Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Disneyland Paris Tips and Tricks: Booking your trip

Dear reader,

As promised in my previous post, here is another one about the actual booking of your trip. In this post I discuss the different types of transportation in detail (and inform you which is cheapest of course), the different hotels you can stay at and if it would be cheaper if you to get an arrangement, separate tickets or a Disney year pass. 

Booking your trip:

Once you have decided when you wish to visit Disneyland Paris, you will have to decide on how you wish to get there and where you wish to stay. Many people think that the hotels near Disneyland are extremely expensive, but this does not always have to be the case. Especially the Disney partner hotels are affordable, even more so if you go outside of the holiday season. 

a. Mode of Transportation

Before you start to look around for suitable accommodation it is wise to first determine which mode of transportation you will use to get to Disneyland: car, bus, train or plane.

When you are visiting Disneyland from Holland it will of course be cheapest to go by car.

Another cheap option is to go by bus. The disadvantage of this is that you will have to spend 8 hours in a bus (with some hyperactive or crying children if you are lucky) and you are usually forced to go there on set days, usually from Friday to Sunday, which are the busiest days in the park. However, the bus trip always comes with tickets for the park. Peter Langhout Reizen (www.peterlanghout.nl) organizes bus trips to Disney on a regular basis for a very decent price.

I would not advice people to go there by train, unless they have flight fear, as it is actually cheaper to go by plane than by train. In order to get from the airport Charles de Gaulle to Disneyland you have three options. Firstly, there is the VGA Disney shuttle bus, for which a one way ticket costs €16,- for adults and €13,- for children. It will take the bus approximately 40 minutes to get you to the hotel. 
Another option is to take the subway (the RER). It is a relatively cheap option as a one way ticket will cost you about €14,- for adults and €13,- for children. However, the downside is that it will take you about 1 hour and 10 minutes to get to Marne la Valleé, after which you will still need to take a shuttle bus to your hotel. 
The third and fastest option by far is to take the TGV. The train will get you to the Marne la Valleé train station in no more than 10 minutes! You will have to take the shuttle bus to the park, but you will still arrive there faster than if you go buy VGA shuttle bus or subway. However, taking the TGV can be quite pricy as it can vary between €17,00 and €27,00 for a one way ticket. (Please note that even if you take the plane and TGV you will still be cheaper than if you take the Thaly to Marne la Valleé). Please note that for the Disney Partner hotels it is not possible to book an arrangement which includes the flight. You will have to book your stay separately.

If you do wish to go by train than please keep an eye out for sales, since this can really save you a lot of money. Please note that for the Disney Partner hotels it is not possible to book an arrangement which includes the train tip. You will have to book your stay separately.

b. Searching for suitable accommodation.

Only when you go by bus it will be possible to book an arrangement which includes a stay in one of the Disney Partner Hotels. In all other cases you will have to book your stay separately. Dutch people can do this either through Peter Langhout Reizen (www.peterlanghout.nl) or Kras (www.kras.nl). There you can also book your stay without a bus trip with one of the Disney partner hotels.

It is possible to book a bus trip in combination with an official Disneyland hotel as well. I usually advice against booking a stay in the official Disney hotels, since you pay a lot of extra money and the partner hotels are usually just as good. Staying in an official Disney hotel does have some advantages though. Some hotels will for example enable you to enter the park two hours before opening time. Moreover, Disney characters will come visit your table during breakfast (please note that will devote their attention to little children and not as much to adults). Bus trips to official Disneyland hotels can be booked through OAD (www.oad.nl)

If you wish to book a stay without bus trip with an official Disneyland hotel you can either do it through the official Disneyland website, OAD (www.oad.nl) or D-reizen (www.dreizen.nl).

Disney Partner Hotels: 
There are several Disney Partner Hotels namely: Thomas Cook Explorers, Vienna International Dream Castle, Vienna International Magic Circus, Hotel Kyriad and the Radisson Blue. I will insert a little review of those hotels that I have stayed at myself just to make it easier for you to chose. For information on the partner hotels not discussed here or on the official Disney hotels please go to www.tripadvisor.com. There you will be able to find a lot of reviews of people who have staid at the hotels.

So far I have stayed at Hotel Kyriad most often as it is not only the cheapest hotel out of the five, but also because the service is excellent. The staff is friendly, the rooms are not too big but clean and comfortable and the breakfast is quite extensive and never too crowded as they work with breakfast passes (at your arrival you have to pick a time in between you will be able to go for breakfast). The hotel looks rather smart and has a slightly western theme, but the theme is not excessive. They do have a little Disney shop, which is always fun to visit on your last day or when you are waiting for the shuttle bus to the park (if you do not wish to drive to the park yourself).  

Another hotel that I have stayed at myself was the Radisson Blue. This four star, luxurious hotel is usually quite expensive, but if you go outside of the season you might be able to get a room for a very cheap price. When I went during October last year I only paid €92,- (incl. reservation fees) for two nights including breakfast through Kras. If I had booked my stay through the official Raddison Blue website it would have cost me 225,- excluding breakfast! O.o. This hotel is ideal if you prefer to be somewhere quiet; there are hardly any children in this hotel as it is not a theme hotel, unlike the Vienne International hotels or even Kyriad. The rooms are very spacious (you even have to fauteuils in every room!) and the breakfast is exquisite (they have all types of fancy stuff you can chose from... they even serve mushrooms o.o). The only downside to this hotel is that you will have to reserve your seat on the bus in the morning and you will be picked up by a very small taxi wagon during the evening. If you have a year pass and a car this is no problem at all (since parking will be free), but it might be hassle if you do not have any transport yourself.

