I wrote a little about our adventures in Disneyland in my January post, Cinnamon Oranges but thought it would be good to give you some tips, from our experience, to help you plan an upcoming trip there.
Admittedly, we didn’t go Disneyland when the girls were young but, in my opinion, waiting until they were teens was a great idea. They’re more robust than little kids, meaning they can do a full day at the Park without getting exhausted and can handle the queuing without getting bored. Knowing that we were there for the whole day made the whole experience really relaxed. Here are some of our top tips gleaned from our time there.
Tip 1: Go for a few days
When we were planning our trip our original intention was to go for one day. Looking at the website we quickly realised that one day would not be enough, and eventually booked to spend three days in the parks. And we are so glad that we did. In one day it would only be possible to scratch the surface of what Disneyland offers, and I have a feeling that we would have come away disappointed. We found that being there for three days gave us plenty of time to see and do everything we wanted to without feeling the need to race round trying to cram as much as we could in.
Tip 2: Stay on site
We originally looked at saving money by staying off site but it would have been a mistake. Staying on site made everything so easy. The buses that ferry you from your hotel to the parks are frequent, easy to use and free, and it meant that we could totally relax without thinking of paying for parking, long walks from car parks etc. It also kept the magic alive. We were totally immersed in a Disneyland bubble for three whole days and thoroughly enjoyed it. We stayed in the Hotel Cheyenne and loved it. We all found that its Wild West feel (based on Toy Story) added to the magic even though there wasn’t a young child among us. We even got a free upgrade to a newly refurbished room.
Tip 3: Take a travel kettle
OK, this one may be more for the adults but happy parents make for happy teens. The Disneyland hotels say that kettles are provided on request, but when we arrived they were all in use. The staff were fantastic, apologising and putting my name down on a reservation list, and it was suggested that a kettle would be free the next day. When, on the off chance, I went to check after dinner if one had been handed in, the staff member, different from the one who had made my reservation, immediately handed me a kettle that had my name on it. It’s obvious that systems are in place and working, but if that cup of tea is important to you pack a travel kettle. We took our own mugs and tea bags etc.
Tip 4: Eat within the parks
We ate within the parks on two of the three days and loved it. Both the atmosphere and food in those restaurants was fantastic. On the other night we ate at Billy Bob’s which is in the mall within Disney Village just outside the park gates. The food was still great but we felt that the atmosphere was lacking and leaving the park took some of the magic away.
Bistrot Chez Rémy
Tip 5: If you can manage it stick to two good meals a day
The breakfast provided within the hotels is an eat all you wish buffet and there’s plenty to fill up on. That was generally enough to keep us going until dinner time. We had the odd snack, carried in a rucksack, we each had a bottle of water, and we did stop to eat our pause gourmand, but once we were within the parks the atmosphere carried us through. When collecting the pause gourmand we did get to see the quality of the food being served in the fast food areas. If I was being generous I would call it pretty bog standard for a high price.
Inside the iconic Princess Castle
Tip 6: Save Fantasyland for the evening
If you are there between autumn and spring then I would really advise not entering the princess castle or Fantasy Land until it’s dark. We did this as a complete fluke but that first evening was the best time of the whole trip for all of us. We had decided to leave Fantasy Land until after dinner. While we were eating (at the Plaza Gardens) it went dark and we emerged from our restaurant to a totally magical sight. The castle and all the rides within Fantasy Land were beautifully lit and looked truly amazing. It felt like Christmas does as a child. We spent the evening riding the teacups, carousel and Dumbo ride. As a bonus all the little children had left the park so queues were really short and we could pack loads of rides in. We enjoyed it so much that this is how we spent every evening.
Fantasyland at night
The teacups in Fantasyland
Main Street all lit up
Tip 7: Spend that extra 5%
OK, I know you’ve already splashed out on everything – you’re staying on site, you’re eating on site, you’re going to Disneyland for pity’s sake, but if you spend that extra 5% your teens will love you for it. We said before we went that we would but them both a pair of ‘ears’ and give them a small amount to spend in the shops. Any extra they wanted to spend would come out of their money. Our girls do get pocket money but they have to buy their own clothes, makeup etc out of this, so we decided to treat them. Giving them the money stopped them overspending as they both stuck to the amount we gave them and they really did appreciate it, disproportionately so compared to the cost of the holiday.
