As parents of two little princesses, we had been dreaming of going to Disneyland for some time.
As we live in Europe, Disneyland Paris, formerly known as Eurodisney, was our choice.
The problem was the budget for it: Disney tickets alone are not cheap, looking for a Disneyland hotel or even a Paris hotel booking is a nightmare and then there were also the plane tickets.
We live on an island (Madeira Island, Portugal), so avoiding airfare costs was not an option. Fortunately, we found reasonable prices with the low-cost airline Transavia that flies directly to Paris from Madeira, but also from around 40 other locations in Europe.
The accommodation problem was the easiest for us to solve. I think most people start planning their Disneyland trip by analyzing Disneyland Paris packages. But not us 🙂 Were we going to look for Disneyland hotel deals? No! We had been Intervac members for many years and knew home exchange was the way to go. We just had to decide exactly where we wanted to exchange to and start sending out offers.
The decision was eventually for the area around Place de la Nation. This was the best for us because using the RER-A train we could get to Disneyland Resort Paris in about 30 minutes.
We could use the same train line or the subway to get to the tourist attractions of Paris, such as the Eiffel Tower, or the Arc de Triomphe in 15 to 30 minutes.
So that was the area we did a home exchange too. And that came with the added benefit of being in a residential area. We had several small supermarkets, bakeries and restaurants around our exchange apartment and even a very nice playground right out our door.
Doing a home exchange was a brilliant solution: it allowed us to stay in Paris for 2 full weeks and to go to Disneyland for 6 days. On the other days we explored Paris at the leisurely pace you take when you are on holidays with kids.
Disneyland Tickets and Passes
But let me get back to the Disneyland Paris tickets. If you are considering going to Disneyland Paris for 3 days or more, I highly recommend that you buy their Annual Pass (Passeport Annuel). It might seem an overkill to buy an annual pass to visit for 3, 4, 5 or 6 days, but it actually pays up if you do the math. Check out all the information on the official site Disneyland Paris http://www.disneylandparis.co.uk/annual-passports/ and please note that the names and conditions for the passes changed on March 29, 2017.
These passes all need to be bought inside Disneyland itself. You can get a 10% discount if you have a sponsor (an Annual Passport holder). You can get all the information on this on the DLP Guide website http://www.dlpguide.com/planning/booking/annual-passports/ We also used their forum MagicForum to find a sponsor http://www.magicforum.eu/
After getting to Disneyland here is how we got our passes: we bought 1-day tickets at the gate, went to the Bureau Passeport Annuel, met our sponsors there and got our Annual Passes with the discount. The price for the 1-day tickets was fully refunded. The full process took us about 1 hour, but it was totally worth it: we went back in the Summer 2017 and used the same passes again 🙂
After getting in, we got our Disney Paris map (which includes the two parks: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios) and the programme for the shows and parades. They are both essential but the programme is the only one you can check online in PDF format (it changes weekly) http://download.disneylandparis.com/Disneyland-Paris_Shows-and-Parades.pdf.
The map can only be checked online in an interactive version (you won’t be able to print the Disneyland map if that is what you had in mind…).
A great addition to the map is the mobile app. Of course, you will need to have a tablet or smartphone with you (and Internet connection). We used the app a lot to check the wait time for attractions and decide where to go next http://www.disneylandparis.co.uk/mobile-app/
The wait time shown at the entrance of the attractions and on the app seemed to be accurate and that was quite useful.
I have some more tips if you are visiting Disneyland Paris with kids.
Disneyland Shows and Parades Tips
- Do all the shows in the Walt Disney Studio park – Mickey and the Magician in the Animagique Theater was our favourite, but the Moteurs… Action! car stunt show was also great. Disney Junior Live on Stage is geared towards young kids but it was a bit more challenging because our kids don’t speak English or French. Art of Disney Animation, in turn, was geared towards the adults and we loved it!
- Disney Stars on Parade in the main park is the new parade that started in March 2017. It is a must see and happens only once throughout the day, so ensure you take note of the time. Great views are available anywhere along the parade route, and additionally from the Main Street USA railroad station. In both cases, you should steak out your spot about 15 minutes prior to the start of the parade for unobstructed views, but any more than this is usually unnecessary.
- Disney Illuminations is a multimedia nighttime show, featuring fireworks, water effects music and video. Great for both the kids and the adults! It uses Sleeping Beauty’s castle as its projection screen, so is best viewed as straight on as possible. To claim a perfect spot for this, you will need to try at least one hour in advance of the show during high-season. Please note that anywhere on Main Street will provide a good view. Simply check if you can see the whole castle.
General Disneyland Tips
- Kids dressing up seem to get lots more attention from Disney characters. Also if your girl is dressed up as Snow White your party won’t have to queue for the Snow White ride, the group can get in through the exit (or sometimes through the Fast Pass entry). Just speak to the Cast members at the exit and they will promptly let you know how to get in. The same goes for Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and other characters. Another advantage of having your kids dressed up is that they have a good excuse not to buy them the overpriced (but beautiful!) costumes at the Disney stores throughout the park.
