/ Travel & Leisure

VIP experiences – are they really worth paying a premium for?


With Christmas round the corner, some of you may be venturing on festive days out where you can opt for a VIP experience. But are these premium tickets actually worth paying extra for?

We all like to be made to feel special and the VIP experience is a growing trend, with many venues and brands offering different levels of product or experience.

Fair enough, you get what you pay for. But lately I’ve noticed instances where the VIP level either provides you with what you would expect as a minimum or works by actively disadvantaging those who won’t pay the premium.

Take theme parks – early adopters of the premium/VIP/fast track idea as a means of disadvantage if you don’t pay up. If you’re smart enough to book at least five days in advance, you can secure entry to a certain (popular) park for £32 (£27.50 for a child under 12. For a family of four, that’s £119). It costs more if you just turn up on the day.

You’d think that would bring you equal access to all the rides. Wrong. You’re in the queue behind everyone who has bought an additional fast track ticket, which means they can jump ahead of you. These start at £12 to get on three rides and go up to £55 each to get on all the biggest rides ahead of those who’ve just walked in the door or who have the standard ticket. For a family of four, that can work out as much as £220 extra. With the standard entry ticket, that’s £339 in total ­– enough for a weekend away.

The rides are the same, whether you pay the extra or not. But more and more people feel pressured into paying the premium to get ahead of the queues. Shouldn’t we all have a minimum level of experience of queuing with everyone, without being pushed backwards as others overtake?

Standard experience

In my view, this disadvantaging of customers who won’t pay more is everywhere. A seasonal example is at the Saatchi Gallery in London. It is putting on a Lego exhibition, which includes a Star Wars gallery, over the Christmas period.

The basic entrance fee isn’t cheap, at £15 per head – £60 for a family of four. Then there is an additional premium experience – yours for double the price, at £30 each. For the extra, you get a limited-edition mini figure, a tote bag, a Make and Take set, a special lanyard and you get to meet ‘Mrs Claus’.

But it won’t be much fun explaining to kids with standard tickets (which still cost £15 each, remember) why they can’t have a special lanyard like the other children, or a tote bag, or why they can’t take away the special Lego designs they’ve made – like the other children.

The biggie though will be explaining why they can’t see Santa’s missus. To me, this should come as a minimum standard and be for everyone. Give the premium ticket kids presents if you like, but at least let the standard ticket kids talk to the next best thing to the big man himself!

Or, you know, you could just have a single price and give people the option to buy stuff (or not) in the shop afterwards. That might be more in the spirit of Christmas.

Peace and love to ALL, not just the VIP ticket holders.

How much more would you pay for a VIP experience?

I wouldn't pay any extra - the standard ticket is fine (72%, 534 Votes)

10% extra (14%, 102 Votes)

20% extra (9%, 68 Votes)

50% extra (3%, 21 Votes)

More than 100% extra if I really wanted it (2%, 13 Votes)

100% extra (1%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 745

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What do you think of VIP/Premium experiences? Have you come across any that really aren’t worth the extra cash? Or have you seen any festive days out that offer a VIP experience that’s anything but?


Fast Track ticketing in theme parks has always been a thorny issue. In Disneyland Paris the Fast Track system is free to all guests to use, but there are different levels of Fast Pass tickets, dependant on the hotel in which you stay .Disney are, however, pretty egalitarian in that regard, and ensure that the most popular rides are accessible for all at the same rate.

The Saatchi Gallery example isn’t good, I agree. Children at Christmas should never be treated like that, and the gallery should make their money in ways that only affect the adults.

I would never pay a single penny for any so called VIP experience if they cannot do it as a normal feature then b—–cks to them,

Bought one years ago to see roger waters at Hyde Park, it was a complete waste of money. The only things provided above a standard ticket were a separate bar area and free bbq buffet (not very nice). When the concert started we were stood amongst the cheap tickets anyway. Pointless. Would never purchase again.

I don’t like it, I think it’s snobbish and socially divisive but sometimes that is what life’s about. If you want your kids to feel what it’s like to be a cut above and strive to be a cut above, and if I thought the event worth it, then yes I’d pay the extra buck for my kids and probably invite the kids of a valued customer or boss, but I’d also tell my kids, “If this is what you want then you’ve got to work at school to get it.”

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Duncan, were you referring to the monetary poor or the poor in spirit?

I think we need to move over to the Lobby to continue as we are off topic

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Fair enough Duncan. I respect your decision.

I once bought a VIP ticket for an outdoor cinema. The extra £15 allowed me to watch the movie in a “director’s” style chair, early access (of about 15 mins) and a free cocktail, which they didn’t have so I got a glass of prosecco. Overall, I doubt I would both again.

“Take theme parks – early adopters of the premium/VIP/fast track idea as a means of disadvantage if you don’t pay up”

I find it slightly annoying to “take theme parks” as a general comment when a specific park’s prices are being quoted. Please feel bold enough to name names. I dread to think how confusing a generalised comment would have been on “take art galleries”.

As for the Saatchi example I think it is despicable manipulation. I am saddened that apparently Lego approve of this type of marketing.

I hadn’t spotted that: “Take theme parks – early adopters of the premium/VIP/fast track idea as a means of disadvantage if you don’t pay up.”

It’s also inaccurate as the world’s biggest theme parks (Disney) don’t ‘sell’ fast pass tickets; they allocate them on a first come – first served policy in the parks themselves. They do have ‘permanent’ passes if you book a suite, but none is actually sold.

Hmmm, I had a similar experience this weekend. I went to see a show in London. The audience was all ages. It was 15+ show but ages 15-18 had to be accompanied by an adult.

Near the end of the show, the main singer thanked everyone for attending and then said he would love to meet people after the show. If you bought two pieces of his merchandise then he would take the time to say hello and take photos etc.

Now, I was not fussed about meeting him and actually slipped out early to avoid the rush of people leaving – but the sentiment left a bad taste in my mouth. As some of the audience we younger than 18 (and I assume more likely to want to meet him) then it would be down to the parents to fork out for two pieces of merch or let their child be disappointed.

In my opinion, if he wanted to make people pay extra for the opportunity to say hi, then he should have offered meet and greet packages at an additional cost.

Has anyone had any experience of this?