Rucksacks bulging over your shoulders, you’ve made it onto the RER A, headed straight for ‘Marne-La-Vallée’. You’ve meticulously wrapped up your sandwiches in cling film. Filled up the family water bottles. Slapped Factor 50 sun cream all over the kids’ faces. You’re already feeling tired.
This can only mean one thing: you’re all off on a wonderfully long family day out at Disneyland, hopping between character meet-and-greets, stomach-churning rollercoasters, and all the much friendlier, less frantic rides (gotta love It’s a Small World®). Despite your initial reservations, you’ll probably end up having a marvellous time.
One thing that may have already put you off, however, is the ticket prices. With access to both parks now costing around €90 for an adult, going to Disneyland can feel like a bit of a financial burden these days. But don’t be deterred. Here are some simple pieces of advice to help you get the most out of the day trip out east.
1. Before leaving, pick out three or four absolute must-see attractions.
Whether it’s Space Mountain®, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror® or Ratatouille, the idea is to mark on a map all those attractions you and the kids absolutely can’t miss, so as to avoid wasting time trying to find things (Disneyland Paris, you may have heard, is pretty huge.)
2. If you can, avoid going at the weekend.
For obvious reasons.
3. Thinking about Ratatouille? Then get down early.
Ratatouille is one of the two parks’ most consistently popular attractions. Due in part to the lack of age restrictions, the queue can sometimes last up to two hours. So as soon as the parks open, we suggest you head straight for the Studio entrance to pick up a FASTPASS®, as they sometimes run out before 1pm.
5. Pack a picnic.
Prices for food and drink in the park can be pretty outrageous (think €4 bottles of Coke, €8 sandwiches, and so on.) Lucky, then, that you can eat anything you bring along on the specially set up picnic tables outside.
6. If you’re a photography fiend, don’t forget your charger.
Smartphone battery lives can be notoriously temperamental when photo-taking is involved. Some of you may bring along back-up battery packs, but if you don’t, you can find helpful plug sockets at Casey’s hot dog restaurant on the Main Street, Collonel Hathi’s Outpost pizzeria in Adventureland, and also some more unusual places like the Queen of Hearts’s castle in the middle of the labyrinth.
7. New parents, make sure to use your ‘Baby Switch’ priority.
If you’re bringing along a baby, you should definitely ask for a ‘Baby Switch’ card at the entrance. This will allow one of the two adults to queue up, while the other looks after the baby. And once the ride’s done, the other parent can use the card to re-visit the attraction, this time without having to queue.
8. FASTPASS®, FASTPASS®, FASTPASS®.
Quite simply, the best way to avoid the queues. Available to pick up as you go in, these special FASTPASS® are valid for only an hour, so in order to fit the most into your day, we suggest picking up passes every two hours or so, remembering you can move between the two parks as and when you wish. Some rides aren’t included in the FASTPASS® scheme, so make sure to check out the list of those that are beforehand.
9. Make the most of the final hour of opening time.The crowds tend to die down before closing time, so this is the ideal opportunity for one final quick, queue-free go on one of the big guns like Space Mountain® or Crush’s Coaster.
10. If you’ve got very little ones, Wednesday is the best day to come.
Not so much a fan of head-spinning rollercoasters and the like? And the kids are too small to do them anyway? The best thing is to come on the special ‘jour des enfants’ – ‘kids day’ – every Wednesday, which allows easier access to some of the more serene, toddler-friendly rides and attractions.
11. Back to front
With the majority of the park’s visitor’s choosing to go with the flow, clockwise or anti-clockwise around the park, try going against the grain: start from the back of the park (make sure to pick up a map) and work your way forwards.
12. Special assistance
If you or a member of your party has a disability, it’s worth checking out beforehand what kind of help or assistance you’re entitled to – from 'Easy Access Cards' to wheelchair rental and adapted minibuses, you’ll find a range of services to make the Disney experience noticeably smoother.
Stay the night
Visit the legendary theme park over several days to prolong your escapist minibreak. In addition to the impressive Disneyland Paris Hotel overlooking the park, you'll find Disney’s Hotel New York, the most interesting - as well as the most ‘American’ - in the leisure complex.