Our recent experience of a family trip to Disneyland Paris and tips for visiting.
Disneyland Paris 19th April 2016
We visited Disneyland Paris as part of a two centre holiday in France over Easter. We got a good deal at a Disney hotel (Disney’s Hotel New York) through their own website and booked it up quickly. However, after booking we started to read some of the online reviews and they weren't good. We became nervous about the hotel quality and whether the park would live up to our expectations.
First impressions of Disney's Hotel New York
We were pleased to find that the hotel was in much better shape than the reviews said and while it needs some updating in parts it was fine, clean and had a large room which is all we were after as we didn’t plan on spending a lot of time in the hotel. We checked in with no problems and after unloading our bags were heading to the park via the Disney Village. One really good aspect of the security here was that it was completed on entry to the Disney Village rather than at the park gates and this kept entry to the parks running smoothly.
We had driven up from Caen that first day so we just strolled about the park to get our bearings, watched the parade and then grabbed some food at the Rainforest Café in the Disney Village and here is our first tip. Book ahead at the restaurants as they get very busy very quickly. Tip 1 book the restaurants to avoid long queues or disappointment.
Magic hours and making the most of them
We had two magic hours each day, this is a time when only Disney hotel guests get to use the park, and this was limited to the Disney park and did not include the movie studios. Sadly we wasted all of our hours and more on the first day queuing for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck in what looked like a small queue but took the whole two and half hours to get through. Not a good first impression and a waste of our extra time for no good reason other than poor management of a queue.
On the following days we ignored the character lines and headed straight for the rides. Within an hour we had covered the Flying elephants, teacups, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Carrousel, Hyperspace mountain and a coffee. Tip 2 is don't wait for the characters go for the rides with your magic hours.
When we checked into our hotel (Disney's Hotel New York) we were asked what time we wanted breakfast. This was a bit of a surprise as we thought we could just turn up anytime between 7am and 10am but apparently not. We had read a few stories on the web about breakfast being a bit of a bun fight to get seats and food so assumed they were introducing times to try to limit this problem. We, bravely, opted for the 7am slot with a view to getting up and out to hit the park. While it was a struggle to get Poppet, Champ and in all honesty ourselves up and dressed after an exhausting Disney day I am glad we did as we did beat the crowds in breakfast and got to the park in plenty of time to enjoy our magic hours. Tip 3 is to opt for an early breakfast slot to make you get up and get out.
Meeting the Disney characters at Disneyland Paris
Meeting the characters at Disney is what little kids lke Poppet and Champ love the most but Disneyland Paris did not run a very efficient operation. Plus, when compared to the parks in America people seemed to have problems politely queuing and not pushing in or forcing the Disney reps to here some poor sob story about their kids getting upset in the long queue and they should be allowed to cut in. We even had to endure one very annoying women faking crying to try to get to the front and although they weren't successful they slowed the queues even more and quite frankly pissed us off! To avoid this and not waste too much time waiting around we decided to book a few character meals where you got to meet some of your favourite Disney characters while eating some food.
The two we booked were the Character lunch buffet at the Inventions room at the Disney hotel and breakfast at Cafe Mickey in the Disney village. The Character lunch was served in the lovely Disney hotel and included an impressive buffet lunch with a large variety of food on offer ranging from seafood to meaty curries to sweet deserts. This also included meeting Disney characters who walked around and this time it included Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Daisy Duck and Eeyore. All of whom were great with the kids and it is one thing that we are always impressed with at Disney parks is how much effort the character actors will make with everyone. Breakfast at Cafe Mickey was a little disappointing in comparison with the lunch. The characters were great but the food was disappointing. It was exactly the same as the breakfast we had skipped that day in our hotel which was okay but we had paid quite a lot for breakfast at Cafe Mickey and had hoped for a bit more choice or even a few cooked to order items and it may be a better choice for an evening meal. However, the characters were great and the kids got to meet Mickey and Goofy once more and also Pluto and Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh. The look on their faces as the characters appear and come over to say hello is truly priceless and long may the magic continue.
Tip 4 to avoid the long queues use the meet'n'greet meals to see the Characters and in hindsight I would pick the Character buffet and Princess meal for variety of characters.
