Disneyland Paris: a guide to planning your perfect trip
A family trip to Disneyland Paris is the stuff of childhood dreams. Expensive yes, but it is possible to trim costs and still have the trip of a lifetime. As Mumsnetters have discovered, it's all in the preparation...
A short trip could be a false economy
If you're visiting in peak season (yes, that means school hols) then aim to stay for a bit longer, if your budget can stretch to it. This'll mean you're not under pressure to cram everything in to a couple of days - a lot of which will inevitably be spent in queues. A shorter trip may not seem such great value if you don't actually get to do half the things you wanted to.
Don't necessarily opt for the cheapest hotel room
There are seven Disney hotels to choose from: the closest (and most
expensive, natch) is the Disneyland Hotel - just five minutes' walk to the
parks. Its proximity is a huge plus point for those travelling with
children under five or those with limited mobility; you'll be able to
bob back throughout the day for a nap/to escape the crowds, and if you do stay
out for the fireworks, you won't be faced with a walk or shuttle bus at the end
of the night.
It also has character dining on site, and you get to take advantage of magic hours - which allows guests into the park two hours earlier than everyone else.
...but don't pay for what you don't need
If you don't need to be on the doorstep, then don't be. There are six other Disney hotels close by which all give guests access to magic hours. They're still pretty pricey, though, so keep an eye out for promotional offers and upgrades throughout the year.
If you don't want the extra magic hours, then look at Disney's eight partner hotels (all of which offer free shuttle buses to the parks), or look further afield at hotels in the city.
Alternatively, consider booking an apartment via Airbnb, or a mobile home in a holiday park - Eurocamp has three parks within the Paris region and all offer daily excursions to Disneyland.
Don't arrive without a ticket
If you've opted for a do-it-yourself holiday be sure to buy your park entrance tickets before you arrive. You'll pay far more if you buy on the day. However, if you've gone with a package trip then your park tickets will be included along with everything else.
If you're planning on visiting for more than four days, or think you'll be
back later in the year, then look at the cost of an annual
pass - it might work out cheaper.
Know your targets, plan your attack, stay focused
Disneyland Paris is divided into two parks - Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studio Park - each with their own attractions. Make life easier by dedicating a day to each one, rather than hot-footing it constantly between the two.
As tedious as it sounds, you need to do your prep work. At the very least, find out where key rides are (and any height/age restrictions), quiz your DC on who they really want to meet, find out when the parades start and prepare a loose itinerary. Grab yourself a map, and check out schedules - ideally all before you even arrive in Paris.
"You should plan to keep DC up late for the fireworks one night. It is absolutely beautiful, made me a bit teary. They were exhausted but it was well worth it and we all slept in a little later the next day. My daughter still talks about when she saw Tinkerbell flying in the sky."
Take a load off, where possible
As with most theme parks, there will be a lot of walking and a lot of waiting around - so wear comfy shoes. It can also pay dividends to hire a buggy for your DC. Even if they refuse initially, they will appreciate it later in the day - and if nothing else, it's a good way to cart bags, coats, souvenirs, picnics etc. Remember to pack sun hats, cream, warm layers, rain macs etc.
Advise on any additional needs
Disneyland Paris excels at assisting guests with additional
needs. Full information on who you need to speak with, where and when
can be found on their website.
Jump to the front of the queue
Fastpass tickets are free and allow you to skip long queues. They're available from machines around the park. Take a ticket with an allocated time slot, return to ride at the allocated time and walk straight on. You can only have one fast pass ticket on the go at any one time and some rides do run out - we've been told Peter Pan and Buzz Lightyear are particularly likely to do so.
Grown up thrill-seekers can also use Baby Switch on rides. This allows parents to queue up just once: each adult then has a turn on the ride, while the other holds the baby.
The food might be better than you think
The food at Disneyland Paris has improved significantly in recent years. Although much on offer is fast food it is far better than it used to be. There are also various good restaurants if you're looking for a fast food alternative. It's also worth noting that eateries are likely to be busy, so dining slightly earlier or later than usual is a good way to avoid crowds.
"The Earl of Sandwich (near Planet Hollywood) serves the best value food in the entire place."
"Go one stop along to the Val d'Europe shopping centre and you'll find plenty of choice for food and more affordable prices (plus a supermarket if you're self-catering). There are shuttle buses which go there too."
...but it's still worth making reservations
Booking restaurants is thoroughly recommended to avoid long waits at peak times. You can reserve up to two months in advance <gulp> and with popular spots and character dining booking up weeks ahead, if you really must eat at a certain spot on a certain date, call as soon as humanly possible: +33 1 60 30 40 50.
"I would recommend having at least one character breakfast at Cafe Mickey; not only do your kids get to meet loads of characters, but you also get a lovely relaxing breakfast - mornings at the hotel, I found, were a mad rush."
BYO - snacks and souvenirs
If you have the facilities to prep a picnic then do so,
even if it's a few rolls and fruit
acquired at the breakfast buffet or
cereal bars and a carton of juice brought from your lodgings. At the very least
pack a water bottle (fill it up at the drinking fountains
throughout the park), and bring your own snacks.
Buy Disney bits in advance to take with you. Raid your local supermarkets and high street stores for colouring books, stickers, wands, dressing up clobber etc - that way you can magic a new outfit or toy from the suitcase every day (and hopefully resist being dragged into the many gift shops).
An autograph book and pen are a must: some DC might be overwhelmed by the experience at the time, but will enjoy looking back later.
"We let the DC choose one from the shop there but you could probably save by buying ahead. We got them to get autographs on every other page and when we got home I stuck a photo of the children with each character on the page opposite the signature. They love looking back at their special books."
And finally, remember to let the magic take over
Your children won't see any of the shabby/tacky/overly commercialised bits that we as adults notice. Embrace your inner child for the few days you're there - and be prepared to spend a lot of time trying not to cry when your DC see their heroes.
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Last updated: about 2 months ago