If you read my posts last week (Part 1 and Part 2), you’ll know that we had THE best trip over the Easter holidays to Disneyland Paris. We stayed for 4 nights (5 days), and managed to pack in everything we wanted to do, as well as having a chance for a swim at our hotel and bits of downtime- much needed when you have a 3 and 5 year old who get tired easily!
So how did we make a potential stressful trip with little ones run smoothly, and most importantly, FUN? Well the answer you may or may not want to hear is organise, organise, organise! This might sound anal, but by planning well, it actually frees up time to do some spontaneous things whilst you’re there, factors in the odd drama that you just can’t plan for, and prevents you from unnecessary queuing time- possibly the worst thing with children of any age.
So what are my tops tips for making the most of your trip to Disneyland Paris? I’m hoping this post will help answer some of your questions…
Book a character experience
This goes top of my list of tips, and I have to say that booking character experiences is the best thing we did. Okay, so we pushed the boat and did a few, but even just booking one is such a great way of meeting the main Disney characters and save on having to queue a long time to meet them in the park. We did the Character Breakfast at Cafe Mickey (14 euro supplement on top for Disney hotel guests), a character dinner at the ‘Inventions’ Restaurant in the main Disneyland Hotel and a Princess/Princely Lunch at the Auberge Restaurant by the main castle.
The children absolutely LOVED each one, and I definitely think you get your money’s worth. The food for our dinner and lunch was brilliant, much better than I expected and actually a real grown up treat too (adults and children have separate menus). The atmosphere and seeing the delight on Freddie and Sasha’s faces was worth every penny, especially when you don’t want to be queuing anywhere if you can help it!
Plan your character experiences well in advance
These experiences can be booked up to 3 months in advance. Before I booked, I wrote a rough timetable for our stay (i.e. what we wanted to do on what day, and at roughly what time). I went armed with it to the travel agent (or you can phone yourself) who called up and booked everything for me- so stress-free! One tip I do have though is if you want to do the Princess lunch at The Auberge, make sure you book this ASAP- we booked everything as soon as we possibly could (I think only 1 day after availability was given), and already the times that I wanted were gone. I went for a later 2pm lunch which was fine, especially after a late breakfast, but if I’d left it much longer there might not have been any princess lunches free. It’s also worth booking your accommodation well in advance of the trip, and as well as the Disney hotels, you will find some of Paris’s most magnificent vacation rentals just around the corner from the park.
Choose your accommodation carefully
We decided to go for a Disney hotel so we had the opportunity to make the most of the ‘Magic Hours’ between 8 and 10am (our children are early risers!), it would be close by, and we also wanted one with a pool in case the weather was awful or we wanted some downtime. In the end we chose the Newport Bay Club Hotel as it had all those things (and looked great!). The walk from Newport Bay to the Disney Village is 5-10 minutes, and then another 5 or so to the main parks. Seqouia Lodge is the same, the New York Hotel is right by the village, and the Santa Fe, Cheyanne and Davey Crocket Ranches are a short shuttle bus ride away (just to give you some idea of distance!). The main Disneyland Hotel is right over the entrance so you are super-close!
Hire a Stroller!
If your little one is tiny, you’ll probably have a buggy you’ve bought with you anyway- but what if you have a slightly older child who might not use one anymore at home, but who will clearly get tired easily? The answer is HIRE A STROLLER!!! It was such a good idea, even for Freddie, who at 5 never uses one, but needed to rest his legs every now and again. Sasha especially needed one for the walk back to the hotel in the evening. We ignored healthy and safety (#rebels) and Sasha would often sit on Freddie’s lap with his arms around her and we would push both of them around come the afternoon/evening.
They are uber ugly, drive like tanks, but are actually perfect for pushing bigger kids around in. For 15 Euros a day one is all yours, and if you want to take it out of the park and back to your hotel for the night, you need to leave a 50 Euro deposit (which is what we did). Do remember to carry your paperwork everywhere with you, otherwise you won’t be allowed to leave the park with your stroller, even if you’ve paid for it. With the latter in mind, my other tip is to bring a bike lock with you, or buy one from the stroller hire for 3 euros. On the Tuesday of our trip some swine nicked our stroller in the Walt Disney Studios, and because we didn’t have our paperwork, we couldn’t get a replacement from the main gate- Adam had to go all the way back to the hotel to get it, and gave us rage for about an hour. Don’t be us!
