1. Planning
    1. Finding the Best Deals
    2. Booking Extra Fun
    3. When to Tell the Kids
    4. Stockpiling Supplies
    5. Start Saving Now
    6. Recon the Park
  2. Travel
    1. Car Check List
      1. Compulsory
      2. Recommended
    2. Getting There
    3. Davey Crockett Ranch Roadworks
  3. Accommodation
    1. Davey Crockett Ranch
  4. The Mission
    1. Plan, Adapt, Survive
    2. Tooling Up
    3. Rides for All Ages
      1. Fun for Everyone (very young, 2+)
      2. Toddler Friendly (littles ones, 3 or 4+ depending on how ‘mad fer it’ your kid is)
      3. Kid Friendly (5+)
      4. Tweenagers (10+)
      5. Big Boys and Girls Only (13+)
    4. Character Meet & Greets
      1. Mickey Mouse
      2. Minnie Mouse
      3. Donal Duck
      4. Daisy
      5. Goofy
      6. Pluto
      7. Chip & Dale
      8. The Princesses
      9. Woody & Buzz
      10. Alice
      11. Miscellaneous
    5. Shows
    6. Parade
    7. Illuminations
    8. Fastpasses
      1. Disneyland Hotel Fastpass
      2. VIP Fastpass
      3. Fastpass Rides in Disneyland Paris
      4. Fastpass Rides in Walt Disney Studios
    9. Merchandising

Ultimate Guide to Disneyland Paris with Kids

Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary
Let the adventure begin!

Disneyland Paris is a great holiday destination for families and gives the kids plenty of that Disney magic without a trans-Atlantic flight, or price tag to go with it. The theme park seems to be going from strength to strength with a 25th Anniversary facelift and big renovations to some of the main attractions. If you accept that during peak season there’s basically a queue to do anything (nappy changing included), and that things do sometimes just break down, then there’s loads on offer for both kids and grown-ups. A trip to Disneyland Paris doesn’t have to cost the earth either, with a bit of planning and some frugal spending it’s possible to have a wonderful time on a budget, you just need to hold your nerve in those cavernous Disney Stores…

Planning

Finding the Best Deals

The quick and easy way to get on the road to Disneyland Paris is check out the offers direct on the official Disneyland Paris website. There you’ll be able to browse around to see what hotels are available for your timeframe, as well as check the costs of Meal Plans and any other extras like character experiences or Photopasses. You can put together packages with flights or the Eurostar on the site, and then compare to travel agents like Thomas Cook to see who has the best Disneyland Paris deal. Some of the direct offers give you P&O ferry crossings from Dover to Calais thrown in but I’d recommend going with the Euro Tunnel if you’re driving to Disneyland Paris. The Tunnel is quicker and runs so regularly that chances are you can get on a later train if there are any delays. I’ve heard of hours of late night delays if a ferry is cancelled which is the last thing you need with kids in the back.

Check the attendance forecast to see busiest times

Obviously outside of term-time is both cheaper and quieter for Disneyland Paris - just make sure you check against UK term-times and school holidays in France, plus any bank holidays going on. The most useful resource is this attendance forecast which has colour-coded days of when the Park is busiest. Blacked-out days around Halloween and after Christmas should certainly be avoided. The Autumn/Winter seasons will generally be quieter, but it’ll also be very cold and probably very wet!

It’s also worth switching countries on the official site to see what offers are available elsewhere in Europe. If there’s something better you can always quote that price over the phone. Booking over the phone is also useful if you want to pay in instalments and if a better deal comes along you can always phone up and change your payments. We had no problems booking through the official site - even scoring 4.5% cashback from Quidco! Unfortunately you don’t get a fancy box or tickets through the post, just a boring confirmation email and the odd message counting down the days. All the tickets and passes will be waiting at your hotel.

Booking Extra Fun

Getting a hotel and Disneyland Paris tickets is one thing, but this is just the beginning of the Disney money pit. You’ll also need to consider what you want to eat and whether you want to save some queuing to meet Disney characters by spending even more money and going to retaurants where the kids can meet their favourite characters right at the table. It’s worth thinking about well in advance, and if you pay for a few treats upfront it’s much less painful than having to dip into your merch fund during the trip. Going with young kids doesn’t have to be stupidly expensive and it’s well worth budgeting for one or two big treats they’ll remember.

Going with young kids doesn’t have to be stupidly expensive and it’s well worth budgeting for one or two big treats they’ll remember.

The best treats are ones where you get to meet Disney characters while you get some decent grub. This swaps a couple of hours of queuing to see one or two characters and instead you get fed plus the chance to have a much needed sit down. Breakfast with Disney Characters is an American buffet over at Plaza Gardens Restaurant (on the Central Plaza between Discoveryland and Main St) and you’ll currently see Mickey, Daisy, Scrooge, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet. There’s also a more international buffet lunch at the Inventions restaurant in the Disneyland Hotel (the plush one sitting over the entrance to the Park) which has Victorian props around plus you’ll probably see Mickey again, Pluto, Goofy, Smee, the Genie and maybe Minnie, although she seems a bit more elusive these days.

Chocolate Slipper DessertDisney magic, in chocolate form

Having two little girls, by far the best option for us was the lunch with the Princesses at Auberge de Cendrillon, a spectacular banquet hall in Fantasyland. The restaurant does the usual Disney trick of being a seemingly modest, tucked away courtyard but inside it’s a series of huge rooms. It’s currently offering a superb 25th anniversary menu of lobster tails, steak and a delicious blue chocolate desert. The kids weren’t a fan of the pumpkin soup starter but loved the chicken and pasta main course. Obviously the big draw is having a Disney Princess come along and chat every 10 minutes - it made their holiday. They got hugs and photos with Cinderella, Aurora, Snow White and Rapunzel, plus Cinderella’s two mice friends. If you get lucky they might even have a Prince with them and do a little waltz for you.

Also consider Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show which is a good 90 minutes of fun and a varied line-up. We paid a little extra for ‘Category 1’ seats (arena seating plan) which put us on the front row, although there are high railings which obstruct the view a bit for littles ones, but booster seats can be asked for. You also get a token fruit ‘cocktail’ as part of the starter and a treat for desert - a refreshing ice lolley for the kids, much needed because it gets HOT in there. The food is great: chicken legs, sausages, potatoes, plus an ice cream and apple desert - and kids get their main meals first so they don’t have to wait. Trouble is you don’t know whether to concentrate on eating the food or watching the cowboy action because it’s non-stop. It’s all raucous fun with Mickey and Minnie, horses, stagecoaches, even bison. There’s a bit of staged gunplay but nothing loud, just cap guns, and waving your hats and banging cutlery is part of the atmosphere. Our kids were a bit freaked out at first, it is a bit of a weird ‘gladiatorial arena’ feel, but they loved the horse-riding. We went to the 6:30pm showing and doors opened at 5:30 to allocate seats and what coloured hat you get, so you might have to trade-off seeing the parade in the main Park to get there in time because it’s out in the Disney Village next to the cinema. You’ll get decent seats but you will be standing around until the actual arena opens at 6:30, luckily there’s some live music to keep you entertained. There’s also a show at 9:30pm but this might get a little ‘blue’, especially with the limitless beer on offer…

Popular restaurants get booked up quick so remember to book in advance

If you go for the Premium Meal Plan then the above experiences will be included - just remember to book in advance to make sure you get a table. Tables can be booked up to 2 months before your trip. You can get a rough idea of the different type of Meal Plans at the official site ranging from Half Board - which includes a buffet breakfast and lunch - through to the Premium option which gives you the pick of all the best restaurants on offer. It depends on your budget but if you’re travelling by plane or Eurostar then not having to worry about where to forage for food is one less headache so it’s recommended to go for one of the Meal Plans. Kids under 3 aren’t catered for but usually fine just sharing what everyone else has piled on their plates. If driving, simply fill up the car with food before rolling out!

