Whether you want to give your kids a holiday of a lifetime or you’re secretly fulfilling your own childhood dream, going to Disneyland this year could be the best decision you’ve made.
Set to turn spectacularly sparkly to celebrate its 25th Anniversary, it will have special new attractions, shows, illuminations and star studded parades. This once in a lifetime Disney experience will leave you and your kids with starry-eyed memories for years to come.
Now as magical as it is, Disneyland can take the Mickey when it comes to pricing (get it?) It can also be a bit of a minefield that requires a lot of planning to make the most of your stay. Luckily for you we have become Disney savvy and completed all the groundwork so you don’t have to.
There are seven Disney hotels to choose from: the closest and most expensive is the Disneyland Hotel – just five minutes’ walk to the parks, which is ideal for small children who can pop back for naps and you wont have to wait for a shuttle bus at the end of an exhausting day. It also has character dining on site, and you get to take advantage of ‘magic hours’ – which allows guests into the park two hours before official opening times.
For a 2-night / 3 day stay based on 2 adults and 2 Children (3-11yrs) you should expect to pay a total of around 6,500 AED in low season and 10,500 AED in peak season (inclusive of accommodation and park tickets). Meal plans are additional and the options are just to take Breakfast, choose Half Board or choose the Full Board option and have 4 tiers of restaurant standard for each (being Hotel, Standard, Plus and Premium). For example, to be on a half board / Hotel basis you will pay a further 115 AED Per adult and 85 AED Per child per day. If you were on a half-board / Premium basis you will pay a further 285 AED per adult per day and 195 AED per child per day (however you will be entitled to extra services such as dining with Disney characters and the dinner show).
If you’re happy to have a 5 – 10 minute walk, there are another six Disney hotels close by which all give guests access to magic hours too. They’re still pretty pricey though, so keep an eye out for promotional offers and upgrade options throughout the year.
A mid priced Disney Hotel such as Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch for a 2 night / 3 day stay based on 2 adults and 2 Children (3-11yrs) should cost you around 3400 AED in low season and 4800 AED in peak season. Meal plans are again additional.
A lower priced Disney Hotel such as Disneys Santa Fe for a 2 night / 3 day stay based on 2 adults and 2 Children (3-11yrs) should be around 3150 AED in low season and 4300 AED in peak season excluding meal plans.
If you don’t want the extra magic hours, then look at Disney’s eight partner hotels which all provide a free 10 minute shuttle bus service.
If you buy a package through the Disney Hotels, park tickets will be included. If a package isn’t your thing and you decide to book everything separately make sure you buy your park entrance tickets before you arrive. (You’ll pay far more if you buy on the day) and if you’re planning on visiting for more than four days, or think you’ll be back later in the year, then look at the cost of an annual pass – because it might work out cheaper.
To buy tickets only, its best to keep an eye on the Disney website for offers and you will be expected to pay between 170 AED and 350 AED per adult per day for access to both parks.
If you buy an annual pass, there are three different options which may work out more cost effective and then the Disney Hotels can be booked on a room only basis.
There are three options for annual passes:
1. Classic Annual pass
This is the most pocket-friendly choice at 535AED. It covers admission on 280 days and has a 10% discount in the Disneyland Paris shops and restaurants. From 275 AED per person (tax not included) you can have a one night at Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe and / or Disney ‘s Hotel Cheyenne.
2. Fantasy Annual Pass
Make the magic last and last for 710 AED. This covers admission on 320 days and includes parking and Extra Magic Hours as well as a 10% discount in the Disneyland® Paris shops and restaurants. From 275 AED per person (tax not included) you can have a one night at Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe and / or Disney ‘s Hotel Cheyenne.
3. Dream Annual Pass
Here you can have unlimited magic on any day of the year for 885 AED. It includes parking and Extra Magic Hours, 20% discount in the shops and 10% discount in the Disneyland® Paris restaurants and from 250 AED per person (tax not included) for one night at Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe and / or Disney ‘s Hotel Cheyenne as well as Invitations to special events.
Disneyland Paris is divided into two parks – Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studio Park and each has their own attractions. Dedicating a day to each may save a lot of too-ing and fro-ing between the both and with the majority of the park’s visitor’s choosing to go the typical routes, clockwise or anti-clockwise around the park, try going against the grain: start from the back of the park and work your way forwards.
Picking a few must see attractions beforehand and planning the times of each will save disappointment of your little ones. Downloading the app ‘Wait Times Disneyland Paris’ (available on both iPhone and Android), will help as it displays attraction wait times which is a huge help and if the big rides aren’t your thing or the kids are too small, plan to be there on ‘jour des enfants’ – ‘kids day’ which happens every Wednesday, that allows easier access to some of the more serene, toddler-friendly rides and attractions.
