First things first, travel!
We are lucky enough to live on a main train line to Birmingham Airport and so for the first time we decided to get the train into Birmingham International. Kids, bags and all! So off we trotted at 6am on a cold Thursday morning, one suitcase, one rucksack and two kids pull along bags and a pair of Minnie Mouse ears – how long did we believe they would last with their owners (mugs we are)
Anyway, the 40 minute train journey was pain free at table seats and the lovely lady gave the kids entertainment packs – thank you Virgin Trains kept them entertained a treat.
So we very calmly arrive at International, jump on the little metro into the airport. Get our boarding passes printed off no bother and then look up to see a mahooooosive bag drop queue, so 40 minutes later and many moans and groans off the kids we are in departures for a breakfast and an obligatory airport beer (it’s an unwritten rule)
Flight time over to Charles De Gaulle (CDG) was a very quick 60 minutes and as we flew with Air France we enjoyed a complimentary coffee and croissant – nice. Obviously the kids didn’t like them – why would they? But hey ho we all jumped off the plane happily ready for our adventures at Disneyland. Just so you know what to expect at CDG airport, its huge! So to get our checked in baggage we had to get on a monorail into a different part of the terminal so when you are planning your pick up time or train times just bear in mind it generally takes 20-30 minutes just to get to the right baggage area.
Now our next aspect of travel should have been straight forward and pain free – unfortunately not! After we had collected our bags, we walked down in the Charles De Gaulle Train Station (5 minutes from Terminal 2) kids already having abandoned their bags to dad otherwise known as Donkey. You know from carrying shopping bags, travel bags etc. etc.
Info Point: There is a fast train (TGV) from CDG straight into Disneyland Paris and it only takes 10 minutes but it only runs every few hours, sometimes hourly throughout the day, costs 54 euros for 2 adults and 2 children. If you miss this you can catch the RER which is the French train service, to get this from CDG you have to change lines once midway at Chatelet Les Halles this takes about an hour and 15 and costs 35 euros again for the 4 of us. In comparison if you catch the Magic Shuttle or get a taxi you are looking about 90 minutes travel time but obviously dictated by traffic.
Anyway, back to it. We missed the fast train by about half an hour so we decided to catch the RER. We purchased our tickets and headed down to the platform, as luck would have it the train was in. So we trundle along, me with the two kids and Donkey with all the bags so as we approach the train, our 4 year old steps onto the train, I glance and I mean glance in a microsecond back to Tom to make sure he can manage all of the bags and the train doors start to close. MY DAUGHTER IS ON THAT TRAIN ALONE!!! FRANTIC PANIC!!! So what do I do, do what any sane mother will do and throw herself between the train doors until I find myself wedged from the chest up in the train and the chest down out of the train, literally wedged but this train is not going anywhere without me on it. Cue some French shouting (at me for trying to get on the train) Tom shouting our daughter is on that train and once a few kind men had figured out what was going on they helped Tom prise the doors open so we could jump on the train, and as the doors opened I literally fell onto the train. OMG! The panic and adrenaline that gushes through you as it happens and afterwards, wow, the body is a pretty amazing thing to keep you protected. Needless to say both kids had the kitchen strings firmly attached for the rest of our break, more so than ever. And for anyone wondering what our daughter though of all this goings on – she was oblivious and was more concerned about 'where shall we sit Mommy?'
A few days after my nerves had recovered, me and Tom were chatting about it and he found describing me half wedged in the train doors wriggling about trying to force my way through the train doors like a kipper – a kipper…….hilarious. Hmmmmmmm, he was brave and that is all I will say on the matter.
So we arrive at Disneyland Paris all safe and in one piece – just about after 7 hours of door to door travel.
Next up, the hotel.
We had booked to stay in Hotel New York, New York. They had a good offer when we booked and I wanted us to be close to the parks. Hotel was good, standard 4 star but reception staff and concierge were very friendly and very helpful. I’ll tell you a little about the hotel and its location for anyone who is considering booking up. From the train station (RER or TGV) it is a 5 minute walk through the Disney village to the hotel on the lake. On the left and closest you have Hotel New York, New York and the other end is Newport Bay which is probably only another 3-4 minute walk from the Disney Village and the opposite side of the lake from Disney Village is Sequoia Lodge, both 3 star hotels so are a bit more affordable if price needs to be considered.
Back to Hotel New York, New York, each morning there is a character in reception from 8am until 10am and as they are in the hotel the queues are A LOT smaller than in the parks so make use of this. I am not sure if this happens in every Disney Hotel or not though so may be worth checking before you book. We saw Mickey, Goofy and Pluto in our 3 days so they are generally the main characters too which is a bonus.
