Having recently survived a trip to Disneyland Paris with ten year old triplets (not mine I might add), and with only a few under-eye bags to show for it, I feel fairly well placed to share some thoughts on how to make the most of a trip to Disney.
As with most trips, success lies in good planning, and thankfully, I am a self-titled planning queen. Here’s a few things to consider and you’ll too come home feeling less haggard than expected!
- Choose your hotel wisely
Nothing new here, of course, but it’s even more important at Disneyland. If you can afford to stay at one of the few official Disney hotels then great, and even better if you snag yourself a bargain, but generally I’d aim to book one of the partner hotels well enough in advance to get a good deal. We stayed in the Magic Circus which was fine – the theming was a bit lacklustre but breakfast was good, the adjoining rooms perfect, and the pool often quiet. The reason you want a partner hotel (as opposed to just a random hotel in the area) is the brilliant shuttle bus that goes round these 5 hotels every 10/15 mins and provides free transport to the Disney village.
- Gift shop damage control
Two things we did which worked really well were to give each child €20 to spend in the gift shops, and buy Mickey Mouse ear headbands in advance of the trip.
Luckily, ten year olds are pretty good with keeping their money until they see something they really want, and €20 was just about enough for a simpler t-shirt and a plastic glass with a themed straw. But the ears were the real hero – almost every other person in the park had a headband on and we saw them in the shops costing €15-25 each, a far cry from the £3 per headband we spent on Amazon! And if the ears aren’t quite right, consider a Star Wars (for example) baseball cap like we did.
- Plan your route and use FastPass
I’m sure you’ll have decided before you go whether to visit both parks. I found Disney Studios really interesting – the rides were good but the stunt show and animation theatre were excellent and particularly memorable. We spent a while deciding what ticket type to get and found that 2 park, 2 day tickets worked well as it meant we could hop from one to another.
Consider what the most important rides are and visit them first thing (aim to get to the park just before 10am opening). Some run out of FastTrack very quickly (like Ratatouille and Big Thunder Mountain), so you want to get them first (otherwise you’ll end up with 10pm tickets or none at all). But others are often available for a ride in the next hour or so. It’s also worth picking up some FastTrack tickets (if any are left) as you leave the park, if you’re planning on coming back in before the fireworks.
Note, the way FastPass works is that you can book tickets for a specific time slot and significantly reduce the queue time. You can only have one or two FastPasses at a time (it says on the ticket what time you can get another one).
- Decide what you want to see
With some good planning, we were able to see the 25th anniversary show on day 1, and the parade and light show/fireworks on day 2. We got to the anniversary show about 20 mins prior and got a decent seat (on the floor), but getting a seat at the parade (around 5:40pm) is a lot harder as crowds were starting to sit down on the pavements two hours before. Luckily someone left and we grabbed their floor space providing a perfect view, but a lot of folk had to stand up which isn’t ideal on an already tiring day. We found this a good time to ply the kids with candy floss to keep them busy and sugar levels up.
The light show and fireworks are fairly late at park closing (11:15pm in the summer) but well worth watching. We went to dinner quite late and then did a final ride before they started.
- Take a rucksack
Even if it’s not a particularly warm day, the running around and flux between ride excitement and the boredom of queueing can be helped a lot with a few packets of crisps and Capri-sun. As I’m sure you are aware, food is very expensive wherever you go at Disney (a lunch meal deal costs €9-15 per person and a single bottle of water is €3.50) so a rucksack of provisions can cut down on costs. There’s also plenty of ice cream counters dotted around the park, costing between €3-4.
- Consider driving
I’m sure you’ll have looked into the travel options but a lot of people seemed surprised when I said we were driving to Disney. The cost of the Channel Tunnel tends to be around £130 per car, and even with petrol, European insurance/breakdown, and the French motorway tolls, is significantly cheaper than 5 return flights or Eurotunnel train tickets (which were around £550 mark).
I believe most of the hotels have free parking and the 3 hour drive from Calais is an easy one. It also means you can stop somewhere in ‘real France’ on route (FYI we stopped in a place called Roye for lunch right off the A1, but it didn’t have much bar the location going for it!).
So all in all, I had a great time and I can’t tell you how good it felt to experience it with three mesmerised but very exhausted kids. Ten seemed the perfect age for them to experience and remember everything – not sure I agree with so much money spent on taking toddlers! More than happy to answer any questions – just leave them in the comments below!