If you’re thinking of booking a trip to Disney or have one planned, then this blog is for you. I’d say my biggest thing is if you want to make your trip as stress free and as enjoyable as possible then you need to take some time to plan and get organised before you get there.
We have recently returned from a four night trip with our 4 year old and 2 year old and it was the most magical thing to do with them. It is quite simply the best money I have ever spent on or with my children, though I do think we may have set the bar quite high for future holidays and I’m wondering about how our next trip will match this one! We shall see!
If you have looked into booking your trip to Disneyland Paris you’ll know that it’s quite confusing when it comes to booking events, experiences and meals – even down to working out how you spend your days – it’s not the simplest booking system to navigate. I’m not sure whether that’s deliberate or whether they have so much business it’s not something they need to invest in but I thought I’d share the best bits of our trip and hopefully this will help you create your own magic.
Disney app: Download it! It is very helpful for booking everything and keep checking the app – the map function tells you what rides are open, what the queue time is and you can plug directions if needed. It also serves as a wallet to keep all your tickets in. You should download it in advance as you can book things from 60days in advance of your trip.
Magic hour: If you are staying at Disney my advice is to make the most of your time in the park and to get in the queue for the Disneyland Paris or Walt Disney Studios by 8:15am so you are the first in. It’s an early start but it’s totally worth it. Instead of a 45min queue for The Flying Dumbo ride, we were straight on and instead of a 120min queue for the Crush’s coaster, we were both on the ride in 20mins making use of the baby swap (see below).
If you would like to see characters they can be found around the castle and they are also highlighted on the map on the app. You might want to make use of the magic hour to meet a character or two as the queues are usually small but it’s not something we did as we focussed on the rides.
Where to stay: There’s obviously lots of choice and it probably depends on group size and whether this is the main part of your trip or not. We are all huge marvel fans and one particular member of the family is a huge Spider-Man fan so the marvel hotel was the only real option for us. As the Disney Park hotel is currently being refurbished the Marvel hotel is the closest to the hotel (you can walk out of the hotel and within 200metres you are in Disney Village) and it’s also the most recently refurbished hotel, so brand spanking new and it has some extras for hotel guests to enjoy. I can only comment on the marvel hotel but it had a gorgeous pool, the Manhattan restaurant which is the à la carte restaurant was a great evening, there’s a marvel photo station and you can arrange super hero meets – all in all perfect for our trip!
How can you work the queues?
Single rider: For some of the most popular rides, there’ is often an option to queue in the single rider queue – this means you ride on your own rather than with others, but can result in a wait time a fraction as long as the main queue.
Baby swap: If there is a ride that your children can’t or don’t want to go on, you should make use of the baby swap. As you are exiting the ride, speak to a member of staff and ask for a ticket to hand to your partner who can walk back in through the exit and straight on to the ride without queuing. It means you only have to queue once and you could double this up with a single rider queue to make it even quicker.
Premier Access: Another, but expensive, option is to buy a ticket to go to the front go queue. You buy this per ride and the price varies depending on the ride, the day and how busy it is.
Meals: We booked a meal plan with our hotel and that gave us access to eat in any one of 31 restaurants across the park, including in your hotel, so lots of flexibility. Bookings open up for restaurants 60 days in advance and they go very quickly. If you want to go to one of the themed restaurants like in Ratatouille or Pirates of the Caribbean you need to book them asap. Also, if you struggle with any bookings it is always worthwhile checking in with your hotel’s concierge. We managed to get a table at the Manhattan restaurant this way, which was really lucky.
If you are looking to book a character meal, these need to be booked in advance. You can’t book these via the app and you need to log on to the Disneyland Paris website to make a booking. We booked a lunch with the Princesses and a (what I would call Classic) Disney dinner. We met Auroa, Cinderella, Ariel and Rapunzel at the princess lunch and Mickey, Donald Duck, Goofy and Eyeore at the dinner. It was the best way to meet characters without lots of queueing. Perfect to grab an autograph and a quick picture. The food wasn’t great at the dinner as it was the standard buffet but the Princess lunch was delicious and probably my favourite meal of the trip.
Parades: Make sure you check the app for details of when they are each day. The best spot to see the parades is near the Castle – you’re first to see the characters and some of the parades have dance routines near the castle. The parades are a fun way to see your favourite characters. They do get busy, so get their early (at least 30mins before the start time) if you want to get a good spot.
Fireworks: The fireworks were the best fireworks I have even seen. They are currently starting at 11pm and we got there for 10:15pm and it was still very busy. It was worth it. We have very young children but we thought the best day to do it was on the first day when the clocks had gone forward. They made it through the fireworks (in their toy story pjs) and fell asleep on the way home. They thought they were magical.
Shows: Again, have a look to see what shows are on. We saw a circus version of the Lion King, it was magical. We booked tickets as this avoided queuing up in advance and also we were seated in the middle of the theatre so we had much better seats.
