We survived Disneyland Paris!
We are now back from our short trip Paris and Disneyland Paris. It was an amazing experience but looking back it, it did feel a little chaotic. We rarely stay or visit anywhere expensive because (1) we just can’t afford it and (2) we don’t want to travel anywhere too far because we want to be mindful of other passengers on the plane. The kids are very active and I don’t think the other passengers will be thrilled with us on a long-haul flight, no matter how much we could try to bribe them with on-board treats.
How to visit Disneyland Paris on a shoestring budget
Before our trip, I googled Disney Paris on a budget but it seems like the word budget is not all it seems. There’s different types of ‘budget’ – I always thought budget meant as cheap as possible but apparently not.
We are not a family with disposable income so we really do have to save for months on end and make sure our money goes far when organising the kids’ birthdays. This year we splashed out and booked two nights in Paris and a day’s visit to Disneyland Paris. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do and it was a first-time experience for all of us so that made it even more special.
If you’re like us and want to visit Disneyland Paris but only have a tiny budget, this post might be a little eye-opener for you. Make sure you do your own research too so you can really make the most of your family trip. There’s a few things we had to cut out of our plans due to the awkward weather when we went and lack of time.
…Let’s get started!
Book park tickets far in advance
Booking your park tickets in advance will save you a lot of money. If you do plan to visit the park more than once in the year, an annual pass might be worth a considering. However if you can’t afford the annual pass or unsure that you’ll visit again in the year, just buy the day tickets. Admissions during the holiday periods are much more expensive than term-time visits so keep that in mind too. If you have a young child or children in nursery, you can really make the most of those off-peak tickets by going term-time. We went during summer holidays so we had to buy SUPER MAGIC (super-peak) period tickets so we didn’t get a hold of cheap tickets.
One day/one park tickets for 2 adults, 2 children = £281
Total spent: £281
Shop around for deals. We booked our tickets directly on the DLP website but there are many online websites that offer Disneyland ticket deals. For example, after booking ours I found tickets for one day park, hotel and Eurostar tickets for £99 per person.
Save ££: if you don’t have a specific date in mind, search on travel deal sites for the best deals. Usually you can get a good deal on Travelzoo for park tickets, flights and accommodation. Yay!
Top Tip: Go during term-time for the cheapest tickets. If you can’t help going during the more expensive period, look for package deals on sites like 365 Tickets which offers theme park ticket + accommodation and travel deals.
Travel by Eurostar from London for cost & convenience
I personally think the cheapest and fastest way to travel to Paris is by plane (40mins flight!) however the hassle of going to the airport, passing through the long queues at security and customs can sometimes be a bit too much especially with children in tow. The experience via Eurostar is much more convenient and can be cost effective if you book far in advance or when they have their promos (£29pp single).
Our train departed from London St. Pancras at 6.01pm and arrived in Paris at 9.35pm local time so about 2.5hrs journey ride which is not bad. The children were a little restless by the end of the train ride but did good enough to stay seated. Children under 3 do not need a ticket as they can sit on your lap however if the train is empty you can be cheeky and place them on a sit next to you if no-one takes the seat.
Eurostar staff are incredibly courteous and staff speak both French and English fluently. You can pay by card or cash (euros or pounds) at the refreshments cafe on board. There’s a toilet on every coach, air conditioning throughout the train and free WIFI access on board.
Eurostar tickets based on 2 adults and 1 child (under 3s go free) = £153
Total spent: £153
Save ££: purchase your tickets when Eurostar are having promotions, you could bag a single ticket as cheap as £29 per person and under 3s are free. It’s usually cheaper to purchase two single tickets than a return ticket when there’s promotions.
Top Tip: Download a few movies or shows for the kids onto a tablet or device beforehand and bring some books, activity packs to keep them entertained for the journey. That way you can minimise any tantrums or tears.
Don’t head into the first cafe/restaurant you see on arrival
We were hungry when we got off and wanted to eat before heading to the hotel so we stopped off at a restaurant opposite the station. Big mistake. I already knew in the back of my mind it would be a bad idea but I couldn’t bring myself to take us to McDonalds but in hindsight, I wish I had.
At the restaurant we ordered, one margherita pizza, one salmon dish, one lamb confit, two glasses of orange juice and a hot chocolate. The bill came to 60 EUROS – I was NOT impressed! I would suggest bringing more snacks with you on the Eurostar or eat before you get on the train at St. Pancras. Alternatively, opt for cheap eats or supermarket ready-foods.
