Disneyland Paris – A First Timer’s Guide!

Parade float Paris

Disneyland Paris, being located just a skip over the channel from my native Newcastle in the North East of England, is our family’s ‘local’ Disney resort. It’s the first park we ever visited, and we still return time and time again to get a ‘Disney fix’. Smaller than it’s Florida big brother – it certainly isn’t lacking in attractions (53 between 2 parks) and the parades, fireworks and shows definitely deliver on Disney magic! The smaller scale of the resort makes navigating the parks really easy, and almost all of the Disney on site hotels are within comfortable walking distance to the parks (although bus transportation is offered for weary feet!). However, like all of the Disney parks, Disneyland Paris can get very crowded – peak times include Summer, Christmas and European School Holidays. It is not unusual on a busy day for some queues to exceed one hour, and for the most popular attractions (Ratatouille ride or meeting the Princesses at the Princess pavilion ) you could be looking at two to three hour queues. However with a little forward planning and knowledge, it is possible to avoid spending hours in queues to make sure you and your party get the most out of their time there:

Before you go:

  1. Get the App! Disneyland Paris offer a free app which you can download before you go, and gives you up to the minute information from the parks including ride queue times, interactive maps, show times etc. It’s really useful and the wifi in the parks is good – Highly recommended! http://www.disneylandparis.co.uk/mobile-app/
  2. To meal plan or not to meal plan? – Disneyland Paris offer Half Board and Full Board Meal Plans to all Disney resort guests. The Meal Plans are a series of pre-paid meal vouchers that can be used in a wide variety of Disney restaurants for a saving of up to 15% off menu prices. Opinions vary with regard to the meal plans – some families love them and find them really good value , others feel like they perhaps may have spent less on food if they hadn’t been on a meal plan. If you feel like you may be likely to dine at least one table service restaurant for every day of your trip it may be worth investigating – more details can be found here : http://www.disneylandparis.co.uk/guest-services/meal-plans/
  3. Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR’s). There are 66 restaurants in Disneyland Paris situated across Disneyland Park, Walt Disney Studios Park and the Disney Village. These are made up of a variety of fast food or ‘quick service’ restaurants, and sit down ‘ table service’ restaurants. A few restaurants offer character dining options, where whilst you eat your meal, a variety of Disney characters are circulating the restaurant – a great way to get photos and autographs without having to queue. At present Café Mickey in Disney Village and Inventions in the Disneyland hotel offer character dining with classic Disney characters. Auberge de Cendrillon in Disneyland Park offers dining with the princesses. If you know in advance there is somewhere that you definitely want to eat at , to avoid disappointment it is advisable to book your dining in advance , which can be done from 60 days in advance of your trip. You can call on 0033 (0)1 60 30 40 50. You can also book ADR’s via your hotel reception on arrival, or even in person at Disneyland Paris – just be aware the later you leave it the more limited your choices may be.
  4. Ride closures – At present there are a number of attractions at Disneyland Paris closed due to refurbishment for the big 25th anniversary in 2017. When planning a trip it’s good to be forewarned regarding closures to avoid disappointment in the parks. The plus side of this seems to be that Disney are putting on great entertainment and a lot of extra characters are out and about it the parks while the works take place. The website offers all information regarding closures here – http://holidays.disneylandparis.co.uk/eep.html

When you get there!