In addition to the rides, the shows, the parades, the fireworks there’s still lots more you can enjoy:
Animation Studios: You can’t book for this but in Walt Disney Studios you can have the privilege of visiting the animation studios. Here you speak to an illustrator and in a relatively short session you learn how to draw a Disney character. The characters varies but we saw how to draw Mickey Mouse and had the opportunity to attempt to draw Winnie the Pooh. We also mentioned that it was my sons birthday at the start of our session and the illustrator kindly gave us his signed drawing to take away.
The Castle: it’s worth having a quick look in the castle, it’s quite magical and the Dragon in the basement is super fun for kids to see.
Marvel Photo Studio: here you can pretend to be your favourite superhero from Thor to Spiderman to Doctor Strange. You have to book tickets in advance and it does get booked up. Slots become available a week in advance.
Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing, Frontierland: it’s a big boat around Frontierland but it’s a nice boat ride to do something differently.
Agrabah: here you can walk through hakravar, not much to see but was good when it was crowded and we could see bits from the film. (Is it worth mentioning)
Playgrounds: Each area has a themed playground, usually has a variety of equipment for all ages. We tried out Frontierland and Adventure Isle and the boys loved having a running around. There was a range of equipment so suitable for a range of ages.
Suggested Itineraries for the parks
There are 2 parks you can access – Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios. Disneyland park is split into 4 kingdoms and is much bigger than the Walt Disney Studios. I imagine you will spend ¾ of your time in Disneyland Park but it’s still worth factoring time in for the Studios.
Here are some suggested itineraries for the park and it’s all based on making the most of magic hour and in our experience.
Disneyland Park (this is aimed at those with children under 7)
- Start in Fantasy Land and head over to Peter Pan’s Flight (this is a fun ride, quite different and it usually has a big queue, so I would head their first).
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant is nearby and so if the queue is relatively short, I’d head there. Our boys loved this ride and always asked to go back to it.
- Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups
- Le Carousel Lancelot
- Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains
- Casey Jr. le Petit Train du Cirque
- Le Pays des Contes de Fees
- Alice’s Curious Labyrinth is a great thing to go to when it’s a bit busier. I am not usually a fan of mazes, but this is done in a really fun way.
If you have smaller children, Fantasy Land is the best area for them. Totally magical and they can go on every ride. My least favourite ride of the trip was Pinocchio. I’m not a huge fan of the film so I might not be the best reviewer and it was one of the last rides of the trip so maybe my expectations were high. My advice is in Fantasy Land, if this is busy it’s one you can give a miss. We queued for far too long on this, and it was a waste.
Head over to Adventureland
- Pirates of the Caribbean (we actually got 2 rides on this, one after another, as we were the first ones on. The queue for this does get huge, so one to tick off early in the day).
- Thunder mountain
- Adventure Isle (is fun, but could be done at a busier time of day)
- Then head to Discoveryland
- Buzz light Year Lazer Blast (really fun for all)
- Orbitron (similar to Dublo ride but higher)
- Hyperspace mountain (this is a must do, we used Baby Swap which worked perfectly).
- Star Tours (I took my eldest, who had just turned 4 on this and he thought it was the best ride).
If the queue isn’t too big you should try Autopia (cars themed ride where you ride around a track) and Mickey’s Philamagic is also there. You can book tickets but we managed to get in with a short queue and the boys really liked it. The shows are a great thing to do when you’ve made the most of the morning on the rides and you want a break from the crowds.
Walt Disney Studios
Originally I wasn’t sure about time in this area, as I thought there was so much to do in the Disneyland Park but so pleased we had time to spend there.
- Crush’s coaster (This was the most popular ride in Walt Disney Studios and at times we saw the ride queue to be 120minutes, so we headed their first. This was my favourite ride. It has a minimum height of 1.07 and so we made use of the Single Rider queue and Baby swap. While I was queueing the boys managed to fit in 3 rides very quickly).
- While I was queuing the boys headed on Cars Quatre Rotes Rally (cars teacups) and we went on this later on in the day) and the Flying Carpets over Ahrabah (similar to Dumbo ride but fun)
- Ratatouille (Such a fun ride, you get to be a “rat” in a 4D ride). It’s based in a very cute Parisian area of Walt Disney Studios).
- Slinky the Dog (My boys loved this, was very quick and the queue was usually quite short)
- Toy soldiers parachute drop (Very fun, with a minimum height of 81cm and we went on this a couple of times on our trip)
- Cars road trip (right at the back of the park, but worth the walk. We loved this ride, definitely worth the wait.)
Another ride to think about is RC Racer, we didn’t try it but it looked good and always seemed to have a queue.
Hope these have helped, we loved the trip and hope you do too. I think the whole thing can be quite overwhelming, so best advice is to plan and have some quieter ideas planned for when it gets very busy.
Next on our adventures is St Lucia… so watch this space!