This time last week we were still in Disneyland Paris, most likely waiting to go on It’s a Small World ride (again!).
We are completely on a downer having had the best few days away in such a magical place. However, it is only 186 days until our next visit over the festive season so I shouldn’t complain!
A few weeks ago, I posted some info that I have picked up over the last few years of going to Disneyland. (Apologies about the format!) I hope they were handy. I have found myself picking up useful tips over the years and I think its nice to share what you know so people can make their trip has magical as possible.
I have had so many questions about Disneyland Paris so I’m hoping to answer them all here. As such, I will be focusing on providing detailed info on the bulk of the queries I received rather than do a day by day of our trip.
Many of the questions recently have been about our hotel, character meets and dining so I will do my best to provide info on these topics.
I will start with our hotel! This trip we decided to stay at the Disneyland Hotel which is right by the main theme park. In fact, you have to walk under it to enter the park. We booked it via magic breaks and whilst it is obviously the most expensive hotel in Disneyland, we thought there would be too many pros to argue the price.
First impressions as we entered the hotel with our luggage was good. There are scanners to ensure that you are not bringing anything dangerous into the hotel (and subsequently, parks). We queued up at reception to check in and we were really surprised that we were able to get our room so early. Afterall, it was only 9.30am! We were given our park tickets, room keys and some general information and we headed to our room. Our room was on the second floor, right at the end of the corridor.
When we entered the room I was disappointed about how small it was. There was a double bed and in the corner was a sofa, presumably for Ita. The thing is, where it was positioned there was no chance of pulling the sofa out and making it into a bed. It didn’t bother Ita, frankly she was more than happy to be sleeping in the big bed with us! And rather than pick at faults we thought WERE IN DISNEYLAND!
As the days went on, we found staying at the Disneyland Hotel quite frustrating. Anyone has access to the hotel so the lobby is often busy and your rooms are not cut off from other people either. There is very little privacy. We went to the pool one afternoon and it will full of people from other hotels. The lifeguard didn’t seem fussed about grown men jumping in the pool nor did he seem fazed by people taking photos and recording on their phones. This was a big surprise for me since it’s a basic safeguarding issue.
Another reason we chose to stay here was the fact that character meets are promised daily. Well we never saw one at all! When I asked concierge, they shrugged their shoulders and said ‘’sometimes yes, sometimes no’’. Over all it’s a bit ‘meh’ and so were looking forward to staying at Newport Bay next time.
After we checked in we headed to Gallerie Mickey (the hotels giftshop) on the same floor as our room, with the intention of booking Ita the Princess for a Day experience. We were fortunate to book a noon appointment for the next day. Before traveling to Disneyland I had been told (by the hotel in fact) that you could only book the experience directly with the gift shop and on the day you wanted the experience. However, it transpires that whilst you have to book directly at the gift shop, you can actually book up to 3 days in advance. This is really handy and well worth knowing for planning purposes! Ita wanted to do this little experience the last time we went but as she was only 2 years, she was too young. The minimum age is 3 years and that is specifically because of the face paint/makeup. (The same minimum age requirement exists in the park for face painting too). The experience ranges from about 55euros all the way up to a couple of thousands of pounds! The basic package includes hair and makeup as well as a certificate and a photoshoot to finish it off. The most expensive package is the same, but you meet a Disney princess and spend the day with her in the parks. It is no shock to people that we like to treat Ita, but we were only ever going to get the basic package. She is a real-life princess anyway!
Just some advice, on our last trip we made a point of checking out the outfits that were included in the packages and could not believe how cheap they looked. The princess dresses in Disneyland Paris cost a standard 60euros, but in all honestly you wouldn’t want to pay more than perhaps £15 for them. Therefore I really recommend bringing your own. Not only is it cheaper but you can find pretty dresses in the likes of Tesco and Asda. Ita loves the tulle ones from the Disney Store so we bring those along.
To make it a bit more special, we had a Cinderella dress made especially for Ita (the shop is tagged on my Instagram). This was part of her birthday celebrations and as she so badly wanted to do this experience the last time, I felt like it was deserved.
