This year I treated myself to an Annual Pass for Disneyland Paris! I absolutely love Disney and figured I would take advantage of how close Disneyland Paris is to London. I bought the most expensive pass because there are no blackout days and I get the most perks and discounts (if you are pondering getting yourself one, there are four to chose from and you can find more info here and a really good breakdown of benefits here). With this in mind I was keen to get a trip in as soon as possible since the last and only time I had visited the Parks was back in 2012 and 2017 is the 25th Anniversary so they have added lots of cool new things to celebrate. Due to the close proximity I wanted to do it in a weekend to save annual leave, since I am planning on taking a lot more trips across the Channel for my Disney fix. I spent a lot of time researching this so I thought it would be helpful to have all the information in one place in case anyone else wanted to make the weekend trip. Originally this post was meant to be a tips and tricks to doing Disneyland Paris in a weekend but clearly I love writing about Disney as it turned into a mammoth post meaning I’ve had to split it into two parts – read on below for everything you need to know about transport, planning your day and how to make the most of your time at Disneyland Paris.
Transport to Disneyland Paris
Eurostar is by far the easiest way to get to Disneyland Paris if you live near London, Ashford or Ebsfleet. I appreciate if you live in Scotland, for example, it is not easy to get a train from London and then flying is probably your best bet. The Eurostar gets you straight into the heart of the magic. You walk out the station at Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy and then there is just a security gate separating you from Disney Village and the Parks! Honestly, it’s that close! You can either get the direct train or a train to Lille then change for a train to Disney. The direct trains run less frequently but changing at Lille isn’t complicated so don’t worry, we managed it just fine with our limited French! You can book Eurostar up to 180 days in advance of the return travel date; journeys that involve a connection with French rail network can be booked up to 90 days in advance (so if you change at Lille, for example). Sometimes they have deals on or release cheap tickets so be on the look out. Once the cheaper tickets are gone you could easily end up paying over £200 return. I booked our weekend in June relatively late so it cost just over £100 return per person leaving Saturday morning and returning Sunday evening. In September I have booked to leave Friday morning and come back Saturday evening for £76 return per person. You can probably find cheaper if you are flexible with dates or can do mid week.
The train ride itself takes 3-4 hours from London to Disneyland Paris. Our train was delayed around 20 minutes at the Airport train stop on the way there. The train from Lille isn’t Eurostar so may be subject more to delays; having said that our Eurostar from Lille on return was delayed 40 minutes.
I haven’t flown to Disneyland Paris yet as when I went back in 2012, I got the Eurostar too. My trip in September will be on the Eurostar as well but in October for Halloween it is too expensive and flights are cheaper so I will probably pick this option. With flights, you land at Charles De Gaulle airport and have to make your way to Disneyland Paris by yourself. There are shuttle buses like the Magical Shuttle or you can organise a private transfer, depending how many people in your group one may work out cheaper than the other. The Magical Shuttle will drop you at the hotels in Disneyland Paris itself so you can drop off your luggage (even if it’s too early to check in) and collect your park tickets and other paperwork if you booked it as part of a package. If you would rather, you can hire a car at the airport and drive to your hotel instead.
If you want to do Disneyland Paris in a weekend and drive, I assume you will have to leave early. I have never driven as with only me or one other person in the car it’s just not cost effective and probably works out the same price as me getting the Eurostar – and I can nap on the train! If you are going to drive, make sure you have enough change for the tolls on the French side and make sure you have everything in or on your car as required by French law. Also check if there are any petrol shortages or other issues that could affect you whilst in France. I have heard that driving to Disneyland Paris is fairly straightforward once you get out of the tunnel.
Getting a coach is another option but if you want to do it in a weekend you will probably have to get at least one overnight coach to save time. Prices for coaches are not too bad but you have to weigh up if you would rather pay less for your journey and it take a while meaning potentially less time in the Parks.
As with anything, if you only have a short amount of time it does require some sort of plan. If you are a fly by the seat of your pants kinda person, that’s fine but I honestly suggest you have the bare bones of a plan, even if it’s ‘meet Mickey Mouse’ hastily scribbled on a napkin from breakfast. Doing Disneyland Paris in a weekend meant we had about a day and a half in the actual Parks themselves – 18 hours approximately, which is plenty if you use them wisely.
Before you go, make a list of everything you absolutely have to do and cannot miss – this includes rides, shows, parades, everything except food unless you want to eat at a specific restaurant or try a certain sweet treat. Be realistic, you cannot do every single thing in a weekend, it’s just not possible. If there are more than one of you going, get everyone to do this. It involves a bit of research but everything you need is on the Disneyland Paris website. I was in proper planning mode so my list was colour coded by land (Fantasyland, Adventureland, etc), again this info is on the website. I also made a note of which rides had fastpasses – more on this later. On your list, also add some things you would like to do but don’t mind skipping if there isn’t time. Amalgamate the lists of everyone going with you and that is basically your plan for the weekend. If there are a lot of you and your list is too long, you may have to split up at points to get it done. For example, I get motion sickness so it means that as much as I’d love to, I cannot go on Crush’s Coaster or Ratatouille – but Ratatouille was on Anna from Would Be Traveller‘s list as a must do, so whilst I was queuing to meet Belle on the second day, she went off to ride Ratatouille.