You can also purchase the Disney Photopass which will collect all your photos from character Meet & Greets and the big rides. If you plan on going on all out hunting autographs and hitting all the rollercoasters then this is a good way of getting some high-quality souvenirs. It costs £45 and you get a card to use at Photopass points then you just go to the Disney Photopass Site and print off what you need. If you’re not that bothered about all your relatives getting mugs plastered with you and Mickey Mouse then it’s not essential. During the Meet & Greets you can get the character’s keeper (or Cast Members as they insist on being called) to take photos on your phone. Photopass photographers also aren’t at the character dining experiences so you’re on your own with those anyway. On a rainy day they might also be more scarce than Minnie Mouse herself…

When to Tell the Kids

The eternal dilemma - how to orchestrate the perfect surprise for your kids and tell them they’re actually going to the place they’ve been cooing over in the TV ads? I think every parent also dreams of getting an amazing viral video of the kids going mental - although not too mental, keep it cute - and retiring on Youtube ad revenue. The latter is very unlikely but it’s still fun to try.

Some families get to the Disneyland Paris gates and their kids still don’t have a clue. To me, that sounds like an additional thing to worry about in what is already a logistical nightmare, I’d rather my focus was getting us there in once piece and remembering to drive on the right. So a few days before the trip we gave our two kids a homemade jigsaw each which revealed the Disney castle and their names, plus a card saying we were going on a little adventure. Note: one card, two kids. Quickly everything descended into snatching and arguing, the usual drill. So whatever you do, make sure they have one each!

Disneyland Paris Jigsaw Surprise
“Mine!” “No, mine!” “NO! MINE!”

We were then stuck with “how many sleeps to go” every morning but at the same time it was nice to build the hype with a few Youtube videos of the parade they would see and what outfits they wanted to take. Things like the lunch with the Princesses we told them about on the day - so there was still some surprises during the trip!

Stockpiling Supplies

If you’re driving to Disneyland Paris and staying at the Davey Crockett Ranch then it’s easy enough to load up the car with enough supplies to cover you for a few days. Obviously clothes, comfy shoes, swimming stuff is a given, fill up the rest of the space with food and you probably won’t have to spend much during your stay or stand around in another queue to get fed.

Robinsons SquashdRobinson’s Squashd: Don’t leave home without it!

Get an online shop delivered the day before you leave and put it straight in the car! It’s easy enough to take a cool box or bag for milk, cheese, ham etc… then just bread, cereal, fruit, bottled water and whatever you need to keep the kids going: snacks, crisps, raisins, breadsticks, chocolate… Those Robinsons Squash’d pods are the perfect way to pimp-up water bottles as you refill round the Park. We got away with having our own breakfast each day and then making some sarnies and a bag full of snacks to take into the park. Oh, and remember to take whatever it is that keeps the parents going: coffee, tea, paracetamol, booze… although we took one bottle of wine and brought half of it back - time to sit down for a drink?! You’re havin’ a laugh…

We took one bottle of wine and brought half of it back - time to sit down for a drink?!

In the Davey Crockett Ranch cabins there’s a microwave so if you want to be even more prepared cook something before you leave and you’ve got something instant to have when you get there. Or pasta and sauces are easy enough to cook-up on the hob. Also remember things like phone charagers and plug adaptors so they work in European sockets.

Start collecting things that you can give to the kids for the long journey. Whether it’s on a plane, ferry or in the car they’ll need something to break-up the monotony. When they’re about to snap then it’s time break out the goodie bags of colouring books, stickers, hair bands, pens, pencils to give them something to open (and inevitably argue over). All Disney-branded of course to remind them what all the travelling is leading up to!

Start Saving Now

Disneyland Paris has a funny way of making you spend money. It sweeps you up childlike wonder so you forget things like the bills and mortgage to pay back home. Everyone’s wandering around with Minnie ears and t-shirts and princess dresses and you think yes, I want some of that, in fact, I want all of it! TAKE MY MONEY!

It’s better to take a more measured approach before getting into a shopping frenzy when you’re there because it is very, very expensive and you’ll go in a shop for a magnet and come out with armfuls of stuff. The famed ‘ears’ headbands cost over €10 but you can get Minnie Mouse ears on eBay for 99p. Second-hand princess dresses or Marvel outfits from boot sales or eBay will save you a small fortune.

One nice touch is to make your own autograph book instead of buying the gaudy €10 one while you’re there. We found some cool sketches of all the main characters and put them together in a custom-made book printed via the PhotoBooks iOS app. They give you a book a month to print for free (up to 20 pages) and then you just pay £5.99 delivery, very easy to do and it made for a much more personal souvenir. Although make sure you include all the characters you want to see. Unfortunately we missed out Aurora which was a bit embarrassing when she came along to sign it… “just write it in the back somewhere, love.”

Recon the Park

It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the Disneyland Park layout before you arrive to get an idea of what places to hit on which days. If there’re rides you want to go on then you can pick out a few in one area to focus on at different parts of the day. It’s also worth noting where places are to eat in the Park, and where the places outside are - like Walt Disney Studios and the Disney Village, plus how long it takes to trek between them. Even strolling from the car park might be 10 minutes just to get to the bag check!

Disneyland Park has Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in the centre. The entrance gates takes you straight on to Main St. USA which leads up to the castle and the four lands that surround it. Clockwise from Main St they are: Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland.

Main St. USA
Amazing views when you first enter Disneyland Paris

With young kids and toddlers you’ll spend most of your time in Fantasyland which has the classics like Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Dumbo, The Mad Hatter’s Teacups and It’s a Small World. The whole area has less a intimidating ‘Olde Worlde’ vibe to it compared to slick Discoveryland and the more ominous Advertureland - which our 4-year-old wasn’t a fan of because of the dramatic music they pump around the area.

You can break the areas down into:

  • Main St. USA - Shops!
  • Frontierland - The old west. This area has the classics like Thundermountain and Phantom Manor.
  • Adventureland - A sort of big play area with the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, the Pirate Galleon and caves to explore.
  • Fantasyland - Home of the classic Disney tales like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. A great place for littles ones.
  • Discoveryland - A big Star Wars vibe here with Star Tours and the newly revamped Hyperspace Mountain. Plus the Buzz Lightyear ride for older kids.

The Disneyland Paris website isn’t big on maps unfortunately but don’t worry, as your trips gets closer they’ll email a few bits of useful info. One is these is the map of the parks which lists the attractions and who they might appeal to.

Download the official Disneyland Paris app and MagiPark iOS to watch queue times

Be sure to download the official Disneyland Paris app which has an interactive map that you can filter by rides, places to eat etc. It’ll also give you the opening times of the main Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios on certain days. It lists wait times for the rides but you’re better off getting the unaffiliated MagiPark app (MagiPark iOS) which has much more data. MagiPark lets you favourite certain rides to keep an eye on, as well as plot wait times throughout the day. It’s interesting to check out in the run up to your trip to see what rides are popular at what times.

