A few years ago, VIP tours at theme parks like Universal and Disney were only available for a select group of theme park guests, like public figures and celebrities. Today, any guest (with the proper budget) can book a VIP tour to experience white-glove service during their theme park day. Boasting benefits like front-of-line ride access, a private tour guide, peeks into backstage areas, and complimentary meals, Universal VIP Experiences are the gold standard when it comes to VIP tours. Universal VIP Experiences are well worth the price and are one of the best ways to spend a stress-free day while visiting a theme park. Here’s why Universal’s VIP tours are worth the splurge!
The Basics: What are Universal VIP Experiences?
Before we discuss why Universal VIP experiences are awesome, let’s go over what they are and what they include. Universal VIP tours offer multiple options with a private tour guide who spends the day escorting you around Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, allowing you to skip ride lines and giving you peeks of exclusive places and backstage areas. Food is included in some tours, as well. Universal offers two types of VIP experiences: Group Tours and Private Experiences. Group and Private Tours are then broken up into 1-Park and 2-Park options. Tip: you’ll get the best experience by booking a 2-Park Tour. During a Group Tour, you and other members of your party will be placed in a group of up to 12 guests. Your Tour Guide will escort your group around the parks, giving front-of-line access to at least eight attractions, sharing insider stories, and offering glimpses backstage. Private VIP experiences, on the other hand, allow you to craft a completely customized itinerary with a private tour guide just for your party. Tours can range between five and eight hours, depending on the type of tour and how many parks you’ll visit.
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Why Universal VIP Experiences are Worth It
Reason 1: Included Benefits
Here are the perks that are included with every Universal VIP Tour:
- Dedicated tour guide
- Behind-the-scenes tours and experiences
- Front-of-the-line access to attractions
- Valet parking
- Reserved seating at in-park shows
- Universal Express Unlimited passes for the rest of the day
- Discounts on merchandise and food
- Free admission to some clubs at CityWalk
- At least one complimentary meal (all 2-Park Tours)
Private VIP tours include everything above and:
- A private tour guide for just your party
- Customized itinerary
- Dinner voucher
- Three-Day Photo Package (with unlimited digital downloads and free prints)
- Ability to use Child Swap
- Complimentary stroller rental
The number of perks and the numerous options available for VIP tours at Universal makes them an excellent choice for first-time VIPers.
Reason 2: Attraction Access
One of the main reasons people choose to book a Universal VIP Experience is to receive front-of-line access to rides. On average, you’ll wait less than 15 minutes to ride some of the park’s most popular attractions. Universal guarantees priority access for a minimum of eight rides for 1-Day, 1-Park Tours and ten rides for 1-Day, 2-Park Tours. However, guests often ride between 10 to 14 rides during a tour. You’ll also get an Unlimited Express Pass to enjoy for the rest of the day.
Although it’s never guaranteed, booking a VIP Experience may be the only way to skip the standby line at attractions that aren’t included with Express passes — specifically Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure™ and the VelociCoaster, which are the two most popular attractions at Universal right now. Just ask your VIP guide if these rides are available for priority access on the day of your tour.
Reason 3: Flexible Options
Universal allows a wide range of guests to experience a VIP tour, with Group and Private tours and multi-day options at different prices. Group Tours start at $189 per person (on top of theme park admission), making them potentially much more affordable than Disney’s Private VIP Tours, which are charged a flat hourly rate that starts at $450 per hour (with a seven-hour minimum requirement).
Reason 4: Complimentary Food
All guests on 2-Park VIP Tours have at least one complimentary meal. (Note: food is not included with Group 1-Day, 1-Park Tours.) Not stressing about where and when to eat (and how much it costs) during your VIP tour day allows you to maximize your time with your guide and creates a relaxing experience.
Guests on tours that begin before 11 am are treated to a hot buffet breakfast at Cafe La Bamba at Universal Studios. View the breakfast menu. Cafe La Bamba is the official VIP Experience headquarters—it’s where you’ll check in for your tour, meet your guide, and plan your day. You can even check your children’s height in advance to save time once you arrive at the attraction queue. You’ll return to Cafe La Bamba for a buffet lunch later in the day. See the lunch menu here.
