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The Complete Guide to Disneyland Paris for Families

Are you dreaming of a magical trip to Disneyland Paris with your little ones? It’s the perfect place to ignite imaginations and create lasting memories. But planning a trip with kids, especially young ones, can feel daunting. Fear not, fellow adventurers! This blog is here to be your guide, packed with tips and tricks to make your Parisian Disney adventure as smooth and unforgettable as possible.

We’ll cover everything from must-download apps and strategic ride choices to delicious dining options and character meet-and-greets. Whether your crew craves heart-pounding rollercoasters or whimsical boat rides, we’ll help you navigate the parks and find the perfect experiences for the whole family. And don’t worry if you have a child with a disability or additional needs – Disneyland Paris is committed to inclusivity. We’ll provide resources and information to ensure everyone in your family has a truly magical time.

So, grab your Mickey ears and pack your bags – we’re about to embark on a whirlwind tour of tips and tricks to make your Disneyland Paris family vacation the happiest place on earth!

What is at Disneyland Paris?

Disneyland Paris is an entertainment resort in Marne-la-Vallée, France, located about 32 kilometres (20 miles) east of Paris. Disneyland Paris or DLP as it is often referred to, is more than just 1 theme park. It’s actually a full-on Disneyland Resort which encompasses Disneyland Park, Walt Disney Studios Park, 7 Disney Hotels, the Disney Village, two convention centres, Disney Nature Parks (a nature reserve) and a golf course.

It opened on April 12, 1992, and the resort is operated by Disney Experiences, a division of The Walt Disney Company. Disneyland Paris is the second Disney park outside the United States, following the opening of the Tokyo Disney Resort in 1983, and it is the largest. Disneyland Paris is also the only Disney resort outside of the United States to be completely owned by the company. Disneyland Paris is a popular tourist destination, with over 375 million people visiting Disneyland Paris since its opening.

Disney Village

Nestled right next to the Disney parks and Walt Disney Studios Park is Disney Village, a vibrant entertainment complex that extends your magical Disney experience beyond the theme parks. Imagine a charming village bursting with shops, restaurants, and entertainment options, all infused with that classic Disney flair.

Step into Disney Village and explore a world of dining choices. Whether you crave a casual burger at McDonald’s or a character dining experience at Café Mickey, there’s something to satisfy every taste bud.  For those seeking retail therapy, the village boasts a variety of Disney shops, like the classic Disney Store, the World of Disney, where you can find everything from Mickey ears to character costumes and a Lego store selling a huge selection of Disney Lego sets.  There’s even The Disney Gallery, a treasure trove for collectors seeking limited-edition prints and animation pieces.

Disney Village offers more than just shopping and dining. Catch a movie at the Gaumont Cinemas, or enjoy live music and entertainment throughout the complex.  For a touch of whimsy, take a ride on the PanoraMagique hot air balloon for stunning views of the entire Disneyland Paris resort. Disney Village stays open late, making it the perfect place to unwind and soak in the Disney magic after a day of thrilling rides and enchanting shows.

Disney Hotels

Staying in a Disneyland Paris hotel unlocks a world of exclusive perks that elevate your entire vacation experience.  Imagine stepping out of your hotel room and straight into the heart of the magic.  Disney hotels offer a prime location, placing you just a short stroll or even a convenient bus ride away from the parks. This proximity translates to more time spent enjoying rides, shows, and character interactions, and less time spent on logistics.

Beyond location, Disney hotels grant you special access.  Many offer Extra Magic Time, allowing you to enter the parks before general opening hours. This means shorter wait times for popular attractions and a chance to experience the parks in a more relaxed atmosphere.  Disney hotel guests also receive bonus Fastpasses, letting you skip the regular lines for select rides throughout the day. This translates to significant time savings and allows you to pack more thrills into your visit.

Disney hotels go beyond mere functionality.  Theming is paramount, with each hotel meticulously designed to transport you into a beloved Disney world.  Imagine sleeping in a room that evokes the charm of a Parisian townhouse, or feeling like you’re surrounded by the majesty of a redwood forest.  Disney characters also frequently appear at the hotels, offering magical encounters and creating lasting memories for guests of all ages.

There are 7 hotels to choose from:

  1. Disneyland Hotel
  2. Disney Hotel New York: The Art Of Marvel
  3. Disney Newport Bay Club – this is where we stayed. Newport Bay Club Hotel Review by Boo Roo and Tigger Too
  4. Disney Sequoia Lodge
  5. Disney Hotel Cheyenne – Hotel Cheyenne Review by Big Family, Little Adventures
  6. Disney Sant Fe
  7. Disney Davey Crocket Ranch

Disneyland Park

Disneyland Park, the beating heart of Disneyland Paris, is the original theme park within the resort. Imagine a place where classic Disney stories come alive, with themed lands brimming with rides, shows, and attractions designed to immerse you in your favourite fairytales and adventures.