Tip 8: Swallow your pride and run
On the first and second morning we arrived at the park after it had opened so that we could have a lie in and lazy breakfast. On the last day we decided to get to the park early as we had previously tried to get on the Ratatouille ride and the queues had been 2 ½ hours long. We wanted to miss the queues. We arrived 20 minutes before opening time and people were queuing at the main ticket booths so we joined a queue and waited. The booths opened on the dot of 10.00am. As people started entering the park I noticed that they were opening the side ticket booths. I looked at Dan, we swallowed our English pride, told the girls to follow us and shot across to a side booth. We got through immediately but people were still running so we did too. We ran all the way to the Ratatouille ride, laughing all the way, and got on the first sitting. It was totally worth it, gave us a memory, and, look on the bright side, you’re unlikely to see anyone you know and if you do they will probably be running too.
Tip 9: Use your FASTPASS and the queuing times board
If you are there for more than one day it’s likely that you will get Fast Pass access with your ticket. If you do, use it. The name is a little deceptive, queuing is part of the Disneyland deal, but it does reduce the time spent queuing. By the entrance to each Fast Pass ride (these are marked on the map you pick up at the entrance – use it, it’s a really helpful guide) is a ticket booth. You put your Disneyland ticket (the one that gets you in and out of the parks) into this and it gives you a ride ticket with a half hour window on it. You can turn up at any time within that window and enter the Fast Pass queue. A queue admittedly, but shorter and faster than the regular one. Be aware that Fast Pass tickets can run out. On the days we were there, each day’s Ratatouille Fast Pass tickets had generally run out by midday.
Another trick to reduce queuing time is to use the queuing board. This board is on the right, half way between the end of Main Street and the entrance to the castle. This tells you the present queuing time of some of the rides. For some of them this was as little 5-10 minutes.
Tip 10: Use the single rider line
If you’re not bothered about riding together then queue in the single rider line. The queueing time is shorter and you all get to go on the ride, just not together. The staff basically use single riders to fill the gaps in ride cars so that they do not have to split groups/parents and children who want to ride together.
Tip 11: It’s more than just roller coasters
Whether you love them or hate them, Disneyland is not just about roller coasters. The park is full of loads of varied, very clever and well-made rides. If you like roller coasters then these must be some of the best in Europe. If you hate them then don’t worry, you will not miss out at all. It is also possible to queue with the riders then leave without doing the ride so that you can all stay together, an option I took as I cannot ride roller coasters.
Tip 12: Grab some space if you need it
If you get to the point where you need a little space, want to get out of the sun/rain, want to use a loo without queuing, then the best place we found was the liberty arcade. It is a beautifully built arcade that runs the length of Main Street in which you can learn about the history of the Statue of Liberty and sit down without being jostled.
Tip 13: Don’t stand on Main Street for the Nighttime Spectacular
We found that the best place to see the Nighttime Spectacular, a story told through a combination of fireworks and pyrotechnics that are projected onto the princess castle, was at the bottom of Main Street, to the left or right. If you stand in front of a flower bed then no one can stand in front of you!
Our time in Disneyland Paris really was fantastic. But were there any bits we didn’t enjoy?
Really there were only two things we found disappointing about the whole time there. Firstly, we felt that the Meet’n’Greets were not very well organised. We queued for ages to see Stitch. Just as we were about to be taken to him he packed up his stuff, walked off and Daffy Duck appeared. It was a real disappointment. After that we decided not to bother with any meet and greets as we would obviously spend a very long time queuing for little or no reward.
We also found the Disneyland Railroad a total flop. We decided to do it on the last day, it was that or see a show. I honestly wish we had seen the show as there was literally nothing special to see on the ride at all. Although the station looked fantastic the rest of the ride felt like an afterthought and the highlight was some men painting a ride roof. The quality compared to the rest of the rides was a complete surprise. I would only consider going on this ride again if I had a train fanatic child with me.
So, would I recommend you go? Totally, absolutely yes. If you’ve read my Cinnamon Oranges post you will know that I had no desire to go to Disneyland until the girls asked if we could. I thought it sounded totally overrated and tacky. I couldn’t have been more wrong and I eat my words. It was absolutely brilliant and we would all go again at the drop of a hat.
What We Booked
We visited Disneyland Paris in the October half term and booked direct (www.disneylandparis.com) as they offered a discounted package deal which we could not match with any independent travel operator. It is worth looking at what offers are being promoted. The package included:
- 4 nights at Hotel Cheyenne which gives a 5 day pass to Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios (though day 1 and day 5 were effectively travel days to and from the UK).
- Standard Half Board meal plan giving the choice between 7 buffet restaurants located across the Disney campus (Disneyland Park, Walt Disney Studios, Disney hotels and Disney Village). It is recommended to pre-book your table before you arrive.
- Pause Gourmand – a drink and snack served from various eateries after 3pm each day.
- P&O ferry crossing between Dover and Calais.
Disclosure: This post has not been sponsored by Disneyland Paris. It is an honest write-up from our family break; all opinions are our own.