Yes it’s the review you’ve all been waiting for, our 2017 trip to Disneyland Paris, as a family of 5! The last time we visited was 6 years ago exactly, when my oldest was 2 and a half. She would have loved to return sooner, but we seem to have been so tied up with baby brothers and other holidays that all of a sudden she is now 8! It was high time to return… I’ve divided this post into hopefully helpful sections covering the following topics. Of course these are only my opinions and I am not an expert, just a mum who loves Disneyland! (Please note: I’ll talk about food, restaurants and meal plans at Disneyland Paris in my next post)
- From what age is it worth taking the kids to Disneyland Paris?
- When should we visit Disneyland Paris
- Where should we stay at Disneyland Paris
- Rides and attractions at Disneyland Paris
- Should I get a photopass?
- How do we use the Fast Pass system?
From what age is it worth taking the kids to Disneyland Paris?
I’ve been asked from what age it is worth taking the kids to Disneyland. I think it’s definitely enjoyable at age 2 and a half, but perhaps I’d say 3 and up is ideal, as they can remember more, and possibly by this age they may have seen a few Disney films and recognise more characters at the park (which is very exciting!) However even children who have never seen a Disney film can enjoy Disneyland! My 4 year old and 2.5 year old had a brilliant time and they hadn’t seen many films. They barely knew who Mickey Mouse was, yet it was still magical to see him.
Given a choice I probably wouldn’t take a baby or a one year old to Disneyland, as it is quite an intense trip and so much more enjoyable just a year or two later (if like us you don’t live close by and only manage to go occasionally and not on a regular basis. It is, after all, a fairly expensive holiday once you consider how everything adds up!). Having said that, Disney is baby-friendly, and you can hire pushchairs there if you haven’t brought your own. There is a baby switch service too so parents with young children can take turns getting onto a ride without having to queue twice. So all in all if you’re a diehard Disney fan you’ll still have a good time. Do remember to bring all the bits and pieces you need for your baby, including any medications…as there is no pharmacy at Disneyland and you would need to venture out to Val d’Europe even just to get some paracetamol (yes, we had this experience!)
When should we visit Disneyland Paris?
My main bit of advice is to avoid school holidays or any French national holidays if possible, as the park will definitely be busier at these times! Both times we have visited have been during the May half term holidays. We were lucky to have absolutely wonderful sunny weather on both occasions.
Where should we stay at Disneyland Paris?
We decided to make the most of our trip this time by staying in the Disneyland Hotel, which we had never tried before. I can highly recommend this, especially if members of your party have little legs and/or tire easily, as it is the closest hotel to the park itself. In fact, you might even say it is IN the park! However, there are several other Disney hotels which are pretty close as well (walking distance) and somewhat cheaper…all include a shuttle bus to the parks and free “magic hours”, meaning you can enter the Disneyland park 2 hours before everybody else, at 8am instead of 10am. (The Walt Disney studios did not open early for magic hours, only the Disneyland park, and note that even though it opens early there are some rides that aren’t open till later.)
There are also Disney character meet and greets in the hotel lobbies of all Disney hotels. After the Disneyland Hotel, the next closest hotel to the parks is the New York Hotel, and we have actually stayed in this hotel as well. It has a very different vibe and is a slightly longer walk, but the walk is through the Disney Village, full of restaurants, bars and shops which is good fun in itself! My 4 year old son was cockahoop for the Lego store in the Disney Village. This was almost a drawback, as we had to make a pitstop at the Lego store every time we passed by!
Anyway, I will share a little more about the Disneyland Hotel as we did love it and would stay here again if we can. Upon arrival at the Disneyland Hotel the check-in process was quick and easy. We were pleased to find we had interconnecting rooms with the rest of our party, as we had requested. And we found a box of tasty chocolates and a card on the table (pictured below), which was a nice touch. Additionally every evening there were little chocolates placed on the beds.
Each room contains two double beds, with very comfortable pillows. There was a mini-bar (though the prices were exorbitant!)
The bathroom has lots of subtle Disney details, including super cute Disney toiletries with mouse ears.
The Disneyland hotel has a small kids club area called the Minnie Mouse Club as well as an arcade. I believe you can leave your kids at the Minnie Mouse Club, but we didn’t on this occasion. There’s a lovely indoor swimming pool too which our daughter enjoyed. The hotel has a bar and 2 restaurants, one of which is Inventions, well-known for its character breakfasts and other meals. I’ll write more about Inventions in my next post.