Final thing I will say on the hotel is about breakfast. Now this is all totally up to personal choice. We didn’t opt for any dining plans purely because I don’t like being tied to an agenda when we are away and we had other things we wanted to do which included meals. So, I did take some good old IKEA plastic bowls and spoons and some cereals for the kids so they had something first thing in a morning and me and Tom would pick up a coffee and a pastry from Starbucks in the Disney Village on our way into the parks. (Casino shop in the train station sold milk and I stored it in the mini bar if you are wondering whether I fed them dry cereals) The hotel breakfasts would have worked out to 100 euros for the 4 of us each day, for a continental breakfast hence our decision not to opt for that. I also packed a heap of snacks for the kids which they could snack on around the parks which both kept them entertained whilst standing in queues and kept them from getting hangry – we had many strops and tantrums in queues but that’s all part of the fun, right?
Onto the parks…..
For those who know me, they will know two things, firstly how much I watch the news and therefore am always aware of the goings on in the world if you know what I mean and secondly, how much it freaks me out that these things could happen to anyone, anywhere. Before we went I had been a little freaked out about security and whether we would feel safe, well I take my hat off to Disneyland management. There were bag scanners and body scanners each and every time you walked in the parks even if you were coming in from the hotels. At the hotel reception there were again bag and body scanners. We all felt very safe and whilst sometimes it was a bit of a pain to wait around whilst you went through the scanners they were keeping everyone safe and to me this is far more important.
I will share a few tips about the parks;
- Magic Hours, when you stay in a Disney hotel most hotels have access to magic hours. From 8am until 10am every morning the park opens for hotel guests only and most but not all of the popular rides open at 8am too so you can get onto the rides which generally have the longest wait time much quicker first thing so make good use of this time. Or you can get to the front of a character queue for arrival time at 10am in the main.
- Fast Passes, you can scan your park tickets into a fast pass machine (one ride access at a time) and you will get a 30-40 minute slot to go back and you will go straight to the front of the queue so again make use of these throughout the day but it does mean you have to have a bit of a plan so that you are in the right part of the park at the right time.
- Parades, the parades are my favourite part of the parks however, depending on how much you enjoy them and you may not want to watch it every day if you don’t again use this time to get on some rides as the queue times are much shorter while the masses go to watch the amazing parades.
- Comfortable Shoes, now this probably seems an obvious one but both me and Tom really struggled with our feet (not sure what this says about us, but anyway) you are literally walking or standing from 7.30am until 9.30pm so make sure you pack a few pairs of comfy shoes to wear throughout your stay. I stupidly took two new pairs although in my defence they were both flat and seemed comfy when I tried them on, but we will say no more.
- Fireworks, the firework are on every night at closing time. Try and get a good spot where you can see the castle as long gone are the days of fireworks behind the castle whilst it is lit up. Now they project onto the castle which makes it more of a show with the fireworks so try and get a good spot so you don’t find yourself behind a speaker or a tree!
- Get the app, I mean this is when you know times are changing! Disneyland Paris has an app which shows you all the rides and the wait times, how good is that! So if you were running to an agenda this will really help. Plus, whilst mom stands in a queue to meet Daisy Duck for over an hour Dad can take the kids on a nearby ride which has a short wait time, again applause for Disneyland (You will need an internet connection to use it though)
- Remember a thick pen, or two! So we arrived ad purchased the obligatory autograph book however, error, I didn’t have any pens. And, if you have more than one child make sure they have a pen each. The amount of arguments we had over who gave the character the pen was unbelievable, poor Donald Duck had the wrath of an upset 4 year old madam when her brother gave him the pen. We have the photos to prove it and everything!
- Princess Pavilion, if you have any princesses with you get in the princess pavilion queue first thing. I queued from 9am on our last morning to meet Ariel and it was worth every part of the 80 minutes I queued for. She was delightful, so in character and spent a good 5 minutes chatting away to the kids and having pictures taken. There is also a stand outside which tells you which princess will be there throughout the day in case you have already met some. You can also meet Belle in the studios park at her meet and greet which of course we queued for 90 minutes for, but again she was lovely and in the kids eyes worth the wait.
Shows, I have already talked about the parades but there are a whole host of shows split across the two parks although most of them are in the Studios. We all really enjoyed the shows and I will summarise them to give you a bit of insight without giving too much away.
Royal Castle Stage
This is to the right of the Disneyland Castle and whilst we were there were two shows on throughout the day. Firstly and most importantly as stated by our 4 year old was the Princess Waltz. The main 8 princesses each appeared on stage, one by one to be joined by their princes for a Royal Waltz, finished with fireworks and water displays. It was a lovely show and both kids really enjoyed it; it lasted about 20 minutes for those who are wondering.
