We all want to take our kids to Disneyland don’t we? They grow up with Snow White and Nemo, Toy Story and Spiderman and we would only just love to see their little faces light up when they come across these life sized versions.
For a variety of reasons, a trip to Disneyland Paris (DLP) didn’t even feature on our radar when the kids were smaller. My daughter was never into princesses really and so many things were happening, a holiday just wasn’t really a priority. I’m not sure she ever really imagined she would get to Disney either, it seemed a bit of an unreachable dream for a kid.
Late last year I decided to bite the bullet and price it up. Of course the first thing I did was check the official Disneyland Paris website, price up our days and see how I got on.
Well let me tell you it took me a while to pick my jaw up off the floor when I realised that I would need to re-mortgage for a chance at the Disney magic.
My daughter would be 11 so it was just the two of us. Sadly one adult and one child isn’t really the standard package so you do get hit with extras along the way for being that single parent family. Neither of us are ones for huge crowds but even the prices off peak were beyond our budget.
My head was in a spin with all of these offers of half board, extra nights etc and I began to research on Facebook groups what it all meant. To be honest at that stage I set it all aside for a while, I just couldn’t fathom it and there was no way we could afford the prices quoted, even with a few free meals and an extra night.
Don’t forget free nights mean more days in the park which means more expense – a clever way of getting you to spend more money.
In the New Year I started to price things up separately and realised this could be done on a much tighter budget than I originally imagined. We finally settled on mid-week in early October, a pretty quiet time with hopefully reasonable weather – I did take my daughter out of school for three days for the trip and I know this might not be everybody’s choice.
I kept an eye on Skyscanner (though not too often as I had heard something about frequent checking from the same IP address causing prices to shoot up – how true that is I’m unsure?) and in mid January booked flights for the two of us for just over €200.
Then I started my search for accommodation – I poured over maps, trains, Tripadvisor reviews etc and realised that we could stay in the local small town just one stop away on the train for a really good price. We wanted self catering to avoid the high costs of eating out every day and settled on a place called Residhome in nearby Val d’Europe which cost us €169 including taxes for the two of us for two nights.
With regard to transfers, there are numerous options – I decided on a private taxi transfer which I know did cost us a little extra but travelling on my own I just didn’t feel like I wanted to tackle trains and buses. The train would be a cheaper option and goes from the airport right to Disney. Private transfer from the airport to Disneyland Paris was €120 return for the two of us with Prestige . The driver waits for you at arrivals and drops you right back to departures. Do research your options on this though as there are cheaper choices. We found Prestige a very high quality transport with friendly and professional drivers. They will even play movies in the car to keep the kids amused.
When it came to park tickets, I found again that the DLP site was the most expensive. I eventually booked our two day two park tickets for €250 in total on AttractionTix . There are other options such as 365 tickets which come in around a similar price.
So in total our flights, accommodation, transfers and tickets came in at under €750 for the two of us for two nights and two days/two park access.
We personally found two days plenty in the parks, but it really will depend on what you are looking for. If you have children who want to meet a lot of characters then you might spend a lot of your days queuing and two days might not seem enough.
The flights with Air France (operated by CityJet) were excellent and we got drinks and snacks on both the outward and return journey. Staff were so friendly and particularly to all of the children clearly going to DLP.
The accommodation at Residhome Val d’Europe was excellent – staff were really friendly on check in and the rooms were clean, comfortable and spacious enough for the two of us. There is a kitchen area which has two hobs and a microwave as well as a kettle, dishwasher and fridge. The room was quiet and the bed really comfortable. They do have bigger apartments for more guests.
A short stroll of five minutes up the road took us to a lovely little town square with restaurants and shops as well as a very large upmarket shopping centre. There is a nice small supermarket in the square selling everything you could need and an even larger one in the shopping centre if you are really looking to stock up. We bought all we would need for taking a packed lunch with us into the park. There are also a number of bakeries and we visited Le Boulangerie Du Val a number of times over the few days for croissants, pastries and baguettes.
The train station is right on the square but even more conveniently there is an entrance to the station right beside Residhome (which also has a tiny sandwich bar selling drinks, rolls and croissants).
You can buy 10 tickets for the train for just €15 at the machines inside the station (both at the back and main entrance). There are only two platforms and the side for DLP is clearly marked. Trains come very frequently (at least every 10 mins) and it takes about three mins to get to Disney. The train station is right at the gates of the park.
We brought some cereal bars and other bits with us from home to cut costs – including water bottles we could refill in the park. Unfortunately, we found it hard to locate the water fountains but I probably didn’t do my research on that well enough. In the mornings we ate breakfast at the apartment and made rolls which we took along with some other snacks into the park after breakfast. This really did save us money.
The official DLP app is absolutely essential when it comes to planning your day in the park – it gives details of the wait times for all of the rides, which ones are closed for refurbishments, if you can use fastpass etc. It also gives the opening times of the parks and has the restaurants and toilets clearly marked.
The parks were pleasantly busy (2nd – 4th October) and the weather was warm and clear for the most part. Queues for rides were no more than half an hour, but more like 20 mins in most cases. Fastpasses allowed us to make the best use of our time. My daughter isn’t into the thrill rides so the wait times may be a little longer on those, we didn’t check.
The parades both at around 12.15pm and 5.30pm were excellent and different at both times. In the middle of the day we saw a really fun spooky Halloween parade whereas in the evening it was all of the characters from the movies from Woody to Olaf. It is important to get a good spot on Main Street to plan to get there early and bag your place.
For the illuminations in the evenings (8pm), we found a spot around an hour beforehand just at the end of main street in front of the castle and waited there until it started (we sat on the ground while we waited). I can imagine in the busy times you would need to be there even earlier. The illuminations were absolutely amazing, don’t miss them.
Eating in the parks is expensive and personally I felt the selection was very poor. Thankfully we were able to eat lunch on the benches and in the evenings went to McDonalds in Disney Village which was quick and cheap.
You’ll pay €7.50 or so for two bottles of soft drinks at any of the stands. On our particularly long day we got counter service at Caseys on Main Street – it was just over €20 for two chips, two large drinks and one portion of (eight) nuggets. Nice food, not a bad price either in comparison to many other places.
A twister ice cream and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s cost us over €8 one of the days but it was warm and we needed the refreshment.
You could spend a fortune in the shops but we really didn’t go crazy. My daughter had some of her own money and bought some soft toys and we got a few gifts, but otherwise couldn’t justify paying the prices they were asking.
All in all the trip cost us less than €1,000 for the whole package. It honestly is the experience of a lifetime and while that still sounds expensive it is well worth the money. You could eat on the park, go to some shows, add character meals and spend a fortune in the shops and spend multiples of this, but I genuinely feel the magic is there no matter how much you spend.
Don’t forget those comfortable shoes … we walked an average of 20k steps a day and our feet were definitely achey by the end of it.