First, a bit about the park.
Disneyland Paris is effectively split into three sections - Disney Village, Walt Disney Studios Park and Disneyland Park. All three sections are right next to each other and literally just by the train station that comes to the park - Marne-la-Valée:
Disneyland Village consists almost entirely of restaurants and shops and the occasional spot of street entertainment. You don't need a park pass to access Disneyland Village
Walt Disney Studios Park
Walt Disney Studios Park is one of the two main parks at Disneyland Paris. You DO need a park pass to access the studios park. A park pass covers access to both the Studios and Disneyland Park and you can come and go as many times as you like for the duration of your stay that your ticket covers.
This park focuses more on the behind the scenes studio effects and cinema experiences. There are also a number of rides, however, including some of the most popular rides for small children.
There are also a number of restaurants in the park. The park is open from 10am to 6pm.
This is the main park for rides and attractions. It is split into 5 themed 'lands':
- Main Street, USA - the main entrance to the park with a number of shops, restaurants, old fashioned vehicles etc. leading up to a magical castle. This is where the daily street parade takes place at 5:30pm
- Adventureland - themed land with a number of rides and restaurants, including the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril ride
- Discoveryland - themed land with a number of rides and restaurants, including Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast and, my personal favourite, Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain
- Fantasyland - themed land with a number of rides and restaurants
- Frontierland - themed land with a number of rides and restaurants, including the magnificent Big Thunder Mountain
The park is open from 10am to 11pm.
Disneyland Paris operates a FASTPASS ticket system on 10 of its most popular rides. All park tickets come with the ability to use FASTPASS - so no additional add-ons required. The way this works is, for each of the eligible attractions, you scan your park ticket and are given a FASTPASS ticket with a return time on. You return to the attraction within the 30 mins specified on the ticket and walk onto the ride with no queue.
You can only have one FASTPASS active at any one time (or can activate a new one at the time specified on the FASTPASS ticket.
In front of each eligible attraction, a time slot is displayed for the current FASTPASS allocation.
Beware, for the most popular rides, such as Ratatouille, FASTPASS tickets can sell out by around midday.
Who to Book With
There are a number of agents selling Disneyland Paris deals or you can book direct with the park.
We booked via an agent called http://www.thingstodowiththekidsinkentgroupbook.co.uk/ but they are one of many.
Where to Stay
You can stay anywhere in Paris near the park but I highly recommend staying in one of the park hotels if going for more than one day. There are a number of hotels in or attached to the park, all within about a ten-minute walk and with free shuttle bus services running daily around every 15 mins (but walking is easy and much more pleasant except for on arrival and departure with luggage). The reason I recommend staying at one of the park hotels is you then get 'Magic Hours' access to the park between 8am and 10am. A golden time when you can walk on to any of the rides open during magic hours with virtually no queue before the rest of the visitors arrive.
How Long to Stay For
There is loads to do. We stayed for 3 nights in total and had three full days in the parks and barely scraped the surface (partly because Dalton wanted to go on the same few rides over and over again to Mummy's depair!). This felt like just the right amount of time, however, as the days are long and tiring, especially for little people. We were all ready to leave by the final day. Any less time and it would have felt too short. Essentially, we spent Day 1 focusing on Disneyland Park, Day 2 focusing on Walt Disney Studios Park and the final day repeating our favourite rides.
When to Go
In terms of time of year, it's a magical place, I would imagine, any time of year but, naturally, less fun in the rain as most activities and attractions are outside. As you can't bank on the weather though, book away and cross your fingers and toes!
In terms of your children's age, I strongly recommend waiting until your children are around 5 years old. There is plenty to do for smaller children and many attractions that they can go on but I observed a marked difference between the behaviour and tolerance of children under 5 and the associated stress levels of their parents to those with children over 5. This depends on the child of course. What I would also say though, is that if your child is very close to 1m 20cm in height, wait until they are at that height. A number of key attractions have a minimum height of 1m 20cm and Dalton was literally half a cm under this which was a shame (but meant I got to go on Hyperspace Mountain on my own, which was AWESOME!).
