Now this isn’t going to be a typical blog post as I’ve been to this place more times than you can count on your fingers. Rather this post is going to be about my top tips and helping you decide the best accommodation, travel and things to do whist you’re there at Disneyland Paris.
When to go…
So I’ve been here various time thought out the year. I’ve been in the Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn and by far the best and cheapest time to go was February Half Term. Especially if you have kids this is perfect as it stops those pesky school fines. It is cold but I found it the least busy and most enjoyable time to go. I would definitely recommend it and its the best time to grab a Disney deal. However the downsides are that this is the change over time for Disney. Its generally when they’re changing from one theme to another so there are often a few rides closed (but this does happen all year round so do check the schedule.) or the new rides are not complete yet as they want them for when the price is higher.
Who to book with…
Now I’ve booked with tour operators separately and all through Disney and the best way is to do it separately. Its cheaper and gives you more options. Now I ALWAYS book the hotel with Disney as they have the best offers on. Whether its free park tickets, free half board upgrade or free night it is always the best, and you always get the best rooms. Yep I stayed one year and go a freshly renovated room (yes we were the first ones in it), room upgrades, Lake facing with a balcony! and there always has been a little something extra in my room when I’ve booked with them. Booking with Disney also give you the option to compare which hotel to stay in and how to get there.
How long to go for…
I’ve been here for a 4 days, a weekend and a day and with the site expanding, its also announced another expansion Yay!
In my opinion 1 day is no longer do able if you’ve never been before, but if you have you can check the new rides off and get on a few of the golden oldies.
In a weekend you could probably do all the rides but that wouldn’t leave much time to watch a parade or see a show. So if you have young kids I wouldn’t recommend this. But if you have been before it is indefinably a good period of time to go for.
3-5 days would give you plenty of time to do everything you could ever wish for and I definitely recommend doing this if its your first time or have little kids. You could also nip a trip to Paris in and the near by shopping centre.
How to get there…
I’ve travelled every which way here, plane, eurostar, channel tunnel, ferry, driven and by far the easiest quickest and cheapest was the Eurostar.
Eurostar – I booked my tickets directly with Eurostar during February half term on 2 occasions and got a return from Doncaster/Sheffield for under £50 to Disneyland Paris, or Marne-La-Valle as it is known. There is a stop at St Pancrias/Kings Cross to go through passport control, but it is super easy. The other great part about this is it drops you slapbang next to the park and Disney have this amazing service called Disney Express where you can drop your bags with them in the train station and they will take them to your hotel and check you in as well as give you your park tickets!! Meaning as soon as you get there you can go straight into the park to spend that extra time on the rides!!! This service is located on the top floor of the train station. Another advantage is there are no luggage restrictions like there are with coaches or flights so take as much as you want!
Plane – For the first time last year I travelled by plane to Disneyland, all be it with 40 children in tow, and it was incredibly easy. We flew out of Doncaster airport with Flybe at 6am and landed at 10am. We got to our hotel for 12pm and were in the park by 1pm. Not bad to say there were 45 of us! The flight times back were great as well, landing back in the UK at 9pm. However there are a few problems with flying. The first is it is so expensive, much more than any other way to get there. Second is the luggage restrictions – you cant buy what you want at Disney without thinking about it. Third is depending on the airport its £25+ for a coach transfer or a more reasonable £9 for a train transfer (if you do this you can use the Disney express service too. And the last most important one is its isn’t the quickest! Yep, thats right. Factor in your journey to the airport the 2 hour wait then the 1 hour and a half flight then half an hour finding your way out of the airport, then the hour journey to the resort you’re already talking 6 hours and you’ve yet to check in to your hotel and get into the park. Eurostar – journey to station, 1 and a half hour journey to London, 30 mins check in, 2 hour and 30 mins Journey to Disney, 15 min check in and you’re in the park 5 hours and 45 mins later!
Driving – I’ve never driven down myself but I have coached it down and gone via the ferry and the tunnel. Now this is the best way if you’re using it as a stop off on your way to somewhere in Europe if not don’t bother. With the very busy schedule the tunnel and the ferry try to stick to I’ve on more than one occasion had to wait 2+ hours wait to even get on the ferry or tunnel. Now I prefer the tunnel, much quicker but very boring, than the ferry as depending on the time of year you could bump into some inebriated university students and the weather does play a big part in how people stomachs are effected. From Doncaster the trip is around 10-11 hours traffic depending then with fuel on top of european inurance and breakdown cover, for me its not ever entered my mind to do it that way. But if you’re seasoned drivers in Europe I can see it being a very good option.