Expensive crappy food = 60 EUR
Total Spent: £54 (approx.)
Pick a hotel close to amenities
We stayed at the Renaissace La Defense in the finance district of Paris. An urbanised area complete with its own shopping centre, restaurants, metro, train and bus station. It’s very easy to get around via public transport but man, it’s a different story via taxi. None of our taxi drivers were familiar with the area as it’s not really visited by locals and one driver even said to us “c’est compliqué” when trying to find the location. All of the hotels in the area are built up a level above street level so when you arrive by car you’ll need to head upstairs onto the upper level to get access to the hotels and shops.
On our arrival night we weren’t aware and walked through what felt like a labyrinth to find our hotel. Lucky our driver spoke English and Daddy P spoke French so communication was good. I’m sure if I was alone, I wouldn’t have been able to find my way around at night. Once we arrived at the hotel, we felt much better. The hotel was stunning; the staircase was beautiful and the reception area was clean and bright. For the price that we paid, we could’ve gotten a hotel room closer to the city ie by the Eiffel Tower. In hindsight, I would definitely compromise on a beautiful hotel for a closer proximity to the city centre.
Renaissance La Defense hotel was close to restaurants, supermarkets and retail stores. The metro station was within walking distance and the area looked really modernised and spacious. We didn’t have enough time to visit all the shops but had a look around the mall. There were a mix of known retail stores H&M, Zara and also a few French brands which was really nice.
Hotel stay for two nights in a family room = £189
Uber ride on arrival night = £30
Total spent: £219
Save ££: Have a look on Booking.com for hotel deals or if you prefer more privacy, check out Airbnb.com for great one or two bedroom apartments you can rent in Paris. Sometimes you’d get a better deal on these than the hotels. You can save more money by shopping at the local supermarkets to make home-cooked meals instead of eating out.
Top Tip: stay central if you want to visit the main landmarks or see more of the city. The further out into the suburbs you go, the more time you will spend travelling and you’ll also spend more on travelling costs buying train tickets.
Get the train to Disneyland but check for scheduled closures
After a good night’s sleep we woke up around 9am to leave the hotel around 11am. We went to buy snacks and food at the local Monoprix before heading to Disneyland Paris. Unfortunately for us, there was no direct RER train to DLP in Paris due to train engineering works which was going on all day from August 10-18. This was something we didn’t know about until we got there so make sure you check the train schedules online a few days before leaving so you can plan your route effectively. Using the Metro and RER trains were very easy and buying a ticket was also very easy. Ticket machines are available at metro station and offer different languages so you don’t have to work it out in French. Our RER ticket cost us €30.00 one way (2 adults, 2 children) which covered our journey for zones 1-3. I’d definitely recommend travelling to Disneyland via train – it takes around 1-1.5hr normally and is the cheapest option compared to taxi, Uber or coach. If you rented/hired or brought your own care to Paris, driving is another option but be aware it’s about 26 euros to park your car at the resort’s car park.
We started our journey at 12.00 and got to Marne-la-Vallée (Disneyland’s station) at 2pm. This is because part of our journey (from Auber to Vincennes) required us to exit the metro, walk 10mins to the next station (chateaux de vincennes) to resume our journey. During that walk we stopped off at a McDonalds for lunch. Children’s Happy Meals in Paris are great; the kids got a nugget happy meal each and it came with the toy, 4 nuggets, small chips, apple juice and a strawberry yoghurt drink. Amazing. Parisian Happy Meals are way better value than our UK ones and offer more of a balanced diet.
Train tickets for 2 adults, 2 children = 60EUR (30EUR one way)
2 kids happy meals, large drink and chips at McDonalds = 12EUR
Total spent: 72 EUR (£65 approx.)
Save ££: Catch the train for the cheapest route to travel from Paris. Alternative would be to take the car or use a taxi but this can be costly as the resort is very far from the city centre.
Top Tip: Check scheduled train closures days before your arrival so you can plan your route in advance. Leave for DLP early especially if you want to go on lots of rides because queues everywhere were long!
Be prepared for long queues and the ‘fast pass’ ticket isn’t that fast!
The main park was spectacular but man, the crowds! Soooo many people! I wasn’t prepared mentally for how busy it was going to be. I should’ve known better as we arrived in the afternoon – it was a bad move on my part but okay for our first experience.
We ended up going on about 3-4 rides in total but for us, it wasn’t a bad thing. The kids enjoyed their overall experience so much that they weren’t concerned on how many rides they went on. Originally, we wanted to arrive at the park as early as 10am but I am so glad we decided on a later afternoon time. For us, with our younger children, it worked. If you have older children, they will want to queue up for as many rides as possible so do arrive early.
