I've been asked my advice on this subject many times in the past 4 years so I figure to do what I can somewhat do: write about it.
A new year, a new album, a new tour. Which leads to:
So you want to buy a VIP package. The first step is admitting that you want to.
For some people like me, this is old hat that we can probably do it in our sleep instead you still need to be a state of cat like readiness for the sales. But there are still many of you who have yet to experience the fun times of a VIP package. Here's how we break it down. Please note: this has information pertaining to the last tour. Once the info for the Package tour has been revealed, the prices and info will be updated when needed. (PLEASE NOTE: this blog is about VIP packages ONLY, NOT FAN CLUB REGULAR TICKETS. I have only done that once and the process is changing for this year.)
The websites that you need
1) timeanddate.com. Again if this has not been bookmarked by now, we will need to have a talk.
2) vipnation.com. I would STRONGLY advise to sign up for an account now so you don't panic later.
3) nkotb.com if you're a BN subscriber.
THE TOTAL PACKAGE
ULTIMATE INDIVIDUAL PHOTO UPGRADE
5-STAR FRONT ROW PACKAGE
5-STAR PLUS VIP PACKAGE
5-STAR VIP PACKAGE
4-STAR VIP PACKAGE
AHHH, INFO!!! (Throws up.)
Since NKOTB has that habit of saying "Surprise! A tour! SURPRISE! Tickets go on sale in 3 days!" this means that VIPNation will release the schedule of sale times for each show shortly after. There are several sales: Full Service pre sale, Premium pre sale, American Express pre sale (where it applies) and the general sale. Full Service members get a 30 minute head start over Premium (and this is why you pay the extra 40 dollars for it) and one hour over American Express card holders Regular sale happens either later that day or within a few days but all would happen before the general sale of tickets via regular outlets (venue, Ticketmaster, etc.)
In order to access the Full Service or Premium sales, you will need a password for it. That password will normally be posted within the fan club shortly before each sale time. You will NOT get email notifications that they are up as many people seem to have problems receiving them. Many but not all USA shows also had the American Express pre sales for their cardholders that will work with select cards. (The truth: if you know what the passcode is, you can pay with ANY Amex code, including out of USA ones.) The sale time is always in the LOCAL time zone of said show.
The day of the sale, I strongly advise you to be ALREADY logged into your VIPNation account to save you time. Also, keep a notepad open on your computer to copy paste your credit card number, name, etc. You would be surprised what saving 5 seconds can do. Other than that, if you've ever bought tickets for any event, it's pretty much the same protocol. The maximum is FOUR OF ANY COMBINATION OF PACKAGES per order.
Once the time hits for either pre sale, you will be asked to enter your code right away. Hopefully, you'll be brought to the next page immediately. If you aren't, KEEP REFRESHING. Obviously by then people are going to do their best to get in just as fast as you so it may take some time.
Thank you @blancodiddy for the pics!
STEP 1: Choose your package (VIP Nation has stressed that YES you CAN get the Ultimate AFTER if you manage to get one, but I would suggest to make their lives a bit easier and buy it under the same account that you bought your original order.
STEP 2: Review your package (yes we're 10 years old.) If you had selected the Ultimate at the same time, you would see that in your cart as well.
STEP 3: On site parking and shirt size options. This is where some people ran into trouble like myself. Had an Ultimate and 5* package for Ottawa, but this option was blank and would not let me go forward. Finally had to give up the Ultimate.
STEP 4: Terms and Conditions (read: if you're that drunk we are allowed to kick you out and not refund you.)
STEP 5: Shipping Address (if you're not logged into your VIP Nation account, they will ask you to.)
STEP 6: review your order
STEP 7: Giving you my money and possibly a blood sample.
A tip: for the Amex sale, there is the customer service number from SOME cards that will get you in. (So if you have the basic green one, it's not that one.) However if you know what the code is (which I'm NOT giving out...I need to keep some things to myself!) you can pay with any American Express card.
