My friend recently decided to celebrate her 30th birthday at Disneyland Paris. The plan was to spend only that one day at the famous theme park, because Paris has so many more sights to see, and we only had a few short days on our schedule. How do you truly experience Disneyland in just a single day? With a bit of planing and the ability to make some sacrifices. By following these two simple guidelines you will, not only be able to experience the Disney magic, but will also stay on budget.
How to get there:
It was a five hour long drive from Frankfurt, Germany to Paris, France. We decided to go by car, because we wanted to stop in the famous Champagne region (I will also write a brief review of Reims, France soon). With traffic being light, the drive was very pleasant. There are toll roads in France and we paid around 30 € each way.
For those of you flying and arriving at the Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG) and don’t want to rent a car, you have generally three options to get to Disneyland:
- A 40 minute taxi ride – your most expensive option.
- The high-speed train TGV (French: Train à Grande Vitesse) directly from CDG to Disneyland Paris (Station Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy). The trip will set you back 17.50€ (around $20) but takes you to Disney in only around 12min.
- The cheapest option is to take the regional train RER B from CDG to Paris (Station Chatelet Les Halles) and then switch to RER A to Disneyland Paris (Station Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy). This trip, in turn, will take around 1.5 hours but will only cost 7.60€ (around $9). Once at the Station Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy, you can either go directly to the park or take a shuttle to your hotel first.
Where to stay:
There are six hotels located inside the theme park. Staying at one of these fine establishments gives you the benefit of taking advantage of the “Extra Magical Hours”. That means you have extended theme park hours – before and after the regular operating hours. But this privilege, like all magic =), has its price. Depending on your budget, you may want to also consider hotels located outside of the park. Most of the hotels have a complimentary shuttle service and are operating regularly during theme park hours. We stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel Disneyland Paris Golf Resort. It is just a short 10min shuttle ride away from the park. You can also use the shuttle for a trip to downtown Paris, as the train station Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy is located at the park.
Daily tickets range from $53 to $102, depending on several factors:
- Weekdays or weekends
- Entry only to Disneyland Paris or a combination with the Walt Disney Studio Park
- If you’re able to book a specific date or require a range of dates
We got the one-day ticket for both parks.
Plan ahead and make a list of your priorities! Which rides are you interested in and what Disney characters and parades do you want to see. You should also leave room for the famous fireworks. They are truly spectacular.
For a Meet n’ Greet with Disney characters you can go to their respective meeting points. But we expected long lines at those and probably just a quick “Hi” and “Bye”. Therefore, we decided to have an exclusive Disney character lunch. There are three locations (http://www.disneylandparis.com/en-us/dining/disney-restaurants-and-dining-experiences/) to choose from. Each offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. Prices range from around $40 – $70, excluding drinks. Reservations are highly recommended. We booked the buffet at Inventions located in the Disney Hotel. Several Disney characters popped in to joke around and to take some pictures with us. We had a blast and I can only recommend this. This also saves time by combining lunch with a Disney photo session.
Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studio Park:
First and foremost, let me talk about FASTPASS. FASTPASS is a very useful tool to maximize your time at Disney. It’s a pass that you can print at booths by all the main attractions simply by inserting your park entry ticket. The pass will give you a timeframe of when you can return to that particular ride and use the FASTPASS lane to get on. There’s a minimum of 40 minutes before you can return. There is a caveat however: You can only obtain one FASTPASS for each park (Disneyland and Walt Disney Studio) at a time. A second FASTPASS can be requested as soon as the first one has been used or two hours have passed since the first one was issued, whichever comes first. Keep that in mind when planning your day. More information about the FASTPASS can be found here http://www.disneylandparis.co.uk/guest-services/fast-pass.
Another option when you’re limited on time is the “single-riders line”. These lines are used to fill in the gaps on rides. They are not always open, but are usually relatively short when they are. Since we wanted to stay in a group, we did not take advantage of this.
We left our hotel in time to be one of the first in line when the park opened at 10am and our first destination was the Walt Disney Studio Park. Once inside, we headed straight for one of the major attractions to obtain a FASTPASS. To our surprise, the FASTPASS was only redeemable after 7pm. We would have to wait two hours to obtain another pass from a different attraction and decided to try some of the smaller rides in the meantime.
We got our second FASTPASS at Disneyland just before our Meet n’ Greet. Once we had our pass, we went to lunch at Inventions and enjoyed the time with Mickey Mouse, Eeyore, Goofy, Pinocchio and Geppetto, followed by attending “Mickey’s Halloween Celebration”, the Halloween parade that spreads “magic everywhere”.
After the Halloween celebration, we visited some more attractions and rides. We wanted to obtain another FASTPASS but the booths were already closed (probably because all FASTPASS timeframes for the day where already issued). At around 5:30pm, we headed back to the main street for the great “Disney Magic on Parade” to see all Disney characters marching by and dancing to the Disney theme song. We also had dinner at one of the Disney restaurants located on the main street. At 7pm we redeemed our first FASTPASS. It was still a 20min wait in line, but that was much better than the regular line. Afterwards, we continued down our priority list until we redeemed our second FASTPASS at 9pm.
The most fascinating moment was the “Disney Dreams” fireworks at 10pm. It told a story of Neverland and magic, expressed in a combination of laser show and fireworks, underlined by the amazing soundtracks of some of the most famous Disney movies. The show lasted for about 20min and marked to the closing of the park and the end to an awesome day for us at Disneyland Paris.
A trip to Paris:
Have another day to spend in Paris? Awesome, then take the train back to the city and enjoy the Eiffel Tower and many more world-famous sightseeing spots. We had enough time to grab a quick lunch in the city before heading home and decided to take the train because Paris is also world famous for having unforgivable traffic and less than desirable parking. It took around an hour and a half to get to the Eiffel Tower by train.
Wifi availability at Disneyland Paris and, seemingly, France in general, is very limited. I didn’t have any wifi signal throughout the park except during lunch at Inventions. Be prepared to be disconnected from the internet for the majority of the day =). Disneyland Paris offers an App with an interactive park map, descriptions of every single attraction, FASTPASS availability and information about wait times at the individual attractions. However, due to the general lack of Wifi availability, the app was utterly useless to us and was promptly deleted off our phones to make room for pictures and videos =).
Credit cards are accepted everywhere at Disneyland and Walt Disney Studio Park. My Chase Sapphire Preferred card ended up being my trusty companion during the entire trip as most of my expenses were on dining and travel, especially since Chase counts tolls as travel. Chip and signature cards also turned out to be no problem at all when I bought my train tickets. The only problem I encountered was at a Carrefour gas station. The gas station only accepted Visa and Mastercard credit cards and various debit cards, which was really odd for a gas station. My Sapphire Preferred was immediately declined at the pump, but then luckily accepted at the booth.
So this is it, our day at Disneyland Paris. Honestly, I was very skeptical at the idea and thought we would miss out on so much. But we toured the entire park and got onto every ride on our list. Besides not making it to the Disney princesses (we really wanted selfies with them), all our wishes were fulfilled that day, and then some.
What do you think? Would you try to experience Disneyland Paris in only a single day? Or have you been before and, if so, what was your experience there? Please leave your comments or questions below, e-mail us, or contact us on social media. We look forward to hearing from you.