Wednesday 13 March 2019

Top tips for first time visitors to Disneyland Paris

Before I went to Disneyland Paris, I was researching left, right and centre everything I wanted and needed to know about the place. This got me thinking that on my return I was going to put together a little guide for first time visitors with all my top tips.

My sister and I stayed in the Santa Fe hotel and when we checked in at the reception we were presented with two cards. The key to everything we needed for our holiday. They were magic passes, which were great on the back they had our name, hotel and what meal plan we were on. She activated them there and then and it also served as our key for our hotel. It was very handy to have everything in one place. When my sister had visited about 10 years ago, they were given meal vouchers for each day. I am so happy they have accumulated everything onto one pass as it makes everything so much easier. This was also your golden ticket into both parks, you just held it against the monitor and you were in.

I briefly mentioned this in my first post that we opted for the full board standard meal plans. This meant on each of our cards we had uploaded 4 breakfasts each and 8 meals per person to use whenever we wanted. This would be really good if you had children as your whole booking goes on to the adult cards. For example, my sister could go and buy us both lunch using two of the uploaded meals and pay just on her card, and it be would deducted off both of our totals. We bought lanyards and the card holders (which is in the picture), it was really convenient rather than having to consistency go in and out of your bag to find your card.

Let's talk extra magic time. This was something which I did not know about until we got there. Basically if you are staying in any Disney hotel you get extra magic time. Both of the Disney Parks open at 8.30am to anyone staying in Disney accomodation, meaning you get an extra hour and a half before the park opens at 10am to everyone. We ensured we made the most of this time every single morning. You can get fast passes go on the rides which usually have the longest queues or go to meet and greets.

I had quite a bit of uncertainty as to how to make the most out of my visit, I knew that I wanted to do meet and greets with the characters. As I have just mentioned during extra magic time it is definitely worth heading to the Princess Pavilion. Everyday from 10am the queue for the meet and greet with the princesses was two hours+. We used our extra magic time on two mornings to meet Ariel and Snow White. When we got to the pavilion at approximately 8.45am the queue was somehow already 60 minutes. However, it was much better than 2 hours and it was done and dusted for the day then. We also used this time to get fast passes for the day. You can get a morning slot on one of the most in demand rides and it would save a lot of time and queuing.

If I was to go again I would definitely not spend as much time at meet and greets as they can be a little soul destroying. You don't get told an approximate time of how long the wait is and it is all a guessing game. Meet and greets take place at particular places within the parks. For example Aladdin is in Adventureland, however there might be any of the characters from that story line e.g. Aladdin, Jasmine, Genie and Jafar when you get there as they swap throughout the day. At each station they have displayed the times of when there will be a character there. We queued to meet Alice and The Madhatter and it was the longest queue ever. It must have been over an hour and although I love the pictures I would not do it again. It was crazy and the queue just did not seem to be moving. You find at some they are quick e.g. Jessie, the queue moved fast, the photos and autographs were done whilst still meeting the queue one by one but in a timely matter.

I mentioned briefly in my first post that we went to meet Buzz Lighting and we were told that this was a reservation only meet and greet. As with every worker at Disneyland Paris the lady was very polite and informed me that you need to go onto an app called Lineberty, and everyday they have a certain amount of slots for their meet and greet characters. At 10am every morning the slots go live and you have to go on a grab a slot. There was a lady who said she had tried at 10.15am the day before and they were already all taken. Therefore, on the last day as we were trying to utilise as much time as possible, we went on at 10am and managed to snatch a slot. You get given a number with an approximate waiting time as to when your slot will be ready. Me and my sister kept checking my app and it said approximately one hour so we decided to get into a queue for a ride. The app all of a sudden notified me to say our slot had become available. We were not sure how long they allocated us after the notification came through so we headed there straight away. When we got there we showed them our number and we went straight into the small queue, it took approximately 10 minutes to get to the front. On the app you are able to get slots for certain characters in the Disney Studios, they are Spider Man, Mickey and friends, Buzz Lightyear and friends and Woody and friends.

Fast passes are passes which you can get for rides which are the most in demand. This work wonders and I would definitely be encouraging every visitor to make use of them. The concept of how they work is really simple. From 10am every day you can go to these rides and get a fast pass from a machine, it will have on it an allocated time e.g. 10-10.30am. There is a certain allocated amount of passes given within each period of time, and then once there are all used it will click over to the next allocated amount. It works really well. We first used these on Thunder Mountain on our first day and the normal queue for 2 hours, but with our fast pass we were on and off within 20 minutes. There is a separate queue for fast pass users which moves at a much quicker rate than the normal queue. Although, for the most in demands rides even if you get there before mid day you may only get a fast pass for 5pm, so if I advise getting them as soon as you can. You can get a new fast pass every two hours or after you have used your previous one.

The rides in the Disneyland Park which have fast passes are Indiana Jones, Hyperspace Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Big Thunder Mountain, Peter Pan's Flight and Star Tours. In Disney Studios they are Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Ratatouille and Aladdin's Flying Carpets.

I would also highly recommend downloading the Disneyland Paris app. It is great as it tells you the show times for that day, the park opening times and it has the numbers on for customer services and table reservations. I found it the most useful to find out the waiting times for rides, there is a big map of the entire park and you can zoom in and out and find where you want to go. You can click on each on ride and it gives you the current waiting time. It has a cursor which you can flick through to find where entertainment, photo pass points, shops, restrooms and dining all are within the park. This helped us massively as it prevented us getting lost and we could go from one place to another quickly.

My last recommendation is to reserve your dining before you go. Me and my sister learnt the hard way, when we got there the receptionist suggested we ring and book all of our meals for all of our stay there and then. Over dinner on our first day we rang and made bookings for the four days we needed reservations. We didn't really have any particular places where we wanted to eat, so we just booked into a few different places with a variety of cuisines. The lady on the phone was struggling to fit us in at times that we wanted, but was extremely helpful and we managed to get in somewhere every lunch and tea. Our favourite eatery was The Steakhouse in the Disney Village.

One last little tip is that if you are on a standard meal plan like us, and you choose to eat in one of the restaurants which are not on the allocated list each meal has a worth of 29.99 Euros. This is great and means eating becomes more flexible, as most of the restaurants on the standard meal plans are buffets and we wanted something different. When we ate in The Steakhouse our food came to a total of 30 Euros each, when the bill came we just had to top up and pay for our drinks. I don;t think they make this particularly transparent, but for this reason I would not pay for a more expensive meal plan unless you have a particular desire to eat consistently in the more expensive premium restaurants. However, like I say you can use the worth of your meal plan and apply it in any restaurant.

I hope this has been a useful quick reference guide for any first time visitors. Having some of the inside knowledge can make you utilise your time so much better. Visiting for the first time can be a little overwhelming and it can be hard to figure out the best way to do things. If you have any other tips please feel free to share them.


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