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Doing Disneyland Paris on the Cheap!

October 26, 2018

I am a closet Disney fan, I grew up watching endless Disney movies, I know all the plot lines, all the characters and love the fact that I have passed this love onto the kids! Both Rhys and Eliza love Disney, Rhys’ favourite movie for a long time was Cars (sadly he has outgrown that now 😭) and Eliza lives and breathes princesses.

Disneyland Paris holds a special place in my heart, that place where you can forget the outside world and just live in the Disney bubble for a few days. I have been several times as a kid and then twice with the kids, once in the height of summer 4 years ago and then at Christmas 2 years ago. Ever since I have wanted to go back, I think once you go once you get the Disney bug you are always planning the next trip!

This current trip came about as I had promised the kids that we would go for their birthdays (in summer) instead of parties but as I researched into it, it turned out that it was much cheaper to get an annual pass and visit more often. I know that sounds crazy, I was the same when I first thought of getting an annual pass to Disneyland!

The cheapest way for us to travel for this trip was by ferry, I looked at the euro tunnel but it always came out more expensive and the extra hour on the boat didn’t bother us but it is worth noting that you can use Tesco club card vouchers for the tunnel. As we live on the south coast it was only a 2 and a half hour drive to the P&O terminal at Dover. It cost me £50 for the way out and £35 for the return trip buying a saver ticket. This means that you can only get the ferry you booked on but we actually arrived early and they let us on the earlier crossing but its not a guarantee, we left home at 3.30am and got the 6.45am ferry.

Its then a 3 hour drive in France to Disneyland, this is such an easy drive pretty much motorway the whole way. There is 1 toll which costs €22 each way, which you can pay by card. You get a ticket as you enter the motorway, put that in at the end, followed by your debit or credit card (you do not enter your pin). We did the drive from home to the park and back again on just over a tank of fuel so petrol and tolls cost just over £100 in total. When driving in France you have to have several things in your car by law, hi-vis jackets for everyone (drivers one must be in the car), warning triangle, spare bulb kit, GB sticker on the car and the headlights need to have stickers on them or some cars have a Europe mode. You do not require the alcohol breath kit but its recommended that you have one, I just got one off amazon for around £4.

On arrival in Disneyland we had to pay to park €25, once you have an annual pass you don’t have to pay this or if you enter via bus or train of course you skip this charge! Annoyingly you can’t claim back this money once you have a pass.

Once we got to the parks it was time to get our annual pass! If you get someone with a pass already to sponsor you, you get 10% off the cost of the passes which is awesome (once they have sponsored 3 people they get 6 months extra free on their passes so its a win win!). It is really easy to find someone to sponsor you, there is a Facebook group for Disneyland Paris annual pass holders and there is always someone there going on the dates you will be there. You need to take your passports and bank statement (if paying by direct debt) to get the passes, I highly recommend queuing at desk 12 outside studios as it has the shortest queues.  You can also get an extra 20% off if you are buying 5 passes at once (you must all be living at the same address) and under 3’s go free.

There are 4 different levels of annual pass (for more details go HERE) I went for the Magic Flex, this is second from the bottom and suited us fine. With the 10% off it came to €197 each for the year, I paid €55 upfront per person and then the rest is paid via direct debit over the year. Lots of people go for the Magic plus pass as you get in for early magic hours but to be honest we were highly unlikely to ever make it for 8.30am 😂 and decided as we would be visiting lots we just didn’t need to get every ride done every time we went.

So after leaving at 3.30am we finally got into the park at 2pm! Honestly, its amazing at halloween and I highly recommend going at this time of year. It was warm enough that we only needed light jumpers and on the second day we were there it was so hot that we didn’t need jumpers at all. The whole park is decorated with pumpkins, friendly ghosts and autumn garlands, then in Frontierland it was decorated like the movie Coco with statues of the skeletons from the movie. I would be happy to never go on the rides, instead just take in all the decor! The warehouses they must have to store all of these props must be amazing.

As we were doing Disneyland on the cheap, we didn’t have a meal plan which you get when you stay in a Disneyland Hotel but I had bought loads and loads of snacks in the UK. You can take these into the parks but you cannot have full blown picnic boxes etc. This kept the kids going all the time we were in the parks, I packed breakfast bars, crisps, apples (great travelling fruit), veg sticks, yogurt bars etc and also the little bottles of concentrated juice (I think they are called one squeeze juice?) to add to the water we got from the fountains in the park. There are loads of these water fountains so we never bought drinks.

