There comes a time in every Disney fanatics planning stage when the romance of the parks starts to wear off and the hard questions start to sink in. How are you going to save for this vacation and where can I spend now to save later? How can I visit Disneyland Paris with “champagne taste, but on a beer budget”? The Disneyland Paris Meal Plan sounds like a great place to start but sometimes all the numbers and options can be a little overwhelming and promise more than they can produce.
Follow along as we take you through the Winter Guide to Disneyland Paris and how the Meal Plans’ value is affected by the cold weather and early sunset.
Disneyland Paris Meal Plan, or not?
The Disneyland Paris meal plan is great for those on a budget. It helps guests prepay for their reservations, or even have it paid off by friends and family as a gift ( a penny saved is a penny earned, right). It also helps for those with a Type A planning style, everything planned so nothing is missed.
Having a reservation means you aren’t wasting your time deciding where to go, waiting in line in hopes of an opening, or being disappointed that an opening never became available when you were available to use it.
Are the Meal Plans Really Worth It?
While this wasn’t the last minute Disneyland Paris vacation trip from a hotel and park booking standpoint, for meals we did actively choose to plan less and live in the moment. We allowed the kids to decide where and when to eat, as well as which rides to go on, with friendly direction from mom and dad of course. This, clearly, is not a way to conduct one’s self when reservations are required at most table service restaurants.
If we had wanted to use the dining plan and still let the children choose, it would have been necessary to make dining reservations and ask for their input months in advance in the planning stage, and just let them pick lunch on their own. This way, we would use the quick service tickets anywhere and still have our table service vouchers available for dinner.
In order to get the most value for your meal plan vouchers, it is important to note which restaurants take dining plan reservations and the value of the meals you plan on purchasing.
How the Winter Schedule Affects Reservation Availability
When it comes to the Disneyland Paris dining plan, the ability to make a reservation can make or break your choice to purchase. If your number one choice is full, are you going to wait and see if space opens up, will you book at your second choice, or will you throw in the towel and wing it when you get there?
Why is it harder to book in winter?
Because the parks close earlier, and therefore the restaurants within the parks also close early. Starting in October, and lasting well into the new year, most table service restaurants will close their doors at 6 pm, making the last available reservation at 5 pm. The main park closes at 7 pm and Studios closes at 6 pm.
What does this mean for you?
It means, with a Dining Plan, you will routinely have to make the choice; Fireworks or reservation? Walt Disney Studios have a closing ceremony at 6 pm and by the time it is finished and you have successfully left the park and entered the Main park, you may not get the greatest of views so it is safe to say that you may not be able to do both in one evening.
Lines also start to form at least 1 hour beforehand. Knowing when you are willing to have dinner affects if you will be able to use your vouchers.
Breakfast options at Disneyland Paris
Since March 2017, breakfast has been removed from the Disney hotel room rates and must be purchased separately. This is now what typically drives most guests to purchase a meal plan.
A pamphlet in our room highlighted the ample options for breakfast within the parks at a variety of prices to meet everyone’s budget. This, however, did not work for us in practice as we missed maximizing our Early Magic Time two days in a row due to the incredible queues at these locations. The irony of this was not lost on us. These were not “ample options” for us!
Hotel breakfast (super efficient for getting to magic hours) starts at 16euro per adult, but this varies by hotel. At Disney’s Newport Bay Club, breakfast costs 25euro per adult and 23euro per child (aged 3-12).
I’m sorry, but placing a 3-year-old into the same price bracket as a 12-year-old is ridiculous. There is a big difference between a 3 year old and 12 year old when it comes to amount of food consumed, and the difference in price between a child and adult should be more than 2 euros!
It cost us 73 euro each time we went downstairs for breakfast. Sufficed to say, we only went twice, and we really just wanted to get to the parks at a reasonable hour. Both times, might I add, the cashier gave us a strange look when I said we didn’t have vouchers and asked if we knew the price. Yes, we realize this is overpriced but the other options suck so we are paying for it out of pocket, thank you for reminding me.
