Sunday, February 19, 2017

Disneyland Paris

My Guide to Disneyland Paris


Sitting here this morning in my Cruella De Vil pyjamas, thinking about my upcoming trip to Disneyland Paris, it occurred to me that to me that my Disney knowledge might come in handy to someone that's never been before. Disney is my families thing - any sort of special occasion, we go to Disney. Birthdays, New Years, Christmas and graduation have all been on our list of excuses to go back. My mum and dad spent their honeymoon at Disney World, where they found out that they were expecting me (which may explain why Disney seems to run through my veins). 

This will be my 5th or 6th trip to Disney Land Paris and I still discover new things to do each time we go. So I thought I'd put together a list of my top tips for getting the most out of your time there ...


When is the right time to go?

Obviously this is personal preference but I have been a few different times of the year so i thought I'd share my thoughts on them;

Christmas/New Years


Let me start by saying that I am obsessed with Christmas, it is without a doubt my favourite time of the year. So when Mum surprised us with a family trip to Disney one Christmas morning I was beyond excited (even if I was 24). I believe we went around the 28th and stayed until New Years Day. It was magical. The castle was dripping with fairy lights, the lamp posts were hung with wreaths, Christmas music played where ever you went, the huge tree in town square was out of this world. There was the Christmas Tree Lighting every evening, a Christmas parade featuring nutcrackers and candy canes, characters dressed in Christmas outfits, Santa in his sleigh and a special Christmas edition of the castle show and fireworks. If Christmas is your thing then a Disney Christmas is a must do.



The downsides to going at this time of year are the cold and the crowds. Obviously France has very similar weather to that of the UK so it was absolutely FREEZING - we took coats, hats, scarfs, gloves, jumpers and hand warmers and were still frozen. Christmas is one of Disney's busiest periods so be prepared for queue for characters, rides and shows - a lot of these will be outside too.


 (Keep an eye out for a post on my recent trip to Disney World last Christmas)



Summer

Every other time we have been its been in the summer months - between June and August. We have been incredibly lucky with the weather when we've been in the summer. On a nice day it honestly feels like you're in Florida or California, ok it's probably not quite that hot but its still ice cream weather.

There's usually something cool going on, like the Frozen Summer Spectacular or this year will mark the parks 25th anniversary. The parks are generally busy this time of year but its not such an issue when the weather is nice.

As a rule of thumb for any Disney park, February and November are the quietest times to go and also the cheapest. If you time it right you can go in November and enjoy all the fun of Christmas without the queues.

So now you have an idea of when you want to go lets move on to ... 

How to get there

We've been by almost every mode of transport possible, aside from flying. Each method has its own pros and cons;

Eurostar
This is the fastest and most direct route. We tend to get the train from Ashford International straight to Marne-Le-Vallee (Disney). Occasionally you will have an indirect train that stops at Lille for a short period of time - we are stopping for an hour on the way there and half an hour on the way back. If you've not been to DLP before you might not realise just how close the train station is. It is literally right outside Disney Village and the park entrances. From here the Disney hotels are a short walk away or if you opted for the Disney baggage option (this is usually included in package holidays) you can get a shuttle bus to your hotel with your baggage to check in OR if check in time is ages away, they will take your bags to your hotel for you so you can start enjoying the parks straight away. Same for the way home, they will take your bags to the station for you so you don't have to take them with you to Disney.

Sounds amazing right? It is but it is the most expensive way to get there!! A lot of the time you are paying hundreds of pounds for the train (it once was priced to me at an extra £800 by a travel agent). Disney can be expensive enough as it is so there are some cheaper options.

These next to options are only available if you are comfortable driving in France.

Drive/train/drive
This option involves driving to the channel tunnel, for us that takes about an hour. You then drive onto your train and the crossing to France takes about half an hour. There are toilets on board but apart from that you cant really leave your car so it can get a bit cramped. The train takes you to Calais and then you need to drive from there, to Marne-Le-Vallee, which takes around 3 hours.

The total costs this ways are petrol to get to the tunnel, train fare (per car) which cost us £200 for a return, 20 euros for the toll road in France and again, petrol for the drive. 

Drive/ferry/drive
This option is cheaper still. Its pretty much the same as the above driving wise, however, the crossing to France takes longer. Is the sea is calm it takes around an hour but if its rough it can be longer (it once took us nearly 2 hours and made us all feel very sick). Again, once you arrive in Calais its about a 3 hour drive to Marne-Le-Vallee (DLP isn't actually in Paris - who knew right?).

Costs for this option are: again petrol and toll money plus ferry cost. The earlier you leave and the later you return the cheaper it tends to be. Leaving first thing and returning around 9pm cost us £70 each way.

Where to stay

This is one of the most exciting bits, choosing where to stay. I have stayed in the most expensive hotel, The Disneyland Hotel, and the cheapest, The Davy Crockett Ranch and absolutely loved both - this time we are staying somewhere in between at The Newport Bay Club. No matter where you stay you get the full Disney experience.

The Disneyland Hotel


There is a reason that this hotel is the most expensive, its grand AF!! It is also situated right at the entrance to Disneyland, in fact it has its own private entrance to the park. If you've been before you'll know that the walk from the car park to the park entrances can take around 20 minutes, so after a long day in Disney the location and ease of the DLH is amazing!! This hotel offers views of the castle from your room (some not all), a small pool, a complimentary breakfast which was pretty good or an American style breakfast for an extra charge, tv with Disney channel, character meals and Christmas rooms decorated for the festive period - man I want to go back for this. 



