When it comes to a Disney trip, just booking your hotel and flights does not mean you are finished preparing for your visit. While visiting Disneyland Paris requires far less planning than a Disney World trip, there are still a number of preparations that you will want to do before hand.
Book Your Meals
I would strongly recommend booking all table service/sit-down restaurant meals at Disneyland Paris in advance. If you haven’t pre-paid your meal (by booking online for a character meal or dinner show), there is no penalty for not showing up and you can cancel up until the last minute. But if you don’t have a reservation, you could end up waiting a long time, particularly at popular times of the day.
Reservations are essential for character meals, and I highly recommend them for Walt’s, Chez Remy, and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West dinner show. In most other restaurants, you might be successful in getting a table without a reservation on all but the busiest days. Personally, I would book all of my table service meals in advance.
Character meals are a favorite part of Disney trips for my family. At Disneyland Paris the food ranges from a generous and passable buffet (Inventions) to overpriced and poor (Auberge de Cendrillion). However, character meals do provide an efficient way to meet a lot of characters, many of which you would not meet elsewhere at Disneyland Paris. And you have to eat somewhere. For this reason, I usually book multiple character meals on our trips.
Making reservations is confusing at Disneyland Paris. If you are staying “on property,” you can book some meals when you book your hotel. This option is a relatively recent enhancement. The choices available at the time of my posting include breakfast at the Plaza Gardens Restaurant, lunch at Auberge de Cendrillion, and dinner at Inventions and at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show… with Mickey & Friends. These online bookings are available for trips even more than two months out.
If you are not staying “on property,” you can call +33 1 60 30 40 50 up to two months prior to your trip. However, to complicate matters further, breakfast at the Plaza Gardens Restaurant can only be reserved 3 days in advance if not purchased with a package. Be prepared for a lengthy phone wait before speaking with someone. I have tried at all hours of the day and night and have always been placed on hold for quite awhile. As most people will be paying international calling rates, this waiting is extremely frustrating. Therefore, if you can book your meals when you book your hotel room, I would definitely recommend doing so.
The concierge desks at the Disney hotels can also book meals for you – if there is any availability left when you arrive. I have also tried calling the hotel concierge prior to my arrival, but they just refer me to the dining reservation number.
Prepare your phone
Smart phones and their available apps are very useful at Disneyland Paris. Before going to Disneyland Paris, I suggest downloading three apps on to your phone.
- The official Disneyland Paris app This app puts a map of the park in your hands, provides you with wait times for attractions, as well as other useful information.
- The Disneyland Paris PhotoPass app If you are thinking about purchasing PhotoPass, this download is essential. The app allows you to scan ride photos and download them to your account, view the photos that have been taken of your group, and download photos to your phone.
- MagiPark’s Disneyland Paris app This is an unofficial Disney app, but it is incredibly useful. Not only will it show you current wait times for all of the attractions, but also historical wait times for rides. You will get a good idea of what is a reasonable time to expect to wait and also see when the wait time dips for individual rides. It’s free and definitely worth downloading.
Disneyland Paris does not have wifi in the parks or Disney Village, only in the hotels. Therefore, you will probably want to check with your mobile carrier to see if you can reasonably add roaming data (unless you don’t have a French mobile plan).
If you are like me, and are using your phone as a camera, you will probably also need to bring an external back-up battery. While I don’t recommend filming and photographing everything, even a disciplined phone user is likely to drain the battery at least once while at Disney. Plus, smart phones can be very useful distractions while waiting in line.
Just as important if planning on taking pictures with your phone is to ensure that you have enough space in your phone’s memory. Be sure to delete old and unneeded pictures to ensure that you have capacity to capture your Disney memories.
Finally, if you are coming from outside continental Europe, you will need a plug adapter to be able to charge your phone in the hotel room. These are usually much cheaper when purchased at home through Amazon than at a convenience store or, worse, a hotel gift shop.
What to bring/Packing
First, read my post on 6 Tips for Visiting ANY Disney Park. You will want to make sure you bring autograph books, Sharpie markers, ponchos, glow sticks, and mouse ears. Depending on your group, you will probably also want to consider the following items. These will help make your trip easier, save you money, or both.
