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Intro to me:
Rebecca travelled to Disneyland Paris with her husband and their children, aged 3 and 5.
When we visited:
We went there in the first week of the school summer holidays in July 2018
What’s Disneyland Paris like?
Disneyland Paris is known for being an exceptional theme park, but it’s hard to appreciate just how incredible it is until you’ve been. Not only does it have world-class rides, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, where you ride in a boat and see hidden treasure, a pirate ship and Captain Jack Sparrow himself, but there is so much more besides.
There are shows including Mickey’s Magic Show, a stage show featuring performances from many wonderful Disney films including The Lion King and Frozen, and my children particularly loved being able to explore Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and the cave network on Adventure Isle.
There are tons of rides, for all ages, so even though we were there for five days we always felt like there was more to explore.
What sort of families would enjoy a holiday here?
Ultimately, Disneyland Paris is a theme park, so a trip here is more suited to families who enjoy that sort of break, rather than a nature-based, outdoorsy holiday.
Disneyland Paris is an amazing place for all. In the Disneyland Park there is the immediate wow factor of seeing the Sleeping Beauty Castle – my boys were so excited when they saw that. The extent of theming in the park is just wonderful – Frontierland, for example, is set up to transport you to the Wild West.
A Disneyland Paris trip would suit a large family group, but because there is so much to do for different ages, you’d probably want to split into smaller groups, so that everyone can go on the rides they want and get the most out of it.
If your kids like rollercoasters, they’ll get more out of the park, for example Fergus loved the Big Thunder Mountain ride in Frontierland (I don’t like rollercoasters, so I wimped out of that one and my husband took him each time!), but there were lots of gentle rides, too.
Don’t go to Disneyland Paris if…
You’re not prepared to queue. As it’s a theme park there are inevitably queues, and although you can avoid these by being organised (more of that later!), you need to bear this in mind.
What age is Disneyland Paris best for?
I think it’s brilliant for all ages; I think most people would find something to enjoy there. I saw families with kids of all ages – from little ones right up to older teenagers – as well as couples with no children, too.
My boys Fergus, 5, and Rafferty, 3, had a fabulous time, as did my husband and I. Fergus will hopefully be old enough to remember the trip in years to come. My boys adore the Toy Story films, so they particularly loved the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast ride, where you sit in a carriage and shoot targets with a laser to gain points as you move around the ride – you can spin the car too, which the boys loved.
The Cars-themed Cars Quatre Roues Rallye was also a hit with Fergus – you sit in one of the cars and they spin around like a super-fast teacup ride – although it was a little too fast for Raffy to enjoy.
There were a few rides my three-year-old couldn’t go on, due to his height, but that didn’t spoil the trip at all. Instead, we just split up, with my husband taking Fergus, and me taking Rafferty on something else (we just made sure the queue lengths on each ride were similar, so none of us was hanging around for too long).
Is it worth the journey from the UK?
Absolutely. It’s a fabulous destination in its own right, and if you only visited for a day, tagging it onto another trip in France, I feel it would be quite a rushed way of seeing it. We added on two nights in Paris at the end of the trip to celebrate my birthday. It was very easy to take the train into Paris, even with kids and luggage in tow, but we had made an effort to pack extremely lightly. In fact, it’s so good, we’ve decided that going back to Walt Disney World in Florida is probably not worth the extra time and expense.
Are there long queues at Disneyland Paris?
The queues varied considerably depending on the ride, but also the time of day. When we got to the parks early we found most rides had short queues, even popular ones like Peter Pan’s Flight. Likewise when we stayed out in the park after dinner at around 7-8pm, the queues for most of the rides were under 30 minutes.
In the middle of the day, the popular rides like Big Thunder Mountain had long queues of around 50–60 minutes when we were there.
There are some rides such as It’s a Small World, which seemed to consistently have short queues, so it’s easy to mix up rides with long and short queues.
Here’s a list of the rides in terms of queuing time:
Long queues (around an hour at peak time during our visit)
- Big Thunder Mountain
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Meet Mickey Mouse
- Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast
- Ratatouille: The Adventure
- Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain
- Crush’s Coaster
Mid-length queues (around 30 mins to an hour at peak time during our visit)
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
- Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin
- Lancelot’s Carousel
- Cars Quatre Roues Rallye
Shorter queues (less than 20 mins on our visit)
- It’s a Small World
- Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains (Snow White ride)
- Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups
- Casey Jr: The Circus Train
- Le Pays des Contes de Fées – Storybook Land Canal Boats
- Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic
- Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing
There are some walk-through attractions:
- Alice’s Curious Labyrinth
- Les Mystères du Nautilus
How can I cut down queuing time?
You can queue virtually for some attractions, using the app Lineberty. We used it to meet Buzz Lightyear. We just downloaded the app, selected the option to meet Buzz, then it told us to return in about 90 minutes’ time. When it flashes green you join the short queue to meet the character – it took about ten minutes for it to be our turn.
