Disneyland Paris – money saving & tips you need to know about
If you are planning to visit Disneyland in Paris and would like to make the most of your trip whilst sticking to a budget, we picked up a few ideas on our recent travels there. So why not have a read of our top Disneyland Paris tips for a fun family break.
Do some research
There’s a wealth of information online from new and seasoned Disney goers so take advantage of it. I found a few useful resources such as a Facebook group called ‘Disneyland Paris for Brits‘ where I used the search option to find out specific things. You’ll find people’s tips, questions and trip reports. I also read a few up to date travel blogs, as it’s 11 years since we visited the theme park, so I anticipated a lot of changes.
Since our trip, someone recommended a site called Mouse Hacking to find information and advice about the Disney parks. We also downloaded the official Disneyland Paris app which gave real time updates such as waiting times, you could also use it to book a restaurant, book fast passes (more info on those below) and the map told us where we were and live waiting times of the nearby attractions.
Make a list of your must-see attractions – after all there are rides, theatre shows and parades. Be aware that sometimes rides are closed for repairs! Phantom Manor was closed due to a technical issue on our first day, but was open again the next day.
Booking your Disneyland Paris tickets
There are sometimes seasonal deals, off-peak offers etc when booking tickets through Disneyland Paris – and kids under 3 go free, while child prices apply up to age 11. (You may have heard that people booking through the French version of site got cheaper deals than with the UK site, but when I tried that online I seemed to get the same prices.)
So I booked our tickets through a site called Attractiontixwhich offered better value for the dates we wanted to go. It seems to be used a lot by families in the UK – I found out about it through the FB group mentioned above – so I felt confident about booking with them.
Ticket prices started at £43 per person per day and I booked two days. There are two theme parks at Disneyland Paris – Disneyland itself and Walt Disney Studios Park next door. The Studios Park is smaller than Disney with fewer attractions. So for Day 1 I booked us a ‘1-park, 1-day ticket’ (which gave us access to Disneyland only on our first day as I knew we could easily spend a full day there). For Day 2 I booked us a ‘2-park 1-day ticket’ which was a bit more expensive, but gave us the flexibility to go between Disneyland and the neighbouring Walt Disney Studios Park as much as we wanted on our second day. This option worked well for us as we didn’t spend as long at Walt Disney Studios.
If you buy your tickets through Attractiontix they are emailed to you. I printed them off and put them in a wallet to bring with us to the park. They have a barcode which is scanned at the park gates. We were also emailed some meal discounts and there was no booking fee.
Of course you don’t need to stay at a Disney hotel. If you want to stay in one though, look out for special offers. Sometimes you’ll get an extra night free for example. We previously stayed at the Davey Crockett site which was good mobile home accommodation and ‘cheaper’ than the other Disney hotels, but we knew we could still save a lot on accommodation costs by booking elsewhere this time – and it was actually really nice to have a complete change of scene and not stay in a themed hotel.
We stayed in a family apartment at Domaine de Crecy, a golf/hotel/restaurant I found through Expedia. Our accommodation was nice and spacious for our family of five, with a dining/living area that had kitchen facilities including an induction hob, kettle, fridge, filter coffee machine and microwave. There was some cutlery and a couple of pans. If you take a few extra cooking supplies and shop for groceries at the supermarkets nearby you can save on restaurant bills. The outdoor area is lovely, overlooking the golf course and there is a small pool. It was just so peaceful with comfy beds and the drive to Disneyland is only about 15/20 minutes so I would recommend it. (Friends of ours have also stayed at La Croix du Vieux campsite which is apparently good for families.)
Our Top Disney Tip
Arrive at the theme park early! (And don’t forget the time is an hour ahead of the UK!) Disneyland Paris opens for the rides and attractions at 10am, but you can park up and start queuing to get in earlier. After rocking up for 10.00am the first day, it was after 11.00am by the time we were in the theme park itself (baggage security checks were busy as you can see above). The next day we aimed to arrive for around 9am and we got into the park sooner.
It cost 30 euros per day to park at Disney, which I think is really excessive. I think parking should be included in the ticket price, or at least not so steep. We were also told that if you want to leave in your car and come back again later, you’re expected to pay again!
If you’re staying at a Disney hotel you can park in your hotel car park for free, but accommodation at Disney isn’t cheap so we preferred to stay elsewhere and grudgingly pay the parking fee.
