We had been planning a trip to Disneyland Paris since my son was born, we was just waiting for the moment he was old enough to appreciate it and take it all in. We had been saving a few coins in a jar for about 2 years and to our surprise when we finally counted it there was enough in there to book our trip. It was coming up to our sons 4th birthday and he loved everything Disney, so we didn’t hesitate any longer and just booked it.
I booked the trip as a package which included the Eurostar train from Ebbsfleet intl station right into the heart of Disneyland Paris. A comfortable journey that took just over 2 hours. We used the Disney express luggage service which means your luggage is taken from the train straight to your hotel so you are free to start enjoying the parks right away and check-in a bit later. This service is available on arrivals and departure for a small fee pp.
The accommodation we choose was the newly refurbished Newport Bay Club. The reason we wanted to stay here is simply that it was our first time here and we wanted to be as close to the parks as possible (although we found out most of the hotels are no more than a 15-minute walk from the parks) and the hotel looked new and I had read some good reviews. But the fact that the Disney characters can also be seen walking around the hotel had our minds set. The hotel is very modern and clean with a swimming pool, shop, 3 restaurants and bars, a gym, wifi, free shuttle to the parks, and Disney character experiences (our son loved guessing who he would see each day).
Upon check-in, we realised we had made our first mistake, we were told that we had not booked the meal plan (my mistake). The meal plan is exclusively available to guests staying at one of the Disney hotels. It’s a great way to budget your meals in advance and you can select a plan to best suit your budget and there are 23 different restaurants across Disneyland Paris to use your meal plan. There are different plans available, they are
- Half board Standard meal plan – breakfast and lunch or dinner
- Full board meal plan – breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Half board plus – breakfast, lunch or dinner + buffalo bills wild west show
- Full board plus – breakfast, lunch, dinner + buffalo bills wild west show
- Half board premium – breakfast and lunch or dinner + character dining experience + buffalo bills wild west show
- Full board premium – breakfast, lunch, dinner + buffalo bills wild west show + character dining experience
Check for prices when booking. But don’t worry if you forget or don’t want to book a meal plan, there are plenty of resturants to choose from around the parks.
Quick tip – Reserve meal reservations in advance to avoid disappointment as restaurants can book up. You can book reservations up to 6 months before your trip, so a little planning before you can save you so much time and hassle.
Our trip consisted of 4 nights and 5 days and it went by so fast. I would recommend at least 3 full days, to make the most of the parks and entertainment.
Staying at one of the Disney hotels gives you access to the parks an hour earlier in the morning and sometimes 2 hours later in the evening. This is definitely worth getting up that bit earlier for in the morning, especially if you have little ones and you want to avoid some of the queueing for rides or you have a particular ride you want to get to early And you can get around a few of the rides before the parks open to the public. This is also worthwhile if your character spotting as you will find it easier trying to get photographs with them. I would advise getting to the park gates for about 8.15 am.
With nearly 55 rides over the 2 parks, planning your days is a great way to save time. My advice would be to prioritize the rides you wish to do and head to these first thing or later in the evening after the day-trippers and coaches leave. This will save you time when queueing.
Here is a guide to our favorite rides.
Autopia – This is basically a race car track where you can steer cars around an enclosed track. The ride features a working accelerator and steering wheel, although you are safe if you let the young ones drive because a guide rail is fitted underneath. This was my sons favorite ride so we visited this many times, my favorite was at night when it was lit up, it looked fantastic.
Indiana Jones rollercoaster – This is a rollercoaster for all the family, although there is a height restriction of 140 cm ( 4 feet 7). This ride isn’t scary but it is fun well worth it. There are a few small drops and a couple of loud noises and 1 360 degree loop. This ride seems to be over very quickly but depending on what time of year you go, queuing time isn’t that long.
The Peter Pan Flight – A suspended ride in the dark although all the scenery is brightly lit. Jump on board and ride in a flying pirate ship over recreated scenes of London and Neverland. See famous sights such as Big Ben and the Tower Of London. A great family ride and one of the most popular here. But it can only take about 400 guests an hour which can make for long queues, especially at peak times.
Slinky Dog Zig Zag Spin – Another ride suitable for the little ones (and adults) its basically a family carousel ride situated in the toy story playland area of the Walt Disney studios park. It’s a mini version of a roller coaster but suitable for the little ones but enjoyed by all, my partner and I enjoyed it as much as our son did. The ride goes round and round in a circle on a track as Slinky Dog appears to chase after his own tail. The maximum time we spent queuing for this ride was 20 minutes and we returned for many more rides.
Hyperspace Mountain (previously space mountain)- My personal favorite, although certainly not for little ones. This rollercoaster is fast, dark, and at times quite loud. A very popular rider for older children and adults alike. This rollercoaster has recently been given a makeover and now features a star wars theme. Even if you’re not a star wars fan if you like loops, sharp turns, and fast acceleration you will enjoy this ride. The average queuing time for this ride is between 45-60 minutes.
Disneyland Railroad – This ride is basically the monorail that takes you around the whole park. Hop on and hop off at a number of stops around the park, ideal if you know what area you want to head to but wish to avoid the walking. A great way to relax and see the whole park.
Big Thunder Mountain – This ride is a mine train rollercoaster that is suitable for the whole family. The train thunders you around the haunted mountain, climbing up and then diving between raging waterfalls. It reminded me a little bit of a scene from an Indiana Jones film. This ride has no loops but it does have a few sharp turns and you must be 102cm or 1.2 meters to ride. The downside to this ride is the queueing time, We have waited nearly 2 hours for this ride. But with a Fastpass, this time can be cut to 15-20 minutes.
