Walt Disney World has been added a barrage of upcharge add-ons and events throughout the last year, and has recently consolidated many of these under the “Enchanting Extras Collection” banner. In this post, we’ll take a look at which of these we think are worth the money, and which you should skip.
In addition to those explicitly included by Walt Disney World in the Enchanting Extras Collection, we’ll include any upcharge offerings that we think guests might be considering. As we’ve received questions about a few of these things from readers, it makes sense to consolidate our response in one place.
Please note that many of the Enchanting Extras Collection experiences we have not experienced firsthand. Instead, we are evaluating some based on our perception of value for money and worthwhileness as gleaned from years of visiting Walt Disney World. We feel comparing our experience (and what’s been “missing” from it) against Disney’s explanation of what each experience provides (and its cost) gives us the basis for an informed opinion on the offering.
In terms of our bias, we are generally frugal travelers who are willing to splurge on luxury experiences that ostensibly offer value commensurate with cost. Still, we are pretty conservative when it comes to spending, so our threshold for ‘appropriate’ value for money is likely higher than most.
Additionally, our default “philosophy” towards any new Walt Disney World upcharge additions (as described in more detail on this page of our recent trip recap) is skepticism. We think most of these have been hastily thrown together as a way to provide new revenue streams and priced highly without much consideration over the value they offer guests.
That’s probably enough of a preface, let’s go through the Enchanting Extras Collection at Walt Disney World and offer our take on whether each is worth the money…
Early Morning Magic – No – I’ve seen a lot of people do logical contortions trying to justify the value in these, but it just isn’t there unless you approach the parks as being E-Ticket checklists, with each ride on Toy Story Mania being worth $X. In which case, you should probably just buy a used Wii and a copy of this. What? Not the same experience as being at Walt Disney World? Exactly. There are easy ways to enjoy these attractions during a normal, leisurely day in the parks without paying a surcharge. (Here’s a review of it.)
Disney After Hours – No – After an initial flop that no doubt lost Disney money, this has returned and become more popular. It’s still not worth it. What makes the seasonal hard ticket parties worth the money is the ambiance and special entertainment, Disney going the extra mile for a special event. There’s nothing special about this–it’s the same thing as a normal day just with a harder cap on attendance. (Here’s a review of it.)
Club Villain – No – You’re paying a steep surcharge for the villains here, one that seems excessive to me. I suppose you could consider this a plussed up dessert party with better food and an entertainment component, would require enjoying that entertainment component. I find Disney fans parties to be an abomination and would sooner pay to not attend one, so perhaps I’m biased against the very concept. (Here’s a review of it.)
Highway in the Sky Dine-Around – Maybe – This was just announced a few weeks ago in a flurry of other upcharges, so it was easy to lump it in with the rest as ridiculous. However, when you break down the many elements of this, it might not be a bad deal. The value proposition really turns on alcohol, and whether you’ll drink all that’s included. If so, this might be splurge with value. If not, you should just book ADRs to do your own monorail progressive dinner.
Dining with an Imagineer – Yes – Some people might view the rockstar celebrity status Disney fans bestow upon Imagineers as laughable, but then again, I think it’s pretty laughable that “normal” people fawn over someone just because they’re good at singing or acting. In any case, there are a variety of Imagineering disciplines, but regardless of your ‘host’ here, you’re bound for an engaging and fascinating dining experience. I think this could be especially beneficial for kids at that impressionable age who need a ‘celebrity’ role model that isn’t some drug addict rockstar. (Here’s a review of it.)
Chef’s Tables – Yes – These experiences include Victoria & Albert’s, Flying Fish, and Citricos. If you’re a foodie, or just interested in gaining a greater appreciation for the art and discipline of preparing food, these are great options. Not only is the food delicious and the experience intimate, but you can learn in the process about the decision-making processes of chefs and their kitchens.
In-Park Cabanas – LOLNO – I feel like this $650+/day, ugly temporary tent is actually just a red herring to make the high prices of the other Enchanting Extras more palatable by comparison. The only other option is that Disney is actually serious about these pieces of garbage, and that’s just depressing.
Express/VIP Transportation – Maybe – As much as this one really irks me because Walt Disney World should be improving its entire transportation fleet instead (and as such, I will never book this on principle) this express transportation, which operates via backstage routes and allows you to bypass security when park hopping, could be worth it if you purchase it for the duration of your trip. (Here’s a review of it.)
