Most people that know me are well aware of my love of everything Disney. I blame my parents for the obsession but I also love them for it. At 23, I am still such a big Disney girl (I'm known to twist my boyfriends arm into visiting too often - he loves it, I know it). For me, nothing beats the magic of walking through the gates of the main Disney park, catching a glimpse of Sleeping Beauty's Castle glistening in the distance whilst skipping down Main Street USA to the soundtrack of classic Disney movies - it's the best feeling in the world and gives me goosebumps to this day!
After my latest visit, many of you asked for a few tips for planning your trip to Disneyland like where to stay, when to visit etc - so here goes!
WHEN TO VISIT
If it's an adults trip...
Chances are, you'll have a little more choice when it comes to the time of year that you visit. I would suggest that you go out of peak season and mid-week. It's a lot less crowded which makes finding your way around the parks a lot easier and less hectic if it's your first time there and queues for rides and restaurants are a lot shorter.
Festive times of the year are my favourite (Christmas, Halloween, Easter, St. Patrick's Day etc) because Disney likes to go all out with decorations, it's amazing - but this can also mean large crowds. However, there is a way around the crowds. Get yourself on to the Disneyland Paris website and look for the dates that the decorations go up. I have managed to avoid the extremely large crowds at Christmas time by visiting in mid-late November and in early January. The crowds are just nice (not too quiet or too busy) and all of the decorations are still up! You've got the best of both worlds (kudos if you picked up the Hannah Montana reference)!
If you're visiting with little ones...
You might be a little more restricted to the times of the year that you can visit. School holiday's unfortunately do mean long queues and big crowds but though it sounds like a nightmare it does add to the atmosphere! Again, you can visit slap bang in the middle of festive periods which means there are more events to take advantage of especially at Halloween & Christmas / New Years!
If you're staying in a Disney Hotel...
3 words: Extra Magic Hours. A huge help if you're visiting with kids or at a busy time of the year. Extra Magic Hours allow you up to 2 hours extra in parts of the park before it officially opens to the public - this includes some of the rides! All you've got to do is stay in a Disney Hotel.
Disney Hotel's can be a little more on the expensive side but they are so much closer to the parks. Most are within walking distance (Sequoia Lodge, Newport Bay Club, Hotel New York & Disneyland Hotel) which is a huge advantage as you don't have to worry about waiting on transportation or even something as little as forgetting something at the hotel and worrying about the trek back to get it. Access to The Disney Village is much easier - again, you can walk rather than get a bus so you have quicker and easier access to a bigger selection of restaurants and shops!
If you're staying in a Partner Hotel...
This is something we have chosen to do for our last 2 visits. Partner Hotels are still technically Disney Hotels but are a little further away from the parks. Unfortunately you don't have the advantage of extra magic hours but if you've visited Disneyland before and you know the attractions / areas of the parks you want to visit or if you're visiting during off-peak season and queues / crowds are on the smaller side I don't think this is much of an issue.
Partner Hotels are usually slightly cheaper for the same quality as a Disney Hotel. Free shuttle buses to the parks leave almost every 15 minutes, so you're never waiting too long on transport. You still have access to The Disney Village, you just need to take the shuttle bus. I find if you have a basic plan for your day (even if it's just where you want to eat when the parks close) staying in a Partner Hotel is just as good!
You'll most likely be eating your most important meal of the day (really, you'll need as much fuel as possible for all the walking) in your hotel. Some hotels provide you with a selection of set times for breakfast that you choose at check-in. This means that you will select the times that you will go for breakfast every morning that you're staying in the hotel (this is usually for crowd control purposes & isn't enforced as much at quieter times of the year). Breakfasts are all buffet style with a great selection of hot and cold foods to get you ready for the day! On occasion we have missed breakfast (bed was just too cosy) but Starbucks in the Disney Village is great in that case.
Lunch & Dinner : Food In The Parks
Two times of the day that you'll be spending in the parks or in the Disney Village. To get straight to the point, food in the parks and in the Disney Village is a little expensive for what you're getting - so be prepared. You have a great selection of food from Deli's to Fast Food Quick Service and Sit Down Restaurants. We tend to keep the sit down meals for evening time and just grab a quick snack at lunch time whether that's a hot-dog or a sandwich, hence why filling up at Breakfast is a good idea.
There are some cool themed sit down restaurants in the parks such as the Blue Lagoon Restaurant which is situated in the fort in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the main Disneyland Park, so you can watch the ride go by as you eat. Another themed restaurant to experience? Bistrot Chez Rémy. This restaurant is modelled on the film Ratatouille giving you a rat's eye view of a dinning experience. You spend your time sitting on a bottle top, eating on a jam jar lid underneath an oversized cocktail umbrella - it's pretty cool.
After park hours, check out the Disney Village for more restaurants but if possible try to get to them before the Fireworks Show ends to avoid crowds and a very long wait for food.
THE PARKS / ATTRACTIONS
Two Park Tickets
Disneyland Paris is home to two parks, Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park, and every time I visit I pick up a two park ticket. When it comes to rides there is something for everyone (literally toddlers to grandparents) and if you want to get the most out of your visit it's worth picking up a two park ticket - I could never choose one or the other. Disneyland Park is the original park and is host to lots of classic rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, Phantom Manor & It's A Small World. You also can't leave Disneyland without seeing Sleeping Beauty's Castle! Although there are a few big thrill rides (Big Thunder Mountain, Indiana Jones And The Temple of Peril & Space Mountain), you'll probably find more in Walt Disney Studios. In recent years, Studios has quickly become home to some of my favourite rides. I recommend the Rockin' Rollercoaster, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Crush's Coaster (don't be fooled by the facade, it's way more thrilling than you'd think) and you've got to visit Toy Story Land - great for kids and big kids (the RC Racer is brilliant).
Make use of the Fastpass system where available! It can cut your waiting time for rides in half, especially for the big rides. You pop your park ticket into a machine and receive a Fastpass ticket with a return time. While your waiting you can go off on another ride with a shorter waiting time, then come back and board your ride in a matter of minutes through a dedicated entrance skipping half the queue!
You're going to be doing a lot of walking and standing in queues so do yourself a favour and wear comfortable shoes. There's nothing worse than walking around like a new born giraffe because your feet hurt. It can end up ruining your day. Also be aware of the time of the year that you're visiting! Paris can get very cold from Nov - Feb so make sure to wrap up!
Parades & Firework Shows
A must see in my opinion! The Disneyland Park has a few parades throughout the day and a huge firework spectacular before the park closes. Both are amazing and if it's your first time there you have to stick around to watch. Kids and adults alike love seeing all of the characters in the parades and the animations projected onto the castle for the fireworks show are stunning!
Outside The Park
If you're in Paris for a long enough period of time make sure to take a trip out of the parks. There is a train station right at the gates to the park which you can take directly into the centre of the city! It takes about 40mins and drops you right at the Arc de Triomphe. Paris is such a beautiful city, it's so picturesque and there is lots to see - the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Damme, Montmartre and if you're feeling up to it, it's all walkable!
Disney Hotels & Partner Hotels also provide a shuttle bus (€5 return, I think!) to La Vallée Village which is a fabulous shopping outlet for those of you that might be feeling spendy. Think Kildare Village but bigger (it's actually the same group that own both shopping outlets).
... and that's about it! Short and sweet. Haha. I didn't realise there was so much to say about Disneyland!
I've covered everything I could possibly think of! If you're jetting off to the most magical place on earth I hope you found this helpful and I hope you have the most amazing time!