- Queues for the Disneyland Railroad are significantly longer at the entry gates (Main Street USA) than at other stations. If you just want to ride it for the grand tour of the park get on at the Frontierland or Fantasyland stations which even include seating areas (although limited).
- Use the FastPass for the attractions that allow it and have longer queues like Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast and Ratatouille: The Adventure. You can only have one FASTPASS® ticket at a time per person. Another ticket can only be obtained once the previous one has been used or 2 hours after the previous one.
- When visiting with small children, always take advantage of the Baby Swap service on rides for which children are too small. This will allow one of the adults to queue, while the other adult waits with the child, and can then enter through the exit or Fastpass queue as soon as the first rider leaves.
- It is often quicker to meet Mickey Mouse at the Toon Studio (in the Studio Park Backlot) than at his home in the main park. Queues for other characters near Mickey at the Toon Studio are often even shorter. Also, if you are not up to queuing you always take a picture from a distance in no time!
- Contrary to popular belief, you are welcome to take outside food or drink into the park, and eat there.
The security check will not confiscate outside food and drink. Simply make sure you don’t take alcohol, or drinks in glass bottles. Sandwiches, snacks, drinks can be brought into the park and eaten. Restrictions would only apply to anyone taking up a lot of space in the park for an extended period of time. Our favourites were the pre-prepared salads from the supermarket: there is quite a variety and having the salads at hand meant no queuing for lunch.
Our favourite area for eating was right at the entrance, both to the left and right you have a green area with several seats with shade and some even with a beautiful gazebo.
What to do while waiting in line in Disneyland?
And trust me, there will be waiting in line… Here are some ideas:
– Decide where to go next using the app or the map
– Talk: discuss how things were made or planned, ask the kids trivia questions about the Disney movies or shows they have watched
– Look: notice things around you together; the details, colours, look for hidden Mickeys
– Take pictures
- I Spy, with my little eye
- Simon says – clap your hands, touch your nose, count to 10, stick out your tongue, stand on your tippy toes
- Animal Charades
- The Alphabet Game – find objects around you (eg clothing and signs) from A-Z.
- Character Alphabet – list characters from A-Z (villains, princesses, cartoons, etc.)
- Botticelli – take on the persona of a well-known person, give other players the initials. Players ask yes/no questions.
- Sweet and sour – wave at a stranger and see who waves back
- Peruse the Shoes – Count all the shoes they see while waiting in line. How many people have on black shoes, open-toed shoes, gym shoes? Without socks? How many have laces? How many have velcro ties?
- Walk the Line – You need a floor with either lines or stripes. Players have to keep both feet either on or off the lines. 3 chances to misstep before eliminating contestants. Winner gets to be line leader the next time.
Disneyland Attractions Tips
Finally here are some specific attraction tips:
Armageddon: Les Effets Speciaux
Our girls found it a bit frightening due to the loud noise and effects.
The official minimum height to drive is 1.32 m, but smaller kids can control the wheel, as long as an adult controls the speed pedal. Long queues, but our girls loved it!
Big Thunder Mountain
Our girls loved this roller coaster and wanted to ride again! The adults also enjoyed it.
The vehicles spin during the main roller coaster section and it is lots of fun for kids and adults. Even our 4-year old loved it. The wait was quite big, but there is a specific app you can use on the waiting line(wi-fi and instructions available on-site).
Orbitron – Machines Volantes
Not that much fun… a basic ride and quite a long wait.
Plage des Pirates
There is a maximum height to play of 1.40 m, but that is not strictly enforced. Our girls both had fun here while the parents had a bit of a rest (the oldest one was a bit over 1,40m).
Pirates of the Caribbean
Visitors may get slightly splashed from two small flumes… loads of fun in spite of the “scary” theme with lots of skeletons. We all loved this one!
This always had the longest waits (usually 90 to 120 minutes). We eventually got in when the line was “only” 45 minutes long. The queue is all inside the pavilion, so no rain or too much sun issues. The thing is that in the end, you basically take a picture with one of 2 princesses (you have information on which ones at the entrance). The princess does talk to you a bit, but when you don’t speak English or French that is not of much use. Still, our girls loved meeting Snow White and finding out she has a very high pitched voice! However, we had a much smaller queue to take pictures outside with Jasmine & Aladdin and with Aurora (from Sleeping Beauty).
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith
This features an intense launch and three inversions. Even so, our 8-year old girl liked it because of the music and decorations.
Space Mountain: Mission 2 / Hyperspace Mountain
This features a very intense launch and many inversions. Our 8-year old girl hated it, she found it really scary. This one is definitely geared at those looking for a thrill.
Very good motion-simulated flight guided by C3PO. A must if you are a Star Wars fan… but very worthwhile even if you are not. And you get to wear 3D glasses while waiting at your boarding gate 🙂
Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop
Our girls loved this drop attraction. A bit of wait, but having a Toy Story related theme helped.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Our girls hated this drop attraction. It was definitely too scary for them. The toy soldiers one is more kid-friendly.