During my last visit to Disney (June 26-28) I stayed at Vienna International Dream Castle. The main reason was that we could not book the Kyriad hotel for the dates on which we had planned our visit. I have to say this hotel was a bit of a letdown. The staff was very friendly, but those who worked at the check-in desk were rather slow (so prepare for a 15 minute wait if not longer when checking in... and that is if there is only one couple in front of you).
The theme of the hotel is really beautiful when you enter, but for some unknown reason there hangs an extremely sweet smell in the main entrance at a constant. In the hallway through which you had to get to your room, however, you soon longed back to the extremely sweet smell as the smell there was even less pleasant (if you catch my drift). We were allocated a four person room, so the room was rather spacious. I am not sure what a two person bedroom would look like though. The air co was perfect and the room was clean. Unfortunately, upon returning to our room after our second day in Disney (at around midnight) we discovered that our room had not been cleaned. Fortunately, we did have enough towels to last us for two days... but from a four star hotel one would expect more.
The breakfast was not all that either; the room was in utter chaos. It was exceedingly crowded and noisy and you actually had to stand in line for a while if you wished to get either coffee or tea (for which they only had one machine, which was positioned directly next to the croissants... which were therefore hard to reach). Moreover, especially the warm food such as the scrambled eggs looked very far from inviting (too fatty and unlike anything scrambled eggs were supposed to look like). So honestly, I would recommend going to the Kyriad hotel instead, which is cheaper too!

c. Should we book an arrangement, buy separate tickets or a year pass?

If you decide to go to the park by car, train or plane it might be wise to calculate if it is cheaper to book an arrangement (and thus the hotel stay and tickets) or to get a year pass. For with Kras (www.kras.nl) it is possible to book room only, so you can buy the tickets or year pass separately.

Just to give you an indication on how it might sometimes be cheaper to actually book the room and tickets/ year pass separately, I will here briefly jot down an example. Please note that the example is based on a double room for two adults:

If for example you were to book a three night stay including entrance tickets for all these days with Peterlanghout Reizen in the Kyriad Hotel (which is one of the Disney partner hotels) in the first weeks of October this would cost you between €255,- and €295,- per person (excl. booking costs etc.) depending on the day on which you arrive. Please note that it is always cheapest to either arrive on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.  

If you were to book your stay with Kras the stay would cost you in between €89,- and €129,- per person (excl. booking costs etc.), again depending on which day you arrive. Please note that it is always cheapest to either arrive on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. You can chose to add the tickets to your reservation, which would cost you €140,- for a three day/ two park ticket for an adult and €123,- for a three day/ two park ticket for a child. This would bring you to a total cost of in between  €229,- and  €269,-. You would thus save approximately €25,- per person.

You might opt to go for a Disneyland year pass rather than a three day/ two park pass. You would have two options, namely the Fantasy Pass and the Dream Pass. The Fantasy pass will allow you to enter the park on the same day and will cost you €159,-. It is true that the Fantasy pass is more expensive the a three day/ two park pass when purchased through Kras, but it does come with some advantages. You for example get a 10% discount on all the park restaurants and a 10% discounts on all merchandise. Moreover, if you have opted to visit Disneyland by car and are not keen on finding yourself in a very crowded shuttle bus which brings you from the hotel to the park, you will be pleased to hear that the parking is free with this year pass as well. Normally the parking costs are  €15,- per day, so in all you would save  €45,- for three days. A downside to the Fantasy pass is that it has some restricted dates on which you are unable to enter the park unless you buy a day ticket against a reduced price (you will receive a 50% discount). the block out dates are:
  • March
    31st only
  • April
    8th only
  • May
    18th and 27th
  • June
    2nd, 5th, 12th, 16th, 19th, 26th, 30th
  • July
    1st only
  • September
    4th, 11th, 18th, 22nd, 23rd, 29th, 30th
  • October
    9th, 16th, 23rd, 27th, 28th and 31st (strangely enough all Tuesdays...)
  • November
    1st to 4th; 10th
  • December
    1st, 8th, 9th; 29th to 31st
An added bonus to this pass is that because Disneyland is celebrating its 20th birthday this year you will be able to access the park 2 hours before opening time. In previous years this was only for Dream Pass holders!

The Dream Pass, however, costs a bit more, as it comes at a price of €199,-. You can access the park at all year round and you get to access the park 2 hours before it opens. Parking is free, you get a 20% discount on all merchandise, and a 10% discount on all the park restaurants and some of the restaurants in Disney village.

For a complete overview of all the advantages of a Disney year pas please see: http://www.dlrpmagic.com/planning/booking/annual-passports/

It is possible to get a 10% discount on your year pass if you are going to Disneyland with a year pass holder. If the year pass holder gives the 10% discount to three people, s/he will get a renewal for one year for free! There are certain forums on which people post the dates on which they will be going to Disneyland. If you are going there on the same date it will be worth your while to send them a message asking if it would be possible to meet up so you can get the 10% discount and they will be able to get a free renewal for one year ;). One such forum is http://www.dlrpfans.be.

So basically if you are going to Disneyland this year it will most definitely be worth your while to get a Fantasy Pass as you will get free parking, lots of discounts and you will be able to access the park two hours before opening time. If you are planning to go next year (in 2013), you had best check if the discounts have remained the same and if the Fantasy Pass still allows you to enter the park 2 hours before opening time just to be on the save side ;). 

Hopefully this entry was helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them!