We are just back from a trip to Disneyland Paris, so I thought I’d post up some helpful tips we received before leaving and some that we learnt along the way, in case any of you have upcoming trips.
I am a big fan of Disneyland. I went to the one in Paris and LA when I was in my 20s and remember the magic so clearly. It’s something I’ve always planned on doing with my kids and this year, a great deal came around and I couldn’t resist. My husband, had never been before and generally doesn’t like roller-coasters but he was happy to give it a go.
1. When to tell the Children?
Everyone has an opinion on this one. Do you tell them the moment you buy your flights? Or wait until the morning you are leaving? Or choose sometime in between? There’s pros and cons for whenever you do choose to tell your children.
- how much patience and understanding of time do your children have?
- how will they sleep running up to the big day?
- will they be ok if you pack their suitcases for them?
- will they want to tell their friends before they leave?…
Our girls are 5 and 7 years old and we decided to tell them two days before leaving. I spent some time on YouTube before telling them, watching ‘Disney Reveal’ videos. If you have time, watch a few as children react to the news that they are going to Disneyland. It’s brilliant viewing and it might inspire you.
2. Where will you Stay?
Disney own most, if not all, of the hotels that are right beside Disneyland in Paris but there’s always the option of staying a little further out and getting the train or bus in every day. There’s a train station and bus station right outside Disneyland Paris. The Disney hotels range from 2* to 5* and are priced accordingly.
We choose one of the cheaper hotels as we felt that we weren’t going to be spending a lot of time relaxing/using the spa or swimming pool in the hotel. It was just for sleeping in. We also choose to share a room, which worked ok most days.
It was worth staying in a Disney Hotel as Disneyland Park opens from 8-10am solely for guests of Disney Hotels. During this 2 hour slot, queues for rides are short and you can fit a lot into the time before the park opens to the public. At first we thought we’d only do this on the first morning, as it meant having breakfast at 7am and getting up at 6.30am (5.30am Irish time), however after experiencing the crowds and queues after 10am, we made sure we were there at 8am every morning. During the two morning hours, we’d fit in maybe 6 rides or Disney Characters. We’d be lucky to fit another 6 in during the rest of the day, although we did go back to the hotel every afternoon for lunch and a nap.
Disney hotels are walking distance to the Park. We choose to use the 5 minute free shuttle bus every day instead however, as we were doing so much walking around the park. We didn’t want to tire the girls out before even arriving, and by home time, we were all ready to sit down on the bus and be shuttled home!
3. How long to go for?
This very much depends on who you are going with, what age they are and how much money you have to spend on your trip. We went for 4 full days and it was perfect. We spent the first day in Disneyland Park, the second in Walt Disney Studios and then moved between the two for the remaining two days. Any longer and we would have been too tired to enjoy it and any shorter and we would have left feeling like we’d have loved another day! As our kids are young, we decided not to have a cultural city day however, if we go again, I think we should visit Paris itself.
One thing to bear in mind when you’re planning your trip is to try and make sure you have at least one day at home before you return to work and your kids go back to school. Going to Disney is amazing and you make the most of it. For us that meant starting our day at 6.30am and ending it after the Lights and Firework Display every evening, at about 9.30pm. We did attempt a siesta every day but when you’re all sharing a room, this is easier said than done! We came home exhausted late on a Friday night. It was great not having anything planned for Saturday and Sunday. We really needed the ‘down time’ to process all that had happened the previous 4 days.
5. How to be Most Prepared?
With the place so busy and so many exciting rides and shows to see, I think it’s really essential to be prepared. You can check the Disneyland Paris website and find out what rides are closed for renovations, before you leave. You can also print off maps of the Park and Walt Disney Studios and get familiar with where everything is, before you leave. I put the Disneyland Paris app on my phone and I found this invaluable. The app shows you where everything is in both parks and how long the waiting times were for each ride. The week before we left, I’d regularly check these, as it gave me an idea of when would be the best time to go on certain rides, providing the demand was going to be similar the following week. While in the Parks themselves, I could check the app to see waiting times, so we didn’t traypsy across a park only to find a 90 minute queue. If you don’t want to have your head in the phone checking the App all day, each ride has a electronic banner at the entrance letting you know how long you’ll be queuing for, if you choose to join the line.
