“Family fun is as necessary to modern living as a kitchen refrigerator.” – Walt Disney
As a frequent visitor to Disneyland Paris, and someone who has first-hand experience of family trips to the park, we asked Steve to share his top tips for visiting with children, and found out how he makes the most of the fun on offer when visiting the park with his own family in-tow.
1. What do you think is the best age for children to visit Disneyland Paris?
“I think it really depends on the individual, but we first took our little boy, Lucas, when he was just under two-and-a-half. He was a bit overwhelmed for the first 24 hours and quite grouchy, but once he’d had a few decent sleeps he began to embrace it and very quickly fell in love with Disneyland Paris.
“I think as long as you take it easy on the first day, maybe go back to the hotel rather than spending every minute in the parks, then most kids can cope regardless of their age. I have seen people take babies, but I do think that is more a trip for the parents as the children are too young to understand what’s going on. But hey, everyone’s different.”
2. What advice would you give to a family visiting Disneyland Paris with children of different ages? Is it possible to keep everyone happy?
“Having never been to Disneyland Paris with more than one child it’s hard to say, but I think that it would be best to split into pairs when necessary so that nobody misses out, with one parent taking the toddler on gentle rides and to shows, with the other parent taking any older children on thrill rides.
“In an ideal world everyone would stay together, but the lure of rides like Tower of Terror and Big Thunder Mountain is probably going to be too great for most 10–year-olds to resist, and waiting in line for It’s a Small World might lead to a few grumbles from older children and teens!”
“Before we had Lucas, it was always Pirates of the Caribbean as that’s my favourite and always has been.
“Now it’s Star Tours as Lucas is a huge Star Wars fan. Star Tours is a lot closer to the entrance of Disneyland Park than Pirates of the Caribbean, so it does actually make more sense to go there first.”
4. Eating and drinking in the Disney parks can get expensive for a family. What are your top tips for keeping the cost down without having to head back to your hotel for meals?
“If you are staying on-site then eat a big breakfast. It’s included in the price, so you can fill up on as much cereal, rolls and croissants as you can stomach.
“Inside the parks, the counter service meal deals offer the best value, with something like a pizza, salad, dessert and drink costing you €14,99, or £11.25 in Pizzeria Bella Notte. There are children’s meal deals for €8,49, which is £6.37, and I think for everything included, that’s pretty good value anywhere, let alone a Disney park.
“If you can bear to leave the parks, then Earl of Sandwich in Disney Village is very reasonable and all food is freshly prepared on-site.”
5. Would you recommend meeting the characters? If so, do you have any top tips for making the most of it?
“Queues can be long – very long in the case of the Frozen characters – but most people will agree that seeing their kids meeting characters is one of the highlights of the holiday, and the photos are memories that last a lifetime.
“If there are two adults on the trip, then one can queue while the other takes kids to nearby attractions. In Meet Mickey the queue runs through a theatre where they show Mickey Mouse cartoons, so there is something to keep the kids from getting bored there.
“If you are staying in one of the Disney hotels you get something called Extra Magic Hours, which allows you to enter the Disneyland Park two hours before the general public. At this time they have characters out wandering around, so it’s a great time to meet them with minimal queues.
“If your children are a bit nervous, character meals in places like Cafe Mickey are a good introduction as they get to see them mingle with other people before coming face to face with them.”
6. Disneyland Paris can sometimes be overlooked in favour of the sunny climes of Disney World Orlando. What do you think makes Paris so unmissable?
“As it’s smaller, Disneyland Paris is doable without planning every moment meticulously, and from London it’s under 3 hours on the Eurostar.
“Practicalities aside, many would agree that the Disneyland Paris Park is the most beautiful Disney Park of them all, with a castle that is the envy of the world. Disney Dreams! – the night-time spectacular in front of the castle – was introduced in 2012 and is again the envy of the world, using ground-breaking technology and a combination of fireworks, lasers, music, video mapping, fire and water fountains that is unsurpassed.
“Many of the rides are newer than their American counterparts and are thus much improved, such as Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s also just a short train ride from Paris, and some of the most famous buildings and structures in the world. Plus, no jet lag!”
7. What do you think of the Fast Pass system? Is it something families visiting Disneyland Paris should take advantage of?
“It’s a great way to avoid the longest queues and avoid the disappointment of missing out on rides.
“Getting there early is the big tip here; as soon as the park is open, head to the attraction you want the Fast Pass for and then you can relax for the rest of the day.”
8. When you visit Disneyland Paris with your own family, what ‘survival’ essentials do you always pack?
“Bottles of water. There are water fountains all around the parks so there is no need to buy drinks whenever you are thirsty. If water is a bit boring then the travel-friendly Robinson’s Squashed capsules, or equivalents, are a must for turning free water into a yummy flavoured drink.
“Snacks are a must too, with Fruit Winders being a favourite for Lucas. They’re much better than the expensive candy floss and popcorn on offer.
“Probably the most essential thing is comfy trainers. You’ll be surprised how far you’ll walk every day, and fashion has to take a backseat sometimes to ensure comfort!”
9. What would you say is the must-see show if you’re visiting Disneyland Paris with children?
The aforementioned Dreams! is the top show in the resort, but for an indoors seated show I’d say Cinemagique. It’s a fantastic ride through the history of film with some great special effects, humour, and an amazing story that brings it all together. That or Stitch Live, where the Stitch character on the screen actually talks to specific children in the audience, so yours could be the lucky ones.
“For toddlers it’s Disney Junior Live on Stage, which for two-year-old Lucas was perfect, and a welcome 30 minutes sit down for all of us!”
10. Finally, if you had only one day to visit Disneyland Paris with your little boy Lucas, what would that day’s itinerary look like?
“We are amongst those families that don’t plan anything; for me, planning my day is too much like work! What we would do is pick maybe three or four must-do rides, and then fit everything else in around that and see as much as possible.
“The biggest problem with plans and children, as any parent will know, is that those plans tend to fly out the window when a character walks by, or when Phantom Manor is suddenly deemed more important than the Parade.
“If you’re just visiting for one day as part of a wider trip to Paris, stick to one park as you won’t be able to do both justice in a day. Oh, and eat on the go where possible to maximise your time!”
For endless Disneyland Paris updates, including all the inside info on what’s coming up at the parks, follow Steve’s Dedicated to DLP account on Twitter. If you’re a true Disney fanatics, his podcasts are well worth checking out too!
If our Disneyland Paris Diaries blog series has got you excited about researching your own trip to Disneyland Paris, take a look at our Eurostar breaks, hotels and ticket packages