Where to stay…
Now a lot of people including myself will tell you to stay in a Disney hotel and the reason for it is the extra perks you get if you do stay in one. So make sure they are factored into your decision when you’re comparing prices. Your room key and every pass you have booked with Disney will all come on a card and this is your life line while you’re there.
The highlights of staying in a Disney hotel compared to a none disney hotel are as follows:
- 2 hours early entry into a limited Disneyland park every day of your stay (not Disney Studios) – Do think about how much you spent on tickets and how much these 2 hours could give you to watch a show or get on more rides.
- Ability to use the Disney Express service
- More fequent buses
- Free coffee per person per room per day per pass (so if you have a room for 4 people and 2 park tickets you get 4 coffees each per day)
- Close location to the park if you fancy a walk
- Hands free shopping service – You don’t need to carry those park purchses around with you, you can have them delievered to the park exit or your hotel. (Avaliable in some partner hotels too)
- Ocassional deals – example free day stay, free half board upgade, free park tickets.
- Cast member appreances in your hotel.
Now if you value these services do factor them into the price you may pay at other hotels.
Now I have not stayed at all the hotels in Disney and I haven’t ever stayed at any of the partner hotels either. So I can only review the three I have been too.
Disney’s Newport Bay Club – This is my favourite disney hotel. I had a wonderful stay here and even got a balcony to enjoy it on overlooking the beautiful lake (which we didnt pay for) and the New York, New York hotel. The rooms were lovely, we were very lucky to get a newly renovated room, and couldn’t believe how spacious it was. The included continental breakfasts were great to start you off for the day and the view over the lake while watching the sunrise in a morning was fabulous. The rooms had two large double beds a dressing table and a tv cabinate. There was a dressing room which led onto a bathroom so you could brush your teeth while someone was in the shower, which proved handy when there is two of you getting ready. I’d definately stay here again and can easily see a family of 3 or 4 being incredibly comfortable in this room. Unfortunatly they were renovating the pool area when we went so we couldn’t use this – note this is one of only a few hotels that has an indoor and outdoor pool. The rooms also come with your own safety deposit box and there is free parking avaliable. This hotel is four star so is a little more expensive than the lowest range ones. If you’re looking for a little bit of luxuary while your away I would definately choose this hotel.
Disney’s Hotel Cheyanne – This hotel is styled like a western saloon town. I visit this hotel last in March 2017 and stayed in one of the newly referbished room. We stayed in a Wyoming room which was miles from the reception, I mean a good 5 mins walk, but it was lovely and quiet. The room itself was lovely and had a good sized bathroom and a little dressing area that led onto your bedroom which had a large double bed and two single beds that during the day made a couch. There was also a mounted TV over a little desk. We had four adults in this room which was a squeeze but with the little amount of time you spend in there you can deal with it. Unfortunately while we were there we never got chance to try out the breakfast due to needing to be at a competition before it opened. However, when I went a few years ago it was a continental breakfast. This hotel is great if you want the full disney experience on a budget. It is slightly more expensive then the Disney’s Santa Fe – Not sure why but they’re both on a level. The shuttle bus from here runs pretty regularly but is always very busy due to how far Disney advertise the walk. Now if you follow the river like the hotel wants you too it will take you around 20-30 mins to get there but if you follow the bus route you can be there in 15 (depending on where you’re located within the hotel as it is HUGE!
Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe – Set on the other side of the river from the Cheyanne is the Indian/ Cars themed hotel. It has been a while since I have stayed at this hotel, but for me it is exactly the same as the Cheyenne just a different theme. There is nothing much between them except there is no sneaky cut through to the park from the road. The rooms are layed out exactly the same and are roughly the same size. As it is well over 10 years since I have stayed here I cannot write much more than this.
Where to head for first…
So whatever time you get there get straight into the park. Those hours really start to add up and with some rides not having a fast pass and the long queues you need to make the most of it!
So here are my top tips for the Disneyland Park:
- If you’re staying in a Disney Hotel use those extra magic hours up! They generally only open two areas of the main park, Discovery land and Fantasyland, at this time but some of the biggest queues you come across are in these two areas and it will save using your fast pass on them. So try to tick off in those two hours: Peter Pan’s Flight – This is notoriously a very long queue usually two hours so get it ticked off while you can. Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast – You can be queuing a very long time here as the fast pass comes into play which can make your wait well over an hour. So get in quickly and avoid these problems. Space Mountain – Again another ride with a fast pass that can make your wait very long. Snow White and the Seven dwarfs – This is another one that can suffer from long queue so try to tick it off.
