Heading to Disneyland Paris is meant to be a magical experience for parents and children alike. A chance to fulfil childhood fantasies and indulge your imagination. However, it can also turn into a house of horrors with long lines, unruly crowds, and expensive food and drink. There’s a number of things I wish I’d known before I visited, and whilst this list isn’t exhaustive, I’m trying to share some of my top tips for planning a trip to Disneyland Paris. That extra sprinkling of fairy dust will make your visit a little more magical!
10 Tips for planning a visit to Disneyland Paris
Unless you have the stamina of a mule, staying on site is a must. Disney days are long and tiring, as you race from one attraction to another, and attempt to take in all the shows and nighttime illuminations. By the time the park closes, the chances are you will be utterly exhausted and fit only for a good night’s sleep.
An added bonus of staying in one of the Disney hotels is that you do not have to worry about parking. All hotels include complimentary buses to and from the resorts. Also, you will enjoy Magic Time, whereby hotel guests can enter the parks an hour earlier. Many of the Disneyland Paris rides are not open during this magical hour, but the ones which are, will have short if no queues.
For instance, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast had a five minute queue compared to a typical forty minute wait. Star Wars and Hyperspace Mountain had similar waits at the start of the day, compared to 25 and 40 minutes later in the day. Check the information board in the plaza in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle to find out which rides are open, and the average wait time.
2. Food and drink
We booked an half board Disney package and the ‘all you can eat buffets’ which are included are packed to the rafters with choices. You request your dining times when you arrive, and I was a little shocked to discover that we were struggling for availability in some of the restaurants, even when booking three days ahead. My top tip is to book your sittings as soon as you arrive.
Breakfast service starts at 7, and if you want to take advantage of Magic Time, you will have no choice but to book this slot. Walt Disney studios opens at 8am (be sure to check the times for your dates here) and Disneyland at 8.30. From the bus depot, it takes five to ten minutes walk to the studios, so eating at 7 or 7.30 is ideal if you want to be in the parks bright and early.
For dinner times, I recommend either around 4.30 (especially if you opt for a 7am breakfast) or 6 to 6.30pm. Whilst this may mean you returning to the hotel before the fireworks, you may find yourself desperate for a rest by then. If you want to eat in the buffets in the parks or at another hotel, book as early as possible as we found availability very limited, although we did travel at Easter.
Whatever you do, ensure you fill up, as those two meals a day should be enough to get you through the day. When hotdogs cost €7.99 a piece, do you really want to be buying snacks throughout the day for you and the family?
Everyone expects to pay a premium in theme parks, but charging almost €4 for water really takes the biscuit. There is a Relay store inside the station, where you can grab cheaper drinks (thanks Natasha of Traveladdict for this tip!) or take a refillable bottle and try to find a functioning water fountain. Alternatively, simply ask in one of the cafe bars, or do as we did and fill up in the ladies.
You can of course fill your bottles at the breakfast buffet at the start of the day, and I estimate that doing so will save you around €8 person a day. Trying to fit in so many Disneyland Paris attractions is thirsty work!
3. Avoid the 2 for 1 park pass
Unless you literally are visiting for one day, and plan to race between a few select attractions, I recommend saving a few Euros and opting for one park one day tickets. We had a four day pass which allowed us to visit both parks each day on four days out of six, so you can have a rest day.
We only managed to spend about two and a half days in the parks and this wasn’t enough for two parks. Due to ride wait times, it is unlikely that you will be able to see all the parades, shows and rides in a day so it seems pointless to hop between parks.
4. Planning a trip to Disneyland Paris
As per usual, I turned up without having given the least bit of thought to which rides we might want to ride, or which shows and parades we might want to see. Programmes are available in reception and online, and I would highly suggest checking these out in advance, so you can plan your days around the key things you want to see. Planning your visit to Disneyland Paris in advance will help to avoid disappointment during your stay.
Certain rides in Disneyland seem to consistently attract long queues. These are Big Thunder Mountain (which is awesome and my seven year old niece loved it!), Peter Pan’s Flight, and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast.
If you are staying in resort, I recommend checking which rides are open in the Magic hour, and visiting those then. Also, the period after dinner, between 7.30 and 9, seems to have much shorter queues. You could plan therefore to do the rides with the longest lines at these times, and leave the intervening period to visit the shows and parades.
Our favourite Disneyland Paris ride was Hyperspace Mountain which is a relatively new attraction, and the word does not seem to have got out. Even at peak times, this attraction has shorter waiting queues. Imagine riding into the tube on the top of the dome below, and waiting expectantly before being catapulted up into the air at astonishing speed, only to come hurtling down into a giant black hole. This ride rocks!
Walt Disney Studios
In Walt Disney Studios, the rides with the greatest lines are Rock N Roller Coaster and Crush’s Coaster plus the Tower of Terror. The first two are open during Magic Time but not the latter, and even in the evening, waiting times are high.
5. Download the app
To help you out, Disneyland Paris have created an app which is an absolute godsend. This allows you to check waiting times on Disneyland Paris attractions, includes convenient maps, daily schedules for parades and entertainment and park opening times. You can download it for free on the Playstore and Itunes.
6. Consider a Fastpass
The biggest annoyance during our stay was the length of some of the queues. At peak times, the waiting time was as high as 90 minutes for some attractions. Frankly, I can think of better ways to waste 90 minutes of my life!
One way to overcome these is to either ditch your friends and travel solo, or invest in a FastPass. This neat little video shows you how everyone can benefit from a Fastpass free of charge or you can read more about Disneyland Paris Fastpass here.
Alternatively, you can enjoy unlimited access to FASTPASS line and skip the queues if you book a Suite or Castle Club room, (only available at Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Hotel New York, Disney’s Newport Bay Club and Disney’s Sequoia Lodge).
Now Disneyland Paris may be a magical experience, however the fairydust does not control the weather. As you can imagine, Parisian weather does not compare with Florida, and the park is open year round. You will therefore need to come prepared with layers, hats and gloves if you visit in winter or spring. It was cold and wet during our stay, and if you fail to bring waterproof clothing, a poncho will set you back €8 for a child or €10 for an adult.
8. Trip length
I travelled with my seven year old niece, teenage step-daughter and twenty one year old step-daughter, and we were all shattered at the end of each day. That said, we only had around 2.5 days to try to pack everything in, so had very full days.
The optimum visit would be around five to six days, giving you two or three days in each park. There are so many things to do in Disneyland Paris that you will miss a ton of stuff if you only come for two days.
9. Disneyland Paris for kids only?
Athough you may believe that Disneyland Paris is just for kids, think again. There are rides in both parks for kids and adults alike, and my niece was able to ride every park ride bar Indiana Jones.
Let’s face it, many adults (like me for instance) can’t wait to indulge their inner child anyway. Disneyland Paris offers everyone a chance to dream.
10. Reducing the cost of your trip
If you really want to save on costs, and let’s be honest this is an expensive weekend, you may prefer to stay off site and simply buy tickets. In that case, you need to sign up for future updates as I will shortly be publishing a post explaining how you can save costs on Disneyland Paris tickets and hotels. You can also read more about general money saving tips below.
Now I’m sure some of you lovely people have discovered some great tips for visiting Disneyland Paris. We would sure love to hear them, so feel free to share your top tips in the comments below.