Planning a trip to Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris – the basics
Disneyland Paris comprises a huge array of attractions, including two separate theme parks (Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park), a village boasting further attractions such as cinemas (including an IMAX), theatres, golf courses, restaurants and bars, and much, much more. Add to that the opportunity to come face to face with favourite Disney characters and enjoy a host of special seasonal events and the resort would appear to tick all the boxes!
Furthermore, as you can choose to stay on site at one of the resort’s seven themed hotels (there are also nearby partner hotels you can stay at too, connected to the parks by a free shuttle bus) and eat at no less than 65 restaurants, cafes and bars, the resort combines fun with practical convenience, too.
It’s open throughout the year and is located at Marne-la-Vallée, about 20 miles from Paris, so it can easily be combined with further exploration of this part of France, including a stay in the capital (travel connections between the Disneyland resort and Paris itself are quick and efficient).
When to go
As with anything holiday-related, there is a low and high season for visiting Disneyland Paris – Christmas, for example, is a hugely popular time so you can expect prices to vary quite dramatically depending on when you’d like to visit. There are special offers available throughout the year, however, so it’s worth checking the Disneyland Paris website to see what’s available. As a rule, weekends are more expensive than visiting during midweek and of course weekends will be much busier so you’ll have to expect much longer queuing times for attractions when you’re in the park.
Remember that as many of the attractions are outdoors you may find that the depths of winter make wandering around outside rather uncomfortable, especially with little ones. Northern France experiences weather quite similar to the UK in winter so do bear this in mind when planning your trip.
Booking your trip
You can book your trip direct through the Disneyland Paris website, which offers park and accommodation packages. As with any holiday you’ll need to shop around a little to find the best deal to suit your needs. You can of course buy your park tickets alone and then sort out your accommodation separately. There are lots of tour operators offering deals to the Disneyland resort but be sure to book with a reputable firm that is ABTA and/or IATA registered so you’ll have the necessary protection against your booking. Larger operators who visit Disneyland Paris include First Choice, Thomas Cook and the The Co-operative Travel. Online travel specialists such as Expediaand Lastminute also cover the resort, and allow you to tailor-make your own package.
If you’re planning to travel by Eurostar you may find that booking a train and hotel package via theEurostar website makes a cost-effective and convenient choice. Alternatively you might like to consider basing your trip in Paris and then travelling into the park for the day – the resort is just 35 minutes by train from the centre of Paris.
Many parents on our forums have recommended using Tesco Clubcard vouchers to purchase your travel – the vouchers are redeemable against travel on Eurotunnel (the car shuttle from Ashford to Calais) which can make your travelling costs much more affordable.
The most accessible ways to reach Disneyland Paris are by air, on the Eurostar direct to Paris or with your car via Eurotunnel. Paris’ main airport is Charles De Gaulle, and plenty of airlines offer flights to Paris from airports across the UK. These include: Aer Lingus, Air France, bmibaby, British Airways,easyJet, flybe, Jet2.com, Ryanair.
From Charles De Gaulle it’s pretty straightforward to travel on to the resort. You can catch the handy VEA Navette , a scheduled shuttle-bus service that leaves approximately every 15 minutes, seven days a week (trains run from 8.30 in the morning with last train times varying throughout the week). The journey to Disneyland takes around 45 minutes and costs around 16 euros for an adult ticket and 13 euros for children from 3 to 11 years old (under 3s travel free). Tickets can be purchased on board.
Alternatively you can catch an RER train, which offers a faster transfer to the resort (35 minutes) but doesn’t run as regularly as the Navette. You’ll need the RER line A4 from Paris, which drops you off at the end of the line at Marne la Vallee/Chessy station, just 100 metres from the resort.
If you’ll be travelling by car from Calais (either from the Eurotunnel or ferry arrival points) your journey to the resort is via the motorway and takes around 3 hours. There is free car parking at all Disney hotels and a paying car park at the actual park. If you’d prefer to travel on the Eurostar train you can pick this up at either London St Pancras or Ashford International in Kent – the journey takes just over 3 hours. The big bonus of travelling via Eurostar is there is no additional transfer hassle – your train drops you off direct at the gates of the Disney resort.
If you plan to stay on site there are 7 hotels to choose from, ranging in price, as well as partner hotels located just a short distance away, all of which are connected to the parks via a free shuttle bus service.
If you’re visiting in the summer you could consider camping – Rachel B in the Coffee House recommends Eurocamp’s La Croix Du Vieux Pont which is just 90km away or an hours’ drive to the resort. Eurocamp also has a site much nearer, the Val d’Europe, a great choice if you want to combine a trip to Disneyland with a day or two in the capital.
