Okay, I’d better come clean from the start: I love Disneyland Paris. Taking my young children there remains one of my happiest family memories (in fact if you could see the grin on my face in the picture of us all posing with Mickey Mouse you might wonder if it was me or the children who was having the most fun).
That being said, I’m not going to pretend that the weekend we spent in France at the theme park didn’t present certain challenges. Queues, arguments over which rides we should go on next and where to have lunch were all a feature. In hindsight though, these challenges could have been largely avoided with a bit of preparation and organisation on my part before we’d set off.
The difficulty with a trip to Disneyland Paris is that, unless you’re very lucky, time is usually limited. You want to fit everything in, have as much fun as possible with your children in the time you’ve got, but it is a massive place. So the trick is definitely to plan in advance, face up to the fact you’re not going to have time to do everything and cherry pick the rides, lands and events you think your family will most enjoy.
The first thing to think about is your accommodation. If possible it is a benefit to be in one of the hotels in the park because not only are you close by at the end of the day, you actually get to enter the park a full two hours before it’s open to the general public.
There are hotels for a range of budgets – the most expensive are closest to the theme park entrance but the furthest away ones all have shuttle buses, so are a great option for those with small kids who will be on their feet all day.
Look at the Map Before You Go
Arriving at the theme park can be a bit overwhelming with so much to see and do, so it’s a really good idea to have a plan in your head in advance. Disney realises this and has put a brilliant interactive map on their website. Just enter your children’s age range and it will show you exactly where the rides best suited for them can be found.
When we went we made this part of the excitement in the run up to our holiday, getting the children to look at the map and then going on YouTube to see the rides so they could choose for themselves which ones they wanted to go on. Plan to stick to one area or land for the entire day so that you’re not constantly walking back and forth to get to rides.
Take What You Need With You
Food, snacks and drinks can be expensive and there’s nowhere to buy provisions like nappies and wipes, so take as much as you can with you. Snacks are useful if the weather is good, so you can sit down for a little while and watch the wonderful world of Disney pass by, or wait for the parade to begin.
The other thing to take is a buggy; even if your kids are good walkers their legs will get tired after a day in the park. Plus it gives you somewhere to store bags, coats, snacks and the like so you don’t have to carry them. You can rent buggies at the park but at €15 a day and a €50 deposit, it is an expensive option.
Arriving at the Park
My advice if you’ve got little ones is to start off your time in Disneyland Paris at Fantasyland. There is so much for the kids to do here, and the queues are a little less daunting than in other areas of the park. In my opinion the best rides include:
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Alice’s Curious Labyrinth
- Le Carousel de Lancelot
- The Voyage of Pinocchio
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (although a word of warning, mine found the stepmother/witch rather frightening)
For day two you might want to venture over to Discoveryland. Our absolute favourite ride of the whole park was Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. It’s not scary and the kids get to shoot targets with lasers as they go round. The best thing is that there’s a ‘FastPass’ available for this ride so you get a ticket with a time slot and don’t have to queue for too long.
Best Places to Eat
The restaurants can get busy so it’s a good idea to try not to eat when everyone else does. Use the snacks you brought with you to delay meals until later and you’ll find that you’ll beat most of the queues.
Being Disneyland, all the restaurants are child-friendly with great kids menus and, if you book them in advance, even a chance to meet some of the Disney characters while you dine. (I’d particularly recommend the Breakfast with Disney Characters at Café Mickey.)
The restaurants range in prices, so again plan in advance and take a look at the Disney website where they list the restaurants and what sort of budget they suit so that you can plan where to eat during your trip.
My kids’ favourites were:
- Cable Car Bake Shop
- Café Hyperion
- Casey’s Corner
How to Get to Disneyland Paris
The easiest way to get to Disneyland Paris is on a flight to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport and then an airport transfer with Shuttle Direct, which will take you and your family straight to your hotel. Choose between a private car or a shared group transfer and the driver will meet you at the airport when you arrive.
Where to Stay:
B&B Hôtel à Disneyland® Paris – A great budget option, the B&B Hôtel à Disneyland® Paris is a family-friendly hotel with a shuttle service to the theme park. Although there is no restaurant, the hotel is served by a fun ‘food truck’ which delivers pasta, pizza, hot dogs and soup, all at a reasonable price.
Explorer’s Hotel at Disneyland Paris – Continue the fun at the Explorer’s Hotel at Disneyland Paris. This is a hotel built with young children in mind, from the indoor pool complete with slides and play area to fun-themed rooms and three restaurants, your little ones will have a blast. A shuttle to the park is available.
L’Elysee Val d’Europe – Close to the Disneyland Paris and Sea Life Aquarium is the L’Elysee Val d’Europe, a stylish option with family rooms and a convenient shuttle service to the theme park.
About Shuttle Direct:
A leading provider of airport transfers to destinations across Europe and North Africa, Shuttle Direct is the easiest, most stress-free way of getting from the airport to your hotel destination, especially if you’re travelling with young children. Book a private car or economical shared group transfer online before you set off and rest assured that a driver will be there to take you to your destination when you arrive at the airport.