Being huge Disney fans, one of our bucket list items is to eventually visit all of the different parks around the world. Julie had always dreamed of visiting Paris so over the years we had talked about Disneyland Paris being the first park to check off the list. Last year we happened to come across a vacation deal for a buy 3 day package, get 2 more days free. It was hard to pass up so we decided to finally put plans in motion. We found info harder to come by as we planned, it was honestly a lot of work, so we really wanted to share with our audience to hopefully help future visitors! This is the first in a series of articles packed full of DLP info! Read on for an overview of how we planned this overseas trip…
We called and booked the 5 night package about 14 months before our visit date and decided to build the rest of our trip around that May reservation. We had originally first discussed doing a multi-stop trip in London, Paris, and Disney, but after acquiring the longer package we decided to just do the parks and then spend a little more time in Paris (you can check out our itinerary for the city here). Usually if doing a split stay in the US we would book the parks first and then a relaxing beach portion after. But we figured on this trip sightseeing in the city would be more go-go-go and the longer stay in Disneyland would actually be more leisurely, so we booked it for the second half of the trip. Some people may think 5 days is too long for these smaller parks but we found it was perfect for us as we really enjoy just wandering, exploring details, and doing rides exclusive to the park multiple times. This could be our only visit (at least for a long time) so we wanted to make sure to see it all! We think big Disney fans may be a bit disappointed trying to squeeze it into one day visit, but many do that as well. Maybe some Disney is better than no Disney?
TIP: If you live in the United States, there is a trick you can use to help eliminate the need to call international and avoid the fees of doing so. You can call the Florida Disney number (407) 939-5277 and when prompted say “Disneyland Paris.” This will transfer you to a Disneyland Paris representative stateside that can book the package.
The Disneyland Paris Resort
The Disneyland Paris resort is comprised of two theme parks: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. These are most comparable to the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios in Orlando. The resort also includes Disney Village with some shops, restaurants, and entertainment. There are also a variety of Disney Hotels making the overall resort area similar in size to Disneyland in California. Disney Village features some of the same restaurants you would recognize in the states like Rainforest, Earl of Sandwich and Five Guys. Our second part of this post will be diving into an overview of the parks.
Park Tickets & Fastpass
Rack rates for a one day ticket vary throughout the season between $61.68-$96.76 (2019 pricing). There are also multi-day tickets available. These tend to be a better value with the cost per day going down, with the more days you buy. The multi-day tickets are also valid in both parks each day (essentially a “hopper” even though they don’t call it that). Our tickets were rolled right into the cost of our package (more on that below).
Currently DLP uses the old paper ticket Fastpass system. (You enter your ticket into a kiosk and receive a printed return time). There is also an add on option to purchase upgraded fast passes. The “Super Fastpass” allows 1 entry per ride on the list, while the “Ultimate Fastpass” allows unlimited entry (and access to a couple more rides). During out trip we met some American guests who were leaving the next day who had unlimited Fastpass tickets that were valid past their departure. They gave them to us, which was super nice! But the few rides that the pass worked for had essentially no lines, so we didn’t even end up using them! Not sure if it was the time we were there, but we did not see this add-on cost as worth it. But if you visit at a busy time or only have one day to spend you may find value in it.
Choosing a Hotel
Some people research other hotels nearby, but we found the Disney hotels to be very affordable with added benefits, and honestly just plain easier with the package coming from out of country. The hotels are all very close to the parks, with the grandest hotel being literally steps away. The Disneyland Hotel is by far the most expensive (it would have pretty much doubled our package price!) but is located right in front of the train station. The theming feels somewhat similar to the Grand Floridian in Orlando.
The mid tier of hotels include Disney's Hotel New York - The Art of Marvel (this was under construction while we were there), Disney's Sequoia Lodge (looks similar to Wilderness Lodge), and the hotel we ultimately chose Disney's Newport Bay Club (it has a beach/yacht club vibe). We were about a 10-15 minute walk from the park gates. (Stay tuned for a full hotel review coming soon!)
Staying on Disney property is advertised with some extra perks:
Extra Magic Time: hotel guests can get into the parks an hour earlier. You can learn more here.
Standard FASTPASS tickets (we aren’t sure if this is a perk, doesn’t everyone get standard Fastpass?)
Free parking (we figure most Americans will not need this)
Disney Character Encounters (we never encountered any by the way)
The closest hotels. And if you don't fancy the stroll, there's always the free shuttle that drops you at the gates in under 10 minutes.
Booking a Package
We found during this entire process that Disneyland Paris isn’t nearly as popular as the American parks which means there are deals to be had. We found everything to be very affordable (with the exception of in-park food). As mentioned earlier, our package deal included two free nights with the purchase of three or more. It is our understanding that these types of deals are not uncommon for Disneyland Paris. (You can view current offers here.) A package consists of the following: accommodations in a Disney resort and a ticket with entry to both parks each day (with a 5 day night package we received a 6 day ticket).
