You’ve saved up, you’ve booked the trip, you’ve bought a Mickey tshirt, your excited! But what more do you need to do? Research! Knowing my top tips for Disneyland Paris will make your trip more enjoyable.
What makes me qualified to advise you… 6 trips in total to the park. On my last trip I spoke to several couples who were relatively bewildered and stressed with their first time Disney experience. Whilst Disney is portrayed to be magical it can also be overwhelming so let me help manage your expectations and give you advice!
Top Tips Number 1 – Stay in Disney
First of my top tips -get the most out of your trip and stay in Disney. The magic hours are worth it alone (see below) Disney offer a range of hotels and I’ve stayed in the cheapest Santa Fe most times and Newport Bay once. I keep going back to Santa Fe because, well I’m not in my room… I’m in Disney! If you like me and will spend all your time in the park maybe a higher end hotel is not worth the extra splurge. If your combining a trip to Disney and want to head into Paris no problem you can catch the train right outside the Disney gates anyway!
Top Tip 2 – Two days is not enough
People say you can do Disneyland Paris in two days… I beg to differ. There are two parks – the Magic Kingdoms and Hollywood studios. A day in each in theory would be ideal but honestly to do everything it’s just not possible. The studios is a more manageable size but it has many shows which will see you waiting approximately an hour before they start if it’s busy. The Magic Kingdom definitely requires more than a day to fully absorb all on offer.
In my opinion the perfect time is four days. This will give you time to explore both parks fully and at leisurely pace. You have time to see all the shows, parades and ride your favourites again. Sometimes it’s nice to just be in Disney. We sat off by the castle on our last trip listening to the music playing, people watching and just enjoying the magical feeling of being in there.
Top Tip 3 – Dress comfy!
Okay so I did a whole other blog post about this – what to wear to Disney so it might be worth checking out. But comfy is the name of the game and trainers win the day. I actually wore a long skirt one day as we were going to venture into Paris and I wanted some nice pictures there but we ended up staying in Disney. The skirt was so annoying!! It got caught on a few rides as I exited etc and was so impractical! I went back to the room to change into leggings.
Top Tip 4 – Get the Disneyland Paris app
You can still pick up paper maps at the entrance of the park but Disneyland Paris also has its own app now. It’s definitely worth having as everything you need to know is on there. One of the best things on it is it shows the wait times for rides. We found these to be relatively accurate most the time but there was one time we darted across the park to big thunder mountain as it said 15 minutes only to find in reality it was 50!
Top Tips number 5 – Magic hours are golden, use them!
So your staying in Disney and they tell you about magic hours. This is when all Disney hotel guests are permitted to the park an hour prior to the general public. DO NOT MISS MAGIC HOURS! The trip we’ve just been on we arrived in the park after flying at mid day and it was hell. Over an hour queue for everything!
Head for the popular rides
Fast forward to the second day when we were up and out and in the park for our magic hours and we got on several rides. Do your home work about popular rides and use your magic hours to experience them with little to no queue. Not all rides are open straight away but a good selection are…in Fantasyland Peter Pans flight is a must! Later in the day the queue for that is always in excess of 70 minutes!!
You might be tired come day 2 or 3 and the prospect of hearding your kids to the gate for magic hours might not seem appealing but better this and do several rides then head out later with the crowds and queue endlessly with winging kids anyway. Some days we went back to our hotel for an hour around 2/3pm and had a rest – another bonus of being in Disney accommodation.
Top Tip 6 – Single riding saves time
Some of the busier rides have the option of single rider. This is a god send trust me… take Ratatouille for instance… at one point the queue was 140 minutes… single rider 25 minutes. On rides your rarely talking to the person your next to, your enjoying the ride!
By doing single rider you will queue way less and ride much more. You still queue together, ride separate, then you both get off within 5 minutes of each other anyway. Sometimes you end up in the same cart too as one single rider is at the front and one at the back. One thing to mention though I think 7 is the youngest you can do this.
Top Tip 7 – Dining tips for Disneyland Paris
Where to start with top tips for dining… hmmm. Okay food in Disney is often hard work. Firstly plan and book your evening meal or you will end up eating fast food options. Bistro Chez Remi is hugely popular (see photo below) and any character dining too. But you need to book just somewhere if you want to eat something substantial.
Despite several Disney trips we really messed up this last time… on the last day we had no meal booked and put eating off in favour of fun! By 8:45pm we were starving and pretty much all the restaurants in the park shut bar a few dining options on Main Street. Nightmare! We queued 50 minutes for a hotdog and fries at Casey corner. Arrghhhhh
Dining plans… yes or no?
With reference to dining plans I’m very on the fence about these. Often they are added as ‘free’ but I would never pay separately for them. Why? They just aren’t convenient. Your tied into certain restaurants along with certain choices, not good with fussy kids! However dining in Disney does not come cheap so they may be a good option for some.
Breakfast in the hotel is the best choice if you can make it prior to magic hours. Deciding to get breakfast in the parks on a dining plan will see you stood in a huge queue and unless you want a total carb fest, avoid. Buffet restaurants are the best option for evening meal because then you have lots of choice (yep handy for when your kid decides they don’t like something!)
Dining in the Disney Village
The Disney Village offers lots of dining options too and the food is better than in Disney I would say. The village gets busy at peak dining times. Rainforest cafe remains a firm favourite with families but you can be waiting a while for a table. Bonus is they don’t take bookings so you stand a chance of getting in if you don’t mind the wait. My son has always loved it in there… especially when the pretend storm hits, it’s a cool option for kids and the food is a reasonable standard.
