Advise needed for European vacation

Edited: January 26, 2015, 9:06 PM


I'm planning a week long vacation to Europe at the end of march - beginning of april. My original idea was to stay

- 1 night in Madrid for Parque Warner Madrid (I really want to ride Batman la sombra del murcielago)

- 3 nights in Paris (2 or 3 days for parks and 1 day for Eiffel tower and other Paris points of interest)and

- 1 or 2 nights in Barcelona for Port Aventura.

Looking for other nearby parks to those locations, the one that really got my attention was the Epcot-like Futuroscope (I´m not much of a coaster guy, I'm more of a motion simulator/ride/3d guy), supposedly about an hour and a half from Paris by train. Do you think its possible to go to Futuroscope from Paris and return in the same day or should I stay one night in Futuroscope?

Also, how does the fast pass system work in Disney Paris?

I read there use to be some sort of train-hotels connecting Madrid, Paris, and Barcelona; those would have saved me a lot of time and maybe some money too.

Replies (10)

January 26, 2015, 10:32 PM

I'll jump in with what I can answer: Fastpass at DLP is the old-school Fastpass system, with one-at-a-time day-of-visit return-time tickets. The differences between DLP's system and the one in use at Disneyland? DLP does not swap a print-at-home ticket for a barcoded ticket at the turnstiles, the way that Disneyland does. (As a result, you'll have to scan your print-at-home paper to get your Fastpass tickets at the kiosks in the park, which I found to be a major pain in the rear end.) And DLP has half-hour return windows, though enforcement was sketchy when I visited. (In fact, enforcement of just about anything at DLP was hit-or-miss, given the inconsistent attitude of DLP CMs toward doing their jobs.)

FWIW, I've heard good things about Parc Asterix, also near Paris.

January 27, 2015, 4:52 AM

My understanding is "sleeper trains" are a bit of a dying breed on the continent now, but having taken one in the UK, I'd strongly encourage you to take em if you can find em... Might as well spend the time you'd "waste" sleeping travelling. Comfortwise, don't expect it to be the best night of sleep you've ever had (so I wouldn't plan a huge day following your arrival) as the stops, starts, and curves might jilt you out of sleep every now and then, but for pure time efficiency, they cannot be beaten.

If you're looking at adding the Uk to your Itinerary, you might find Alton Towers a bit tricky to get to, but Thorpe Park, Legoland Windsor, and Chessington World of Adventures are all in the London basin (the later two should be your priority if you're bringing a kid, but skip them if you're not).

January 27, 2015, 6:29 AM

Can't speak to the Spanish parks, but you can cover both DLP parks in one day provided you go on a non-peak weekday. I allotted two days and found myself re-riding Space Mountain, Pirates, and Phantom Manor several times. The Disney Studios park is a must on account of the exclusive rides, but it's severely tiny.

Edited: January 27, 2015, 6:43 AM

I would look at cheap airlines connecting the cities - look at ryanair, vueling, easy jet. If you get it right and with a bit of luck, you can get flights for €35-€55. Much faster than the trains. Bear in mind you are looking at the Easter break (first weekend in April is Easter), so everywhere will be very very busy.

Port Aventura is OK if in the area, but bear it mind is like any local standard theme park you will get near home. Though owned by universal (or was?), it's nothing like the universal parks.

Don't know Madrid theme park but 1 night would only work if you can leave (air or train) after your day at the park, but there may not be workable times.

Futuroscope, I don't know either but it is quite a long way from paris and personally I would not risk doing it in one day on the trains. Trains in France are generally very good, but it's quite a long way to risk by public transport.

I have also heard that Parc Asterix is good.

I would say you need at least 4 nights around paris - that gives you 2 full days for the disney parks (which should be fine) and 1 full day for Paris, if you did want 3 days at Disney (might be necessary during Easter?) and a day in Paris I think you are going to need longer, unless you can time your arrival to arrive early first day, leave later last day!

