Best Tips for Visiting Disneyland Paris
Disclaimer: Our family received two adult tickets to the park in exchange for this blog post. We decided to “take one for the team” to test it out and find our best tips for visiting Disneyland Paris. You can thank us below. All opinions are our own.
Bonjour Mickey Mouse!
When we found out we were going to France for a week, we decided to build in a trip to Disneyland Paris at the same time.
To be completely honest, Disney was never on our radar. My husband wasn’t keen on going, and we would prefer not to travel to the United States for at least a few more years, by which point, the boys would probably be too old to enjoy the magic of Disney, anyway!
This was my third trip to Disney. I went to Disneyland Florida as a teenager with my parents, and then to Tokyo Disney when I lived in Japan. I loved going both times, and knew it would be a fun day out, so we decided to make it happen.
Besides, after having been on a tour of the Disney Cruise ship in the Halifax Harbour, I knew what kind of top-notch service we would receive!
Before we went, I did a lot of research. I read a lot of blogs, talked to people who had been before and studied the Disneyland Paris website. Based on all this, we put together a list of tips to help you plan your trip to Disneyland Paris! Many of these tips will translate to the other Disney parks, too, but always do your research first!
Daniel (10) put together a video about our trip to Disneyland Paris. You can’t help but feel the enthusiasm radiating from him!
Best Tips for visiting Disneyland Paris
Do your research
At Disneyland Paris there are actually 2 parks: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios. Disneyland Park is your traditional Disney park, while Walt Disney Studios Park is more the movie side of things and has a lot of theatres for great shows, along with some great rides. These 2 parks are side by side and less than a 5 minute walk from each other.
It is vital to have a plan ready for when you arrive at the park. Know where you want to go, and what you want to see. What are your top MUST SEES?
To do this, I had the boys (9, 10) study the Disneyland Paris website list of attractions.
They went through every ride, giving it a score of how much they wanted to see it. They also watched YouTube videos showing the rides. They studied the park maps to find out where their favourites were located, and from here, they made a list of their top choices.
If you wander into the park without a plan, you will waste too much time wondering where to go, or drifting between the sections without knowing where to go next.
We plotted out our attractions by park so we didn’t have to go back and forth between the two.
Be efficient. Make a list. Prioritize.
You are going to have to make choices of what to see and do, especially if you get the 1 day/2 park tickets like we did.
There are so many different types of tickets you can get that include packages with accommodation, flex passes, annual passes, you name it. Check it out here.
Because we just had one day in the area, we got the basic 2 parks/1 day pass. This meant for a big day, but we were up for the challenge.
You can buy your tickets directly from the Disney website here.
Or, as friends suggested to me hunt around for vouchers online, or ask a travel agent for discount tickets. When you do a search for tickets, I found a lot of websites that offered cheaper tickets and some that came with free meal coupons.
However, not all of these discount sites would take my Canadian credit card.
I am not listing the discount sites here because they constantly change and have new offers, and it depends on what you are looking for. Trust me. Just do a search and you’ll find lots.
Be wary of the meal vouchers though that come with the discount tickets… more later under FOOD.
2 Parks/1 Day
Because we were only in Paris for a short period of time, and the nature of the blogging contract, we just had one day to spend at Disneyland Paris. Our tickets were for the 2 parks (Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studio Park) in one day.
For our family, this was completely doable.
The boys (9,10) are older and can handle more walking, they are good at making decisions at what they do and don’t want to do (thanks for our previous research) and they are self-sufficient.
Because we had limited time, we had to make some decisions on what we would see and do. So, we didn’t see any of the shows on site during the day and we didn’t wait in line to meet any characters (the boys were too old for this, anyway). With more time to explore, you should take in some of the shows.
You should definitely try to spend a day at least in both parks if you can, and especially if you have small children. However, if you are pressed for time, or if it’s not your first time to Disney, this is the way to go!
The world of Fast Passes was new to me. I had heard people talk about fast passes, but always thought it was something you had to pay extra for.
Fast passes are Free for EVERYONE!