Similar to Walt Disney World, its California counterpart, Disneyland Park in Paris is divided into themed lands, each transporting you to a unique world. Explore the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle in Fantasyland, or hurtle through space in the futuristic realm of Discoveryland.  For a swashbuckling adventure, head to Adventureland, or channel your inner cowboy in Frontierland. The park also features beloved rides like It’s A Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain and The Haunted Mansion, offering thrills and chills for all ages.

Disneyland Park isn’t just about rides; it’s about creating memories. Throughout the day, you’ll encounter Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, and Peter Pan, providing opportunities for photos and autographs. The park also comes alive with parades, live shows and firework displays every night, adding another layer of magic to your experience.  Whether you’re a lifelong Disney fan or a first-time visitor, Disneyland Park offers a world of wonder and excitement.

Walt Disney Studios Park

Walt Disney Studios Park, located right next to Disneyland Park at Disneyland Paris, is a theme park dedicated to the world of cinema and animation magic. Opened in 2002, it’s a place where you can step into the exciting worlds of Disney, Pixar, and Marvel.

Unlike the classic storybook themes of Disneyland Park, Walt Disney Studios Park focuses on the excitement and behind-the-scenes action of moviemaking. The park is divided into production zones, each themed around iconic Disney properties. For example, you can explore the heart-stopping world of the Avengers Campus, complete with thrilling rides and character interactions.  Or, shrink down to Remy’s size and race through a Parisian kitchen in a delightful Ratatouille-themed adventure.

Walt Disney Studios Park offers a mix of experiences. Get your adrenaline pumping on high-octane rides like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror or RC Racer. For a more relaxed experience, explore the Animation Academy and learn the secrets of Disney animation. Character interactions are also a big draw, with opportunities to meet and greet your favourite Disney heroes and villains.  Walt Disney Studios Park provides a fun-filled and immersive experience for movie and animation fans of all ages.

How to get to Disneyland Paris

There are several ways to get to Disneyland Paris, depending on your location and preferences. Here are some of the most popular options:

  • By Plane:  Paris is a major international hub, so you’ll likely be able to find a flight that works for you. Both Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and Orly Airport (ORY) serve the Paris area. From the airport, you can take a taxi, rideshare service, or the Magic Shuttle directly to Disneyland Paris.
  • By Train:  The TGV high-speed direct train is a convenient option if you’re coming from within France or other parts of Europe. The train journey from Paris’ Gare de Lyon station to Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy station, which is located directly next to Disneyland Paris park entrance, takes about 30 minutes.
  • By Car:  Disneyland Paris is easily accessible by car from many parts of Europe. The journey from central Paris takes about 40 minutes via the A4 motorway. If you’re coming from the UK, you can take the Eurotunnel, which allows you to drive your car under the English Channel.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind when planning your trip to Disneyland Paris:

  • Consider purchasing a travel package:  Many travel companies offer packages that include flights, accommodation, and park tickets. This can be a great way to save money and ensure that all of your travel arrangements are taken care of.
  • Book your tickets in advance:  Especially during peak season, it’s a good idea to book your park tickets in advance. You can do this online on the Disneyland Paris website.
  • Allow plenty of time for travel:  Depending on how you’re getting to Disneyland Paris, you’ll need to factor in travel time when planning your trip. Be sure to allow extra time for potential delays, such as traffic congestion or flight cancellations.

We visited in the May half term 2024 and flew with EasyJet from Bristol to Paris-Charles de Gaulle and then got a private taxi to take us from the airport to Newport Bay Club Hotel. 

What Dining Plans Are There?

Planning meals at Disneyland Paris can feel overwhelming with a variety of restaurants and budgeting needs. Disney Dining Plans offer a convenient solution, allowing you to prepay for a set number of meals and snacks throughout your stay. Imagine skipping the wallet every time you get hungry and simply using your magic band to redeem your credits!

Disney offers three tiers of meal plans to suit different preferences:

  • Half-Board Meal Plan: This is a happy medium, offering breakfast at your Disney Hotel and one meal voucher per person, per night of stay, to use for either lunch or dinner. This plan is ideal for those who want a mix of pre-planned meals and flexibility. You can choose from a wide range of table-service restaurants, buffets, and quick-service options located throughout the parks and Disney Village.
  • Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan: This plan focuses on casual meals, offering one quick-service meal credit and a drink per day. This is perfect for families on the go who want to grab a burger or enjoy a character dining experience.
  • Disney Dining Plan: For those seeking a more diverse dining experience, the Disney Dining Plan includes one table-service meal credit, one quick-service meal credit, a snack credit, and a drink (including alcoholic beverages for guests over 21) per day. This plan lets you savour a leisurely dinner at a themed restaurant and enjoy counter-service meals and treats throughout the park.

