We've just returned from a wonderful, yet exhausting, trip to Disneyland Paris with the twins and it seems we've inspired a few of you to go next year. I've had loads of questions in reply to my Instagram stories about our trip so I thought I'd write a blog post while it's all fresh in my mind to share our little nuggets of wisdom if you're planning to go.
Details of our trip
We booked a hotel & park tickets package for October half term via the Disneyland Paris website and stayed at Sequoia Lodge which is a 15 min walk from the park (realistically this took about 30 mins with kids, security checks and crowds).
We chose 4 nights with 5 days park tickets.
It was more expensive to arrive on the Saturday so we went Sunday-Thursday. We only booked 3 weeks in advance so availability was limited for hotels & extras. We added the Photopass + (highly recommended - see below) and breakfast with the characters (also highly recommended, more info below).
We left after school/work on Friday night to break up the journey, driving to Le Shuttle (about 60-90 mins from us depending on traffic), we stayed just 10 mins from Calais in a Holiday Inn. The next day we drove to park in Tourcy to get the train into Paris. We spent a few hours wandering and enjoying some French food before we headed back to our next hotel (Novotel near Disney) and had dinner there. In retrospect, Paris just made us tired before we even got to Disney so we'd probably skip that next time or just get on a tourist bus to see the sights without walking.
Sequoia lodge is American themed with Bambi themed décor in the rooms. We had a family room with two double beds. I shared with Priya and Nik shared with Kalyan to give us each more space as well as keeping them apart to avoid bedtime giggles!
We had read some tips online in advance so knew to take an extension lead. There is only one plug socket in the room which is under the TV so if you need to charge phones, tablets, camera batteries, take a 4 socket extension (with a European adapter). Ours was long enough that we could have it between the beds to use our phones as alarms without having to get out of bed.
The buffet breakfast in the hotel was good but BUSY! It's noisy and not the most pleasant experience at peak times, we much preferred it at 7am when it opened (also recommended to avoid the queues in the morning for breakfast, security, park entry and rides). The pastries, bread, cheese & ham were the best things in my opinion.
The hotel had characters in the evenings too which was fun for the kids if we got back in time (before 10:30pm).
No meals are included in the hotel booking but you have the option to add on a meal package. We opted to add a half board plan (£709.24) so we had breakfast included in the hotel as well as our choice of dinner in the parks, hotels or Disney Village. This definitely worked out cheaper than if we'd paid as we went.
We made a few ham & cheese sandwiches or croissants at breakfast to take with us (another top tip - take some ziplock bags) for lunch/snacks and we had early dinners at 4pm which also worked well for queue tactics as most people eat later so the ride queues get shorter around 6pm. Most of the restaurants have buffets (much to Priya's delight) but some offer table service which is nice for a proper rest!
Again, due to our short-notice booking, we had limited options for booking restaurants in advance - it's recommended to book asap (I think 2 months before the trip is the earliest you can usually book). However, we did manage to change our bookings on the day when we saw other options come up - it changes often throughout the day as they release more tables and/or people cancel.
We ate dinner in these restaurants:
PYM Kitchen in Marvel area of Disney Studios Park (a fun themed buffet - huge food and mini food like giant/tiny burgers, blue mayonnaise and a huge oreo cookie).
Silver Spur Steakhouse in Frontierland, Disneyland Park (a western themed table service restaurant - no steak on the kids menu much to the twins' disappointment but they enjoyed their chicken and sundaes for pudding).
Agrabah Café in Adventureland, Disneyland Park (Aladdin themed Arabic buffet - delicious and something a bit different, plenty that the twins liked and very nice puddings).
La Grange à Billy Bob’s in Disney Village (TexMex buffet - probably my favourite food, delicious ribs and cheesy potatoes!)
The 3 restaurants we really wanted to try (Walt's, Remy's and Captain Jack's) were never available at good times but we were always happy with our food and experiences. The service was very slow in the Steakhouse despite not being very busy which was annoying as we just wanted to get back out and have fun.
The meal plan includes one soft drink each so we sometimes also bought a bottle of fizzy water as well. We weren't bothered about alcoholic drinks. The rest of the time we had water bottles we took with us, there are water fountains in the parks that you can fill up from.
We also took lots of snacks from home, another good use for the ziplock bags. We had big bags of popcorn, banana chips and packets of crackers which we distributed into ziplock bags each day for the twins' backpacks along with grapes & dried mango in a "wet" ziplock bag, plus an apple, a packet of crisps and their bottles of water. This kept them going in queues and between meals. We did occasionally treat them (and us) to some candy floss in the evening too when we were up late for fireworks, etc.
There are loads of kiosks and eateries throughout the park, some with longer queues than others. Having our snacks and packed lunch saved a lot of waiting time too as we ate while walking between parks or in queues.