There are two main factors to keep an eye on shortly before you head off to Disneyland Paris: when the Early Magic Hours are and the Events Program for the period you’ll be there. Both of these will determine when and where you might end up on certain days.

Early Magic Hours (EMH) are a couple of hours before the Park opens when hotel quests can enter the Park before the crowds. Don’t get too excited though, it’s not like the whole place is open and you can run around carefree, only certain rides will be up and running and it’s a mad dash to get to those first. Normal punters will also be allowed in half an hour before the opening but can only get as far as Main St. and the Central Plaza in front on the Castle, Cast Members will have the other areas roped off until official opening time. But EMH can be beneficial to get on popular rides early like Peter Pan or Star Tours, just don’t rush the kids out of bed to get there in time. Sometimes it might not be worth the hassle, especially if you’ve been up late watching the Illuminations the night before.

Note that EMH can also change at short notice. A few days before our trip the EMH for the weekend switched from Disneyland Park to the Studios. On the one hand, great, we got on Ratatouille first and saw Mickey! But the Studios isn’t as big so we didn’t bother with the EMH on the second day.

Get the latest Shows & Parade Programme to plan your days

The Event Programme changes on a weekly basis (the latest Shows & Parade Programme) and it’s useful to take a look at before you go, although you can also pick-up leaflets as you enter the Park. It has the Parade and Illuminations times, plus all the shows going on across the Parks and it’s worth noting the times of things like the Princess Waltz or the amazing Mickey the Magician Show. It’ll also detail when and where the character Meet & Greets are taking place so cross-reference those with the maps to plan a rough itinerary.


Travel

Car Check List

Driving to Disneyland Parisfrom the UK is quick and easy, and with kids it makes a lot of sense to load the car with supplies like snacks, water and princess dresses while leaving room for all the Disney tat you want to bring back. Taking the Euro Tunnel or Ferry to Calais then driving to Disneyland Paris is only a few motorways which are largely deserted and easy to drive. There are a few things to prepare for though, like correct documents to take, motoring accessories for the boot and cash to pay for the tolls along the way.

In terms of documents you’ll need:

  • Passport (obviously to get into the country)
  • Full, valid driving licence
  • Vehicle registration document (V5C)
  • Certificate of motor insurance

With car insurance make sure you check with your provider that you’re fully covered for driving in France. Sometimes there might be an additional premium to pay for European driving.

For extra piece of mind you could also get quotes from The AA or RAC for breakdown cover. Probably around £30 for a few days and means you have a number to hand in-case of any problems.

You’ll also need a few things in the boot to comply with French road laws…

Compulsory

  • High visibility vests, minimum of one but ideally one for each passengers and kids ones are available. The driver’s jacket need to be within reach, you’ll notice a lot of French drivers drape it over their seat so they don’t get hassled by police.
  • Warning triangle (ideally two)
  • Headlamp converters in your vehicle. The Eurolites ones are easy to use and there are a few Youtube videos to help stick them on. If visibility is poor, you’re advised to use dipped headlights even in daytime.
  • If your car doesn’t have the GB Euro-symbol on the license plate then you’ll need a nationality sticker on the rear bumper.
  • A Norme Française-approved breathalyser (x2 so you have one spare). You are ‘required’ to have these but there’s currently no legislation to fine drivers for not having them.
  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Spare headlamp bulbs

You can buy a few of these items very cheaply on Amazon but there’s little guarantee they’ll work of fully comply with the regulations. A safe bet is to go for the AA Euro Travel Kit on Amazon bundled with the NF approved breathalysers. It costs £30 gets you everything in one go, plus the items might actually work if you’re unlucky enough to have to use them.

Getting There

First a note on petrol. The drive from Calais to Disneyland Paris is roughly 200 miles (3 hours on a good run) so if you fill up before the Euro Tunnel then you shouldn’t have to worry about filling up again until the return journey. The best opportunity is stop-off at the Sainsbury’s on the M20 near Ashford on the way to the Tunnel.

The first stop is check-in. Note that this closes 30 minutes before your departure time but don’t worry about getting held up, the trains are so regular that you should be able to catch a later one. We even arrived early and managed to catch one leaving before the one we’d booked.

You get given a letter to hang from your rearview mirror then it’s passport control and you can stop off at the mall if you need to load-up on supplies - we’re a bit spoiled on this side of the Tunnel, there isn’t anything like that in Calais! If you go to the mall then keep an eye on the departure board and your letter, there’s only about a 10-minute window where everyone dashes to the cars to board the train so make sure you don’t miss it wrangling the kids in the family change room!

The Tunnel itself is a breeze, drive on, hang around for 30 minutes, then drive off again - on the right-side of the road remember! You’re then on motorways and main roads driving from Calais straight down to Disneyland Paris. There are a couple of routes you can take, either along the coast on the A16, or South-East on the A26 then the A1 (Calais to Davey Crocket Ranch on Google Maps). The A1 route is quickest, especially if it’s the middle of the day or out-of-season. It goes past Charles De Gaulle airport (well, actually under it, which is a bit disconcerting when you see a huge Jumbo taxiing along on the runway above the motorway) which can get busy at rush hour or during holidays. On one drive, traffic was building up around Paris so the sat-nav took us across on the N330 through Meaux which wasn’t a bad route, just a lot more stop-starts across some busy junctions, but it takes you to the East of Disneyland Paris and avoids the busier Paris side.

I was a bit worried about driving through France for the first-time but it was a doddle. Away from Paris the roads are largely empty, and no one has to hog the fast or middles lanes so it’s a pleasure to get a chance to use them for what they’re supposed to be for - overtaking! There are a couple of roundabouts coming out of Calais but you won’t hit many and they work the same as British ones, just in the other direction. There’s also the ‘Priorité à Droite’ rule (give priority to traffic coming from the right) but it never seemed to apply to any roads I was on, motorways merge the same as in the UK. Just look out for the yellow diamond sign which means you have priority, if it has a black line through it then you don’t.

Road signs will tell you the speed limits in km/h and what the limit is if in wet weather…

Motorway – 130 km/h, in wet weather – 110 km/h.
Dual carriageways – 110 km/h, in wet weather – 100 km/h.
Open roads – 90 km/h, in wet weather – 80 km/h
towns – 50 km/h.

So motorways are about 80mph, although many cars seem to burn past that! There are plenty of rest stops signposted by a picnic/tree symbol and these are really useful areas you can just pull into, have food in the open air and use the facilities to changes nappies. You don’t really get big service stations like in the UK so you’re better off taking a packed lunch and stopping off at one of these spots on the way anywhere.

One final thing about tolls, taking the A1 route will cost a little over €20. When you first hit the toll you’ll need to take a ticket, when you leave you’ll insert the ticket and pay the balance. You might end up diverted and only going through one toll gate, in that case you then screen will tell you how much, a couple of Euros usually. Everything’s automated so they’re usually easy to get through - just remember they’re made for left-hand drive cars. There are automatic tags you can use like Sanef Tolling which are scanned as you go through the tolls and you can pay the fees later, but these are probably overkill - unless you’re going to Disneyland Paris every season.

