Disney’s VIP Tour and our 24-hour Disney honeymoon

Disclosure:  While attending the 2016 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World earlier this year, Disney offered a complimentary VIP Tour to the parks on a future trip. I returned to Walt Disney World in October to review this experience. My park tickets were also provided by Disney. All other expenses were my own.

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One Ultimate Day in Disney? Let’s GO! 

Recently, I confessed that my husband and I had never taken a vacation without our children — ever. I became a mother the day we got married, and it wasn’t long before our family had grown to five! We travel pretty frequently, but we never planned a just-us trip. Truthfully, we love having the kids along when we travel, but we’ve always had back-burner plans to take a honeymoon at some point.

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In October, I spoke at a blogger conference that, while unrelated to Disney, was taking place at the convention center at the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World. Our family had already enjoyed a wonderful vacation back in May of this year, and I was actually looking forward to having a little “me time” in Disney for a few days outside of the conference. (I hadn’t been to Walt Disney World solo since my early 20s!)

My conference ran from Thursday to Saturday. As I was putting together my travel plans, my husband and I discussed the possibility of him coming down after my conference ended, then staying through the weekend. When I attended the Disney Social Media Moms conference earlier this year, conference attendees were given the opportunity to take a Disney VIP Tour on a return trip to Walt Disney World.

I’ve always wanted to take a VIP tour of Disney! As the tour we received was for two people and had to be used on a return trip, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to use it this year. As much as we love Disney, we’ve never been to the resort twice in the same year. 

Once I was invited to speak at the October conference, everything fell into place! I’ve written about “bleasure” travel before, as business-leisure tag-along trips can be great ways to save money. If one family member is already headed to a fun destination for work, other family members can share the hotel room. We made plans for my husband to join me in Florida on Saturday once my conference ended so we could take the VIP tour together on Sunday.

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On the morning of our tour, we woke up and walked from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom. As I passed through the bag check, the security guard shouted “Long Live The King!” in reference to my Disney Robin Hood shirt. Our VIP day was about to begin!

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Walt Disney World’s Ultimate Day of Thrills VIP Tour

We chose the Ultimate Day of Thrills VIP tour for our big Disney “honeymoon” day! This tour lasts about seven hours and takes attendees to three of the four Disney parks in the same day. Our tour began in the Magic Kingdom, and we met our guides shortly after 8:00am at a restaurant in Tomorrowland.  Our tour group had around 20 people in it, and we had three Disney VIP Tour guides working with our group.

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The tour counter had a selection of snacks and beverages for us to take and enjoy throughout our tour. We were given VIP tour laminates to wear throughout the tour as well, as our our guides gave us a little overview for the day.

The goal of this tour is to ride 10-11 of the most thrilling rides at Walt Disney World. The tour guides act as human Fastpasses, simply walking you onto each ride through the Fastpass queue. (No, you don’t have to get Fastpasses or do a thing, other than follow your guide throughout the parks!) If you’re looking to pack as many rides as possible into a single Disney day, this is the most effective way to do it.

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At the time we booked, this was the target list of rides for our tour:

Magic Kingdom
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Splash Moutain
Space Moutain
Haunted Mansion
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Animal Kingdom
Expedition Everest

Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Toy Story Mania!
Rock n’ Roller Coaster
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Star Tours – The Adventure Continues

After booking this tour, I received a call from Disney’s VIP Tour department letting me know that the routing for the tour was going to change. Instead of riding the Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest, our tour would replace this stop with a visit to Epcot’s new Soarin’ Around The World!  I was VERY excited about this change, as while we’re big fans of Everest, we had not yet ridden the new version of Soarin’.

Disney VIP tour itineraries are subject to change too. During our tour, Pirates of the Caribbean was having operational issues and was closed for the day. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Rock N’ Roller Coaster were closed for refurbishment. Our guides promised to fill in any gaps with additional thrilling rides.

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We began walking through the park, which was decorated festively for fall. Guides led us to Splash Mountain, and there’s nothing like starting the day off with a big splash! Our guides led us right through the Fastpass lane. While the VIP Tour guides have the option to ride along with you, they can also decline and wait for you at the ride’s exit. Our guides good-naturedly let us know they didn’t want to get wet this early in the morning! They also offered to hold any hats, purses, and cameras while we rode.

After our splashdown, our guides let us know we would next head to an attraction where “the dead would come to life.”

