2018 Disneyland Paris Trip Planning Guide
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Disneyland Paris (DLP) is an exciting place, with quite a few hotel options, two parks, and more opportunity than you can fit into one visit. This guide covers what you need to know before heading to Disneyland Paris. We have been fortunate to live a few hours drive from DLP for a few years and have visited on four separate occasions. Here, you will find the most up-to-date information and advise, following our most recent Christmas trip to Disneyland Paris during the 25th Anniversary. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, this guide has the hardcore Disney Fans who travel internationally solely for Disneyland Paris in mind as well as for those who are planning a trip to Europe and would like to make it a stop on there tour so to speak. Our goal is to cover everything from dining, hotels, and all the little in-betweens. For those traveling a good distance to visit Disneyland Paris, often the biggest question is “When is the best time of year to visit Disneyland Paris?”
Disneyland Paris has seen a big change in customer service delivery in the last few years in part due to the successful Disney buy-out of Euro Disney SCA in 2017. This resulted in Disney assuming full ownership of what had become its most disappointing multi-gate theme park resort. With the removal of outside investors, Disney is now free to do what they want to boost the park, and with the engagement of Disneyland Paris management, can spend as they see fit. Between our first DLP trip in summer 2014 and our Christmas trip in 2017, the atmosphere has changed very quickly and dramatically. In 2014, on our first visit, we found that the look, feel, cleanliness was significantly different from Walt Disney World. We chalked it up to “We are in Europe, customer service delivery is just different here”, but to be honest, there seemed to be a bit of a depressed feeling to the Park. Branding in any business is very important, and maintaining a certain uniform standards is generally expected.
Fast Forward to Christmas 2017 with the Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary celebrations in full swing and the Park has come through a very successful renovation. Furthermore, the park has really stepped up the performances and customer service is more in line with that Disney branded look and feel you see in Florida. Also, the park is spotless and has gained a shimmering beauty.
On the bright side, Disneyland Paris is has grown in leaps and bounds and is still aiming to bring DLP fully in line with its American counterparts with the conclusion of “Project Sparkle”. Some have complained of the lack of announcements for DLP at d23 2017, but as I see it Disney is still integrating DLPs management core into the corporate structure. We hope to see big announcements at D23 2019 for DLP.
Disneyland Paris is the all-encompassing name for the entire resort which consists of the Disney Village shopping and entertainment district, 7 official Disney-themed hotels, several partner hotels (ie. Explorers Hotel), and of course the two parks: Parc Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios Park. Disneyland Paris is smaller than Walt Disney World and there isn’t as much to do there. For us to travel to Europe from North America just for Disneyland Paris is just not feasible, we feel that combining it with a bigger plan well just increase the magic of the trip. That said DLP is a park that Disney fans could spend days exploring.
Why make the trip to Disneyland Paris if you are in the United States? For Disney fans, this is a non-issue. It is definitely a place to visit for a few days; there is a stunning beauty that is unique to this park. Also, if the opportunity arises a few days in DLP is a great addition to a European Holiday trip. Well, we have visited Walt Disney World on multiple occasions we have yet to visit Disneyland Resort in California.
Should You Visit Disneyland Paris In 2018?
Yes, 2018 is a great time to visit with the continued Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary. The celebration has a lot of special entertainment lined up with a daytime parade called Disney Stars on Parade, as well as the new nighttime spectacular called Disney Illuminations. The anniversary also includes two new stage shows, rejuvenated attractions, so much more. We traveled to DLP in late 2017 which gave us the opportunity to see the 25th Anniversary celebrations with the bonus of Christmas and Halloween back-to-back. The 25th Anniversary celebration shows may continue in late 2018 as well, very confusing, not sure keep an on twitter lol.
The next big thing at DLP may not arrive til beyond 2020. With DLP in long-term planning mode nothing new and substantial is on the horizon. The park is fresh and new again, with long-term plans that involve Marvel. There has been some speculation of a reimagining of Walt Disney Studios Park at some point, we await further announcements from Disney. With all the recent Disney-Fox merge the future is bright for all the Disney parks. This summer has the arrival of Marvel Super Heroes Summer at DLP from 10 June until 30 September 2018. Not sure I would jump on an overseas flight for that. In our view, a 2018 Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary, Halloween, Christmas combo would be a better plan for an overseas hop.