Heather M recommends the Santa Fe hotel as a good choice for those on a budget as it often works out as the cheapest on-site option: “It’s basic, clean and has everything we need. It is the furthest hotel from the park but it’s only a 15-minute walk along the river to get there. However, if you wanted to go to one of the other hotels, the Sequoia Lodge is lovely and it has a pool (the Sante Fe doesn’t) though do bear in mind there may be some pool closures at certain points in the year.”
Many Coffee House members suggest opting for half-board accommodation at the resort if you want to save money. The restaurants and cafes on site can be expensive but half-board guests are given vouchers to pay for one of their main meals each day (breakfast is included at all on-site hotels). Half board vouchers come in 3 types – standard, plus or premium. Vouchers can be used in full or part-payment for meals at some of the on-site restaurants.
One big plus of staying at Disney hotel is that you get ‘Extra Magic Hours’ which enable hotel guests to enter the park a couple of hours ahead of the general public, a great way to see the park before it gets busier and benefit from shorter queueing times (though not all sections of the park or rides will be operating at the time – you’ll need to check what attractions are open during Magic Hours).
If you stay in one of the Disney hotels your breakfast and park tickets for the duration of your stay are included. In terms of costs, many of our Coffee House members recommend booking your accommodation direct with Disney – you probably won’t find it cheaper elsewhere, especially if you are looking to stay on-site – but booking your travel independently. Or follow Fiona F’s advice and look for accommodation deals on the big online travel agents: “Many of the partner hotels (i.e those not located within the resort) can have good offers on websites such as Expedia, such as the Dream Castle and Magic Circus. These are both close to the Disney resort and can offer a better standard of accommodation. We have been to Disneyland Paris seven times and stayed off-site for the first time last year – we would recommend the Dream Castle as an alternative to the hotels in the resort.”
According to many of the posters in our Coffee House you don’t go to Disneyland Paris for the food. It can be rather expensive and fairly restrictive – meals for children are often dominated by fast-food staples such as burgers and chips, and buying snacks around the resort can quickly mount up. Our seasoned Disneyland visitors seem to favour the half-board option to keep costs down – one parent saved around £300 in food costs by doing this. However there are lots of restaurants to choose from, including fast-food and pizza joints, all-you-can-eat buffets and more refined table-service restaurants, ice-cream parlours and steakhouses. There is also a McDonald’s within the resort.
Remember also that although there are many dining options available around the resort, in peak times restaurants and cafes can fill up quickly so if you have a child who likes to eat at a certain time you might prefer to book your restaurant place in advance. The same goes for your breakfast slot if you’re staying on site. Some of our posters have said that the breakfast buffets can get incredibly busy so if you want to get out into the park and enjoy it before the crowds descend you might like to book as early a slot as possible for breakfast. If you book for 7/7.30, you’ll miss the crowds at breakfast and you’ll be able to make the most of the Magic Hours.
One dining experience you might like to consider a ‘character meal’. Many of the restaurants offer this experience, where Disney characters meet ‘n’ greet little diners and move around the tables so your child can have their photo with their favourite characters and get an autograph. Again, do be aware that your child will be one of many wanting to meet Mickey et al, so you might like to opt for an early lunch or dinner to avoid the crowds and be sure to reserve your table. Some of our forum members recommend the Lucky Nugget Saloon and Cafe Mickey for character dining experiences.
You can also book a birthday tea party if your child will be celebrating their birthday during your stay. The Disney characters are on hand to help children celebrate their special day a the Lucky Nugget Saloon, where they can enjoy a birthday tea of pastries and birthday cake, and receive a surprise present and birthday card. Alternatively you can arrange for a cake to be brought to your child’s table if you’d prefer to eat at another venue.
There are plenty of water fountains located around the park and mineral water and other drinks are readily available around the resort. But if you can’t go without your coffee fix, you might like to follow Many P’s advice: “I am taking my thermos flask with me as a cup of coffee is around 3.50 euros in the resort!”
For a definitive guide to eating out at Disneyland Paris, check out Disneyland Resort Paris – The Ultimate Food Guide
As a premier European attraction, Disneyland Paris can get busy, especially at peak times so it makes sense to orientate yourself before you arrive. There’s lots to see so you might like to prioritise your must-do attractions to avoid disappointment. But no one should miss the famous Disney Parades, when the much-loved Disney characters take to the streets for a unique and interactive experience.