Some rides, including Big Thunder Mountain, have a FASTPASS system, so if you go to the ride you can pick up a FASTPASS to ride it later at an allotted time and skip most of the queue (these FASTPASSES may run out as the day goes on, though).
Hotel guests in rooms at a certain level, such as the Compass Club rooms in Newport Bay Club Hotel, will receive a ‘Hotel FASTPASS’ per day, which means they can join the FASTPASS queue without reserving a ticket first.
Guests in some of the most expensive rooms including some suites will receive the VIP FASTPASS, which gives unlimited access to the FASTPASS queue – this is what my family was given for the purpose of this review.
We also had the added benefit of some extra FASTPASSES because Fergus and Rafferty were picked from the queue when we were waiting for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride to open – they were chosen as the ‘Pirates du jour’ and asked to open the ride. We were all taken to the ride by a pirate on a boat of our own and with a treasure chest to take with us.
When we got off, we handed the treasure chest in and inside was a special pass allowing entry to the ride via the exit, plus exit entry into a couple more rides as a one-off – and the boys got a keyring each. It was complete chance they were chosen – some pirates had walked down the queue earlier and we smiled and chatted to them, which is possibly why they were picked!
What is there to eat and drink at Disneyland Paris?
There is a great choice of restaurants in the parks, and outside in the Disney Village and the Disney hotels.
The menus were tasty, for example, in Captain Jack’s I ate from the ‘Bucaneer’s Menu’ and had quinoa salad with nut vinaigrette, oven-baked mahi mahi fish steak in tomato and coconut sauce, followed by tropical fruit soup. Fergus and Rafferty both had a tuna wrap, vegetable pasta and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. I was impressed that there were healthy options on all the set menus for adults and children (not that we always chose them!).
The quick-service counter menus were more fast-food based, but even then I spotted salads as options, and the prices were fairly reasonable; for example, at the Cowboy Cookout Barbeque it costs €15.99 (around £14**) for a burger, chips or salad, drink and fruit yoghurt or ice cream, while the children’s menu is €8.99 (just under £8**).
We didn’t struggle to find a seat when we stopped for snacks, although we only stopped for lunch in the parks once, and there was plenty of seating.
There was a sign asking people not to eat picnics in the parks though, so there aren’t any designated picnic areas, and there were plenty of kiosks selling coffees, ice-creams and treats.
How do the Disney hotel meal plans work?
When we were doing our preparation for the trip, we got a bit concerned about the price of the restaurants as we had booked a room-only package at Disney’s four-star Newport Bay Club Hotel, yet obviously we had to eat!
If you’re staying at a Disney hotel, there’s the option of buying a meal plan in advance, which gives you breakfast in your hotel plus lunch and/or dinner at a range of restaurants in the parks, Disney Village and Disney hotels.
You can choose from half- or full-board options in three price brackets – the Standard, Plus or Premium Dining plans. The Standard plan is available in over 5 restaurants, compared to the Plus plan where you can dine in more than 15 eateries, and the Premium Plan, where you can eat à la carte in 20 or more restaurants. The Premium Plan also includes character meals and shows too, which makes it quite cost efficient if you planned to see some shows during your visit.
For a party of two adults and two children aged over 3 (under 3s have a dedicated children’s menu) dining for four days at half board, the Standard Dining Plan costs around £470*, the Plus Dining Plan would set you back around £650*, and the Premium Dining Plan would cost around £1,060*.
After pricing up different restaurants in the Disney Village, we felt that the dining plans were pretty good value – we chose the Plus plan and were pleased with our choice. The buffet breakfast in our hotel was lovely and we actually ate so much we didn’t really need to stop for lunch.
The table-service restaurants for our evening meals were excellent. We particularly enjoyed Chez Remy, a restaurant in the Walt Disney Studios Park with decor inspired by the film Ratatouille. It’s designed to make you feel as small as a rat, so think bottle tops for chair backs, and Gusteau’s Anyone Can Cook recipe books that were bigger than me. Our waiter was helpful, great with the kids, and service was quick but not rushed.
How can I get the best out of a visit to Disneyland Paris?
I think the key thing is to research in advance what you really want to do when you’re there and be organised about it. If you just wander around and play it by ear on the day you might miss out or just end up in long queues.
For example, get to the park early and go straight for the rides you know are popular and will have large queues later, then move onto the ones with shorter queues later in the day.
Plus, if you want to eat in any of the table-service restaurants, then book as early as you can, particularly the themed ones, as otherwise they may not have room.
Fantasyland seemed to be the best for little ones, while some of the faster rides were fairly spread out, in both the Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios.
How can I keep spending costs down?
If you’ve got your eye on the pennies, you can keep your spend low. For example, if you drive to Disneyland Paris you can take lots of snacks and food with you. As we went via Eurostar we were a bit more limited, but we did take lots of healthy snacks and refillable water bottles (like this eco-friendly One Green Bottle), too – there were lots of water fountains in the parks.
Of course, being a Disney theme park there are plenty of Disney products on sale to tempt your kids! We followed a friend’s advice and bought some Disney products we knew our kids would love before our trip and took them with us so we had fairly cheap gifts to give them while we were there – which stopped them pestering as much in the gift shops!
