A couple of weeks ago, we took the girls on a very special surprise trip to Disneyland Paris. We all ABSOLUTELY loved it and I'm so glad we took them. Lara, who is 6, had a brilliant time on all of the rides and was in awe of some of the more adventurous roller-coasters (though not brave enough to try) - she still felt the Disney magic. Her little sister, Holly, is 3 years old - she coped brilliantly well with the amount of walking and queuing we had to do. Holly's big eyes for the entire trip showed how much she loved the Disneyland atmosphere.
A trip to Disneyland doesn't come cheap and lots of people have asked me, in the past couple of weeks, for my thoughts on various elements of the trip so I thought I would share my top tips for making the most of your time at Disneyland Paris.
For reference, we stayed for 3 nights at the Sequoia Lodge hotel which is on-site (around a 15 minute walk away from the parks). We traveled from Heathrow by plane and took the bus from the airport. We booked a half-board plus meal plan.
1. Take Water Bottles
We saved ourselves a lot of money on drinks by taking drinking bottles with us on our journey. There are free water fountains at lots of places throughout the two parks where you can top-up. Drinks aren't extortionately expensive in the parks, but over a series of days, the price of buying water or soft drinks could add up so we drank water during the day and saved ourselves for dinner time!
2. Use your Magic Hours
If you choose to stay in a Disney hotel your park tickets entitle you to two additional hours in the Disneyland park each morning before it opens to the general public. We forced ourselves up out of bed early to make sure we could eat breakfast in time to head over to the park for 8am when the crowds were at their smallest and the queues at their shortest. Not all areas of the park are open, and only limited rides are open but each morning we managed to get on more rides during those two hours than we did for the whole of the rest of the day! Disney characters are also available in the park at these times for Meet and Greet experiences (but the queues are still quite long).
3. Avoid the crowds
We travelled to Disneyland Paris in August which is the busiest time of year. Ride queues were still bareable but the volume of people in the park was unbelievable! I'm not good with crowds and the girls aren't good with queues so, during the late afternoons when the parks were at their busiest we chose to return to our hotel for a nap. Not only did this give the girls a chance to rest and recoup but it meant that by the time we were ready to go out again, the crowds were beginning to leave. We also found that the hotel pool was deserted during the day.
4. Rainy Days can be Fun Days
If you've spent thousands of pounds on a holiday to Disneyland you can't let poor weather ruin your trip. We knew that our holiday was going to have mixed weather with incredibly hot days, and incredibly wet days. Our one wet day was one of our best! We were well prepared with full waterproof outfits (waterproof trousers are a must on outdoor rides!) but we forgot to take waterproof shoes! The crowds were MUCH smaller on our wet day and we managed to get onto so many rides during the morning and evening. We did also try to visit the hotel swimming pool which was fun, but very busy!
5. Think carefully about Meal Plans
There is absolutely no doubt that a meal plan is the cheapest way to eat at Disneyland Paris IF you intend to eat in the restaurants. There are LOTS of places to eat both inside the parks and in the Disney Village, as well as each of the Disney hotels. We chose a half-board meal plan which gives you a voucher each day that can be used in a fixed set of restaurants for either lunch or dinner. We chose to pay a little extra for the 'plus' option which meant that we had a much bigger range of restaurants to choose from. The hotel buffet was great but we chose to eat out at other places each night. The food standards were good but the Meal Plan vouchers limited us to a fixed menu with only a little choice. If you've got fussy eaters in your family, you could struggle. Likewise, if you want to try a more adventurous menu, or one of the more well-known or popular restaurants, a Meal Plan might limit you.
The best thing about our meal plan was our additional daily voucher for a 'pause gourmande' which was a small free sugary snack and a soft drink each afternoon (between 3-6pm) in the parks. For us, the total value of the snack each day would have been over 21 euros so this was a nice little perk to get us through until dinner time.
6. Book your own travel
My biggest money saving tip is to take a look at other travel options when you book. Even if you book your tickets and accommodation through the Disneyland Paris website, do quickly check on the train and plane websites before defaulting to the travel options that Disney provide. I got quotes for British Airways and Air France through the Disney website and then checked directly on each of their own websites - the difference in price was significant. I saved around £1000 on flights by booking directly with BA.
A trip to Disneyland Paris is wonderful fun - we all thought it was fun and has given us some brilliant family memories.