This summer I went to Disneyland Paris for the first time in years. Wanting to make the most of it I did a LOT of research! Here I share with you the things you should do before you go.
I’ve always planned to make Inspiring Life Design more than just about my financial independence journey and helping others to make money. I also want to inspire people to live the life of their dreams, to think big, take chances and most of all enjoy life! So I’m introducting a new area to my site for Lifestyle posts.
This is the first in a series of lifestyle articles about creating a memorable and magical Disneyland Paris trip.
Booking Your Trip
1. Be flexible with the dates you plan to go
There are actually recommendations on the Disneyland Paris website
If you want to visit when the number of Guests is fairly low, plan to stay mid-week (Tuesdays to Thursdays) during mid-January through mid-March or mid-April through mid-May. The benefit of visiting the Resort when the number of Guests is low is that waiting times are shorter.
It’s no coincidence that the Disney Hotel prices are lower during these quieter times, so not only are the parks quieter, it’s the most economical time to visit if you want to stay in a Disney Hotel. Across the span of a year, there are 5 different brackets of prices for staying in one of the hotels (Super Value, Value, Moderate, Regular and High) and periodically they run special offers and packages too. Summer is unsurprisingly high season, whereas mid-week in January, October and certain other times you can bag the super value rates. To give you an idea of how these brackets vary I’ll give you some comparison room rates from the Winter 2018/2019 season for 1 night based on 2 adults sharing:
|Hotel||Star Rating||Room Type||Super Value||Value||Moderate||Regular||High|
|Disneyland Hotel||5 star||Classic Room||£756||£866||£1,048||£1,136||£1,256|
|Disneyland Hotel||5 star||Castle Club Room||£1,038||£1,184||£1,420||£1,536||£1,692|
|Disney's Hotel Santa Fe||2 star||Standard Room||£348||£432||£488||£534||£556|
|Disney's Davy Crockett Ranch||Trapper Cabin||£382||£430||£464||£478||£502|
These prices include 2 days of tickets for the parks, but do not include local taxes and were correct at the time of the publication of this post. I’ve included the most expensive and the cheapest options to show you the variance! Davy Crockett Ranch is not near to the parks and shuttle transport to the parks is not included, so you’d have to make your own way there.
2. Sign-up for notifications
Another tip to help find the best time to go, it’s worth signing-up for notifications of offers from Disneyland Paris.
3. Shop around on international sites
Another booking trick I’ve heard of, but have not yet tried out myself is to look at the comparable prices on the French Disneyland Paris website. I tried a quick comparison for a randomly selected date of 16th October 2018, for a one night stay in the Disneyland Hotel. The difference was quite a shock:
|Amount in €||Amount in £|
Next time we look to go I’ll definitely be checking out a few other country’s websites to see if there are better deals. Even if I can’t book online using the foreign website, I can call up Disney and use the price difference to see if I can negotiate!
Planning Your Dining In Advance
1. Pre-purchase your dining plan
Once you have your travel and hotel reservations sorted, or possibly even at the time you book, you should consider your dining arrangements.
If you’re staying in one of the Disney hotels you have the option to purchase one of their dining plans. Once again there are different tiers of package ranging from budget to pricey depending on the eating establishments you want to go to and the amount of meals you want during the day.
Your pre-purchase options are:
- Counter Service Breakfast only (from one of the counter service outlets in the park)
- Breakfast only (which can be taken in the hotel)
- Standard Meal Plan (in outlets valid for the Standard category only)
- Half Board Standard (breakfast & 1 meal)
- Full Board Standard (breakfast & 2 meals)
- Plus Meal Plan (in outlets valid for the Plus category only, in table service restaurants this means only being able to choose from the Plus set-menu)
- Half Board Plus (breakfast & 1 meal)
- Full Board Plus (breakfast & 2 meals)
- Premium Meal Plan (no food restrictions across all outlets!)
- Half Board Premium (breakfast & 1 meal)
- Full Board Premium (breakfast & 2 meals)
Pre-booking a meal plan helps you budget for your holiday, and you will save money assuming you would have eaten at these restaurants anyway. The saving by pre-booking is up to 15% of what you would have paid (depending on which package you choose). To read more about the meal plans you can find them on the Disneyland Paris website.
The meal plans work using a voucher system which is logged on your hotel room key, otherwise known as your MagicPass. Each time you want to use one of your vouchers you hand over your MagicPass and let the cast member serving you know that you want to use your meal plan voucher. They will then let you know of any restrictions for the package you have booked, and will ensure that your voucher is used correctly. There are no dates on the meal plan vouchers so you’re not restricted to using one per day - if you want to mix it up you can.