“The Hall of Presidents?” my husband joked. (Ha!)

We entered the Haunted Mansion for some fun with the thousand happy haunts who live within. While we’ve been enjoying the Hall since we were both children, it’s amazing how Disney continues to innovate and improve their classic rides.  At the end of the tour, a ghost has always magically appeared in your car via a two-way mirror effect at the end of the ride.

 We were delighted to note that this effect has completely changed to something incredible – this time around, a lively animated ghost appeared in our car and cut my husband’s head off, then blew it up like a balloon! It was an amazing digital effect that left us roaring and thinking “Did that just happen?”  (If you’ve ever seen the video game Kinect Party, which seamlessly blends digital effects with live action, it was a similar kind of effect — but better.)

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After the Haunted Mansion, our VIP tour guides led us to Gaston’s Tavern for a bathroom break. We grabbed some refreshments and enjoyed watching Gaston hit on every lovely lady walking by.

We also got to know some of the other people in our tour group. One family was from England and wanted to see as many “big” rides as possible in one day. Another man was in his late 60s. He told us he lived in Miami for almost his entire life, yet had never visited Walt Disney World. “I heard that if you’re going to do Disney in one day, this is the way to do it!” he said. We really enjoyed talking to him throughout our day and seeing his reactions to all of the attractions we experienced together.

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Next up, we boarded the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the Magic Kingdom’s newest roller coaster. This has quickly become one of our kids’ favorite rides because the ride is smooth as glass. It’s hard to believe that a coaster can glide through so many  dips and curves without any bumpiness or jerkiness. The theming of this ride is top-notch with a slow interlude in the middle – a trip through the dwarfs’ mine filled with gems and some of the best Animatronics Disney has to offer.

As we exited the ride, our guides had another surprise: “Let’s do it again!” With the Big Thunder coaster closed for refurb, our guides decided to make up for missing it with a second ride on the Mine Train!

Next, we headed to Space Mountain, Disney’s classic in-the-dark coaster, which is one of our favorites.  Upon exiting, we headed to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Our guides let us know that this was our substitute ride to make up for Pirates of the Caribbean being closed on this day.

After blasting lots of aliens and  comparing our shootout scores, our guides led us through a “Cast Members Only” door in the fence to an area where three large passenger vans were waiting to whisk us away to Epcot!

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We knew we would see some backstage and behind-the-scenes areas on our tour.  You aren’t allowed to take any photographs while in cast member areas, but you do see some pretty interesting things! For example, our tour was taking place a day before Halloween, so the parks were dressed in beautiful fall colors, flowers, and décor. Once we slipped behind the parks’ walls, we saw fully decorated Christmas trees, wreaths, and other decorations ready to dress the parks for the Christmas season.  One of our guides told us that after the parks closed on Halloween, guests visiting on November 1st would find the parks were completely redecorated overnight for the holidays!

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During the drive, our guides offered us bottles of ice water and Frosty Towels, a great item to have on hand for a quick cool-down from the Florida sun.

Our tour vans parked behind The Land pavilion, and our guides pointed out the new theater built on the back of the attraction to house a third viewing theater for Soarin’. The new Soarin’ Around the World attraction would be our next tour stop… right after lunch!

Our guides led us through the back of The Land. Again, I was marveling at all of the little things you see in the backstage areas.  While walking through a cast member hallway, I spotted a large dog kennel cage. I asked what it was for, and the guide said it was to house guests’ support dogs while riding Soarin’. Disney thinks of everything!

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Each VIP Tour includes lunch at a Disney Parks restaurant, and our group dined at Seasons inside The Land pavilion. Everyone in the group chose an entrée, beverage, and dessert. (We were especially impressed with the desserts! Candy apple and carrot cake cupcakes? Yes, please.)

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My husband and I each had a half rotisserie chicken, which was excellent. Each came with our choice of sides — we chose mashed potatoes and a saffron rice. (I, of course, had a BIG Coke too!)

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After lunch, our guides led us to the ride we were most excited about: Soarin’ Around the World! I have to confess, I love the original Soarin’ so much that I was a tiny bit worried that I might not enjoy the new version as much as Soarin’ Over California. Those worries were completely unfounded. I cannot say enough good things about the new Soarin’! I got tears in my eyes on this ride – it is so very, very good.

