Over New Year’s, our family had an amazing trip to Disneyland Paris. I posted about the reasons I would recommend a visit at this time of year, but I wanted to share our experience of Disneyland Paris with three children under ten and the tips, tricks and downfalls that we discovered.
Rides Suitable for Toddlers
We took Cameron who is eight, Carly who is six and Benjamin who is two. I was a little concerned that Disney would go over Benjamin’s head a little as he hasn’t really reached the stage where he watches the films or takes an interest in the characters. He did enjoy our visit to Cbeebies Land in Alton Towers last summer though so I was hopeful he would enjoy the trip to Disney.
I needn’t have worried as Benjamin absolutely loved Disneyland. He was completely taken by the parades, fell in love with It’s a Small World in particular (waving at all the models as the boat sailed us around) and was mesmerised by all the Christmas decorations and trees on display.
Children under three years do not require a park ticket, which made me think Benjamin would be too young to go on a lot of the rides but this wasn’t the case. In fact, there were only about two rides which I would have liked to have taken him on that he wasn’t able to go on. As well as the rides in Fantasyland, we also took him on Pirates of the Caribbean and Buzz Lightyear in the main park and the flying carpets, studio tram tour and Ratatouille rides in Disney Studios.
Baby Switch Service
Neither Carly or Cameron are into the ‘bigger’ thrill rides – I think they are going to take after me. This wasn’t a big issue as we were travelling with other members of the family so Ed went off with my sister and brother and his girlfriend for these rides whilst I went on the smaller rides with the children and my mum, but if you are just travelling with your partner and children, there is a baby switch service which allows you to take it in turns to ride, without the need to queue up twice. Such a brilliant idea! There are also single rider queues, which often have much shorter queue times, if only one of you is interested in going on a ride.
Baby Change Toilets
When we needed to change Benjamin throughout the day, we were able to take it in turns as there are dedicated baby care centres in both parks. They are situated on Main Street, near the Plaza Gardens Restaurant and in the Studio Park behind studio services. There are changing tables in toilets throughout the park as well. The baby centres also have nappies to buy if you happen to run out.
Take or Hire a Pushchair
I would highly recommend taking a pushchair with you, even if your child is mainly walking when out and about at home as you are walking quite a distance between rides throughout the day and it can be tiring for little legs. Not only that but it’s quicker to get around using a pushchair and they are brilliant for nap times when it all gets a bit too much.
We actually took two pushchairs for our second day as Carly had ended up in Benjamin’s pushchair by the end of the first day. If you don’t have one or it isn’t feasible for you to take your own, the park do hire pushchairs out. Be aware that pushchairs need to be left outside of the rides so take all valuables with you and consider tying something to yours to make it more distinguishable in the crowd.
Whether you are going to Disney in Winter as we did, or during the summer, I would recommend taking layers with you, especially for young children. Being out and about all day can be tiring for children and when you get tired, your ability to withhold body heat is lessened. Thermal underwear for colder weather is brilliant, and light rainproof coats in case of bad weather is advisable. The pushchair comes in useful here too, to store things like coats, hats and scarves when not needed!
Avoid the Shops if You’re on a Budget
One of the things I find really frustrating in UK theme parks and attractions is the gift shop, situated just before the exit, forcing you to take children through a sea of toys and sweets in order to leave. Although this isn’t the case in Disneyland, some rides themselves lead straight into themed gift shops and there are plenty of shops situated around both parks as well, making it very hard to avoid them completely. The soft toys and souvenirs in the shops can be quite expensive (around 20 euros for a medium sized plush and 10 euros for a Minnie Mouse helium balloon), so if you are trying to avoid spending too much in addition to the park tickets, I would recommend avoiding the shops as much as you are able to.
Take Advantage of FastPass
I can’t believe I have been to Disneyland several times and only realised they offered a free FastPass system for ticket holders on the second day of our latest trip! I was aware that you could purchase FastPasses, at an additional cost, but some rides also give you the option of using your normal park ticket to jump the queue at an allotted time. Simply head to the FastPass ticket stations outside the ride itself and insert your ticket to get a FastPass for that ride. You aren’t able to get multiple FastPasses and have to wait until an allocated time to get your next one, but it is hugely worthwhile, especially when visiting with young children, to save hanging around in long queues all day.
We used the system for Buzz Lightyear and Ratatouille, both of which had queue times of over an hour at most points during the day. Not all rides have this system available so I would advise looking into which rides do and heading to those rides that don’t first thing in the morning or just before the park closes to experience shorter queue times. Some hotels and tickets offer extra magic park hours, so make sure you also take advantage of these.
Catch the Parades
Our family aren’t usually big parade people, and in the past we have used the parade times to take advantage of shorter queue times on our favourite rides but the children loved seeing the characters. Benjamin in particular was completely captivated by the Christmas parade, waving to everyone as they went by. We had an excellent view to the right of the castle, between Discoveryland and Fantastyland, as the crowds were thinner here.
It is also worthwhile heading up to It’s a Small World when a parade is on as you get a higher vantage point from the ride’s queue to watch the parade go by as we discovered by accident on our first day. Parade and show times are advertised on the Disneyland website for each day so take a look and plan your day around these.
Download the Disneyland Paris App
I can’t recommend downloading the Disneyland Paris Park app more. It was brilliant to be able to check the queue times of each ride in real-time whilst in the park and it also meant not having to rely on the paper maps to get around. As well as queue times, you can also see ride information such as height or age restrictions, which is great when visiting with children. There’s also information about restaurants and show and parade times. It’s free to download from the App Store.
Ciara also let me know about another app, Line Berty (also available for free from the App Store), which allows you to see character meet and greet times and locations. You can book a slot for these in advance on the day, but be quick as spaces go fast! If you don’t manage to get a slot, it’s still worth heading over if you really want to see a particular character. I managed to get a nice shot of Minnie on her own in between sessions.
There are children’s meals available in most sit-down restaurants in the park (there are also highchairs and bottle warming facilities), but be aware that other dining options aren’t as accommodating. For example, on our last day we fancied hot dogs from Casey’s Corner. Not only did I end up waiting in line for 50 minutes to get food, but they also didn’t offer any options for younger guests. I ended up spending around 80 dollars on large portions hot dogs, chicken nuggets and chips. I would bear this in mind and book ahead for restaurants that do cater for children.
Alternatively there is a McDonalds in Disney Village if you have fussy eaters and want something fairly quick and simple (although it can get extremely busy at peak times). Some restaurants also offer Character Dining, where children can enjoy a meet and greet whilst they eat. Be aware that this involves an additional cost and needs to be booked in advance.
If you or your child have a special diet, you may struggle. I travelled with my sister who has coeliacs disease and we had great difficulty finding places for her to eat and a lot of the staff in food places didn’t seem to understand what we were saying and even in those places that claimed to offer gluten free food, their lack of knowledge around the allergy was quite concerning for my sister who can get extremely ill from cross-contamination. I would recommend doing your research and contacting restaurants in advance to ask for assistance.
I hope this post has been helpful for anybody looking to travel to Disneyland Paris with young children. I am happy to answer additional questions if you have any!