For the afternoon of our first day we didn’t really do any rides, just taking in the park and then stopping to watch the parade. If you watch it by Its a small world you can get onto all the rides whilst the rest of the park is still watching the parade!

During halloween season there are 3 parades a day, 2 are the halloween parade and the other is the normal parade. The latter is the only one with the princesses, which was the major draw for us! If your child is wearing the princess dress of one of the princesses on the parade they make sure to give the child a special wave which is always so lovely. I recommend bringing princess dresses and outfits from home as they are so expensive in the park.

We didn’t stay too late on this first day as we were all so tired, so headed out of the park off to where we are staying. Now I am a massive fan of AirBnB and there are absolutely loads and loads of places to stay that are a 10 minute or less drive from the parks. We stayed in a lovely little apartment which was 8 minutes away in Serris (click here to see the place we stayed). I honestly was not that bothered about where we stayed as long it was clean, had 3 beds and a place to cook as I knew we would hardly be spending any time there at all. For the 4 days/3 nights we were there the accommodation cost me £221 (this includes the local tourist tax) so in total for petrol, tolls, ferry and accommodation I spent roughly £420 and if you add on the £700 in annual passes this came out at £1120 in total. For one trip at the same time at the Santa Fe Hotel (including half board but excluding travel) would be £1650.

Lots of Airbnb’s don’t put the prices up for school holidays as they just dont know when the British ones are which can work in your benefit if you have school age kids like me. Its also worth noting that French schools dont have the May half term holidays so it can be quieter in the park during this time.

What was great about staying in an Airbnb was that we didn’t have to all sleep in the same room (which you do in Disney hotels, except the Davy Crockett ranch), I could cook breakfasts and dinners and there was a washing machine! Just round the corner from our apartment was a bakery so Christian and the kids went there each morning to get fresh baguettes and I felt like we were experiencing some french culture rather than just speaking English the whole time. We also popped into Val d’Europe which is a massive shopping mall which had an Auchen (like Tescos etc) and the kids loved looking at the foods that are different to home and generally getting outside of their English bubble. We spent around £30 in food here, some to take home and some to eat whilst we were there.

For day 2 we were at the park for 9.30am which is when it opens for non-hotel guests. There is a bit of a queue but its all gone within 10 minutes of the park opening, whilst the park opens at 10am many of the rides don’t open till 10am. At this point I used Lineberty to book meet and greets in the studios park for later in the day, this is a new thing since last time we came. At 9.45/10am they release meet and greets for Minnie, Mickey, Buzz and Woody on the app and you can only meet them if you have pre-booked. The app is free and I downloaded it on my phone and Christians so we could get 2 bookings, its super easy to use but you can only book spaces if you are in the studios or main park – I tried to do it in the car park but I was too far away! On that note it is a long walk from the car park to the entrance but there are those travallators so its around 15/20 minutes from the car to the entrance including going through security. You get a ticket on lineberty like below which gives you your spot and waiting time. Then you have around 30 minutes from when you get the alert saying that its your turn to actually get to the meet and greet.

Personally I loved the app as we only had to wait around 5 minutes to see Mickey or Minnie and I could say to the kids that we were definitely seeing them. Some people have had issues but for me it was super easy and I would highly recommend using it! Also there is free wifi throughout the park but I found this dropped in and out but as you can now use your normal phone data in the EU I always had data for my phone! This was also useful as Christian and I often split up with the kids, him going on all the massive rides with Rhys and me queueing with Eliza for a princess.

At the moment the park is getting ready for Mickey’s 90th Birthday so there are these cupcakes all over the park and at certain times of the day you can meet the ‘cupcakes’ here who do a lovely meet and greet and give out free badges! There are different ones for each land of the park.

This trip I was worried about how Rhys would find Disneyland, because as an 8 year old boy, princesses are not really his thing! But I could not have been more wrong as he absolutely loved it, yes he hated anything remotely related to a princess and wasn’t that bothered about the meet and greets but he discovered that he loved every single massive ride! What is great about Disneyland is that you can get free fast passes through out the day, so when you arrive I recommend going straight to one of the big rides and picking up a fast pass. These are machines outside the ride where you put your ticket or pass into and out pops a ticket with a time on that you can come back and skip the queue! We used these for buzz, Peter Pan, space mountain, ratatouille and Tower of terror. Once you have used the first pass you can then get another one, you can only hold one fast pass at a time.

