Last year, we visited Disneyland Paris (formerly known as Euro Disney). We had flown to Paris for a wedding and it turned out to be financially smarter to stay at a Disneyland Paris hotel, because of the nature of our group. Here are my tips for a wonderful vacation at Disneyland Paris, regardless of whether you stay at one of their hotels.
Ages – When we visited Disneyland Paris, our daughter was 4 and our twins were 22 months old. While it was clear that our daughter would enjoy herself, we had no idea that the little ones would have so much fun. In my opinion, 4 is a great age to visit Disneyland Paris. The bonus is that kids under the age of 3 enter the parks for free. And for kids under the age of 2 – the flight to Paris is free as well. A minus for kids under the age of 3 or 4 (depends on the child’s maturity) – they tend to take off when they feel like it, but generally walk very slowly, so you need a stroller, which sometimes makes little ones very angry. This was the most difficult part of the trip for our kids, who just wanted to “be free.” If we wouldn’t have flown for a wedding, we would have waited until they were 3 or 4 years old before making the trip. Before that age kids also eat for free at hotel buffets. More details on the hotel to follow.
It really depends on the season, but in my opinion, it’s better to stay at a Disneyland hotel during the time you intend on visiting the parks. Disney is about 45 minutes from Paris via the train (RER), so if you’re heading to the parks from within the city, you’ll lose out on a minimum of an hour and a half to travel. What’s more, you wouldn’t have the option of returning to the hotel to rest if you tire (which we didn’t end up doing, we just let the little ones sleep in the stroller). It also makes it possible to put younger kids to bed in the evening and return to the parks with older kids (or alone). You can also stay at a hotel in a town one train stop from Disney named Marne-la-Vallee (the stop is called Val D’Europe).
What do Disneyland Paris hotel stays include?
- Beds (:-)) and a pack-n-play crib for babies. We had two toddlers but were told only one crib was allowed in a room. Since there were two twin beds and they provided a railing for kids so they wouldn’t fall out of bed, we knew we’d be okay. In the end, they did give us a second crib, which was great.
- Buffet breakfast – don’t get too excited. The food was fine, but the selection was meager, at least at the hotel we stayed in, the Santa Fe, which is supposedly two stars but was satisfactory. Everyone took extra croissants and made sandwiches for lunch at the parks.
- Tickets to the two parks (there’s also a movie studio there with rides like Ratatouille, which we didn’t even end up going to) for your entire stay. That means that from the day you check in until the day you check out, everything’s included. In our case – three nights and four days worth of tickets.
- Easy Pass – The parks open to the general public at 10 o’clock in the morning, but whoever stays at Disney hotels can use a special pass to enter the parks two hours earlier! During those first two hours, the lines are much shorter for pictures with the characters, and it’s the only time of the day that you’ll see Mickey and Minnie together. Otherwise, you’ll have to choose whether you want to take a picture with Mickey or with Minnie. Moreover, the lines to rides are very short during those two hours – in peak hours the line to ride Dumbo was 40 minutes long, but at 9:30 in the morning we only waited for two rounds, or ten minutes. We didn’t have to wait at all to ride the magic teacups and we immediately got back on for a second turn (at our daughter’s request). With the Easy Pass, we did more in 2 hours that we’d otherwise have done in 4 – and we visited during off season, so most of the lines were pretty short. More about that later.
- Free shuttle to and from the park every 12 minutes from 7:30 in the morning to 1 o’clock the following AM.
- Fast Pass – a card that lets you skip ride lines, so you can make the most of your stay (more information to come).
Disneyland Paris Fees
There are a number of ticket price groupings, which tend to be divided into four categories:
- One park, not during busy season
- Both parks, not during busy season
- One park, during busy season
- Both parks, during busy season
All relevant information can be found on the Disneyland Paris website, including dates. Prices vary between $67 per adult and $59 per child to $95 per adult and $87 per child. Those are pretty steep fees (the cheaper ones are not valid during busy season and on certain dates). Children under the age of 3 enter for free. We made our reservation two months ahead of time (the day my husband’s friend told us she was getting married) and we still got a pretty good deal. Children under the age of 7 were free for a day or two, so we only paid for ourselves.
We ended up paying $850 for three nights at the hotel. When you deduct the cost of park tickets, it ends up being about the same cost as staying at a hotel in the city, or even less. In our case, with three kids, which meant we needed two rooms, it was significantly cheaper for us to stay at a Disney hotel. In any case, next time we fly to Disney, we will definitely sleep at one of their hotels, because it upgrades the entire experience and saves a lot, including time. It is important to mention that the price was so cheap because we flew at the beginning of June, before the start of the summer season.