Here are some more rides that are suitable for 5 year olds:
- The Teacups
- The carousel
- Disney cars ride
- Sleeping beauty castle
- It’s a small world
- Astro blasters
- Snow White and the seven dwarfs train
There is much more to Disneyland Paris than just the rides though. There are 2 parks here, The Disneyland park, and the Walt Disney studios park. You also have a shopping village and the Disney Village. There are plenty of gift shops for you to grab some souvenirs.
Meet the Disney characters.
This was probably the highlight of the break for our boy. He absolutely loves Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald Duck, so he was so excited to meet his heroes. You will be able to find the different characters at the various meet and greet locations dotted around the park. You can queue up to have your picture taken, and these really are a souvenir to treasure for life. Are we are never too old for a hug from Mickey Mouse. It’s a good idea to check the times on the programmes as the characters will appear at certain locations at certain times of the day. If it was the Disney princesses you wanted to meet then be sure to head to the Princess Pavillion, this does get busy so get here early.
Head to cafe Mickey for a meet and greet breakfast, a truly unique experience. The cafe is just a short walk from all the main Disney hotels. Booking is essential and if you can, book even before your break. If you are staying at one of the Disney themed hotels, you will probably be lucky enough to bump into one of the characters walking around.
The Disney Parade
You cant come to Disneyland Paris and not watch the fabulous parade. Characters ride around the park on floats signing and dancing to music. The parade starts at 5.30 pm and lasts between 20-30 minutes. It will usually start near the small world and end down by the discovery parade. I would advise to get here early so you can get close to the front for the best views. You will find all the Disney characters you can think of, from Mickey Mouse to Chip and Dale and Buzz Light Year to Pinocchio. My favorite time of year to see the parade is Christmas, this is also my favorite time to visit the parks, although you need to wrap up warm.
Fireworks display (Disney illuminations)
The spectacular late-night firework display is something you must see during your stay. At around 9.30pm every night after the park closes, the Disney castle is beautifully lit up and a fireworks display lasting around 20 minutes illuminates the night sky. This is a family favorite event. Unfortunately, my boy fell asleep in the pushchair while we were waiting but we still thoroughly enjoyed it. The best place to stand and watch is main street USA But again get here early as this event gets very busy, so maybe go grab a coffee or hot chocolate and get comfortable. Once the display has finished the everybody heads for the exits, and this is extremely busy, especially in the summer months, so make sure you stay close and don’t lose anybody.
Moteurs Action stunt show
Head down to the Walt Disney studios park and enjoy a high octane stunt show, involving cars, motorbikes, burning rubber fire, and real-life Hollywood stuntmen. A 40-minute show that runs 3 times a day. The stunt show is supposed to give you the feel of a real-life movie set, performing car chases and some death-defying stunts, and even giving you an insight into how the stunts are performed. If you want the best seats then it’s best to get their early. This stunt show does involve lots of loud noises so consider this when taking your little ones. The kids are sure to love the guest appearance from Lightning McQueen at the beginning.
Buffalo bill’s wild west show
Enjoy a journey into the wild west with this action-packed show starring buffalo bill, Annie Oakley, and the rough riders. Relax and soak up the atmosphere as you watch this spectacular show packed with thrills and action stunts. With special appearances from mickey and friends, this one is a hit for all the family. Enjoy the delicious western food served up while you watch the show, and also enjoy the free drinks served up with your food, these include, water, beer, coca-cola, and tea or coffee. This show is extremely popular, one of the most popular here so booking is essential.
Eating and drinking at Disneyland Paris
As I mentioned in an earlier paragraph, If you do plan to book the Disney meal plan, choose your restaurants and book them before your trip starts to avoid disappointment. But if you don’t decide to go for the meal plan then don’t worry because there are more than 50 restaurants to choose from, and there is something to suit all budgets.
The most affordable places to eat are the food carts and the counter service restaurants, for example places like Five Guys or Mcdonalds. But there are plenty of places where you can have a sit down meal without breaking the bank.
Rainforest cafe – This restaurant is a great choice if you’re eating late as it stays open later than most other restaurants and you don’t have to book as they don’t take reservations. The setting gives you a feeling of being in a rainforest with its sounds of insects and the occasional rumble of thunder (this is not real). The menu is pretty simple, you have your burgers, meat, and pasta, and its pretty tasty too, (I love the apple crumble dessert). The average price for a meal here is between €20-€25 for adults and €12-€15 for children. Slightly more expensive than some others but you may be paying for the convenience.
Planet Hollywood – A world famous American dinner that serves up delisious food, everything you need after a long day having fun at the parks. The walls are covered in movie memrobillia and props and there is continus music videos playing on the tv screens. This is a great place to dine, weather you are a family, a group of friends, couples or oldre people, this place has a brilliant atmosphere. The prices for a meal range from €18-€26 for adults and €10-€15 for children.
Cowboy cookout barbeque – This sit-down restaurant is located in the Disneyland park, in Frontierland. Offering a tex-mex buffet cuisine featuring big bbq portions, great for those with big appetites. A little pricey, with the adult menu at €35.99 and the children €18.99, although this does include a buffet of starters, the main meal, and a buffet of desserts.
Walts, an American restaurant- If you’re looking for a fine dining experience, then head down to Walts, serving sophisticated and contemporary American cuisine with a European feel, located on main street in the Disneyland park. The restaurant is divided into 6 different rooms, each featuring areas of the park, while paying tribute to the creator of Disney, Walt himself. This restaurant is pricey but its most definitely worth it, the experience is amazing.
My overall experience of our trip to Disneyland Paris was magical and we were sad when it ended, we cannot wait to return. Ok so it is expensive, but this trip will give you memories that will last forever.