- As soon as the parks open go get a fast pass. Fast pass tickets go very quickly so grab them as soon as you can – unless you’re running for the Nemo ride – more on that later. If you’re in the main park I suggest going and getting a fast pass for the Big Thunder Mountain as this notoriously has queues of 2 hours as its okay for the little ones to go on the “big” rides. You can then reuse your fast pass once you have been on that ride.
- Make sure you’re watching the clock on those extra magic hours! If you’re not off to get a fast pass for Big Thunder Mountain get on it now! They open the ropes of that area at this time so get round it fast! Or run to the Pirates of the Caribbean.
- Don’t get a fast pass for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril. As this isn’t a ride for kids the queues are generally short especially when the parade is on.
- Get on the big rides during the parade and the Disney Illuminations. Self explanatory really most of the queues for the ride. If you’re staying for more than one night then you will have time to watch one closing show and a parade but it is the same every day so don’t waste time if you haven’t got it!
- Do download the free park app. This app is great as it tells you the exact times of the queues for every ride. Handy but the park doesn’t have WiFi so you will have to use data if you’re not from France. Here is the link for the Mobile Apps.
- Use the Disney Archade to bypass the busy Main street. This is a great way to quickly get around and to where you want to go especially in parade times. A lot of people don’t realise they’re there so they are generally light on traffic.
- Don’t miss out on the story book cruise and Dumbo’s runaway train. These rides are a little bit out-of-the-way and can easily be forgotten but they are worth it with little ones in tow. They’re located between the Alice in Wonderland Maze and the Windmill. There is a little path taking you to them that has a bridge where the steam train goes around the park.
- Single riders queues are totally worth it. If you are in a rush or are happy to do rides alone these queues will get you through very very quickly! You can easily save yourself a few hours going on them! – Do avoid the ones on big number rows like the RC racer they take forever!
- Book meet the characters on the mobile app. You now have to book at time slot to meet the characters, unless you do the character breakfasts. They go very quickly so make sure you book them early to get in with a chance. You simply go onto the app map find meet the characters and select a time. The only exception to this are the Princess’ and Darth Vader
Now for Walt Disney studios:
- Get to the gate early and run for Crush’s Coaster – You will thank me later. With no fast pass available and it being one of the best rides they have the queues are generally in access of 2 hours! And the single rider queue is generally the same. By the time you get through and round it you will still have plenty of time to grab a fast pass for another ride.
- FastPASS the Twilight Zones Tower of Terror or Ratatouillie. Queues do vary on this. I went just after the ratatouille ride opened and amazingly the Tower of Terror rides queue was the longest queue. It’s best to check on the app before hand to see which one is best for fastpassing and go get a pass for the longest current queue – Most people in the park, after you’ve got of Crush’s coaster, will be still queuing for it!
- Don’t miss out on the Armagedon Special Effects. You will feel like you are in that space station! It is truly a scary feeling moment. It all seemed so real without the Zero Gravity like.
- Do brace yourself for Ratatouille. It is an amazing ride but do be prepared for a headache when you get off, a dizzy spell or a trip to the toilets which are located very close by.
- Get lots of signatures in the front lot. If you’re hunting for signatures get to the front lot for middy as it has well over 8+ characters there and not very long lines!!
- Use the little path behind the tower of terror to cut off traffic and walking time between rides. Not many people see this on the map but behind the tower of terror there is a very small and low footfall path that connect the Toy Story part to the Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster.
- Don’t miss out on the car show it really is AMAZING!!!
I hope you find these tips useful. Obviously I cannot guarantee that they will work but they generally do.
Where to eat…
With lots of places to eat there are numerous options but here is a run down of my favourite. Do note that you can book restaurants three months in advance to avoid disappointment so if you really want to do something book it well in advance.
- Cafe Mickey for breakfast – Disney Village – The reason I never got to eat at Hotel Cheyenne was because we had an upgrade to a Character Breakfast and this was amazing!! The food was a hot and cold Buffett and plenty of it. Lots of choice too. I had about 3 plates full. a cold breakfast, a continental one and a hot one! Coffee and tea were available too. And then there were about 5 characters walking around constantly and every 10 minutes or so a whole 5 others would come it! It really is a magical experience for kids and big kids! Prices for this vary as they depend on where you are staying and if you have a meal plan so check with your booking agent.
