland. Sadly, each member of the tour must also pay for park admission that day. One “park-hopper” ticket, which includes entry to Disneyland and its sister park, California Adventure, cost $169 per person on the day we visited.
Our tour guide, whom I shall call Pete to protect the innocent, planned to meet us at 8:20 AM inside the VIP section of the park. It is a reserved area for Disney tour participants with cute tables and a restroom. I had never noticed this part of the park before. Then again, I had never been a VIP in my previous, non-important visits.
As a strange aside, while I was waiting for Pete, I decided to buy a pickle for breakfast. They have really large, tasty pickles at Disneyland. I was awarded with a pin to wear for the day that said, “First Pickle of the Day.” It immediately became clear that this was going to be the best Disney day EVER.
In preparation for becoming VIPs, we had sent Pete a list of our preferred rides and attractions. He explained that he could provide us with unlimited fast passes for any rides of our choice. Disney visitors are normally limited to only a few fast passes a day, and these passes allow guests to move very close to the front of the line for certain rides. Pete also could take us to the front of a few rides that don’t offer fast passes; reserve special spots for parades and shows; arrange for private audiences with Disney characters; and make dining reservations.
It was clear from the get-go that Pete was going to do all the thinking for us on the tour. We merely had to follow him. Pete was magical in his efficiency. He had a perfect map of the park seared into his brain, and he knew how to move us seamlessly from one ride to another in a counter-clockwise movement around Disneyland.
To be fair, it is possible that our group simply had great chemistry with Pete. I don’t mean to brag, but Pete said we were in the “upper echelon of followers.” He was pleased with how well our tour group behaved and listened to instructions.
Have I mentioned that we took this tour on December 29th? For any Disney fans out there, you know that we were at Disneyland during one of the busiest days of the year. As a result, the lines were long, the crowds were enormous, and frustration was palpable–except, of course, for our merry, care-free group.
We followed Pete, and the park crowds simply melted away in the face of his Disney VIP superpowers. My favorite part was walking right past all the unimportant suckers who had been standing in line for HOURS. Sometimes, we just walked right in through the exit door to access the front of the lines. Ha, ha, ha, ha.
On a whim, I suggested that we all might enjoy meeting some Star Wars characters. My relatives, who are big Star Wars fans, had not realized this was a possibility. Pete made a call, and we were in. He mysteriously noted that we would have an audience with two characters – one representing the dark side of the Force and one representing the light side of the Force.
As we ignored the hostile looks of the patrons who had been patiently waiting in line, we were whisked to a curtained area where Darth Vader greeted us in all his evil glory. My husband’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor in speechless joy. We also met Chewbacca, who looked amazing, and greeted us with powerful Wookie hugs.
Pete was a historian and told us interesting facts about Disneyland throughout our tour. I asked many questions about Club 33, which is the ultra-exclusive Disney members-only club. Pete wouldn’t give us a glimpse of that secret world. Not even a peek through the door. However, he did show us where the entrance to the club was located in case our status ever changes to professional VIPs instead of mere VIPS-in-training.
Alas, our time with Pete came to its horrible, inevitable end at 3:30 pm. We were left to become part of the general population; waiting in long lines and strategizing about what to do next. We looked wistfully at the groups who were lucky enough to still have guides leading them around. We had fallen so far, so fast.
A Few Tips:
- If you have money, you are ridiculous not to get a VIP tour during crowded days. Don’t worry about the rest of us riffraff stuck in line. If we had money, we all would skip the lines so fast your head would spin. (It’s true, my fellow non-VIPs. Don’t pretend it’s not.)
- Although a tour would be fun anytime, I am not sure it would be as worthwhile on a slow day with short lines, such as a mid-week day at the end of January.
- Ensure you have a plan in mind about what rides, shows, and characters you want to experience. Don’t waste your precious VIP time trying to figure it out on the day of your tour.
- Your guide can assist you in advance in making reservations for sit-down meals, shows, parades, and fireworks that will take place after your tour. Again, don’t squander your tour time with these activities. For example, we left Pete at 3:30 PM, but he made us special seating reservations for a parade at 4:15 PM, fireworks at 9:30 PM, and another parade at 10:30 PM.
- Tell your guide what you want, and then put yourselves completely in their hands. They are professionals. They know what they are doing.
- If a new request pops into your head during the tour, don’t be afraid to ask the guide.
- Respect the guide if they tell you that something can’t be done. They do have Disney superpowers, but they aren’t actually wizards. At least, I am pretty sure they aren’t wizards.