Walt Disney World vacations are daunting to do and maybe even more daunting to plan. We had been wondering when it would be a good age to take our daughter to Disney, but hadn’t yet pulled the trigger. Eventually it ended up that Rebekah had a conference scheduled in Orlando. We decided to head down a day early and make a fun-but-quick first trip to Walt Disney World for Roseanne. Rebekah and I have both been to Disney several times together and also as children. While we both enjoy Disney, we know it is certainly not a relaxing vacation and we figured that would only be exacerbated by adding in a toddler.
We knew we only had 1.5 days to visit, and as we dove into the planning we couldn’t figure out exactly how we were gonna hit all the highlights. Like many little toddlers, Rosie is a huge fan of everything Frozen and everything Princess. We wanted to get the most out of the trip and hit as many of the Frozen highlights as possible.
When looking into what there is to do for toddlers at WDW, it can be overwhelming. Trying to figure out fast passes, dining options, and transportation…phew I am tired just thinking about it. We do love the planning portion for any vacation, but felt rather amateurish when it came to planning this Disney jaunt. We wanted to hit everything little Rosie would love while also maintaining our sanity…and more importantly, hers. A little internet research goes a long way and we kept coming across the same thing that sounded like it would meet all our needs…a VIP Tour.
What is a VIP tour? Disney VIP Tours allows you to explore the Disney World Parks with your own VIP Tour Guide that will customize your experience to maximize your day(s) at the park. That’s a super basic way to say that a VIP tour guide can make your Disney Day(s) magical. According to their website, some of the perks of the VIP tours include: pre-arrival planning, flexible start times, pick up in a private vehicle, ability to enjoy all of the parks favorite attractions efficiently, VIP viewing area and snacks for parades, shows, etc…
What does this really mean? For us, this meant that we were getting to see WDW through the eyes of a true expert. The VIP guide knows how to get from point A to point B the fastest and most efficient way, and (s)he will plan out your day in advance to help you get everything you wanted done and more. Unfortunately, its not free. In our humble opinions, the cost is basically outrageous…but with our limited time and limited Disney know-how…it could be totally “worth” it. So we decided to give it a try. (“worth” is in quotes, because we know that worth is a totally relative term and cannot be the same from one person to the next).
A few details of the VIP Tour:
- You still have to purchase tickets for the park(s) you want to attend or a park hopper
- The tour is charged hourly, but there is also a minimum time (8 hours)
- The cost of the tour is expensive
- One guide will accommodate up to 10 people, any more than 10 people will require an additional guide which incurs an additional costs
- Tours can be booked on Walt Disney World’s website: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/vip-tour-services/
- You are not billed for the tour until 24 hours before the tour
- The start time and end time for the tour are up to you. Also, the end time is flexible…ie if you schedule 8 hours between 8 and 4, once the 4pm mark approaches the guide will let you know the time is almost up but you are able to extend the time until you’ve Disney-ed to your heart’s desire (at additional hourly cost)
- But the true Piece de Resistance is the ability to use fast pass for every attraction or skip to the front of lines…that’s right…basically unlimited fast passes.
Once we decided to pull the trigger on the tour we booked it online. Soon after, a VIP representative called and we discussed what were our must see and must dos. Since the whole point was Disney-ing with our toddler, all of our plans revolved around her and what she might find fun. This included meeting Elsa and Anna, riding Dumbo, and seeing the parade etc. Toddler travel tip: low expectations mean high satisfaction. Plan to accomplish only a few things, and then when more than your planned few things get accomplished you feel victorious! We picked an early morning time to meet our guide, and decided on them picking us up to take us to the park (meeting them at the park is also an option).
On the day of our tour we awoke super pumped to see what was in store for us. Our guide Teresa arrived promptly at 8:00 am from the Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort (stay tuned for a review of this hotel in another post). She arrived in a large SUV and they had a carseat already appropriately installed for Rosie to sit in. We hopped in the car with her and we were on our way for what we hoped was a magical day!
Teresa already knew what we had discussed with the VIP tour guide service, so she knew we were prioritizing meeting Anna and Elsa. She told us we were going to head directly to Epcot to ride the Frozen ride and then meet the Royal Family of Arendale! We were so excited! All of our toddler’s (and mommy’s) dreams were coming true right from the start.
Teresa made us feel special right from the get go. She had water and snacks in the car plus Disney music to get everyone in the mood. Teresa warned us that we wouldn’t be heading into any of the parks from their front entrance. She said that for some people (especially if they are first time visitors) this may be a let down, but we told her we are game for anything and trusted her expert opinion. After all, this is like her 3 millionth trip through Disney, and our 10th at most! We drove around a back lot area to head to our “entrance”. A cool part was that we got to see some of the staging for Disney. This included a lot of the items used in the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. Then she parked behind a building and we were set to go.!” This looked nothing like what we were used to at WDW so we couldn’t wait to see where we ended up.