Davy Crockett Ranch


This option is only available to those that drive as it is located off of the Disney site. The drive between the two is around 10/15 minutes. The Ranch isn't actually a hotel either but rather log cabins in the woods. We stayed here a lot as they can sleep 6 people so we could all be together. The beds are comfy, the cabins are warm (even in the winter) they have cooking facilities, fridge and freezers, table and chairs, tv and sofa. The main bedroom has an on suite and there is a second bathroom and separate toilet outside the second bedroom. Although there are hundreds of cabins, they are positioned in a way that you feel like you're the only family there. After a short drive to reception (you can walk depending on which cabin loop you are placed) you can find the restaurant, a gift shop/mini mart, activities such as table tennis and THE NICEST POOL AT DISNEY. The other hotel pools, if they they have them, tend to just be standard rectangular shaped but this one has a water slide, rapids, a Jacuzzi and still more than enough room to swim comfortably. Pools tend to be busier in the evening so if you want a quiet one i recommend going during the day.



The one let down?? Breakfast. At the DCR you need to pick up your breakfast each morning from the breakfast huts. It consists of a croissant for each person in your cabin, a very tough french stick (like seriously you could break a tooth on these things), assorted jam, nutella, apple sauce, tea bags, milk, coffee, sugar and hot chocolate powder.


Other hotels
Like I said, I've never actually stayed at the other hotels but I can tell you that the Newport Bay and New York hotel are the closest to the parks at about a 5 minute walk, whilst other hotels such as hotels Cheyenne and Santa Fe are about a half an hour walk. The walk is quite pleasant, its on Disney property so only other guests there and its one straight road so your not going to get lost.
There are other non Disney hotels near by but I don't know much about them.

Dining plans

Get the dining plans!! The first few times we went we didn't bother and brought food from Disney and Disney Village and it cost a fortune. Disney food and drinks are way over priced, think over 25 euros for a burger and chips each and probably 10 euro for an ice cream and water each. The dining plan often comes as part of one of Disney's packages and it really is great. The half board consists of your free complimentary breakfast at your hotel, and evening meal and a 'tea time treat'. The evening meal needs to be booked in advance but you can do that via your hotel phone or at front desk. You can eat at any of the hotels for dinner and numerous places in both Disney parks and in Disney Village. The food is buffet, different styles for different places but has something for everything. Most have a kids section with pizza, chips, fish and nuggets etc as well as salads, cheeses, cold meat, different hot food (ribs, chicken, pasta, casserole, rice, baked potatoes), and an array of cakes, ice cream, yogurts, pies, sweets, doughnuts and fruit for pudding. The tea time treat is an option of an ice cream or a sugar doughnut and a drink of your choice (tea, coffee, soft drinks, water etc) that can be used in the Disney parks between 3-6 (If I remember correctly). You honestly save a fortune buy getting the dining plans!!

This time we've got the full board meal plan which includes lunch, the only time we've had lunch before was New Years Eve and it was pretty grim but we'll give it another go and hopefully find somewhere nicer.


Woah, I've rambled on a lot more than I intended to at this point so I'll finish up with just a few quick tips;

  • You're in France - don't expect people to speak English because not everyone will. Same goes for the shows and parades, they are in both French and English (as in they try to balance the two so everyone can understand bits and pieces). They do offer some show times in English so make sure to have a look ahead of time if this is something you want to do.

  • You will queue for characters. DLP is slightly different to the American Disney's - over there characters are more dotted around all over the place. In DLP they are mostly in set areas and have long queues, especially for characters like Mickey and Minnie. However, if you are staying at a Disney hotel, you can expect to see them wandering about every now and again, usually dressed as the theme of your hotel.

  • Make the most of magic hours. Guests that stay in Disney hotels are admitted into the parks before everyone else. Go early and hit the attractions you want to do most. You can usually get a few rides done without much of a queue this way.

  • Go to Fantasyland early - this applies to all Disney's. This is where you will find classic rides such as Snow White and Peter Pan and they always have the longest queues. Don't be surprised to find wait times of over an hour. The later you leave it, the busier it gets. If I remember rightly, this land also closes early in order to set up the fireworks.

  • Speaking of fireworks. If you want a good view be prepared to get there early and wait around. People will literally start sitting in front of the castle up to 3 hours before it starts. If you're not too fussed you can turn up on Main Street pretty late and still get a decent view. Be warned as soon as the lights dim, every child is raised to their parents shoulders and if there's room, people will literally just come and stand right in front of you. This goes for parades too, find the route on the maps, pick a spot and get there early - try to find a curb spot if you can because, again, if there's room people will walk up last minute and push in front of you.


  • Last but not least, look up ride closures before you book. This is something I didn't do and I then found out there were quite a few closed in March, including my favourite - Pirates of the Caribbean.

So, that's it really. Its almost time for me to get out my sparkly Minnie Mouse ears and return to the happiest place on earth. Do you have any Disney tips I haven't mentioned? If so leave them in the comment section below, I'd love to heat them.

Jay Xo
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2 comments

  1. Hey lovely!
    Really enjoyed reading this. I've been to DLP a tonne of times and I totally agree about christmas! Have you been for Halloween? I went last year and boy or boy was it fabulous :D ended up being my fave time of the year. I was also the same as you with the eating sitch until I discovered the half board plus plan and omg I just ate waaaay too much. Being given the choice of eating in the theme parks at restaurants like the Blue Lagoon was just amazing! My secret fave is Annette's Diner tho!

    Enjoy your time lovely xx

    Maria
    https://www.lifewithmaria.co.uk

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  2. Ah, Thank You!
    I'm actually going to Disneyworld this October and I can't wait. I bet its amazing. I go green with envy every year looking at peoples pictures of the big Mickey pumpkin.
    It's so good isn't it and just saves you a fortune. OMG I love Annette's!! Have you seen that there is a 5guys opening in Disney Village?
    Thank you lovely, I'm sure I will xx

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