In terms of other height restrictions, there are a couple of rides with restrictions of 1m 40cm but, as I say, oodles of rides that are appropriate at any height. The quite spectacular and hair-raising Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster only had a restriction of 1m 02cm to our surprise!
Costs - and How to Save Money
Going to Disneyland Paris is not cheap. To give you an idea of overall expected costs, as a family of three, we stayed for three nights in one of the Disneyland hotels (with breakfast included) - Sequoia Lodge - with three full days in the park and the package cost came to just over £1400. We spent an additional £500 or so there so you are looking at around £2000 for that length of stay.
Savings costs when you arrive is possible but not easy. Almost every ride ends with a convenient walk through an appropriately themed shop - you will end up buying gifts and merchandise. Food is particularly expensive. Many of the restaurants are costly and set up in a way where you can't do it any cheaper. Whilst there are menu options to choose from, most of the restaurants charge a flat rate for an adult meal and flat rate for a child's meal at both lunch and dinner time. This was around £30 for an adult meal and £20 for a child's meal - drinks not included. Restaurants with characters or shows cost more. After spending a good £100 on night one in a restaurant, we had a rethink and cancelled all our remaining bookings (restaurants get really busy, you need to book ahead or on arrival) and ate our evening meals in the large McDonalds in Disneyland Village which was just as nice, if not nicer and substantially cheaper at around £25 all in! Yes, it's McDonald's but it's just a couple of nights and you'll save a fortune.
Even bottles of water are expensive BUT, the park is full of water fountains, often by the toilets as well as other locations. Take a water bottle and fill up as you go rather than buying expensive drinks.
Snacks are limited and also expensive. Take them with you. We took loads of snacks and got through them all - this helps with passing the time in some of the queues too!
Queues - and How to Avoid Them
You're going to queue. There's no getting around it. Know that and accept it. But, there are some things you can do to avoid a lot of the queuing. And, it's really not as bad as expected.
- Stay in a Disneyland Hotel and benefit from Magic Hours. We did more in these first two hours in the park between 8am and 10am before the park was open to non-residential visitors than the rest of the day. It's great! BUT, save time by knowing what's open (unlike us on the first day running around aimlessly). Only The Disneyland Park is open during Magic Hours. Walt Disney Studios Park doesn't open until 10am. AND, only Adventureland and Fantasyland open during Magic Hours AND not all the rides in those two lands are open before 10am. That said, there is still an awful lot you can go on between 8 and 10 - we particularly benefitted from many, many rides on Buzz Lightyear's Laser Blast during this time (and I had a couple of rides on the Hyperspace Mountain - woo hoo)!
- Use your FASTPASS wisely. The two rides which are appropriate for children that you get most of the benefit of the FASTPASS on are Ratatouille (in Walt Disney Studios Park) and Big Thunder Mountain (in Frontierland in Disneyland Park). The queues for both of these rides was generally between 40 - 60 mins without a FASTPASS so get there early and get your slot and walk on without any queue at all. Some rides, like the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast have relatively quick moving queues anyway so save your FASTPASS for those with longer queues.
- If you don't have small children with you, go in the single rider queues. Sure, you won't get to sit on together but you'll benefit from significantly reduced queues.
- Dalton's favourite rides: Ratatouille (Walt Disney Studios Park) and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast (Adventureland: Disneyland Park)
- Mummy's favourite rides: Hyperspace Mountain (Adventureland: Disneyland Park) and Big Thunder Mountain (Frontierland: Disneyland Park)
- Daddy's favourite ride: Big Thunder Mountain
- Book character shows and popular restaurants before you go. All the shows were sold out when we tried to book on arrival and getting restaurant slots at child-friendly times was very difficult
- If staying in one of the Disneyland Hotels, walk to the park rather than get the shuttle bus, it's quicker and nicer
- See the parade at least once - it's great
Is it Worth it?