Those who book Private VIP Tours will also get a dinner meal voucher for a sit-down restaurant at one of the theme parks or CityWalk. Dinner includes non-alcoholic drinks, an appetizer (for every two people in your party), an entrée, and dessert. VIP Tour Guides are known for their ability to *possibly* pull some strings and secure reservations at some of the park’s most sought-after dining experiences, like the award-winning Mythos at Islands of Adventure or Bigfire at CityWalk. Be sure to ask your guide what options may be available on your tour date.
Common Questions About Universal VIP Experiences
How much does a VIP tour cost?
Group Tours start at $189 per person. Exact prices vary depending on the time of year and crowd levels. Pricing does not include theme park admission, which needs to be purchased separately to participate in a VIP tour. Private Tour pricing also varies, but can be upwards of $3,000 per day for up to five guests.
Do you get to skip lines during a Universal VIP tour?
Yes. One of the best perks of a VIP tour is the ability to ride Universal’s top attractions with virtually no wait. Typically, you’ll wait between 5-15 minutes for each ride while on a VIP tour. You’ll get to skip lines at all Universal attractions, even ones not included in Express Passes, like Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure and VelociCoaster. Skipping lines for these two attractions is never guaranteed and is subject to availability.
Where do you eat during a VIP tour?
A buffet breakfast (for tours beginning before 11 am) and lunch are provided for all 2-Park Tours at Cafe La Bamba at Universal Studios. Dinner is included for Private Tours at a sit-down restaurant at Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, or CityWalk.
Are VIP tours kid-friendly?
All Universal VIP Experiences are kid-friendly, but Private VIP tours are better suited for families with young children. Private VIP Tours offer more flexibility when traveling with kids, as you can pick your itinerary and move through the parks at your own pace. During a Group Tour, you may feel like you’re playing a game of catch-up to stay with the rest of the group. Another disadvantage of doing Group VIP Experiences with children is that you won’t be able to take advantage of child swap. This could be a huge drawback if you have young children who can’t go on many of the big rides (which means someone in your party wouldn’t be able to go on them, either). Stroller rentals are also included with Private VIP Tours, which is an extra perk.
What behind-the-scenes experiences are available?
The backstage areas you’ll see largely depend on your individual tour guide and your goals for the day. If getting a sneak peek behind the scenes of Universal attractions is important to you, let your guide know so they can build that into your itinerary. Backstage experiences could include a private tour of the Immigration Floor at the Men in Black™: Alien Attack™, the egg-hatching facility inside Jurassic Park™ Discovery Center, and actor meet-and-greets after the Horror Make-Up Show. Private VIP Tours may experience a private show at Ollivanders™ Wand Shop.
Do you tip your tour guide?
Tips are never expected but appreciated for a job well done. If you wish to tip your VIP tour guide, it’s customary to tip 15-20% of your total tour cost in cash (you most likely won’t be able to add a tip to your initial tour cost).
Group vs. Private VIP Tour — What Should You Pick?
Private VIP Tours are the way to go if you want one-on-one attention, a dedicated tour guide, and the ability to plan a custom itinerary for the day. Private VIP tours are also ideal for traveling with young children. A Group VIP tour is your best option if you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to experience a VIP tour and don’t mind being in a group with other families.
How Do You Book a Universal VIP Experience?
For a stress-free, no-hassle way to book your Universal VIP Experience, use an experienced Universal Travel Agent like the ones at The Vacationeer. As a Universal Preferred Travel Agency, The Vacationeer has knowledgeable agents who are up to date with all Universal offerings. They will offer advice and book the tour for you! The best part? Their services are free to you!
If you don’t mind handling all of the planning logistics yourself, Group VIP Experiences can be booked online (based on availability). To book a private VIP Experience or book a group tour with a child under three, call the VIP Center at (866) 346-9350 between 9 am and 7 pm.
For VIP experiences at nearby Disney World, see our articles on whether Disney Private VIP Tours are Worth It, Five-star Disney Hotels, Michelin Guide Dining at Disney, and The Ultimate Luxury Disney Vacation.
For more Universal planning tips and tricks, check out our Universal Crowd Calendar and learn about the Best Times to Go to Universal Studios. View our Best Rides for Kids list and a breakdown of the Most Popular Universal Rides. Then, check out our guides to the Best Universal Hotels and Universal’s Best Restaurants.