So worth it (especially for me, you know I'm obsessed with photos and this took the pressure off and gave us the chance for some family photos of our trip with all of us in)! Our pass cost £67.16 and we ended up with 63 photos. Bargain!
I did get worried once we picked up our pass and I registered it on the website to see an option to "buy all photos" as I'd thought they were included but they are, every photo can be downloaded free - I was able to download to my phone easily while there and once I got home I saved them all to my laptop as high resolution files for printing. The card is valid for 10 days once activated to gather photos, but you have a year to view & download your photos.
We used it on every ride that had the function and all the character meetings as well as at various Photopass points around the parks where you can pose for a photographer, some have "ghosts" in Frontierland which we didn't realise at the time but does explain the funny poses they made us do! lol
Breakfast with the characters
We only had one choice for the breakfast, Wednesday morning at 8:15am which is the first sitting. This cost £44.78 as a supplement. You also need to book a meal package including breakfast for this add-on.
You take your own photos at the character breakfast, there's no Photopass photographer so go prepared. You get to meet everyone, don't worry about missing any, there are staff making sure everyone gets a turn with each character. It's pot-luck again on who you get, we had Pinocchio, Geppetto, Pluto, Captain Hook, Tigger and Eeyore.
The best thing about the 1st sitting for breakfast is you get access to the park at 8am so you can get a picture at the castle without the crowds! It would be better in the summer as it was still quite dark at this time of year for photos.
You enter to the right of the park entrance for breakfast (NOT any of the gates as I was wrongly told so we were a little late, grrr.), everyone else who has breakfast rushes to the castle too so there are others who you can swap with to get a full family shot. Most people are respectful and stay in the centre of the plaza so no one ruins the castle shot for everyone else (but one or two did run right up to the castle).
The DLP app is essential for staying organised. It lets you save favourites, check queue times (we found this to be pretty accurate and helped us plan our days), book restaurants, check reservations and opening hours, etc. It also tells you about show times, parades, etc. We were lucky to stumble across parades as they were about to start as we forgot to check for these!
This was one of the smaller parades with Joy, Miguel and Officer Hopps & Nick Wilde.
There are of course shops throughout the parks and in Disney Village between the parks and the hotels as well as at the end of almost every ride. I enjoyed browsing and my top tip to avoid the kids asking us to buy them things all the time was to let them create a list of their favourite things to then choose their favourite thing to buy on the last day. K just ran around saying, this is on my list, this is on my list.... He promptly forgot most plastic things thankfully and despite wanting all the swords, guns and bow & arrow sets, was easily guided to a Lego option which will be played with longer than anything else he liked.
I bought a new sweatshirt - the special 30th anniversary one which was the most colourful, a super cute shoulder companion (Bruni), a Mickey jewellery set in teal for December (my birthday present from the twins but was allowed to wear while in the park - Mickey Mouse himself noticed them!), a Stitch keyring and a Mickey PRIDE pin. The twins each chose a special souvenir - the 30th anniversary bag for Priya (a gorgeous purple glittery backpack with Mickey ears) and a Lego set for Kalyan, they also got to choose one pin badge and an item of clothing.
We decided Premier Access passes were too pricy on top of everything else (over £600 for a family of 4 for one day and can only be used for each ride once!) but we did pay for individual Premier Access 3 times - once for Crush Coaster which seemed to always be 100 minutes or more, once for the Tower of Terror (Kalyan's favourite and last choice on our last day) and once for Peter Pan which was also always over 45 minutes (although not our favourite and we wouldn't bother again).
Our Favourite & Least Favourite Rides
We all loved the rollercoasters the best! My favourite evening was when we skipped the fireworks show to take advantage of shorter queues and got on Thunder Mountain 3 times in a row within half an hour!
Priya's favourite was Thunder Mountain, she didn't like Hyperspace Mountain as it went upside down the most. She was disappointed with Peter Pan.
Kalyan's favourite was the Avengers rollercoaster. He didn't like the carousel.
Nik's favourite was Hyperspace Mountain rollercoaster. He wasn't keen on Snow White.
My favourite was Thunder Mountain and least favourite were all the 3D rides like Ratatouille and Star Wars as they made me feel sick (despite being fun). I didn't really like the Snow White, Pinocchio or Peter Pan rides, they were quick and fairly simple, just telling the story in vignettes as the cart takes you round - they struck me as the older rides in the park compared to the rest. We didn't bother with Dumbo as it had fairly long queues and was basically the same ride as Orbitron and the Flying Carpets.
Pirates of the Caribbean was the ride we went on most due to a combination of short/quick queues, a nice relaxing boat ride (making it a good one for after dinner) but with fun drops in the boat too.
We also loved the interactive rides like Bizz Lightyear and Spiderman.