Hope this helps

Edited: January 27, 2015, 1:33 PM

Based on my experience, I would recommend two days for Disneyland Paris. When I visited a couple years ago, we only had one day for both parks and ended up only doing two attractions at Walt Disney Studios Park before heading to Disneyland Park, so it wasn't enough time to see both. I'd recommend you start the first day at Walt Disney Studios, do everything you want to do there, and then head over to Disneyland. For your second day, just go to Disneyland. You may not need all day, especially since Space Mountain and possibly Phantom Manor will be closed. Fastpass at Disneyland Paris is the paper ticket system, with the only change being 30 minute return windows. You go to the attraction to get your Fastpass, and you're given a ticket with a return time on it. You can get another one after the window starts or after two hours have passed. It is also only available on a limited number of attractions compared to other Disney parks:

-Big Thunder Mountain
-Indiana Jones et le Temple du Peril
-Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast
-Peter Pan's Flight
-Space Mountain: Mission 2
-Star Tours

Walt Disney Studios:
-Flying Carpets Over Agrabah
-Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
-The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
-Ratatouille: L'Aventure Totalement Toquee de Remy (not 100% sure on this one)

For touring purposes, I'd say Ratatouille and Tower of Terror are the only absolute must ride attractions at Walt Disney Studios Park, but anything you haven't done elsewhere is worth trying. Crush's Coaster has low capacity, but it now has a Single Rider line, so if you don't go there first and want to ride it definitely consider it. Toy Story Land is just carnival rides, so you could probably skip that area entirely. At Disneyland Park, Pirates, Big Thunder Mountain, and Phantom Manor are the three must ride attractions (and are all significantly different from their US counterparts), but I'd still recommend doing everything that you haven't done elsewhere. Since you like simulators, definitely ride Star Tours as Paris is the only park that still has the original version of the attraction (though it probably won't be there much longer). Also, do not miss the castle walkthrough, including the dungeon where there is a large animatronic dragon. Lastly, Space Mountain will be closed for your visit, but be aware that it, Indiana Jones, and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster are serious roller coasters, so if you don't like coasters you might want to skip those.

For general Paris touring, I'd say budget one day for every two attractions you want to see. If you have one day, I'd recommend doing the Eiffel Tower and one museum of your choice, in addition to just walking around and exploring a bit. If you've got more time, there's definitely more to do there. We spent three full days in Paris (plus our day at Disneyland) and didn't run out of stuff to do.

I don't know a whole lot about the Spanish parks, but I would recommend checking the Theme Park Review Park Index, as it is the most comprehensive guide I've seen for international parks. I do know that PortAventura was once a Universal park but isn't anymore (and wasn't built by them), so while it's well themed I wouldn't expect anything comparable to Universal Orlando. Parque Warner Madrid was built by Six Flags and is one of the top thrill parks in Europe, so you may want to skip it if you aren't really into roller coasters as I'm not sure how much else there is to offer there. As for other parks, I've never heard of Futuroscope before, and the only park I know of that would be convenient to add would be Parc Asterix near Paris. I looked into this park as an alternative to Disneyland Paris, and it seemed like a nice park, but it is definitely more thrill ride focused than Disney. That said, they do have a couple of interesting dark rides and it's more French than Disney, so you'll get more of a culture experience. I would recommend Europa Park in Germany, which is often considered one of the best parks in the world (haven't been so I can't comment on that statement), but it's too far from where you're going and would add 2-3 days to your trip.

Hopefully this information helps you out. I can't offer too much assistance with transportation between locations since we just rented a car, but I can say at least that Paris has a good public transportation network within the city so you definitely wouldn't need one there (and due to traffic I'd absolutely recommend against it).

January 27, 2015, 5:50 PM

Is your trip primarily about hitting parks? If so, I would suggest ditching plans in the South of the continent and focus Central instead. Efteling, Europa Park and Phantasialand all provide far better bang for your buck, particularly if you're not so interested in big coasters.

Personally, Madrid isn't a city I'd put high on Europe's list in any case. And Warner Madrid has little you won't already have ridden elsewhere. If you're going for the Batman simulator, I'd hazard you may come away a little underwhelmed.