When we realized Disneyland Hotel was out of our budget we looked at the mid-level options. We found the mid-level to be very nice, probably comparable to higher quality than a US moderate resort, but maybe not quite as fancy as a deluxe. With Hotel New York being closed and Sequoia having the pool closed for refurbishment we chose Newport Bay Club. We also thought the beach theme might be nice and relaxing. We decided to upgrade to a Club Room for an extra $50 per night. It was essentially the cost of breakfast anyway and included these extras:
Club level check-in area
Compass Club Lounge serving a breakfast buffet, cold and hot drinks all day, and afternoon tea.
Hotel Fastpass (1 voucher per person per day)
Larger room with extra ammenties such as robes, espresso machine, and mini fridge
TIP: The hotel fast passes are printed one per day and are supposed to be used on the date specified. However we heard you could use the voucher on a different day (for example if you wanted to use 2 in one day). We tested this theory with varying responses. One cast member accepted without question, while another gave us a hard time and refused us entry. We found out the proper process is to visit concierge and have them stamp your voucher with a new date.
We found the extra $250 for club level well worth it. (And way cheaper than a concierge level at a US resort!) Regarding payment, we had to pay a small deposit at the time of booking and final payment was due 60 days out. NOTE: there was some confusion here as we were told by someone a DLP packages counted for the 6 months interest free offer from Disney Chase Visa, but in the end that was not true. As with everything else, we had to call to make final payment as we weren't able to do it online.
Selecting a Meal Plan
We decided we wanted to splurge on some table meals while visiting. To help simplify our trip, we opted to get the Dining Plan. We don’t normally do this at Walt Disney World as it doesn’t make sense financially for us. But we thought it would make this unfamiliar trip more enjoyable and a lot easier. What was not easy was trying to understand the Meal Plan option chart here. We will try to break that down:
There are two main amounts of food packages. A “Half-board” plan is breakfast plus one meal (either lunch or dinner). The “Full-board” plan is breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With your lunch and/or dinner meal you also receive a soft drink. We went for the half-board as a buffet and multi-course meal sounded like plenty for us.
There are three levels: Standard, Plus, and Premium. These usually go hand in hand with the level of hotel you are staying at, but anyone has the option to upgrade. With each level you get better menu items as well as more options for restaurants. We chose to pay for the Premium to make sure we had the option to try some of the best restaurants.
The breakfast is a buffet served at your hotel. The one exception to this is the premium plan which also allows you to do character dining instead. (Note: we already had breakfast included with our club level room so they just deducted that from the cost of our meal plan)
Most restaurants have what amounts to prix fixe menus for each plan. The restaurant menus will feature a page for each plan level that lists the options included. We highly suggest looking up menus before hand to make sure you like what is on the menu. That is a huge reason we upgraded to premium for maximum flexibility.
TIP: Be careful if you want to order off of the suggested meal plan. With the premium plan there were some places where we could order ala carte no problem, but at some others some really weird math starts to happen if you want to substitute. For example here is a scenario that happened to us: we ate at Walt’s where the Premium Dining menu was listed as a 60 euro value for someone paying cash (plus we get our drink included). After pre-travel research, Andrew was set on a certain dish that we found out was was recently taken off the menu. Upon hearing this the only other thing he wanted to eat was not on the “Premium” menu page. So the normal way you would think this would be handled is to pay the few dollar difference from a “Premium” entree to the one he selected instead. Well that is not the case. At this point they will use your voucher as a cash value (which is less than what the premium page value shows), then they break apart your “prix fixe” style pricing and charge you for everything individually. So your app, entree, dessert (and even your drink that is supposed to be free!) are now rung up at full rate. So your 52 euro voucher will only cover part of the meal that is now at around 90 euro. So learn from our mistake, don't stray from the menu.
For our 5 night package we received a 5 meal dining plan. We were able to make dining reservations 60 days out. As American guests, we were unable to book our dining online so once again we were forced to call. Stay tuned for individual dining reviews of all of the sit down meals we enjoyed on the trip!
Getting to Disneyland Paris
Arriving by Train
Since Disneyland Paris was the second half of our Paris visit, we opted to arrive at Disneyland via the RER which is the regional train service in and around Paris. The stop for Disneyland Paris also happens to be the end of the line (Marne La Vallee - Cheesy) which limits the worry about missing the stop.
Getting from the train station to the hotel was a little confusing at first so hopefully we can explain the process well enough to help others navigate this a little easier. Once getting off the train, we went up the escalator, then at the top went left. Once we hit the end of this hallway, we turned left again. This is where we got a little confused. We followed signs to “Disney Express”. But this turned out to be a luggage service for guests looking to hold their bags. What we finally figured out was after going down that last hallway, we exited the building and crossed the street to where the resort buses are located. This is the same bus stop for the Parks and Downtown Disney. We found the correct bus stop and waited for the bus to take us to Newport Bay. This dropped us off right in front of the main lobby.