If you’ve never ridden before, Soarin’ is an incredibly realistic simulation of flight. Your seat lifts in the air, and you experience the sights, sounds, and smells of flying through various destinations. You fly over numerous world landmarks: The Great Wall of China, the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower. The new Soarin’ Around the World is an amazing successor to the original attraction. (Note: If you’re wearing flip-flops or slides, the cast members will ask you to take your shoes off before your flight. Really. My tip? Do it anyway. Flying barefoot is so much fun!)

I was seated near the man from Miami who I told you about earlier – the older gentleman who was experiencing Disney for the very first time. I will never forget the look on his face as we stepped off Soarin’. He was completely blown away and speechless.

Finally, he said “I have never, ever, experienced anything like that in my life. Ever.”

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We exited Soarin’ through a back Cast Member door and boarded our vans again for a trip around the back side of Epcot. On the way, our tour guides shared some trivia about the new Soarin’. The original Soarin’ featured a memorable ride through an orange grove where the scent of oranges filled the air. Without giving too much away, I’ll tell you that there is a portion of the new ride where the sweet scent of grass fills the air. Our guides told us that Disney worked hard to get the scent of the grass just right, and they finally got the sweetness of it to the perfect point where it resonated with guests by adding a little essence of… banana!

Our tour vans parked behind Chevrolet’s Test Track ride at Epcot. We walked through a backstage area behind the ride and saw the enormous garage where mechanics repair and maintain the test track cars. (My dad, the quintessential “car guy,” would have loved to have seen this! This is one of his favorite rides in the park.)

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Test Track was added to our itinerary on this day to make up for the refurb closure of Rock & Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  This is another one of my favorite attractions too. If you haven’t ridden in a few years, Test Track has been redesigned to let you “drive” a car of your own design. You build your car on a computer, and then throughout your test drive, you get updates on your car’s performance, handling, speed and efficiency.

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I’m sure it will surprise no one that I typically build my Test Track cars with maximum engine power, over-the-top performance options, and the most minimal fuel efficiency known to man. More power, baby!  

After Test Track. our guides led us through a maze of hallways inside the Test Track attraction and right back to our vans. We were heading to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  (It’s worth noting too that this is a pretty fast-paced tour.  All of the walking is done at a brisk pace, and you will not be able to take in as much of the front-of-house area of the parks.  The majority of our time in Epcot was spent behind the scenes, with our guides popping us out through seemingly-hidden doors to ride the rides, then whisking us right out the back.)

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We headed to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where we again entered through a back entrance and saw Christmas and holiday decorations waiting in the wings, ready to decorate the parks the following night. We rode the Tower of Terror, which is such a fun screamer of a ride.  Our tour guides commandeered an entire elevator for our group, so we all rode together, which was also fun. (You’d be surprised how well you get to know a group of strangers after spending the day together!)

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After the Tower, we headed over to Toy Story Mania, the Studios’ awesome 3D shooting gallery. While my husband and I have ridden before, we were delighted to enter a completely new room in the queue – Andy’s Closet! The main queue area for this ride looks like the inside of Andy’s bedroom, complete with giant board games, storybooks and Tinkertoys. In Andy’s Closet, we saw even more toys, enormous strings of Christmas light strung across the ceiling, and enormous coloring book pages.

Our guides rode in their own car, and I’m sad to say, my own shooting scores did not come close to rivaling those of the professional Disney VIP guides who get to ride this attraction multiple times a week. Here’s a photo of us with our tour guide, Angela, who had mad Toy Story Mania skills!

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Our final stop on the tour was Star Tours, which is my husband’s favorite ride in this park. (Yes, he is my resident Star Wars Guy.) This ride was recently redone too to expand the number of virtual reality flights you may encounter. This time around, our StarSpeeder took us on an underwater adventure  to Naboo!

We exited Star Tours shortly after 3:00pm, and our VIP tour guides informed us that sadly, our Disney VIP Tour had come to an end.  In seven hours’ time, we’d visited three Disney parks, ridden ten rides (one twice!) and had lunch. Our guides gave everyone hugs and reminded us that anything else we rode for the day would involve waiting in line..! 

We said goodbye to the people we’d spent our day with too and discussed heading over to the Animal Kingdom to ride Expedition Everest. Before my husband came down, I had set up FastPasses for Everest for the two of us, so that we could head to the Animal Kingdom next and truly visit four Disney parks in one day. (I helped a few other people in our group do the same thing during the tour once they overheard our plans!)

However, Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival was also going on, and we decided to change our plans on the fly and forego the Animal Kingdom to spend more time in my husband’s favorite park. Epcot.  He felt that we hadn’t seen enough of it on this day, and we just love eating our way around the World Showcase too.

To book a Disney VIP tour, visit this link.  The Ultimate Day of Thrills VIP tour costs $299 per person. 


The rest of our trip!

While we packed all of our park activities into a single day, we actually spent just over 24 hours together at Walt Disney World. Want to know more about the rest of the trip?

contemporoom

My husband arrived on Saturday afternoon while I was still at my conference. I was staying at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, so he boarded Disney’s Magical Express to the resort. As he already had his MagicBand, he was able to open my (our!) room door and drop his things inside. He immediately headed to the new Disney Springs downtown area to go shopping. Remember, he loves Star Wars, and Disney has plenty of Star Wars things to browse and buy!

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As soon as my conference ended, I changed and took a Disney bus to the Springs, where we met at the new Coca-Cola Rooftop Bar! I have to admit, as someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, I really don’t hang out in bars that much. However, I now have a bar to call home! The Coke Bar serves up all things Coca-Cola from a fun rooftop setting over Disney Springs’ West Side. 

More fun: The Coca-Cola Rooftop Bar also serves Coke products from around the world. We were so excited to see that China’s Smart Watermelon soda was on the bar!  Over numerous trips’ worth of tasting sodas from around the world at Epcot’s Club Cool, our family has long agreed that Smart Watermelon is the tastiest. Now, instead of getting a sample to taste, we could order a giant cup of this deliciousness?

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Yes, we are genuinely THIS happy about a cup of soda! Now, I’ve also got to share what I believe is the best soda deal in Disney Springs too. If you buy a commemorative Coca-Cola Rooftop Bar cup for $7.49, you get $1 refills for LIFE. You just have to bring the cup back on each visit! We were going to simply order a regular cup, but our Coke Bar host was so convincing that we sprung for the souvenir cup. He said “Come on — it packs in your luggage! You can stick your socks and small items inside it and it won’t even take up any space!”

Sold. (He also snapped this photo of us from behind the soda fountain, because he was amused by our enthusiasm for the beverage.)

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We walked around the Springs for most of the night, and we returned several times to refill that sparkly cup with Smart Watermelon. Mmmm.

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We went to Morimoto Asia for dinner — a place we’ve been dying to try too. (Morimoto was always my favorite Iron Chef!)  It’s a bit pricey, so it was perfect for our date night without the kids. 

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We headed back to the Contemporary for a sunset swim. The quiet pool was, well… quiet!  (Can you believe we had this all to ourselves?)

monorail

This was our first trip staying at a monorail resort, and I have to say that we loved being within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom and a quick monorail ride away from Epcot and the other monorail resorts. Where did we go after dinner?

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To the Polynesian Resort’s Pineapple Lanai for Dole Whips! We walked to the Polyesian’s beach afterward to watch the electrical water pageant. Then, we took the monorail back to the Contemporary for fireworks viewing.

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Every night of my trip, I headed out to one of the Contemporary’s outdoor stairwells, which face the Magic Kingdom, for an amazing view of the Wishes fireworks show. The music is piped into the Contemporary rooftop dining, so you can hear it in the stairwell too, and you can view the massive show from a fantastic perspective. I couldn’t wait to share it with my husband once he arrived! He agreed that this was an incredible place to watch the fireworks.

It was the perfect end to the perfect start of our mini-honeymoon. 

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The next morning, we packed up and got ready for our tour. See that brown bag sitting in the bar area of our room? My husband brought bagels from home so we could have a quick breakfast and make it to the Magic Kingdom the next morning by 8:00am for our tour! (He’s frugal too.) 

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After our VIP tour ended, we decided to head back to Epcot to partake in some Food and Wine Festival goodness. We took the boat from Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which drops you near the International Gateway to Epcot. Midway through our boat ride, we decided to get off at the Yacht and Beach Club resort and walk the rest of the way. We’ve stayed here on past trips and we really enjoy this resort too, so we had a quick visit.

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This is such a fun time of year to visit Epcot, as all of the countries have “tasting portions” of foods available in the under-$5 range. There are also additional food stands representing additional countries that aren’t normally part of the World Showcase.

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We walked the entire World Showcase, end to end, buying everything from sushi handrolls in Japan to gelato in Italy. This became a kind of progressive-dinner date for us, as sadly, we were getting on a plane back to Chicago in just a couple of hours. 

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We exited Epcot through the front gate and took the monorail back to the Contemporary, where we transferred to a Magical Express bus back to the airport.

A few hours later, we arrived at my parents’ house to pick up our children and thank Mom and Dad for watching the boys so we could finally have a little mini-honeymoon. We also delivered dessert to everyone — Norwegian pastries, purchased fresh at the bakery in Epcot just a few hours before. 


Disclosure:  While attending the 2016 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World earlier this year, Disney offered a complimentary VIP Tour to the parks on a future trip. I returned to Walt Disney World in October to review this experience. My park tickets were also provided by Disney. All other expenses were my own.

Comments

  1. soapboxtray says

    How fun for you both! I will have to read through this weekend, it looks wonderful, love the photos and big smiles! My hubby and I had an alone vacation at Disney Jan. 2014, I did the Disney Marathon and after we spent the week there! It was awesome because it was not crowded at ALL :-) It was a little weird without the kiddos but it was nice.

    Also, I am assuming you know about this: Cheap Trick @ Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, IL
    Saturday, March 11, 2017, 7:00 PM

    • says

      Yes, I too thought it was a little strange without the kids. We knew they were in great hands with Grandma and Grandpa, but I kept seeing things and thinking “Oh, the boys would love that!” :)

      And yes, I know about Cheap Trick — thanks! Tickets went on sale this morning :D

  2. SSMark1 says

    Disney in October IS fun!

    My wife & I enjoyed going there this time of year in the past as well.

    If you are doing Disney just for the rides, THIS IS THE WAY TO GO!

    Just wondering if someone wasn’t physical enough to keep up a fast pace for 7 hours, how do they accommodate that?
    I’m guessing they have that all figured out…

    -Mark

    • says

      When registering for this tour, they made it clear that it would be a fast-paced tour to get you on as many rides as possible throughout the day. Because it’s primarily a thrill ride tour, it’s also aimed at people healthy enough to ride the parks’ more physically-demanding rides too.

      If you were mobility-impaired, they might recommend hiring a private VIP guide for you and your group versus doing a larger group tour. That does cost more, but you also have full customization of the tour to ride whatever you want and to begin and end at times you select.

      Yes, October is such a fun time to be in the parks! We were so lucky to hit both the Flower and Garden -and- Food and Wine at Epcot this year. Yum yum! :)

  3. Erica says

    Oh what fun! I just love your Disney reports. I get so many ideas.

    Can I ask what you do in Disney World when you are there alone and what you were looking forward to doing by yourself? I never thought of going to Disney alone. Now I am curious what I might be missing =)

    • says

      Oh gosh, where to start? I could easily fill an entire post with things I did on my own for the days I was there solo. (Maybe I should!)

      One day, our conference ended around 5pm, and I headed over to Fort Wilderess, Disney’s campground resort. When I was growing up, we stayed at Fort Wilderness on all of our trips. There is just something very special about those grounds — you’re in the woods, along the water, and it’s an incredibly peaceful place that’s a respite from the parks.

      On this trip, I learned that the Contemporary has a boat that runs between the Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness, so it was really easy to hop over there and spend a few hours. I walked campground loops which were all decorated for Halloween, saw all kinds of animals (deer, armadillos, lots of lizards) and grabbed dinner at Trails End restaurant. I sat on the beach and reminisced over swimming there as a kid.

      I visited the Tri Circle D stable, which is where all of Disney’s horses live. It’s so neat to see. I spent close to an hour there talking to the staff and visiting all of the horses. That’s another fun, free thing to do in Disney on non-park days. :)

      As soon as I got off the boat to the Fort, I took a selfie and texted it to my mom. I wrote, “I’m HOME!” :D

      Other things i did: Took the monorail to the Polynesian to see their nighttime torch-lighting ceremony (and get a Dole Whip.) I went to the new tiki bar, Trader Vic’s, at the Poly and got a sushi roll. It’s a interactive tiki bar where the drinks people order do different things — a giant seashell coughs up a pearl, it rains and storms inside the bar, etc. I went out exploring and sightseeing every night :)

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