For the ultimate no-expenses-spared Universal Orlando experience, book a VIP tour of one or both parks. VIP guests are given the red-carpet treatment at both parks and never have to worry about waiting in line. And don’t worry if you aren’t a genuine VIP—or even a social media pseudo-celebrity—because at Universal, anyone can be treated like the rich and famous . . . for a price.
Universal offers two types of VIP tours: nonexclusive and private. On nonexclusive tours, your party will be paired with other guests to form a group of up to 12. Nonexclusive tours begin at 10 a.m. and last five to seven hours. Your guide will expedite you onto a minimum of eight attractions (10 if you take the two-park option) based on group consensus.
Private tours give you free reign to set your start time and make your own itinerary because the guide is dedicated to only your party for a full eight hours. You can even ride your favorite ride over and over all day, if you like. Private tours also include a table-service meal (shared appetizer, entrée, dessert, and nonalcoholic beverage) and Photo Connect digital pictures of your day.
Either way, your VIP experience begins with valet parking and a Continental breakfast in the private guest services lounge. In addition to backdooring you into rides—bypassing even the Universal Express queues—and getting you reserved seating at shows, VIP tour guides are a font of trivia about the history and operation of the parks, and they can even grant backstage access to see how some of the magic is done, like a glimpse underneath Revenge of the Mummy’s ride track or inside Twister’s special effects control booth. At the end of the tour, your souvenir VIP lanyard serves as an unlimited Express Pass for the rest of the day and offers discounts on food and merchandise.
Perhaps most importantly, VIP tours are currently the only way to skip the queues at the headlining Harry Potter attractions: Forbidden Journey, Escape from Gringotts, and Hogwarts Express. The value of this perk during peak times can’t be overstated; during the height of Diagon Alley’s opening summer, when guests were waiting more than four hours just for Gringotts, authors Bob and Len were able to experience everything in both Wizarding Worlds (including lunch and ice cream) plus other park highlights in a little more than five hours.
The Ultimate No-Expenses-Spared Universal Orlando VIP Tours Don’t Come Cheap
Of course, this kind of star treatment comes at a price. A one-day, one-park nonexclusive VIP tour of USF or IOA will run you $299 per person; a one-day tour of both parks is $329. During peak pricing times (the weeks around Christmas and Easter), those rates jump up to $369 and $389.
Private-tour pricing approaches “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” territory, starting at $2,599 for a day in one park or $2,899 for both. That flat rate is good for one to five guests; additional guests (up to a total of 10) cost another $325 each for one park or $349 each for two parks. During peak times, those base prices increase to $2,899 for one park and $3,199 for two parks. Finally, if you splurge on the ultimate two-day, two-park private tour, you’ll be poorer by $4,799 ($4,999 during peak periods).
Before you break out your credit card, there’s one final catch: In addition to not including tax, the above prices are on top of admission tickets, which are required and not included with any VIP tour. Whether the VIP tours are “worth it” depends largely on your net worth and your tolerance for any type of wait. Having taken them many times over the years, we can say that the experience is a dream come true for theme park junkies, who will get their money’s worth in insider info alone, as well as anyone allergic to rubbing elbows with unwashed hordes. If you were already planning to pony up for unlimited Express Passes, the extra couple hundred dollars per person (depending on the season) could seem a bargain in the heat of summer. For most visitors, a stay at a luxury on-site hotel (with free unlimited Express included) is probably a more economical investment, but no one we know who has taken a VIP tour has regretted it.
Nonexclusive tours can be booked online through an interactive calendar with availability and pricing, but private tours must be booked by phone at 866-346-9350. If you want to take a VIP tour, order early because they can fill up quickly at busier times.
Note that all of the previously mentioned tours are offered only during regular daytime operating hours. Different VIP tours with their own pricing may be available during separately ticketed special events such as Halloween Horror Nights.
If you are preparing to visit Universal Orlando, you will want to check out the The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando by Seth Kubersky.