Ok, so you’ve managed to free up time in your busy holiday schedule for a day at Disneyland Paris. Yes, you might be a little crazy trying to fit all that magic into just a few hours. But I’m here to tell you that it’s completely possible. During a 5 day visit to Paris, we decided to squeeze a one day trip to Euro Disney.
So now you know this is achievable. The next question is, how on earth did we do it properly? The short and sweet answer is plan, plan, plan. Here is our comprehensive guide to help you plan your one day itinerary.
Book Your Disney Tickets In Advance
This is where the ‘plan, plan, plan’ part comes in. In advance of your trip, when you’re looking at those flights and all the amazing places to see, book those Disney tickets. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT buy the tickets on the day at the gate. Your wallet will thank me later for that one.
You can either book the tickets through the Disneyland Paris Official Website or you can do what we did and buy them through Viator. The prices are roughly the same, however new Viator customers get 10% off their first tour booking. That’s either a nice little saving for you to keep or to spend instead on some awesome Disney merch. Disney ears, pins, Mickey pretzels and well Mickey shaped ‘insert endless possibilities here’.
1 or 2 Parks?
If you’re going to Disneyland for a day, I’d recommend you visit both parks. This tends to cost about 25% more than the 1 day/ 1 park ticket price. But overall I think this offers the most value for money. The studios has a good amount to offer but not enough to warrant an entire day at the park. Disneyland Park, on the other hand, offers more in terms of volume. Quite simply, it’s the larger park with more to do. So if I had to pick one, I’d go for Disneyland Park. But I think most would be missing out if they didn’t visit the Studios.
When Should You Go?
Avoid Peak Season
If you can, book your trip during the low season. The crowds will be smaller, queue times will be less and you’ll be able to squeeze more in to your day. So when is low season? According to Disney, mid-January through mid-march and mid-April through mid-May. Mid-week is the best time to go (Tuesday to Thursday).
If you want a more accurate idea of peak times, the easiest way to find out is to go through Disney’s online booking system. Select a one day ticket and then scroll through the dates in the calendar. Disney prices days differently according to demand. You can buy a MINI ticket (cheapest therefore quietest), a MAGIC ticket (middle of the road) or a SUPER MAGIC ticket (most expensive, peak times).
Avoid Ride Refurbishments
If you’re excited for some specific shows and attractions, try your best to avoid ride refurbishments. Disney does publish this information in advance but bear in mind ride closures can happen unexpectedly.
What To Pack
If you’re planning a day at Disney, packing appropriately is essential. Here’s our handy list to get you started:
Backpack - For everything you’re carrying, for the souvenirs you’ll likely be buying, to stow away gear before you get on Rock’n’Roller Coaster. A small, light backpack that you’re comfortable carrying around all day is a must.
Battery Pack - Since you’ll be out the whole day and likely making a lot of use of the Disneyland App (more on that below), an external battery pack is a good idea. When we went, we would get into the habit of charging one of our phones in the bag whilst we used the other, then we switched. This was the charger we used.
We liked this product for a few reasons. Firstly, the LED display. Some battery packs have simple light indicators but this one displayed the charge level percentage so we could track the battery use more accurately. Secondly, there were 2 USB slots so both of us could charge at the same time if we wished. And finally, similar to most other battery packs on the market, it is both lightweight and a compact size.
Change of Clothing - Just in case
Lunch - If you can, a packed lunch is the cheaper option. More on food below.
Rain Gear - It’s always a good idea to check the weather before you go. If there’s even a slight chance of rain, pack an umbrella. Or go full on Disney and buy yourself a poncho. We clearly couldn’t resist (below).
Sun Block - You’ll be outside for a good portion of the day and even if’s cloudy, you can still burn. So don’t forget sun block.
Water - There are water fountains. But if you’ve seen the way some people use them, you’d probably not want to go near them. I’d recommend bringing water with you and then purchasing any drinks you need throughout the day.
Arrive For Park Opening
Extra Magic Time
If you want to make the most of the day, make sure you’re there for park opening. Now, if you’re only there for one day, the likelihood is you’re not staying at a Disney Hotel. If you are, or if you are an annual pass holder (Magic Plus or Fantasy Pass) you gain access to Extra Magic Time (introduced in October 2017).
Extra Magic Time allows you to enter the park between 8:30 and 9:30 (varies throughout the year). A selection of attractions/restaurants will be open and the park will be quieter, as it is not yet open to the rest of the public.
If you don’t have access to Extra Magic Time, be there for the official park opening. (link to disney site)
Travel From Paris To Disneyland
Now, if you’re staying in Paris, as we were, you’ll sadly realise Disneyland is kind of in the middle of nowhere. It’s called Disneyland Paris but at 48km east of La Tour Eiffel, it might as well be called Disneyland France.
The RER A train, at €7.60 each one way, takes you from central Paris to the Marne-la-Vallée station which is only a 2 minute walk from the parks. For more information on train travel to Disney, visit this website. Since our visit overlapped with the French elections and protests, we elected instead for Uber. This method was fast but more importantly, it was quiet.
If you’re planning to use UBER, use our code: andrewy2730ue or sign up here to get a free ride
Where To Go First
Now, this is completely personal. Are you a thrill seeker or a spinning tea cup kind of person? You’ll be a happy camper either way but I’ll help point you in the right direction.
Walt Disney Studios
The Walt Disney Studios park is the smallest Disney park in the world. This means, if you plan, you can do it in just few hours. The Tower of Terror, Rock’n’Roller Coaster, Crush’s Coaster are essentials for any thrill seeker. So if this is you, I would recommend this park first.
