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There are a million ways to go to and enjoy Disneyland Paris. To decide what ways we would choose, I read many websites and forums for tips which were helpful when deciding many things for the trip. Here’s how we did our trip earlier this year (Easter holiday, 5-9 April 2015). By no means I’m saying it’s the best way, but perhaps sharing this, you may find some tips that work for you, too.
We bought 1-year passes
Since Paris (or Marnee-la-Vallée for Disneyland) is only a bit more than 3 hours away, and that we hadn’t had traveling plans for the whole year in 2015, we decided to get the Passeports Annuels and to use them for more than one trip. There are 3 kinds of passes and considering our travel plans, we chose the “Fantasy”, merely due to fewer restriction dates as well as discounts in restaurants and shops. Unlike the cheaper “Francilien”, this one can be used immediately and offers the extra “Magic Hours” and free parking (you can read about the differences between the passes here).
I bought the e-tickets in advance at TicketMaster.fr (and then exchanged them to the plastic cards at the Park on the first day of visit). In Lausanne you can buy these tickets through fnac, however I found that there the tickets cost more. Not too much more but the difference was significant when multiplied by four. In general whether you buy year or day pass, I’d recommend to buy them earlier as otherwise you’ll have to queue in front of the ticket booth. And since in Disneyland you’ll stand in lines all day, do minimize the unnecessary queuing!
The total cost for 4 Fantasy passes was €717.45 (2015 price + €1.45 fee), making it the biggest chunk of the whole budget. However as we went for four days, that was only €20 more than if we bought the normal priced park tickets for 2 adults (€47 each) and 2 children (EUR40 each) for 4 days (total of €696).
Note that if you stay in one of the Disney hotels, park tickets are usually included and thus can be cheaper vs buying tickets and booking hotel rooms separately.
We bought the train tickets 3 months in advance
We went by train, via Geneva. The TGV Lyria from Geneva took us directly to Marne-la-Vallée TGV station which is directly in front of Disneyland. The trip took around 3 hours.
I booked the tickets exactly 3 months in advance, as the train tickets at SNCF only go on sale from 3 months in advance, and by then reduced priced tickets are still available. It may not be necessary to really buy the tickets that on the same day as they go on sale, but that’s just the kind of person I am 😉
Total cost for 2 adults, 1 child (4-12) and one baby (0-under 4) including seat reservations for all was €140 one way.
We stayed at a hotel-apartment
One of the reason we skipped Disney hotels was to avoid having to eat in restaurants all the time. So, we chose to stay at a hotel-apartment and thus could prepare own breakfast and dinner. The hotel (Adagio) was located next to a huge shopping center where there was a huge supermarket. So we bought the groceries there – around EUR20 for food and snack for the whole 4-day stay! I could so get used to French grocery prices!
We had a few meals in the park and Disney Village and here’s what we spent for 2 adults and 2 children (age 3 and 6):
- McDonald’s Disney Village – €45
- New York Style Sandwiches – €45
- Au Chalet de la Marionnette – €50
- Buzz Lightyear’s Pizza Planet Restaurant – €60
Those listed above were the restaurants on the cheaper range (and we had 10% discount thanks to the year pass). We could not afford to go to the more expensive ones, which was one of the reasons that…
We skipped the dining with Disney characters
Although this must be one of the most fun things to do in Disneyland, the prices were just too expensive for us. And, we happen to have very shy kids that we suspect may even shrink to the seats when the characters come. So, no dining with the Disney characters, but I don’t think the kids missed it at all, as they could meet the stars at other places throughout the parks.
That said, go if you could afford it!
Still on the subject of meals, check the Meal Plans offered by the Parks. You may find one that suits your needs and budget.
We arrived early at the park and used FastPass when possible
As our year passes offer us the extra “Magic Hours” between 8-10am for the Disneyland Park (not the Studio Park that opens at 10am), we did our best to arrive early at the gate. These extra hours really made the difference. Not all rides and attractions were open for these extra hours, but it was still cool to be able to squeeze in more rides before the park became crowded.
The Walt Disney Studio Park officially starts at 10am, although the gates were opened half an hour earlier. The most popular ride at the moment was the Ratatouille, so my suggestion is to go there directly. You can either go to the ride line, or the FastPass line. If you go directly to the ride line when the ride just opens, you’ll be inside in minutes even when the line looks super long. Come later and it may take as long as 70min. We did this ride with FastPass – when we first got inside the Studio Park at around 9:40, hubby and kids directly went to rides with almost no queue (Cars and Toy Story ones) while I got our FastPasses for Ratatouille. This ride btw, is awesome! Not to be missed!
The rides we used FastPasses with our 3 and 6-yo were:
– Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Disneyland Park
– Peter Pan’s Flight, Disneyland Park
– Ratatouille: The Adventure, Walt Disney Studio
If you have older kids, you can also use of the “single rider” lines for some rides.
We had early lunch
We went early to lunch to beat the crowd, usually around 11-11:30am. This saved us from long queues. However, we found that many Meet-Characters events took place at these lunch hours (obviously to draw the crowd from the dining area), so if your kids can’t skip meeting with Rapunzel or Buzz Lightyear, pack some snack and go for late lunch instead.
We brought snacks and water
The official Disneyland page says you can’t take food and drinks inside, but it’s not really true (read here). In fact you should always have snack and water with you. The range of snack that the parks offer are not what I would normally give my kids, and most of the times there were long lines. When we were there for some reasons I didn’t understand most water fountains did not work. I only found 2 that worked, so we usually filled up our bottles there. Bottled water and other bottled drinks were also sold at some of the souvenir shops where the cashier lines were better than at the food stalls.
You can also bring lunch-type food such as sandwiches, although the Parks forbid a real picnic. We saw many visitors ate sandwiches while waiting for a show (outside the theater before the doors were opened)
We spent a few days
I knew what to expect with queuing times in Disneyland as I had been to the Disneyworld in Orlando many years ago. So when I planned this trip I realized that we would enjoy it better when we go for a few days (four in this case) instead of just a weekend. It worked really well. We had to wake up and go out the door earlier to enjoy the extra Magic Hours, but inside the Parks we never felt that we had to rush going from one ride to another. We knew we would have the time, and having the year pass also assured us that we would come back another time within a year.
Note that four days were still not enough to do all rides and attractions, but we were totally satisfied with the trip.
A few additional notes
There were many sites that offered excellent tips and I found two very helpful:
I also downloaded the iPhone App, but honestly I didn’t use it much. It was not very accurate regarding wait times for rides, and there was no public Wi-Fi in the parks so that I had to use the 3G/4G roaming data plan from my provider. I believe I only used it to check for restaurant prices (marked by the number of €s).
The maps provided at the Parks were the ones we extensively used as we could only find the schedule of actual events (shows, meet-the-characters) there. They are available in different languages so make sure to pick one up when you enter the park.
We were blessed with lovely weather (sunny and blue sky) but underestimated how cold it would still be in April. So even though we had our spring jackets with us, we ended up buying pullovers at the souvenir shops!
And finally, the (rough) calculation of what we spent for 2 adults and 2 kids (3 & 6) for 4 days in Disneyland:
- Park year passes = €717.45
- Train tickets = €280
- Hotel = €467.52
- Food = around €250
- Souvenirs = around €250
- Total = €1964.97
Not cheap at all but it was really as cheap as we could get at that time! And now excuse me while I book for another Disneyland Paris trip for Christmas time
Hope this post is helpful! Have you been there and have tips to share? Leave a comment! x