No matter which plan you choose, Disney Dining Plans can save you time and money when compared to paying for each meal individually. They also offer the convenience of pre-payment and the ease of using your magic band for transactions.  Remember, you can always add additional meal vouchers or snacks a la carte during your stay if you find yourself wanting more options.

How To Get The Best Out Of Character Meet and Greets

One of the most cherished experiences at Disneyland Paris is the chance to come face-to-face with your favourite Disney characters.  Imagine the thrill of meeting Mickey Mouse himself, getting a hug from Minnie, or sharing a laugh with Goofy. Character meet-and-greets are sprinkled throughout both Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park, allowing you to capture these magical moments throughout your visit.

These meet-and-greets are a fantastic opportunity to create lasting memories. Disney Cast Members are experts at creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. They’ll encourage you to interact with the characters, take pictures, and even request autographs in your autograph book (sold separately). So whether you dream of a twirling princess moment with Belle or a high-five with Spider-Man, be sure to factor character meet-and-greets into your Disneyland Paris itinerary!

Here’s the scoop on how meet and greets work at Disneyland Paris:

Finding the Characters:

  • Park Locations: Characters don’t just magically appear! They have designated locations throughout both Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. These spots are usually well-marked with signage or decorated to match the character’s theme.
  • Apps and Showtimes:  The official Disneyland Paris app is your best friend for finding characters. It displays locations and even shows approximate wait times. Park brochures and daily programs also list character appearances and times.

The Queue:

  • Forming a Line: Once you find your favourite character, simply join the queue.  These lines can vary in length, so be prepared to wait a bit, especially for popular characters.
  • Cast Member Help: Disney Cast Members are there to manage the queue and keep things running smoothly. They might answer questions or distribute autograph books (sold separately).

Meeting the Characters:

  • Your Moment to Shine: When it’s your turn, approach the characters with a smile! Cast Members will help position you for photos and ensure everyone gets a chance to interact.
  • Memories in the Making:  This is your chance to say hello, get an autograph, or even share a quick hug (depending on the character).  Make the most of this magical moment!

Tips for a Smooth Experience:

  • Download the App:  The Disneyland Paris app is your key to finding characters and wait times.
  • Plan Your Route:  Strategize which characters you want to meet and plan your park touring accordingly.
  • Prepare for Autographs:  If you plan to get autographs,  purchase an autograph book beforehand.
  • Bring Patience:  Character lines can get long, especially for popular characters. Be prepared to wait and enjoy the atmosphere!

By following these tips, you can ensure a smooth and memorable character meet-and-greet experience at Disneyland Paris.

