Disneyland Paris 2015 Trip Planning Guide

Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant at Disneyland Paris. Hundreds of Disneyland Paris photos in our trip report! http://www.disneytouristblog.com/disneyland-paris-2012-trip-report/

Disneyland Resort Paris is an amazing place, with several hotels, two parks, and more. This guide will cover what you need to know before heading to Disneyland Paris, along with some general travel tips for heading to Europe. It contains the most up-to-date information and advice, updated for 2015 after my most recent trip to Disneyland Paris over the Christmas season, following the opening of the popular new Ratatouille mini-land at Disneyland Resort Paris. Whether you are planning a trip to Europe and are considering a day at Disneyland Paris since it’s one of the most popular tourist destination in Europe, or if you’re a huge Disney fan who is planning an international trip solely (or mostly) for Disneyland Paris, this guide has you covered.

To start, as touched upon Disneyland Resort Paris (this refers to the entire complex, but the “Resort” is often dropped from the name. Disneyland Paris, the park, is known as both Parc Disneyland and Disneyland Paris, with most official materials dropping “Resort” from the complex’s name recently, also making it Disneyland Paris. Confusing, we know) consists of 7 official Disney-themed hotels, several partner hotels, the Disney Village entertainment and shopping district, and the two parks: Parc Disneyland and the Walt Disney Studios Park. Disneyland Paris is unquestionably a place that Disney fans should visit, probably for multiple days. In our conversations, there are generally two schools of thought with regard to Disneyland Paris, and why people don’t go. The first group doesn’t go because it would mean forfeiting a trip to Walt Disney World. We’ve previously implored this group of people to visit Disneyland Resort in California, and many who have made the trek to California have reported it exceeding their expectations.

Disneyland Resort Paris is similar to Disneyland Resort in that it is not nearly as large as Walt Disney World. There simply is not as much to do at Disneyland Resort Paris as there is in Walt Disney World, so it’s a tough sell as a bona fide vacation destination in itself. The upside is that Parc Disneyland in the Paris Resort is an absolutely amazing park, much like the original Disneyland, and a park that many Disney fans could spend days exploring. In fact, in my recent Disney Theme Park Rankings post, Parc Disneyland was #5, ahead of popular parks like Disney California Adventure and Epcot, and it mostly scored so high because of its beauty.

I would rate Disneyland Paris as the most beautiful Disney theme park I’ve experienced, and while the overall resort is not as nice as the US resorts or Tokyo Disney Resort, it is a great experience. The other upside is that Paris itself is only a 30 minute train ride from Disneyland Paris, and is a place every human should experience. The city of Paris also serves as justification for those who balk at a trip to Disneyland Resort Paris for the second reason: cost.

A trip to Europe is certainly expensive, but it’s a potentially once-in-a-lifetime trip that leaves an indelible mark on a person, and a trip that’s worth saving to experience. Even Disney realizes that Paris is a selling point–whereas Walt Disney World does not encourage people to visit other places in Orlando, this year’s official Disneyland Paris trip planning video implores people that “you can’t visit Disneyland Paris without visiting Paris!

If this has you tempted to travel to Europe to see Disneyland Paris and other lasting cultural experiences, or if you were already planning a visit and want more info and tips, let’s start planning!  (more…)

Disneyland Off-Site Hotel Review: Desert Inn & Suites

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Anaheim Desert Inn & Suites is a hotel in Anaheim, California across the street from Disneyland. This review features photos of the hotel, thoughts on it, plus some tips for staying here. As Desert Inn is literally right across the street from Disneyland, it’s only a 5 minute walk to the parks, and is actually closer than two on-site hotels: Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier Hotel.

Of the Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels at which I’ve stayed thus far, Anaheim Desert Inn & Suites is my favorite. This shouldn’t be misconstrued as me claiming it’s the best hotel in Anaheim or in any way luxurious. It’s still a 2.5 or maybe 3-star hotel with fairly basic rooms and limited amenities. However, for the low price, great location, and fairly solid rooms, I feel it offers great bang for buck, and is my preferred off-site Disneyland hotel.