With no official announcements of this possible plans, we can be sure Disney is cooking something up. We hope to see some small changes and refreshes that will lead to the at this time unofficial long-term plans. (Update: Big Plans for DLP)
With the resorts 25th anniversary tagline “It’s time to Sparkle” DLP has certainly come a long way since our first visit in 2014 specifically in the maintenance and upkeep department.
If you can pull yourself away from Disneyland Paris the beautiful city of Paris is just next door. We highly recommend spending several days in this top city. We offer extensive travel tips in our France Archive on our mostly non-Disney blog TappedOutTravellers.com.
How Many Days?
The short answer: As many as you can!
Whether you fly into Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris or take the Eurostar from London’s Heathrow airport, there is so much to see and do in and around Disneyland Paris. We recommend 3 Days at DLP for Disney fans and for the non-Disney fans, one day will allow you to enjoy Parc Disneyland to its fullest. How much time you spend is a personal question as there are many bucket list places you will want to visit throughout the Paris region such as the Eiffel Tower, and Versaille with its spectacular gardens.
Disney fans will want to explore the Disney Village and the hotels. Disney Village is a weak version of Disney Springs in Walt Disney World and is geared more towards the restaurant fare such as The Rainforest Cafe, and the live action Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show…with Mickey & Friends! dining show.
La Place de Rémy mini-land is a must see “Paris street” based on the Disney film Ratatouille. This area has a very popular attraction the trackless dark ride Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy that will require a time commitment for the Disney fan, FASTPASS is your friend here and they go quickly. It also has a great gift shop and restaurant called Bistrot Chez Rémy. The most striking part from a rather nerdy perspective is when you cross into this land at a certain point upon entering the land you are surrounded by beautiful music and ambiance, you no longer hear the screams from Toy Soldier Parachute Drop or RC Racer which are only a few meters beyond this mini-land.
Planning a Disneyland Paris Holiday is pretty easy compared to Walt Disney World, DLP just isn’t very big compared to the other Disney Parks.
If you have determined how many days to visit DLP great, now you need to decide whether a holiday package is for you. Like the other Disney Parks, DLP offers holiday packages with hotel, park tickets, and meal plans bundled together. These bundles are where you will find the best discounts.
Other options include a few legitimate websites that offer real Disney tickets at discounted prices. Not only can you find discounted ticket prices for various Disney theme parks (for single and multiple days), but you can also find other deals & promotions.
We have been fortunate to have spent several years working in Europe and have driven a few hours to Disneyland Paris. Realistically most of our readers will be flying or sailing! to Europe. That said your best bet for driving to Disneyland Paris we advise Google Maps and a trusty GPS / SatNav.
There are so many ways to travel to Europe. Visiting DLP as part of a bigger adventure is the best and most cost-effective way. That said there are so many options for the budget conscious or going all out. Picture this traveling from the United States via Cunard’s Queen Mary II Transatlantic Ocean liner, transferring to the Eurostar train out of St. Pancras Station in London direct to Disneyland Paris then use the Disney Express Hotel Check-In & Luggage Service.
There are also trains hourly our shorter from Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. Some are direct and some take you to downtown Paris where you will have to transfer to another train to get out to DLP.
For info on the metro/RER or ticket prices, please visit ratp.fr (available in English).
Where to Stay
The second most frequent question we are asked is, where to stay at Disneyland Paris? Do we want onsite or off-site? Is the price really worth all that extra money? The short answer is yes, the long answer… is still yes. For some, particularly those traveling from overseas DLP is considered a one time visit for the typical traveler, and more of a tactical matter for Disney Fans. “How can I work DLP into all my trips to Europe?” To the typical traveler, we say – with all the different experiences available at DLP and the 7 Disney-themed hotels each one is designed for a different experience – so if your budget permits multiple trips will offer more exciting discoveries. From 10 meters to the Gates of the Magic Kingdom or a 15-minute walk, unique breakfast experiences, and unique themed rooms, there is a little something for everyone’s budget and level of fandom.
Ultra-budget hotel Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch is roughly 20 minutes drive and does not offer a shuttle service, for those really wanting to stretch their Disney dollars. The further away from the park, a hotel is located, the less expensive it becomes, but all feature fewer amenities. You will find varies service levels within the hotel itself, that offer perks and exclusives, such as included breakfast. Take all of these into consideration and be well informed when you talk to the booking agent about your hotel requirements.