  1. What’s there? – In a nutshell – there are two parks at Disneyland Paris – the classic Disneyland Park, and the newer Walt Disney Studios Park. Disneyland has the castle, the classic characters and the rides and parades that most of us would associate with Disney. The studios have a more edgy vibe, featuring some of the bigger thrill rides, and more Pixar characters. Both parks have a lot to offer and both are definitely worth a visit. At the entrance to both parks is the Disney Village area – housing shops, bars and restaurants this area is buzzing on an evening and again really worth visiting.
  2. Get your bearings! – On entrance to the park make sure you pick up a paper map, and programme, which will give you the detailed times of shows, parades and character meets for that day. Really handy to have to hand, and also a great little keepsake!
  3. Extra Magic Hours (EMH) – These are a fantastic perk which are offered to all guests staying onsite in a Disney hotel. Basically hotel guests get up to two hours per day extra time in one of the Disneyland Parks . The website calendar will show which park has EMH for particular days and at what time. (They are not always, but generally in the morning 8am to 10am , before the park officially opens at 10.00am). Only limited rides will be open during EMH , but visiting during this time is a FANTASTIC way to avoid the crowds and queues. At present there are generally loads of characters out during this time as well as a good few rides open in Fantasyland and Discoveryland.
  4. Fastpass System – Visitors of Walt Disney World in previous years may recognise the paper Fastpass system utilised at Disneyland Paris. Basically a number of the most popular rides in both parks use the Fastpass system, which means that at the entrance to the ride you can choose to either join the regular (standby) queue, or choose to get a Fastpass for a return time instead. Above the entrance will be a sign displaying how long the regular queue is (eg 70 minutes) , and what time slot they are issuing Fastpasses for ( eg 2 – 3pm). So rather than wait in the long queue you can get a Fastpass, return during your allocated time slot and join the much shorter Fastpass queue.To get the Fastpasses, you must take the park entry tickets for ALL members of your party to the Fastpass kiosks beside the ride. Slide your park entrance ticket through the kiosk and it will give you a separate card with a return time on it. Make sure you also take your park ticket back too! There are only a limited number of Fastpasses available per day , more popular attractions may run out of them earlier than others – so you may want to try and grab them for Peter Pan’s Flight or Big Thunder Mountain before early afternoon. You are limited to only hold one Fastpass at a time, so generally you can get the next one after you have used the first one (or after two hours have passed). It’s a great system to reduce queuing times for those most popular rides. Sometimes it can be handy to delegate one of your party to be the ‘Fastpass runner’ for your group – once you are through the park gates hand all the tickets to them and they can run off for Fastpasses for everyone!

More information regarding Fastpasses can be found here http://www.disneylandparis.co.uk/guest-services/fast-pass/

5. Single Rider Lines – Another way to skip the lines of selected attractions is to look out for those that offer single rider lines. This line is there to add, generally one at a time, people into ride vehicles that aren’t full. So for example on the Toy Soldier’s Parachute Drop in the Walt Disney Studios, each vehicle holds 6 people. If they only have 5 or even 4 in a ‘car’, the cast members will fill up the empty seats with people from the single rider line. So if you are travelling alone, or in a group but you aren’t that bothered about all being in the same vehicle then you could try the single rider line. Generally (not always – do check how long it is!) it may be a much shorter line, and it will mean a shorter queue time.

6. Photopass+ – You can buy this service from one of the many Photo sales points and shops around the parks. Some of the attractions and character meets will have Photopass+ photographers who will take a number of professional pictures for you and they will be stored in an online account for you. Although some people complain they don’t get many pictures on it , if you generally like to buy ride photos, and meet a lot of characters this can prove to be great value. More information can be found here http://www.disneylandparis.co.uk/guest-services/photopass-service/

7. Shows, Parades and Fireworks – In our humble opinion this is what Disney does best and do be sure during your trip to watch as much as you can of the Disney entertainment! All of the entertainment show times will be detailed in the schedule you pick up at the park entrance, and also on the App.

Paris castle at night

It’s worth noting as well that many ride queues will drop leading up to and during the parades and the fireworks – so if you’ve already seen those but haven’t yet managed to get on Thunder Mountain – during the parade or fireworks could be a good time to try!

Disneyland Paris has so much to offer to everyone, and is the perfect playground to create magical memories. If you are visiting for the first time soon, I truly hope you have a wonderful time and fall in love with the place just as my family and I did all those years ago.

Bon Voyage!




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