Disneyland Paris for the Walt Disney World Traveler
What’s different about Disneyland Paris compared to Walt Disney World Resort?
The Key Things You Need to Know Before Your First Disneyland Paris Vacation
Disneyland Paris is a magical Disney destination, but if you are a Walt Disney World traveler heading to Disneyland Paris for the first time, there’s as much that’s different as there is that’s the same.
Here are a few of the main things that we found to be different and that will help to know in advance if you’re planning a vacation to Disneyland Paris.
Disneyland Paris is Expensive
The first thing to know is that Disneyland Paris is expensive — more expensive than Walt Disney World.
For example, at the time of our most recent visit in July 2018, a single serving of popcorn in the park will set you back €5.49. That’s roughly US$6.50 or CAD$8.50. The hefty prices go for pretty much everything across the board, from resort hotel bookings to dining. So be prepared to spend more than you would for a comparable Walt Disney World vacation.
Rules Don’t Apply Like They Do at Walt Disney World
When it comes to Park rules and protocol, Disneyland Paris is pretty free wheeling compared to Walt Disney World. Don’t be surprised to see guests standing on lamp posts, benches and trash cans to watch a parade at Disneyland Park. Cast Members at Walt Disney World would be shutting down that type of activity in a flash, but at Disneyland Paris guests can do a lot of things that would never be allowed at Walt Disney World.
Line Etiquette is Also Optional
Be prepared for other guests cutting lines on a regular basis, whether it’s a ride line or a restroom line, there is a lot of this activity going on.
Cast Member Magic
Whether it’s cultural or simply the distance from the mother ship, Cast Members at Disneyland Paris don’t tend to exhibit quite the same level of magic towards guests that you’re used to at Walt Disney World. It’s a subtle difference that frequent travelers to Disney Parks in the U.S. will definitely notice. Don’t get me wrong, Cast Members are not rude by any means, but they don’t tend to exhibit the spirit of Disney in the same way they do at Walt Disney World.
Many Things are Opened or Closed Unexpectedly
At Disneyland Paris we also find that many things are simply not open when the park opens — or even within the first few hours of park opening. Many food carts are unattended or closed for much of the day (at the height of the tourist season) and it can be very challenging to find a morning coffee in the park if you get there early. This is even more apparent at Walt Disney Studios Park.
Disneyland Paris is Less Crowded
Disneyland Paris is much less crowded than Walt Disney World. Even on the busiest days there was plenty of room to move around and we often wondered how shocked regular guests here would be if they experienced a typical busy day in a Walt Disney World park.
The FastPass system is the original paper format, so you’ll need to run to get your FastPasses from the machines first thing in the morning (so plan appropriately). Also, you cannot use FastPasses before 11:00 a.m., even when the park opens several hours earlier (this includes the VIP FastPass, noted below, which makes no sense at all).
Luxury Disney travelers who are guests of the Castle Club at the Disneyland Hotel (or guests who stay in a suite) will receive the coveted Disneyland Paris VIP FastPass. This is an unlimited FastPass that will grant you repeated entry to all FastPass attractions in both parks for the duration of your stay. The VIP FastPass is a big advantage and it makes a huge difference in the enjoyment factor of visiting Disneyland Paris.
With a VIP FastPass you can easily experience everything in both parks over the course of two days. There are only a couple of popular attractions that don’t accept FastPasses (including Pirates of the Caribbean and Crush’s Coaster), so get to those first and then have fun riding things like Hyperspace Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as much as you like.
Rides and Attractions: some pleasant surprises
Speaking of rides, there are a number of pleasant surprises to discover at Disneyland Paris.
Two of the best rides in Disneyland Park, in my opinion, are variations of old favourites, but they are cranked up a notch at Disneyland Paris.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is the hands down winner as best ride here. It’s a longer and more thrilling version of the runaway mine train when compared to its counterparts at Walt Disney World and Disneyland in Anaheim. You’re really going to need to hold on to your hats and glasses for this one.
Over in Discoveryland (the Disneyland Paris version of Tomorrowland), Hyperspace Mountain is a super thrill ride that’s much closer to Rock’n’Roller Coaster than it is to Space Mountain. So get ready for a few new thrills here (and yes, that includes some loops).
How Long Should You Stay at Disneyland Paris?
Disneyland Paris is similar in size to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. There are currently two parks (Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios) and a small Disney Village area (which is smaller than Downtown Disney in Anaheim).
Given its compact size, three nights here is probably enough to see just about everything (well, at least the main things) — especially if you are staying at the Castle Club and get the coveted VIP FastPass. Having these FastPasses ensures that you’ll be able to cover a lot of ground.
Those are the major differences (pros and cons) that we noticed between Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World Resort. Of course, it’s always fun for any Disney fan to visit other Disney destinations. Discovering these differences and hidden treasures is a big part of what makes global Disney travel so much fun.
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As a Luxury Travel Blogger and author of The Very Best of Walt Disney World Resort, I blog regularly about upscale Disney vacations of all shapes and sizes.
Mike Belobradic: The Finer Side of Disney Travel
Luxury Travel Blogger – Deluxe Disney Travel Specialist