This means you take your entry ticket up to an attraction, scan your ticket, and it will tell you during which 30 minute period you can return to go in the “fast pass” lineup.
Fast passes do run out, so make sure you plan accordingly to get your tickets! Fast Passes are not available for all rides, so check your park map. There will be a symbol next to those rides that have fast passes.
We actually didn’t end up using any fast passes. Because we were there in off-season, the line ups were never longer than 45-50 minutes, we just decided to wait. You still have to wait some in a fast-pass lineup, but not as much.
Besides, we discovered the joy of Single Rider line ups!
When you go up to a ride, there is a sign telling you how long you will need to wait in line. It’s an incredible efficient and accurate system. Trust us. We timed it to make sure.
Many of the rides have a lineup called “single riders”. If a ride has 4 seats, for example, and a family of 3 is next in line, instead of sending the ride off with an empty seat, they will pull people from the “single riders line” to fill that seat!
The single rider lineup is way shorter. Sometimes we only had to way 5-10 minutes!
The single rider option was perfect for our family.
Our boys are older (9,10) and are self-sufficient and brave. They didn’t mind not being with us on the ride, but, we could still wait together in the line.
If you are a family of 4 in the single rider lineup, we suggest sending an adult first, then the kids, followed by the remaining parent. Make a kid sandwich essentially. That way, the first adult through can be there to meet the kids at the other end.
This worked perfectly for us, and we were never more than 5 minutes apart from each other.
We highly recommend the single rider lineups if you think your kids can handle it!
Because waiting in lines can be tough!
Waiting in lines
Waiting in line sucks, and kids hate to do it. However, if you are going to go to Disney, and especially if you don’t go during off-season, you’re going to have to wait.
Disney does a great job of telling you how long you will have to wait. And, you can always take advantage of the fast passes and single rider lineups when available.
Disney also does a great job of having a lot of things in the line up area to read, links to wi-fi to play games and things to take your picture with.
Lineups at Disney are efficient and fast moving, so it doesn’t feel like you are spending a long time waiting.
The parks are great, too, at creating hidden lineups. Just when you think you come to the end, you turn the corner and there is another lineup to go through! This became a joke for our family that we have used ever since. Just like in a novel that has a secret bonus story at the end, we call these the “Secret Bonus Lineups!” It became fun to spot these bonus lineups at the rides!
There are a few ways to make the time pass in lineups at Disney.
1. Pick a person quite a bit ahead of you in the crowd. Make sure they look distinct. Follow their progress. Time how long it takes you to get to their spot. Cheer them on (internally) when they reach the front of the line up. It’s funny how often in the park we would run into our “targets” the rest of the day!
2. Take selfies. We took lots of selfies. Tried different poses and emotions.
4. Bring a card game. In England we got hooked on a game called Top Trumps. I carry them in my purse as they are great for killing time. Even a deck of cards would work.
Don’t miss the parade and fireworks
I’ll say it again: don’t miss the parade and fireworks.
When you go to the park, you’ll get a copy of the daily schedule of what events are happening at what times and where you can meet the characters.
For us in April, the parade was at 5:30 and the fireworks were at closing at 10pm.
When we were there, it was the 25th anniversary of the park so they had just created an incredible show combining elements of Disney movies from over the years. In fact, where we stayed at our Air B&B (more later), the landlord was a project manager for entertainment and costumes and helped develop this show.
No matter how tired you are, or tempted to leave early to beat the crowds, the show is a must see!
We watched the parade from the drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty’s castle and the fireworks from the parade square in front of the castle. We had a fairly good view from here.
Pick a spot at least 20 minutes before the show.
People lined up for a spot for up to an hour beforehand. We didn’t want to waste any time in the park on our one day, so we risked getting any spot, and it was fine.
Some of the projections for the illumination/firework show at the end of the night are near the ground, so it is difficult for smaller children to see. You may need to lift them, or stake out a closer spot earlier on. Much of it is in the air, so you’ll be fine, too.
