Visiting Universal Studios Theme Park: How a VIP Tour will save you money (as well as your sanity)

Last Spring the lovely people at Universal Studios Orlando invited us to visit their park in Florida for a VIP tour. It's not something I might have sprung for normally, but after having the most amazing theme park experience ever, I am completely sold that this is now the only way to ever see a theme park. And after doing a little frugal mommy math, I think I can even justify it as paying for itself.

So here's the deal with the Universal Studios VIP tour. I haven't been on any Disney World or any other theme park VIP tours so I don't know if they are all the same, but basically it works like this: You meet your guide and he chats with you about what kind of stuff you want to do. Then he takes you through the park, completely picking out the itinerary so you don't have to think about it at all. But the most amazing thing about the VIP tour is you cut every line (except like two rides that are too popular to let people cut without instigating a vengeful mob scene.) and move through the park at lightning speed, which not only is super cool and fun, but takes all the stress out of visiting a theme park, eliminates fights between siblings about where to go next, and completely eliminated my own exhaustion and fatigue.

We spent about 7 hours in the park that day, saw both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks and and at the end of the day I, literally, could have gone out dancing, rather than the normal complete exhaustion I would have felt after doing a theme park with two children.

So, you get it, the Universal Theme Parks VIP tour is awesome, but how can it save you money? I must be joking, right? Actually, I say that only very slightly tongue in cheek, because check out our amazing experience and all the ways how visiting Universal Studios on a VIP tour could pay for itself.

Water: Let's start with water. Bottles of water in the park run about $5 each (ouch!). When you take a VIP tour, however, you enter the park and immediately proceed to the VIP welcome station where you get your flashy VIP badges (hey, instant souvenir, that just saved you at least $50 at the gift shop.) At the welcome station they invite you to load your bags up with as much bottled water as you'd like to carry with you all day. (minimum savings $5-$10 per person).

Food: At lunch time you will be given a coupon for 25% off your food and free drinks. (minimum savings $20)

Snacks: Because we were moving so easily through the park, we didn't need as many breaks to destress ourselves with food. I brought some pretzels and we made one ice cream stop. (savings on all the exorbitant junk food we didn't buy: minimum $10 per person)

Junk: I know I'm not the only parent who occasionally has to grease the wheels with small bribes just to keep the family unit intact and moving forward. Because the tour guide is in charge of our movement through the park, there are no fights between siblings about where to go next, and basically no room for dawdling or having fits. We all pretty much fell in line and did as we were told, which meant I didn't have to buy anything to resolve our familial problems. (minimum savings $20)

Hotel: By being able to move through the park so quickly and without stress, you can literally cut a day off your trip and still get the whole action packed adventure. (savings of $100-$400) Plus admissions tickets for a second day at the park ($35 per person)

So let's do the math: A non-exclusive two-park VIP tour (which means you are with a group of up to 12 people ) if your group is less than twelve you will matched with one or two other groups.) costs $150 per person on top of the park admission tickets. (We're assuming a family of 4 for this exercise.) Seems pricey, but let's see how the savings add up:

VIP tour tickets cost: $600

VIP tour savings total: $390-$660

Souvenirs: $50-$100

Water: $20-$40

Food: $20

Snacks: $40

Junk: $20

Theme park tickets: $140

Hotel: $100-$400

Getting through a theme park vacation with your sanity: Priceless

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