Wild Africa Trek – Yes – I’ve heard nothing but unanimous praise about Wild Africa Trek from those who have done it. While the price tag has kept us from doing it, when I think about how much an experience like this would cost elsewhere (even at the the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, special experiences are pricey) it seems fair. I wouldn’t hesitate to splurge on this if it’s something that appeals to your family. (Here’s a review of it.)
Other Animal Kingdom Animal Stuff – Maybe – Until I saw all of these listed on the Enchanting Extras page, I had no clue all of them existed. You know the upcharge thing has gotten excessive when I can’t even keep up with it all.
Epcot Seas Tours – Yes – I’ve done DiveQuest (albeit years ago when it was less than half the current cost) and it was one of the coolest diving experiences I’ve ever had. The prices do give me pause, but prices of aquatic experiences like these anywhere give me pause.
Sleigh/Wagon Rides – Maybe – If you want to enjoy a different side of Disney, I could see the carriage rides being worth it. However, at nearly double the cost during the month of December (blatant price gouging) when the same experience transforms into a sleigh, it’s not worth it. (Here’s a review.)
In-Park Dessert Parties – No – “It all started with a mouse dessert party.” ~Walt Disney. I feel like the success of dessert parties is what opened the floodgates for so many other upcharge offerings, and frankly, they are not worth the money. I suspect this will be met with the most staunch opposition as a lot of people enjoy dessert parties, but when you compare the value of the desserts versus the price and seating/location advantage, it does not work out.
You’re paying too significant of a premium for the reserved seating. In my opinion, too many planners fret about finding a viewing spot for shows. It’s really not that challenging to find a good spot–even on crowded nights–at the last minute. (Here’s a review of one.)
Dessert Cruises – Maybe – These come with premium desserts as compared to the standard dessert parties, but they also come with premium pricing. The ones open to the general public would garner a “no” on the value question, but the (even more expensive) renting out of a whole boat might have some appeal if you’re having a wedding party or are a bunch of Exxon executives celebrating your good fortunes. (Here’s a review of one.)
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique/Pirates League – Maybe – They are expensive–and BBB is arguably a bit creepy–but a lot of kids love both. When looked at from a strict value perspective…it’s difficult to really assess this one way or the other. There are some things that you cannot quantify, and that ‘specialness’ your kid has as they walk around the park feeling like a princess or pirate is one of them.
Pirate Adventure Cruises – Yes – There are four of these, and we’ve heard near-unanimous praise for them, with many parents saying this was their child’s favorite part of the trip. In any event, it’s 2 hours of entertainment for a relatively reasonable price, making it something that’s easy to recommend given the overwhelming positive feedback. (Here’s one review.)
Backstage Tours – Maybe – I think these will appeal most to those who have ‘been there, done that’ and are looking for a new perspective from which to enjoy Walt Disney World. While being backstage could ruin the illusion for some, I think seeing how the sausage is made, so to speak, can give others a greater appreciation for what takes place on stage. We’ve done a number of backstage events over the years, and have found them to be hit or miss in terms of value, but the totality of those experiences has been a deeper interest in how the parks and attractions operate.
VIP Tours – No – This is another one about which I’ve heard near-unanimous positive feedback, but in this case, I still don’t buy it. The price is so astronomical that it is impossible to reconcile that with the benefits inured. If money truly is no issue, perhaps I could see it. If that’s the case, though, you wouldn’t be consulting a blog post that analyzes which extras are “worth it.” (Here’s a review.)
In re-reading the above, I realize this post has a distinct ‘Debbie Downer’ tone to it, but it’s my sincere belief that most of the upcharge offerings at Walt Disney World are not worth the money for most guests. I think many first-time or infrequent guests have a fear of missing out or concern that their trip won’t “be magical” unless they throw as much money at it as possible.
I don’t subscribe to this philosophy (to the contrary, I think the more money spent, the more expectations and pressure increase, as do the likelihood of an “adult meltdown” resulting therefrom). However, a lot of people love all of these additional offerings, and my perspective on them certainly is not the only one, nor is my word the gospel. To assist in seeking out a range of opinions, I’ve gone back and added links to reviews that differ from mine. If you are considering any of these experiences, it might be worthwhile to read those counterpoints before making a decision. Likewise, if you’ve had your own experience with any of these (or other) upcharge offerings at Walt Disney World, please share in the comments!