So how easy it is to snag one? Depends how fast you and/or your team can work. The most I have seen sold for one venue is roughly 250 5* packages. It's just like real estate: location, location, location. Anything where there is a higher level of fans (Boston, NYC, L.A., Chicago, Toronto, etc.) those will sell out faster. Smaller cities will be less of an issue.
Then there are the ultimates: based on observations for buying for other people, this is the breakdown.
For US shows: 4 for Full Service pre sale, 4 for Premium Pre sale, 2 for the Amex pre sale, 2 for the general sale. So yeah, you're paying 40 bucks for slightly better odds.
For Canada shows: 4 for the Full Service pre sale, 4 for the Premium sale, 2 for the General sale.
Sadly, several people like myself have had problems landing an ultimate: you get so far until they ask for the T-shirt size...and there is no option to pick. You can't move ahead, you can't go back and if you call, VIPNation can't help you as there are too many people logged in at the same time. So if you're gunning for an upgrade, buy that FIRST, then buy the package you want. So long you have bought them under the same VIPNation account, you should be fine. I did this for 3 people, and none have had an issue, it's more to dissuade people from just buying the upgrade alone.
After months and months of waiting...the week is here!!!
You will receive an email a few days before the show indicating where the M/G will take place along with anything involving parking if you requested it and what time you should be at the venue to meet up. If you bought a 4*, there will be a separate ticket window to pick up your items roughly 2 hours before show time.
When you arrive at the venue, you will be checked in to get your laminate with a letter on the back indicating your group and your ticket (the ticket will NOT be sent to you, so you know it's not a Ground Control event. Kidding! (sort of.)) I STRONGLY suggest you check in as a group when you can. If you show up solo with no group, they will place you in one with an open slot to fill. So if you want to stand next to Joey that badly, you're better off pre planning. Look for people on the BN forums or online. Time and time again we've seen people jockeying to be the last group in especially if they are not full groups but guess what happens? You get someone out of nowhere who also wants to stand by Donnie and you have to start negotiating with them that they're going with someone else. (That happened to me out of the few times I finally had Donnie for one photo op. Not fun, but him saying "Yikes, you're getting blocked" was sweet.) Who wants that headache? Once you pass through, you will have the chance to eat, drink, be merry, etc. (When it comes to food, Some venues have had a great spread, others was literally celery sticks and dip. I suggest eat a decent meal before going.) Eventually the time will come where group letter will be called to line up. Groups will be called a few at a time with ultimates to go after them.
You will be led into an area where the guys are waiting for you to hug them, say hi, hug them again, bite their leg (if you did VIP in 2008, you remember Robo saying it was fair play), etc. After 2-3 minutes, they will call for photos. Take your places, take your 2 photos and you'll be asked to walk out. You'll pick up your gift bags on the way out. Ultimates will get roughly 5 minutes give or take. Normally you get 2 solo photos with the guys but the longer the tour goes, the longer the ultimate gets so some have been lucky to get 10 photos or more. Props are no longer allowed. Only those with the Total Package deal will have it in "their dressing room." There was a miscommunication implying Ultimates would have it in there as well, only those who have both would have that. If your Ultimate is with any other 5* package, you won't.
You are asked to check in your camera, but I normally don't. I know there have been a few lost souls who have done that only for their cameras to vanish so I don't take that risk and just keep it in my bag. You will be asked to leave your bag on a table when you walk into to meet the guys and someone will be on duty watching them so I find that to be a safer alternative.
Don't expect to have deep conversations with the guys overall. They have a limited time to get through the 5* and if they're running late (because look who we're talking about), your time will be less than what you were expecting (I once timed one of my 5* to be 63 seconds.)
The VIPNation packages are a separate entity from Block Nation Meet and Greets.
You CAN be a "mixed" group of 5* packages. As in if you're 4 5*, 3 5*+ and 3 5* front row, it's fine. Same idea as to when you bought your package (during any pre sale or general sale.)
