I recently took my two boys, aged 2 and 4 at the time, to Disneyland Paris (DLP). As I mentioned in a previous post in which I discussed some ideas for booking your trip, you need to plan ahead in order to make the most of a short break to DLP. The park is so big and so busy. Add young children into the mix and you have a recipe for a pretty chaotic (and not at all relaxing) break. We wasted so much time wandering around aimlessly, being indecisive. I’d like to spare you from that.
Take some time to think about what you want from your DLP holiday, and you will be rewarded with that feeling of time well spent. Here are my tips to help you plan.
Bring a pushchair and/or a sling
The parks are so big. It takes about 15 minutes just to walk from the car park to the entrance (and this is also true if you’re staying on an on-site hotel – you could get a shuttle but either way, it’s time-consuming). We brought our double buggy so that both the 2yo and 4yo could be pushed along. It was a total lifesaver. We never would have gotten anywhere walking at my 4yo’s pace, and he would have tired very quickly.
For the 2yo, I also wished I still had my old hippy sling that he would have still fit in. This is because you can’t bring a pushchair while you’re queueing for rides, and most queues are at least 30 minutes long. My 2yo didn’t like standing on the ground among all the people taller than him, so my husband and I ended up carrying him for the entire queue. That is a recipe for very sore arms. If your child is young enough to fit in a carrying device, then use one!
You want to bring two small bags – one of which should be a rucksack or otherwise easy to carry with no hands. In one bag, stick things that aren’t valuable, such as all of your nappy changing items, bibs & other lunching items, and any spare clothing/extra layers you might need. You can leave this bag in your pushchair while you are queuing for rides. In the rucksack, put drinks, snacks and maybe a tablet. You need these things to stop the kids melting down in the queue. And don’t worry, you can take your rucksack on the rides.
The lockers at DLP are located outside the entrance to the park, which is utterly inconvenient, so I wouldn’t count on being able to use those.
Get an early start and use your Extra Magic Hours
If you’re staying at a DLP hotel (which I highly recommend), you will have access to Extra Magic Hours. This allows you access to the parks from 8am – before the general public is admitted at 10am. You would be a fool to miss out on these. But your hotel is likely to tempt you with breakfast, which usually isn’t available until 7:30am at the earliest. If you wait for breakfast, you will miss the Extra Magic Hours.
I recommend stockpiling snacks to eat first thing in the morning (or, if you stay in the self-catering Davy Crockett Ranch, you have a kitchen in which you could stock some proper breakfast items of your own). Have an early snack, and then aim to arrive at the park entrance no later than 7:45. You need the extra time to walk through the vast empty spaces and get through security, in order to get into the park first thing at 8am.
You can always then have brunch or another treat after you’ve taken advantage of the Magic Hours.
Rides to hit during Magic Hours
There are limited rides open during Magic Hours, usually only in the Disneyland park and not the Walt Disney Studios park. These are subject to change, but I suspect it’s vaguely the same most of the time. During Magic Hours, you should make a beeline for the rides that tend to have the longest queues. In my experience, here they are in order of priority (i.e. the usual longest queues first).
- Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Les Voyages de Pinocchio
- Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains (Snow White)
There are others that are open too. I would recommend doing Magic Hours rides only during Magic Hours, thus freeing up time for the other rides during the normal park hours.
Take advantage of being first in the park
The other advantage to Magic Hours is that you will be in the park first thing when all of the other rides open, before the general public manage to cross the great expanse of asphalt to get the heart of the park. So, you should set your sights on a popular ride, and make sure you are waiting at it’s entrance at exactly 10am, or a few minutes before. Then you will be first in the queue as soon as it opens. Generally, any ride that is eligible for Fast Pass entry is likely to be one the popular ones (your Disney map will tell you which these are).
Using the Fast Pass system
Certain rides have little kiosks near the entrance. You scan your park tickets there, and receive a pass with a timed entry to the ride, which will allow you to jump the queue.
The important thing to know about Fast Passes is that they run out. You need to get one first thing in the morning (or as early as possible), otherwise you might not get one at all. If you get one as close to 10am as possible, you should be able to ride that ride by around lunchtime. Any later, and you’ll be lucky to get a ride by 5pm.
When you have a fast pass, you can’t get another one straight away. You have to wait a few hours. The fast pass you have will tell you when you’re allowed to get another one.
If, like me, you have two kids and only one that still naps, you should have an action plan for naptime. Our 2yo napped in the buggy after lunch, and this was a great opportunity for the older one to go on the rides that his brother was too short for, or to queue for photos with Disney characters or perhaps have a nose round some shops. The Adventureland section of the Disneyland park is also a great place for naptime, as it’s mostly play areas and things you have to climb on – not necessarily great for 2yos or younger.
If you are in the Walt Disney Studios section of the park, there are usually big shows in the main backlot around naptime (for us it was the slightly underwhelming Star Wars Stormtrooper March – with 12 whole stormtroopers – but my 4yo seemed to like it). This is a good option to make the best of your time while one of you is unconscious.
I just thought I’d give this a namecheck in case you hadn’t heard of it. Disney has a scheme for parents with babies/young children who both want to ride one of the rides unsuitable for little ones. If you all queue up together, then you can tell the ride attendant you want to do baby switch. One parent goes on the ride while the other watches the baby, and then the other parent can go next, without queueing further. So mum does not have to miss out on Space Mountain.
Don’t forget to see the dragon
It is easily overlooked, but there is an animatronic dragon underneath Sleeping Beauty’s castle. And it is brilliant – the best animatronic thing among a host of animatronic things. Make sure you don’t miss it.
Are you planning a trip to Disneyland Paris? What do you think of these tips? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments!