In 2018 we were lucky to have a real year of travel and adventure, and one of the things that I was most looking forward to rounding the year off with was a trip to Disneyland Paris just before Christmas! Excited doesn’t ever cover a smidge how I felt once I knew we’d be going, as I’d always wanted to take the children at that magical time of year, but I was a little nervous having a toddler in tow. We’ve never let having a tiny one interfere with our travel plans (see my post on our ski trip with a baby this time last year), but at the same time you always know that your holiday probably isn’t going to be as straightforward as it might otherwise be.
With that in mind, we wanted to tailor our trip to be both Freddie and Sasha (7 and 6 respectively) and Arlo (18 months)-friendly. Juggling different ages and needs on any kind of holiday can be a challenge, but we made sure we planned and booked accordingly. I’ll go into detail in another post about doing Disneyland Paris with a baby or toddler, but in this post I thought I’d share a few highlights of our festive visit. We have been lucky enough to visit Disney with the big two back in Easter 2016 and back then packed in lots of shows and character experiences. This time though, we decided to initially just book a character lunch for our 4 day visit, and make the most of wandering around the park and soaking up the Christmas atmosphere, and had also decided that Arlo probably wouldn’t want to sit through too many things to be honest (we will save them for another visit one day!)
We travelled by Eurostar directly to the park, and this time opted to go from Ebbsfleets as opposed to St Pancras (it’s a similar drive from our home in South East London), as we could save some time and money by leaving our car in the long stay car park there. In this post I want to show you what Disneyland Paris looks like at Christmas, some favourite photos from our trip, and a few tips for making the most out of your festive visit (or a visit at most times of year to be honest). We also opted to stay in one of the Disney Hotels, Sequoia Lodge, as I felt with its roaring log fires and cosy charm it would be the perfect winter hotel.
Here are some of my favourite photos from the trip…
Let’s face it, you’re not going to get many places as magical at Christmas as Disneyland Paris! As well as how well it was decorated and the crisp weather (we were really lucky that there was only a bit of rain on our last day), there was plenty of festive music and even some of the characters were dressed in Christmas-themed versions of their costumes.
My crew just as we entered the park for the first time- I think they look pretty happy to be there!
You can’t not have a family photo taken in front of the castle, that was beautifully lit up all over with twinkly lights come dusk. We asked another family to take our picture and then we returned the favour- be brave and ask, you’ll regret it if you don’t get a snap of everyone you’re with in front of somewhere so iconic.
We were really pleased with our room at Sequoia Lodge, with two double beds and a large travel cot provided for Arlo. I have to admit, it’s not easy sharing with all 3 children (especially a toddler and more on that in my dedicated baby/toddler post), but the room was large, and clean and with a decent sized bathroom and plenty of towels. We had breakfast included for our stay (which was buffet-style), and I have to say I can’t really fault it- so much choice and delicious (if not always the healthiest!).
Between 8am and 11am, Disney Characters visit the Disney hotels for meet and greets. At Sequoia Lodge, Goofy seemed to be ‘on duty’ throughout our stay (although I think they do mix up the characters at times), and Freddie & Sasha loved having some time with him and for him to sign their autograph books. It’s never as busy meeting the characters in the hotels, as opposed to the park, so the children got to spend some extra time with him.
Having said that we did bump into several characters around the park, and luckily before there were any huge queues. Freddie and Sasha were delighted to spend time with Pluto, although Arlo was a little more wary!
You can’t visit Disney without a trip to one of their doughnut shops….
….and you can’t beat Mickey-themed food at your 3 course lunch!
Freddie meeting one of his favourite characters! He absolutely LOVES Chip and Dale, something that has stuck since our first visit to Disneyland Paris a few years ago. He kept wondering if he would bump into them around the park but it didn’t happen, so Adam and I were crossing everything that they’d be at our character lunch at Inventions (located within the main Disneyland Hotel)- and thankfully they were! Trip made.