About sneaking stuff in: the short answer is, you're not supposed to. The longer answer is: people managed to do so, discreetly. Depending who the bodyguards are, do so at your own peril. (I managed to get Donnie's sock signed in 2009 by tying it around my leg. I had people ask me later "what was with the bandage under your dress?")
UPDATE: JUNE 10, 2013.
Now that we settled into the tour, let's go over some of the changes that have been encountered. Specifically, what you NO longer get for the merchandise for Total Packages. I did speak to one of the hosts and the short version is ... complicated. It's about the vendors who lose their cut on the sales and as a result, something had to be done. As a compromise, total package people are getting 2 T shirts valued at 35 dollars each and can be taken to merchandise to be exchanged for something of that value. (I just gave away the shirts and bought the jersey, so if anyone has been successful in that exchange, I would love to hear from you.) The wording has been changed to reflect that. A bit annoying, but meh. I have heard nothing about the framed photos being sent to you but with all the candid shots being taken during Total Package time, it's not something I'm worried about. (@sarahmayhem has reported that VIP Nation did contact her to identify her to send out her framed photos.)
Total Package lasts 10-15 minutes give or take and they go before the 5* in a separate area. They do mingle about and you can get to speak to each of them for a bit. Total Package photo groups are normally 6-7 but the smaller the overall group, the more likelihood that you may end up with a solo group picture with them (such as the case in Louisville.) The seats were...close. REALLY close. I am about 5'6" and the stage came to JUST under my eyes. The "petals" or "pods" were about a foot lower. It was a bit hard being that close as I was straining my neck to look up and depending which NKOTBer you're trying to track, a bit hard if they're on the other side of the stage. But thankfully, I end up with the seat that is directly in front Donnie has to stand or kneel for songs so...yeah. Good times. (sigh.)
I did do an ultimate this year. If you have an ultimate, you will be assigned a group when you sign in. While I won't share what transpired partially because it was a blur (stress levels was bad due to traffic) and partially some of it was too personal to share, I don't regret it.
To repeat, when doing a "normal" 5*, do NOT expect it to be long. Don't even expect 5 minutes which some were under the impression. 2-3 minutes at best. Also, I did hear reports of a few missing their M/G altogether for a variety of reasons. You have the number of the hosts in your email, use it. You have the power to tweet VIPNation, do it and get your followers to help you. I was actually late for my Total Package by 45 minutes but thanks to people tweeting for me along w/ my friend being on site, I went straight to the front of the line, explained that I was late, they knew who I was and they brought me straight in.
The 5* gift bag includes the bag, a mini speaker and...socks. ( Someone is still living in 2009.) Thanks @aussieddubgirl.
Now about the after parties. They will do their best to have them on site this year at most venues based on that ad with a certain nerd yelling at you (he needs to stop being that pretty but I digress.) The cost is 150 bucks. It's easier to pick up your pass from them up before the show starts at the VIP Nation check in. Keep in mind that it may be at a different location than the 5* set up so ask them. The only guarantee of WHO will show up is Donnie. Boyz II Men are supposed to be as well, other NKOTB members may change per night (in Montreal we got lucky and got all 8.) This includes a photo op. This does NOT mean a meet and greet. You go in with minimum 2 or 4 per group depending how many members are there. Stand, photo, go. No time to hug everyone. They seem to arrive at roughly 1130-1145 and stay until 1 am or 115. Some may mingle, others may stay on the stage. If you've been to any after party in the past 5 years, you know what to expect. A bit pricey for an after party but for many of my friends who didn't do a 5* for a show, they were happy with the alternative.
Above all: RELAX AND ENJOY IT. You spent the cash, the time, the energy, and your stomach contents to get to this point. Might as well breathe in, exhale, check your breath in case you need an Altoid and take it all in. The simplest advice I can give you is this. If you expect something, you'll end up with nothing. If you expect nothing, you'll certainly get something. Have fun kiddies!