Read all about the other half of our France Center Parcs adventures, before we made our way to Disneyland.
I am not going to talk too much about Disneyland, if you know, you know is how I feel about it. I never got to Disneyland as a kid, and I survived just fine. I was an adult the first time I went and then I went back a few years ago again with Isabella and my mom and my sister and her husband. I really wanted to bring my kids, I really did. Donagh was 3, almost 4, Emilia was 5 and Isabella 9. The ages were ideal – another year would have done Donagh np harm but he loved it, and almost a year on he remembers it all vividly and continues to make plans for his next visit.
The brilliant thing about Villages Nature Centre Parcs is it is considered one of the “Disney resort hotels”, and that means that you get Magic Hour included. There was no discount on entry tickets, but that hour was so valuable. We got up about 6.30am on the morning of Day 3, the Disney trip. None of them had any interest in breakfast that morning, so I packed up a little picnic in my backpack and a million snacks, and we were set for the day. The snacks are also super for keeping them occupied and distracted when in the longer queues – they always seem to remember they are hungry right out then. You read sometimes that you cannot bring your own snacks or food into Disney and they scan your bags etc. Your bags do go through a scanner but feel free to bring all your own food too.
If you hate the idea of packing a picnic, then hit up McDonald’s or Starbucks on the way in as you pass through Disney Village. The Disney Village is lovely. It is outside the park, on route to and from the Marne-la-Vallée—Chessy train station, bus stops and car park. There are lots of bigger souvenir shops and good, reasonably priced eating options here.
We got to the ticket office, showed our online tickets ( printed ) and were one of the first couple of hundred people there and in the queue, ready to go…. ( top tip: take a picture of where you parked your car and note landmarks along the way). It is usually dark when you come out, and it is easy to get disorientated. Yes, the carpark is way further than you remember and they are tired and weary. Getting lost at this stage of the day is not an option.
Wristbands at the ready and off we went. It was fab, all set up for Halloween, which added an extra vibe; dozens of friendly ghosts and “pumpkin people” invaded Main Street and Frontierland. It was just an extra little layer of fun. In my honest opinion though, nothing compares to Christmas at Disney. Just go, never don’t go to Disney; it is worth it. We only did Disneyland Park and did not bother with the Walt Disney Studios park. We would not have fitted it all in, on a one day trip and I think it was a bit advanced for my lots and I just didn’t feel it was value for money for us this time.
We had no buggy – it was a very off-peak Monday in September and we were still queuing – not a huge amount but maybe an average of 15 minutes, longest wait times being 35/40 minutes. Our favourite rides had to be Buzzlight Year – Donagh loved this, Peter Pan, Space Mountain for Mom and Dad and Phantom Manor. This last one surprised me as it is a mix of bizarre and brilliant but they kept talking about it afterwards. I loved the colonial boat ride. The parades were a huge hit with ours and gave us a little bit of downtime in the middle of the day.
The last time we were at Disneyland Paris we stayed at the Newport Hotel, which is just fab. I am an absolute sucker for the classic American “New England” style, so I just adored this. There is a pool, and the buffet breakfast was so lovely. The rooms were not huge but lovely. It was Christmas the last time, and the lobby was all decorated and it was just all very gorgeous. It felt special. A real treat, but it does not come cheap. It has been recently renovated and since the Disneyland Castle hotel is under renovation until 2024 the Newport now comes with a hefty price tag. I think Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne and Hotel Sante Fe are the lowest priced Disney Hotels and are about a 15-20 minute walk away from the parks.
Just to say, as we drove along, on route from Villages Nature to Disneyland, we noticed a CityStay that looked really close, and if you search, there are lots of Airbnb options too. It might be worth staying off-site in nearby Val d’Europe (the RER train stop before Disneyland Paris). Hipark Serris, a budget apartment-style hotel, which is actually within walking distance (~15 minutes) of the park and there are lots of others if you go on booking.com and the likes.
