No one can deny that the Disney Parks are magical – even with the long lines, crying kids, frustrated adults, and sweltering Central Florida sun. But, what if you could pay to make all of those not-so-magical things disappear? For a little while, anyway. All of that and more is possible during a luxury Disney vacation.
For some people, however, the steep cost of Disney luxury is more than their meager travel budget can bear. Luckily, there are still plenty of ways to travel like a Disney World VIP even without an Amex black card in your wallet.
So, whether you’ve got deep pockets or can hunt down a bargain with the best of them, keep reading for all the ways to live like royalty while visiting Walt Disney World, as well as some high-end hacks. You will be hobnobbing with the likes of Elsa and Anna, after all.
Due to COVID-19, many Walt Disney World attractions and experiences are temporarily modified or unavailable. In general, offerings that require guests and cast members to be in close contact might be on hold at this time. As the pandemic continues to evolve, expect the situation at Disney World to do the same. For the most up-to-date information, please refer to the My Disney Experience app or the Disney World website, or speak to a concierge cast member at the front desk of your Disney World resort hotel.
How to Upgrade Your Disney World Vacation (on the Cheap)
It’s a tale as old as time. No, not Beauty and the Beast. We’re talking about designer knockoffs, IKEA hacks, and Rent the Runway. That age-old tradition of wanting to live the high life and look expensive without having to spend the big bucks.
Did Cinderella go down to the local dressmaker to have a gown made for the ball? Spoiler alert, but no! Her mouse pals and fine feathered friends formed an impromptu sewing circle and spruced up her mother’s dress for her. (Of course, her rotten stepsisters then tore that dress to shreds, ruining one of the last things she had of her mother’s and almost keeping her from meeting Prince Charming. But never mind that, just go with the analogy.)
In that same spirit, this guide is all about how to live luxuriously at Walt Disney World, along with some more frugal substitutions. Now, we won’t lie – some of our thriftier options aren’t even that cheap. Plus, Disney World is expensive enough as it is, especially when you’re paying for a family of three or more. That being said, all that lavishness comes at a price. And trust us, with perks like these, you’ll be tempted to pay it.
Stay in One of the Luxury Hotels in Disney World
Get your fancy on by booking a room at one of the luxury Disney World hotels. Disney deluxe resorts offer extravagant, immersive settings, transporting guests to such far-flung places as a lodge on an African savanna, the Polynesian isles, or a grand chalet in the Pacific Northwest. Add in some elaborately themed pools, unique recreation offerings, rooms with views of the Disney World fireworks, convenient locations, and incredible restaurants and dining experiences like dinner shows, chef’s tables, and more, and you’ve got a relaxing stay that’s oozing opulence and pixie dust in equal measure.
Looking to really treat yourself? Stay at one of the high-end Disney resorts with club-level service. This Disney World VIP experience comes complete with a dedicated concierge team and personalized front desk and admission to the resort’s exclusive club-level lounge, where refreshments are served at different points during the day. Before your trip, you’ll even receive vacation-planning assistance from Disney Signature Services. Consider them your own personal fairy godmothers who will gladly work their Disney magic to make your vacation as effortless and memorable as possible.
Traveling with a big family or a group of friends? In addition to rooms with club access, many of the deluxe resorts at Disney World also offer larger guest room options like suites, villas, cabins, and even overwater bungalows with swanky extras likes plunge pools and porches with hot tubs and lake views.
Or, if you’re looking to stay at the most luxurious Disney resort, book your stay for the Four Seasons Resort Orlando. Located in the affluent Golden Oak community (more on that in a bit), the Four Seasons touts a lush waterpark, upscale dining, a golf club, and an unbeatable location just down the road from the Magic Kingdom.
Can’t swing the steep room rates? With prices climbing to $1,000 or more per night even during the low season at many deluxe Disney resorts, we don’t blame you. Fortunately, we have some suggestions that are perfect for those doing Disney World on a shoestring, while also letting you treat yo self.