Davey Crockett Ranch Roadworks

Don’t trust the official directions to Davey Crockett Ranch!

There’s currently a lot of development work going on around Davey Crockett Ranch so be wary of where your Satnav tells you to go. The old entrance used to be to the West of the site and directions might tell you to come off at junction 13 of the A4. However, the entrance is now off junction 14 which is also the junction to come off to go to Disneyland Paris itself. There’s a little slip road to get to Davey Crockett Ranch, so if you’re driving from Paris stay right and you’ll see the signs to drive off down a narrow road, which looks like building site, but trust me, it’ll get you to the Ranch. Unfortunately if you’re coming from the East there’s no easy way to get there, you’ll need to come off at junction 13, go through a couple of roundabouts and go back on yourself along the A4, back to junction 14.

The new Davey Crockett Ranch entrance and exit means it’s very easy to get to Disneyland Park in the morning, it’s just one road that takes you direct to the gates and the magic beyond. Although it still means when you’re leaving the Park you have to go along to junction 13 and back again, but when all the building work is finished it means Davey Crockett Ranch is an even better option for accommodation.


Accommodation

Davey Crockett Ranch

The Ranch is a great option for families, it’s also cheaper than the Hotels in the Park area and you don’t feel as obliged to buy a meal plan or spend a fortune at the buffets every day. It’s a quiet little retreat from the madness of Disneyland, with a few nice amenities and, possibly the biggest winner, a separate bedroom for the kids.

Davey Crockett Ranch
On the trail at Davey Crockett Ranch

Davey Crockett Ranch is a bunch of cabins each grouped along circular roads, ‘loops’ as the map says. They’re modest sizes but you get peace and quiet and a parking space outside each one. When booking your trip you might notice that there are different types of cabin: Premium, Trapper and Pioneer - although it’s difficult to gauge from the web site what the differences actually are. The biggest factor is how far there are away from the Ranch village amenities like the pool and the shop. The Premium cabins are within a few minutes walk, while other cabins are further away so you might need to drive over. You also get a couple of little extras with Premium: a hairdryer, wired internet connection, a cleaning kit you claim in the shop and a coffee machine. In one we stayed in we even got two coffee machines: one that required some weird pods (so that went under the sink to make more space), then another filter machine. It took me a couple of days to get it to co-operate but it was a very useful item to have around to brew up some coffee first thing and take flasks into the Park.

With Premium cabins you also get a toaster - I know, pretty swish - but you can hire these in other cabins with a refundable €30 deposit. The kitchen areas in all cabins are small and don’t have many plugs but you get the basics like a microwave, an electric hob, some basic cutlery and dishes and a fridge. You won’t be whipping up anything gourmet but there’s enough to get a good breakfast and simple meals. You could also bring a slow-cooker yourself, just note that the plugs only work when the cabin key is used for the lights, but you can bring an adaptor and share the fridge’s power source which is always on.

Bring a travel cot for very littles ones

All the cabins are pretty standard. You get an outside deck and BBQ, a little kitchen and living area plus two rooms at either end of the cabin, both have their own toilet and shower. One bedroom has a double-bed, then other has three singles and ones that pulls out into another bed, so they sleep 6 people in total. We also used one of the cots they provided, it was a bit Victorian looking, high-sided and surrounded by metal bars. It wouldn’t have looked out of place in a hospital level of a Silent Hill game. Don’t expect a mattress either, we put one of the duvets at the bottom - no complaints from the 2-year-old. If you’re bringing babies then it’s much safer to bring your own travel cot where you know they’ll be comfy and won’t get limbs caught in bars.

The cabins are what you expect, the finish isn’t great on them - curtains don’t quite fit the windows (we had to tape down the kids ones), the kitchen tap was loose, the safe wasn’t open when we arrived - but these little niggles don’t really matter when you’re heading out to Disneyland each day. If you get chance though, make sure you check out the pool - it’s massive! The water is a little cold, the changing rooms tiny, but you get plenty of space to splash around in, plus a near lethal waterslide and 3 inter-connecting jacuzzis. There’re floats you can use plus a separate paddling pool for really little ones to waddle around in.

The Ranch shop has a few of the basics, like milk, baguettes, crips but most of it is Wild West Mickey merch and souvenirs. So don’t expect to be doing your big shop there, the Val D’Europe shopping area and hypermarket is much better for that. There’s a little park for the kids with big and small climbing/sliding areas, then you’ve got the large restaurant, the tavern and a little hut with arcade machines and air hockey.

You can order breakfasts which can be picked up at the entrance to your ‘loop’. It’s nothing fancy, just baguettes, croissants and cereal but will get you off to a good start and maybe even something for lunch. They’re €9 per person.


The Mission

Plan, Adapt, Survive

You might go to Disneyland Paris with the ultimate plan to hit certain rides in a certain order, grab a Fastpass here, head over there for a show… but unfortunately it’s not that simple. Rides and shows go wrong and throw your carefully planned, 30-minute segmented timetable into disarray - you’ve also got kids in tow who will rarely play ball.

Here are a few things I’ve seen happen to the best paid plans…

  • The first Mickey the Magician show of the day getting called off, meaning we were stuck in Walt Disney Studios for another hour to catch the next one.
  • Crushe’s Coaster breaking down during Early Magic Hours.
  • Queuing up for the Le Pays des Contes de Fées ride only for it to stop without any idea of when it might start again. Seriously, it’s boats floating around a canal. We ended up bailing on that one.
  • The Lancelot Carousel breaking down on a daily basis, even when we were on the ride so it had to be restarted.
  • The Disney Railroad stopped because of rain. Yep, rain. We could’ve got off at the stop we were stuck at but the pushchairs were on the other side of the park - getting a good soaking. We just wanted to do one trip round the Park!
  • Johnny bloody Depp. One late afternoon we tried leaving the Park (to come back later for the Illuminations) but some Pirates of the Caribbean show kicked off in the Central Plaza which drew a massive impenetrable crowd craning to catch a glimpse of Johnny Depp. We ended up sticking around to wait for the Parade.

The moral of these stories is that you have to roll with the punches sometimes. It’s better to take each day as it comes and be ready to swap things around to make sure you tick the must-sees off the list. At the end of the day you can plan out the next over dinner, or even better when the kids have gone to sleep with a glass or three of wine. The four things you’ll be doing at Disneyland are ridin’, watchin’, eatin’ or shoppin’ so usually the best you can do is pick an area where you can do a mix of those things and aim for that.

The four things you’ll be doing at Disneyland are ridin’, watchin’, eatin’ or shoppin’

Tooling Up

If you’re ultra-keen you might be making your packed lunch in the evenings ready for the next day, whether that’s sustainable over a whole exhausting holiday is another matter. If you’re taking food with you then keep it simple. So it was mainly about snacks, bagfuls of snacks, and if we could manage it some sandwiches or baguettes, maybe even some fruit. Just whatever we could dip into at regular intervals or if we were stuck in a long queue.

It’s a grey area, some might say controversial, but many people will be prepping their lunch at the hotel breakfast buffet. I know it’s not strictly legal but I also think the hotel management operate under the notion that the ‘house always wins’, or in this case, the ‘mouse’. You save some money on lunch, you spend it on Christmas baubles or over-sized Mickey gloves instead. Only you can decide if you can live with the guilt but if it’s good enough for Adam Buxton then it’s good enough for me.

