Being a small child is undoubtedly a magical time. I mean, delicious home-cooked food appears in front of you instantly, as if by magic.
Clean clothes (sometimes ironed), miraculously appear in your drawers in a magical puff of laundry powder.
Door-to-door transport magically appears in a mysterious puff of exhaust fumes and if that wasn’t enough, at Christmas time, an actual magic old man comes down the chimney to your actual house and leaves a stack of gifts almost as tall as you are – and if you lose a tooth, say no more! Literal money falls out of your pillows where your teeth were once safely stored. What an incredible world to live in.
Then, slowly, sadly, tragically but surely, that magic starts to fade for children.
They suddenly notice that the world isn’t quite as magical as first observed. They discover arguments and tantrums and opinions and the heavy black storm clouds of the teenage years gather ominously on the horizon, rumbling ominously with the promise of acne, teenage heartbreak, and hormones.
Parents and guardians nervously see those storm clouds coming in from several years away and anxiously batten down the hatches and hide their best alcohol, as best they can.
So, if you do have children, you can be completely forgiven for finding yourself desperately thinking of ways to keep the magic and innocence going for just that little bit longer, before the children discover whatever passes for fashion, and whatever passes for music these days.
You’ll take them on magical days out filled with wisdom and wonder. You’ll buy them hordes of books that take them on little adventures in their minds and purchase toys to keep their imaginations going just that little bit longer. Until you realise these are all basically delaying tactics because the only way to get a real injection of magic and wonder is an inevitable trip to Disneyland.
You’ll resist, of course. Grown-up people have no real business going to the land of the magic mouse and grown-up people who go without children are rightly treated as slightly odd.
Can you really cope with a diet of fast food and queues?
You’ll lie in bed wondering if the money is worth it, if the experience is all it’s cracked up to be, and then one morning you’ll notice your daughter is asking uncomfortable questions about boys at the breakfast table and you’ll instantly panic and book a trip to Disneyland Paris on your credit card without thinking.
Well, at least, that’s how we ended up going to Disneyland Paris. Your experience may vary, but if you’ve got younger children, I’m willing to bet dollars to doughnuts (both available at Disneyland Paris) that your journey to the front gate will be something … fairly similar.
Trips to Disneyland Paris
I’ve probably said this before, but it’s worth saying again. You can buy tickets from all manner of websites online, but they’re just resellers taking a tidy margin on top of the official prices.
Cut out all the middlemen and go straight to the Disneyland Paris official website and start from there. You’ll have to make your first choices fairly quickly. Do you just want the park tickets? Do you want tickets and a hotel? Or do you need to have the whole shebang – park tickets, transport and a hotel?
Now in my blog about Harry Potter Studios, I observed that bundled hotel and ticket packages might be worth avoiding if they take you to a hotel reselling site, but Disneyland Paris is a notable exception to this rule.
Firstly, they’re so massive, they have the corporate power and leverage to actually secure you the most reasonable rates from various transport providers and secondly, they run a huge number of hotel rooms and lodges in and around the site itself.
Family Accommodation at Disneyland Paris
There are 6 – count ‘em – 6 Disney-run hotels in the area with 5,170 rooms between them in the park area, plus another six on-site partner hotels that aren’t directly managed by Mickey Mouse himself.
But, they do provide free shuttle buses to the parks: the B&B Hotels, Algonquin’s Explorers Hotels and Campanile Val de France.
If you fancy lodge-style living, they also run the Davy Crockett Ranch which is about a 15-minute drive away, with 595 one or two-bedroom cabins and there’s also the Villages Nature Paris, a sort of Disney-themed Centre Parcs that again come with one or two bedroom cabins plus VIP options, although that does seem to amount to having a jacuzzi on your balcony.
What I’m trying to say is, it’s definitely worth trying the Disneyland Paris official website first and comparing the offers they give you.
There are many combinations to be had, depending on the size of your family, what you want to do, how you’re going to travel to Disneyland Paris, if you want a full board stay, or if you’re happy to self-cater. Or, if you just want to float about and freestyle it.
It’s also worth giving the dedicated Disneyland Paris hotel booking number a call as there are also a few offline deals that might be available. Then once you’ve got your official price, hit Google and see if you can get a cheaper flight/ferry/Eurostar/hotel from an independent seller.
At this point, you’ll be forgiven for rummaging in your fridge looking for a stiff drink as trying to align travel, accommodation and ticket options feels a bit like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube. As soon as you find some accommodation that works for you, the park won’t have availability on those days.
Align the perfect family accommodation at Disneyland Paris with the ideal dates and suddenly, the Eurostar you want to catch won’t be running.
You’ll pour a stiff drink and feel your temples starting to throb slightly. You’ll consider giving up at least three times, and every time you think of doing that, you’ll notice your daughter has started to get spots and you’ll hurriedly return to your Googling before puberty ruins another childhood forever.
Disneyland Paris accommodation works to a fairly simple rule – the closer you are to the park, the more you will pay for the convenience. Right at the top of the pile is the luxury Disneyland Hotel located right above the entrance turnstiles and between Main Street, U.S.A. and Fantasia Gardens.
It’s got a hearty mix of standard rooms, suites, and family rooms, along with on-site dining options, a fitness centre (yes, really – people do fitness at Disneyland!) plus an outdoor pool.
It’s currently closed for renovation, but when open, a room, plus park tickets, starts at a rather cheeky average of £4500 for a family of four staying for four nights/five days. This doesn’t include various meal packages which are an add-on.
Coming down in price, you have offerings such as the Disney Hotel Santa Fe, which is cheaper at an average of £2,400 for accommodation and park tickets, but for that price, you’d have to incorporate a daily 20-minute walk to the entrance gates, or there is a complimentary shuttle bus that takes you there in 6 – 8 minutes.