There are also 8 Disneyland Paris Partner Hotels; Vienna House Dream Castle Hotel, Vienna House Magic Circus Hotel, Radisson Blu Hotel, Algonquin’s Explorers Hotel, Kyriad Hotel, Hôtel l’Elysée Val d’Europe, Adagio Marne-la-Vallée Val d’Europe and B&B Hotel. Each one offers free access to the Disneyland Paris shuttle service. Most, if not all, have breakfast included options when booking directly with them or with Booking.com. Guests of Disneyland Paris Partner Hotels do not have access to Early Magic Hours, but most of that time will be used having breakfast and not waking up at the crack of dawn, so is this really a loss? There also isn’t a way to purchase the Disney Dining Plan without having a Disney hotel reservation, so all meals will need to be purchased out of pocket. Be sure to check the value of your hotel choice, a prospective Dining Plan option and dining reservations (with menu PDF on hand) when making any final commitments. The right choice will appear in the math.
There are many Off-site hotel options, below we will add great reviews from the various nearby hotels.
OFF-SITE VS. ON-SITE?
Our Disney plans often center around a Disney on-site hotel and it isn’t just about the room. Of the Disney hotels, we’ve stayed in at Disneyland Paris they are much nicer overall than the off-site hotels. If you find yourself needing that extra space and cash Val d’Europe hotels may be worth the short commute. There are a lot of reasons to side with one or another… there has to be, or the option wouldn’t exist. Those strapped into a budget, to maximize Disney-spending, or plan on staying a little longer, off-site is the way to go.
Some would say a hotel is just a place to lay your head, we enjoy the different themed experiences. For those travelers wishing to fully-immerse themselves in the Disney experience, and want to spend maximum hours in the parks, or require frequent access to the hotel, then maybe on-site is for you.
And for the perks which are substantial. Big picture the best ones are walking distance to the parks, Extra Magic hours, as well as Disney meal options such as the Full or Half Board Meal Plans, and our favorite item exclusive character meets. We try to make rope drop for Peter Pans Flight or Ratatouille and get that much prized empty Main Street photo.
For our personal picks, we enjoy Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe (value), Disney’s Newport Bay Club (moderate), or Disneyland Hotel (deluxe). Hotel Santa Fe with its grand Disney-Pixar Cars renovation has a desert-like environment fun for both boys and girls. Newport Bay Club has seen some major renovation as well, being completed from 2013 through 2016. Its theming took me back to our cruise on the Disney Wonder in 2010.
Disney’s Hotel New York is terrible. Its general rundown appearance is not befitting a Disney Hotel. It’s in such disrepair this hotel will be closing for 15 months in 2018, with a conversion to Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel. This was announced at the 2017 edition of D23. This is one to avoid for now.
Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne got a makeover this was scheduled for completion at the end of 2017. The rooms have had Toy Story character theming added to them. The awful bunkbeds are gone now as well, replaced with trundle beds.
Disney’s Sequoia Lodge with the lovely Hunter’s Grill and Beaver Creek Tavern and its tree felled surroundings give you that mountain retreat feeling. We love the Bambi and friends theming. The trees are even imported from the West Coast of the United States and Canada.
Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch is not really our jam but for completeness of this guide, it is a campground outside of the Disneyland Paris’s main resort perimeter. It sits just 15 minutes drive from the theme parks. And gives access to early magic hours. It is the farthest Disney hotel from the parks. We are more Disney bubble type travelers. And the major downside for us is no shuttle service.
Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe received a grand renovation a few years ago with the adding of Disney-Pixar Cars theming throughout. Specific theming includes Luigi, Mater, McQueen, and Sally. Like all the Disney hotels in Disneyland Paris, this hotel has seen rapid improvement in just a few years.
Finally, Disneyland Hotel is magical and its location is basically touching the Magic Kingdom. Our hotel room was 250 meters from the park entrance. During our stay, we noticed some areas could certainly use a sprucing up. For us staying at the Disneyland Hotel was a bit of an “emergency” everything else was booked. This hotel we would only recommend to those where money is no issue. For the majority, Disney’s Newport Bay Club is best (our top pick for value & quality) or Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe.
Are you looking at booking a Disneyland Paris holiday package, we will go through the various meal plans the on-site hotels offer. There are several dining options available at Disneyland Paris. Counter service, table service, character dining, buffet, and Dining show. Each of these options has their own price point, theme, reservation policy and target audience in mind. Here, we will review the options and help you pick the right dining choices for your next Disneyland Paris vacation.
