It’s not THAT long until Christmas, which means some of my European readers might be considering a trip to Disneyland Paris to soak up the abundant festive atmosphere they have on offer during November/December. If you havent yet planned a trip, it may be because you think visiting Disneyland (especially during that time of year) is prohibitively expensive. Fear not! There are things you can do to ensure the happiest place on Earth doesn’t cost you thousands (and that don’t involve a 35 hour round trip on a coach). Here are my top tips to ensure this festive getaway doesn’t blow your entire Christmas budget.
Avoid travel agencies and book everything yourself
Travel agencies can be your worst enemy if you are trying to arrange a trip on a budget. It is my experience that holidays are always cheaper if you book your flights, accommodation and transfers yourself. Travel websites like Holiday Pirates and comparison websites like Kayak and Opodo have saved me literally hundreds of pounds over the years. Booking.com offers a ‘reserve now, pay later’ option on some hotels which can be a godsend if you need to spread the cost of your trip over two or three payslips. As a general tip for Booking.com, I would encourage you to sign up to become a member. It’s totally free and once you’ve stayed in 5 hotels booked via their website, you can access a 15% Genius discount and other exclusive offers on future reservations! It can be a little more stressful or require more organisation on your part to arrange the trip yourself, but by using cost comparison websites and spending time to research everything fully, you can’t go wrong. Also, check French websites for park tickets and hotels – often these are much cheaper and you can navigate them with automatic Google Translate on your browser.
Think about your flight times
Try and get flights that arrive in Paris early in the morning and leave late at night. The idea of getting on a flight at 7am is abhorrent to most of us, but it can mean you’re in Disneyland by 10am. Sure you’ll be tired because you were at the airport at 5am, but try and nap in the airport and on the plane because this strategy will buy you precious time in the parks. On your return, waiting until the very last flight back to your home country is a great way to maximize your time in Disney. The park closes at 8pm, so you could hop on the RER train to Charles de Gaulle and be on a flight home by midnight. If you are a really intense traveller you could do all of this in one day (saving money on hotels) but this will be really taxing on any small children and adults who need their sleep! Bonus tip: it goes without saying, but pack light. For a weekend break, you only need 2 outfits. There is a reason airlines such as RyanAir and EasyJet are so cheap – no baggage allowance! Make the most of the bargain flights by accepting you can only take a small suitcase or a backpack. Consider also that if you aren’t staying the night, you’ll need to carry around whatever you take all day.
Avoid public and school holidays
It seems obvious, but a lot of people try and go during these peak times and then get stuck in ride queues for hours on end. This is a waste of your time and money. If you can get away during the French school term (dates are here) and/or the school term of your home country, do it. I honestly wouldn’t bother visiting Disney at all during school or public holidays if I could help it. Sometimes the fine you are charged for taking your kids out of school is less than the additional cost it would be to take them abroad during half term! If you don’t have kids, then going during the week/term time is a no brainer.
Avoid a swimming pool faux pas
Did you know that wearing baggy swimming trunks in pools is illegal in France for hygiene reasons? If your hotel has a pool, be sure to pack Speedos for any men in your group. Hotels will often charge extortionate prices to buy them onsite and if you try getting into your hotel pool with trunks on, they’ll haul you out.
Take a packed lunch
Does your hotel offer all-you-can-eat breakfast? If not, consider how much this would be to tack on to your stay and whether that cost is worth it to cover two of your three meals a day. After you’ve eaten plenty of breakfast each morning to keep you going, prepare some snacks to take to the park with you! On our last visit, the hotel had mini baguettes, ham, cheese, preserves and pastries on offer each morning, so we each prepared two or three baguettes each and wrapped them in napkins to eat for lunch later that day. The hotel staff didn’t seem to mind and this can save you so much money and time, especially considering the prices of food and the restaurant queue times in the Disney parks. Plus, Disneyland food is not good.
Use the Disability Access Service if you have a disabled guest
A little known fact about Disneyland – if you have a disabled guest, they can get into the park at half price and their responsible adult/carer can get in for free! We took my niece a few years ago and it meant we saved nearly £200 on her ticket and my mom’s (who was her responsible adult). Better still, the Disability Access Service (DAS) card means you can bypass ride queues by getting on via the exit. We got some odd (sometimes irritated!) looks from other guests as we were skipping the lines, but this was so valuable to us when you consider how much time we saved (and for kids with hypersensitivity to lights, sounds or large crowds, this is a must). For more information, check the Disney site here and use their contact details provided for any further queries.
Use the FASTPASS system and companion app
Some people may think you need to buy a FASTPASS ontop of your park ticket. Fortunately, this is not the case! Your park ticket already includes a FASTPASS. If you scan your ticket at FASTPASS machines dotted around the park, you will be given a time to return to the attraction. This will save you hours of standing around, waiting in queues. If you’re feeling particularly well organised, go around all the FASTPASS machines for the rides you’re really interested in (use the Disneyland Railroad if necessary) and make a list of the various times you have to return. You can then structure the rest of your day around those times. Additionally, Disneyland Paris has its own companion app which allows you to check the busyness and wait times of each ride and attraction. This can be incredibly useful in judging how best to use your time. There is a significant difference in queue times during parades too. If you’re not fussed about watching them, get to the rides that usually have huge queues (such as Space Mountain or Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast). The wait time will be half (or less) in many cases. Finally, it can be even more efficient to make a list before you go of all the attractions that you really want to go on. Prioritise these, then any others you get to go on are a bonus!
I hope these were helpful – if you have any questions, please ask!