Make the most of the evenings
Considering our two go to bed pretty early usually, I was amazed at their stamina! As a result, we ended up staying in the park quite late, and found that this was the best time to go on lots of rides and not spend lots of time queuing, as loads of people had gone back to the hotel/for dinner. Tip? This is a great time to go and visit a princess at the Princess Pavilion. On our first night on the Sunday we walked in without queuing at 8.30pm, yet heard awful tales from fellow parents we came across who had waited up to 2 hours to see one earlier on in the day!
Eat at random times
See beating the crowds, above. By having, say, an early lunch at 11.30, then an early tea at 4.30-5pm, we could walk in pretty much anywhere and get a table. If you leave it later and haven’t already made reservations you might struggling to get the restaurant of your choice. We’d then grab some supper/a snack in the Disney Village on the way back to the hotel at night, or Adam would go down to the bar on our return and bring some fresh rolls up
and a bottle of wine for us.
Food isn’t as bad as you’d think
I mentioned in my previous posts how surprised I was at how just good the food was in the restaurants at Disneyland Paris and The Walt Disney Studios. Well I have to say that I thought that even the fast food was pretty good! Okay, so it’s not the healthiest overall (although we did get hold of fresh sandwiches, pasta and salad for one lunch time), but it all seemed pretty decent. We had Jedi Burgers in Discoveryland one day, and Adam and I commented how tasty they were and the meat seemed good quality. I think you almost need to go in expecting the worst, and you’ll end up pleasantly surprised! Also, remember that it’s only a few days- a bit of junk food killed no one for that short amount of time. Embrace it!
Bring the necessities
I think one of the only things I was baffled by at Disney was the lack of what I would call a ‘normal’ shop within the park to buy everyday bits and bobs in, a supermarket I guess. Over the course of our stay we needed baby wipes (for grubby kids ice cream faces!), ‘lady bits’ and one or two other things, yet couldn’t find anywhere that would sell them, aside from a small shop in the railway station next door to the park. So my advice is to make sure you bring everything you need (eg nappies, creams, wipes, calpol), especially if you have little ones. I believe there’s a supermarket of sorts on the site of the Davey Crockett Ranch, but obviously this won’t be easily available for everyone.
Fantasyland is your friend, and other rides for little ones
We found during our stay that the place we spent a great deal of time in, despite visiting all the other lands, was Fantastyland as they had perfect rides for our aged children, often without ridiculously long queues.
Freddie and Sasha’s favourite rides/things to do in Fantasyland were:
- Le Carrousel de Lancelot.
- Casey Jr. Circus Train. (a mini rollercoaster and a big hit with our two!)
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
- It’s a small world. (has the shortest queues, we went on this twice a day or more, every day!)
- Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups.
- Peter Pan’s Flight.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- Storybook Land Boat Ride.
Other rides we also enjoyed in the park were:
- Autopia (car driving)
- Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast
- Disneyland Railroad (goes all the way around the park, and Freddie loved this as he’s really into his trains!)
And in the Walt Disney Studios:
- Cars Quatre Roues Rallye
- Flying Carpets over Agrabah
- Slinky Dog Zig Zag Spin
- Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop
Again, the best times without queues are first thing in the morning, in the evening, and at ‘usual’ mealtimes when it’s a little quieter.
Best spot for the parade
With young children you don’t really want to be queuing for an hour just to wait to get a spot to see the parade on Main Street (5.30pm daily). Whilst it might look nice in photos, little ones don’t really care where you view it. We found (almost accidentally) that the best spot where you didn’t have to wait for ages and could just turn up was near the start of the parade, outside the Pizzeria Bella Notte. It’s quieter and there are walls that children can stand on to get a better view- our two adored the parade and I’m so pleased we got a good spot and we managed to see loads.
So these are my tips for a successful trip to Disneyland Paris with young children- I’d love to hear you tips too though if you have any other ones!
We’re hoping to go back next year at Christmas time, so any advice on what to do at this time of year would be most welcome!