Top Tip 8 – Don’t miss out on character dining
Character dining is a must and you can do it in the Disney village or in the parks. We’ve always chosen to do the breakfast.. I love dining in Plaza Gardens right by the castle in Magic Kingdom. The breakfast is buffet style with plenty on offer for all tastes. Whilst you get your morning fill 5 characters will come around the restaurant to interact with you and pose for pictures.
No trip to Disney is complete without character interaction… it doesn’t matter how old you are despite saying you won’t you inevitably will find yourself hugging a character. Queues in the park to meet characters are long. For Mickey Mouse and the princesses you can expect to queue over an hour. Character dining eliminates this and it’s totally worth the cost and maximising your time.
Top Tip 9 – When and where to shop
Disney have merchandise nailed and I am a sucker for wanting to buy it! Your kids will want stuff inevitably so maybe set a budget per child. Princess dresses don’t come cheap most are priced over €50. If your savvy buy one at home to bring. Dependent on when you go a coat may be essential therefore covering the expensive dress you just bought! I’ve just been in April and most days were still coat wearing weather.
Mainstreet USA shopping
You will find shops through out Disney but the main place to shop is Main Street USA. I love browsing the stores here but there is so much stuff and it’s easy to loose each other if it’s busy as one store often connects into another. Shops on Main Street are open after the park closes for one hour. If your on a short trip save your shopping until then but be aware it’s VERY busy at this time. Just to mention if you are staying in a Disney and make purchases before 3pm you can send them to be collected at your hotel- perfect!
Disney Village shopping
Aside from in the parks you can also shop outside in the Disney Village. This is open late and most people take advantage of that and shop after park hours so that’s when it is busy. In the day it’s relatively quite and nice for a browse if you can spare the time. Much of what you will see is the same as in the parks though anyway. I LOVE the Disney gallery – be sure to check it out.
Top Tips number 10 – Watch the parade it’s magical!
Nothing will make you feel more Disney like than the parade. But get your spot early! You will see people starting to sit down on the kerbs of the parade route at least an hour before. It’s worth the wait! Choose a spot and rest those feet! It’s advisable to get a drink and snack prior to sitting down away from the parade route… queues get silly long for things like popcorn on Main Street at this time. Just to note, if you have already seen the parade then it is a great time to get on rides as queues can drop down a little whilst it is on.
Where to watch
You will get a great view of the parade from anywhere as long as you get there early. But my advice would be to get on a corner then people don’t crane there necks to see what’s coming. Also be careful where the sun is… you want it behind you so it’s not in your eyes. If you can face the castle too that’s a magical bonus!
Top Tips no. 11 – Don’t miss the fireworks!
Nobody does fireworks like Disney… it will forever ruin your firework expectations. I’ve seen them so many times and they still bring tears to my eyes. You can view them from anywhere in front of the castle right down Main Street. They project images on the castle and also on fountains that come up either side. Then of course they have the lasers and fireworks.
The best view
I find the best view to be standing behind a flower bed in front of the castle. You don’t want to be too close but not too far. Further down the street you will struggle to see the fountains. Standing behind a flower bed ensures that if someone puts a kid on there shoulders your view isn’t totally ruined as there is space between you.
Top Tip 12 – Advice on taking the perfect photos
When I come home from Disney I always get asked the same question… “why is it so quiet?” It’s hard to get perfect photos in Disney when it’s busy but not impossible. I would advise on one morning of your trip being there for magic hours and heading straight to the castle to get a picture with less people in. As soon as the gates open to the general public you can kiss goodbye to castle pic you dreams of. But also be clever with your angles too… sometimes you can still get a great photo when it’s busy if you experiment.
Top Tips no. 13 – Don’t get bored in queues
Queuing is tiring and boring and just because your in Disney that doesn’t change. You need to be prepared for this with kids. In this day and age with smart phones and iPads it’s easier than ever to pass the time. But do you really want your kid absorbed in a screen in Disney? I’m not saying don’t do it but use it sparingly.
Games I love still are rock, paper, scissors I spy, games where you describe a character and the other person guesses who it is. We also played an alphabet game where we had to both think of a Disney character for each letter! That was a good one and really got us racking our brains.
Top Tips no. 14 – You will need a portable charger
One full charge on your phone will no way last you a day in Disney. Between taking pictures, videos and your kids rinsing your battery playing games you will need a portable charger. My portable charger would supply two full charges which was handy. Don’t forget to charge it up in the hotel room though as well as your phone between uses… something I didn’t do one night, doh!
Last Top Tip 15 – Take a refillable water bottle
Drinks are over priced in Disneyland Paris and water is no exception. On our recent trip I had a slight meltdown when I all I wanted was a bottle of water and queues were mega everywhere!! Take a refillable bottle as the water is totally safe to drink in Paris and it will save you a fortune and you won’t get caught short like I did yelling “all I want is a bloody drink!!”
So I hope my top tips for Disneyland Paris make your trip more enjoyable. Remember it’s going to be busy so you just need to embrace that, so do what you can and don’t forget to just enjoy being there too. Disney done right is a truly magical experience and you will always look back on it with a smile.
Do you have another tip or two? Let me know any Disneyland Paris tips you think I’ve missed! Got a blog post about Disney? post the link to yours in the comments as I would love to read it.
Rachael 🙂 x
Book the trip of your dreams right here – www.disneylandparis.com