Take bottles/flasks of water into the Park and you can always refill them at water fountains. There are plenty around, usually where you find the toilets on the map. ‘Grabbing’ a quick cappuccino also isn’t an option, food and drink places just get overrun quickly. So save yourself yet another queue and take hot drinks in a thermos as well.

You won’t need to worry about getting collared by security with your stockpile of food and drink. There are signs that say ‘no picnics’ but it just means there’re no areas for you to spread out your rug and hamper and pop open the Pimms. There are still benches around where you can eat, just not that many. There’s a bag check before you go into the Parks but this is just security, they won’t take your stash of Pringles away.

Bring your own pushchairs, even for 4, 5, 6-year-olds

With two kids we ended up taking two pushchairs - even for the 4-year-old. We didn’t want constant moaning and grumbling and it is a hell of a lot of walking to demand out of a small child, it’s also a handy place for them to crash out if they need to. We got a cheap secondhand buggy off a local Facebook group for a tenner and it was perfectly adequate. Pushchairs can be hired at the Park but it’s €20 a day (you can also hand over a 50 Euro deposit to take them back to hotels) so it’s a very expensive option. They are beasts, the monster trucks of pushchairs, so suitable for older kids or probably two small ones. Whatever you decide, buggies are also useful as food wagons and carting around your backpacks as well as kids. To be honest, if I went with a group of adults I’d probably take a pushchair along instead of humping round a bag. There are plenty of places to leave them while you enjoy the rides. Some people are wary of leaving them unattended - especially the Park ones - and I’ve heard stories of other guests wandering off with them. Just take along a cheap bike lock and put that around the wheels.

If you wanted to go all-in for family transportation while in Disneyland Paris you could opt for something like the Crotec Wagon which goes for £118 on Amazon but will give the kids somewhere to lie down.

Other important things to take with kids: suncream, change of clothes, hats, sunglasses, nappy stuff, medication (paracetamol for the adults), rain ponchos (you can get these really cheap online), errrr hip flask…

Personalised Disney BadgeGet these from eBay with your name and number printed on

One final item: badges for the kids with an emergency phone number on. We got given some at the Davey Crocket Ranch but the names and numbers were just written in pen and easily rubbed off. It’s much better to get some properly printed before you go like these personalised name and number badges on eBay for £1.10 and make sure they wear them. Just extra piece of mind if they’re prone to darting off into crowds because some areas can be very busy.

Rides for All Ages

Disneyland Paris has plenty to offer, for kids, teenagers and grown-ups and you’ll quickly get a sense of what sort of rides your kids will enjoy. Don’t make the mistake we made and start big. Our first morning we went on the Ratatouille ride - because zero queue - but it was a bit of a trial by fire. The ride is great, you sit in big mice cars and zip around watching some 3D action but it was a shock for our kids, especially the 2-year-old who is normally quite fearless. The mix of dark rooms and loud noises meant she was a bit reluctant to trust us in any other queues - it might have been a different story if we started with It’s a Small World.

Don’t go for the biggest rides first, ease the kids in gently

Remember that some of the bigger rides also offer rider switch, sometimes called baby switch but it applies to anyone looking after kids. This means one parent can queue up (in the shorter single rider queue), have their turn and then swap with the other parent at the exit. The first rider gets a card to give to the other so they can go with a cast member and get straight on the ride - very useful, so make sure you get some grown-up time.

This list isn’t exhaustive but here’s a rough guide to the Disneyland Paris rides by age group…

Fun for Everyone (very young, 2+)

It’s a Small World (Fantasyland) The classic, a nice little drift through the cutsiest music video you’ve ever seen. Lots of bright colours and plenty of things to spot. The short queue also warrants multiple trips.

Casey Jr Train and Le Pays des Contes de Fées (Fantasyland) These are in the very North-East of the Park, almost hidden away, but very gentle rides on a train and boat. Unfortunately they often seem to breakdown, they also close 2 or 3 hours before the Park closes and might be not be operating during off-peak seasons. Hardly seems worth having them…

Alice’s Labyrinth (Fantasyland) A little stroll through a maze which takes you to the Queen’s yellow castle where you can get a good view over Fantasyland.

Alice's Labyrinth
View over Fantasyland from Alice’s Labyrinth

Peter Pan and Pinocchio (Fantasyland) Gentle trips through these classic stories. They’re a bit gloomy but should be familiar characters for kids. Peter Pan draws the most crowds and is definitely a must-see, you can get a Fastpass for this one but they’ll probably run out by midday.

Le Carrousel de Lancelot (Fantasyland) A big merry-go-round with ornate horses to ride on and carriages for littles ones to sit in. The queues are usually short for this but the ride itself is often temperamental so you might get two goes on it.

La Cabane des Robinson (Adventureland) A big tree house you can wander around and see how the Swiss Family Robinson live. It’s not amazing but you get some good views from the top and it’s nothing strenuous for little legs.

Disney Railroad (Disneyland Park) A leisurely loop around the Park with stops at each of the four lands and Main St. USA. There’s not a great deal to see being on the outskirts but there is one tunnel with a couple of scenes in it.

Slinky Dog ZigZag Spin (Walt Disney Studios) This is probably the top-end of this category. It’s a rollercoaster than just goes in one circle with a few ups and downs but you could use it gauge your young one’s tolerance for anything bigger. The carriages are quite big so you can squeeze in 2 adults and 2 kids.

Toddler Friendly (littles ones, 3 or 4+ depending on how ‘mad fer it’ your kid is)

Dumbo, Flying Carpets Over Agrabah, Orbitron (Fantasyland/Walt Disney Studios/Discoveryland) These are essentially the same ride where you get spun round and round whatever you’re sitting in - Elephant, Carpet, Rocket - and has a stick for going up and down. They are all great fun. The Oribitron is faster, and a bit more cramped because the second passenger sits behind the first but it’s a lot more exhilarating than boring ol’ Dumbo. Another factor is where you queue, Dumbo and the Flying Carpets are covered, but the Orbitron you’re stuck outside exposed to the elements. The Flying Carpets also has a viewing platform where you can get level with the carpets for better photos of your gawping kid.

Pirate’s Beach, Adventure Isle, Pirate Galleon and Pocahontas Indian Village (Adventureland/Frontierland) are all play areas that suit toddlers and are great places for them to run around an explore. They are weather dependant though.

Pirate Galleon
Pirate Galleon in Adventrueland

Mad Hatter’s Teacups (Fantasyland) The puke-inducing classic. Thankfully they are bearable if you don’t turn the wheel too much to make your cup spin faster. Of course, it has the potential to be the worst ride in the Park if you go crazy.

Cars Quatre Roues Rallye (Walt Disney Studios) Similar to the Teacups but with a slight edge as the cars are smaller and you feel like you might crash into the others at any point.

Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop (Walt Disney Studios) There’s a 0.81m height restriction on this but it’s good fun if your kids makes the cut. It takes you up pretty high then gently drops you down a few times.

Snow White (Fantasyland) In a similar vein to Peter Pan and Pinocchio but a bit more ‘X-Rated’ because it has a darker atmosphere and a few jumps with the cackling witch.

Autopia (Discoveryland) This is well-worth going on with kids as you get to putter around in little 2-seater cars along a fixed track. The queue is often short and the ride itself is long. The grown-up can usually work the go pedal while your toddler can drive and guaranteed not to write the thing off. Although you can bump into cars ahead so watch out! There’s a 0.81m height restriction.

