Paris: Skip That, Do This Instead!

Skip That do this instead paris france selfcareseason

I had an amazing time in Paris this past March. This was my second time in the city of lights and love, and I really got to soak in and learn the city over the nine days I was there. C’était magnifique!

Like any popular travel destination, some of the sites in Paris provide a better experience than others. I shaped my itinerary around what I liked and didn’t on my previous trip. The result was seeing more, waiting less, and generally avoiding big crowds: all travel wins!

I hope you can use these tips to make your next Parisian vacation magical. Here’s my list of five activities to skip in and around Paris, France, particularly if your time is limited to a few days, and what you should check out instead.

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Tips For Your First Visit to Disneyland Paris

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As I wrote about in a previous post, I went to Paris in March 2018 for nine days. When I was first planning my trip, I knew I had to include a day at Disneyland Paris in the itinerary.

I’ve been to the original Disneyland a few times and have stayed at Walt Disney World numerous times, but I didn’t make it to mouse’s house on my first vacation to Paris. I just had to go this time!

My day trip to the parks was absolutely lovely, though I wish I had done a bit more research beforehand. Here are ten tips for first-timers visiting Disneyland Paris that I learned from my magical day.

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1.) Take the (correct) Train

If you’re traveling from Paris to Disneyland like I did, there is an RER A train that will take you directly to the front gates of the park (Marne-la-Valee station.) This is super convenient and an inexpensive transportation option, but make sure you are getting on the right train! My friend and I made the mistake of getting on the incorrect RER at Chatelet and we had to go all the way back to Paris. Don’t make the same mistake!

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2.) Dress Appropriately

I would guess that Disneyland Paris has the most varied climate out of the rest of the parks, simply because Paris weather is truly seasonal: winter is real snowy winter, not the mild Florida winter that WDW experiences. Plan ahead while packing your clothes. I encourage wearing layers and having some waterproof items depending on the forecast. I started my day in a winter coat (which felt so odd at a Disney park) but the sun came through later in the afternoon and I was able to take it off.

3.) Don’t Worry About Language Barriers

While knowing a bit of language of whatever country you’re visiting is generally a good idea, you do not need to know French to enjoy Disneyland Paris. Most signs and major announcements were in both English and French, while characters in attractions tended to speak French. As someone who only know a few French phrases, I had no problem getting around.

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4.) Make Reservations to Avoid Fast Food

I have to be honest, the food at Disneyland Paris is pretty disappointing compared to other parks I’ve experienced. Every counter service stand tends to have similar offerings of burgers, hot dogs, and fries with little variation. The food I ate wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t nearly as unique or tasty as the stateside park fast food options. Make reservations well in advance for the few restaurants on site if you want better food. I made the mistake of not making any reservations and I’m still regretting it. If reservations run out, consider bringing your own food. I would’ve been happier if I had just brought a baguette to munch on from Paris!

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5.) Take Time to Explore the Castle

Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant, or Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, might be my favorite Disney castle I’ve ever been to. It’s so pretty and ornate, and it makes the original Sleeping Beauty Castle at the original Disneyland seem pretty lame in comparison. Plus, there’s a lot to explore in this castle! Inside is a gallery illustrating the story of Sleeping Beauty with stained glass and tapestries, as well as a Christmas store that operates all year. Below the castle is a cave with an awesome animatronic dragon. Why can’t there be a dragon in the basement of every castle??

6.) Keep the Size of the Parks in Mind

Unlike Walt Disney World Resort (so many attractions, so little time), a day trip to Disneyland Paris is reasonable. Even with my train snafu, one day felt like enough for both parks. This is because Walt Disney Studios Park, the second park similar to Hollywood Studios, is minuscule and doesn’t require a full day. I spent a total of two hours there and managed to do most of the major attractions, including Ratatouille via the single rider line. Consider starting and ending your day in the main park and hopping over to the studios sometime in the middle of the day for a change of scene.

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7.) Enjoy an Adult Beverage

Alcohol is banned in all Disney parks with a castle, except for Disneyland Paris! Shortly after the park opened, beer and wine was added to the menu to better fill the expectations of European visitors. Take advantage of this quirk during your visit: sip on a glass of wine while enjoying the beauty of Main Street.

8.) Visit Disney Village

Disney Village is the equivalent of Downtown Disney or Disney Springs in the Paris parks. Make sure to stop by during your stay for some better food options and various stores. It is open later than the parks, so consider going there for dinner (woohoo Earl of Sandwich always comes through!)

9.) Be Aware of Seasonal Closures and Park Times

If you’re visiting during the off season, it is likely that multiple attractions will be closed and that the parks will close pretty early. I was hoping that my March visit would be close enough to Spring to avoid this, but that wasn’t the case. I was particularly sad that Alice’s Curious Labyrinth was closed when I went. If hitting as many attractions as possible is important to you, then be sure to visit later in the spring or summer. Yes, wait times will be longer then, but at least there will be more attractions to wait for. Also note that Walt Disney Studios Park tends to close several hours before the primary park, so keep that in mind.