Is it easy to find your way around?
The parks are easy to navigate and there are plenty of maps you can pick up – I found it pretty easy to get my bearings in both parks.
What should I take with me?
Even if your child rarely uses a pushchair anymore, I would definitely suggest taking one as their little legs will get tired walking around the parks (the Ickle Bubba Globe is lightweight and compact, so great for travel). By the fourth day we hired one for Fergus for €20 (around £17) per day, despite the fact he’s five! He wanted to stay in the parks and do the rides, but after a few days he was tired because of the amount of walking involved.
When queuing you need to leave your pushchair in a buggy park next to each ride (we happily left bags under the pushchair although we had no valuables in there).
What are the toilets like?
There were plenty of loos in both parks and each of them had baby-changing facilities and they also had low-level sinks. On the way into the Disneyland Park I queued a couple of times at the first set of loos, then I later spotted another set of loos a bit further into the park which were much less busy. I didn’t spot the loo roll running out even at the end of the day, and the facilities were all kept very clean.
Is Disneyland Paris easy to get around with a pushchair or wheelchair?
We had no problems getting around with a pushchair, and in terms of wheelchair access, I spotted lots of signs on the way into rides signposting the way in for wheelchair users. I also saw accessible toilets in each of the toilets I used.
Does it cater to visitors with other disabilities or special needs?
There is a lot of information on Disneyland Paris’ website for visitors with hearing impairment, reduced mobility, mental or cognitive disabilities, photosensitive epilepsy and those with visual impairment. There are also accessibility maps plus info on where you can store medications.
When is Disneyland Paris open?
The Disneyland Park opens from 10am-11pm, while the Walt Disney Studios Park is open from 10am-8pm. Both offer Extra Magic Time for hotel guests, although the times can vary.
You can find out more about opening hours for your visit here.
Is there a good time of year to go?
We were there in a heatwave and I admit we did find it quite hard going at points, particularly when we were queuing outside. I imagine there would be a similar issue if it was very rainy or cold – it’s hard to avoid as most theme parks are outdoors.
How much time should we allow to visit Disneyland Paris?
We went to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, in 2017, and had three days of tickets to see the four parks, so we felt under pressure to make every minute count, and we were all exhausted by the end of it. This time we had five days to see two parks and we were staying on-site, so it meant we could enjoy the parks at a much more relaxed pace.
On a couple of days we went first thing for Extra Magic Time, which means we got to enter the parks from 8.30am-9.30am. In the afternoon, we went back to the hotel for a swim and returned in the evening for a meal. However, on our last full day we spent a whopping 12 hours in the parks, and I felt by that point we had done almost everything we wanted to.
We took a more relaxed approach partly because it was so hot during our visit – if you went at a different time of year and were happy to spend long days in the park each day, I think two to three days would be enough.
How much would a trip to Disneyland Paris cost in 2020?
A trip to Disneyland Paris is a dream holiday for many people and it’s not cheap.
There are often special offers running throughout the year (see the end of this piece for a current offer), so if you are planning a trip, I think it’s worth holding out for these rather than just paying full price. Our four-night break cost a bargain £1,300 at the four-star Newport Bay Club Hotel, with room only, and five days’ park tickets in the first week of the school summer holidays in July 2018, so it’s worth looking out for special offers.
You can also go at other times of the year when it’s cheaper and you can also stay at one of the less expensive Disney hotels, or one of the non-Disney hotels in the area, which would bring the price down further.
Are there any downsides to Disneyland Paris?
I think the only thing that was disappointing was that a couple of the rides weren’t running a few times when we had walked to that part of the park to go on them, so I would recommend keeping an eye on the Lineberty app as I’m told it usually shows on there if certain rides are not running.
What should I do to prepare before going to Disneyland Paris?
I always read a guide book before I go on any holiday to get the most out of a trip and Disneyland Paris was no exception. I liked finding out more about what the rides would be like and getting a good idea about the best ones for their heights and ages. Their website also has plenty of information.
In terms of getting my children excited about the trip, although there were some photographs on the main Disneyland Paris website, I tended to use videos from YouTube instead.
How can I get to Disneyland Paris?
We travelled by Eurostar – which I would highly recommend – taking the direct service from London St Pancras to Disneyland Paris (Marne-La-Vallée / Chessy). It was a smooth and hassle-free journey that took us straight to the centre of the resort, which meant the start to our holiday was stress-free because we didn’t need to struggle with long car journeys or airport transfers.
For those who are driving, guests staying in the Disney hotels have free parking at their hotel and at the parks.
We had a fantastic time in Disneyland Paris and would love to go back – the rides were excellent, the shows were fantastic and I loved how easy it was to get around. We did the right thing staying in a Disney hotel – it meant we could walk to the parks plus take advantage of the dining plans, and if we were to return we would do the same again. The Eurostar journey was excellent too; it was great being able to travel from central London directly to the resort.