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5 tips for planning your first trip to Disneyland Paris

IMG_6549When my daughter’s love for Mickey Mouse and his Club House showed no signs of going anywhere and an interest in all things Disney started to develop, the little seed of a possible trip to Disneyland Paris started to grow. As our next little person is due to arrive this summer it turned into a pretty special trip as her last holiday as the only child!  Having spent months researching and planning this trip, and the reality exceeding expectation, I thought I would share some of what I learned here on the blog. Given that we travelled with a two, almost 3 year old and me being 27 weeks pregnant while travelling I will add some extra info on those elements too! We also convinced my parents to join us and I think they were surprised at how much they enjoyed it too so it really is fun for all the family.

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  1. Grab a brochure, start planning early and book early!

One of the biggest ways I believe we saved money was planning ahead, we knew roughly when we wanted to go and didn’t hang around when the offer we wanted came up. You can check out the current brochure online or pick one up in a travel agent, I found it far easier to take in all the information from the brochure than online. It also included a handy colour coded table which shows you peak seasons and low seasons as well as details of their seasons eg Season of the Force (Star Wars), Pirates and Princesses, Marvel, Halloween and Christmas. We went low season and it was plenty busy for us. Booking early also meant the Eurostar prices were lower and we were able to travel Standard Premier, the prices will only continue to rise the closer you get to dates, same goes for flights etc so don’t hang about on this one either.

For peace of mind we chose to book everything directly with Disneyland Paris so that everything, including the Eurostar, was under one booking should anything go wrong.

Top Tip When you’re ready to book go online to the booking page and go through until you see the request a call back icon. They will call you back immediately so you don’t pay for the call and this also allows you to pay a deposit rather than the whole amount in one go. Before doing this have a good idea of where, when and what you want book, they are sales people after all.

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2. Disney Hotel, partner hotel or offsite?

This is entirely personal choice, there are a fantastic variety of options to suit everyone depending on the type of trip you are planning to take, budget and the preferences of your group. Again many of these are detailed in the brochure. We chose to stay in a Disney Hotel for all sorts of reasons, the least not being location so that I could happily waddle to and from the park! We also pulled out all the stops and chose to book a Club level room which gave us access to a fab buffet breakfast everyday, extra fast passes, afternoon tea snacks and hot and cold drinks throughout the day.

Top Tip If you, like us,  choose to stay in a Disney Hotel there seem to be two main types of offers that rotate through the year, this could change, but generally they offered you extra nights free depending on the length of stay or free half board and percentage discount on your stay. Keep an eye out for these and if you have time decide which might work best for you before booking.

What other benefits are there with staying in a Disney Hotel? Quite a few actually;

  • Access to Extra Magic Time in the morning when the park is open to hotel guests before the public. Usually quite early but worth it to get a few rides and character meets in!
  • Ability to add a Meal Plan
  • Option to add Disney Express, a luggage service
  • Character Meet and Greets in the lobby in the morning
  • Fun themed rooms
  • Club Level rooms offer additional benefits

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3. Should I add a Meal Plan?

Again this is totally personal preference. Pre family life my husband and I would probably have stuck to food on the go and the odd sit down dinner but since we had a little person and a coeliac to consider we put more thought into this. DLPGuide.com is a fab website which, alongside other fantastic planning tools and tips, keeps up to date menus for all the restaurants. My first tip here is to figure out if you want, or need, to book any character meals or dining shows and work out the best deal for you if you do. We knew we wanted to try Buffalo Bills Wild West Show, the princess lunch at Auberge De Cendrillon and character breakfasts so we took a deep breath and added the Premium Meal Plan! You do need to be careful with this as you need to be dining in the restaurants with the corresponding menus to get the most out of your plan, so premium menus on a premium plan. Given that the Princess character lunch at Auberge de Cendrillon for an adult is currently €77, Buffalo Bills Wild West Show 2nd category for an adult is currently €63 and the buffet at Inventions with character is currently €65 you can quickly see how it could save you a lot of money. We also found having our tables booked gave our days structure and I always knew my daughter and I would get a rest at meal times.