While you could head down to Disney Springs to the NBA Experience, to actually walk in the (really big) footsteps of professional basketball players, and to enjoy some affordable Disney elegance, stay at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. Not only did the hotel’s Gran Destino Tower played host to many players during the NBA bubble in 2020, but as a moderate resort with club-level service, it’s one of the rare stays on Disney World property that is more reasonably priced while not lacking in luxe touches.
Traveling with little ones? While children will go crazy for all the regal Disney details in the Royal Guest Rooms at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside, adults will love the reasonable price tag that’s attached.
Go on a Disney World VIP Tour
Ever stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the masses while waiting in a queue at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and wished that you could magically cut to the front of the line? Well, *poof* that dream can become a reality with a Disney World VIP tour. Throughout the day, you and up to 9 other guests will be treated to front-of-the-line access to many attractions and incomparable insight from your knowledgeable tour guide, all while being whisked around Walt Disney World in a private, air-conditioned black SUV.
As you can probably guess, this lavish service isn’t cheap. A Disney World VIP tour costs between $425 and $750 for an hour depending on the season, and tours must be booked for at least 7 continuous hours. That’s a bare minimum of almost $3,000, and that’s not even including theme park tickets.
Looking for exclusive access that doesn’t break the bank? Go on a backstage tour instead! While you may not be able to skip all of the lines, backstage tours allow you to experience Disney World like never before. Whether you want to see the Utilidor tunnels below Magic Kingdom, go on safari during the Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom, or swim with dolphins at Epcot, Disney World backstage tours are 5-star experiences you won’t soon forget. Plus, at around $100 to $250 each, they’re a whole heckuva lot cheaper than a private Disney VIP tour while still having you feel like a very important person.
Set Sail on a Private Disney World Fireworks Cruise
There’s no question that fireworks are the perfect ending to a Disney day. But nothing says luxe like watching them from your own private boat. Setting sail from marinas in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot resort areas, private Disney World fireworks cruises are the ultimate way to watch the fireworks in Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Upscale cheapskates, rejoice! Chartered Disney specialty cruises start at a surprisingly reasonable $399 plus tax for a 25-foot boat with room for up to 10 guests (that’s roughly only $40 per person if you split it!), a captain, and a few snacks and drinks to enjoy. Talk about affordable luxury!
Wanting a floating fireworks extravaganza that’s slightly less expensive (even less so when you’re paying for kids too), the Ferrytale Fireworks Dessert Cruise starts guests off with a selection of sweets and both nonalcoholic and alcoholic beverages and concludes with a big firework finale. The cruise departs from the Transportation & Ticket Center and costs $99 for adults and $69 for children.
Rent out Disney World After Hours
If you can’t beat the crowds, then just pay to avoid them altogether by renting out Disney World when the parks are closed.
For true Disney fans, consider tying the knot in The Most Magical Place on Earth. While you could say your vows at one of the Disney World resorts, Disney’s Fairytale Weddings also lets you book out different parts of the theme parks when guests aren’t around. Of course, getting hitched in front of Cinderella Castle doesn’t come cheap, with the ceremony fee alone setting you back at least $30,000.
Have a different sort of soiree in mind? Disney Meetings & Events can make it happen. From elaborate social events to next-level corporate meetings, Disney’s events team can make all your party dreams come true. Bar mitzvah at The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror or a family reunion takeover of Festival of the Lion King anyone?
Wishing that Disney World wasn’t so far from the beach? Guests of means can bring the ocean to them at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park. Private surf sessions before or after the water park opens allow you and your crew to hang ten in utter privacy. Prices are around $1,100 to $2,100 depending on how many waves you’d like to ride for a group of up to 25 people.
Don’t have the bank account to have Disney World all to yourself? Go to a Disney after-hours special event instead. From seasonal celebrations around the Halloween and Christmas holidays to a group Learn to Surf sesh at Typhoon Lagoon, there are several opportunities to keep the pixie dust flowing even when the parks are “closed.” While you will still have the crowds to contend with, they certainly won’t be as bad as visiting after rope drop. And best of all, you’ll likely even have access to some unique experiences that you normally wouldn’t be able to have during regular hours.