The rides and attractions at Disneyland Paris
It's fair to say we were disappointed with the rides and attractions at Disneyland Paris for the simple fact that so many were closed. Especially some of the best like the Rockin Roller-coaster, Thunder Mountain and Star Tours. We understand that they require maintenance and improvement at times but all at the same time and during the school holidays. This was not very good timing in our opinion and as a result this meant that some of the bigger thrill rides that were open had much larger queues. We did manage to still get on the Tower of Terror but didn't manage to get on Crush's Coaster as the queue never went under an hour. Tip 5 before booking tickets or visiting Disneyland Paris download the app and check the availability of rides and attractions as this will tell you what is running and what is closed for refurbishment, for an example check out the video we posted on Instagram.
There were still plenty of rides on offer for the little ones and we would recommend the Slinky Dog roller-coaster (Disney Movie Studios), it's a small world (Disney Park) and Pixar Cars ride (Disney Movie Studios) as favourites of the young ones. Tip 6 Slinky Dog Roller-coaster and Pixar Cars ride are a great starter rides for little ones and the queues move fast for both.
One of the best rides in Disney movie Studios park was the Ratatouille ride based on this film of the same name. here you are shrunk down to the size of a rat and go on a journey through Chez Gusteux restaurant from the Pixar film. This was a great fun for all the family and very popular. However, a FastTrack pass (a specific time to enjoy the ride and miss the queue) is available from the kiosks but get one early to avoid disappointment as they go quickly after the park opens. Tip 7 get a FastTrack pass for the rides and especially the Ratatouille ride.
There is a lot to do at Disneyland and with the early start and potentially staying late for fireworks and parades we recommend you take a break and even fit in a nap for the little ones, either in the pushchair or back at your hotel if it is close and this was a real benefit of staying on site at a Disneyland hotel. Tip 8 take a break or nap during the day to help everyone recharge for the afternoon and evening fun, and if you don't want to sleep take a visit to the learn to draw class and spend some quality time drawing cartoons. Tip 9 take or hire a push chair to help the little ones and also any bags you take in e.g. a changing bag. The chairs here were very large and could easily sit two small children allowing you to just rent, and push, one chair.Tip 10 take some snacks with you to keep the energy levels up without breaking the bank. We usually carry a few biscuits or cereal bars with us.
Disney's Hotel New York
We stayed at Disney's hotel New York and found this better than some of the reviews on the web had lead us to believe. The rooms were spacious and clean and while the breakfast was nothing special there was a reasonable choice on offer but by far the best aspect of this hotel was the short walk to the Disney Village for entertainment and food options and then onto the park. This is the first time we have stayed at a Disney hotel and while the staff could be a bit friendlier being on site was a great benefit. Tip 11 stay on site for a short walk to the park and get some magic hours.
Eating and drinking at and around Disneyland Paris
There are numerous places to get fast food or a more substantial meal at both the Disney parks and Disney village just outside the parks including the Rainforest Cafe and Planet Hollywood. In the park the place to eat was Chez Remy based on the Restaurant at the end of the Disney Pixar film Ratatouille and here much like the Ratatouille ride you are shrunk down to Rat size to sit amongst giant crockery and on chairs made of bottle tops to enjoy your meal. This was a fun experience but the food wasn't fantastic for the price and the service was lacking a bit. Our two really enjoyed it as they love the film but if your kids are not familiar with it then give this restaurant a miss. Tip 12 the restaruants are expensive so consider a half board dinning deal to keep control of the costs.
Value for money at Disneyland Paris
The hotel and park entry was good value for money as we were able to get a good deal with four nights for the price of two including park entry for five days. However, this is possible related to the amount that was closed at the park. This was roughly £900 for the four days but when including park entry is a pretty good deal as you will have lots of fun filled days.
We did find that the magic (we've experienced at Disney World) was missing and perhaps Disney need to give the park a bit more attention and closer management to ensure it runs efficiently and with a bit more of a smile. However, overall we had a lot of fun at Disneyland Paris, Poppet and Champ loved meeting the characters and we recommend it for a family break.