With the legend himself! I have to say that although they’re not cheap, character lunches and breakfasts are probably the best way of meeting several Disney characters in one hit, in a relaxing environment without having to join the queues in the park. The food at Inventions was buffet style (which suited our young family and Arlo perfectly), and as delicious as it was when we visited a couple or years back. There is so much choice, and as well as ‘kiddy’ food, there is plenty of grown up food too- we saw one couple at the character lunch on their own without children, tucking into a large seafood platter and oysters with a bottle of champagne!
More character cuddles and autograph signing- the kids were over the moon.
I’m not sure Arlo was 100% sure about the characters, but ended up warming to all of them apart from Pluto, who he really wasn’t keen on!
Meeting Merida from ‘Brave’ in Frontierland, one of Sasha’s favourites- she was pretty impressive and went from Scottish accent to fluent French effortlessly as needed!
I mentioned earlier in this post that initially we only had a character lunch booked in. However, after sitting near to another Mum on the Eurostar with a daughter the same age as Sasha, she told me all about the Disney Princess Makeover Experience that you could book in the Disneyland Hotel. Essentially, for around £100 (depending on whether or not you bought a dress from the shop or came with your own), your little one could get their hair done, some light, fun make up applied, a juice and then some photos taken, all within the Disneyland Hotel (and my goodness it’s magical at Christmas).
Sasha adores having her hair done, and trying new styles on other people, and she still loves a princess dress (something I was never in to when I was a child at all), so we decided to treat her and book an experience as soon as we arrived and could head to the Disneyland Hotel (you book in the shop on the second floor). I’m so pleased we did as she LOVED it, and I suspect she won’t be into this sort of thing for many more years so why not? If you can’t be a princess for a day at Disney then when can you?! I think I might write a standalone post on this that I’ll link to if I do, as I couldn’t find much info out about it when I was frantically googling on the Eurostar, and had a few DMs off the back of my Instagram Stories posts, so it might prove useful to some people.
Inside the Disneyland Hotel as we waited for our lunch- so beautifully kitted out for Christmas.
One of my new favourite photos of my team! We had to make sure we wrapped up REALLY warm as it wasn’t half cold when we visited. We were prepared though and brought our ski thermals with us, gloves etc
Even Arlo could enjoy several rides at Disneyland Paris, and so he wasn’t as left out as he otherwise might have been- I can’t wait to talk about this more in my next post where I’ll go into more detail. We did decide though on our second day to get Fast Passes for for 4 of us (Arlo doesn’t count at his age), and it made the world of difference to our experience of using the park, especially with a toddler in tow. We barely had to queue for anything and we got to go on so many more rides. At just under 300 euros for 4 of us for the day, it’s a lot of money but worth every penny. I would definitely factor in the cost of them if we come again.
‘It’s a Small World’ ride, one of the classics, and at Christmas they create a whole new beautiful, Christmassy section, it’s stunning, as well as the usual countries from around the world.
You can’t come to Disneyland Paris at Christmas without watching the Christmas Parade at some point. This seemed to run 2-3 times a day, and really gets you in the spirit of Christmas. Our kids loved seeing all their favourite characters on the floats and dancing along to the music. A must-see.
My favourite burst of colour at Disney- the teacup ride!
And the teacups are one of the rides where all 5 of us could squeeze into! Arlo loved it.
A lolly treat for the big two one evening in Disney Village (in between the park and the Disney hotels). At Christmas there are so many festive stalls within the Disney Village- Lollies, Gingerbread, Mulled Wine, Pancakes… plenty of places to grab a snack or a little something naughty to eat.
So what did we think of Disneyland Paris at Christmas?
100% the most amazing, festive place on earth (bar Lapland or similar I suspect)! Yes, it’s cold, but with the right warm gear it’s absolutely fine, even with little ones, and I would definitely come again at this time of year. It was busy, but not unbearably so, and I’m glad we chose Sequoia Lodge to stay in as like I said before, there’s a really cosy feel to it which is perfect for a winter break.
I’ll be doing more of a ‘hints and tips’ post for travelling here with a baby/toddler that I hope will prove useful to those in a similar situation to ourselves, and of course, if you’ve got any questions about travelling to Disneyland Paris at Christmas time, then please ask away in the comments box below!