Savor Elevated Disney World Dining Experiences
Foodies concerned that there aren’t enough dining options to please their refined palates will be happy to learn that Disney World has really stepped up its game when it comes to food in recent years. No longer just hot dogs, hamburgers, and turkey legs, you can now indulge in an array of fine dining experiences.
Without a doubt, the most luxurious meal at Disney World can be found at Victoria & Albert’s at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. This premier restaurant is a true Disney treasure, winning the AAA Five Diamond Award every year since 2000. By itself, the 10-course Chef’s Tasting Menu costs a cool $235 per diner, with the option to add on a caviar tasting for an additional $295. Or, to get a front-row seat to the culinary magic, reserve a spot for the Chef’s Table. With views of the action-packed kitchen and personalized butler service, it’s a delicious way to spend $250.
While we’re not sure when (or if) it will be available again, if it returns, another dining experience that you won’t want to miss is Delicious Disney: A Chef Series. Held in the exclusive Golden Oak neighborhood for the price of $349 per person, this decadent Disney dining event is a feast for both the eyes and stomach, pairing award-winning chefs and sommeliers to make sumptuous dishes inspired by classic Disney movies and theme park attractions.
All the adventurous eaters out there will want to save space for the $150 per person Omakase Tasting Menu at Takumi-Tei in the Japan Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. After this multicourse, chef-selected and inspired celebration of Japanese fine dining, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more room in your stomach for drinking around the world.
Never fear, frugal foodies. There are plenty of other tempting Disney World dining options available that won’t break the bank. For an elevated meal – both literally and figuratively – book an advance dining reservation at one of the rooftop restaurants at Disney World. California Grill at the Contemporary Resort, Topolino’s at the Riviera Resort, and Toledo at the Coronado Springs Resort all offer sweeping views of the sprawling resort, along with some of the best eats.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is also home to not one, but two different food-centric experiences including the Jiko Wine Tasting and Dine With An Animal Specialist at Sanaa. The latter meal is a true culinary adventure, as you nosh on dishes inspired by African and Indian cuisines while chatting with an animal keeper about the creatures roaming about on the savanna just outside the window.
Traveling with kiddos? Nothing says kid-friendly elegance quite like character dining with the Disney princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table. And of course, you can always go to Disney Springs for some of the best restaurants at Disney World no matter who you’re going to Disney World with.
Pamper Your Little Princess or Prince
Kids are little princesses and princes in our hearts, so go ahead and treat them like royalty at Disney World. Cast members will call her “princess” when they see her, so she might as well look like one. The crew of fairy godmothers-in-training at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique will have your little girl or boy (or you, if you fancy) all decked with everything from shimmery makeup or glitter to a glamorous gown or a dashing prince outfit. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique prices range from around $65 to $450 for little princesses and roughly $20 to $80 for little princes.
Once the kiddos are feelin’ fancy, get them over to Disney’s Grand Floridian for a tea party with a few extra-special hosts. As your children are munching on snacks, sipping “tea” (shhh, it’s apple juice), making crafts, and singing songs, they’ll be visited by Disney characters like Alice and The Mad Hatter at the Wonderland Tea Party and Princess Aurora at Disney’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party. The Wonderland Tea Party at 1900 Park Fare costs a reasonable $49 per child, while the Perfectly Princess Tea Party is a steep $333.64 for one child and one guest aged 10 and up and includes an assortment of keepsakes.
The littlest members of the family don’t need to miss out on an opportunity to look and feel special just because the funds aren’t there for a full Disney princess makeover. In fact, they don’t even need to miss out on a visit to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. If you pop by, one of the Fairy Godmothers in Training can offer them (and you) a proper pixie dusting of hair glitter for free.