Unaspiringly, you can find us in one of the more pocket-friendly options, namely the Disney Davy Crockett Ranch, a 15-minute drive away and without any complimentary shuttle service for an average price of £2,200.
While I agonised long and hard about that choice, the magic is really about being in the park itself and there’s only so much magic that happens in the accommodation unless Mrs B has had one too many glasses of wine, so I didn’t feel too bad about the choice.
Once we arrived, I felt much better about the choice, as the Disney Davy Crockett Ranch was really quite nice, with a kitchen, room for up to 6 people plus a reserved parking space – very important if you’re doing a daily commute to the park area itself.
If you’re having a quieter day, you can potter around the woodland setting, the kids can enjoy the onsite pool and there’s a small shop on site where you can stock up on any essentials you might want. There’s also a small video game arcade, but I recommend you don’t let your kids know about that part.
One thing I do recommend is booking in for the “breakfast to go” option, where a friendly delivery person drops off a continental breakfast to your lodge each morning with fresh coffee, juices, croissants and cereals – a crucial time saver if you’re trying to get excited children sorted out for a busy day in the park itself.
Travel to Disneyland Paris
Wondering how to get to Disneyland Paris?
If it wasn’t for that pesky English Channel, getting to Disneyland Paris would be a quick drive down some motorways and Robert’s your father’s brother.
Sadly, the twenty-six-mile stretch of water that separates us from the Continent becomes rather bothersome if you want to get to some Mickey Mouse action.
Your options for travel to Disneyland Paris are –
- Driving via the Eurotunnel (cheap)
- Driving via a ferry (also cheap)
- Flights then a transfer (less cheap)
- Eurostar passenger service, which for reasons I don’t understand, works out as the most expensive of all the options, both via the official website and through my own, badly researched, experience.
I’ve written about driving to France in previous blogs, but essentially, while it is the cheaper option, it does come with the complete faff of preparing your car for continental right-hand side driving.
This inevitably consists of arriving at a ferry or Eurotunnel terminal, remembering they drive on the wrong side of the road, running in a panic to the Terminal shop to buy an overpriced AA “Continental Driving Pack” that consists of a warning triangle, a high viz vest, a disposable breathalyser, a first aid kit, a UK car sticker and some inexplicable physics-defying stickers that convert your proud British headlights into some shady French style ones.
As you wrestle in the howling Kent rain with these stickers, you will suddenly wish you were sat on a comfortable Eurostar seat sipping on some duty-free French wine as the countryside blurs past you.
If you’re more organised than me, which is pretty much everyone, you’ll have cleverly sorted this out long before the Passport Control booth comes into view.
You’ll also have to remember to carry your insurance paperwork and driving licence. Once you roll out of the ferry or Eurotunnel with your car now legal in France, it’s about a 3-hour drive to Disneyland Paris via the annoying efficient French toll roads, all the way to the House of the Mouse.
Moving up slightly, if flying works for you, wherever you come from in the UK, the correct and nearest airport to Disneyland Paris is Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), which has an hourly train connection to Disneyland via the TGV express.
CGD is served by EasyJet from about £150 per person, and if you’re in the mood for a real airline, both British Airways and Air France operate from London airports from about £170 per person, although of course all prices are seasonal and can vary.
The onward TGV express starts at 35€ for second-class tickets (reasonable) to 47€ for first-class tickets (fancy, bit more legroom, bragging rights on Instagram).
Lastly, if trains are your thing, then there’s a Eurostar service that will take you directly from the magnificently ornate St Pancras railway station in London. While this is the most expensive option, I will always argue for a journey by train.
Firstly, think of the carbon emissions you’re saving by taking a train over a car, ferry or, horrors of horrors, an aeroplane. If we parents are serious about setting the right example for the small people we’re taking along for the ride, you might as well set the right example when it comes to transport.
Secondly, since the renovation to become a Eurostar terminal, St Pancras is properly nice. Long gone are the soot and grime-covered train shed, diligently scrubbed clean during the restoration of William Barlow’s quite frankly magnificent station.
At one time, the single-span roof was the largest such structure in the world at the time of its completion, a sight that is still impressive today and as a result.
The longest champagne bar in Europe runs alongside one of the platforms. If that wasn’t enough to make your heart sing with joy, the adjacent and violently Gothic-style hotel designed by George Gilbert Scott is equally as pretty.
One day I’ll go and review that, if only because the hotel was used as the set for the video of the Spice Girls’ single “Wannabe” and any chance to wander in Mel C’s shoes is never to be missed.
Once you’ve boarded one of the 5 trains per day that run to Paris (allowing extra time for the post-Brexit border queues), you’ll be whisked to Disneyland Paris castle in just under 3 hours if you get a direct train.
But be warned, the direct trains only run to the park gates at popular times like school holidays and bank holidays, so check first you don’t have to make a change if you want to avoid the inconvenience of platform-hopping with small ones in tow. Ticket prices again vary by season, but start at about £150 per person.
Ultimately, however you get there, and wherever you stay, it all becomes rather academic once the main gates of Disneyland Paris heave into view.
As you approach the gates and the children’s excitement reaches fever pitch, you’ll notice that your pre-teen children will undergo a strange, almost magical transformation. Their spots may temporarily vanish. Their worry about if the girls in their class like them will disappear.
For a short while, they’ll remember they’re children again and spend the next few days in a happy haze where once again they’ll believe that good always triumphs over evil, that magic happens in the most unexpected places and that stories will always have a happy ending.
And that’s the real magic of Disneyland Paris.
Get your credit card out.