It’s also worth noting that if you have the Standard or Plus package, you are able to pay the difference between your voucher’s face-value cost and the price of a higher value/excluded menu option, should you want to choose something that isn’t part of your plan. In the same way, you can pay for alcoholic beverages on top (for some meal plans a soft drink is included as part of your voucher, but never alcohol which is extra).
2. Make dining reservations as early as you can
Whether you pre-purchase a meal plan or not, even if you’re not staying as a hotel guest, if you’d like to eat anywhere other than the counter service (fast-food) outlets I would strongly recommend making reservations in advance. This is easy to do, and you can make reservations up to 2 months in advance using the Dining Reservation Service 0800 085 0671 (or from outside the UK +33 1 60 30 40 50 - international call rates apply and costs will vary according to network).
Making reservations is particularly important if you want to do any kind of character dining because these are extremely popular and book up fast. This year we pre-booked our character dining at the time we bought our hotel package. We booked a Character Breakfast at The Plaza Gardens and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in Disney Village. This was great because it ensured we got the dates and times we wanted. At the start of our holiday I overheard a cast member telling another guest that the character breakfast was fully booked on the date we had already booked for - made me glad we’d already sorted that before we arrived. The character dining options that I’m aware of are:
- Inventions (in the Disneyland Hotel) for lunch with Disney Characters
- Plaza Gardens (just off Main Street USA in the Disneyland Park) for breakfast with Disney Characters (when we went we saw Mickey Mouse, Scrooge, Tigger, Eeyore & Pluto)
- Auberge de Cendrillon (in Fantasyland, Disneyland Park) for lunch with Disney Princes and Princesses
- Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (in Disney Village) for an evening entertainment extravaganza with Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Goofy and Chip ‘n’ Dale
If you forget to pre-book before going on your holiday, take a bit of time when you arrive to select the restaurants you want to go to and make reservations either at your Disney hotel’s reception, or at the restaurant directly.
Another advantage of making dining reservations for your trip is that it gives you some structure. Not only will you not waste time waiting for a table somewhere, you will be able to plan your days around your dining choice. We found this really helped us, because at times things can feel a little overwhelming in the parks - it’s nice to know that something is pre-arranged and certain each day! Plus it gave us something to look forward to.
For our 4 night stay we had the Plus half-board package. With this we had a lovely buffet breakfast in our hotel each day (at the Newport Bay Hotel) apart from the day where we had upgraded to a character breakfast at the Plaza Gardens. We then chose to have an evening meal every day apart from our last day when we had lunch instead. We ate at:
- Silver Spur Steakhouse in Frontierland
- Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Disney Village (we paid extra to go to this). We went to the first sitting with category 2 seating which we found perfectly fine
- Bistrot Chez Remy in the Toon Studio area of Walt Disney Studios
- Plaza Gardens for lunch buffet, off Main Street USA, Disneyland
Downloading Apps For Your Phone
If you have a smart phone and are ok with technology, it’s a great idea to download some applications onto your phone before you go. This way you can use your usual wifi or data package for the download, instead of doing this in France where higher charges may apply, particularly if you’re visiting from outside of Europe. You can also take some time to familiarise yourself with how the apps work, before you visit the parks.
There are a couple of great apps which I would recommend for iOS/Apple, I’m not sure whether these are also available on Android:
In my opinion the best part of this app, and the bit I used the most was the map of both parks. This is an interactive map which shows real-time wait times, temporary closures and other useful information for all of the attractions and amenities. It was really useful for planning things to do. It’s possible to see a list view of everything instead, for a quick look at wait times.
I didn’t use this functionality while at the park, but there is a filter function where you can select attractions by age suitability, height restrictions, fastpass availability and mobility. This looks like a pretty handy feature.
Also included is information on park hours and show times. There are also options to be able to make dining reservations and purchase tickets for the park, however these take you outside of the app to either make phone calls or visit the Disneyland Paris website.
2. MagiPark app
There are some similarites between the MagiPark app and the official Disneyland Paris app. For example, this app also has a map view with wait times and details on food outlets. However the functionality I like with this app is that you can set notifications for specific rides. I used this app to notify me when the wait times for certain rides dropped below my ideal wait time. You can also set it up so that you are notified of any temporary closures and re-opening of rides.
So that’s it for the first in this Disneyland Paris series. In future posts I’ll be covering what to pack to take with you, how to take advantage of all the Disney hotel perks, and how to make the most of your trip. Have you got any other tips on things you should do BEFORE you go on your Disneyland Paris holiday? I’d love to hear them in the comments…
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