It’s been three years since our last visit to Disneyland Paris and with a recent trip to Orlando under our belt we were excited to experience some Disney magic again. Here’s what we (husband plus kids age 5 & 8) got up to:
The Facebook group ‘Disneyland Paris for Brits’ was an invaluable guide to our trip, and I asked a number of questions on there. We also downloaded several useful apps:
– Magipark – queue times shown in very user friendly format
– Lineberty – to book character meet & greets, although we didn’t use it in the end
We booked a 6 night trip to Villages Nature. Our package included two days of Disney passes (with access to both parks) and we added on a third day, but just with access to one park.
Fastpasses and queue times
Queue times – We downloaded the Magipark app so that we could easily keep an eye on queue times.
Fastpass system – The Disney passes give you access to the paper Fastpass system. Certain rides (marked on the map with ‘FP’ have machines outside where you swipe your Disney passes and you are given paper tickets to return later during specified timeslots, at which time you can enter through the Fastpass queue which is much quicker.
Additional fastpasses – You can now purchase additional ‘Super’ and ‘Ultimate’ Fastpasses. There are various options available and they need to be booked for a specific date. You receive a printable voucher, which must be exchanged at the entrance gates for wristbands and tickets. This entitles you to additional fastpass entries. As we were visiting in July and wanted to be able to visit the Disney parks over the weekend, we booked an ‘Ultimate Fastpass’ for one of the days, allowing us one additional Fastpass entry to a number of rides. Was it worth it? Not really! We had Extra Magic Hour access because we were staying at a Disney-affiliated resort, and rides kept breaking down during our visit. Much more detail below in ‘Day 2’ of our itinerary, if you want to learn more.
You can also use the Lineberty app to ‘book’ Character meet & greets but we didn’t go any of these.
We didn’t have a meal plan and we weren’t going to do any character dining, so we decided not to book any meals in advance. We do like having a sit-down buffet lunch in the Disney parks as it means that we all get to eat what we want, and we get a proper break from racing around the parks. I knew that Plaza Gardens (Disneyland Park) and Restaurant des Stars (Walt Disney Studios) would fit the bill. Luckily we were able to get a table each time without needing to have a booking.
Preparing for a day at Disney
We took a buggy (even though our youngest is nearly 6) as there’s so much walking and it’s really helpful for storage. Each day we put water bottles in the bottom of the buggy, along with two zipup ‘packing cube’ bags, one containing snacks, and one containing hats, sunglasses, suncream, lanyards, autograph books and suncream. Plus comfy shoes for us, and a small bag for valuables (ok, yes, a bumbag).
We alternated our days so that each busy day at Disney would be followed by a chillout day at Villages Nature. On one of these ‘rest days’ we went to the Sea Life Centre at the nearby Val d’Europe mall, which we all really enjoyed.
Day 1 – Disneyland Park
For our first Disney day we used our ‘single park’ ticket, so that we could relax and get our bearings, and save our two multi-park tickets for later on in our trip.
We parked, went through security (had to empty the buggy to push it through) and then headed into Disneyland Park at around 8.45am during Early Magic Hour (EMH).
We walked straight through to Fantasyland and rode the Teacup ride before realising that EMH has changed since we last visited. I should have done my research! There are now many more rides open in different areas of the park, which make it much more exciting than it used to be.
Realising our mistake, we checked the Magipark app to see what was open and headed straight to Discoveryland. We split into pairs because our son is too small for a couple of the rides (Hyperspace Mountain and Indiana Jones), and two of us rode Hyperspace Mountain while two rode Buzz Lightyear. We then headed to Frontierland and rode Thunder Mountain twice and walked towards Adventureland where two of us rode Indiana Jones. As Early Magic Hour came to a close and the park started getting busier we headed to Fantasyland, picked up some paper Fastpasses for Peter Pan and sat down for a snack. Then we all rode Casey Junior and It’s a Small World, and caught the end of the Jungle Book parade.