Was it worth it? I believe so, we alternated three course sit down meals with buffets which worked great for us. The Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show was a great night out for all of us and the character meals were a great way for our daughter to meet characters in a relaxed environment without queuing. We found the restaurants were happy to help with dietary requirements, preparing fresh and altered menus for us. We are also very lucky in that our daughter is, for the most part, very well behaved in restaurants but I have to say even the more ‘fine dining’ restaurants were excellent with children and I would have no problems booking the premium plan again.

Top Tip You can book your tables 60 days in advance of your trip, I would strongly recommend this if you have a meal plan as the most popular places do get booked up and it is not easy to just ‘wing it’ when you are there, especially with small children. Some places can only be booked 3 days in advance such as the Character Breakfast at Plaza Gardens although you can generally add one of these at the time you book your hotel package, a small additional cost may be added so check when booking. Before you book look at the likely times for the parade and illuminations so you can plan your meals around getting to these on at least one of the days!

Top Tip for under 3s It is worth being aware that under 3s can’t book a meal plan, the expectation is that they will eat of your plate in the sit down restaurants but can have their own plate and eat as much as they like in the buffets.

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4. Eurostar and Disney Express

Eurostar worked great for us, we were able to travel direct from London to Disneyland Paris. Our main issue in the end was rail replacement in the UK forcing us to book a hotel in London the night before, this actually turned out to be a nice addition to our holiday. As I mentioned above we travelled Standard Premier, I wouldn’t hesitate to do this again as it gave us extra space and a meal. We chose not to book a seat for our daughter and with hindsight I would have booked a seat for her. We got lucky travelling out as there were empty seats near by but this was not the case on our return journey.

Disney Express is a luggage service available for Eurostar

Top Tip When booking your Eurostar I would strongly recommend booking direct or checking that, if you are offered an indirect train via Lille, you have longer than 35 minutes to make the change. Our SNCF was delayed, the lifts were not working and we almost missed our connecting train, which was far more stress than any of us needed. There were lots of families struggling with pushchairs and luggage and I just hope everyone made the train. I believe you can get the next train if you miss your connection but that’s not really the point.

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5. Visiting Disney while pregnant, are you nuts?!

I did wonder if I was making a big mistake, especially when I heard that people were clocking up 20,000 steps every day but fear not I had a fantastic time. If you go to Disneyland Paris when you are pregnant you are able to pick up an Orange Pass from City Hall on arrival as well as a list of rides you can go on. Bear in mind that you will need a Drs note or medical notes although they didn’t ask for mine because I was massive and quite clearly pregnant! The Orange Pass allows you to visit a ride or character meet and greet and be given a time to come back, it essentially means you can sit and wait rather than stand in the queue. You can only add one thing at a time so it is effectively like you are in the queue.

This made a huge difference to me as I was suffering from terrible back pain and PGP at the time which would have made it impossible to stand for thirty minutes just to ride Small World or Buzz Lightyear!

Top Tip All that said, if you are a thrill seeking, roller coater fan it might be worth booking for another time. For me the magic was seeing my daughter meet her favourite characters, she also loved the Buzz Lightyear ride which I could go on and adored the parade and illuminations.

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Final thoughts…

If you are on Facebook make sure you join one or two of the Disneyland Paris groups, there are some incredibly helpful people who are seriously passionate about Disney and Disneyland Paris and are happy to share years of experience and advice with you.

If you are considering taking children under 3 years old but are concerned about whether it would be worth it, my answer would be go for it. The magic clearly felt real for our daughter and meeting the characters was her favourite activity, she hasn’t stopped talking about it since we got home. I was concerned that Buffalo Bills might be a bit much for her but she was in awe of ‘Cowboy Mickey’ and threw herself into waving her cowboy hat while shouting yehaw, banging her spoon on the plate (it was encouraged!) and clapping along to everything, I’m not sure I have ever seen her so animated or excited! We paced ourselves and made use of the pool at the hotel one day too so our five days felt just right for us. We have lots of fantastic photos that will remind her of what turned out to be a very special holiday for us all.

If you have any questions or would like me to write another post about something else Disneyland trip related just drop me a comment below.

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