The second show was all of the classic Disney characters in their 25th anniversary show. Again, think characters and dancing, add in a few fireworks and water displays. Again, lasted about 20 minutes.
Magic Show (Studios)
This was probably my favourite show and I hate magic shows. It combines Disney stories and characters and a teeny bit of magic. It kept everyone entertained so get in the queue early and rest those feet for 30 minutes! It was like heaven to just sit still for half an hour, maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much because the feet got a good rest.
Disney Junior Live (Studios)
Hmmmmm, not so much of the ‘live’. Whilst you are waiting to go into the show they do bring out a couple of the Disney junior characters but they are there or entertainment, they wouldn’t do any pictures or signing of books. There are some special effects but basically, there is a live presenter who is accompanied by large puppets throughout the show. Personally, my opinion is give this one a miss unless you have very little ones who will enjoy it.
Moteurs…Action! Stunt Show (Studios)
This is a live stunt show which shows how movie scenes are made. It is very loud and there is lots of car engines revving and gun shooting. It is action packed throughout and there are English and French presenters live explaining what is happening. Lasts around 30-40 minutes and our 7 year old loved it. You also get a surprise visit from Lightening McQueen!
Star Wars Parade/Show (Studios)
I am not really sure what to call this, it was held in the main square of the Studios park and was a mini-show/parade. Storm troopers, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2D2, C-3PO and Kylo-Ren all made an appearance supported by the big screen. Our eldest LOVED IT, although he is a Star Wars fan, worth a watch whether you are a fan or not.
Star Wars Jedi Training Camp
Save the best until last. So this runs in two ways. You can watch the show which runs around 6 times per day or if you have an active Star Wars supporter and they are over 7 they can feature in the show! Yep, feature in the show! So, what this means in practise is, queue for an hour and a half to register your little Jedi select the show you would like them to feature in and come back at your allocated time. IT WAS AMAZING and our little Jedi LOVED IT! They practise firstly ahead of the show with a Jedi Master before coming onto stage to show off their skills in a set up show. It really is amazing to watch your little one have a 1-1 battle with Darth Vader, I would highly recommend it. Finn would have done it ten times over if given a choice. The show is also quite entertaining to watch if the kids are too young or don’t want a bit of the spotlight.
I don’t want to share too much about the parks and shows as I wouldn’t want to spoil it for those of you who have plans to go but I will say it’s amazing the kids loved every moment. It really is magical, beyond all expectations (and we had been before – alright it was 10 years ago) but watching your little ones face literally light up with joy was amazing.
It’s all about the food!
We pre-booked some character lunches rather than taking dining plans so we could cut some queuing time whilst out in the parks and feed ourselves at the same time. Win all round I say. We decided to go to Inventions, which is inside the Disneyland Hotel and also lunch at Auberge de Cendrillion with the Princesses. Finally we spent our second evening at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show – with Mickey and Friends!
Starting off with Inventions, it is open from 12 until 3. Characters are out until about 3.20pm and the buffet was open until 3.30pm. I would suggest booking in as early as you can from the opening time as this will give you the most time for the meet and greets. We had booked in at 2.30 not realising that the food and characters finished an hour later however saying that we all managed to get full tummies and met 6-7 characters whilst we were there. There was a good choice of hot and cold food and the staff were very helpful and pleasant. It was 65 euros for an adult and 35 euros for a child, but you had to pay for your drinks on top, so not the cheapest lunch but you could really fill up on starters, mains and desserts. On the way out you also look over to the Princess for a day on the opposite staircase, which looked great. We didn’t opt to do this but prices start from 50 euros for the princesses to have their hair and make-up done, instead Jessie opted to have her face painted twice, on different occasions of course. However, the face painting which is situated at the back of Auberge de Cendrillion was AMAZING! The girls are so talented and so quick at it. Glitter was everywhere; we were all covered by the end of the day.
We also had lunch with the Princesses, which our own 4 year old princess was so excited about. Now I will add a bit of a warning to this one, it is classed as classic French dining restaurant and the menu is as such so if you have fussy eaters don’t count on them eating too much. However, we met 4 princesses beautifully in character and all of which interacted with the children, having a chat, signing autographs and taking photographs and generally being magical. You could literally see the beam from our daughters smile radiating from her little mush so it was worth every penny. Our 7 year old lad enjoyed a good cuddle with them all as well, sure he will love the pictures in years to come!
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show – with Mickey and Friends! I booked this as we were there over my husband’s birthday. It is a Tex-Mex menu which is served to your bench whilst the show is on. It is an action packed show and both kids really enjoyed it, from the team games which you were encouraged to cheer on to the Cowboy Hats provided as you entered. It was good value and you also had refillable coke and beer – bonus! Joking aside it was a really enjoyable evening for everyone and a show I would highly recommend.