I have had the urge to take Mila and Iris to Disneyland for a couple of years now, I knew I wanted to wait until they were old enough to go on most rides, and tolerate the queue times well so it seemed like now at almost 6 they were ready for the magic!
As soon as I started preparing for our trip I found a group on Facebook called “Disneyland Paris for Brits” its full of people that go often, people looking forward to a trip and even people that are currently there, all asking advice and sharing tips about how to get the most out of your trip.
From this I found that it would be cheapest for us to travel there via the Eurotunnel, and I could save up my clubcard points to use against the price of the return ticket! In the end I saved £25 of clubcard points which equated to £75 off of the eurotunnel price, meaning we paid just £90 for our return crossing. We did leave on the earliest possible train from Dover, which meant we traveled through the night, so you would need to feel confident driving in France, in the dark. Luckily Greg is a much better driver than passenger so it worked out well for us and I only jumped up awake 6 or 7 times worrying that he was falling asleep at the wheel 😛
I booked our hotel, which was more like serviced apartments via booking.com. The Sejours & Affaires Serris Rive Gauche was the cheapest place to stay in the area, its close to a huge shopping centre (macdonalds, zara, primark, sealife centre, etc etc) and had good reviews based on it being a very basic accomodation, perfect for sleeping in and making some food of your own. We had a little kitchenette area which was great for us, we ate there the first night and for breakfast both days using food from the local supermarket, which saved us a lot of money! Another bonus were that it was just around the corner from a free shuttle bus (Turn left out of the exit, around the corner and jump on the stop outside the Hotel Elysee) which took you directly to the disney parks!
So once we had got to the hotel, got changed had breakfast and freshened up, we jumped on the shuttle ready for our first day at the parks. With Greg being into the military we had to queue at the ticket booths to get 50% off the park tickets, so if you have a spare armed forces guy knocking around its worth taking them with you, equipped with their ID card to save themselves and 4 others a lot of money! We paid £275 for the 2-day tickets rather than £550 for Greg, Mila, Iris and myself. We did queue for almost an hour, we didnt realise how long the queues would get for tickets, so next time we would definitely get there before opening time to ensure a shorter wait time getting in.
Once we were in, the emotions kicked in, at the start of January (we went 2nd til 4th) everything is still christmassy and festive. The Christmas tree greeted us, which looked amazing, and then when we walked down mainstreet for the first time, it started fucking snowing. Literal pure magic snow. I could have died it was so perfect. The girls were in absolute awe and I shed a tear while trying to conceal it from Greg!
We walked around Walt Disney Park in a bit of a frenzy, there was so much to see and do but I couldn’t remember my plan so everytime we went to do something, we were greeted with a long queue time and ended up spending more time wandering around trying to find stuff than actually going on anything, this to me confirmed that 2 days wasn’t actually going to be enough, and next time we will book at least 3 days in the parks.
If I am totally honest I can’t remember much from that first day, apart from the parade! Oh my gosh the fucking parade. So bloody good! We knew that because we had spent the night travelling that we were going to watch the 5pm parade and then head back to the hotel for food and sleep, we wanted to save the illuminations which would have been at 10pm for the 2nd day. So for the parade you need to find a decent space to stand around 40 mins before it starts, if you are on the pavement you need to stand on the edge of the curb, and stake your claim to your spot! It sounds ridiculous but it gets so bloody busy and people just start pushing in front of you, and your kids! So to ensure we had a good spot we stood on the corner, near the end of the parade route, which is the top of main street, where you enter the park (just by number 31 on the image below).
The parade is AMAZING its honestly so worth getting a good spot a while before. The girls saw all of their favourite characters (except Jasmine, no idea where she was cutting about, much to Mila’s disappointment). I cant even explain how emotive it is, I was in awe, Greg was tearing up as much as he denies it to this day, the girls were mesmerised, the music, the floats, the dancing, the characters. All bloody amazing. AND for a tip, if your child is dressed as their favourite character they WILL get noticed! The princesses will point and wave, and the princes will make an effort to come say hi/give a high five etc. Kristoff spotted Iris in her Elsa dress and come and gave both girls a high five, stupidly I was busy filming my nostrils at this point but the amount of joy on their faces is something I won’t ever forget. Aladdin also noticed that Mila was dressed as Jasmine so come over and gave us a little wave and a dance. Its those little magical moments that really make Disney. The characters are constantly in character, its quite funny to watch the princesses swoon over their men and they all whisper to each other in a loving way its like you’re actually watching their happily ever after right in front of you! Thats probably the cheesiest thing I’ve ever said but its so MAGICAL!
So after the parade we headed back to the hotel, on the free shuttle which was caught from the same stop that we were dropped at. Greg went to the supermarket and got us some food, while I planned the next day at the park. We were aiming to get the shuttle to the park for opening at 9am, so that we would be there all day until the illuminations at 10pm, cramming everything in that we wanted to do. We ate pancakes and pain au chocolates for breakfast, when in France and all that, we packed our bag full of snacks which we would eat in the queues, as we aiming to avoid stopping for lunch and going straight through to tea where we would choose somewhere in the Disney Village to eat just outside the parks.