Meeting Darth Vader At Disneyland Paris

Top Tips For Families With Kids

  • Plan your trip during the off-season. Disneyland Paris can get very crowded, especially during peak season (summer holidays and weekends). If you can, the best time to try to visit is during the shoulder seasons (spring or autumn) when the crowds are smaller and the weather is more pleasant.
  • Consider staying at a Disney hotel. Staying at a Disney hotel comes with a number of perks, such as Extra Magic Time (early access to the parks) and free luggage delivery. It can also be more convenient, as you won’t have to worry about transportation to and from the parks.is 
  • Download the Disneyland Paris app. The Disneyland Paris app is a great resource for planning your trip. You can use it to view wait times for rides, see show schedules, and make dining reservations.
  • Take advantage of FastPASS. FastPass is a service that allows you to skip the lines for certain rides. It’s a great way to save time, especially if you’re travelling with small children. If a member of your party has a disability then you don’t need a FastPass but you should apply for a Priority Pass (more on this shortly).
  • Pack light clothes and comfortable shoes. You’ll be doing a lot of walking at Disneyland Paris, so be sure to pack light clothes and comfortable shoes.
  • Take a small first aid kit. Things like blisters, bumps, cuts, scrapes and stings may happen so keep a little first aid kit with you, you likely won’t need it but you will certainly be grateful for it if you do.
  • Take a tube of ibuprofen gel/cream. This is amazing to rub into your feet and ankles both at the start of the day and the end of the day to help ease those aching limbs, you will be doing A LOT of steps! 
  • Pack an essential kit. Make sure you have all the basic essentials to hand like nappies, baby wipes, suncream, spare clothes, sunhat, hand sanitiser etc,
  • Bring sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses. The sun can be strong in Paris, so be sure to pack sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses for your children.
  • Pack rain gear. It can rain any time of year in Paris, so be sure to pack rain gear for your children.
  • Bring plenty of your own snacks and drinks. Food and drinks can be expensive at Disneyland Paris, so be sure to pack plenty of snacks and drinks for your children. There are lots of water fountains dotted around the parks and some have bottle refill stations so make sure to take refillable water bottles with you.
  • If you have booked a meal plan, book your meals as soon as you can. Restaurant slots can get booked up quickly, especially during peak times so make sure you book you lunch/dinner slots ASAP. If you are staying in a Disney Hotel then you don’t need to book a table for breakfast.
  • Take breaks throughout the day. Small children can get tired quickly, so be sure to take breaks throughout the day. There are plenty of places to sit and relax in the parks.
  • Let your children set the pace. Don’t try to cram too much into one day. Let your children set the pace and take breaks whenever they need them.
  • Don’t forget the character meet-and-greets. Character meet-and-greets are a great way for your children to meet their favourite Disney characters. Be sure to check the Disneyland Paris app for times and locations.
  • Take advantage of the baby centres. There are baby centres located throughout the parks where you can change your child’s diaper, nurse, or simply take a break. 
  • Bring a stroller. If you have a young child, you’ll definitely want to bring a stroller. Disneyland Paris is a big place, and your child will get tired of walking after a while. You can hire one on a daily basis at the park but these are on a first come, first served basis so it’s just easier to take your own. Make sure you take a rain cover for it to keep it dry if it rains when you’re on the rides.
  • Take a bike lock. If you are taking a wheelchair or a pushchair with you. make sure to take a bike lock with you as sometimes these do get stolen. Do not chain your chair to anything as the cast members may need to move it for safety reasons, just use the bike lock to go through a wheel and attach it to the frame. This will deter thieves if they can’t move it easily, they’ll just give up and move on to the next one.
  • Remember you can use rider switch. If you are visiting with very young kids then you can take advantage of the rider switch which means that parents can go on the bigger rides without having to queue twice. 
  • Most importantly, have fun! Disneyland Paris is a magical place for children and adults alike. So relax, have fun, and make some memories that will last a lifetime.

Visiting Disneyland Paris with Disabilities or Additional Needs

Disneyland Paris strives to be an inclusive destination, offering a variety of services and resources to make your visit with disabilities or additional needs as smooth and enjoyable as possible. As a family, we have a range of disabilities and additional needs that require a lot of careful planning and adaptation. If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that my youngest has just finished treatment for cancer so he is still struggling with his mobility and uses a special needs buggy, he is also being assessed for ADHD – he definitely has it, we’re just in the process of jumping through all the hoops to get him that official diagnosis. My husband has also recently become a wheelchair user following a nasty fall at the beginning of the year resulting in a broken back. He can walk but not for long or very far.

As a family, we have visited an awful lot of theme parks and attractions in the UK and  DLP is by far the most easily accessible and welcoming for anyone with any kind of disability or additional need.

Here’s what you can expect:

Accessibility Services:

  • Accessible Rooms: All Disney Hotels offer specially adapted rooms with wider doorways, lowered features, and accessible bathrooms.
  • Wheelchair Rentals:  Wheelchairs can be rented at the Stroller/Pushchair rental locations within the parks although we found it easier to take our own.
  • Easy Access Cards:  For guests with qualifying disabilities, Disneyland Paris offers Easy Access Cards. These allow you to avoid regular lines for attractions and shows by scheduling return times.  Documentation proving your disability is required.
  • Priority Cards:  For those with specific needs like difficulty standing, these cards offer priority access (but not immediate access) to attractions, shows, parades, and character meet-and-greets. Documentation is required.

Park Accessibility:

  • Maps and Information: Accessibility maps are available at City Hall (Disneyland Park) and Studio Services (Walt Disney Studios Park) highlighting accessible restrooms, attractions, and shows.
  • Cast Member Assistance: Disney Cast Members are happy to assist you throughout your visit. They can answer questions, help navigate the parks, and point you towards resources.

Things to Consider:

  • Attraction Suitability:  Not all attractions may be suitable for all disabilities. The accessibility maps and Cast Members can help you determine which rides and shows work best for your needs.
  • Wait Times:  While Easy Access Cards help avoid regular lines, there may still be wait times associated with designated return times.
  • Planning in Advance:  Familiarise yourself with the park layouts and accessibility information beforehand.  Consider booking accessible rooms and requesting Easy Access Cards in advance for a smoother experience.