We hopped out of the car and walked in through a back door. When we came out on the other side of the cast entrance we were in awe (We know we are dorks…just go with it :)). We were in the Epcot “country” of China, and it was EMPTY. We were inside Epcot and THERE WAS NO ONE THERE. Literally no one. We, of course, stopped to take a photo to prove it, because it was super cool.
We turned a corner and crossed the rope into Norway where the crowd was forming the line for one of the main attractions of Norway….FROZEN Ride!! Teresa took us through the fast pass line and we swiped in. When we got to the front of the line, the ride had not opened yet…and they let us be the first to board! It was amazingly cool to be able to do that…just the four of us in the boat: Ben, Rebekah, Rosie, and our new best friend Teresa 🙂 Roseanne loved the ride, but who wouldn’t love seeing Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf, Sven, and the gang all in one place! Plus Elsa belting out “LET IT GO! LET IT GOOOOOOO!” This is what Disney dreams are made of. After we got off the ride we headed toward the location of the Anna and Elsa meet and greet. I knew in advance there was not a fast pass for this attraction, so I wasn’t sure how Teresa was gonna get us in there. The VIP tours website indicates that the guides use FastPasses for most of the magic, but doesn’t indicate what happens when no FastPass is available. We were about to find out. Teresa took us in through the souvenir store and told us to wait. She spoke to some other cast members in the area and then we were whisked in through a back door. We met Anna and Elsa and basically our day was complete :). #mindblown
After getting out pictures taken with the two sisters Teresa asked if we wanted to ride Frozen again…. uh YES!!!! We went back to the frozen ride and Teresa escorted through the fast pass line to the front of the ride and then we rode the Frozen ride again. This was amazing because the line for the ride was already an hour long. In our first 30 minutes with Teresa we rode the Frozen ride twice and met Elsa and Anna. Teresa wanted to know if we wanted to ride Test Track or Soarin’ Around the World, but we decided to head on the Magic Kingdom since it was Rosie’s day. On our way to the Magic Kingdom, we drove around the back part of the Epcot World Showcase. It was definitely interesting seeing more “behind the scenes.”
We pulled up in another back lot and there were other VIP tour guides to meet us. They offered snacks and water to take into the park with us. Once we collected our goodies, Teresa took us through another employee entrance which was located on the side of Main Street USA. From there Teresa suggested she push the stroller, and it was like Moses parting the Red Sea. She very politely but definitively cleared a path for us. We are usually so timid with the stroller but she navigated the crowd like a boss. First up: we got our obligatory castle picture!
From there we rode several rides: Dumbo, Enchanted Tales with Belle, It’s a Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight, Winnie the Pooh, the Carousel, and we also met several princesses. We were able to do this all before lunch. In general, Teresa used the fast pass line magically skipped to the front on all of these attractions
At lunch we decided to quick service to maximize time. Teresa showed us how to order on the app and we picked up lunch and sat down and shared a meal together. We had a great time talking with Teresa and getting to know her even more. After lunch we continued to hit the park hard riding Pirates of the Caribbean (we went through a secret back entrance and skipped the line which was over 1.5 hours long), the Haunted Mansion (again entering through a backdoor and skipping to the front of the line), and then the Jungle Cruise (via the fast pass line).
Then it was Parade Time! We headed to the train station at the Magic Kindgom entrance. Upstairs under cover is the VIP viewing area. We had a fantastic view, shade, and there were drinks and snacks available for us! Teresa then went and got Rosie a Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bar while we rested in the shade waiting for the parade to start. Being able to sit in the shade and enjoy the parade was a fabulous perk. When we read about this part of VIP tours, we kinda thought it might be meh and unnecessary. However, it ended up being one of our favorite parts of the day!
At this point, it’s getting awfully late in the day for a 2 year old. So before heading “home” we went to meet Aladdin and Princess Jasmine.
Finally, we stopped in to see the man himself…MICKEY MOUSE! We went through the fast pass line and Rosie got her first glimpse of one of her heroes 🙂
Rosie was exhausted after this, and she could hardly stay awake. Although mom and dad wanted to try and go to Animal Kingdom with Teresa to try and do the safari, we decided to call it a day. Right before we headed back to our hotel, we asked Teresa if she would be willing to get another castle photo with us…and she said yes! We love this photo to commemorate our adventure together!
Teresa dropped us off at the Hotel. Rosie was exhausted after her big day. We were super excited to see that there was Giordano’s Pizza not too far away from our hotel so we headed there for dinner. The food was great, but Rosie was not able to make it through dinner without falling asleep. She had a great day!
We had an amazing time and were shocked at how much we were able to do. Disney World was packed and there is no way we could have done that much in 10 hours on our own. That much adventure may have taken us at least two whole days! Teresa was a great tour guide and made our trip so much more enjoyable. Although this tour is very expensive, it was totally worth it to us. We got to see and do so much and it truly made Rosie’s first trip to Walt Disney World Magical! This is not something we would do every time we go to Disney World, but it was great to do to maximize such a short trip. It is also something one could do with another family to split the cost.
On a side note, we did spend a 1/2 day at Disney Hollywood Studios a few days later (review coming soon), it was also a good time, but of course it would have been better if Teresa was there 😉