Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Our Year Of Disney: A Review Of Disneyland Paris Infinity Annual Passes

A year ago, after much deliberation, we decided to buy annual passes for our all time favourite holiday destination - Disneyland Paris.

We first visited DLP in October 2016, taking just our eldest with us as we got to grips with the place, and soon returned in January 2017 with our middle son in tow too and then again in November 2017 with all 3 of the boys.

With 3 trips under our belts and safe in the knowledge that we could manage trips there with our 3 young children, and that all of them adored the place - we decided to take the plunge and buy the annual passes.

Which Passes We Chose & Why

There are four options for Disneyland Paris annual passes all with different price points and perks attached.

We decided to go for the highest ones - the Infinity passes.

The main reason we chose these were for the fact that entry dates weren't limited - whereas the lower priced ones had certain exclusion dates, Infinity passes will get you access to the parks 365 days per year.

The other deciding factors were that Infinity pass holders are given access to exclusive VIP viewing areas for the main parades and the end of evening Illuminations show. Anybody who's been to Disney will know that it can take hours of queuing and spot holding to secure a good view for these things, so the thought of a VIP area really appealed to us.

We also thought that the 20% off in shops and 15% off in restaurants the pass offered would make it cost effective too.

The other major perk of the Infinity passes were the hotel discounts - offering up to 50% off Disney hotel prices.

So - we bought 3  Infinity passes (our youngest two didn't need them as they were still little enough for free entry to the parks) - I bought one outright for £399, and paid in 12 monthly installments for the other 2 which made it more affordable for us.

How We Travelled

Our intention when we bought the passes was to make our visits there as cost effective as possible by getting the Eurotunnel and driving from Calais to Disneyland, but sadly this plan fell apart on our very first attempt when - halfway to the channel tunnel - our car died a death!

After driving the 3 hours back to Devon, and spending the night frantically sourcing crazily expensive last minute flights instead - we didn't dare to try to drive there again. Meaning our trips were more expensive than we thought, and therefore we had to take less of them.

But I still think we did pretty well. Our original plan had been to take 5 trips there throughout the course of year, but even with the driving plans ruined - we still managed to take 4 trips.

(We cancelled our Summer trip for the Marvel Summer Of Superheroes season as the boys aren't really super hero fans!).

We flew for our first visit in February 2018, and took the Eurostar from Ebbsfleet for the other three in May 2018, October 2018 and January 2019.

We found Eurostar to be the much easier and cheaper option, costing us generally around £350- £400 per trip. We also preferred the lack of luggage restrictions, as we like to keep costs down by taking a suitcase full of snacks with us!

We also preferred the fact that the Eurostar took us directly to the park gates (we found waiting for baggage and finding our way around at Charles De Gaulle airport quite a tedious experience, as well as the journey on to Disney after)  - we always choose to pay the £15 per person charge to use the Disney Express luggage service, which enables us to drop our luggage at the station and have it transferred to our hotel - meaning we can go straight into the park when we arrive without queuing to check in to the hotel first.

Our Hotel Stays

Although the Infinity passes state that they offer "Up to" 50% - we found that we were offered rooms at the 50% off rate every single time we booked. This may be because we visited outside of school holidays though, as I know some people seem to have issues securing the lower priced rooms.

We stayed in the boys favourite - Hotel Cheyenne - for 2 of our trips, and paid around £400 for a 4 night stay each time.

And for our other 2 trips we stayed at Newport Bay Club - on our last trip we paid £450 for 4 nights there.

I had wanted to try out the Disneyland Hotel while we had our 50% off, but even with the discount it would still have cost us £1100 for 4 nights which - although good compared to its usual price - I just couldn't justify given the incredible price of the other hotels.

The Average Cost Of Our Trips

I often have people ask me how expensive the trips to Disney work out with an Infinity pass, and obviously this will differ for everyone depending on how they travel, how many people are in their party, and how much they spend on food during their stay - but I thought I'd give you a guideline.

We tend to stay for 4 nights each visit, travelling by Eurostar from Ebbsfleet. We never take out a meal plan, instead choosing to dine in a variety of places during our visit and making use of the 15% discount for infinity pass holders - we usually eat once in Inventions restaurant (one of the highest priced character dining experiences), and the rest of the time in the buffets and fast food outlets, sometimes having sandwiches from the train station shop for lunch. We also skip breakfast by taking our own breakfast snacks with us, and cut down on the cost of snacks by taking snack packs for each day with us for the boys.

We're not big drinkers so we tend to only visit the hotel bar once on a trip, and have one drink each...so we don't spend tons of money on alcohol.

In total, including our 4 night stay at the Newport Bay Club hotel, Eurostar tickets, our food, drink, and spending money for the duration of our visit, our last trip cost a grand total of £1500.

So, as a rough estimate - if we spent the same amount on each of our 4 trips and added that to the price of our 3 Annual passes - we spent approximately £7200 on our 4 Disney holidays last year.

Considering the average cost of a 4 night trip to Disney with travel is around £1900 without food and spending money - I'd say we probably saved around £3,500 in total by having the passes (this is without taking the discount in stores and restaurants into account, so the total saving would be higher still but who can be bothered doing that sort of math!)

So - certainly worth having!

Did We Get Bored Of Visiting So Often?

In a word...No!

Disneyland Paris is my ultimate happy place. I feel so comfortable and safe there which, as a nervous traveller, is quite rare for me.
I get completely swept away in the magic of it all every time, and as we chose to visit for different seasons each time - it always felt like a totally different holiday experience.

We visited last February in the deepest snow France had seen in years, then our next trip was in May during a week of brilliant sunshine where we walked around in t shirts and marvelled at the gorgeous spring decor!

We were there for The Season Of The Force and Festival of Princesses & Pirates twice, we caught the last day of the Summer Of Superheroes season meaning we got to see the shows for that, and we were there for the Halloween celebrations.

The park is decorated differently every time we visit due to our choice of seasons, the shows are different each time, and even the character meet & greets on offer change according to the season too - so things never felt samey at all and none of us got bored.

Having said that...I did find myself getting less excited by the rides, as we've now done all of them approximately a thousand times!!

I definitely did not get bored though, and I would have happily visited another couple of times.

We also never managed to make it to any of the exclusive Infinity pass holder soiree parties that are held every so often (at a small extra charge), which is a bit of a shame as that would have kept things even more interesting too as there are often rare characters and parades put on at these events.

So Are We Renewing Our Passes This Year?!

Surprisingly giving the glowing review I've just given them...no!

We've thought long and hard about it, and we very nearly did renew them - but after doing the calculations we've decided that perhaps 7 visits in less than 2 years is enough for now, and that we'd be better off saving our money to try and visit Disney Florida in the next few years instead.

The only downside of the passes for me is that having them makes me feel obliged to go there for every holiday and do it often to ensure we're getting our moneys worth - and I'd like to be able to visit some other places this year instead.

But I'm SO glad we bought them, and we have had an absolutely epic year of Disney magic - and I wouldn't hesitate to buy them again in the future, once we've had a little break and a chance to miss the place.

Have you been tempted by the annual passes? What are your thoughts?! As always, I'd love to hear from you!

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