- Stroller If you have children under 6, I strongly recommend bringing a stroller. You can rent it inside the theme parks, but then you don’t have it for the walks to and from your hotel. And your children will be tired enough without wearing them out with unnecessary walking! Plus, with a stroller you have someplace to store diapers/nappies, snacks, extra clothes, etc. We no longer use a stroller at home with my 5-and almost 7-year-olds, but I wouldn’t dream of doing Disney without one. Really. Bring it. (Borrow or rent if necessary.)
- Princess Costumes/Disney Dress Up I recommend that anyone with young children who might possibly want to dress up at Disneyland bring costumes from home. A huge percentage of children will be strolling around the parks in costume, making it quite likely that your little princess or pirate will want to dress up as well. Disney knows this likelihood and will solve that problem for you with a variety of very overpriced princess costumes and Star Wars capes. And I mean crazy overpriced! I was floored to see some (extremely beautiful, although not necessarily super well made) princess dresses going for €200!And dressing up is not just for little girls. My son excitedly packs his Spider-Man costume for meeting his favorite superhero (which you can do at Disneyland Paris). And don’t forget your Star Wars costumes, pirate hats and headbands, Prince Charming, and Buzz Lightyear suits.Sadly, adults cannot come in full costumes to the park unless it is the Halloween party.The over 12’s need to satisfy their dress up fun through mouse ears (my headgear of choice for Disney), Disney bounding, or cute t-shirts. Again, I recommend buying all of these items in advance to save yourself lots of money.
- Lanyards At Disneyland Paris you need to insert your park ticket into the FastPass machines to get your FastPass. Then you need to carry the paper FastPasses around too. Plus if you have PhotoPass, you have a PhotoPass card for the photographers to scan. And you may have paper hotel FastPasses or meal plan vouchers as well. I have found a lanyard with ID/ticket holder to be invaluable at Disneyland Paris. The one time I didn’t have a lanyard I was constantly tearing apart my purse searching for tickets and FastPasses.
- Emergency Blanket These foil emergency blankets fold up to be smaller than a phone, are cheap, and are very useful in the parks. If it starts raining, you can use one as a stroller cover. If you are waiting for a parade or fireworks, you can put it on the ground to protect youself from damp and dirty sidewalks or muddy grass. If you need an impromptu picnic spot, you have one. Or if someone in your party gets really cold while waiting for a show, parade, or in line you have a quick warm-up wrap.
- Thin blanket or towel I think this is really only needed for winter trips. While your emergency blanket will help a lot, in the winter you will likely appreciate a blanket to sit on or wrap up in as well. If you are bringing a stroller, this item is a no-brainer to throw in the bottom storage basket.
- Water Bottles France is far ahead of most countries in outlawing single use plastics, and so in addition to being expensive, buying water can be difficult at Disneyland Paris. (You can, of course, still get a paper cup of water from most counter service restaurants for free.) I suggest bringing a refillable water bottle to keep yourself affordably hydrated while touring Disneyland.
- Snacks If you have read my first Disneyland Paris post, you know that I do not highly regard the food available at Disneyland Paris. Not only are the snack and food options limited, but they can even be surprisingly hard to find, especially in Walt Disney Studios. Throw a couple of portable snacks in your park touring bag and save yourself a lot of frustration and money. I always pack extras for the hotel room too, and usually a bottle or two of wine as well!
- Thin gloves In the winter months I would definitely bring a pair of gloves for everyone. The thin, stretchy ones are ideal. For adults, or others using smartphones, you may want to consider ones that are touch screen compatable or fingerless so that you can use your phone/camera without taking your gloves off all the time.
- Hand/Foot warmers This is another winter-only suggestion. When the park is really chilly, having one of these chemical handwarmers or footwarmers can make your time at Disneyland much more magical.
What other things do you like to pack in your park bag or make sure you do to prepare for a Disneyland Paris trip? Let our other readers and me know in the comments.
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