Counter service, akin to fast food, is just what it sounds like. Long lines, select menu options and high turn around. This is a great option when guests want to stick to a budget and a timetable. When touring hours are short and the family isn’t interested in sitting for 2+ hours in a restaurant, counter service is for you. Click here to check out the counter service restaurant options. Click the names and you will find a view menu option. Here you will find that most menus start at 10euro. There is a children’s menu but we have found the kids prefer to have slightly larger meals, or just aren’t interested in chicken burgers with a side salad (I don’t blame them). Finding a table, and enough chairs, to fit your whole family can be a little bit of a waiting game. Pushchairs are also not allowed in the restaurant itself unless the child is sleeping. There is seating outside, so don’t be distraught if they still refuse to allow a sleeping baby into the restaurant; the hall is can be very crowded and space is at a premium. Also, Walt Disney Studio Counter Service restaurants have larger interiors than Disneyland Park. There are a number of counter service restaurants in Disney Village, like Earl Of Sandwich, McDonalds and Star Bucks.
Table service restaurants are just another fancy name for sitting down and enjoying your meal. There are 18 table service restaurants between the two parks and Disney Village, click here to view their locations, menus and price points. Each restaurant offers a different theme; from Traditional French Dining at Bistrot Chez Remy, to an American diner- style menu at Café des Cascadeurs (we’ve been here with the kids. It was amazing.) Reservations are usually required to get a table, but they will allow walk-ins from time to time. If you can’t decide beforehand, try checking in during the early morning and ask for any available time slot in the evening; there are always last minute cancelations.
Character dining. There are 3 character dining options at Disneyland Paris; Inventions at the Disneyland Paris Hotel, Auberge de Cendrillon and Plazza Gardens in Disneyland Park. You must get a reservation and most tend to fill up shortly after the 60-day reservation mark. They are very popular and equally as expensive. At Inventions, the characters can range from secondary characters like Cinderella’s mice, and the Cat from Pinocchio, primary characters like Mickey, Pluto and friends, and as well as more obscure characters that the everyday Disney fan may not be aware of. They are not able to confirm which characters will be at which sitting so it really is a gamble, but the buffet is incredible. Auberge de Cendrillon is a princess dining experience. During the 2hour meal, which I would describe as fine dining, a number of princesses (and a few of her companions) will visit each table to take pictures and sign autographs. There is a Princess dance in the middle of the hall at various times of the day, it is really hard to pinpoint the optimum time of day to visit. We like this restaurant because we can meet more princesses in the same amount of time that we would have waited in line at the Princess Pavillion, and we had a great meal in the process. Don’t worry, the kid’s menu does sounds “fancy” but there are enough options that even the pickiest eater should be able to find something they like. To be sure, check the menu out before making reservations. Lastly, Plaza Gardens recently replaced Cafe Mickey’s as the Character breakfast restaurant. There are rumors that they will be moving back shortly but until the move is actually confirmed, we will continue to refer to Plaza Gardens. This is where you will find Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and all the other primary characters you came to Disneyland Paris to meet. They also rotate which characters are available each day (in case you wanted to each here every morning, because the food really was that great), Winnie the Pooh and friends have been known to make an appearance, same with Scrooge McDuck.
Buffet style dining. There are 11 buffet options throughout the parks, two of whom are also Character Dining. From here, you only pay a flat fee based on age and the under-3’s eat free. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if someone isn’t all that hungry or is a picky eater. At buffet restaurants, they assume all sitting guests are eating guests. Again, their style of food is considered to be International and should have at least a little something for kids to munch on.
Lastly, Disneyland Paris offers one Dining show; Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show…with Mickey & Friends! During the course of 1.5 hours, you will be fed and entertained. Hosted by the legendary Buffalo Bill, famous faces, such as Chief Sitting Bull, Annie Oakley, and the Rough Riders, re-enact fabled moments from the frontier through shootouts and stunts. Plus there are special appearances by Mickey and friends. Ticket sell fairly quickly and therefore we strongly recommend purchasing once your dates have been decided. Children under 3 do not require a ticket, but they also will not receive a seat of their own. We tried this option once with our 2 years old and it was not optimal. The next time we attended the show, we purchased a seat for our then 18month old and we do not regret it. There are no meal options; standard chicken and ribs with potatoes and chili. There is a vegetarian option, which needs to be mentioned in advance, and the children have a slight variation of the same thing. They are also given ice lollies (popsicles) instead of warm apple pie.