We walked back round to Discoveryland but the queues were getting long, so we walked back across to Frontierland to play on the shooting gallery (you need two euro coins for this one). By this time our two hour Fastpass window had expired, and I was able to pick up some more passes, so I quickly headed over to Discoveryland to get two passes for Hyperspace Mountain and two for Star Tours. We all met up in Fantasyland to use the paper Fastpasses for Peter Pan. We were all pretty underwhelmed by this one, I like an iconic Disney ride as much as the next Disney fan (It’s a Small World is one of my all time favourites) but I can’t quite understand the long queues for Peter Pan.
We all headed to Discoveryland to ride Star Tours and Hyperspace Mountain (split into pairs again) and then went for lunch. It was easy to get a table at the Plaza Gardens buffet at 1.30pm and we enjoyed the variety of food. We strolled out of Disneyland Park, had a quick look around Disney Village to see what was there, and then went back to enjoy the pool at Villages Nature.
Day 2 – Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland Park (with Ultimate Fastpass)
After a chillout day by the pool, and a visit to the Sea Life Centre, we were ready to get back to Disney. This time we decided to start out at Walt Disney Studios.
We arrived at around 8.20am but had to queue up at Guest Services to exchange our Ultimate Fastpass vouchers for tickets. You have to show photo ID to collect these. You’re given a wristband for each member of your party, plus a paper ticket marked with the date and a list of rides. Each time you use the Fastpass the ride will be ticked off by the Cast Member at the Fastpass queue entrance. You don’t need to show specific ID at each ride, so we were able to shuffle the Fastpasses around our family to make the most of the fact that our younger child wasn’t tall enough for some of the bigger rides.
Once we were into the park, we headed straight to Crush’s Coaster. There are no Fastpasses available for this ride, and queue times are consistently long. Everyone had the same ideas as us, and by the time we joined the queue it was already twenty minutes long. The time passed quickly and it was a fun ride, and a nice way to start the day. Then we headed into Toy Story Land and queued up for the Parachute Drop. The queue moved pretty slowly and the ride broke just before we went on. We quickly rode Slinky Dog and then walked towards Ratatouille and picked up some paper Fastpasses at about 9.45am (for the 10.30-11am slot). We sat down for a coffee and a snack at the tables outside Café Remy and used the paper Fastpasses to go into Ratatouille at 10.30am.
We headed across towards Tower of Terror, where there was already a long queue just for the Fastpass machines, let alone the ride itself. We used the ‘Ultimate Fastpass’ tickets to ride Tower of Terror, which was really fun. Then two of us went off to watch Lights, Motors, Action! (the car stunt show) while two of us used the ‘Ultimate Fastpass’ tickets to ride Rock N Roller Coaster. After the car show we swapped over and two of us rode Rock N Roller Coaster while the other two had an ice cream and then we all went to line up for the Mickey the Magician show at around 12.30 for the 12.55 show. We were there early enough to get pretty good seats, and I noticed that some people who arrived later didn’t manage to get a seat for the performance. It was a lovely show featuring songs from lots of different Disney movies.
We came out of the show at around 1.30pm and had a buffet lunch at Restaurant des Stars. Then we used the ‘Ultimate Fastpass’ tickets to ride Ratatouille again and headed over to Disneyland Park.
So far, so good. We had used all of the passes on our ‘Ultimate Fastpass’ ticket. We were all getting a bit hot and tired but we wanted to make the most of the tickets, so we were excited to use them in Disneyland Park. The park was really busy, partly because we were walking into it during mid-afternoon and partly because it was a hot and sunny Saturday in July. We went across into Discoveryland and picked up some paper Fastpasses for Star Tours and Hyperspace Mountain (splitting into pairs again because of the height restriction) and all rode Star Tours together using the ‘Ultimate Fastpass’ ticket and then used the paper tickets. Afterwards we headed over to Buzz Lightyear but the ride was broken. We split up into pairs and two of us rode Thunder Mountain (Frontierland) while two of us rode Peter Pan (Fantasyland) and then intended to ride Indiana Jones (Adventureland), but when we arrived we found that it had broken wodn. We met up by Thunder Mountain, but the ride broke just as we were about to get on. Finally we walked back across to Buzz Lightyear but the fastpass queue was really long (probably because it kept breaking down during the day so they kept handing out fastpasses) and was snaking right through the middle of Discoveryland, that we decided not to bother.