There are many, many accommodation options around Disneyland and a little further afield in Paris. Previously we have stayed at the Radisson Blu hotel, which was a shuttle ride away. You may find that you prefer an apartment-style accommodation. There is something to suit most budgets. You can check prices here for the Radisson Blu hotel:
The Explorers Hotel looks like it is child-friendly to the max and you can check out prices here:
This is the official site for booking the Disney Hotels:
I haven’t included a whole section on travelling to Disneyland Paris, but as we were travelling from the London area we found it easiest to go via Eurostar. We had seats in the Standard Premier section, and a drink and light meal is provided. Children under 3 do not require a ticket if they are able to travel on your lap. The journey from London St Pancras to Marne La Vallee in Paris was smooth and straightforward. The most brilliant thing, is that when you arrive and come out of the station you can see the Mickey Mouse ears and Disneyland gates straightaway, which is incredibly exciting! There’s a service you can pay for as well (25 euros) which allows you to send your luggage straight to your hotel so you can enter the park immediately. We didn’t use this, but it does sound ultra-convenient. You can use this service on the way back as well.
Rides and attractions at Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris has 2 parks – the main Disneyland park and the Walt Disney Studios. There is high security getting into the parks and hotels, which I see as a positive thing. I’ll start by talking about the Disneyland park, which is subdivided into Main Street and 4 lands. We spent the majority of our time in Fantasyland and Discoveryland, but we also enjoyed Frontierland and Adventureland. In this section I’ll list a few of our favourite rides and attractions.
- It’s a small world
The “It’s a small world” ride was a real favourite with our children. Luckily the queues are never too long for this indoor boat ride as it’s fast-loading. The tunes may drive you crazy eventually, but it’s a happy and gentle ride that will have you singing along…
2. Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast ride
The Toy Story Buzz Lightyear ride was another huge hit with our children, especially our 4 year old son. I think we went on this one about 6 or 7 times! You get a laser gun with which to shoot targets and you get points for successfully hitting targets. The competitive element makes it quite addictive. Hint: Hit the moving targets for more points! And smile for the camera 😉
3. Casey Junior is a gentle rollercoaster train ride in Fantasyland which even my 2 year old son was ok with.
4. Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups – Our 2 year old also seemed to enjoy this ride which really made him giggle, and I didn’t suffer too badly despite all the spinning around in circles which normally makes me very dizzy!
5. Disney Illuminations Show – The next most popular attraction, for us, was this beautiful show which took place every evening in the Disneyland Park at 11pm (but this varies according to park closure times). It was pretty late for our kids to stay up but our older two (age 4 and 8) managed it quite happily, and it was well worth the effort as the show is absolutely sensational! It includes amazing light projections onto the castle, pyrotechnic effects and fireworks, all accompanied by a stirring Disney soundtrack that included many of our favourite tunes from the Little Mermaid, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Frozen, as well as Star Wars (which our 4 year old was particularly thrilled by). Get there early to get a good spot to view the show. The best position is probably directly in front of the castle, or along Main Street.
The Autopia ride is great fun as well for any budding car enthusiasts. The queue is very long however, due to slow loading! But the length of the ride is quite decent.
7. Disney Princess Starlit Waltz
The Disney Princess Starlit Waltz show is a must-do for all princess fans. This takes place a few times a day on a stage just to one side of the Disney castle, which is a great backdrop. You’ll see most of the Disney princesses (though not Elsa or Anna from Frozen), as well as the corresponding princes. Check the leaflet for the show times.
8. Peter Pan’s Flight – when we visited 6 years ago our then 2.5 year old daughter found this ride a little dark and scary, but this time she loved it, as did our 4 year old son. You sit in “boats” which seat 4 persons, and are suspended from above. It moves quite gently, and I do love the beginning where you see a cityscape scene by night, from above, but Captain Hook does look rather menacing in the dark! Still, it’s a magical ride and a very popular one too. Definitely try use the fastpass for this one!
9. The Disney Stars On Parade – Another must-see, this parade takes place daily in the Disneyland park at 5.30pm. Last time we went to Disneyland Paris I recall seeing the parade twice, and it was a major highlight for our 2 year old daughter. Frozen fans will be pleased to find that Elsa and Anna feature in the parade.
I haven’t mentioned Hyperspace Mountain or Star Tours, but if I had had the chance to go on these I would have! I’ve been on Space Mountain many times in the past both here and at Walt Disney World in Florida, and it’s one of my all-time favourite rides anywhere in the world. Also, for all Star Wars fans out there, you can meet Darth Vader in the “Starport”. He and his crew do not break from character for a second, and it’s quite a formidable experience not to be missed! Professional photographer is present to capture the moment, but as with all meet and greets you’re welcome to take your own photos as well.
Shopping at Disneyland
Main Street is a fun and atmospheric place to wander and do some shopping. Our daughter was treated to a new Snow White dress and some accessories (her last Snow White costume, from M&S has been well-loved for 5 years!) I would advise though that if your child has their own costumes at home you should bring these along, to avoid having to spend exorbitant amounts in the rather overpriced shops, though it seems inevitable that most people will end up buying something! We also enjoyed the Star Wars shop in Discoveryland and came home with 2 huge light sabers which I probably could have done without…
Walt Disney Studios includes many of my favourite attractions.
- Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular – I insisted that we go to see this epic show which displays some amazing automobile stunts. Disney “Cars” fans will enjoy seeing the real Lightning McQueen, too! There are some loud bangs so parents may prefer not to bring children or babies who aren’t too keen on noise. The show takes place just a couple of times a day so make sure to check the show times leaflet and plan accordingly. There is usually a huge queue for the show but once the doors open it moves quickly, and there is normally space for everybody as the seating section is enormous.
2. Mickey et le Magicien – Another not to be missed show is Mickey and the Magician. It’s a vibrant, exciting show for all the family, with lots of singing, dancing and Disney magic! A lot of the show is in French, with a little English thrown in. You can see characters from many of your favourite Disney films, including Queen Elsa singing “Let It Go.” And you know you want to see that!
3. Disney junior Live! was a fun show too, note that the audience sits on the floor. My 4 year old was excited by the Disney clubhouse puppets and declared that it was ” the REAL Mickey Mouse!!”
4. Rock n Rollercoaster starring Aerosmith – Big kids and adults will enjoy the Rock n Rollercoaster which has an Aerosmith theme and music. We didn’t get to ride it this time, but thoroughly recommend it as we loved it last time. The queues can be long so you might like to use a fast pass for this ride (I’ll explain what this is at the end).
5. Toy Story Playland – Toy Story fans might enjoy the Toy Story land, which has a fairly gentle rollercoaster called Slinky dog.
6. Ratatouille – There’s also the Ratatouille ride here in the Studios, which is supposed to be awesome but sadly I didn’t get to ride it this time so I still have no idea what it’s like!
7. Crush’s coaster is in the Studios as well, which is a brilliant rollercoaster with many twists and turns!
8. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – obviously this one is not for the faint-hearted! Has some brilliant visuals, quite creepy and thrilling!
Should I get a photopass?
There are many meet and greets with characters in the Studios, including Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Spiderman, and the Toy Story characters. I recommend getting a photo pass if you plan to do some meet and greets, and if you’re keen to get some good photos of yourselves. It costs about 60 euros, but all of the professional photos that are taken of members of your party (there are photographers at many, though not all of the meet and greets) will be uploaded to your photo pass account as high quality digital images. You can then use those photos however you like. In addition any photos that are taken on rides eg. Buzz Lightyear, Thunder Mountain will be uploaded and saved to your account as well. A word of advice though, if any photos are taken by photographers at meet and greets in the 1-2 hours before your holiday at Disneyland ends you may have trouble accessing them, so it is important to plan for this. It takes a little while for the photographers to get the photos uploaded from their memory cards onto the system, in order for them to show up and be available for printing. You will eventually be able to view them, provided you have shown the photographer your photopass card BEFORE they take the photos. We got caught out by this, but in the end it was not a problem as I wrote to the photopass customer services and they were very helpful and fortunately were able to retrieve some photos of my son with Spiderman which I had thought were lost forever!
How do we use the Fast Pass system?
Make use of the Fast pass system! This is free to use. Some visitors may not be aware that it’s free, as there is often a charge at theme parks for this sort of thing. Basically in order to use it you have to scan your Disney admission ticket at the Fastpass terminal (usually located near the entrance to a ride), and you’ll get a Fastpass ticket that tells you what time to return (usually in a couple hours’ time). You then return at that time and you can board the ride via the Fastpass entrance which normally has little or no queue (depending on the time of day and popularity of the ride). You can only have one Fastpass ticket at a time.
Also note that some hotel packages may include fast passes, as ours did. Additionally if you have a disability whether it is permanent or temporary, or if you are pregnant, you can obtain a special pass from City Hall to reduce your need to queue (you’ll need to provide some documentation).
5 more Top Tips for visiting Disneyland:
- Remember to pace yourself and take breaks to relax and refuel. You and/or your children will become exhausted and crazy otherwise! The Walt Disney studios tends to be a little less busy and taking in a show is a great way to have a rest and get out of the sun.
- Book 3-4 nights stay at Disneyland – We think a 4 night stay is ideal, and allows you to enjoy the best of both parks without having to adopt a breakneck pace. Though you can of course still have a fabulous trip if shorter. If you have longer you could venture to the sights of the centre of Paris itself, also there’s apparently good shopping a train stop away at Val d’Europe.
- Bring bottles for water! There are several water fountains dotted around where you can fill your bottles up. Stay hydrated, without breaking the bank
- Bring suncream – there’s nowhere to buy this in the parks (at least, I didn’t see any!)
- Pack some on-the-go entertainment for the kids – the queues can be very long so you’ll want something portable to keep them occupied. We found the Animated encyclopaedia of Disney characters really good and it doubles as an autograph book…though it’s a little heavy to carry (we kept it mostly in the buggy!)
Coming soon: My next post is live! Click below to read about Restaurants at Disneyland Paris and understanding the Meal Plan system. Eating at Disneyland Paris is fun and can be stress-free, but it will really improve your experience (and may help you spend less) if you plan in advance! Sign up for my email newsletter to be alerted when the new posts are published.
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