1. Have a plan.
Lots of people will visit Disneyland Paris without a plan and that’s fine. Lots of people like to relax during their time off and a part of that is ‘going with the flow’, and making decisions as they go along. You can do this when going to Disneyland Paris and you will still have a good time, however you are more likely to experience more and make the most of your time in the parks if you have a plan. My wife and I are planners and we like to plan a lot before we go on a Disney holiday. Putting together our plan has become an essential part of the build up to our holiday and we really enjoy it. We will plan what days we will go to certain parks, book dining reservations, have a rough idea on times of parades / shows to ensure we fit them in and know which rides have busier queues later in the day to ensure we do them as soon as the park opens (looking at queue times on the Disneyland Paris app was useful in gauging this information). We will occasionally deviate from the plan or change our mind, but generally we stick with the spine of our plan and as a result we usually get to do all the attractions, shows and dining reservations we want to do during our stay. It is especially important to plan if you are visiting during the peak season. If you don’t do this it’s likely you will miss out on some the things you want to do. There are lots of planning resources online. I recommend dlpguide.com, thedibb.co.uk and Krispy Smore.
2. Character Dining
Even when visiting Disneyland Paris during the off season the opportunity to meet Disney characters and have your photo taken is a big draw, and as a result the queues can become very lengthy. A good way to see lots of characters without queuing is to book a character meal. Disneyland Paris currently offer a character breakfast at Plaza Gardens, a character lunch at Inventions (in the Disneyland Hotel) and Princess meal at Auberge De Cendrillon. We recently had lunch at Inventions and had the opportunity to meet five different characters during our meal (Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Pluto and Rabbit). We also ate at Auberge De Cendrillon and met three different princesses (and the mice Suzy and Perla from Cinderella). Each character will spend roughly 2–3 minutes at your table, pose for photos and interact with you. Whilst character dining isn’t cheap, it’s a sure fire way to meet lots of characters without the queues.
3. Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours / Fastpass
If you are staying onsite at a Disney Hotel you can take advantage of extra magic hours at Disneyland Park. Between 8am and 10am (when the park officially opens) hotel guest can enjoy a selection of rides in Fantasyland and Discoveryland. This includes Peter Pan’s Flight, Dumbo and Buzz lightyear laser blast, all which get lengthy queues later in the day so it’s a good opportunity to experience these attractions before they have long queues. Some of the parks character meet and greets also open during this time.
All ticket holders can take advantage of fastpass on selected rides in both parks. Fastpass allows you to obtain a ticket for an attraction with a return time (a window of 30 minutes). So you simply return to the attraction at that time and join the fastpass queue, which usually means you are on the ride very quickly. You can only have one fastpass at any one time, so you can’t get another until your other fastpass return time (or two hours later).This is a great way to beat the queues and gives everyone a fair chance to experience the headline attraction.
4. Book restaurant reservations in advance.
Disneyland Paris allows you to book table or buffet restaurant reservations 60 days before your travel date. This is essential if you want to ensure a table at particular restaurants during your trip, especially character meals and fine dining experiences (such as Walt’s). One of the best restaurants at the resort is Bistrot Chez Remy, which does a wonderful steak (and Ratatouille…!) and as a result is very popular.. If you don’t book then be prepared to be disappointed.
5. Take snacks / Brings waters bottles
If travelling with children take plenty of snacks (healthy and non-healthy). Queues are a reality of any theme park trip, but children aren’t always able to rationalise this and can become bored. This is where a nice snack comes to the rescue and can prevent a meltdown. Another tip (and this one will also help you save some money) is to carry some empty water bottles with you. Throughout the park there are drinking fountains which you can use to fill up your bottle with.
6. Baby Switch
Have you ever been to a theme park where there is an attraction that is not suitable for your child due to height requirements or the tone of the attraction, but you still wish to experience them? Disney have this covered with baby switch. Basically Disney will swap your child for another child who is able to ride with you…. I’m joking of course! All you have to do is speak to the cast member at the entrance of queue about baby switch. One adult joins the queue for the ride (say Big Thunder Mountain for example) whilst the other adult stays with your child at the ride exit or another designated point. Once the first adult has experienced the attraction, the second adult is allowed to bypass the queue and experience the ride straight away. This means as a family you only have to queue the once. We’ve found this worked really well when we used it a couple years ago.
7. Parade / Firework Spot
Two the highlights of any trip to Disneyland Paris is the afternoon parade and the night-time firework show (currently Disney’s Illuminations). Both are extremely popular and result in big crowds along the parade route and in front of the castle. To get the best spot for your children I would suggest finding a spot at least 30 minutes before the parade or fireworks start. If not, you might find your child can’t see as much as they would like. For the fireworks in particular, I recommend a spot in central plaza against the barrier around the flowerbeds. This area is slightly elevated and as you have a flowerbed in front of you rather than a 6ft man with his child on his shoulders, it gives you the perfect view of the castle to enjoy the spectacular night time show.
8. Remember Disneyland is more than attractions.
Don’t get me wrong, attractions are the main draw for any visit to a theme park, but what sets Disney parks apart from other theme parks is the sheer amount of detail in the theming including some beautiful green spaces and waterways, not to mention a great soundtrack to all of the different lands. Sometimes it’s nice to take your time to look at all the details and take in the atmosphere. I love taking a stroll down Main Street USA looking at the details of all the buildings, with the smell from the bakery, and if you listen closely you can hear some of the inhabitants of Main Street from inside the buildings. Adventureland has a pirate area called Adventure Isle, with caves and waterfalls, which is also very atmospheric and a great place to explore. Disneyland Park in places has the feel of a Victorian style Park and you could have a fantastic day exploring without experiencing any attractions.
9. Experience attractions during parades.
Here’s another tip to help you beat the queues. If you have already seen the afternoon parade once during your trip and don’t wish to watch it again, then I recommend you use this time to experience some attractions. The parade is very popular and as a result wait times usually shrink during the 30 minutes the parade is making its way through the park. We even managed to watch the parade near it’s starting point in Fantasyland and then took a quick walk to Discoveryland to experience Buzz Lightyear Laser blast with no queue.
10. Disney Express Service
For me the quickest and easiest way to travel to Disneyland Paris from the UK is by catching the Eurostar train direct to Marne La Valle station which is in the heart of the resort and literally a 5 minute walk to the Parks. If you are staying onsite at a Disney Hotel you have the option to purchase the Disney express service to make you journey to the magic even quicker. Disney Staff are present on the train (or at the station in the case of Ashford International) and provide you with your hotel documents, park tickets and any meal vouchers before you arrive. When you arrive at Marne La Valle station you simply drop your luggage off at the Disney express desk who then transport your luggage to your hotel. This means you can head straight to the parks and start your holiday straight away. You then collect your luggage at your hotel later in the day and complete your check in. On your return journey you drop your luggage off at your hotel as you check out in the morning meaning you can experience the parks before your train journey home. Your luggage is taken to Marne La Valle station and you simply collect it there before you catch your train home. This service really saves time and means you can spend more time in the parks the day you arrive and the day you depart.