People often ask us about money-saving Disneyland-area hotel options, and as we’ve stayed at a good number (although there are a lot of hotels near Disneyland, and we haven’t stayed in nearly all of them) of these “walking distance to Disneyland hotels,” we thought we’d put together some quick-hit reviews of each hotel along Harbor Boulevard and Katella Avenue. You can find an index of our other off-site Disneyland hotel reviews, and read our overall comparison of the benefits of staying off-site versus on-site in our Where to Stay at Disneyland post.

Save for Park Vue Inn and Best Western Plus Park Place Inn, Desert Inn & Suites is the closest off-site hotel to Disneyland. For me, its location is by far it’s strongest selling point. This is almost universally true of the off-site Disneyland hotels, although we’ve noticed refurbishments occurring to a few of these in 2015 and with 9 new hotels opening in the Anaheim Resort District by the end of 2015, there’s a good chance that the competition will compel other existing hotels to raise their game.

Another caveat worth mentioning that you’ll see as a preface to most of these reviews is that we do not recommend Desert Inn & Suites if you are not visiting Disneyland. For what it is, Desert Inn is priced at a premium. This is due almost entirely to its proximity to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Like I said, location is its #1 amenity, but if you are not planning on visiting the Disneyland Resort theme parks, you are paying a large amount for an “amenity” you won’t use. If you’re in Anaheim for other reasons, you can find nicer accommodations at this price point or similar accommodations at a much lower price point. All of the hotels along Harbor Boulevard are charging about a 50% premium for location.

With that said, let’s take a look at what Anaheim Desert Inn & Suites brings to the table… (more…)

Walt Disney World Marathon Report – Part 2


Picking up where the Walt Disney Marathon Report – Part 1 left off, after exiting the Magic Kingdom, we still had a fun stretch of track immediately in front of us, despite not entering another park for around 5 more miles. This was especially true for me, as I was thinking the next stop was going to be Epcot in another couple of miles, and I was excited about the prospect of morning light there. I don’t know why I thought this, as I knew the event began and ended in Epcot. I guess I just wasn’t thinking; I swear I wasn’t delusional–yet.

I realized Epcot wasn’t on the agenda pretty quickly, after we exited the Magic Kingdom. In reality, the course was set to go past the Grand Floridian, Disney golf courses, and through the Richard Petty Driving Experience before heading to Animal Kingdom.

There remained a lot of things to see and do along this park-less stretch of course, and all of this made it easy to understand why people love these runDisney events so much. Even if you aren’t stopping to get photos with the characters, or pausing to enjoy the high school bands or DJs, it’s energizing just to see and hear them. They truly give a palpable sense of energy to the course. As someone who doesn’t really like to run, I can see why so many people say, “I will never run an event that isn’t runDisney.”

I think this probably describes me: I like competitive events and am pretty crazy, but I’m not crazy about running 26.2 miles just for the sake of running 26.2 miles. The “Disney crazy” bit of me helps make the running part of it happen… (more…)

Walt Disney World Marathon Report – Part 1


As I touched upon briefly in my previous post (spoiler alert: the title of that post gives away the ending of this report), I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon over the weekend, marking my first attempt at a 26.2 mile marathon, and only the second time ever that I’ve tried to run more than 10 miles in a single outing (see our Tower of Terror 10-Miler Review for the first). This post will cover my review of Marathon Weekend, some of my feedback after participating in a second runDisney event, and photos I took along with course. (I apologize in advance for the during-race photos in this post; I shot them with my Sony RX100, and often times, they were shot while running on semi-automatic modes. Many might be blurry, poorly composed, or just plain lousy.)

As with all of my trip reports, this will start with a bloated and wholly unnecessary preface before cutting to the chase and discussing the race. To begin with, I am an expert at doing idiotic things. Most decisions I make are bad ones. It’s sort of my thing. So last spring, eons ago it seems now, when it seemed like a good idea to register for the Walt Disney World Marathon without ever having run a half marathon and not really having run in a while, it probably wasn’t.