It’s also good to be familiar with what rides have ‘Fast Track’ options and ‘Single Rider’ options. If you find a ride you really like with a Fast Track option, all you have to do is insert your Park tickets into a machine and it will give you your tickets back and also new tickets with scheduled times for that ride. You can only have one Fast Pass ticket at a time. We found these really good for Ratatouille, Peter Pan and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. The ‘Single Rider’ queues, where available, are much shorter than the normal queues but you could be sitting beside people you don’t know. They don’t work if your whole family wants to use the ride, but are handy if only you want to go and it means your partner and kids aren’t waiting a long time for you to come back.
I think the key to making the most of Disneyland is to be flexible and remember that you’re not there on your own. You may have dreams to fit as much in as possible but the others in your party may not have the same stamina as you! Different people like different rides and there’s no foretelling what these might be, until you have been. We learnt that our youngest daughter LOVED meeting the characters and watching the parades while our eldest was much more interested in participating in the rides.
So, it’s important to be prepared but flexible at the same time!
6. Where to Eat?
There’s a huge choice of where to eat when your at Disneyland Park, Walt Disney Studios and Disney Village. Prices range hugely and there’s something for most budgets and tastes, although the quality is less than what you’d get for the same money in Ireland. I guess they are just catering for so many people that it’s hard to make good quality fresh hot food. Also, be prepared for food queues if you are choosing counter service restaurants. One day we queued for half an hour before we placed our order in McDonalds!
Although there are lots of hot food restaurants, it’s much harder to find places that sell snacks, so if there’s room in your suitcase, pack some! I didn’t see anywhere selling fruit, and popcorn and chocolate were expensive.
When you’re booking your holiday, it is possible to opt in to ‘half board’ and ‘full board’ options. We choose Bed and Breakfast but if we were going again, I would look into these other options more.
7. What to Pack?
Apart from what you’d normally pack if you were going on holidays, here’s a few things, you might forget:
- Plug adaptors. You’ll probably be using your phone lots to check the app or take photos, so you’ll need to charge it. Don’t forget your european plug socket adaptors for your electrical goods.
- Travel Kettle/Cups/Teabags! The lower rated hotels don’t have tea and coffee making facilities in the rooms so if you’re like me, you’ll want to bring these holiday essentials! Even if you are getting tea with your meals, it has a different flavour to it. There’s no harm bringing a home comfort with you if you can fit it in!
- Disney Costumes! Most children under 5 walk around dressed as a princess or Disney character. Your older children and even you, might want to join in this fun!
- Medicine. There’s three First Aid stations posted in different parts of Disneyland. We know from experience! They are brilliant, but they are limited to what they can give you/your child for sickness. The nearest pharmacy is a train journey away and even at that, you are much more limited with what you can get without a prescription than here. Next time we go, I’ll definitely be packing a bottle of Calpol, just in case!
- A Buggy. When someone told me to bring a buggy, I nearly laughed. It’s been years since my girls sat in a buggy, but it was probably the best advice we were given! There is so much walking involved. If we hadn’t of brought the buggy, we would have had to take a lot more stops and breaks. The amazing thing about buggies in Disneyland is that they appear to be completely safe. If you parked your empty buggy in a Tesco foyer in Ireland and went and did your shopping, it’s probably likely that your buggy would not be there when you return. In Disneyland, there’s areas outside every ride for buggies. You just park it beside all the other ones, disappear for 20 minutes and come back and collect it. If you did decide not to bring your buggy and then realised you should have, you can rent them from Disneyland.
- Lots of light layers of clothes. I guess this depends on the time of year you travel but no matter when it is, it’s probable that morning and evening will be much cooler than the afternoons. Going back to the hotel to leave off clothes or get more clothes is extra hassle, but so is carrying around bulky coats in a backpack for hours. Light layers on the other hand is less of a hassle.
All in all, we had an amazing trip and made memories we will never forget. I hope you can say the same after your trip.