Last time we came, I didn’t want to queue to see the princesses as Eliza was only 3 years old and honestly would have struggled with a 2 hour queue, instead paying to have lunch at Cinderellas restaurant which was lovely but very expensive. This time I was prepared with snacks, games on my phone and snap cards, it was around 1.5-2 hours each time we queued and we saw Cinderella and Belle (Belle in the morning and Cinderella in the afternoon), the next day was Ariel and Rapunzel but Eliza didn’t want to queue for a second day, preferring to go on the rides. The interaction with the princesses is lovely and they are happy to answer all the questions Eliza had (how was beast, where was Gus Gus) and I took a notebook from home as an Autograph book, saving pennies on buying one in the park!

After spending most of our time in the main park, we popped over to the smaller Studios park for our meet and greets with Mickey and Minnie. You just need to show your Lineberty ticket to the cast members and they will let you in. The Cast members next to the characters are also more than happy to take photos on your cameras if you want photos of all of you together. You can buy a photo pass, but as I had my own camera and wasn’t that bothered about having ride photos it would’ve been wasted money.

Rhys loved the Rock and Roll rollercoaster, Tower of Terror (though the video before the actual ride completely freaked him out) and Rhys and I rode as single riders on Ratatouille, all of which are in Studios. Once they reach 8 years old they can ride alone which meant that we could skip the huge queue on Ratatouille (60 minutes plus) and go on the single rider which had less than 10 minutes of queuing – win! You can also do parent swaps if you have young children so both parents can ride. We didn’t use this as one of us just took Eliza on a smaller ride so she didnt feel left out, this is where WhatsApp was so useful as we could just message each other to meet up rather than waiting for ages not knowing if they were off the ride yet!

There is also a great stunt show in Studios which Rhys loved, but Eliza was scared and didn’t even make it to the start of the show before Christian had to take her out. On our last day we popped into the Studios at 6pm and got on pretty much every ride without queuing! I think most people were in the main park watching the parade so we took full advantage.

After a flying visit to Studios we headed back to the main park to watch the Halloween parade, this parade is a bit different to the normal parade as once the floats reach the central plaza, Mickey, the 3 little pigs and a whole bunch of dancers come off the floats onto 4 stages to do a 5 minute dance. They also do this format during the princess and pirate season, I watched a couple of youtube videos of this parade so I knew exactly which stage to stand in front of to see Mickey as he changes stage for each of the 2 parades that are run each day. Its best to watch this parade from the middle as if you are round the outside you can sometimes get a float right in front of you and miss all the dancing!

During Halloween season they also have a villain show on the castle stage (just next to the castle) which Rhys loved (in fact he loved everything villain related!) and the sword in the stone round the back of the castle has disappeared as Maleficent has transformed it into vines! This is also where you can meet and greet her but only during Halloween.

Eliza did great on this trip with the walking, lots of people took buggies but I found that we didn’t need this. I would say she is normally quite lazy and do anything to not walk for long periods of time however at Disney she was more than happy to walk and we averaged 6/7 miles per day.

At park closing each day is the Illuminations and honestly they are out of this world, an amazing firework, light and water show. For us the park closed at 10pm which meant quite a wait, we started getting a spot in the main plaza about an hour before the show started. They project scenes from the movies onto the castle and fans of water to the side with the fireworks in time to the music. You definitely have to make time to see it at least once in your stay! The songs are in a mixture of French and English but its easy to follow along even in the French bits as we knew all the words. This is true throughout the park, most shows are in a combination of French and English so its easy to follow along, you can get English maps at the entrance and shows such as Disney Junior Live and Stitch Live have dedicated English showings.

On our last day we left the park around 1pm, the ferry we were meant to catch was the 6.55pm ferry but we arrived early so managed to get on the 5.55pm ferry instead meaning that we were home by 9pm which was lovely. However much I love travelling, nothing beats staying in your own home!

Overall we did everything that we wanted, there are still a couple rides and shows that we missed (big thunder mountain, stitch live and Rhys wanted to do an animation class) but they are top of the list for next time. I liked not having booked mealtimes as we could just go with the flow and not have to worry about being at certain places at certain times. The kids loved the snack packs and it meant that we didn’t have a proper sit down lunch, but we had big breakfasts and dinners at the apartment to fill us up and prevent buying things in the park.  I also used the Disneyland Paris app to check queue times and modify our plans to take advantage of any short ones! If you want to catch random meet and greets, you can follow ED92live on twitter as they tweet throughout the day with random characters and where to find them, they also put up which princesses are in the pavilion so that saved us walking across the park to find out.

Now that we are back, I have already booked for February half term when the Star Wars and Pirates and Princesses season is and I cannot wait!

 

 

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