The 2nd day felt so much better, we knew we wanted to get in and go straight on Crushes rollercoaster, it was the only ride that the girls wouldn’t shut up about so we headed straight there, to be met with an hour long wait!! I was fuming but we had to just embrace the queues, we couldn’t avoid them (unless you want to pay around £70 pp for fast passes!) and once I accepted that it made the waiting much easier for everything. I’d recommend taking a tablet with some downloads on for the kids to watch while you wait, although the girls coped really well with the queues all day to be honest. Crushes rollercoaster was a massive hit with the girls, they loved it as did Greg, I was a bit underwhelmed not gonna lie, but it was decent enough and I’d say worth the wait just for the girls reaction.
The next thing we wanted to do was to watch the Frozen show, now this is only on for a limited time, so if you are planning a trip later in the year it may be a different theme, but they do update you on the website. Now, meeting characters has changed a little since the last time I went (8 years ago!), for characters to pop up randomly around the parks you would need to be really lucky, you can follow ED92 on twitter who will post updates if Princesses or characters appear for meets, but none did while we were there.
Some are on a timetable which you can see using the Disneyland app, and you have to queue to meet them. Others need to be booked via a slot on an app called Lineberty. I noticed that Olaf meets were on this app so I set my alarm for the time that the next slots were going to be released, and kept refreshing the app during that minute they went live. If you manage to get a ‘ticket’ it will tell you that its in 15 mins…ignore this unless you are number 1, 2 or 3 you wont be seeing that character for at least a couple of hours! Just accept the ticket as quickly as you can! We managed to time it with the Frozen show as it told us that we were ticket no.68 and we wouldnt be seeing him for around 2.5 hours.
When I was watching the show my phone buzzed and told me it was our turn, which made me panic but when we got to where Olaf was situated after the show it was totally fine, we just needed to show our ticket number on the app and we joined the queue for around 10 mins to meet Olaf. BEST THING EVER. He was really cute, was spinning the girls around because they were dressed as princesses and was actually Olaf, like his mannerisms and everything. So if you want your little ones to meet Olaf, I highly recommend it, and to make sure you set an alarm to get your tickets! They go literally within 30 seconds of being released via the app so you need to be quick!
Going back a little to the Frozen show, one of my instagram followers Lucy (@lpyart) gave me lots of tips while we were at Disney and the best one she gave was for this show, to get a really good view. Fuck me it was the best. So I’ll explain it as best as I can… there are two parts to the Frozen show, you enter the lobby of the theatre and then they let you go through some doors to the first room, in this room if you manage to get to the far left, you will notice more doors, and after the 1st act they will open, making you one of the first people to choose where you are going to stand for the next act, which is Elsa singing let it go. We got to stand right at the front, Literally amazing. To see the girls so fixated on her was perfection. Her voice was AMAZING! Even I was mesmerised with her outfit, she was just so so soooooo good and the fact that we were so close was just such a massive bonus!
After the show we decided that we had done everything we wanted in Walt Disney Studios and headed back to Disneyland, as we entered the park main street seemed really quiet, and we noticed ahead that there was another parade happening but it must have started at the point where the previous one had ended, if that makes sense! We hurried up to the point where the crowd was following the parade and rather than get onto the pavement, we ended up being those people that join in with the parade walking past all the crowds, it was actually so much fun! The music is so catchy you literally want to dance along with the characters, I held back though…just. We got off the parade just in front of the castle as it was time to execute the secret spot plan!
The secret spot is where all of the princesses and their princes walk past you on their way to the Winter Waltz, a dancing show, which we planned on seeing later in the day (the timings are all listed on the Disneyland app). If you head through the castle, turn right and head to an archway where the path slopes down, and wait here for about 20 mins before one of the Winter Waltz, all of them walk past and give you a little wave! They are so interested in the girls dresses, they all point and go “Oh darling look how adorable!” to their prince, and although they don’t have time to stop and chat, that little bit of interaction is worth hanging around for just to see the kids little faces. Mila got to see Jasmine this time, so she was absolutely made up!
After we saw them all walk past us, we done a few other bits like visit some shops, paid through the nose for a princess crown, queued for the Buzz Lightyear ride and then made our way to the stage for the next Winter Waltz show. Now, I didn’t think I would enjoy this, but it was SO lovely. All the princesses dance with their Princes, and because we were behind a couple of rows of people, two really lovely ladies in front of us offered to let the girls go in front of them so they could see. I highly recommend this show if you have little ones that love a princess and a swooshy dress! There are fireworks, and some water fountain sprays to the music too, just fabulous!
At tea time we knew that people would be starting to queue for the parade at 5pm so we made a swift exit out of the park, and headed to the Disney Village for dinner. We chose the Rainforest cafe because I just love the experience in there, we walked straight in and onto a vacant table. Kids can eat there for 15 euros which included a main, dessert, and drink, which I thought was really reasonable. Greg and I had a main, a side and a humungous sharer dessert which we couldn’t finish and the total came to 110 euros, which I think is reasonable for four of us in somewhere like that. Our bellies were full of good food, and we got a chance to rest our feet for an hour or so!
Upon heading back into the parks, we decided to try and get on a few more rides before the illuminations at 10pm, Walt Disney Studios closes before the main park, so we went there first, and managed to get on the Ratatouille ride which was awesome! It usually has a long wait time so I think leaving it til this time was a good way to get on it quickly, I think we waited about 15 mins at this point! We then noticed that everything was shutting down so we made our way back to the main park to to see what else we could do before 10pm. We headed into Frontier land which we had totally missed beforehand, we went on the haunted manor ride, which was shit, dont bother. And then went on my new favourite ride…no actually 2nd favourite nothing will beat terror towers, it was Big Thunder Mountain – the runaway train. We did have to queue for like 35 mins or so, but it was SOOOO much better than I had anticipated. It was so fast, and because by this time it was dark it just added to the thrill! Mila was screaming “This is is so good! This is so good!” all the way through it, Iris was with Greg and loved it too, they’re such little thill seekers I’m so proud!!
We came straight off this with our legs shaking and the adrenalin rushing, it was such a good way to finish the rides off for our stay. Again, I think usually its a very long wait so going at a time like this enabled us to fit it in so I’m so happy it worked out like that.
We then found a spot for the illuminations, we saw people gathering by the castle for it as we headed into Frontier Land so they had been there for a while, I think if we had had another day we would’ve done the same thing and claimed a spot at the front, because although we did see a lot, our view was ruined by some inconsiderate assholes in front of us that had umbrellas and held them really high!? Like why!?? Rest it on your head you morons! I think next time we will either find a spot for it super early as I mentioned before or find somewhere that will prevent people from standing in front of you so theres a bit of distance between you and the crowd if you get what I mean. Maybe further back down main street? So your further away but have a wider view you know?!
Anyway, the illuminations, again, I totally underestimated. They were the absolute highlight of our trip. So emotional and beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it before. The music was amazing, the imagery projected onto the castle was amazing, the fireworks were amazing, the water sprays in time with the music were amazing, the lasers, urgh everything. Like they literally made it look like there were pink clouds moving across the sky in front of us, pure magic and I’ll never forget it.
When it finished and I wiped the tears away we joined the crowd to leave the park, it moves slowly, you just have to be really patient, there is hundreds if not thousands of people, everyone is trying to get out at once and everyone is tired! Its another one of those things where the quicker you accept its going to take a while, the easier it is to cope with! I know if you hang on a bit you can attempt to get the ‘photo’ of the castle all lit up on main street with no one else around, but by this point Mila had fallen asleep on Greg and become a dead weight so I think if I had suggested a photo op he would’ve thrown her at me!
Instead, we went back to the hotel (again on the free shuttle which there was a queue for but we managed to get on fine) and slept like babies, full of all the Disney magic, and memories to last a lifetime.
Overall we spent £625 on the Eurotunnel, Hotel and Park Tickets. We did spend quite a bit on fuel, as its a 2 hr drive from Portsmouth (where Etti & Roux were staying at my mums) to Folkestone, and then a 3 hour drive from Calais to Paris. There are also tolls which we were unaware of so bear that in mind if you do decide on the self drive route. The way there was 18 euros, and the way back was around 25 euros. The main meal we ate out at was the Rainforest Cafe, but there are plenty of other outlets to eat from in the Disney Village (including a Macdonalds but remember French Maccies portions is stingy AF!) we also had a Five Guys while we were there, which I should’ve documented because it was the best burger I’ve ever eaten in my entire 32 years of life, and the supermarket shop cost around 30 euros, which gave us an evening meal, snacks and 2 days worth of breakfast.
Spending money in the parks is inevitable, because there is so much stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to get in the UK, however some things you can get in the Disney store including a Sven teddy which was 30 euro in Paris, and only £20 at home. So my advice would be to check the UK Disney store website before you splurge in the parks. Also, if you want the Minnie ears you can buy them beforehand cheaper, or get some custom ones! In the parks they cost 22 euros, which adds up if you have two to buy for! Luckily Iris wasn’t too keen on constantly wearing hers so I managed to wear them for a while which killed the urge to buy my own!
I think if we were to go again, which we 100% will, we will book around a year in advance, splurge a bit and stay in one of the Disney Hotels, just to get the extra magic hours which is an extra hour before the park opens to the public. I think booking early enough will be better to get a good price for a longer stay. The way we done it was great for us this time, on a budget and just a couple of days away from the little ones, but next time will be even bigger and better, and I can’t fucking wait to dive straight into the Disney magic again!
If anyone has any questions or Disneyland related tips, just comment below and let us know. I hope you’ve got some good advice from this and if I remember anything else I’ll add to it in the future!