- Hakuna Matata, Agrabah Cafe, Last Chance Cafe, Fuente del Oro – Disneyland Park – These are my favourite places to eat in the Disney parks. They do something a little different from traditional fast food so you don’t feel like your just eating fast food, but actually having a good meal.
- Rainforest Cafe – Disney Village – Yeah I only go here for the Volcano Deserts, which I eat by myself…
- Vapiano – Disney Village – They only real healthy-ish eating establishment in Disney is Vapiano and we ate there a lot! You do eventually get sick of fast food! It’s great that Disney are now embracing the health food option.
- Buffalo Bills Wild West show – just amazing as was the food. Really good and very entertaining. It does smell when you enter the arena but there’s live horses and cows so what do you expect?Don’t need to upgrade you don’t get much bar a seat cushion are marginally closer to the action and a cocktail on arrival. Don’t buy alcohol while you’re waiting 9 euro for a pint!!! Do get there early as you’re seated as you arrive the earlier you get there the closer to the front you are.
We went half board on The standard plan and you can eat at the following restaurants. You can book these as you get there or you can call but you’re better off just booking them there. They’re all buffet style plus one free soft drink.
Plaza Gardens – French food – Open till 6pm
Agrahba café – Middle eastern food – humus, kebabs etc – Open till 6pm
La Grange – Tex mex – Open till late
Restaurant des stars – French food
Your hotels restaurant – not sure what it is as haven’t been Any.
We used to have a big breakfast and then eat at about 3/4 pm and we didn’t really need to eat again. We’d just grab a cookie and a coffee as the park was closing/ get some wine from outside ratatouille and a crepe (LUSH) or go for a bottle of wine and some chips from maccys!
Things you must do…
Some things that you should do in the local area and in the park if you get the chance and have the time.
- Day trip into Paris. Pretty obvious but it is a change of scenery if you’re a bit board of rides.
- Val’d Europe. I large shopping centre on the outskirts of the Disneyland road system with every shop you could ever imagine and opens till 9pm so after you’ve finished in the park you can get a quick taxi or a bus there!
- sightseeing. Disneyland is surrounded by loads of quaint villages and large houses to explore. I have never been to one but they do look idyllic. Check them out!
- Village Nature AKA centre parcs is 6km away if you fancy a day of adventure!
Any thing else to make your holiday magical…
This section is all about the practical and money-saving ideas that you will need on your holiday.
- Check the price and the tags. With Disney stores all over the world you may find it cheaper to buy certain items in the UK. especially after the conversion rate so do check anything before you buy and check that is isn’t a park exclusive if it is buy it as you will not be able to get it back home.
- Pack a mac. France like the UK has a lot of rain so pack one just in case and save yourself some euros as they can cost A LOT in the parks
- Primark it up. Yep an odd one but if you or your children are crying out for some mini ears or anything Disney check out Primark first as they have mini ears in for as little as £3 which is a huge saving compared to the park prices.
- Take sensible shoes. On average in my last trip I walk between 5 – 7 miles everyday and hardly sat down especially in the queues so do take shoes you are comfortable in.
- Embrace your inner kid! This for me is paramount when you’re here. No one will judge you for wearing mini ears at any age no one will frown if you’re super excited about meeting your favourite character just do it and DO NO HOLD BACK!
The most practical but important section for some people travelling to France is their heightened security level. If you are worried here are a few things to note
- Disneyland and the Disney Village are monitored by the police and their own security 24/7. You wouldn’t even notice they’re around you.
- To get into the village, the parks and the hotels you must go through an airport style security check and they do not let you not go through without it at all. Even the workers get checked.
- If you’re still worried download the app SAIP this is a free alert app that will let you know via a notification if anything is wrong, and in English. Do remember that France and Paris is a large place so do not get frightened if it goes off, just follow the simple instructions it tells you to do. It will use your GPS to alert you if something is happening in the area which does require internet. If you do not use the internet you will get alerts from all areas of France so do check before panicing. You can download this before you go via the UK apps providers.
- Check out the meeting place for first aid at both parks. In Disneyland Park it is at the end of main street to the right of the castle if you’re looking at it. Next to Plaza Gardens Restaurant. In the studio Park it is on the right near the entrance where the toilets are.
Well I finally think I’ve finished. Its been a dissertation length post but I don’t think I’ve missed a single thing! I hope you enjoy your stay at Disneyland Paris I know i did!!