‘Ultimate Fastpasss’ ticket – The verdict? The reason why I’ve gone into such boring levels of detail about Fastpasses and timings is to illustrate what’s actually involved in using – or attempting to use – the ‘Ultimate Fastpass’ ticket. It was nice to know that in theory we could go on all of the big rides without queuing. However, the reality is that rides break down, not all of the rides are suitable for everyone, there’s a lot of walking around involved, and even the Fastpass queues can be really long sometimes. We wouldn’t pay the extra next time.
Day 3 – Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios
After another chillout day at Villages Nature, swimming, driving mini Jeeps and riding ponies, we were ready for a final full-on day at Disney.
We walked into Disneyland Park at 8.15am and headed straight to City Hall.
The clever people on the ‘Disneyland Paris for Brits’ facebook group had explained that they offer tickets to Mastercard (the credit card) holders for reserved seats at some of the Disney shows each day. You still need to queue up at showtime, but this way you get the best seats in the house. As we were there anyway, and were planning to go to see the car stunt show again in Walt Disney Studios, we joined the queue. They had already given out the day’s allocation of Lion King show tickets (apparently these go like hotcakes at 8am) but we were able to get the tickets for the stunt show.
We took some photos and enjoyed looking around Main Street in the peace and quiet, while checking the Magiparks app to see which rides were open for EMH. No sign yet of any of our favourites, so we headed to Fantasyland and rode on Pinocchio. Then into Frontierland for Thunder Mountain (just a five minute queue at this time of day) and split into pairs as Hyperspace Mountain had opened, so two of us headed that way and two of us rode Thunder Mountain again.
After these rides, we all met up by Buzz Lightyear and were shocked to find that it was actually open. The queues were at twenty minutes and I swiped for some paper Fastpasses before we went in (for the 10.30-11am slot) in case we wanted to ride it later. It’s a lovely fun ride but it kept on stopping and restarting. We all rode Star Tours together but didn’t fancy going on Buzz again so we gave the fastpasses away and rode Star Tours and Hyperspace Mountain again and picked up two paper fastpasses for each for the 11-11.30am slot.
We wandered towards the castle for some coffee and popcorn and then realised that the Jungle Book parade was starting there at 11am. It was really worth watching. Lots of dancing and characters and finishes with colourful daytime fireworks. Then one more ride on Star Tours/Hyperspace Mountain and into the Mickey Philharmagic show.
Then it was lunchtime so we walked across to Walt Disney Studios for the buffet at Restaurant des Stars. On our way there, we had been hoping to get fastpasses for Tower of Terror but the machines were closed and we were told that they weren’t giving out any more that day. We did manage to get four paper fastpasses for Rock N Rollercoaster for the 1.40pm-2.10pm slot. After lunch we tried to get into the 1.15pm Stitch show but we had arrived only five minutes before showtime and the show was already full. We split into pairs again, two of us had two rides on Rock N Rollercoaster (using the four fastpasses) while the other two watched the car stunt show again. We all met up at 2.45pm and rode the Studio tour, followed by another failed attempt to get into the Stitch show (it was already full). A quick ice cream and shopping stop next, and then we headed back towards Disneyland Park. We walked in at around 4.30pm and caught the end of the Jungle Book parade, rode It’s a Small World at 5pm (the queue was around 20 minutes long), and then finished up watching the Parade. A wonderful, busy, final day at Disneyland Paris.
The overall verdict?
We all really enjoy Disneyland Paris, despite the prices and queues, although we were very frustrated by the number of rides that broke down during our visit. We did have to stop ourselves from comparing it with Walt Disney World in Florida, which was just bigger and better, and felt more polished and clean. However, it’s such a nice easy option from the UK, and much more affordable than a trip to Florida.
We wouldn’t bother paying for additional fastpasses again.
Even with three whole days at the parks there are shows that we still haven’t seen, and a number of rides that we haven’t been on. I can’t wait to go back!