My idea at the time was that registering for the Marathon would be motivation for getting out and starting a regular exercise program. Unfortunately, I continued not making the time for exercise in the spring and summer. As fall approached, I thought about getting more serious, but we took a slew of trips, and when I was not traveling, I was playing catch-up at the office, editing photos, and trying to get blog posts done. Then we became busy with other things and suddenly it was the holidays. I enjoy running, but the holidays are a time for merriment, and exercise just doesn’t hold a candle to a good yule log and dark stout.

Just after Christmas, I realized that the Marathon was only about two weeks away. At this point, I knew I had to buckle down and start running on a daily basis, or else risk injury or not finishing. So, I went for a 4-mile run, which ended with blisters on my feet and knee pain. I am no stranger to knee pain when running, and actually used Vibram Five Fingers shoes for a while a couple years ago to correct my running form. Once I had that “fixed”, I moved to Nike minimalist shoes (due to blisters from the Vibrams), which was what I used for that 4-mile run. I figured at this point, since I no longer had a heal-strike problem, I could safely move back to shoes with more support, but I wanted to get fitted at a reputable running store. I delayed on doing this until the day I left for Walt Disney World, which was obviously another mistake, but again, it was tough to find the time. With no run training and some poor dietary choices made in the weeks leading up to the event, I knew I was setting myself up for disaster. (more…)

Disney World 2015 Trip Planning Guide

Planning your 2015 Walt Disney World trip can be intimidating, especially for first-time visitors. This guide will give you tips to save money, time, and make the most of Walt Disney World, navigating its four theme parks, dozens of hotels, hundreds of restaurants, and a variety of additional entertainment activities and options that can make for really complicate planning. Walt Disney World is a busy place, so determining when to visit and how to tour the parks to avoid crowds is a critical step in the process. Add to that trying to save money on park tickets and hotels, and planning can be daunting, especially for first-time or infrequent guests who want to plan a memorable trip.

If you’re feeling yourself being sucked into the rabbit hole that is Walt Disney World vacation planning, our updated-for-2015 Walt Disney World trip planning guide is here to help…or perhaps drag you deeper into the rabbit hole. Think of it as Walt Disney World Trip Planning 101, organized into the 10 most important aspects of Walt Disney World vacation planning. As complicated as the process might seem right now, it’s really not that bad, and the ultimate payoff will be huge. You’re also a bit fortunate that you’re being sucked into the rabbit hole now, as many first-time visitors don’t realize Walt Disney World planning can be so complicated until they arrive, and are then overwhelmed. The commercials make it look like a carefree world where everyone runs around holding hands with Mickey Mouse while laughing and riding all of their favorite attractions without any problems…but that’s definitely not the reality.

Even after dozens and dozens of trips to Walt Disney World, we still don’t know everything there is to know about the place, but this post contains most of what we do know (most stuff, at least…not the nitty-gritty details like which drinking fountains are coldest!). We wouldn’t visit so much if we didn’t like it, so our opinions are colored by the fact that we are Disney fans. That said, we don’t see the world through rose colored glasses, and we try to stay as objective as possible here, sharing the good and the bad. If that’s not for you, there are plenty of other planning sites that offer only positive or only negative spins on Disney.

This vacation planning guide applies to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. That might seem silly to point out if you’re a seasoned Disney fan, but a lot of people don’t know. (You did see the episode of The Middle where they made that mistake, right? All TV is obviously based on real life!) World=Florida, land=California. If you are visiting California, please consult our Disneyland Resort Trip Planning Guide. If you’re trying to determine which coast is right for you, read our Walt Disney World v. Disneyland post.

This page is a jumping off point to give you some background information on each aspect of your trip, with links to other blog posts that offer much more detailed information. Each post opens in a new tab, so click away as you read and prepare to waste the better part of a day or more reading all this.

We promise that the payoff will be worth it, so let’s get started! (more…)

I Finished the Walt Disney World Marathon!

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This morning I ran and completed my first marathon (and second runDisney event, with the Tower of Terror 10-Miler in 2012 being the first), finishing with a time of 5:14:31.

Prior to the event, I was apprehensive about whether I’d even finish it, as I hadn’t really trained for it. This wasn’t my intent when I signed up for the race months ago–the plan was that it would be the carrot that got me running regularly, but traveling, work, and just life, generally, got in the way. I ran once for ~4 miles on a treadmill a couple of weeks ago, and stopped after getting blisters on my feet and feeling pain in my knees.