Ita really enjoyed this and we are likely to book this experience again when we next visit! My only qualm was how quick the experience lasted. From start to finish I think it was about 20 minutes. In all fairness, I am not sure what I expected and perhaps I was being unreasonable because Ita absolutely loved it. You also get a free print and these are not cheap in Disneyland! In hindsight, considering it’s a lovely experience with magical extras, it was well worth the money and actually relatively cheap in Disney terms.
On our first day we headed to the main theme park and headed straight for Fantasy Land. This seems to be our standard plan! It’s a Small World is always so quiet in the mornings. We find that Ita can go on all of the rides in Fantasy Land and it is the area you walk into having pass through the castle. We tend to spend most of our time here.
So let me explain Magic Hours. If you are staying at a Disney hotel, you can access the parks slightly earlier each day. There are early morning meet and greets as well as the Princess Pavillion (where you can meet Aurora, Snow White, Belle or Ariel).
Listed below are the rides and attractions open during the magic hours. It is very clear that the extra time is used by people to visit the princesses since queues typically are over an hour long. However, you’re at Disneyland, why would you not meet characters especially the princesses? Therefore, I really recommend using the extra time to leg it down to the Princess Pavillion. You read that right… you will literally see people sprinting there!!
Les Voyages de Pinocchio
Le Carousel de Lancelot
Peter Pans Flight
Mad Hatters Tea Cups
Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing
Big Thunder Mountain
Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast
On our first day we also had a character lunch booked at Auberge D’Cendrillion (translated to Cinderella’s restaurant!). We have eaten here twice before, once at dinner and once at lunch. This is also known as the princess restaurant. Here you will meet Aurora, Snow White, Belle, Tiana, Ariel, Rapunzel and of course, Cinderella and her mice. To be clear, you will always meet Cinderella but the restaurant only guarantees 3 other princesses per sitting and you will not know in advance who they are. We have never met Ariel here but since Ita met her at her party and then again at the Princess Pavillion, she wasn’t bothered! Now, it is pricey but considering how difficult it is to meet the princesses in the park, it is worth paying for. The food is not great, and the menu hasn’t changed over the years that we have visited, but the princesses are attentive and the feedback from Ita is that this is her favourite thing to do at Disneyland. (She’s only just turned 3, god help me!). Before this visit, a few people had complained that they did not get to meet many princesses here. I wonder if they knew of the 3 princess rule. However, my advice here is based on a simple reminder that you are not in Britain! Complaining under your breath and then smiling and nodding your head will not help you!! Be European! Make is known you are displeased!! We did, and Snow White and Aurora came dancing out within 5 minutes. Another tip here is be aware of how cramped ADC is. If you need space make this known when you are booking. We have sat at different areas each time we have visited and should we eat here again, I will ask to be in the middle where there is a walk way. Now you’re probably wondering why someone who is only 5feet tall would need space… well its so there aren’t any stragglers in my photos! GET IN THE BIN! You are ruining my shots!
On the second day we booked a character breakfast at Plaza Gardens which is just at the end of Main Street USA in the main park. We very deliberately booked the earliest sitting at 8.15amand made sure we were one of the first there. Why? Seems so daft since you have booked, right? Wrong. Plaza Gardens is gorgeous but like many of the restaurants in Disneyland, it is cramped. I knew exactly where we wanted to sit specifically to make sure that getting to the food was convenient and that no other customers would be in our photos! Seems so vain doesn’t it? Really contrived! But you are paying for the characters when you book these places to eat and in paying for the characters you are obviously going to take photos. So why would I want random strangers scoffing their scrambled eggs in the background? Again, GET IN THE BIN!
Although this next bit is not specific to character dining, I really wanted to share some bug bears with you in the hope you wont waste time like we did. We decided one day to have lunch at Bella Notte which is the Italian restaurant close to It’s a Small World. Stupidly we went in at around 12 and the queue was out the door which should have put us off, but it didn’t and Dominic went to queue up. 50 minutes later he returned to our table with food. 50 MINUTES! It was horrendous. It was so overpriced, and we couldn’t enjoy the food because the volume of sound was immense. We both left hungry, with banging headaches and annoyed that we had wasted so much money there.