Babysitting services at Disneyland Paris resorts
Babysitting services are offered at the hotels. But before you get overly excited, know that you need to pay or a minimum of three hours at 30 euros per hour – that’s at least 90 euro or $105 to go out for a drink with your spouse. Whoever’s looking to make a career change – you’ve found it.
Rides at Disneyland Paris
There are always rides/attractions that are closed, but the parks’ website has an up-to-date list of open rides. The parks’ maps do not indicate which rides are suitable for which ages (even though height limitations are written on the website and on the maps, as far as I remember). The map does indicate which rides might scare young children, which helped us decide which rides to stay away from. The parks are full of signs which let you know how long the lines are at popular attractions. That way you can know whether to line up or find something else to do. There’s also a Disneyland Paris app that show you what’s open and what’s closed, where everything is located, what times performances will take place and how long the wait is at each ride… which brings me to my next point.
A truly wonderful invention and a shame it can’t be used on more rides, but I’m sure they’ll continue to add more rides to the list. There’s a limited number of Fast Pass passes for each ride on each day. You head to the ride’s entrance (preferably early) where you’ll find booths where you can scan your ticket and get a special card that lets you go on the ride without waiting in line, within a certain period of time.
In essence, there are two lines: one where people wait to go on the ride and one for Fast Pass holders. So, for example, at 9:30 we got a Fast Pass for the Buzz Lightyear ride, which would be valid between 10:15 and 10:45. That means for half an hour, you can ride Buzz Lightyear without waiting in line. In the end, we cut a very substantial line. Online, you can find a list of all the rides that have Fast Pass options. As I mentioned earlier, as a hotel guest, you get one Fast Pass per day. You can use it whenever you want, wherever you want, but only for one ride. If you don’t use it on one day, you can transfer it to another.
A line for single riders
Some of the rides meant for adults, like Space Mountain, have a separate line for singles (people riding alone, it’s not a dating line). It’s a pretty fast line, because the people waiting don’t care who they sit next to, so they are put wherever there’s room. ,meaning, if there’s room for four people in a row and three people are sitting together, the fourth seat is given to someone from the singles’ line. It’s a really cool solution for people who don’t have seating preferences.
Food at Disneyland Paris
Food at the parks can be divided into four categories: snacks like Belgian waffles and crepes or cheap, moderately priced or expensive meals. The parks’ maps show where each restaurant is and mark them with one to three dollar signs, according to how expensive they are, making it easy to find the cheaper meal options. We only ate at the cheaper restaurants.
The maps also indicate what kind of food can be found at each eatery – hamburgers, hotdogs, pasta, pizza, etc. so you can head straight to the kind of food you like. Each restaurant has a very limited menu, which is kind of genius, if you ask me. Lines tend to be pretty long, but since there are only three meal options for adults and one for children (plus a few mini salads), the production line is extremely quick and you get your food about two minutes after ordering.
The portions are plentiful and there’s a ton of choice. Regardless of what you order, you get a main dish, fries or salad, mini Magnum bar or other desserts specific to the type of restaurant you’re at (like tiramisu, yogurt or cheesecake) and a drink. The cheap adult meals cost between 11 to 15 euro (48 to 65 NIS), namely the same price as most Israeli eateries, but also including desert, which Israeli restaurants do not. Kids meals are a bit more expensive some Israeli restaurants, costing roughly eight euro (35 NIS). Kids meals come with a main dish, fries (I can’t remember another option for kids), cherry tomatoes (not a choice), ice cream with chocolate or apples with yogurt and a drink.
The parks also have lots of snack kiosks that are decently priced, for the most part. Coffee costs about three euro (13 NIS), which is in line with Israeli coffee shops, except for Cofix. Everyone brings food from the hotels or from the outside. We also planned, but ended up eating at the restaurants, out of convenience.
Just outside the parks, there’s Disney Village, which houses many restaurants that are supposedly cheaper. We never even made it there. Hotel meals are really expensive. It was cheaper to eat at the parks. The supper buffet was 25 euro per adult and 17 euro per child. I don’t know what kind of food they served, but the prices were much higher than in the parks or at the village, so it wasn’t worth it for us to check it out, especially since the breakfast buffet was pretty limited.