La Tanière du Dragon (Castle) If your toddlers are feeling adventurous then don’t miss the cave under the castle where you’ll find a sleeping dragon (it’s on the Adventureland side of the castle). It is pitch black in there so mind your step.

Kid Friendly (5+)

Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast (Discoveryland) This is one of the best rides in the Park for young kids. Two riders get to blast their lasers at various targets and also spin their car round with a little joystick. A dashboard tracks your scores and you can see which cars did best at the end. The ride is a bit dark and noisy but it’s got a great sci-fi aesthetic, zap Zurg’s medallion for the most points. The queues are often long so get a Fastpass early for this one.

Star Tours (Discoveryland) If your kid is a mad Star Wars fan they will love this although there is a 1.02m height restriction. It’s basically a fancy simulator but the Star Wars atmosphere makes it a must-see. The queue - you could almost call it build-up - is the best in the Park and you get to see C-3PO, R2D2 and other robots (speaking French, but you can’t have everything) as you prepare to board your ‘tour’. The ride’s been running for decades but it’s recently been revamped so it’s all in proper high-def 3D and the experiences are generated from 50 scenarios involving planets from the movies, meaning the rides are different every time. I don’t remember the tour bus breaking out laser canons way back when I was a kid but now it’s perfectly capable of gunning down Tie Fighters left and right - marvellous. You get dumped out into a brand new Star Wars shop so makes sure you have some Euros to spend in that one.

Ratatouille (Walt Disney Studio) This is a Disneyland Paris exclusive so make sure you catch it. It’s a 3D zip around the kitchens from the mouse-eye level so plenty of mad dashes and sharp turns. The ‘mice’ cars you’re sat in aren’t on a track giving a real sense of craziness and fun. Be sure to get a Fastpass if there’s a long queue.

Pirates of the Caribbean (Adventureland) This one is billed for ‘all ages’ but I always think it’s a bit dicey given the subject matter - the drinkin’, the fightin’, the gunfire - and there are a couple of small surprise drops during the ride. The Disneyland Paris version is currently closed to give it a more Spanish theme and tie-in with the new movie but it’s usually a must-see.

Tweenagers (10+)

Big Thunder Mountain (Frontierland) The runaway mine train classic. Probably a bit tame for the grown-ups but a great thrill for big kids. 1.02m height restriction.

Phantom Manor (Frontierland) A fantastic, moody haunted house experience. I’ve always preferred the Disney take on haunted houses as opposed to the cheap jump-scares of the fairground variety.

Crush’s Coaster (Walt Disney Studios) You’d think this would be innocent enough featuring a Finding Nemo character but this rollercoaster is wild. You’re spun around as you hurtle through the ride and I’ve heard many parents utter ‘never again’ for this one. Minimum height is 1.07m but you probably need the mental fortitude of a fighter pilot. It’s typically a very busy ride with Fastpasses available, there are also signs about for downloading a mobile game to play over local wi-fi while you wait. It often ‘breaks down’ but it probably means someone’s vomited all over it - just like Marlin in the films…

Crushe’s Coaster often ‘breaks down’ but it probably means someone’s vomited all over it - just like Marlin in the films…

RC Racer (Walt Disney Studios) A Toy Story themed ride in a similar vein to the old pirate ships that used to swing you back and forth. In this case you all pile into RC and drive up and back again along a very steep bit of halfpipe. 1.2m height restriction.

Armageddon: les Effets Speciaux (Walt Disney Studios) Great for fans of big blockbusters and this gets everyone in a room for some pretty intense meteorite action.

Studio Tram Tour (Walt Disney Studios) A ride through movie sets with a few surprises and things jumping out at you. You might get wet!

Big Boys and Girls Only (13+)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril (Adventureland) A short little rollercoaster but good fun - it even has a loop. It’s usually quiet in the evening run-up to the Illuminations so the grown-ups can take it in turns to have a few goes while the little ones chill-out. 1.40m height restriction.

Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith (Walt Disney Studios) A really fun looping rollercoaster with Aerosmith blasting in your ears. 1.20m height restriction.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Walt Disney Studios) You go up, then come down very fast!

Hyperspace Mountain (Discoveryland) Recently given a Star Wars makeover Space Mountain has always been a classic. Except now instead of it being pitch black you get all the Star Wars sights and sounds whizzing by as you hurtle through - which basically improves anything 500%. It’s also a lot less rickety than it used to be so less risk of whiplash this time round. Definitely make use of Fastpasses and rider switch to get the most out of this one. 1.20m height restriction.

In terms of queuing you can try and mitigate it by going to the Parks during Early Magic Hours (but not all rides are open), using Fastpasses, going on the more popular ones during the parade or waiting until later in the evening if you’re hanging around for the Illuminations. Unfortunately during peak season there’ll be big queues for most things, but I wouldn’t call it insane, I’ve seen worse at places like Alton Towers where there is less variety. Thankfully the bigger rides have indoor queues so it’s not too painful.

You might have heard stories about people being rude and pushing and shoving their way to the front of a queue but I’ve not seen it happen. When it’s busy there’s literally nowhere you can go so everyone has to grin and bear it. During quiet seasons it might be more of an issue when lines are short and people think they can muscle their way through. In general, people on the continent just aren’t used to waiting for things, whereas in the UK we’ve made queuing a national sport. The British are in the minority at Disneyland Paris - something like 15% of guests - so best to go with the flow and exchange knowing looks with the other Brits tutting loudly at continental people smoking and using selfie-sticks when they shouldn’t do. On that last point I’ve only ever seen the odd one or two people smoking in the Park so don’t worry, it’s just a bit more casual over there.

People on the continent just aren’t used to waiting for things, whereas in the UK we’ve made queuing a national sport.

Character Meet & Greets

The Disneyland Paris rides are great but it’s not the only thing on offer, especially for kids. One thing you’ll want to try and plan is the Meet & Greets for some of Disney characters, especially if you’ve got an autograph book to fill in… gotta catch ‘em all! Unfortunately characters aren’t wandering around the Parks waiting for attention, they’re at certain locations behind big queues. Obviously the bigger names have longer wait times but they’re usually generous with their time and Cast Members will help make sure you get all the photos you need.

You’ll want to checkout the maps and up-to-date program for whereabouts the Meet & Greets are, and Early Magic Hours will also help secure more character hugs in shorter times. Some are all-day affairs, while others are at certain intervals throughout the day.


Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse


Being the big cheese, Mickey is the most popular character to meet. He’s got his own place up at the top of the Park in Fantasyland although this gets very busy with queues over an hour. It’s indoors though and you get some TVs screening Mickey’s classic cartoons. There are shorter queues at Walt Disney Studios where Mickey puts in appearance on the Toon Plaza, or you can meet him at the Plaza or Inventions restaurants.


Minnie Mouse

Minnie Mouse


Also very popular but seemingly the most elusive character to find. She’s normally on Main St. USA in at the Town Square end of Liberty Arcade. She might also pop-up at Inventions, or if you’re really lucky she could be one of the Princesses at Auberge de Cendrillon.


Donald Duck

Donal Duck


Almost always on his lonesome off Main St. USA on Casey’s Corner - just walk past Minnie and through Liberty Arcade to get there.

