This time in Disney Parks history will likely be known as “The Add-On Era.” We have seen the introduction of paid FastPass experiences, private transportation, dessert parties, merchandise events, dress-up services, special early or late ticketed entry, and a variety of tours. While most of these options are meant to optimize the guest experience, some guests are left more confused than ever. Newcomers see the list of extras and wonder if they are necessary to get the most out of their vacation. Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort veterans see the paid services as a way for Disney to reduce access to things that were historically complimentary. Despite fans grumbling on social media, Disney is experiencing routinely crowded theme parks and sold out special events. Emerging with a pricey answer for frazzled guests are the private tour guides.
Disney offers Private VIP Tours, which give guests the ability to have a guide customize a day of experiences to suit their preferences. This option requires booking a minimum of 7 hours for up to 10 guests, at a cost of $425 to $625 per hour. Theme park admission is not included; however, you will be using your guide’s special FastPass access. Small group tours are also available for various itineraries of 4-7 hours. These basically offer FastPasses to certain attractions at one or more parks for a fee of $250-$350 per person. Some of the tours include transportation and a meal.
Then there are the private tour guides. These are individuals or companies not affiliated with Disney that are selling you tours similar to the Disney ones. They cannot offer special fireworks viewing areas or all-access FastPasses, but they do provide luxuries that many find tempting. Before you arrive for your Disney vacation, they will make your dining reservations and manage your FastPass selections. They will be the ones up in the wee hours, constantly refreshing the My Disney Experience app to secure the more elusive requests. They claim to use their vast knowledge of the parks to create a touring strategy that results in minimal wait times.
Other perks included in their service are the ability to wait with your child while you are on an attraction, thus eliminating the need for rider swap, or riding attractions with your child that you don’t care to experience. They will take photos of your family throughout the day, order your quick service food and have it waiting for you, stake out a parade viewing location, and wait for you with your stroller at the exits of attractions. No more stroller hunting!
As with Disney, some include transportation, have minimum booking rates, and theme park admission is not included. However, their rates are less expensive at $150-$250 per hour plus tip. Reviews for this type of independent guide can be found on TripAdvisor and a quick Google search will lead you to several sites offering the service.
So, is this what is now necessary to maximize your Disney vacation? Would this type of personal service be worth the expense? Clearly, the answers will vary depending on a traveler’s needs, budget, and expectations. The thought of it might not seem so absurd when you consider there are guides available in New York City, Yosemite National Park, The Grand Canyon, and countless other destinations. Adventures By Disney exists because of travelers’ desire for a guide. Aside from expense, would you welcome a stranger to join you for a portion of your family vacation? Do you think it would enhance the time with your loved ones? Either way, visiting Disney Parks has evolved in an unexpected way.