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In trying to come up with fun and kid-friendly replacement ideas for a ‘big’ summer trip that seems to be crumbling out from under us, Disney World bubbled to the top of the list. Compared to other destinations, summer flights to Orlando are pretty reasonable, and while I’m not a total Mouse Fanatic (not that there is anything wrong with that), it’s been a couple of years since we have been to Disney World, and I’m starting to get ‘the itch’. While two-ish years old isn’t the best age for a big once-in-a-lifetime Disney trip, I do think the toddler phase is a really fun Disney age when the “Magic” is just totally mind-blowing. Of course there’s also that almost three decade long desire I’ve had to stay at the Polynesian that is playing into this…
If we do make it to Disney, it won’t be a long trip, so I’ve been thinking through the best ways to maximize fun for the seven year old while not expecting too much from my two-ish year old. As always, the most reliable way to do this is to just go in with tempered expectations and really enjoy everything you do get to experience, but if you are willing to pony up some cash, there are ways to stack the deck in your favor on short Disney trips.
I already knew about the out-of-my-price-league Disney VIP tours where you get a private Disney guide for up to 10 people that expedites you onto the rides, gets you prime show viewing spots, private transportation and more. However, this very Magical service comes at a whopping $400 – $600 per hour with a 7 hour minimum, so that isn’t on the radar for this trip.
However, since the last time I found myself drooling over the VIP tour page, Disney has added a few other VIP tours that, while still pricey, are significantly less pricey at $199 – $299 each rather than the than the super duper private VIP tours that run $3,000+ per day. I know Disney is already insanely expensive, so adding anything on top of that makes it extra insanely expensive, but since these slightly more reasonable options were new information to me, I figure maybe it is also new information to at least a couple others.
This is a four hour group tour that runs on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 8:30AM or 1:30 PM. This tour is $199 per person and gives you “special access” to 10 classic Magic Kingdom attractions, which may include rides such as:
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Jungle Cruise
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- “it’s a small world”
- Peter Pan’s Flight
This tour really intrigues me for young families since there are no height restrictions for the attractions included and since the early tour starts at 8:30AM, you can not only get great photos on Main Street when you come into the park early, but you are done by nap time! Additionally, those under 3 get to join in on this tour with their parents for no additional fee!
For those with older kids, or even without kids, this thrill-ride-focused tour sounds fantastic. It is a seven hour tour that runs on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays and includes not one park – but three parks! This means you need to have a Park Hopper Pass in addition to the $299 per person charge for this tour, but for that cost you start your day at the Magic Kingdom where you ride attractions such as:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Splash Mountain
- Space Mountain
- Haunted Mansion
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Toy Story Mania!
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
Obviously most of these ‘thrill’ attractions have height restrictions, so this is not a tour for the younger crew. It also sounds like a very fast paced tour to cover three parks in seven hours, so I would factor that in even if your kiddo is technically tall enough for most, or all, of these attractions. I think my seven year old could handle it, but only if she wasn’t already tired from the day before, and we didn’t have any additional serious plans that evening or too early the next morning.
If you like the idea of some quick access to these sort of attractions, but $199 – $299 per person price is out of range, Disney also now offers an “Early Morning Magic” option from 7:45 AM – 10AM on select Sundays and Tuesdays. The cost for this add-on is $69 per adult and $59 per child 3+ (tax not included) and it includes breakfast at Pinocchio Village Haus and, more importantly, you get to be one of the first to ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight. You can ride these multiple times with your wristband and usually without any wait at all until the park officially opens at 9AM. Check out a first-hand review of this experience here.
I think this package is most useful once your kids are tall enough to ride Mine Tain (38 inches), and I could totally see the value if you want to ride it a half-dozen times and then hit up the other included rides, followed by eating a later breakfast at Pinocchio Village Haus once the park starts filling up with other guests. Kids who aren’t yet 3 can tag along with you on this experience for no additional charge, but there won’t be too many kids under 3 who are 38 inches…though I bet my older daughter was 38 inches before she turned 3. You can book this one online as opposed to the other VIP experiences that require a phone call to Disney.
There are other Disney VIP type experiences out there both directly from Disney and via some un-official third-party services. You do not have to shell out the extra cash to one of these services to have a great time at Disney and fit in lots of rides, but if you are super time crunched and/or are planning at the last minute, these can be some decent options to consider to maximize your time if you have some extra dollars to spend.
If you have used one of these slightly more affordable Disney VIP tour options, I would love to know your thoughts!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.