Whatever your plan, make sure you grab yourself a map, and check out schedules – ideally all before you even arrive in Paris.
As for the shows, Disney Dreams is a spectacular one complete with hundreds of fireworks at park closing. Stake out at least thirty minutes before it begins and try to get as close to Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant as possible. It’s the best spot for the best view, the kids will be able to see everything high and low. Plan to keep the kids up late for this one night. It is absolutely beautiful and well worth being tired the next day, (just plan to sleep in!) It really is the most amazing and memorable experience.
Queues can be really long but FREEPASS tickets are just that – a free pass that allows you to skip long queues. They’re available from machines around the park. Take a ticket with an allocated time slot, return to ride at the allocated time and walk straight on. You can only have one fast pass ticket on the go at any one time and some rides do run out – Peter Pan and Buzz Lightyear are particularly likely to run out the quickest.
Crush Coaster is a popular ride for younger children and there’s a game available through free wi-fi in the queue for this attraction. It will help speed up the waiting times by keeping small ones occupied. Grown up thrill-seekers can also use Baby Switch on rides. This allows parents to queue up just once: each adult then has a turn on the ride, while the other holds the baby.
The food at Disneyland Paris has improved significantly in recent years. Although much on offer is fast food it is far better than it used to be. There are also various good restaurants if you’re looking for a fast food alternative. The Earl of Sandwich (near Planet Hollywood) serves the best value food in the entire place. Go one stop along to the Val d’Europe shopping centre and you’ll find plenty of choice for food and more affordable prices (plus a supermarket if you’re self-catering). There are shuttle buses that go there too.
The best restaurant in Disneyland Paris is Cafe Agrabah in Adventureland. The food is Middle Eastern-themed and it’s delicious. The Manhattan Restaurant and Parkside Diner at the Hotel New York are also very good. Eating at unusual times will help to avoid queues or try booking restaurants in advance (You can reserve up to two months prior). Character dining books up weeks ahead, it really helps to get this arranged as soon as possible (call +33 1 60 30 40 50 to book if you know that your little one won’t want to miss out on this).
Have at least one character breakfast at Cafe Mickey; not only do your kids get to meet loads of characters, but you also get a lovely relaxing breakfast – mornings will seem like a rush. It’s pricey but completely worth it.
If you have the facilities, pack a picnic or at the very least pack a water bottle. There are water fountains throughout the park to refill. Prices for food and drink in the park can be pretty high (16 AED for a bottle of Coke, 40 AED for sandwiches) but you can eat anything you bring along on the specially set up picnic tables outside.
Buy Disney bits in advance to take with you. Raid your local supermarkets and malls for colouring books, stickers, wands, dressing up costumes etc – and that way you can magic a new outfit or toy from the suitcase every day and hopefully resist being dragged into the many gift shops.
Some attractions, for example Blanche-Neige (Snow White), have French narration – but you’re in France. Embrace it, and if your kids are learning French at school, see if they can translate.
Getting there from Dubai
Paris is 3,255 miles from Dubai and there are 7 daily flights and 9 weekly flights from Paris to Dubai and vice versa. Qantas has the most nonstop flights between the two destinations however Heathrow Airport is the most popular connection for one stop flights.
The average flying time for a direct flight is 6 hours 43 minutes and you will expect to pay between 1,600 AED and 3,000 AED for a return flight, however holiday seasons can be more if you don’t book in advance.
The other option is to combine a trip to the UK and catch the Eurostar. After a quick 30-minute check-in at St Pancras International, Ebbsfleet or Ashford you’ll be en route to the Magic Kingdom.
The Kent stations have long-term parking facilities if it’s easier to join the train there, and the 2-bag luggage allowance means you can pack everything you need for all the family.
Direct Eurostar trains to Marne-la-Vallée run during school holidays and half terms, then it’s just a two-minute hop, skip and a jump to the park. You can even leave your bags at the station if you’re eligible for the Disney Express luggage service. You can also get to Disneyland Paris with a quick change in Lille, giving you even more choice of when you go.
Train tickets start at 175 AED but this price is for tickets well in advance and at seasonal times the price (as always) will increase however it’s good to know that kids under 4 travel for free!
On websites like lastminute.com you can find package deals for Eurostar and accommodation for around 1,600 AED in hotels such as Relais Spa Chessy and Hotel Mercure Marne la vallée Bussy St. Georges. These hotels aren’t up to Dubai standard by any means but they are nice enough. Traveling to and from Disneyland will require travel expenses whilst eating into your magic kingdom time. With small children we aren’t really sure the saving is worth it.
Whichever way you decide to do it, you are set to have a truly magical time, full of memories and a glittering celebration that you’ll never forget.