How to get the VIP treatment at Universal Orlando

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A welcome sign for the fictitious town of Springfield from the hit television show "The Simpsons" at Universal Studios Orlando.
A welcome sign for the fictitious town of Springfield from the hit television show "The Simpsons" at Universal Studios Orlando. Photo Credit: Omar Perez

While Universal Orlando passholders are getting a red-carpet entrance as part of May bonuses, there are ways to get that type of treatment year-round.

Transformers: The Ride at Universal Studios Orlando.
Transformers: The Ride at Universal Studios Orlando. Photo Credit: Omar Perez

Universal Orlando offers two such options: the VIP Experience, starting at $229 per person, plus park admission; and the more exclusive Personal VIP Experience, which starts at $3,000, plus park admission, for up to 5 guests (or 6-12 guests at additional cost).

Both options, which range from 5 to 8 hours per day, one or two parks, or one or two days, include valet parking, buffet breakfast, tour guide, reserved show seating and front-of-line ride entry via backstage shortcuts. Two-park, nonprivate experiences include buffet lunch, and one-park, one-day guests do not receive a meal. The Personal Experience includes dinner at participating Universal-owned restaurants.

Related: Universal Orlando sets Q1 earnings record

Once both tours end, guests are given an Express Pass and can stay at the parks until closing.

My recent VIP Experience

A recent press event held in early May could be considered a VIP Experience, sans accommodations and specialty drinks. Our press tour highlighted the more adrenaline-inducing rides (VelociCoaster, The Incredible Hulk and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coasters), but guests who purchase either Experience can discuss their wishes beforehand. While the tour on nonprivate experiences cater to groups' interests as a whole, private tour guests can create their own schedule.

The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal Studios Orlando.
The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal Studios Orlando. Photo Credit: Omar Perez

Our group's guide, John, pointed out quirky facts about our immediate surroundings during the day, such as why there was a silhouette of a one-legged woman on a bathroom sign (think "Jaws"). Guides accompany guests on both Experiences. The VIP Experiences include other guests and are capped at 12 guests, while the private tour is just that: private.

Travel agents who sell VIP tours get 10% commission, plus 5% to 10% on park tickets, depending on the number of days and number of parks.

On our trip, buffet breakfasts and lunches were the norm, as was specialty dining (included only in the Personal VIP Experience). The question wasn't what to eat; it was how much one could consume before hopping on a roller coaster without repercussions. Oftentimes, we took backstage shortcuts to get front-of-line access to rides, and in a couple of instances, allowed to ride twice in a row, much to the dismay of non-VIP visitors who likely thought we were cutting in line.

While we saw no absurdly long queues, they're not uncommon. When Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts opened in 2014, guests stood in line for more than 4 hours. And in the hot, humid Florida summer, it was a delight to simply walk up to a ride and enjoy it.

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