Overall, Disneyland Paris aims to be accessible and welcoming to all guests. By planning ahead and taking advantage of the available resources, you can have a magical and inclusive Disney experience.

What is a Priority Card?

If you or someone in your party has a recognised disability then you can claim a priority card. You can apply up to a month before your visit and the priority card will give the holder quick and easy access to rides and shows for themselves and 4 accompanying people then for parades and fireworks it gives access to a special viewing area for the pass holder plus 2 accompanying people. 

To prove your eligibility for a priority card, you need to present the original of one of the following documents (if you are a UK national, the list is different for different countries):

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance Award
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Armed Force Compensation Scheme
  • Certificate of Vision Impairment
  • U.K. Disabled I.D
  • National Disability Card
  • Access Card
  • Parking Card for Disabled People
  • Registration Card BD8
  • Adult Disability payment
  • Disabled Student’s Allowance
  • Scottish Child Disability Payment

You can find out more information and apply for your priority card here.

What is an Easy Access Card?

An Easy Access Card at Disneyland Paris is a tool designed to help guests with certain disabilities or long-term chronic illnesses experience the park attractions more easily,  but it doesn’t provide immediate access.

Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

  • Eligibility:  The card is for guests with qualifying long-term chronic illnesses documented by a medical certificate. You can find a list of recognized conditions on Disneyland Paris’ website.
  • Benefits:   With an Easy Access Card, you can avoid waiting in regular lines for attractions and shows.  Here’s the key point:  the card doesn’t grant immediate access, but allows you to schedule return times for rides and shows.
  • Process:  Present your Easy Access Card and accompanying medical documentation at an attraction.  A Cast Member will note the current wait time and give you a designated return window to come back and enjoy the experience.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind about Easy Access Cards:

  • There’s no limit on usage: You can use the Easy Access Card throughout your visit to schedule return times for various attractions.
  • Documentation Required:  Remember to bring a valid medical certificate (translated into French or English)  proving your eligibility for the card.
  • Not a Skip-the-Line Pass:  While it helps avoid regular lines, there might still be wait times associated with your designated return slots.

What is a PhotoPASS?

PhotoPass at Disneyland Paris is a service that allows you to capture and download high-resolution digital copies of the photos taken of you during your visit. There are two tiers to this service:

  • Disney PhotoPass: This is the basic option. With a PhotoPass card, you can collect photos taken by Disney photographers at designated locations throughout the parks and during character meet-and-greets. You can also access on-ride photos captured by the ride’s camera systems.  After your trip, you can view and download these photos for a fee at designated PhotoPass sales points or online.
  • Disney PhotoPass+: This is the premium option. PhotoPass+ includes everything in the regular PhotoPass but with the added benefit of downloading all your captured photos for free. This means you get to keep every photo taken by a Disney photographer or on a ride with an image capture system,  without any individual purchase fees.

Staying Off The Resort

There’s a whole world of possibilities beyond the gates of the Disneyland Paris hotels! Choosing to stay off-site can be a budget-friendly option, opening the door to a wider variety of accommodation styles.  Imagine a cosy apartment with a full kitchen, perfect for families or groups who want to save on meals.  Or, you might prefer a trendy boutique hotel, offering a unique Parisian flair just a short commute from the parks.

Staying off-site doesn’t mean sacrificing convenience. Many hotels near Disneyland Paris offer complimentary shuttle services, whisking you directly to the park entrance. Alternatively, the efficient public transportation system connects the resort to nearby towns, making it easy to explore the surrounding area.  Consider charming Val d’Europe, a walkable village brimming with restaurants, shops, and a large shopping mall – all just a stone’s throw away.

While you miss out on perks like Extra Magic Time and in-room Disney theming, staying off-site offers a chance to experience a different side of Paris.  Imagine indulging in authentic French cuisine at a local restaurant, or soaking up the Parisian atmosphere at a charming sidewalk café.  Staying off-site allows you to tailor your trip to your own preferences, creating a unique and memorable Disney vacation experience. Big Family, Little Adventures has some great recommendations for hotels near Disneyland Paris.

So there you have it, adventurers! From park planning to character dining, this guide has hopefully equipped you with all the essentials for a magical Disneyland Paris adventure with your family. Remember, the key to a successful trip lies in planning and flexibility.  Embrace the spontaneous moments of joy, like impromptu dance parties with Disney characters, or grabbing a Mickey-shaped ice cream on a sunny afternoon.  Most importantly, slow down, soak up the wonder in your children’s eyes, and create lasting memories together.  After all, that’s what fairy tales are made of!

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