I went to Disneyland Paris with an Autipas (and in the middle of a pandemic)

Please note: contrary to my book, which has been translated by native English professionals, this post is translated in part by Google Translate and might not be perfect.

This post is also available in Nederlands

I had wanted to go to Disneyland Paris for months, but I kept putting it off, “because Japan”. I couldn’t plan ahead, I didn’t dare take the corona risk, or Riemer had to work. But after we didn’t go in November, “because Japan”, and then Japan and Omicron screwed me hard again, I was determined: we’re going. On New Years Eve. That way, I would also skip the fireworks misery in Holland.

It was uncertain for a while, because restrictions were also imposed in France by Micron and Macron. For example, the English were no longer allowed to enter the country without an urgent reason, and parties were out of the question. But the $185 we paid for the Disney New Year’s Eve party was refunded, and the park remained open. On December 31, even until 1 am, without extra fee. And I didn’t want that party so badly, so hey, profit.

Priority

My followers pointed out to me that as an autistic person you can get a pass, the so-called Priority Card, with which you can skip the line make use of special services. You can apply for this pass here if you are in possession of an Autipas, a Wajong document or a few other possible pieces of evidence.

Now I had none of those documents, so it had to be an Autipas. I didn’t have that either, but I was able to request it from the NVA after sending my diagnosis. Took three weeks and cost 45 euros. Ridiculous? Very much so. The pass is also only in Dutch, which makes the thing pretty useless. If you couldn’t use it for Disney, I would advise everyone to just laminate a note yourself. But since you can go to Disney with it, I wanted to test that.

Somehow I thought it was nonsense. I’ve been to Disneyland Paris at least twenty times before. I know that park like the back of my hand. I felt a bit of a fraud… Until we went into the park.

Corona-Christmas chaos

Because holy shit, what chaos. High season + corona + ever-present terrorism threat in France already made me want to punch people before I was well and truly in the park. It started with showing our QR codes at some tent in front of our hotel, after which we were given a paper wristband. One of those festival types. We had to get that wristband every morning so we could just wave our arm at each QR checkpoint for the rest of the day. Then there was such a bag scanning device, and someone with a hand scanner who went to check me up close and personal. No advance warning, just angry French shouting things.

Check-in in went smoothly, because we had prepared a whole folder with paperwork at home. Then I had to go to the concierge (the counter opposite the check-in) to get my Priority Card. I also requested this online, but the cast member in question first had to look for a thick manual, to find out what the hell an autipas was, and whether it would actually entitle me to such a Priority Card. In the meantime, I was standing in the hotel lobby, coat on, mask on, and the soul-destroying noise of trolleys and screaming children in the background. Or rather, all around me, like some kind of thick cloud of auditory smog that you can hardly see through. It smelled like a hospital, thanks to the thousand hand sanitizer dispensers hung everywhere.

Priorities

Oh yes, the Priority Card. I got one with a green square. That means I can get on and off attractions independently, or evacuate if necessary. People who cannot do that, such as wheelchair users, will be given an orange or red square, which means they are not allowed in every ride. Furthermore, it was stated on the pass that I could enter attractions with a group of maximum 4 people via the priority entrance. There were only two of us, so that was fine.

Although it is stated on the internet that the pass does not provide immediate access (I expected it to work like the fastpass, where you receive a note with a time when you can come back), in practice this was the case everywhere. As a pass holder you follow the signs with a wheelchair, which in 95% of the cases is just the exit, and there you will find a short row of other pass holders. You can get in as soon as possible.

This was super nice, because everything in Disney was intense this time. When we got to the Studios on Friday, I thought for a moment that I was going crazy. So many people. Now that park is currently a disaster anyway due to the many renovations, but because of corona, all queues are also largely outside. For example, the square near Ratatouille was completely full, with queues and food trucks and people who do not know from the front that they are living from behind, and so just stop in the middle of the walking route. All this accompanied by Christmas music blaring through the speakers.

At other attractions, a kind of makeshift plexiglass walls have been made, which in a zigzag queue such as at Big Thunder Mountain is reminiscent of a fairground maze. Hell. Not that those plexiglass walls made any sense or anything. At Star Tours we were standing between them in the pre-boarding line, but once in the Star Speeder you are all in that simulator, with no empty seats or anything in between. And “screaming inside your heart“? Only the Japanese can do that.

By the way, face masks are strictly enforced, and almost everyone wears them – even outside. (Except during dinner of course, then it can be taken off.)

Disney nerd because you have to

Anyway, I was very grateful to my past self for ordering that Autipas. Even with that pass, Riemer and I did not make a single full day. We regularly went back to our hotel to rest, and I asked myself: how on earth did I do this before?!

But then I remembered that I used to always have headaches. Or well, at least one day of the holiday. And if it wasn’t a headache, it was crying. Or arguing. In the distant past, I was obsessively concerned about how much popcorn and brownies I had eaten.

Furthermore, I used to usually not go in high season. As a Disney nerd, I knew all the quiet days, nooks and restaurants. May-but-not-the-May holidays represented the best for the cheapest rate, Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost was the best restaurant to catch your breath. But in high season-covid-remodeling-Disney I don’t know anything.

By the way, I don’t want to say that everything is much better with the Priority Card. What you gain in speed, you lose in knowledge. Sometimes I wonder if Disney autists know so much because they’re fans, or because they have to, to keep it doable. I didn’t know how the Priority Pass worked, so I had to ask cast members where to go a hundred million times. At Phantom Manor, where of course you don’t have to enter through the exit, because otherwise you will miss the stretch room, we have been referred to side stairs from entrance to exit. That’s more communication than I like. And who fluently utters “Bonjour, deux personnes!” can expect directions in high-speed French in return.

When you enter an attraction through the exit, you are invariably given an angry or surprised look by the stream of people who have just got off. You can hear them thinking, “Those suckers are doing it all wrong!” At Peter Pan you stand behind a gate that opens in your direction, but if you step aside, the cast member won’t see you. At Crush Coaster, the boarding was so high speed (“Help, where do I leave my bag?!” – the Crush Coaster carts do not stop at the station, but keep moving slowly…) that I can imagine that an autistic person who doing this for the first time would have instantly had a meltdown.

I’m not saying this to be mean, by the way, because I’m extremely grateful for the pass. Not because it prevents so many stimuli, but because it saves time. Time that you can then lie shivering in your hotel bed, or sit in the secluded corner behind Space Mountain, where you can finally take your mask off without too many people around, while sipping the bottle of water you bought at Star Traders (the only place where you score chips and drinks without a line).

Is it worth it?

In short: would I recommend the Autipas + Priority Card? Hell to the yes. Would I recommend going to Disneyland in the midst of a pandemic? Only if you can afford to get corona. The self-test we did yesterday was negative, but the PCR test scheduled for Wednesday will show whether I can go to Korea on Friday or not. Was it all worth it? We’re going to see that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.