With our entry ticket, we were given ‘fast pass’ access – I think Disneyland will continue to offer this for a while. Simply head over to the rides that are available with the fast pass (you can find out on the resort map which ones are) and print out your advance tickets. Unfortunately, you can’t select specific times but the tickets will allow you to skip the queue when it comes to the time for you to go on the ride. We printed out our Buzz Lightyear laser blast tickets at 2.30pm but was given fast pass for 7.30pm! We didn’t mind but that will give you an idea of the timings that’s given because of the number of people.
Save ££: Bring food, snacks, drinks and water with you to save on food costs. If you have younger children it’s not too bad but if you have big eaters or older children they will get very hungry and want to eat/snack constantly so stock up on these things by heading to a local Lidl, Auchan, Carrefour or Monoprix supermarket before entering the park. You’ll also save time queuing for food at the park’s restaurants.
Top Tip: If you’re not staying at the parks, travel to the park via train – it’s cheap and easy. The station is right outside the entrance and it’s hassle-free. Another tip, if you have young children, bring a stroller! Your feet, legs and sanity will thank you for it later.
I was extremely close to not bringing our stroller but a friend of mine who went a week before said don’t even think about not bringing one. The park is large and little legs will tire fast. Also they’re bound to fall asleep at least once during the day (Little Miss did!). You’ll also save around 30 euros by not hiring one from the resort.
We queued up for a mini boat cruise in Fantasyland which was enjoyable and relaxing once we got on the ride. The queue was about 30-40mins which was pretty long for one ride – some of the other rides had even longer wait times. The longest wait time I noticed was 90mins – my advice would be to check out the rides you want to go on online ahead of the visit. Anticipate long queues and wait times so plan to go on about 4-8 rides if you are there for a day visit. It’s impossible to complete the park in one day no matter what season you go.
After we finished our boat cruise, we went to check out Sleeping Beauty’s castle and the sleeping dragon underneath the castle. The boys went on the Pirate tree house and Phantom Manor ride whilst Little Miss and I went over to the town square to watch the street parade at 5.30pm which was fantastic. If you’re not going to be able to see all the Disney characters or only have a day ticket like we did, I’d highly recommend watching the street parade – it is one of the best things you can do and you can easily get a good spot and you will be able to see all the Disney characters in one sitting. The parade is approx. 30 mins so perfect length for the kids. Donald and Daisy duck, Mickey and Minnie mouse, all the princesses, the Lion King characters, Buzz Lightyear, Woody and friends, Anna and Elsa from Frozen were all characters we spotted on the parade!
Character Meets: Mickey Mouse
This was the only character meet that we queued for. We tried to look for Toy Story’s Jessie and friends in the Western World part of the park but we were too late. At the Princess Pavilion, it was Rapunzel from Tangled that we could see in the afternoon but the queue for her was even longer so Daddy P and I made the decision to go and see Mickey as we thought both of the kids will enjoy it more. We weren’t disappointed.
Even though the wait was 1.5-2hrs long and we even missed our fast pass entry for Buzz Lightyear’s laser blast ride, it was SO WORTH IT! The kids were kept entertained in Mickey’s theatre with short movie clips that were on a loop. I loved the concept they developed for it – like it was a special backstage meet with Mickey. Just before it was out turn to see Mickey, one of the animation team saw Little Man’s tshirt and noticed it was his birthday – they made a quick call and was able to get Mickey Mouse on the phone to him before our meet! Little Man said Mickey wished him Happy Birthday and just seeing his face lit up was an unforgettable moment.
We took our photos with Mickey – you are free to take your own photos using your phone of your Mickey meet but Daddy P and I were too filled with awe from seeing him with the kids we couldn’t move much haha! The photographer took the photos for us and gave us a little card so at the end of the meet we can purchase the photos if we wanted to. As we didn’t take any of our own photos, I bought them but they looked amazing so it was hard not to buy them. You can purchase just the images or with a photo frame. Of course they offer a deal for multi purchases and I bought two photos with frames for 25.99EUR which is around £23 – not bad for two beautiful photos but if you do want to save money, you can just take your own photos at the meet! The staff will even help you take a photo on your phone if you want to get a full family shot, no extra charge. 🙂
Staff at Disneyland were incredibly friendly, smiley and very talented. They are able to switch seamlessly from one language to another; from what I gathered all staff speak French, English, Spanish and German. In that order. And I’m sure they can speak Italian and possibly Mandarin too as there was a lot of Asian visitors too. They cater for pretty much everyone which was amazing to see. Language barrier is really the least of your concerns at this place.
