In front of the Disneyland Hotel, at the park entrance. Wearing my pins.
I should begin by stating the obvious: I love Disneyland. A lot. My parents never took the family (of six) to Europe, but we never skipped annual trips to Disneyworld in Florida or Disneyland in California. When the rest of my family outgrew it, I continued to go on my own. First with my middle school marching band (cue “Eye of the Tiger” on clarinet and a dorky band uniform, which thankfully we didn’t have to wear all day), with friends in high school (only a bunch of teenagers with new drivers licenses can make a 7-hour road trip from Scottsdale to Anaheim seems like fun), and then again in college (we also went to Las Vegas on that trip…and wished we’d stayed at Disney longer).
I love the landscaping at Disneyland.
I’ve been in France 15 years now, and I think I’ve been to Disneyland Paris at least a dozen times, and I even got to cover the opening of Disney Studios in 2002 for work. I’d go more often but it’s a tad harder to convince Parisians to come with me, especially if it’s cold or wet. I have a few souvenirs, a stuffed Steiff ‘Steamboat Willie’, a Jack Skellington mug, and some cool collector pins (still looking for a good Haunted Mansion or Nightmare Before Christmas pin). And how did I celebrate the 100th edition of the Secrets of Paris Newsletter last week? I went to Disneyland, of course!
Victoria, a fellow Disney fan, with Jack Sparrow in the background.
Anyway, this is just to warn you in advance that I like Disneyland so much that I am willing to put up with four things I don’t like very much:
- going to the suburbs
- standing in long lines
- other people’s kids (and the strollers they ride in on)
- and worst of all…crowds
And judging by the looks on the faces of pretty much everyone else at Disneyland, I don’t think I’m the only one. So here are just a few tips on making your trip to the Magic Kingdom just a little bit less stressful.
The little mice are adorable!
Disclaimer: I’m writing for the large majority of the Secrets of Paris audience, namely English-speaking people living in Paris. The tips don’t address people coming to Disneyland with kids, because I honestly have no idea how parents survive Disneyland…hats off to them.
I got myself a basic Annual Passport (€99), which essentially pays for itself after two or three visits. There are some restricted dates (like Halloween, Christmas), but you can upgrade to two other passes (up to €199) that allow full access, parking, and big discounts at Disney shops and restaurants. A regular ticket purchased from the USA is $74 for just Disneyland (not the Disney Studios next door). If you are a resident of the Ile-de-Frace, you get a special rate of €29, which is pretty darned cheap (you do have to purchase it at least five days in advance, only good weekdays). It’s not easy finding this rate, you have to first of all make sure you’re in the “French language, Ile-de-France” country, which you can change at the bottom of the screen on the Disneyland Paris site if for some reason it defaults you to the UK or US site. This will still usually take you to the “Billet” page for the regular ticket of €53. Just look at the menu on the left and click on “Billet Francilien” and you’ll see the €29 rate for weekdays, and €40 for weekends. Make sure it works for the date you want to go, et voila, buy your ticket. If you want to be sneaky and try to buy a Francilien ticket when you don’t have an Ile-de-France address, don’t come crying to me when you don’t get in. Cheating Disneyland is just bad karma (even if they are a global empire). There are about a billion other “special rates” on the Disney site, so if you can stand it, have a scroll around. Getting on their mailing list will alert you to specials.
The Mark Twain Riverboat ride.
PREPPING FOR THE BIG DAY
What to wear? It’s Disneyland Paris, after all, so no jeans or sneakers. Just kidding. Style still counts in Paris, especially if you’re hoping to get cute pics of you and Jack Sparrow. But do wear comfy shoes, and layer in case it’s too hot or too cold (or too wet, as in the Thunder Mountain Railroad). Pockets, especially ones that zip, are brilliant for holding tickets, FastPasses, and anything loose that you need to secure on the rollercoasters (sunglasses, park map, camera). A small backpack or purse that zips closed is recommended for holding your water bottle, wallet, sunblock, spare sweater, small umbrella or poncho, some granola bars or other snacks that won’t get squashed or attract too much attention (technically, picnics are only allowed outside the park, so you could leave a cooler of food in your car). A hat may be good for sun and light rain, but be sure it’s one you can easily stuff in your bag for rollercoasters. Bring cash in case the cash machine has a line, and make sure your batteries are charged. Finally, don’t wear dangling jewelry, new shoes (unless you also pack band-aids for blisters) or carry a heavy bag that will hurt after a few hours. You can put items in lockers or at the coat check kiosk if you don’t need to carry them around all day (ie a rain coat, change of shoes).
A glass-blower in Merlin the Enchanter boutique (in Sleeping Beauty's Castle).
I own a car, which tends to only come out of storage for trips to Disneyland. Considering the price of RER train tickets (€6.70 each way), if there at least two of you it’s worth paying the fee to park your car at Disneyland (€15). There’s nothing like being sick of crowds after a long day at Disneyland to make that ride back to Paris on public transportation feel like torture. Yes, you may get stuck in traffic like we did last week, but at least no one is bumping into you, taking your seat, playing annoying music too loud, or subjecting you to their personal body odeur. If you had a pile of friends (okay, or a family), you could even rent a car and it would be worth it. Viatours also offers bus and ticket packages for €81 (although you have to go at dawn and leave Disneyland at 7pm, and you still have to get home from the drop-off point in Paris). If you’ve got money to burn, you could always hire a taxi or shuttle service to drop you off and pick you up. Then you can at least sleep in the car. If you absolutely must take the RER A, then be sure to get a round-trip ticket from Paris so you don’t have to stand in line to get back. If there are a bunch of you, get a discount on the price of the tickets by buying a “carnet” of ten for €53.60.
Take the only highway out of east Paris and follow the signs...
DISNEYLAND WITH PETS
I know some of you have dogs. And if you plan on being at Disneyland Paris all day and all night until they close, you may not want to leave them at home on their own. Pedro and Lena can tell when I’m going somewhere fun, and for some reason they always assume they get to come, too. And since they’ve been home alone a lot this summer (it’s been a busy tour season), I thought they’d enjoy a day at Disneyland, too. Of course, they don’t actually get to come into the park, but they don’t know that. The Animal Care Center (or Accueil Animaux) is right at the entrance to the park, and if you come with pets in your car, you get to park in the area closest to the park as well. Bonus! Even better, the rate for dog-sitting and feeding for the day is just €10/dog, a steal compared to Parisian kennels (which were all full, anyway). They can stay overnight for €20/each. The caveat is that hey don’t get walked, so they stay in their cages all day (they get cleaned, and pets are provided with food and water). If you want you can come out and walk them yourself in the grassy area by the parking lot. I left Pedro & Lena with their doggy bed and their own food in a large cage for the two of them. They started howling as I left, just like all the other dogs there. At least they weren’t doing it in my apartment all day! Randomly, you don’t pay at the Care Center; they give you a ticket and you pay at the Coat Check kiosk just before the park entrance, keeping the receipt for when you pick them up. They slept well on the car ride home, completely barked out for the night.
It actually looks totally cute on the outside. Inside? Well, there aren't any rides...
Ready to attack those rides now?
Read How to Survive Disneyland Paris 2.