It gives you a taste of the ‘Wonderful World of Disney’ within easy reach of London – it’s just over two-and-a-half hours from the British capital by train now that Eurostar, which has a direct service to the theme-park, has moved to St Pancras. Whether you have Snow White-hating boys or Captain Hook-hating girls, or vice versa, your kids will love this slightly weird, rampantly commercial but undeniably memorable experience.
Disneyland Resort Paris is actually two parks – Disneyland Park itself, where you'll find Sleeping Beauty's Castle and the majority of the well-known rides, and Walt Disney Studios Park, which is based around cinema-studio 'lots' and has movie-themed shows and attractions as well as a handful of rides. You'll need a good two days to do the rounds of both, more if you come when it's busy (ie any school holidays). The Disney Village, which you don't need a ticket to enter, is basically one long strip of themed restaurants, although there are plenty of eating options in the parks themselves.
What to Expect:
Explore the Disneyland® Resort Paris website before booking/going, for special offers, new rides and attractions, seasonal specials and park guides tailored to different age groups. The park is divided into four different 'lands', with Fantasyland, for instance, largely best suited to under-5s. The website also has a day-by-day itinerary for those with babies and smaller kids.
Check out the times of the parades – kids love them, although you’ll need to grab a hot chocolate to keep you warm in winter.
Check out height restrictions before you queue – it’s a disaster if your screaming three-year-old suddenly finds out they're not allowed on a ride they’ve waited an hour for.
Make a plan as to where to meet should you get separated.
There are numerous accommodation options in and around Disneyland Paris, some run by Disneyland, where the kids are entertained by Disney characters at breakfast. For larger families, take a look at Disney's Davy Crockett Ranch®, which can sleep up to 6 and includes park tickets, plus offers free parking. Expedia has some great Disney Resort deals including park entry.
Other options can work out more cost-effective; you might try the Kyriad Hotel, which is 2km from Disneyland and offers quadruples with a double bed or two singles plus a bunk bed (top bunk for ages 6 and over only) for a bargain €70 at certain times of year.
If you are looking for self-catering apartments for your family, PV-Holidays have their City Val d'Europe Residence on the Disneyland doorstep. The apartments sleep from 3-9, and a free shuttle bus ride to the park is included. If you are looking to combine your trip with some sightseeing in Paris, PV-Holidays also have a range of central apartments. If a hotel is more up your street, check with Booking.com for Paris hotel offers.
Best for: The whole family!
Unfortunately the weather in northern France is more or less the same as in the UK, so it’s tempting to come in summer. Don't even think about it. The best time, weather notwithstanding, is January–April, when the queues – abysmal in any school-holiday period – are relatively minuscule, and when the best deals are available.
A variety of offers are available at any one time, including free travel and/or park entry and/or meals for children of varying ages, so keep checking the website for one that suits your family.
take the train
Let le train take le strain. Direct Eurostars from London St Pancras to the theme-park are (a) easy (b) a quick, smooth ride (c) better for children, who can stand and walk around, which they can’t when flying. Plus, staff deliver your luggage to your hotel (if you’ve bought a tour-operator inclusive package), so you can go straight to the park upon arrival.
Alternatively, you can take a Eurostar to central Paris, if you choose to base yourself there, and then take public transport (the RER line A4) out to the park (Marne la Vallée/Chessy station, taking 35 minutes). Read Dea Birkett's article on her family holiday in central Paris twinned with a Disneyland visit.
take the plane
Check with British Airways and Expedia for great deals on flights to Paris, 45 minutes from London (but remember to allow for transfer time). There are shuttles (VEA) to the resort direct from both Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports. Or Hertz offers special car-hire deals in conjunction with Disneyland.
Disneyland is a 2hr 45min drive, almost wholly on motorways, from the Channel ferry/Eurotunnel port of Calais.
Take supplies of food and water with you, or you'll end up spending a fortune on snacks and drinks. Some of the food isn't that expensive given that you're a captive market, but more often than not quality is pretty poor. You can, for instance, have dinner with Mickey and mates at Cafe Mickey (in Disney Village), but you'll be paying a high price for very mediocre food. The Lucky Nugget Saloon in Frontierland has been known to serve decent fare, and also has visits by Disney characters, but quality can vary so wildly from day to day so it's difficult for us to make any surefire recommendations.
It’s not cheap, with 1-day 1-park passes currently costing from £53 (£48 ages 3–11), 2-day 2-park passes from £114 (£102 ages 3-11), and frequent price increases. However, it can work out fairly reasonable if you get one of the regular free nights/free kids’ deals. Indeed, if you bag one of the last-minute 25% discounts ON TOP OF another offer, you may find that an accommodation + tickets package comes in cheaper than tickets alone...
It also works out much cheaper, with the current strength of the Euro, to buy tickets in pound sterling – so don't be tempted to leave it and buy at the gate or at an outlet in Paris.
The restaurants are – not surprisingly – overpriced, so if you’re trying to keep the budget down make sure the children scoff the hotel breakfast so they aren't that hungry for lunch (although you will need a rest and a sit-down).
The merchandise shops and stalls are impossible to avoid. You’ll do well to escape without a pricey souvenir.
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