The resort itself comprises two parks: The Disneyland Park, packed with rides and attractions, and the Walt Disney Studios Park. ‘At-a-glance’ top attractions include the following: It’s a Small World (a musical tour of the world, ideal for the under-5s); Peter Pan’s flight (also good for little ones); Pirates of the Caribbean (a ride based on the popular film franchise, which both kids and adults will enjoy); Big Thunder Mountain (thrills and spills aboard a runaway train); Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast (a fun interactive mission game); Cars Race Rally (inspired by the Disney Pixar film); Crush’s Coaster (rollercoaster based on Finding Nemo); Rock and Roll Coaster starring Aerosmith (loop the loops to a pumping rock soundtrack). Of course that’s just a taster of the huge array of attractions for all ages on offer in the park.
It’s worth taking a look at the itinerary suggestions on the Disneyland Paris website which can help you plan your trip in advance. You can find itineraries suitable for families travelling with toddlers or young children, those travelling in a larger group, families looking for adventures or those who will be celebrating a special occasion during their stay.
When you arrive at the park you might like to consider using the Fastpass service, a free service which helps you to cut down on waiting times for some of the attractions. You will be allocated a time to go on a ride so you can come back at that time and board the ride in a matter of minutes rather than waiting in line. There are some restrictions on the service – find out more about Fastpass here.
If any of your party is disabled you should ask for an Easy Access Card on arrival at the park, which allows you to get into certain attractions via disabled access entrances. While you can hire a wheelchair at the park these are offered on a first-come, first-served basis so it’s advisable to travel with you own wheelchair. Guide dogs are allowed in the park (these are the only dogs allowed – all other pets are not permitted inside. But there is an Animal Care Centre where you can leave your dog for the duration of your stay).
General tips for getting the most out of your trip
The advice below is based on comments in our Coffee House from parents who have been to Disneyland Paris – make the most of their insider knowledge so you can get the very most of your stay.
- You’ll certainly need a pushchair if you’re travelling with little ones (even those that are almost out of theirs) – the resort is big and you’ll be amazed how many miles you cover in one day. And with all the excitement little ones might suddenly slump and need to have a rest as you negotiate the rest of the park. You can hire buggies at the park, but this can work out expensive and some members have warned that the buggies offered are rather bulky and do not recline.
- The extensive Val D’Europe shopping mall, just next door to Disney, is handy if you’ve run out of essential supplies. It comprises a large Auchan hypermarket, 130 other shops (including clothing stores such as GAP, Zara and Benetton), a food court and a Sea Life aquarium.
- There is a petrol station located just outside the park gates, near the car park, where you can stock up on snacks and drinks. The prices here are much cheaper than inside the park.
- If you’re travelling with a young baby – there are changing rooms just after Main Street, the park’s main thoroughfare. They are clean and have baby changing facilities as well as microwaves and high chairs.
- If your child loves dressing up it’s a good idea to pack their Disney-themed costume to take with you. Lots of children dress up as their favourite character while at the resort but be aware that buying costumes at the on-site stores is much more expensive than back home – be sure to pack your child’s before you go!
- Not all rooms at Disney hotels have tea or coffee-making facilities so do check this out – you may want to pack a travel kettle. You can hire travel kettles at reception but will need to pay a deposit to do so.
- The parades are hugely popular so be sure to get a good place as soon as you can so you can get the best view.
- For a quieter ‘meet and greet’ experience with the Disney characters you might prefer to look out for them in the lobby of your Disney hotel (the characters appear at all of the on site Disney hotels at certain times).
- Although 80% of the attractions at Disneyland Paris are covered and protected against the elements it’s worth packing a lightweight rain coat for everyone, even during the summer. The weather in northern France can be quite similar to our own so don’t get caught out by the rain! Equally don’t forget the sun cream if you’re travelling in summer – you’ll be outdoors alot and if the weather’s hot you and your children will need protecting from the sun.
- If you’d like to visit Disneyland at Christmas do bear in mind that this is an exceptionally busy time. However the Christmas season (when the decorations will be up and the pretend snow will be dusted around the resort) begins in early December so you might prefer to visit earlier in the month when the park won’t be quite as crowded.
- If you’d like to find out more about Disneyland Paris before you travel take a look at the Brits Guide to Disneyland Resort Paris which offers a definitive guide to anything and everything about the resort.
culled from http://www.netmums.com/lifestyle/holidays/holidays-with-children/planning-a-trip-to-disneyland-paris