The Lights & Fireworks shows are epic and well worth getting organised early for. Good spaces fill up EARLY! The night we went, we got there about 45 mins before the show was due to start (10pm) and still ended up quite far back - the twins couldn't see the castle or fountains which were a major part of the show - for the best view, I think you do need to get there about 2 hours early to nab a good spot - worth doing to get a great view, if you have activities/food to keep the kids occupied.
The park itself is beautiful, there's obviously a lot of attention to detail, there are loads of great photo spots, both for posing and just pretty areas like the lake around Thunder Mountain. Take time to enjoy looking at everything and don't just rush from ride to ride.
Of course, being October, there are lots of Halloween decorations too.
Even the queues have been well thought out, with interesting things to watch, look at or keep you entertained for at least part of it. Don't be fooled though, some look short but you get through one part and find a whole new winding path of people inside! They've obviously consulted psychologists on how to make it seem better than it is! ;)
OMG, the LONGEST queue - we waited 2 hours to meet a princess for about a minute. It was something Priya wanted to do and we thought we'd got there early enough to avoid such a long wait but no such luck. Not sure why it takes so long when we didn't seem to be in there for long but we were lucky to meet Princess Tianna, one of our favourites! It's pot-luck who you get and you only meet one each time. We did it once. Lol.
Yep, we had our first lost child experience in one of the busiest (but hopefully safest) places on earth! Kalyan got lost and we couldn't find him!
Easily done, Nik thought he'd followed me and Priya downstairs, I thought he was with Nik. He was actually lingering behind Nik watching a fountain upstairs in the castle. When we realised in the Christmas boutique downstairs, we checked around and back upstairs but he was nowhere to be found. After a couple of minutes looking, we found a member of staff who directed us towards Baby Care just off the main plaza.
As were were marching over, my phone rang and it was Baby Care asking for Kalyan's Mum, they had him already, phew! When we got there expecting a devastated crying mess, he was fine and she said he'd been very courageous and gave her all his information and knew exactly what to do. He knew my phone number was on the label in his bag and stayed calm. We're so proud of him! He did get upset once we were outside and he told us he realised we'd left without him, poor wee man!
He later told us he was looking for us at the front of the castle and was getting upset when a mummy noticed and asked if he was lost and took him to a cleaner nearby who took him to the lost kids section. We're so grateful! We felt pretty awful and took him straight to the sweet shop after to cheer him up and assuage some guilt!
If you need a rest, there are a few shows in the Studios Park. Stitch Live was great fun and interactive, the twins and us grown ups found it funny and you can sit down! There are other shows too, some are standing though so check the app if you need a proper rest.
As mentioned, use mealtimes to rest too and plan them so it works for you. Early breakfast, a cheeky lunch on the move and an early dinner worked for us. We mostly had late nights but had afternoon naps to keep us going.
What I learned:
No matter how comfortable your shoes are, your feet will hurt! We averaged 25k steps a day, it's exhausting and my whole body aches now, allow time for recovery when you get home!
3 days is probably optimal. 5 days allowed us to take our time, learn and pace ourselves but we were still exhausted by day 5, Kalyan had very much expired and we left at lunchtime to start the long drive home. 2 days would be a rush but is doable if you plan your days well.
You will not have time for anything else ( we packed swimming stuff as our hotel has an indoor/outdoor pool but never went).
Your hotel doesn't matter, choose based on price/proximity - we only used it for sleeping and breakfast.
I packed WAY too much - I took dresses for dinners, boots, various outfits... I only wore about 3 outfits the whole time! Leggings were definitely the best option - see here for my favourite comfy colourful leggings, especially those with pockets!
Naps are life (from Day 2 we walked back to our hotel at lunchtime for an afternoon nap while the queues were all huge, this gave us energy for the late evenings to watch fireworks or take advantage of the shorter queues after dinner).
You will spend more money - there are SO many shops and fun things to tempt you!
Some rides ALWAYS have long queues - take advantage of the early Magic Hour if staying in a Disney Hotel - be prepared for early mornings - we were too late on the first day and missed the advantage of being in the park an hour before it opened to everyone else, being 30 minutes late makes all the difference as the hotels are HUGE so there are a lot of guests entering at 8:30am.
Get up at 6:30am, ready for breakfast as soon as it opens at 7 and have all your stuff to then walk straight to the park - there are queues to scan bags as you enter the Disney Village.
The left queue always seems to go quicker! Anywhere a queue splits, we found the left one went faster, certainly on the Pirates of the Caribbean and Thunder Mountain rides - the Premier Access queue feeds into the right queue so tends to be slower as they jump in ahead.
All in all, we had an amazing time! We enjoyed it just as much as the kids and we'd definitely go again. Probably for a shorter trip next time. 5 days was good for a first trip as it takes a while to learn what you enjoy the most, how it all works and the best way to plan your days. It also gave us time to have naps without stressing about missing too much time whilst managing our energy levels. It's full on!
If you have any more questions, let me know and I'll update this post ;)
You can see our Disneyland phone highlights here.