Recommended length of trip at Disneyland Paris
We traveled to Paris for a wedding and Disney was an added bonus. We were only in France for three nights, out of which we were in the park for a cumulative two days, because of when we landed and the wedding itself. The place itself isn’t huge, but there’s a lot of space between rides (intentional) and there are lines to wait in, even though we went to Disney during off season and most lines were pretty quick (5-15 minutes). We never even made it to the studio. I think that it’s worth it to visit Disney, even if it’s just for one day, because the place is insanely magical (as long as you’re not comparing it to Orlando), but ideally you need a minimum of four full days, maybe even more. If we would have had two more days, we might have been able to make it to the studio.
Outside Disney, there’s the RER train station that travels to Paris. You can take the train for just one stop (you only pay for kids from age four) and head to Val d’Europe, a small nearby village. Exit the train station, turn right, and 100 meters down there’s a huge mall called Auchan (pronounced osho in French) with large grocery store, where you can shop to your heart’s delight. Our hotel rooms did not have fridges, not that we really needed to use them. Milk and cheeses were available at breakfast and we put what we needed for the day into our backpacks before going to the parks. But it was a disadvantage for us. But back to the mall – it had a lot of restaurants and served as a breath of fresh air from the park food.
I highly recommend bringing a stroller for any child aged three and under. The distances between rides are vast and you end up walking a lot throughout the day. The adults’ feet were hurting by evening, as it is. You can rent strollers on site, so if an older child gets tired, or if you don’t want to schlep a stroller to the parks unnecessarily, you can rent a stroller at the parks. I don’t have more information for you, because my little ones aren’t even two yet.
Security at Disneyland Paris
There is a security post, just like at the airport and they are very serious about their jobs. There weren’t any long lines there, but there is security present and it was important for me to mention this, in light of the security situation in France (funny that Israelis are saying that).
Clothing and toy stores
Sinfully expensive. Bring costumes from home (at least half of the kids were wearing costumes, if not more). If you have the option, order Mickey and Minnie Mouse ears on Ebay or elsewhere ahead of time, because most people are walking around wearing them. And being crowns because even 40-year-old women are wearing them at Disney
Simless sim card (in Israel)
We bought them on sale at Lametayel. It’s a sim that works around the world. All call and messaging prices are cheaper than the slew of packages I’ve seen in Israel (I didn’t check all packages so you should still compare prices). You initially load your sim card with $25 and whatever you don’t use can be saved for your next trip. Calls between Simless users are 1 NIS per minute. Incoming calls are free. Their data plans are also pretty reasonable. We bought one sim card for myself and one for my husband, so we could split up when we wanted to.
You’d be amazed how many times you might wind up separating, even by accident. I went on a ride with our eldest, while my husband strolled with two almost sleeping tots. The ride was quick so we went somewhere else. Things like that. The prices can be found on the Simless website. I recommend that you check the prices out and compare them with your existing packages. They also have special daily packages based on minutes used. Local calls were also pretty cheap, which was important for us because my husband has lots of friends in Paris (he’s Parisian) and we had flown there for a wedding. Special for groups of travelers with kids: discounted purchase of Simless sim cards.
Traveling from the airport to the hotel
We didn’t want to rent a car because we didn’t really need to travel much and it was unnecessarily expensive. There are a number of options for travel without renting a car:
- Take the train to Disney. From there you can wait for a shuttle to the hotel, usually a fifteen minute wait. In hindsight, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to travel that way. It would have been fast and most economically friendly. The minus is that you’d have to schlep all your things on the train and then on the shuttle, which may not be realistic for everyone.
- Shuttles from the airport – there are many companies, each with their own rates. Be sure to research ahead of time.
- Disney’s Magic Shuttle – this is what we did because it worked out cheapest for us – they didn’t charge for the twins, so we only paid for three people, instead of for five. The shuttle departs from the airport and makes the rounds of all of Disney’s hotels. You can book a ticket ahead of time. Tickets are daily, so you don’t have to stick to a particular time slot. You can also purchase tickets on site, but I personally wanted to know how we were traveling ahead of time.
To sum it up, our trip was amazing. There’s no other way to describe our experience. We were all transfixed by the magic of the location. The music playing in the streets, the subtle nuances – Disney is just the expert in making people fall into their trance. The hotel shampoo? Its cap was Mickey ears. All the little things that make everyone get excited. Just look at my daughter’s smile. She didn’t have a clue who Dumbo was but she really wanted to go on the ride and had such a blast. As for me, I’m excitedly waiting for my kids to get a little older so we can go back with them again.