After that, I wasn’t really sure if further training would do more harm than good, and I figured I was screwed either way, so I stopped, and went about life as normal. (I did buy new shoes the day before leaving for Walt Disney World, which I think made a huge difference–seriously.)

I found myself really unprepared and concerned that I wouldn’t finish. Not so much because I wouldn’t have the stamina (even though I hadn’t trained, I am in fairly good shape and the pace Disney requires is basically power-walking), but because I was concerned my body would give out. (more…)

Star Wars Weekends 2015 Tips & Tricks

Star Wars Weekends 2015 are held May 15-17, May 22-24, May 29-31, June 5-7, and June 12-14, 2015 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World. This post covers when to visit, our tips for visiting, and more. Star Wars Weekends are geared towards all things Star Wars (from Episode 7: The Force Awakens, to Star Wars Rebels to merchandise like “Her Universe” to the animated TV show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars). Celebrities who have played a part in the Star Wars expanded universe are in attendance, there’s a special parade, shows, and every day ends with fireworks. It’s a lot of fun whether you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan or just a fan of fun (we fall into the latter camp).

If you’ve been to Walt Disney World countless times (and it’s probably not a bad assumption that you have if you’re reading this blog), you might be looking for ways to see the place a-new. One way to to find new experiences is to visit during a seasonal festival or weekend event. One such weekend event is Star Wars Weekends, held in May and June at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

This post has been updated for 2015 to reflect changes to Star Wars Weekends, including the return of the character meals, potential tie-ins with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, as well as new strategy and tips. It also reviews the extensive changes that occurred last year. We attended Star Wars Weekends last year on the weekend of May 23, 2014, and did everything that was new for last year.

With those housekeeping notes out of the way, let’s take a look at what Star Wars Weekends have to offer, whether they might be for you, and how to make the most of your time at the event. We’ll start with why you should visit, and then cover the best weekend for Star Wars Weekend, and move on to other strategy from there…


Sorcerer’s Hat Removal at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Note: This post was originally published two years ago as an editorial concerning why the Sorcerer’s Hat should be removed as part of the rumored overhaul of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Two years later, that overhaul still remains a strong rumor, but there has been confirmation that the Sorcerer’s Hat finally will be removed in early 2015. Removal of the Sorcerer’s Hat began on January 7, 2015 and will occur in phases through the spring. We thought it appropriate to republish this post. It’s as timely now as it was in 2012. 

With a lot of rumors that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is set for a massive overhaul and expansion presently floating around, I thought it would be a good time to weigh in. No, not on the substance of what will be added specifically. I don’t pretend to have any “insider” information, although I am hopeful that Kathy Mangum’s relocation to Florida means something other than Cars Land coming to Florida (my preference would be for it to remain exclusive to Disney California Adventure so that park can have its own unique draw). I’m referring to something far more important–something that needs to be removed as part of any overhaul at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Big Sorcerer Hat (also known as the BAH–I’ll let you mull over that acronym in your head). Over the years, the number of people who like the Big Sorcerer Hat exactly where it stands has surprised me. To be clear, I have absolutely no issue with the Big Sorcerer Hat, I just think it’s not thematically appropriate for its present location in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and should be removed on that basis.

For years, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre had acted as a thematically appropriate “weenie” at the intersection of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards (not necessarily the park’s main icon–by most accounts Earful Tower was meant to be that) drawing guests down Hollywood Boulevard, which was themed, unsurprisingly, to various design styles of old Hollywood. Grauman’s itself similarly represented old Hollywood, being a re-creation of one of the most iconic theaters in Hollywood. It similarly fit the theme of Sunset Boulevard and transitioned nicely into the surrounding area. While the architecture down the Boulevards might seem like a random mish-mash, it is far from that. In fact, close inspection reveals that the Imagineers went to painstaking lengths to model the buildings after period locations in Hollywood. All of these buildings are representative of an idealized old Hollywood (“the Hollywood that never was and will always be”), and create a clear visual motif and theme to this portion of the park. (more…)