Is the Universal Group VIP Tour Worth It?
Who doesn’t want to feel like a Very Important Person – Especially when on vacation?!
When we planned our Universal vacation we kept in mind that:
- We have a Harry Potter-loving family!
- We had reached a point where both our children are tall enough to go on all the Harry Potter rides.
- We were going to be celebrating my husband’s birthday while on this vacation and wanted to do something special!
That is when we started looking into the VIP Experience at Universal. Universal Studios advertised that a friendly guide will lead you through the park and make sure you get on at least 10 rides. Being a VIP in a theme park on a busy and hot summer day sounded very appealing to us! The idea of breezing past lines and not worrying about planning or wait times won us over!
Check out the list below of Universal’s description of their tour!
Along with your guide, you’ll also get:
- Priority front-of-the-line access to all rides and attractions including The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man®, TRANSFORMERS™: The Ride-3D and all of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ attractions
- Exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences in the parks (subject to availability)
- Complimentary valet parking (one vehicle, based on availability)
- Reserved seating at shows (excludes live performances during Mardi Gras and Mannheim Steamroller during the holidays)
- Complimentary continental breakfast and lunch. Dinner included in Private VIP Experiences only
- Universal Express Unlimited ride access at participating rides and attractions throughout the rest of the day (during normal park operating hours after your tour is complete)
- Exclusive VIP Experiences lanyard and credential
- Discounts at select Universal Orlando owned and operated merchandise locations in the theme parks and CityWalk
What’s the difference between the VIP Experience and the Private VIP Experience?
- The VIP Experience and Private VIP Experience are both personally guided walking tours of one or both of Universal Orlando’s theme parks, that are conducted by one of the Resort’s friendly and knowledgeable Tour Guides.
- A VIP Experience will include multiple parties in the same tour group, whereas the Private VIP Experience is exclusive to you and your party.
- Additionally, during a Private VIP Experience, you can customize your itinerary to do what you want, when you want. The Private VIP Experience also includes two full-service meals at one of Universal Orlando’s popular restaurants in either theme park or Universal CityWalk.
Price is also a big difference between the group VIP and the private VIP Tour. Tours begin at $189 per person and in the Summer months range more from $229 to $379 per person. Booking in advance is highly recommended and as prices increase as you get closer to the tour date.
There are tour options of just doing either Universal Studios OR Islands of Adventure but for our needs, we wanted a tour option that included both parks so we could do all the Harry Potter attractions, including the Hogwarts Express that goes back and forth from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure.
This was a significant add on cost to our vacation – So – Was it worth it? Here is how it went!
We chose to schedule the tour on my husband’s birthday and our 1st park day. We were told the tour started at 9:30am and to meet at the VIP Experience center a little before to pick up our credentials.
No need to rush on the day of our tour!
This was a more leisurely start to our day. Normally we are the people that are up early and at the theme park gate before it opens so we can squeeze in as much as possible.
After going through security in City Walk we headed to VIP check-in. We received a warm welcome from the staff there and were given our VIP lanyards. We were then shown the way over to La Bamba, the restaurant in Universal that is dedicated to VIP Experience participants and serves a buffet style breakfast and lunch for guests on the VIP tours.
Breakfast and Lunch are included!
We were again greeted in a friendly manner. The host escorted us over to what would be our table for breakfast and lunch. Here we were seated with our group for the day. We joined 2 other families with kids of similar ages. When booking this tour Universal told us they try to match parties by interests and ages when possible.
When I shared with friends that I was going to do a group VIP tour – several asked, “What if you don’t like the people you are with?” Honestly, I wasn’t concerned about this. I figured folks spending the money on this tour were all invested in seeing as much as they can and having a good time and that was true of our group. Everyone was friendly and made light conversation while we enjoyed our breakfast.
There were also scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, and fruit platters.
Our waiter also brought us ice-cold bottles of water to take with us into the park.
Meeting out Guide for the Day
Our guide joined our table and introduced himself. He was enthusiastic and eager to make sure we had a great day! He surveyed our interests and priorities for the day and made a plan on the spot that made everyone happy!
Here are the rides we did while on the tour:
- Hogwarts Express – Our guide pointed out the house-elf in the window on our way to the train and filmed us going through platform 9 ¾ .
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure was down so we headed to Jurassic Park River Adventure
- Velocicoaster – Got to sit in the front car!
- Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure – Also got to sit in the front!
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster
- Back to Cafe La Bamba For Lunch. There were lots of good options! Here are a few:
Then came dessert!
Then we headed back out into the Parks with more bottled ice waters from our waiters.
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts in Diagon Alley
- Revenge of the Mummy
- Jimmy Fallon’s Race Through New York
- The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket
- Transformers: The Ride
Our guide was very helpful in helping us put bags in lockers or just holding our bags for us. He also was able to stay with our daughter who was not quite tall enough to ride the Velocicoaster and keep her entertained and not feeling left out.
It was great traveling through the Parks with a guide! We got to see some backstage areas, learn fun facts about the parks, even see inside a ride area and view under the tracks of the Mummy!
Our guide also took the time to talk to the kids on the tour and chatted about all things Harry Potter and even their favorite animals. When he found out ducks w
At the end of the tour, our VIP cards worked as express passes for the rest of the day. Our guide gave us a few tips on how to spend the rest of our day before we parted company. We did give him a cash tip for all his help that day.
We headed to Ollivander’s and participated in the Wand ceremony. My son was chosen to participate and had so much fun interacting with the wizard!
We were able to use out VIP badges to get 10% off the kids’ wands. We enjoyed our frozen Butter Beers and went on Gringotts again and were able to experience the queue.
Next we hopped back aboard the Hogwarts Express over to Islands of Adventure and went on Forbidden Journey and enjoyed walking through the Express Pass line which still takes you through Hogwarts and then headed over to ride Hagrid’s one last time before the park closed. We really enjoyed seeing the details of the queues!
We were still pretty full from lunch so we just had a snack to tie us over and of course, we made a stop in Hogsmeade at Honey Duke’s and picked up some candy treats!
Overall we were able to do 16 rides in one day!
SO – was it worth it? YES! If you want a more relaxed park visit during a bust time of year, I would highly recommend the VIP Tour! Bypassing the long lines, getting on all of the Harry Potter rides easily, and even getting to ride in the front car of the Velocicoaster, all without constantly checking my phone for wait times made the day the highlight of our Universal vacation!