Some people online had questioned whether you could park at the nearby Val d’Europe shopping centre which is free and then catch a train to the Disney gates, however it would be more hassle and I don’t know how long you can leave your car there so I don’t think this would be a reliable option. (You wouldn’t want to come back after a long day in the park and find the car park gates closed!)
Having taken the train from the station at Disneyland to Paris city centre on our third day, we wondered about the possibility of parking at the train station for Disneyland. It’s a multi-storey car park and wasn’t full on the day we left our car there. It cost us about 17 euros to park for the day while we went into Paris, so a lot cheaper – and it’s actually nearer to the Disney entrance gates (practically next door, you just come out of the station concourse and are at the entrance!) However there may well be a rule that prevents Disney goers from parking at the station, I don’t know, so please do your own checking – and if you find out let me know!
If like us you visit the park in peak season, using the fast pass system for the popular rides is essential. Because we weren’t sure about how it worked and the park was super busy, it was quite late on the first day before we got on our first rides. Queue waiting times were anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours and there was no way we wanted to do loads of standing in line in the heat, so we wandered around looking for the shorter queues, but realised there weren’t really any, lol! And that if you get a fast pass ticket from machines near the popular rides (a bit like at a deli counter or when shopping for school shoes in Clarks!) you can get a time slot to come back to do the ride and skip the queuing. There are rules around how many fast passes you can have at any one time and some rides can run out of fast passes before the end of the day, so it is a bit bewildering when you’re unfamiliar with it, but you’ll get the hang of it – there is a more in depth explanation on Mouse Hacking here. It was definitely a lot better once we started using the system.
On our second day we were much more savvy and tactical – we got into the park earlier, headed straight to Big Thunder Mountain and got a fast pass to come back at 11.30am and join the ride. We did the same with the Star Wars simulator and managed to avoid queuing for ages. (Not all rides have a fast pass, only the most busy/popular ones so for example we waited 30 minutes to do Pirates of the Caribbean.)
Food & refreshments
It’s all pretty much expensive fast food at Disneyland, which we remembered from the last time we were there. You can take a picnic in (no big coolboxes though apparently) but the thought of carrying a backpack full of sweating cheese sandwiches didn’t appeal so we decided we’d splash out on an overpriced meal on one of the days. Meal deals such as burger, chips and a soft drink were around 16.99 euros to 21.99 euros. Buying soft drinks, slushes and coffees were around 4 euros each, so that can mount up over a day when there are several of you. We brought water with us. There are water fountains around the park (although one I tried wasn’t working though) so you can fill up your water bottles instead of buying drinks. Expect queues for food at busy times, which is why lots of people choose to book meals ahead of time.
On our second day we ate at McDonalds away from the park which was about £40 for 5 meals. We also shopped at a local supermarket for provisions such as bread, cheese, fruit, yoghurts, cereal etc. where there was a good choice and prices seemed reasonable.
At Disneyland Paris there are plenty of gift shops but they all sell pretty much the same merchandise. I would normally avoid, but my youngest wanted to buy a couple of souvenirs with his birthday money. He got a t-shirt for 19.99 euros and a Mickey Mouse/Eiffel Tower statue for the same price. I noticed sweatshirts were around 50 euros. I’m sure you can find lots of other Disney themed stuff outside the park for less!
We popped into the Val d’Europe shopping centre for a wander around and a snack one evening. It’s a big shopping mall with lots of familiar shops, such as Primark, Pull & Bear, Mango etc if you need a shopping fix.
At the time of our trip (August) the park closed at 11.00pm with the Illuminations starting then. They are impressive and worth staying for; get a spot with a good view of Sleeping Beauty’s castle for a magical light, animation, music and firework experience that lasts about twenty minutes.
One other thing I’d recommend is check if your bank card charges you when shopping abroad. I have an online account which doesn’t charge me for using my card on holiday. Also check your phone for fees; again my phone with Three allows ‘Go Roam’ which lets you use call, text and data in 71 destinations at no extra cost.
I hope that’s useful. I’ll update this post from time to time to make sure it is a comprehensive guide. If I have missed any information you think I should include, please leave a comment!
I’m also writing up a post about driving to Paris, which is what we did to save on flights, with a few extra travel tips, so watch this space… In the meantime, why not pin this post for later?