10.) Enjoy the Details

My favorite part of visiting Disneyland Paris was noticing how the details differed from the other parks I had gone to. I particularly noticed that Disneyland Paris seems to be a lot pinker than other resorts. I also loved listening to what Disney characters sound like when they speak French, something I had not even considered would be a thing. Disney always does a superb job with the details, so take enough time to simply walk around and notice the little things that make this park unique.

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What’s your favorite part of Disneyland Paris? Share in the comments and stay tuned for more posts related to my upcoming trip to the original Anaheim park!

Don’t forget to pack a few self-care essentials to reduce your travel stress.

Tips for Your First Visit to Disneyland Paris

Healing My Heart in Paris

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I began planning a small vacation to Paris in January 2018. One of my dear friends from college was living there, and I wanted to visit her before she moved back to the states. The main point would be to see her, but I would also get to have my last solo getaway before our September wedding. I booked my flight for the end of March and made lists of destinations I wanted to visit. The trip would be a highlight in a lovely year leading up to my nuptials.

But the best-laid plans oft go awry. My fiance was acting odd, and when I prodded them about it, they admitted to me that they wanted to call off the wedding. After learning more, I decided we needed to break-up. It was a whirlwind of heartbreak and I was in utter shock.

The wedding was cancelled five days before my departure flight to Paris. As I struggled to comprehend the events that had just unfolded, I had to decide if I still wanted to go ahead with my travel plans. Was it a good idea to be in the city of love at this moment in time? How could I enjoy such a trip while I was feeling so broken?

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Definitely cried during my layover in Munich

After a lot of contemplation, I decided to go ahead with my trip and even extend it by a few days. Why stay home and pity myself while I could be in one of the most beautiful cities in the world? I couldn’t foretell what I’d be feeling once I was there, but it couldn’t be worse than how miserable I was already. Traveling is an activity that usually gives me joy, so I hoped going to Paris would raise my spirits.

Furthermore, I knew having one of my best friends there would help. I wouldn’t be completely alone when I was feeling so vulnerable, and I looked forward to being able to talk to her about how I was feeling.

It also made sense to go ahead with the trip for a few logistical reasons. My ex-fiance could move out of our apartment that was under my name while I was abroad, and I didn’t have to lose any money if I just forged ahead. I packed my carry-on and had nothing to lose.

I cried at JFK’s international terminal with big, black sunglasses on as I waited for my flight. That’s when I realized this vacation was as a radical act of self-love. After years of putting my wants and needs aside for my ex-fiance, this trip was going to be solely mine. paris selfie eiffel tour grey skies

When I arrived at Charles de Gaulle many hours later, I was feeling pretty shaky. I was happy to see my friend and her fiance, but I felt like my usual traveler confidence was missing. All I could think about was the trauma I had just experienced at home. Had I made a mistake by coming? Would I enjoy any of my nine days there?

Thankfully, my mood began to improve by the end of my second day there, and it’s because Paris is so darn charming. Every building is pretty and the streets are clean. The food is superb and it’s tempting to try one of everything at a patisserie. There are numerous sites, museums, and stores to keep you entertained for years on end. The culture and beauty of Paris was a perfect distraction.

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Sacre Coeur

My friend wined and dined me, and it felt lovely to be pampered. She taught me how to get around on the metro and brought me to less-touristy restaurants and sites. Her fiance ordered for me and showed me how to play poker. With their support and love, my confidence began to come back. I felt a little better with each passing day.

My daily itinerary was full and I felt very accomplished by the end of my trip. I avoided some of the larger sites I had seen on my last trip to Paris and found splendor in simply wandering. I walked at least ten miles on most of the days I spent there, so the dopamine must have been flowing.

Expectedly, the big sunglasses covered my teary eyes more than a few times. Paris wasn’t able to completely distract me, but I’m glad it didn’t. Various places in the city served me well as I processed my feelings. The moments of self-reflection on my trip were powerful. There was something so special about thinking about my ancestors in Notre Dame, writing about the ordeal in a journal while I nibbled on a croissant at a sidewalk cafe, and crying about my trauma as I walked along the Seine. These moments combined with the wonder of traveling all made me feel a lot better.

As I boarded my flight back to the states, I felt proud of myself for saying yes to an experience of a lifetime. Paris became the city of self-love to me. Nine days in Paris didn’t completely heal the hurt of my break-up, but being there reminded me of how beautiful the world could be. I felt so loved by my friend and she helped me more than she will ever realize. My unknown future felt scary and full of possibilities as I watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle after sunset from a river boat.

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Thanks for reading. I’ll be sure to post my favorite sites and more pictures from my magical trip soon.