I would really recommend planning your lunch time in particular. It makes sense that the busiest time will be between 12-2.30ish. Normally, we head back to the Village for time out and have lunch there and we will definitely keep doing this. It is not worth eating in the parks unless you have a character lunch planned. In the Village there are many restaurants including Mc Donalds and 5 Guys for fast food options. I would go as far as suggesting planning where you will eat daily, including when. This really helps with keeping the day ticking along.
Meet and Greets
Ok so after posting photos of our trip, I got the most questions about meet and greets. I can’t stress enough how planned you need to be with these. You don’t want to spend hours queuing but equally it’s a big part of going to Disneyland. Otherwise you would just go to any old theme park.
One guide that is useful is that most groups spend only about a minute with the characters. Two minutes at most. So if there are 50 people in front, try and gauge how many belong to the same group and its easier than you think to determine how long you will be waiting.
So here is what you need to know. Firstly decide on who you definitely want to meet. Ita had said she really wants to meet Jasmine. Truly, she didn’t stop going on about meeting Jasmine! The meet with Aladdin (and friends) is listed as being between 10-16.15 daily. When actually the meet for Aladdin and Jasmine is between 11.15 – 12 and then again at 1.15 – about 2.30. We tried to queue for this on our first day but the line was long and we had our princess lunch booked. Really, it’s the (and friends) who are around for longer periods. We got very lucky to accidently be in the right place at the right time to meet Genie so there were only about 10 people ahead and it was the same for Jafar. These characters you will find in the Agrabah area and you should be able to meet them quite easily without queuing for more than 20 mins. Therefore on our 3rd day we made a conscious effort to be at the front of the queue to meet Jasmine and Aladdin and it made Ita’s day.
You will note that some meet and greets start from 10am and others from 11am or 12am. My tip would be to pick one from 10am (obviously be there earlier to queue) and then hop over to an 11.15ammeet. For example, queue to meet Minnie, Donald or Daisy (they appear from 10am) and then plan to head straight to another queue for the likes of Winnie the Pooh or Baloo who appear from 11.15 am. It seems excessive but this way you will spend half a day meeting characters. In terms of meeting Mickey, there is a special Meet Mickey Mouse place at the back of Fantasy Land. The queues are not that bad and you can fit this into doing rides in that area too.
Here is an example of how I would plan the meet and greets!
If you are staying at a Disney hotel, head to the Princess Pavillion since this is opened the earliest and arguably has the longest waiting time.
Head straight to a 10 am meet and greet on Main Street (Minnie, Donald or Daisy).
Head back to Frontier Land to meet Woody from 11am.
Walk through Agrabah which is very close by to meet with Genie and Jafar (fingers crossed!).
Then head to Fantasy Land to meet with Alice and the Madhatter from noon.
Then go to Meet Mickey as that is also based at Fantasy Land.
In one morning, potentially you would have met 6 or 7 characters and you can spend the rest of the day on rides! Characters usually stop meet and greets mid-afternoon in both parks.
There are also unscheduled meets and these have no queue at all. This has happened to us once last year, when Rapunzel appeared by the pink tower close to Bella Notte.
That leads me on to the Photopass. Well the Disneyland website is a tad misleading here. It suggests that there is a professional photographer at all your meet and greets which isn’t the case. We only met professional photographers at the Princess Pavillion and at Meet Mickey. Obviously there are some photographs taken on rides but honestly I couldn’t think of anything worse than buying them. They’re never flattering. The Photopass is about £70 or thereabout and it gives you access to all of the digital photos taken. Prints are expensive in Disneyland and if I recall correctly they start at about £15 for one? Although it is cheaper to by the Photopass before you go, I would suggest waiting to see how many photos you get whilst you’re there. On this occasion we bought the pass afterwards since the photographer took so many beautiful photos during the Princess for a Day experience. On previous occasions we haven’t bothered.
I hope this has been useful!
If you have any other questions I am happy to tr and help – just pop me a message on Instagram!