Leaving by Bus
To make our lives easier, we purchased the Airport Transfers offered by Disney from the resort to Charles de Gaulle Airport. We booked this about 3 months before our trip for $55.05 for both of us. Again, this isn't your Walt Disney World style service but a third party coach bus. The Magical Shuttle driver pulled up right in front of the main lobby, got out, and opened the large luggage doors. We were responsible for finding a place where the luggage would fit and loading it on to the bus ourselves. We can't speak to the order of hotels the bus picks up but we can say that the day we departed, Newport Bay was the last stop before heading off to the airport. The trip to the airport took about 40 minutes. The first stop, which is where we got off, was located between terminals 2E and 2F. Again, we were responsible for unloading our luggage from the bus. From there, it was a quick walk to Terminal 2E, which is where our check-in was located.
Adding on Photo Pass
The last item we purchased ahead of time was the Disney Photo Pass, which cost $89.50. Sounds like a great deal to all of our US folks right? Who knows if/when we would make it back so we wanted to make sure we captured every moment we could. Well... that's not exactly how it went with the PhotoPass. We walked away with maybe 10 (crappy) pictures over a five day period. How is that possible? Well, here is how the PhotoPass in Disneyland Paris works.
First off, they had zero PhotoPass photographers hanging out; not at the castle, front entrance, etc. Turns out, there are only two places where you can actually use your pass, a handful of attractions have ride photos and some of the character meet and greets. We met a few characters and also saw more lines where not a single photo pass photographer was to be found.
Regarding photos on attractions, there are a few that take pictures. Then when exiting the ride, you are supposed to use the Disneyland Paris app to scan the code to get the picture (the same as WDW but instead of using a Magic Band, you would use your phone). We could never get this to work and had to go to the counter every time which was super annoying. In the end it wasn’t worth the effort because who really wants to buy the dark attraction photo anyway? So in conclusion, this was a complete waste of money for us. Please don’t make our same mistake.
TIP: One thing that isn’t advertised well, that all the repeat visitors seem to know is for certain character greets you can’t just get in line. There is a third party app called Lineberty that is a digital que. If characters are your thing, look into it before your trip. We had no idea what was going on.
What to Pack/Wear
A lot of people’s biggest worry is how to dress in Paris. Now while we did pay attention to what we wore in the city, when it came to the parks it was much more relaxed. We believe that you should be able to wear what you are comfortable with and you won’t feel out of place. While we didn’t see a lot of shorts, we did see lots of sweats and sneakers. We did notice a smaller amount of themed Disney gear being worn by guests, far less than the US parks. While a few people here and there had fun t-shirts, or ears, we would guess that maybe quarter of the park goers we saw were wearing Disney gear of any kind. We were definitely in the minority in this category because we dressed just like we do when in the US Parks, right down to Andrew's very loud Goofy tennis shoes, which gained us lots of compliments actually. The weather can be unpredictable so make sure to consider layers and rain gear.
In addition to thinking about your clothes we recommend these items for a trip to Disneyland Paris:
A camera and possible tripod, there are a lot of selfies at these parks.
Even if it is cold still bring sunscreen and sunglasses for sunny days
Outlet adapters for the hotel plugs
Back up phone charger
Water bottles. We had a hard time drinking enough water while in France, they don’t serve it the same was as in the states. We made sure to bring water bottles and refill them when we came across a dispenser.
ID - it is law in France to have a photo ID on you at all times.
Snacks you can’t get at home. We made sure to pack some beefy jerky sticks and nuts. The snack options could be kind of junky and carby, we liked having some protein on hand just in case. (Also if you need Peanut Butter bring it, it is Nutella land here!)
TIP: There is WiFi at the parks. So while we paid $10 a day for Julie’s phone to have service, we kept Andrew’s in WiFi mode the whole trip to save some money.
Keep in mind if you are used to the US parks, Paris will be a different experience. There are different cultures and ways of life and Americans are the minority here. Some things you may like better, some things may drive you nuts. We noticed more smokers and that people could be more pushy. The cast members are nice but are not the typical Walt Disney World level of customer service. There also seems to be lack of communication, many cast members don’t know answers to things. We suggest going in with lower expectations and patience and you will have a better time. Appreciate all the things that are special and different.
Also if you don’t speak French don’t worry! All cast members speak multiple languages with French and English being the most prominent. In attractions the dialogue may go back and forth between the two languages. (It is pretty cool to see Captain Jack Sparrow and C3PO speaking in French!) We were so glad to be able experience a Disney Park in another country. Not many Americans go to Disneyland Paris and you can tell that it is not marketed heavily to us. It made information hard to find and planning took a lot of work. We are hoping this overview will give others info to make their planning process a bit easier. We hope you will be able to say Bonjour to Disneyland Paris soon too!
(Stay tuned for lots more Disneyland Paris content in the next couple weeks including dining reviews, hotel review, park overviews, and of course plenty of pics!)