Top Tips for Disneyland Paris – my personal advice for a happy holiday

DisneylandIn Easter 2013 the Relevant family went to DisneyLand Paris (a.k.a. EuroDisney) for a 4 day holiday. We had such a nice time, and I thoroughly recommend going there. Since then two of our friends have also gone, and I gave them some hints & tips based on our experience. These tips seemed to help our friends, so I have published them here in the hope that it improves the holidays for some other families!

  • All tips are based on when we visited (Easter 2013). Things may have changed since we were last there, so apologies if any of the advice is no longer accurate!

Preparation (before you go) 

  • Book Cafe Mickey by phone at least a week in advance (see later why)
  • If your kids have NOT seen any of the following DVDs, then I recommend they do, because I think if you show them to your kids they’ll get more out of the trip:
    • Snow white and the seven dwarfs
    • Peter Pan
    • Toy Story
    • Dumbo
    • Mickey Mouse clubhouse (or anything else with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto)
    • Alice in Wonderland (not a great film though in my opinion)
    • Pinnocio (not a great film though in my opinion)
    • The film “Aladdin” is quite a good idea to see beforehand too
  • Bring snacks/water (see later).

If you are staying in a Disney hotel

  • You get 2 hours ‘extra’ in the park beforehand (8am to 10am) before the ‘normal’ visitors are allowed in. Although only 10 or so rides are open during this period, it’s a LOVELY time to go around the park, so it is well worth maximising this time. Therefore I highly recommend that you go in as soon after 8am as you can.
  • Hotel reception will ask you what time you want to take breakfast (you will get a ticket for that time). If you can get up early, then I recommend go for 7am option for breakfast (earliest). Then you’ll probably come down at 7:15am, have breakfast, and leave and get in the park 8:15am to 8:30am which is GREAT.
  • When we arrived last year, there was a bit of a queue (10 minutes or so) to check in. Some people were getting a bit annoyed (the kids get excitable so the parents are stressed). Bear with the reception – they are trying their hardest to please everyone. Try to keep in a good mood! Set your expectations that there may be a delay, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Inside the Park

  • The main parade is at 5pm. We found that the best position was almost at the end of the parade, on the outside or the road curve about 100 yards before the finish (which is near the entrance to the park). This gave us the best views. Get there about 4:45pm (they’ll come past from approx 5:10pm onwards) and you should be able to get a spot right on the edge of the road. If you get your child to bring a doll of her favourite character (we did this with Jessie) you may find that the character will come over and give her a hug (Jessie did that with our daughter!)
  • Firework spectacular is great but late at night. It lasts 30 minutes, but then there’s a MAD rush to exit the park at the end. So my advice is to leave at 25 minutes past the hour (Peter Pan will say some stuff which you’ll know means you’re near the end) to beat the rush
  • Use FastPass effectively. Basically, some of the rides have FP machines next to them. All you do is (as soon as you can after 10am) put your park ticket into these machines. This’ll print out a voucher for you which will allow you speedy access to the ride about 1 hour later. When you have finished on the ride (i.e. after you have used your FastPast ticket), immediately go to the next FP ride and print out some new FP tickets/vouchers (i.e. repeat the process). If you are clever, you should be able to use FP 2 or 3 times a day.

MOST IMPORTANTLY I’d say that:

There are two parks (the ‘main’ one and the ‘studio’ park).

  • The parks are BIG, and therefore it takes a LONG time to go across each park (especially if you have young kids)
  • It also takes a long time to walk between the parks and the hotel
  • Some of the best/cheapest restaurants (e.g. McDonalds) are outside the park, so again you have to walk a while to get to them. Plus if you want to get back to your hotel (e.g. getting more water or whatever) it’ll be a long walk

So the MOST IMPORTANT thing I’d say is that you want to do everything you can to minimise your walking. Here’s my thoughts (no particular order) to achieve that:

  • You can hire buggies when you are there (extra cost). At times we wished we had, but (on the other hand) they are something else you have to worry about when queuing for rides (so if you can avoid using them, then do)
  • Make sure you use your 8am-> 10am ‘early opening’ time wisely. Most of those rides will be empty from 8am to 9am (although they do start filling up afterwards). Lots of the Disney rides are quite short, so just re-queue immediately afterwards and go on things multiple times. Probably the best example of this for us was the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. This has NO QUEUE at the beginning, so we went on about 3 times on and on. Then it has HUGE queues later!
  • However, at approx 9:45am think about where you want to go when the rides open fully. Make your way to the queue of your favourite ride. If it’s the Princess Pavillion, you need to start queuing a little earlier (approx 9:35 or so) or there will be a huge queue (during the day, it’s normally at least 90 minute queue, so probably not worth it unless you queue first thing!). In fact, I personally would ONLY do Princess Pavillion *first thing* in the day like this!
  • If you are hotel guests, then you get an additional advantage on other visitors. If your ride is outside the FantasyLand (e.g. in AdventureLand) then you can start queuing nearer (at the back of Peter Pan) at 9:55am, from where you can get there quicker than they are (they’ll be starting from the ‘Main Street’ part). It’ll all make sense when you’re there!

Once the parks are fully open (10am), and after you’ve gone to your favourite attraction first thing (e.g. Princess Pavilion) you’ll find that it’s about 10:30am and all the big rides will have big queues by now. My best advice is to:

  • Get your first Fast Past ticket (Peter Pan’s flight is probably the BEST example of this. It has AMAZINGLY long queues, and yet it’s not actually that good a ride – don’t bother going on it unless you use FP. Only go if you use Fast Past or go @ 10am) now
  • From then onwards, my advice is to NOT have a plan. Instead, just do ANYTHING that you see (whatever is closest) that has a queue less than 20 minutes or so. Just go to the nearest next ‘logical’ ride that has a small queue, not what your kids are telling you to go on because they’ve seen it in the map – it’s probably miles away!

Basically, what I’m saying is that LOADS of the rides will have very short queues (less than 5 minutes) throughout the day. There are signs on each ride to give you the queue length, and these are VERY accurate in my experience. Here are is a list of rides and the sort of queues that I expect to see during the ‘peak’ part of the day:

Short queues always:

  • Casey Junior (and I think this is a GREAT ride!)
  • Le Pays de… (storybook boat)

Short queues for much of the time (although sometimes they get longer):

  • Mad Hatter’s teacups
  • It’s a small world
  • Thunder Mesa Riverboat
  • Flying Carpets (Studios park)
  • Slinky Dog (Studios park) – we LOVED this ride

Also, here are a load of attractions that you can go to that NEVER have queues, because they are just exhibitions. They are fun though!

  • La Taniere… (Dragon’s cave)
  • Alice in Wonderland Labyrinth
  • Pirate’s beach
  • Swiss Family Robinson
  • Adventure Idle (lots of caves to go for spooky looks)
  • Le Passage… (Aladdin) – not great, but passes the time if you have imagination

Make sure that you always are going on something (rather than just walking around) because (a) there’s always something with a short queue if you look for it (or are prepared to go on things multiple times!) (b) the more you walk, the more the kids will complain!

Sometimes the park gets so busy you just need some time to chill out and relax. There’s a HUGE (but actually quite hidden) burger restaurant called “Videopolis”. That’s a good place to get food (not cheap, but not expensive either) and a good sit down with a bit of calm (escape from the people outside!).

Here’s a couple of rides that I don’t recommend for young families, because they are too wild for young kids:

  • Space Mountain 2
  • Rock and Rollercoaster

There are also some things that you just go to and watch. They are very good.

  • My personal favourite was “Animagique”. 30 minutes of fun, and a nice excuse to sit down
  • “Moteurs action…” is a good stunt show, although it can get very cold watching it.
  • We didn’t go to “Stitch” or “Playhouse Disney” because (although they looked OK) the English-language versions were always on at the ‘wrong’ time of day for us.