Daisy

Her patch is opposite Minnie on the Main St. USA Town Square, outside Discovery Arcade, in a sort of WAGs queue-off. You can also see Daisy at the character breakfast at Plaza Gardens.


Goofy

Goofy


He usually cuts a solitary figure on the otherwise empty Front Lot as you enter Walt Disney Studios, and this is one of the shortest Meet & Greet queues. Goofy’s also sometimes on Main St. USA opposite Minnie’s corner outside Discovery Arcade, probably with Pluto. Although that spot is officially Daisy Duck’s hang-out.


Pluto

Pluto


He doesn’t have his own spot so falls into the ‘and friends’ category. Look out for him appearing with other characters, like Goofy on Main St.


Chip & Dale

Chip & Dale


Or Tic et Tac as they’re called in France. They’ve got an out-the-way spot in Adventureland near Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost which usually has a short queue but they’re well-worth meeting because they’re cheeky and play up to the crowd. Just don’t where a hat near those guys is all I can say. They also might appear at the bandstand on Main St. USA in-between where Minnie and Daisy are found.


Snow White

The Princesses


There’s the Princess Pavilion in Fantasyland which will play host to two princesses at a time. Check on the board outside for who’s currently doing the Meet & Greets and what the wait times are like - it’s usually very busy. Moana has replaced Belle in Walt Disney Studios at the exit to the Art of Disney Animation exhibit and has her own photo op. She should be there until September 2017. One hot tip to see all the Princesses up close is to hang around outside the Auberge de Cendrillon before they go onstage to do their Princess Waltz. If you walk through the Auberge de Cendrillon courtyard, past the wishing well to some railings, there’s a path the other side which they’ll walk along before the show begins. Apart from the parade this is usually the only time you’ll see Arial and Tiana. The best you’ll get is some waves, but if you wait until after the show you might get some better photos as they come back. Getting your kids dolled up in princess dresses also maximises your chance of one of them stopping.

One hot tip to see all the Princesses up close is to hang around outside the Auberge de Cendrillon before they go onstage to do their Princess Waltz.

If you’ve got daughters who are just all about the princesses - like ours - then it’s much better booking into the Auberge de Cendrillon for lunch and getting some quality time with a few of them. They’ll come to your table for photographs but also chat and sing songs - much better than standing round for hours for a minute of posing.


Woody

Woody & Buzz


Woody has his own spot in Frontierland near the Cowboy Cookout Barbecue where he’ll put in an appearance in morning and afternoon slots, or he might be replaced with Jesse. Buzz is usually in Walt Disney Studios at the Toon Plaza in the mornings. Remember to shout “Andy’s Coming!” and they’ll fall to the ground and play dead.

Alice

Alice and her friends have a spot between Alice’s Labyrinth and It’s a Small World in Fantasyland which is open at various point of the day. There you might find Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts or Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Miscellaneous

Sorry to lump everyone else at the end but Baloo is in Adventureland near the Hakuna Matata restaurant, Peter Pan (or might be Wendy, Hook or Smee) is also in Adventureland opposite Pirate Beach and so is Aladdin (or Jasmine or Jafar) near the Agrabah cafe. Darth Vader is at the Starport in Discoveryland all day. Over at Walt Disney Studios you can find Spider-Man all day in the Backlot near the Blockbuster restaurant and Jack Sparrow at certain intervals over at CinéMagique.

Shows

If you see one show, see Mickey the Magician

There are loads of shows and events happening across the Parks and most of them are top notch. I won’t go through them all because there’s something for everyone but you probably should see Mickey the Magician at the Animagique Theatre in Walt Disney Studios. It’s a new show and it might not be around forever but it’s like a greatest hits of all the best Disney songs with an ensemble cast: the Genie from Aladdin, Elsa belting out Let it Go, Belle dancing with the Beast, but the show-stopper is The Lion King. Just like the West End musical the animals move through the audience, interacting with the crowd, amazing stuff. The show itself concerns Mickey getting into trouble with a magician’s hat, it’s a mix of French and English but really it’s just an excuse to hear the songs. There are always big crowds for this one so get there early to grab decent seats.

Mickey the Magician
Mickey the Magician is like a Disney mixtape

For littles ones the Disney Junior show is great fun and you might also get to meet Sophia the First or Jake from Neverland Pirates. That’s over at the Production Courtyard in the Studios, next to it is Stitch Live which sees a CG Stitch come to life and interact with the audience, usually at the expense of the Cast Members. The Production courtyard also plays host to a few outdoor shows like Star Wars which is an excuse to wheel out some of the characters old and new - Chewie always gets a big cheer as he strides across the Courtyard. The Incredibles also do a thing where they get members of the crowd involved but street artists at Covent Garden probably do a better job. Check the latest Programme for what’s happening when, usually there are French and English versions of things at different times.

At the main Park there are a couple of shows at the Royal Castle Stage, to the right of the castle if you’re walking towards it from Main St. The Happy Anniversary one is a big ol’ knees-up with most of the characters like Mickey, Pluto, Chip & Dale, Peter Pan, Goofy, Alice etc… there’s also the Princess Waltz which is probably where you get the highest concentration of Princesses in one place, along with their respective Princes. With these shows you might get lucky to the right of the stage when they exit and get some good photos. You can also see the characters make their way to and from the stage in the Auberge de Cendrillon courtyard - although this secret spot is getting a bit-oversubscribed now.

Auberge de Cendrillon
Walk through the Auberge de Cendrillon courtyard to see the Princesses on their way to the Waltz

Parade

The Disney Parade is a must-see and the Disneyland Paris one is modest in size compared to the US but still has some amazing floats. Check the program and maps for the start time (currently 5:30pm) and the Parade route. It starts at the big gates next to It’s a Small World in Fantasyland, goes into the Central Plaza, down Main St. USA and finishes at the Discovery arcade.

Maleficent Clockwork Dragon
Fire-breathing Maleficent clockwork dragon

Obviously it’s busy so make sure you stake-out your spot well in advance. The busiest area is Main St. and people will bagsy the bandstand very early on and loads of people will be sat of the sidewalks. The trouble is, as soon as the Parade starts people stand-up and move forward so it’s a bit of a free-for-all. A better option is to go close to where the Parade starts because the route is roped-off and it’s much easier to get ready behind a roped area as no-one will be able to dive in front at the last minute. When you’ve got littles ones it’s good to get their pushchairs parked-up behind the rope and they’ll get a clear view. Then when the Parades finished you’re at a less crowded end of the Park and you can hit some rides. If you do need to head out of the Park then make sure you leave enough time to escape, use the arcades (Liberty and Discovery) that run parallel to Main St. as they aren’t as busy.

The floats themselves are spectacular, especially the Maleficent clockwork dragon you see in all the promo shots. It even breathes fire but only at certain points on the Parade route. There aren’t that many dancers unfortunately but you get the Princesses, I know, I know, I keep going on about them…

Illuminations

Like the Parade the Illuminations is a must-see, at least once. Keep your kids up for it, even if it means you miss Early Magic Hours the next day. Evenings are a great time at Disneyland Paris, the queues evaporate, the weird neon over at Discoveryland looks like a cartoonish Blade Runner and everyone is anticipating the spectacular display. Unfortunately this is another thing that gets frustratingly busy and people will start sitting around the Central Plaza over an hour before it all starts at Park closing, usually 10:30pm.