I process things a lot better if they are written on paper so mine was a paper list that I then turned over and started a new list, whilst we were waiting for the parade – this time I added more timings for shows and meet and greets. (I am a massive fan of lists, if you hadn’t already guessed!) Disneyland Paris has an app that you can download, which will tell you wait times, which is super helpful when in the Parks because it saves you walking across the park to a ride only to find it has a two hour wait time. If you download the app ahead of time, it has up to date timings for shows and regular meet and greets – by this I mean download a week or two in advance, not months as then it’s subject to change. Sidenote: be aware that due to adverse weather conditions shows and parades may be cancelled. It’s frustrating but it happens.
Shortcuts and Timesavers
Disney want you in the Parks as fast as possible and for as long as possible so they make it super easy to do so.
- Disney Express – if you are staying in a Disneyland Paris hotel, Disney Express is pretty awesome. You basically take your bag to their desk in Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy station and as if by magic it appears in your hotel for you to collect later, leaving you free to go straight into the Parks and enjoy your day. If you book a package with Disneyland Paris direct with hotel, Park tickets and Eurostar you can add this on at time of booking. If you are not sure what you want to do, that’s fine, when you get to the station you can go to the desk and pay there. It was €14 each for them to take our suitcases to Sequoia Lodge and then collect them the following day and take them to the station. To me, it was worth it. It saved us walking to our hotel just to leave our suitcases there and walk back to the Parks. It also left us to spend Sunday in the Parks and not worry about luggage storage or going back to the hotel to get our bags. If you only have a weekend, it is definitely worth looking into to save time. If you have booked a package with Disneyland Paris then when you drop your bag off at the station, they will give you your Park tickets and any other paperwork you need to go straight into the Parks and get on with your day.
- Extra Magic Hours – these are the two hours before the Park is open to everyone, where you can go in and ride certain rides (not all rides are open) and meet characters. It is usually a bit quieter than it would be later in the day. You can enjoy up to two hours extra if you are staying in a Disney hotel or hold certain annual passes. If you can, make use of this, even if it’s just to meet characters or be front of the queue when the rope drops and Frontierland opens for everyone to leg it to Big Thunder Mesa (Big Thunder Mountain, the wildest ride in the West).
- Fastpasses – these are the best things ever when you are short on time. They are free so do not ever pay for them! Essentially they are a pass to skip the queue and come back later at a stated time. Not all rides have them so do a quick search on the Disneyland Paris website to check if the rides you want to go on have them. For the rides that do have them, there is usually an area next to the queue or ride itself with machines. You need to scan your park ticket and it will give you a time to come back. Bear in mind, these are first come first serve so once they are gone, that’s it until the next day. You may rock up to the machine at 10am but only get fastpasses for a return time of 4:30pm as all the earlier ones have gone. You can only hold one fastpass at a time per person so if you get there early in the morning but have a fastpass return time of 6pm, you won’t be able to get anymore fastpasses until you’ve used that one at 6pm. It is always worth checking queue times as if you are there early, it might be a short queue time rather than getting a fast pass and coming back.
If you are staying in an upgraded room at the Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Hotel New York, Disney’s Sequoia Lodge, or Disney’s Newport Bay, you get one fastpass per day, per person to use at any time except between 1-4pm. As we didn’t check in til nearly midnight on the Saturday(!), we received two fastpasses to use in the Parks the following day. These were a godsend for us as we had limited time. Anna wanted to ride Ratatouille, a super popular ride with queues of an hour or more all the time but with her fastpass and being a single rider she got on in five to ten minutes mid-morning. We were also able to skip the queue at Big Thunder Mountain on the Sunday and then I used my extra fastpass to ride Peter Pan’s Flight again (because I do love it so).
- Security lines – if you are arriving at Disneyland early by plane or train, or staying off site and planning to be there for Park open, bear in mind that you have to go through security. At the entrance to Disneyland Paris they have bag scanners – they also have these situated at the Disney Village entrance to the Parks. If you are arriving for Park open, the queues will obviously be much longer than if you are arriving later. We arrived around 1pm and had less than five minutes wait to get through. The next day we queued for a maybe fifteen minutes to get into Walt Disney Studios Park at around 9:30am. Disney are on point and queues will move but just make sure you are allowing time for queues. Sidenote: Disney Village usually has shorter queues for security so that could also be considered an added perk of staying in a Disneyland Paris hotel.
I hope you’ve found some of this useful. Part Two will include accommodation as well as fun things to see in the parks like shows and parades so check back next week for more tips and tricks to make your trip a success. If you’ve got any questions, or have something I missed, let me know in the comments below.