Get the leaflets (map and show times) just after you enter the park, and check the showtimes for the above so you don’t miss them

When we first went to Disney, we found that the ‘studios’ park was quieter than the ‘main’ one, so it was a good place to get quickly on rides etc. However, when we went at Easter we found the opposite – it seemed to be more crowded! Don’t spend too much time walking between the parks – probably best to do one in the morning, and the other in the afternoon?

France is one hour ahead of UK, so that first night it’s a good idea to think if you can stay awake all evening so you can make it to the final ‘spectacular’ (it’s quite late) with fireworks etc. because the kids will feel that it’s one hour earlier than it is. Having said this, it’ll make them VERY tired and they won’t want to get up in the morning for breakfast!

The two hotels we stayed in had photo sessions in the lobby around 8am to 9:30am or so, with various characters. You end up having to queue for a bit (e.g. 20 minutes) to get your turn. This is OK, but I reckon it’s best just to wander into the park and ‘bump into’ them (you will, especially if you are there for 4 days!) and just get your photo when you see them. Saves time and is more exciting.

When you queue for “Big Thunder Mountain” (which is DEFINITELY one of the BEST rides – definitely go on it!) the queue splits into two (left and right). I cannot 100% remember, but I think it’s the LEFT queue that will be shortest (you’ll see – it’s obvious). Basically, EVERYONE naturally tends to go “right” which makes that longer. Do that as one of your first rides (when it opens) and make sure you queue left. Or use FastPass (I think it has it). Don’t miss this ride!

Check your kid’s height beforehand. Luckily our daughter (3 at the time) is very tall for her age, so we found that she was tall enough for ALL of the rides that she wanted.

There’s a shortcut between “It’s a small world” and “Star Tours”. I *wish* I’d used it more often, since it saves LOTS of time

When moving from the entrance to the other side of Main Street, it’s FAR quicker to use the two ‘tunnels’ (one on the left, one on the right) which are behind the shops. It’s also a nice relaxed place to chill, sit down on a bench, go to the toilet etc. Definitely useful when making a quick escape after the spectacular show is about to finish at night!

 

Eating (and saving money!)

  • Food is not cheap there. We found that the “Earl of Sandwich” was good for a light lunch, and there’s also McDonalds. The Rainforest Cafe was fun but expensive. However, MUCH better is to go to Cafe Mickey (same price as Rainforest Cafe) where you get to meet the characters and it’s much more fun (see below)
  • I cannot recommend highly enough booking a table (you’ll need to do it a week in advance – there’s a telephone number you can call in the UK before you travel) at Cafe Mickey, for one of their character meals. The first sitting starts at 6pm (the characters come out at 6:15pm) so try to get that sitting – it’s great fun. You must must must must must book it before you go on holiday, or you’ll find it’s all booked up when you arrive
  • We didn’t eat there, but it looked fun eating at the restaurant at the “Pirates of the Carribean” restaurant. I’d definitely give that a go if ever we went there again (unlikely!)

Saving money in Disneyland is NOT easy. Perhaps the only tips I can give you (except McDonalds and Earl of Sandwich) are:

  • Bring some water bottles (sports caps) and refill them in your hotel room each night/morning. That saved us a packet!
  • There is a coffee/cake shop in ‘Main street’ on the right hand side (as you face the castle) about half-way along. If you get there approx 10:30am it’s not so busy. It does coffee and a muffin for only about 3 Euros which is not bad.
  • In general, coffee is cheap in Disneyland, but soft drinks (for the kids) are VERY expensive.
  • Bring lots of non-perishable snacks from the UK (e.g. multi-packs of Twixes or whatever) to give the kids. They cost a FORTUNE at the park. There is simply NO method to get relatively cheap food there (apart from taking a piece of fruit each from Breakfast for the day!)

I hope that these little snippets of advice help others have a fab time. If there’s only one piece of advice that you take on board, I hope that it is  to remember to book ‘Cafe Mickey’ a week before you go!

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