To get the best view you want to be in front of the castle so it’s central to your view, but not too close! One of the worst positions is right in front of the Castle where it dips down and the bridge obstructs the view. You also don’t want to be off to the side - like at the Royal Castle Stage - because it’ll ruin the effect of the lightshow running over the castle. Ideally you want to get behind one of the flowerbeds at Central Plaza so you can be sure no-one’s in front of you. Shortly before it starts everyone rushes forward, lifting kids on to their shoulders. If you are behind groups of people, aim for ones that don’t have little ones! Main St. is quieter but you’re getting further away from the show.

The show itself is a lightshow across the Castle with scenes and animations from various franchises like Beauty and the Beast and Frozen (the crowd pleaser). One of the best is Star Wars as it has a cool laser show, plus the lightspeed effects looked bad-ass. There are a few fireworks and jets of fire - you can feel the heat, even way back on Main St. - but nothing too loud for babies.

One of the best is Star Wars as it has a cool laser show, plus the lightspeed effects looked bad-ass.

When it’s over there’s a mad crush for the exits so it’s probably easier if there’s a few of you - plus pushchairs - to arrange a meeting point outside the Park and just make your own break for it. Once you get out the Village then it’s not too bad and getting out the car park shouldn’t be a problem. We got our kids in their PJs at the car so we could just drop them in bed back at the Ranch. Getting back to a hotel is more of a headache with the shuttle buses getting very busy. Just watch out in the crushes for these as all politeness seems to go out the window at this time of night. Also be aware of pickpockets and people hanging round the train station late at night. There are a lot of beggars and people will also hassle you for spare Park tickets they can sell on, just keep your head down and keep moving.

Fastpasses

You might have heard about the Fastpass system which lets you return to a ride later in the day and jump into a shorter queue. It’s very helpful when the Park is busy but it’s not available on every ride and you can only hold one Fastpass at a time, but remember you can keep getting another as you use them up. Each ride does not have an unlimited supply either so Fastpasses can evaporate quickly.

A rough guide to using Fastpasses…

  • Rides where Fastpasses are available will have an area outside with the Fastpass scanners. Basically scan each person’s Park admission ticket per Fastpass you need. The machine will spit out Fastpasses which have a half hour slot later in the day - come back to the ride then and join the Fastpass queue!
  • You can only get another Fastpass when you’ve used that one, or after 2 hours of getting it.
  • Each ride has a limited number of Fastpasses, popular rides like Peter Pan will likely run out by midday.
  • Also remember to combo them with rider switch - get a Fastpass for one parent, then swap over!

These types of Fastpasses are available to anyone with a Park admission ticket, but if you’re staying in some hotels or suites then you might get some enhanced versions…

Disneyland Hotel Fastpass

This is a one-use only ticket that can be used for a Fastpass queue at any time during the day. You’ll get one of these per guest per day if you’re staying in Disneyland Hotel standard rooms, Disney’s Hotel New York Empire State Club rooms, Disney’s Newport Bay Club Compass Club rooms or Disney’s Sequoia Lodge Golden Forest Club rooms.

VIP Fastpass

The ultimate Fastpass is the VIP one which you’ll get for the duration of your stay at Disneyland Hotel Castle Club rooms and suites, Disney’s Hotel New York suites, Disney’s Newport Bay Club suites and Disney’s Sequoia Lodge suites. This means you can join any Fastpass queue at any time of the day, as often as you like. However, depending on the season it might say on your VIP Fastpass that it’s not available during a certain part of the day. Just make sure you keep hold of the ticket and don’t give it away to a Cast Member when you get on a ride.

A final word of warning, don’t buy anything related to Fastpasses off the internet. You’ll find plenty on eBay but it’s not worth the risk of being thrown out for using dodgy scammed tickets.

If you get to a ride early and the queue is short or bearable then it’s probably worth just getting in the queue. But if the wait time is over an hour then grab a Fastpass.

Fastpass Rides in Disneyland Paris

  • Peter Pan - A short ride usually with a very long queue, definitely get Fastpasses to save your kid’s sanity
  • Space Mountain
  • Indiana Jones
  • Thunder Mountain
  • Buzz Lightyear - This gets through a lot of riders so the queue times might be bearable, if not, Fastpass it!
  • Star Tours - The queue moves quickly for this, and is one of the more entertaining areas to stand around in, but Fastpass if it’s too crazy

Fastpass Rides in Walt Disney Studios

  • Ratatouille - This gets busy so definitely Fastpass
  • Rock n Roller Coaster
  • Tower of Terror
  • Flying Carpets - You probably don’t need to bother getting a Fastpass for this, it’s usually not crazy busy

There’ll be rides you’ll be thinking, “Why the heck don’t they have a Fastpass for this?!” - like Crush’s Coaster - but some of them have such limited capacity that a Fastpass system would just make the normal queue ridiculous. You also don’t want everyone in the Park wandering around waiting for a Fastpass slot - they’ve got to go somewhere!

Merchandising

If you see something you want, buy it there and then

You won’t escape Disneyland Paris without spending money on something you didn’t know you wanted until you saw it. For me it was an Indiana Jones hoodie - something stupid like €50 - but I had to have it. I saw it outside a little shop in Adventureland but didn’t buy it right away and stupidly thought, “Hmmm, I’ll shop around and see if there’s anything better.” I can tell you that was a mistake. Cut to our last morning at the Park trying to make the most of our final minutes and I’m careening through Adventureland with a pushchair trying to find the one place selling that damn hoodie. The lesson here is, you see something you want, you buy it! This isn’t the place for price comparison or ‘coming back later’.

Disney seem to have mastered the art of putting the most precious things in only select locations. Sure, the Disney Village has some massive Disney Stores but they just sell the everyday stuff, the keyrings, the mugs, the figures, but you’ll come across much more bespoke shops concentrating on specific themes around the Parks. There’s the Beauty and the Beast shop in the Studios, the Christmas decoration shop under the Castle, if you want Star Wars merch there’s the massive store next to Star Tours, there’s really cool Phantom Manor t-shirts on the high street in Frontierland. Something will catch your eye, and if you know you’re going to crumble later then better to open the wallet sooner rather than costing precious time another day when you’re trying to remember the one place selling replica Indy whips.

We found with the kids it’s better to set them a small budget and make an event of going to chose how to spend it - a welcome break from waiting for a ride. There’s also coins you can collect at €2 a pop, either from vending machines or usually by the tills in certain shops. These are nice little mementos of your 2017 trip and the Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary.

Another fun thing for the kids is pin trading, which can be done at any Disney Park in the world. It’s swapping pin badges with Cast Members when doing Meet & Greets. You set your kids up with a starter pack (watch out for eBay fakes) and they can swap pins with ones Cast Members have on their lanyards. It’s got a bit of a cult following so now there are even limited edition pins to buy and special event taking place at the Hotels. Keep an eye out for the latest Pin Trading news.


Phew, it’s a lot to take in, but also remember the goal is to have fun! You don’t have to do absolutely everything, and kids are easily pleased with just the spectacle of the whole thing. Once you’ve survived the whirlwind and got the tribe back home you’ll probably be thinking about next year, or maybe even a trip to Disneyworld…

Disneyland Paris Castle at Sunset
…and relax!