If you follow me on any form of social media you might have picked up on the fact that we were in Disneyland Paris last week? Before we went I trawled hundreds of blogs, reviews, and forums for tips on doing Disney with a Tiny Idiot, however a lot of the tips (and things moaned about) did not match up to our experience at all, so I’ve thrown together my own list of must-dos, must-misses, and must-avoid-at-all-costs!
Plus it’s a great excuse to share some of the photos again.
Before we left we were told time and time again that all we would be able to eat for the duration of our stay would be junk food. While four days of burgers and cakes sounded fine to me we were pleasantly surprised to find that this simply isn’t true. Here are some of our top tips when it comes to eating at Disneyland (because let’s be honest, nothing is more important than food).
- Book half-board – if you’re staying in one of the Disney hotels (something else we recommend) booking half-board saves time and, most importantly, money. This means getting vouchers for dinner within the parks, allowing buffet dinners in a number of restaurants throughout both parks and the Village or you can swap them for their cash values in any of the other restaurants. There are varying levels of half-board, but standard was plenty!
- La Grange at Billy Bob’s – of all the places we ate during our stay the buffet at La Grange was by far the best. A huge buffet of all the Tex Mex food you could think of – fajitas, chilli, ribs, salads, pastas – something for everyone, and don’t get me started on the dessert bar! Plus, it is included on the standard meal plan, bargain!
- While there are many varied options for food, do accept that you will have to give in on holiday treats more than a few times. With carts selling popcorn, slushies, ice creams, and sweets on every corner you’d have to have a heart of stone to reject it. Also, who of us doesn’t love a slushie for ourselves?!
- A breakfast buffet is included at all of the Disney hotels and I strongly advise you make the most of it. It is a continental buffet so don’t expect to be able to pile your plate high with bacon and beans, but there is more than enough selection for everyone. I would strongly advise getting to breakfast either early or late however, between 8 and 9 the queue just to get into the breakfast room can wrap half way around the hotel.
- Do fill your bags with extras from breakfast. You might feel cheap but if you don’t want the only snacks you have to be €10 popcorn sticking some bread rolls, croissants, and ham in a sandwich bag will make all the difference. Related: the plastic bags they give you for your liquids at the airport are great for that.
- One more breakfast tip – that big bowl of white stuff. Cream cheese, not Greek yoghurt. Don’t add honey.
- If you want to eat at any of the more exclusive restaurants – character dining or Walt’s – book now. You can book up to a month in advance, just make sure you tell your girlfriend the right time after you book – hey Matt?!
- The standard restaurants it’s still worth booking before you show up, just to avoid waiting for a table. You can usually book on the day, something we’d definitely recommend.
We went during term time (because we are awful, terrible parents who don’t care that by taking the Idiot out of school for a week we are completely ruining her chances at ever getting into Oxford) so the park was quieter. That is quieter not quiet. Seems we’re not the only parents not worrying about Oxford. Some of the rides are worth queuing for, others there are ways around even having to queue.
- The main park seems busy, there are people milling everywhere and frequently queues that will take around half an hour. The Studios on the other hand are CHAOS. Even the gentle rides aimed for the under 10s have queues of a minimum of forty-five minutes. Anybody with a five-year-old knows how terrifying that prospect sounds.
- The one ride our Tiny Idiot was most determined to get on was the Ratatouille ride in the Studios, we strolled over there one afternoon to find a two-hour queue and the Fastpass machines completely sold out. It was chaos. If you and your idiots are as desperate to get on the ride as we were I’d strongly suggest heading over as soon as the Studios open at 10am (or just before) and head straight for the Fastpass (just next to the ride). It was worth the little bit more effort as Ava loved it and we queued for about 10 minutes instead of 120. (Do get to the Fastpass ASAP, they were all gone by 11am and had queues immediately as they opened.)
- The Buzz Lightyear ride in Discoveryland became an instant favourite for all of us. A short queue, great props, and you get to shoot at aliens. What more could you want?
- Going to Disney with kids does not mean that you don’t get to enjoy any of the adult rides. Space Mountain has a single rider queue that takes about five minutes. So while one of you takes the small person on the flying rockets, the other can get at least three goes on Space Mountain. Do not miss that opportunity.