Star in Your Own Disney World Photo Shoot
At Disney World, you don’t just have to wait for the rides and the food – you have to wait to have your picture taken too. Rather than wasting time standing around for the PhotoPass Photographer, consider booking a private photoshoot instead. Capture Your Moment at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom gives guests access to a personal Disney photographer for 20-minute sessions priced at $50 for up to 8 guests.
Whether you have something to celebrate or are simply looking for some epic travel photos for the ‘gram, these Disney photo shoots will have you feeling like a true Disney World VIP as you’re snapping your family vacation pics. Unfortunately, the photos taken aren’t included in the price, so you will need to buy individual prints or downloads, have Disney’s Memory Maker, or be a qualifying annual passholder to access the finished product.
If you don’t have a picture of it, did it ever really happen? Fortunately, Memory Maker from Disney’s PhotoPass makes sure you don’t have to worry about any of that. While Memory Maker doesn’t take away the pain and annoyance of having to wait in line, it does give you the freedom to capture all those magical moments with reckless abandon. With this handy-dandy, all-access photo pass, you’ll get to keep each and every photo and video taken by a Disney World photographer. The One-Day Memory Maker is the most affordable option at $69, with other options topping out at $169 and $199.
Score Some VIP Seats
When it comes to exclusivity, nothing says Disney VIP quite like being a member of Club 33. Although the original Club 33 started in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, it has since made its way over to each of Walt Disney World’s theme parks. This private Disney club comes with unbeatable perks like access to exclusive Disney theme park restaurants and lounges, annual passes, additional single-entry tickets, and more. Best of all, many of these clandestine dining options are hidden in plain sight throughout the parks, which only adds to the fanciness of it all.
Of course, admittance to these private establishments comes with a hefty cost. To the tune of $33,000 to join followed by a yearly fee of $15,000. Even the admissions process is exclusive, with only a handful of memberships being granted each year. To join, guests must email a letter of inquiry, then cross their fingers and wait for an invite to come through.
While those VIP seats may be out of reach for most Disney guests, some other exclusive seating areas are a bit more attainable. Disney World fireworks dessert parties are held at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios, with seats ranging from $39 to $99. These sweet soirees feature a selection of sugary treats, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and some of the best views in the house – all without having to spend an hour or more saving your spot.
Live at Walt Disney World
Ever wished you could live at Disney World? No, we don’t mean just next door or trying to hide out in a bathroom until the park closes. We mean actually live there. Well, while you can’t move into Cinderella Castle or have a quaint little apartment on Main Street U.S.A., you can own real estate on Disney property just down the road from the Magic Kingdom. Golden Oak is an elegant gated community with custom homes starting at a lofty $2 million, with complimentary transportation and exclusive ticket packages coming standard.
While you may not be able to really live at Walt Disney World, you basically can with Disney’s Platinum and Platinum Plus Pass. These Disney World annual passes pull out all the stops with benefits like access to each of the theme parks every day of the year (with the exception of after-hours holiday parties), complimentary parking, and more. The Platinum Plus Pass puts things even more over-the-top with 365-day access to the water parks and Disney golf courses. It’s everything a Disney World fan could ever need.
Well Disney fans, that concludes our list of the best ways to upgrade your Disney World vacation. Whether you’re well-to-do or working with a budget, you’re sure to find a way to make your trip as magical – and luxurious – as possible.
Looking for even more ways to make the most of your Disney day? Take a look at our one-day plans for Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Need a way to save a few bucks so you can do one of the things on this list? Then don’t miss out on discount Disney World tickets.
Are you a pro when it comes to affordable opulence? How do you like to make your trip to Disney special? What Disney upgrade do you always spring for? Let us know in the comments!
Amber is a proud former Walt Disney World Cast Member, an unabashed travel addict, and a hospitality and tourism specialist with over 10 years in the industry. She likes getting her wanderlust fix by sharing her favorite park tips and tricks with other Disney fans. When she isn’t working, you can usually catch her in a hot power yoga class or spending way too much money at Disney Springs.