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With Diagon Alley just around the corner, Universal Orlando has VIP experience

Scenes from my two park VIP tour at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.
Scenes from my two park VIP tour at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.
Barb Nefer

Everyone is eagerly awaiting the opening of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. With the media preview slated for June 17 to 20, it's sure to debut very soon.

That means that the summer is sure to be wall to wall people, with long ride lines, but there's a nice little secret you can use to slash your wait. Universal offers VIP tours of Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, or both parks that give you immediate access to many of the best attractions.

The VIP tours come in two different varieties: private and group. A private tour is limited to your very own group of friends or family. The group version means you get paired up with other guests who've booked the same day and time. Obviously, private tours are more expensive than the group version, but you have full freedom to tailor the whole tour to your group's tastes. Otherwise, your guide will work with the group to find options that appeal to everyone. For example, if the group is heavy on kids, you'll probably spend more time at Seuss Landing, while a pack of thrill seekers will hit rides like Hulk and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.

When I was at the resort for the Cabana Bay opening earlier this year, I had the chance to go on a two-park group tour. Even though I'm an annual pass holder who visits the parks frequently, the VIP elevated my experience and spoiled me rotten.

Granted, you can buy an Express Pass to get quicker access to most of the rides if you don't want to do a tour, but there's no express for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey or Ollivanders, and that trend is likely to continue with the new ride in Diagon Alley. On the tour, we were whisked to the front of the line for both Forbidden Journey and the wand shop because our group wanted to see the best of Hogsmeade.

That front-of-the-line access continues at every ride. With Express, there's still some wait time, but tour groups get priority service. That's why, even with the two park tour, you can cover an amazing amount of territory in one day. You don't have to worry about waiting to put your belongings in a locker and then taking time to retrieve them because your guide watches the group's bags, purses, cameras, and whatnot while everyone rides.

Of course, if you don't want to go on a particular ride, you're welcome to wait it out. This might happen if half your group is adventurous while the other half prefers low key attractions. The time gets split up between the two so everyone gets to do things they enjoy.

If you'd like a sampling of what your group might do, here's what I enjoyed during my recent two-park tour:

  • Spider Man
  • Dr. Doom
  • Hulk
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • One side of Dragon Challenge
  • Ollivanders Wand Shop
  • Transformers
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit Roller Coaster
  • The Simpsons ride
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Men in Black
  • ET

We also took a lunch break, so the tour wasn't rushed at all. Better yet, in addition to all the attractions, we learned secrets and trivia and got to visit areas that are off limit to most guests. We got a sneak peek at the dark area under the tracks in Revenge of the Mummy, and we also got to get photos in the lower scenic area of Men in Black. Check out the slideshow accompanying this article to check out that experience and some other scenes from the tour.

Two other perks include bottled water at the beginning of the tour and Express access once it's over. If you stay in the parks, just flash your tour lanyard and use the Express lines until closing time.

Yes, the tours are a little pricey, but you get what you pay for. You'll find the prices on the Universal website.

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