There is a character breakfast option available, at Plaza Gardens. We did this once. It was great, we saw 5 characters and therefore didn’t have to wait in line to see them elsewhere. And the food was pretty much the same as the hotel breakfast, just a little more expensive to cover the additional cost of the characters. However, getting reservations can be hard to do, as you can only book up to 60 days in advance with vouchers or prepayment, or 3 days in advance on site (if there is anything left).
Breakfast in the parks is lacking, in our opinion. As the parks don’t open until 8:30 am, guests wishing to use this option (either paying out of pocket or using the free half board plus breakfast vouchers) will need to wait until the start of EMT (Early Magic Time) to have breakfast. There is also the option of waiting until after EMT to eat, therefore using your time more wisely but I do not see little ones waiting until 9:30 am to eat. The menu is consistent with traditional French Breakfast; coffee, juice, and croissant.
Breakfast in Disney Village is for us the last option available at Disneyland Paris. McDonald’s does serve Egg McMuffins and pancakes in the morning but when we went, they were, I believed, grossly understaffed. The kiosks were not available and only two cashiers were left to take and fill orders. This took us 45 minutes from entering the restaurant to leaving the restaurant. EMT wasted!
The Earl of Sandwich is also an option; they have 2 breakfast choices – Croissant with jelly, or beans with toast, a sausage, and bacon. There is also the option of picking a fruit and yogurt for a mix match of items. The wait was longer than we cared for and the quality was lacking. On the plus side, it only cost 25euro for the 4 of us to eat.
And finally, Starbucks seems to have a breakfast option as well for a decent price; pancakes and coffee for 9 euro. The same price as the parks croissant option but less crowded.
Our Experience with Disneyland Paris Meal Plans November 2017
Last November we took advantage of the buy 2, get 2 promotion. This meant we were able to book 4 nights (and 5 days) for the price of 2 nights (and 3 days). To make the price even cheaper, we went from Sunday to Thursday; a Saturday reservation would have nearly doubled the price of the trip.
Knowing that the parks closed so early, due to early nightfall in winter, we didn’t want to have dinner too early, then rush to find the perfect viewing spot for the Disney Illuminations show at Sleeping Beauty Castle. We also didn’t enjoy being bound by reservations last time, in that we couldn’t ride this or that because the wait time would have made us late for dinner, even though the kids just feasted on a bucket of popcorn and probably wouldn’t eat much anyways.
We decided that since the parks close at 7 pm, dinner at 730 pm wouldn’t be a horrible idea. They are used to going to bed a little later while on vacation. Twice we waited until after the fireworks to eat, at the Rainforest Cafe and Planet Hollywood, and another night we made reservations for Captain Jacks for 5 pm (we walked in at noon and asked) and managed to find a decent spot around 6:15 pm for the Disney Illuminations show at 7 pm.
Although by this time, Sleeping Beauty Castle and surrounding area had already been roped off so we had to walk all the way around Fantasyland and Discoveryland to find this spot and I still needed to hold the kids up high while hubby photographed – don’t worry, there wasn’t anyone behind us.
There was another promotional offer for winter; Free Half Board Plus. Looking at the savings for these two promotions, we decided that we would prefer having more time within the parks, instead of free meals, since we couldn’t be sure where we wanted to eat and how much we would actually be saving. At least with the BOGO promo, we had a tangible saving amount.
A Glance at our Choices
Breakfast – Hotel
Lunch – Cafe Hyperion
Dinner – Captain Jack’s
Breakfast – Earl of Sandwiches
Lunch – Studios cafeteria
Dinner -Planet Hollywood
Breakfast – Hotel
Lunch – Cowboy Cookhouse
Dinner – Rainforest Cafe
Breakfast – McDonald’s
As you can see, we would not have used our vouchers very effectively. We did, however, enjoy the freedom that came with this schedule and would replicate it should we go back again during the winter months.
Now that the new 2018 plans are out, the Standard Meal Plan does look like a much better option; hotel breakfast and one buffet meal in the parks or the hotel. If we were to return in the winter months, I would take a longer look at the buffet lunch options and take serious consideration.
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