- Sometimes the only option is to queue. The rides with outdoor queues it is possible for one of you to queue while the other takes the kid to the toilet/for a snack/to run around the castle another fifteen times. It can help for your sanity. A lot.
- It’s A Small World is a necessary evil with small kids. They love it. Inexplicably so. For anybody over the age of 15 it is the single most terrifying thing in the world. Wanna make it more so? Thought so. Try our challenge. See which of you can stare one of those crazy, haunting dolls in the eyes for the longest time. You may have nightmares for the rest of your life but it makes it a little bit more interesting (and distracts from the not-so-subtle racism).
There are so many events and shows around the parks and these are ever changing. These are the things we think you have to make time to see (if you go before September when the season change means the events change).
- Disney Dreams – the current light and firework show on Sleeping Beauty’s castle at the close of the park is incredible. Like words can’t describe it incredible. Projections of all your favourite Disney characters cover the castle, plenty of opportunities to sing along, and fireworks better than anything you can see at your local rugby club. It does mean keeping the kids up until around midnight but it is definitely worth doing one night.
- We managed to get a spot almost directly in front of the castle, we were there from about 9:30 (the show started at 11) but with plenty of snack stalls and space for the kids to run around it wasn’t too painful and so worth it for the view.
- Frozen Sing Along – the summer theme this year is Frozen Summer Fun, which is perfect for those of us with little Elsa obsessives. The sing along in Frontierland is a definite must-see. The show is absolutely incredible and the look on the kids faces at seeing the characters right there in front of them is amazing. There are a number of shows in French or English throughout the day, again it’s worth getting there early to ensure a good seat. Top Tip: kids in Frozen dresses will be invited to sit in the VIP area (with one adult), this means special Frozen seats, a little extra attention from the dancers, and getting their faces on the big screens on stage.
- Princess Dinner – we decided in advance to treat Ava to a dinner at L’Auberge De Cendrillon during our stay. This means one-on-one attention from three princesses and a few other characters from Cinderella. I can’t recommend this highly enough, not only was the food and service great but the eating at the restaurant gives the kids much more time and attention from the princesses than they’ll get at any of the meet-and-greets. It was really lovely and Tiny Idiot felt so special. Obviously this is one of the more pricey restaurants in the park but it is worth saving for, plus you can use your meal vouchers for some money off the final bill. Book in advance.
- While we’re on the subject of meeting the princesses I would like to ever-so-slightly diss the Princess Pavilion. Queues (even if you get there early) are always around forty-five minutes and that is just to see one princess. One princess that they won’t let you know who it is…it’s hard when you’re little one has their heart set on seeing a specific princess but you could be re-queuing all day in the hope of grabbing two minutes and a photo with them. I would wholeheartedly recommend the dinner over wasting your day doing this.
Tips for Next Time
While I hate to admit there are a few things we didn’t get completely right I do have to admit there are a few things we didn’t get completely right. It was probably Matt’s fault though, never mine. Obvs.
- Buggy – I read on a lot of sites that renting a buggy is recommended for any under-sevens. Something I completely dismissed as we walk everywhere and have done since she was three. Idiot. This suggestion isn’t just for those parents, it really will save you all a lot of time, whinging, and effort. Matt’s neck definitely agrees after constant shoulder rides.
- Breakfast at Mickey’s – two character meals probably is slightly excessive but as with meeting the princesses meeting the Disney characters is also a lot easier during a meal than having to queue five times. Plus I hear the breakfast is great!
- Use the Tea Time Treat vouchers – along with the vouchers for dinner the standard meal plan also comes with a voucher for a sweet treat and a hot or cold drink between 3 and 5. We only made the most of this once, but next time would do more. It’s the perfect boost before dinner time.
- Matt’s main ‘must do next time’ tip? Don’t chicken out of getting a photo with the princess you fancy. If you’ve got to go on the ultimate dad holiday you may as well get some top lad bants out of it.
I really can’t talk about how perfect our trip was enough and would recommend it as a trip for anybody of kids this age, it’s not the cheapest or most cultured holiday you could take but it really is magical and the looks in their eyes when they see all of their favourite characters and the incredible scenery it is all worth it. Four days was definitely enough (do not book a week, you’ll need another four to recover) and we did almost everything we wanted to.
We loved every second of our first family holiday together and have made memories that will last a lifetime. I reckon that’s worth risking Oxford for.