PortAventura is fun, but probably less of interest if you're not into coasters. (Even if simulators are your thing, you'll come away disappointed by SeaOdyssey.) Barcelona's a beautiful and culturally-vibrant place though, and it sounds like you'd enjoy a trip to the Gaudi Experience.

Futuroscope is an understated but great park, and one of the reasons I fell in love with theme parks in the first place. If you're into film & simulator attractions it's basically Mecca, and it's a gorgeous place to just wander around, even in the Spring (spoiler: cold, wet, grey). Plus, you can double up and visit nearby Puy du Fou relatively easily - which I haven't yet visited, but it's next on my list as I hear nothing but undiluted praise about it.

I'm going to go rogue and suggest Parc Asterix is probably less of interest, particularly if you're a) not big on coasters and b) not a fan of the comics. That said, it is a very easy journey from Paris, and a nice place to wander round.

Disneyland Paris: I'd agree with everyone else - 2 days, tops, particularly out of peak season. Give yourself that second day in Paris to go beyond the tourist traps. (Getting lost in Belleville is a particular joy, provided you've left the mouse ears back at your hotel.)

Cross-continent sleeper services are pretty common. Prices will vary - often hostels will work out cheaper - but they will indeed buy you some time, if you can cope with the physical effects the day after. There's a list of night services here.

Lastly... if you can bear to give yourself at least a couple of days to look beyond theme parks (and especially if this is likely to be your only European trip in a while) I'd really recommend it. Central Europe is, frankly, an embarrassment of riches when it comes to beautiful cities and landscapes. And the theme park part of your brain is just as likely to get a kick out of castles, cathedrals, caves and coasts as it will from the parks. I know mine always does. Europe's big - consider focusing on just one country, and giving yourself the time to really get under its skin. Obviously that might not be ideal if this is likely to be a once-in-a-blue-moon trip, but it's something to think about.

January 28, 2015, 6:01 PM

Wow, thanks fot all the info. I really appreciate it!

I don't have any kids. I'm just taking my little sister with me (she´s 16). It's gonna be her first time in Europe.

I do like roller coasters, It's juts that I enjoy 4d/rides/motion simulators way more (yes, the Batman simulator in Madrid is the main reason we chose Europe for this vacation instead of a different Disney resort)so it looks like I'm gonna sacrifice 1 day in Paris to go to Futuroscope.

Yes, the trip is primarily about hitting parks. Europa park and Effteling are definitely in my bucket list but I'm not sure I can squeeze them in this time. They will have to be my priority next time i Europe I guess (hope it doesn't take too many years).

Puy Du Fou looks amazing! Didn't know that thing existed. It looks like a giant Medieval Times. Showed the video to my sis but she thinks all the shows will be in French and that we might not enjoy it. What she wants the most is to go inside the Eiffel Tower and visit Barcelona (that's in ger bucket list) so the Gaudi experience is definitely in my radar.

Haven't made up my mind about portaventura. Maybe I'll go but not a whole day.

January 29, 2015, 6:01 AM

Bear in mind that Port Aventura is 1.5 hours away on the train from Barcelona and, in my experience when I lived there, the trains that stop at PA are not that frequent. So you have 3-4 hours of travelling for the one day. Also, as I mentioned, it is the Easter school holidays from 28th March to 12th April and this will be a busy time for the parks, so with travel time as well it may not be possible to do PA in less than a whole day

February 5, 2015, 10:18 PM

Saw a money-belt on my local Office Depot for less than 10 dollars! Bought it. Gonna take it with me every time I travel just in case we stumble upon one of those "empty-pockets" roller coasters.

I agree, may be difficult and improbable to do all of Port Aventura in less than a whole day. Just wanna visit it and get in a few rides to cross that park off my list. Hopefully they sell some sort of Flash Express or something.

February 19, 2015, 11:14 AM

Guys, I have a question about money. Between my little sister and me, we got a total of 2,000 Euros. I already have reservations on for 3 or 4 hotel nights, those will probably be automatically charged to my credit card. I'm also planning on paying most park tickets and low-cost airline flights with my credit card. So we should be fine with 2,000 Euros in cash for the week right? Thanks in advance.

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