Framed Disney photos at Mickey’s meet: £23
Total spent: £23
The Fireworks: Disney Illuminations
This has to be the real highlight of my Disneyland trip and I am so so glad we didn’t leave before it. Everyone gathers in the centre around 9pm onwards for a good spot and I don’t blame them. However we decided to head back to the Western World and go for our dinner. We dined at The Lucky Nugget Saloon which was affordable and tasty. A meal deal for dinner was 21.99EUR and for that you get a main dish, side, dessert and soft drink. The service was quick and super easy – we queue to order, pay and get seated shortly after. That took around 15mins and our food arrived at our table around 5mins after being seated. We took our time to enjoy our meal which was delicious – I had the rack of ribs and Daddy P and co had the fish with chips. We didn’t opt for dessert. We left the restaurant around 10.30pm and by then the park will filled with people waiting for the fireworks display. We walked all the way to the park entrance as we wanted to be one of the first to leave and had a decent spot watching the illuminations. We didn’t stay for the whole thing which is around 30mins but we watched the majority before running off to catch the train home. If we were staying at the park’s resort we wouldn’t be in a rush and take our time to find a good spot close to the Sleeping Beauty castle which is where they project the illuminations from. All I can say is whatever you do, stay for the show. Don’t miss it because it really does highlight your whole experience.
Top Tip: If you want to make it home before the crowd, leave the park slightly before the end of the illuminations. You can do this by choosing a good viewing spot close to the park entrance so you can make a quick escape.
Dinner at the Lucky Nugget Saloon = 21.99EUR x 4 = 87.96EUR (service not included)
Total spent: £85 approx. including service charge
Have a back-up plan of activities/excursions
We decided to have another lie-in as we didn’t get home until 1am the night before from DLP so we woke up 9am and checked out by 11am. We stopped off at McDonalds for ‘brunch’ – I forgot to mention that McDs in Paris offers macarons as a dessert! They are delicious and quite cheap, around 0.95 cents per maracon but I’m sure you can get a pack of 6 or 8 for a discounted rate. It was pouring down with rain on Saturday so our plans to see the Eiffel tower and Montmartre were out of the question. We hadn’t packed any weather-proof items or warm coats with us so we didn’t want to risk getting wet and coming down with a cold on our way home. We bought Metro day travel tickets and spent a day at the Louvre Museum. After here, we made it to the station where we waited until it was our time to go home. There are no free toilet facilities at the Louvre – it cost between 1.10-2.00 euros to use the toilet here so make sure you have some change with you.
Using the toilet at the Louvre Museum = 1,10EUR
Metro day tickets for 3 of us (U3s go free) = 29,80 EUR
Total spent: 30,90 EUR (£27 approx.)
We got to Gare du Nord by catching the metro from Louvre to Gare d’lest then changing at the station for the train to Gare du Nord. After spending a few hours wandering around the station, we headed upstairs to check into our Eurostar journey. There is a small children’s corner on the platform for kids to burn off some of their energy. Little Man did some reading, some colouring in and Little Miss joined in every now and then.
The highlights of Disneyland:
- Night illuminations
- A chance to see all of the characters at the parades
- No need to pay for additional rides
- Fast-pass ticket with every admission ticket
- Public transport nearby (train station is opposite the park)
- Ample car parking spaces
The downside of Disneyland:
- Very long queues and wait times
- Expensive and limited food choices
- Expensive car parking charges (around 26 euros)
- Expensive buggy hire (around 30 euros)
Total spent on our trip to Disneyland Paris: £809
Would I recommend it?
YES! Especially if you’ve never been before. It really is a wonderful experience despite the negatives. Yes, it can cost a fortune but the magic is still there and you’ll see it in your children’s eyes.
Just make sure you take them at an age that they can actually enjoy it (3 years and above) otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it unless you can really afford to spend at least £800+ on a few days. Booking off-season would definitely help (avoid UK and French school holidays) and you should be able to find cheap park prices and better parking capacity.
I hope you enjoyed this blog review.
We are looking forward to going back but whether that’ll be next year or in a few year’s time we’re not sure yet. It was definitely a memorable experience and we all enjoyed it thoroughly. 🙂 You can watch a video of our day trip on YouTube:
Au Revoir for now… we will be back soon!