For more tame fun-seekers, why not stroll into the main attraction first, Disneyland Park. This is where you will spend the majority of your day, simply because there is more to do. Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain, these are all essentials. If you’re a star wars fan, Star Wars Hyperspace mountain is one of the best Star Wars themed rollercoasters the world has to offer. A must for any Star Wars or, well, rollercoaster fan.
Don’t spend too much time staring at the castle at the end of main street. You have to get to those attractions to bag your FastPasses.
Maximise Your Time With FastPass
This is your key to Disney efficiency. FastPasses are Disney’s way of holding your space in line whilst you wait in line for another ride. If you get this right you will be flying on and off rides like there are no queues whatsoever. The thing is, the Disneyland FastPasses have gotten a whole lot more complicated than they used to be. There are now three main types:
The Standard FastPass
Despite recent updates to the FastPass system, Disneyland Paris still relies on old-style paper Fast Passes. The Standard FastPasses work like this. You go to the ride entrance and find the FastPass station. You’ll see a 30 min time slot above the station which lets you know when you should return and join the FastPass queue. There are a limited number of slots per hour and they run out as people get them. This is why it’s important to optimise.
If you’re waiting in a long queue at the start of the day, people will be snatching up the earlier FastPasses for other rides. You can only hold one FastPass at a time per person. To get your second one, you have to either use your first one or wait until 2 hours after the previous one.
The Hotel FastPass
You receive a Hotel FastPass if you stay in selected club rooms on Disneyland property. The standard Hotel FastPass works once per day per person on any of the FastPass rides. If you are a Suites or Castle Club guest, you will receive a Hotel VIP FastPass. This grants you unlimited use of the FastPass queues every day during your stay.
The Paid-For FastPass
Alternatively, you can pay for the privilege. Disneyland Paris offers Super and Ultimate FastPasses (yes, I agree this is overwhelming). Let’s start with the Super FastPass. This entitles you to a one time use of the FastPass queue on three rides. Which three rides? Good question.
You can choose one of two routes. The Family Attractions route includes Buzz Lightyear, Peter Pan and Ratatouille. The Big Thrills route includes Hyperspace Mountain, Rock’n’Roller Coaster and Tower or Terror.
The Ultimate FastPass entitles you to either one time use or unlimited use (the most expensive option) of the FastPass queues on all the FastPass eligible rides.
FastPass Attractions In Disneyland Paris
It’s important to know what rides you can use FastPass on. So here’s a handy list:
Walt Disney Studios Park
Ratatouille: The Adventure
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Big Thunder Mountain
Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast
Peter Pan’s Flight
Use The Disneyland App
The Disneyland Paris app includes a park map with live estimated queue times. You should be checking this frequently to spot good ride opportunities with short queues. If you spot a temporary ride closure, this might be good to keep an eye on. If and when it reopens, the queue time will show up again.
The funny thing is, as soon as it reopens, the estimated queue time might be as little as ‘5 mins’. When this happens to popular rides, like Hyperspace mountain, guests tend to flock to the ride only to discover the queue looks more like an hour long wait by the time they arrive.
Aside from the incredibly useful queue time information, the app will give you info on shows, eateries, shops, restrooms and special events.
Rides/Shows Exclusive To Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris is not just a copy and pasted Disneyland. It has its own exclusive rides and shows. If you’re wanting an experience unique to Disney’s European home, make sure to squeeze these into your day.
Armageddon Les Effets Spéciaux
Moteurs…Action! Stunt Show Spectacular
Cars Quatre Roues Rallye
Ratatouille: The Adventure
Studio Tram Tour: Behind The Magic (below)
Eating In The Parks
Have Lunch Early
So let’s imagine you’ve ridden all the key rides in Studios and it’s nearing 11am, what’s next? Lunch. Yes, it may be early but guess what. When you’re done, everyone else will be piling in to the eat and you will have swapped peak lunch time for quiet ride time.
Park Food is Expensive
Food in the parks is expensive. Especially quick service menus, for what they are. To give you an idea, at the time of writing a chicken burger with fries and a drink costs €14.99. This is why I would recommend bringing lunch with you, if you can. It will save you money and you can eat anywhere. No queues.
After your early lunch, I recommend switching parks as this will give you time for your lunch to settle whilst you walk.
In terms of specific eateries, Bistro Chez Remy, in the Walt Disney Studios is a must for dinner (picture below). The imagineering behind this restaurant is out of this world, for adults and children alike. You will be shrunk down to the size of a mouse and enjoy quintessentially French cuisine. The only other thing you have to do? Remember your camera.
Now, this is seasonal and weather dependent. You can expect to enjoy at least one parade and one firework display on an average day. Of course, you have a decision to make when it comes to parades. These usually draw crowds, importantly, away from the ride queues. If you’re happy missing out, then these are good times to bag those attractions.
Similarly, with the fireworks at closing time, these are an essential viewing. But if you’re happy to wander down main street back to the entrance as the show is going on, you will avoid the inevitable crush as everyone attempts to leave the park and return to the train station/taxi rank.
If you want the latest information on what to expect on any specific date, I recommend looking at this section of the Disney website.
Disney in a day is achievable. Plan in advance, make the most of your FastPasses, eat at the right time and go where the crowds aren’t. Do it right and you’ll have hit all the rides and shows you want to see. Have a magical time at the European home of Disney.
Please remember to like and share. If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below. All comments are swiftly responded to.