Breakfast options. Having listed all the lunch and dinner options, let’s turn out attention to the most important meal of the day; breakfast. We have already mentioned Plaza Gardens as an option but what about the others. There is a buffet option available in the hotels; Disney-themed hotels no longer have breakfast included in their packages, and some off-site hotels may require an additional fee. There is the option of paying out of pocket or using the Disney Dining Plan to make this purchase a little easier to bare (only available for on-site guests). From here, the most popular options are Cafe Hyperion in Disneyland Park and Restaurant en Coulisse in Walt Disney Studios. These two options have been known to get fairly busy, fairly quickly, and stay that way. Eating here, however, requires guests to wait until the parks open for EMH (not an optimum option for off-site guests that don’t have access to Early Magic Hours).
We, therefore, suggest at least purchasing the half board dining plan, which includes breakfast in the hotel and one quick service meal per day, per ticketed guest (with the cost of the plan often being less than the out of pocket price for the hotel breakfast on its own). For off-site guests, we suggest purchasing the hotel breakfast as well and arriving shortly after the doors open. Maximizing your breakfast time and arriving at the park gates for rope drop.
WHAT TO PACK
To give you a baseline, our Disney Packing List will prepare you for any of the Disney Parks. For Paris and Europe, in general, you may need a voltage converter, and you will definitely need a travel adapter. There are many ways to charge your devices; we recommend the BESTEK Universal Travel Adapter. It is a combination voltage converter, USB charger, and travel tip adapter, all in one. This unit is amazing and they are very pack friendly.
If you haven’t heard of packing cubes it’s time to start we strongly recommend them. Instead of throwing everything into the suitcase, and rummaging through it at the hotel, looking for the specific top or lost pair of socks, packing cubes are the perfect way to organize your luggage and find everything quickly. How you choose to organize your luggage is a personal choice, we have found color coding for family members has great advantages; green for dad, red for mum, purple for sister, and brother likes blue. This takes the chore out of unpacking. Mum would prefer to have her shirts in one cube and trousers/pants in another, and the kids have there very own cubes. Best of all the children won’t be able to make a mess of all the folding. For the carry-on traveler, compression bags might be the way to go, great for train travel in Europe and for small luggage, remember if you bring a lot of clothes and compress them it’s still gonna be heavy.
Packing for Disneyland Paris in winter can be a challenge, Paris has legit winters (it even snows). For periods from October to March there are definitely minus temperatures so pack for cooler weather. Have a look at our Disney Winter Guide you will definitely want warm clothes for several days.
Your Disneyland Paris adventure will include lots of walking, and trains, excess luggage could still the magic so go light. You don’t need that cocktail dress when you can’t find a sitter for the children, and you most definitely don’t need to pack their entire toy room just to keep them entertained in the queues. We believe in “a pair and a spare”. Have your designated Disney touring footwear, and a spare in case they get wet, broken or lost (it happens to the best of us). Visiting for 5 days, have 6 pairs of everything – not 20. Pack outfits, not options, and if you are staying on vacation after Disneyland Paris, find a laundromat and wash those 6 pairs, no need to pack more. Hotels offer complimentary shampoos and soaps, there is a hairdryer in the bathroom and the kids don’t need excessive amounts of distractions; “count the tiles on the ground as we walk closer to the entrance” is a very real game and has been played numerous times (in a single day).
Rick Steves recommends a lot of space saving tips and tricks for travelers, though some suggestions are more space saving than money saving. For example, Mr. Steves would say to purchase most of your consumables at the destination if you plan on using them up before heading back. This is great because you don’t need to worry about luggage allowance for a pack of diapers, or could have put something more important in your suitcase than a week’s worth of snacks. There are grocery stores in France that you can simply purchase these items from once you have arrived. Why is this less budget-friendly? Because many of these tourist destinations hike their prices because they know tourists will need the luggage space of other items, or they have unexpectedly run out of their consumables early. While the prices may be higher than you are used to, think of the luggage allowance money saved and the time/effort saved not having to visit the luggage carousel. You would be surprised which option leaves you with more money in your pocket.
There is something to be said for minimalism once in a while. There is a great selection of Disney suitcases and carry-on bags online, to bring empty, that will be cheaper than being stuck buying an overpriced extra carry-on well on holiday. Consider these things when making your airline purchase luggage overage fees are often higher than the fees for mailing your souvenirs through in the post.
Need a Europe guide for the not Disney part of your trip? We suggest a dedicated guide for Europe such as Rick Steves Best of Europe containing valuable advise for your travels in Europe.
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