This final illumination show was what did it for my husband – it turned him into a true Disney park fan… although he will never admit it!
Don’t Forget Fantasyland
If you are traveling with older kids, don’t forget Fantasyland. The tendency is to think it is for younger kids only, and to skip these rides. But, if you do, you are missing out on some classic fun!
Our favourite is the “Small World” ride, which is a classic and shouldn’t be missed.
Our theory was to do Fantasyland after the parade, when hopefully the smaller children were gone to supper or to bed! This worked well, as we could just walk on many of the rides. However, be aware that the rides in Fantasyland close earlier than the rest of the park. When we were there, it closed at 8pm. So, don’t leave Fantasyland too late in the evening!
Check the closing times before you plan your day!
Water Bottles and Backpacks
Bring a water bottle to Disney. Instead of paying a lot of money to buy drinks, fill your water bottle up at one of the numerous water fountains in the park!
Another question we had was about backpacks and what to do with them.
On most of the rides, you could take your backpack on with you.
Someone suggested for the roller coasters, putting your feet through the straps to secure them. Only on one ride did I have to take my camera bag off and leave it on a secure shelf.
Like any major attraction, food on site can be rather pricey. Besides, do you want to spend your time in another lineup?
Instead, we brought a picnic lunch. When in France, we simply did what the French do… we got a baguette and cheese and fruit and enjoyed our picnic on a bench.
For supper, we headed to Disneyland Village outside the gates of the parks, within a 5 minute walk. There were several choices. We chose the Earl of Sandwich because we had a voucher that came with the online tickets I purchased.
However, when we got to the checkout to pay, my voucher was not valid because we ordered menu deals. So, make sure you read ALL the fine print before ordering or using coupons!
Many people asked me if you have to be able to speak French to visit Disneyland Paris.
You do NOT have to speak French to visit Disneyland Paris.
However, it does make life easier if you do, or if you at least try. My husband’s and my French worked just fine, and even if we didn’t, everything is in both English and French.
Everyone is different, but there were some definite not-to-be-missed rides! Our favourites included:
Crush’s Coaster (Walt Disney Studios). This does NOT have a fast pass, and all the advice said to head here first, so we did. It was our longest wait, but well worth it.
Big Thunder Mountain was a must, too!
The boys adored Ratatouille, which is a 4D experience like none other!
We had a rental car, so upon the advice of our Air B&B landlord (who also works at Disney), we parked at the TGV stations Marne La Vallee Parking Garage for about 20Euros for the day. This is also where the TGV (fast train), buses and Metro come in, making it extremely close and convenient.
Because we were only there for the day we decided to stay off-site. But, you should really investigate staying onsite. There are so many hotels right at Disney.
Besides, if you stay right at Disney, there are lots of perks including extra hours in the park before it officially opens.
These hotel packages all come with tickets. Because I already had our tickets, I could not book a room at a Disney hotel unless I personally called them.
Instead, we stayed nearby at at Air B&B. This was a fabulous place, great for up to 4 people. Besides, the landlord works at Disney, too, so was so helpful with advice! It was about a 10 minute car ride or bus ride to the Park.
Don’t Worry and Have Fun
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to take the kids to Disney, and my husband certainly didn’t want to go. Whenever I heard my friends talk about their trips, it sounded like so much work, and I’d have to do so much research and know everything.
Don’t worry! Disney makes everything easy!
When we got to Disney, I realized that I had made such a bigger deal about going and worried more than I needed to. It was so easy.
With our map in hand, and our preconceived plan, the day was one of the best days we had together as a family!
Disney is so well organized. Everything is clean. It’s well laid out. It’s fun. Disney is not about the rides themselves, it is the experience you have at the park, and all the small details that up to be a great day.
Mom, if I could thank you a billion times for taking us to Disney, there still wouldn’t be enough time to thank you enough!
Even my husband became a Disney convert. Since then, when we see an “inefficient lining up system” he will remark that Disney needs to come in and organize it!
Disney is a magical family fun-filled day, and I hope more families get to experience it, too!