It is a dream of many Disney fans to visit the Disney parks outside the United States. An international family vacation is my no means cheap, but there are things you can do to help cut some serious costs. Here are my top 10 tips to save money when visiting Disneyland Paris.
1. Be sure to compare the rates of other countries before making your reservation:
Disneyland Paris caters to Europe more than the US. You will find American rates will often times not be released more than a few months out. Also, deals may be offered for some countries, but not others. Because of this, you will want to compare the rates of different countries before you commit to a reservation on the Disneyland Paris website.
With our trip, we compared the US, UK, and German rates. We found paying in pounds with the UK rate would save us about $900 because they were offering a 2-day “stay and play” free deal if you made a four-night reservation. We were already planning to stay six nights, so this was perfect for us.
Once you select a country upon first entering the site, you can switch the country at the very bottom of the page. If you want to see the rates for a non-English speaking country, be sure to use Google Chrome as your browser and it will translate the site for you. Once you find the rate you want to use for your reservations, you will need to call their reservation line and specifically request to make your reservations under a particular country’s rate. If you don’t, they will try to make your reservation under the country in which you’re calling from. Some operators will be more cooperative than others when it comes to this. If you need to, just end the call and call back until you get an operator who will do it. If you want to save money with the call, you can try calling through Skype.
2. If going during a peak travel season, consider staying off-park in Val d’Europe:
Don’t be fooled by the “Paris” in the resort’s moniker. Disneyland Paris is actually in Marne-la-Vallée, which is about 30 miles east of Paris. The brilliant aspect of the park, however, is that there is a train station literally in front of the main gate. This makes off resort stays that much easier. A great place to look is in Val d’Europe. The hotels in that area are built all around that town’s train station, which is one stop from the Disneyland Paris train station, Marne le Cheesy. There is also a massive shopping center with several stores and restaurants if you would like an alternative to eating at the park. Keep in mind that it will be cheap-ER, not cheap. You will find, no matter where you are in Europe, you will pay substantially more for eating out regardless if it’s McDonald’s or a nice restaurant.
3. When to purchase airfare:
There isn’t an exact science to this, but from personal experience, we have found that three to six months out for booking international travel to be best. Charles de Gaulle (CDG) is the closest major airport, and transportation to the park can easily be made through the Disneyland Paris website by use of the TGV train or the VEA bus which picks up right at the airport.
4. Do NOT buy your tickets at the gate:
Just like Disney’s American parks, one should never travel to a Disney park and purchase tickets at the gate. Even if staying at a hotel off the resort, you can still purchase tickets at the Disneyland Paris website, or you can see if your hotel offers tickets in their rate. Some do have package deals.
5. Be mindful of international fees and exchange rates:
France is on the euro, so every purchase you make will need to be converted to dollars by your bank when the charges are made to your bank account. These fees can be substantial, and they add up quickly. Before you leave, call the banks for each debit and or credit card you plan to use to see what their international transaction fee is. These fees can sometimes reach three percent for every, single purchase you make with your card while you’re in another country. Plan to use the card with the cheapest rate while you visit and you can end up saving a bundle.
Another hidden fee you’ll find is when you draw euro out of an ATM. Not only will you incur an international transaction fee, but often times ATMs around major tourist spots like Disneyland Paris will charge horrible exchange rates. Consider ordering euro from your local bank a few weeks before you depart or purchase travelers checks to exchange for euro at the park for a better exchange rate.
6. Plan to eat breakfast at your resort:
European hotels are known for typically offering breakfast in their hotel rates. Disneyland Paris is no exception. Some have more extensive spreads than others, so be sure to ask what is offered. The Disneyland Paris resort hotels offer a more Americanized breakfast with more hot choices such as eggs and bacon. If you want to avoid long lines, be sure to get there early or sleep in a bit to avoid the crowds.
7. Consider a meal and board plan if staying on the resort:
There are four different meal plans to choose from if you decide to purchase a meal and board plan: Hotel, Standard, Plus, and Premium. You then choose whether it will be full board (lunch and dinner) or half board (either lunch or dinner). The hotel option only comes in the half board option for your resort’s buffet dinner.
Unlike Walt Disney World, each plan is based on what restaurants are offered, not by the types of meals, and you chose from the restaurant’s prix fix meal options. Depending on how much your family typically eats and where you plan to eat, the meal plan may or may not be a good deal for your family. I find the only time you should consider purchasing the meal plan is in the peak summer season. Disneyland Paris closes earlier than stateside parks in the off-season, so it’s more difficult to take advantage of the more costly restaurants on the plan for dinner. Regardless if you purchase a meal plan or not, you will want to make sure you make reservations for popular restaurants (Walt’s, Blue Lagoon, Auberge de Cendrillon, etc) 60 days before your arrival. The only exception to this is Café Mickey which can’t be reserved more than two days prior unless you prepay for this restaurant at the time you make your reservation online.
8. If you plan to visit the city of Paris, consider a Mobilis card rather than the more popular Visite Pass:
Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT travel to France to only visit Disneyland Paris. You will be doing yourself an incredible disservice if you don’t travel into the city for at least a day or two. Fortunately, like I mentioned earlier, there is a train station at the front entrance that will take you to and from the center of Paris in about half an hour.
The Paris metro system is very easy to maneuver, and I highly recommend using it when visiting the city. You can purchase metro fare before your trip by purchasing either a Mobilis Card or Visite Pass. A Visite Pass is more expensive because it includes discounts on major attractions in the city. However, if you don’t plan to visit too many places listed for discounts, it may be more advantageous to purchase the Mobilis Card. Plan ahead for how many days you want to visit the city and what you plan to see to get the pass that best suits your needs.
9. Beware of the cost of bottled water:
You think the cost of bottled water is expensive in US Disney parks? Get ready to be shocked by the cost of water in Europe. We have lived in Germany for three years, and water is more expensive than soda and beer in every restaurant. We haven’t found this to be any different in any other country we have visited, especially in France when visiting Disneyland Paris. There are still water fountains around the park, so plan to bring in water bottles to fill up during the day. If you do purchase water, make sure the water you are grabbing/ordering is “still” water (no gas/no bubbles). Europe loves its carbonated water, and that will often be the one that is automatically offered. Paying for an overpriced bottle of water will be even worse if you find you inadvertently purchased the carbonated water.
10. Plan to bring snacks:
Yes, you can bring snacks into the park! Take advantage of this, especially if you have kids who like munchies while waiting in lines or need to be held off until their food arrives at dinner. Sure, the price of that bag of gummy bears looks similar to what it is in the states, but it’s in Euros, so add another 25 percent to that price to make it in dollars.
You are bound to have questions about money-saving tips once you get to the resort. While most everyone at the park will speak at least some English, they are much more enthusiastic to help you if you at least try to speak a little bit of French. Simply approaching them by saying, “pardon, parlez-vous anglais” will help tremendously. While you’re waiting to travel, download the free app Duolingo to learn a little bit of the language before you arrive.
Have you visited Disneyland Paris? Tell us about your experience! Are there any tips you want to add for our readers?
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