Ok, the most important part, here are my top tips for Disney :
- Take Advantage of Early Magic Hour
This was a huge selling point of this centre parcs for me for this trip as we knew we were combining it with Disney. So rise and shine to make the most of this magical headstart! We got Space Mountain, Autopia and Orbitron done in just over an hour. It was brilliant.
- Pack a Picnic and Save Euros
Disneyland Paris has 69 dining options. There are around 31 options at Disneyland Park, 4 at Walt Disney Studios Park,16 in Disney Village, and 18 at the hotels. Save on expensive park meals by packing a budget-friendly picnic. Grab some fresh pastries and sandwiches from a local bakery outside the park, and enjoy a delightful meal on one of the park’s scenic benches. There are plenty of drinking fountains around the parks and restaurants will provide free tap water (upon request)
- Character Meet & Greets
There is the obvious choice to book a meet and greet breakfast, lunch or dinner but this is not essential If you are not fussy about who you meet, you have free options. Head over to the ‘secret spot’ located near the castle where characters walk past to enter the stage before shows. To get there walk through the Castle into Fantasyland and turn right immediately where you will go through a metal gate. Here you will find Cinderella carriage but wait along with the gates down the end. The best time to go is fifteen minutes before showtimes and if you’re lucky enough cast members will interact and pose for a photo with your small crew. We also got to meet Pluto and Goofy, they made a random appearance as we were heading for the train and the boat ride.
- Single Rider Lines & Rider Switch
To maximise your time with the queen there are two options. Single-rider lines where you can hop onto rides with shorter wait times by using Single Rider lines. While you might not ride together, you’ll maximise your time and still share tales of excitement afterwards. There is also something called Rider Switch. This is ideal for families like us with little ones. One parent can wait with the child while the other rides and then switch without waiting in line again. This was really helpful. Alternatively, of course, you could just buy Fast Passes.
- Pack A Costume
For the little humans, pack a costume from home and allow them to dress up in it for the day. They get very inspired when they see the other kids dressed up and all the princesses at the parades etc. If you are not into the costume keep an eye out for the Minnie Mouse ears that are often sold in Penneys or the likes so keep your eyes peeled before you go and you will pick them up for a few euros.
- Budget-Friendly Snack Stops
Indulge in classic Disney treats without breaking the bank. Grab an iconic Mickey-shaped ice cream bar for around €3, or try the delicious Nutella Crêpe from street vendors. We got delicious and huge ice cream waffle cones down by the maze and they loved them.
- Plan Parades Strategically
Secure a spot for parades and shows at least 30 minutes before start time to get the best view. The best position to see the daily parades at Disneyland Paris is on the road curve just up from from the finish line next to Town Hall.
- Download the Disneyland Paris App
Before your visit, download the official Disneyland Paris app. It provides real-time attraction wait times, show schedules, interactive maps, and even mobile food ordering, making it a valuable tool to optimise your day. Also, use it before you go to see if any rides are closed, or under maintenance etc. As an example, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad breaks down a lot. On our recent trip, it did not open and we had to do a little damage control on emotions after building up to it all day.
- Catch the Dragon under Sleeping Beauty Castle
So many miss the dragon. He is animatronic and his lair is very atmospheric. It is fab and again a lovely interlude of activity from all the queuing. It is below Sleeping Beauty Castle.
- Comfy Shoes
We walked 27,000 steps that day. Comfortable shoes are a must! Disneyland Paris involves a lot of walking, so wear supportive and cushioned footwear to keep you going all day.
- Half Board Meals
Half Board Meals, when we stayed at Newport Bay, were reasonable value. We ate in some lovely restaurants just outside the park on the way back to the hotel, and the food was lovely… proper steak dinners etc and was good value.
- Mickey’s Kiss Goodnight
Do not miss …. Mickey’s Kiss Goodnight, Mickey Mouse appears on the Main Street U.S.A. Train Station waves guests goodnight and recites a few lines. This occurs approximately 10 minutes after Disney Illuminations finishes and recurs sporadically thereafter in about 10-15 minute intervals. So many people don’t know about this and it is just lovely.
So there you have it, my top travel tips for Disneyland Paris, have a ball find the magic and become a kid for a day.