Tuesday 26 July 2016

Doing Disney With A Toddler In Tow!!

Last September, after much deliberation and sums we booked to go Disneyland Paris in January. Last minute as ever we finally booked on the last day of their special offer, within hours of the cut off!! With only a few months until the holiday, Christmas in-between and a toddler in tow we decided that planning and organisation were key to saving us a few quid and making it as stress free as possible!

So I'm going to share with you what we did each day, how our trip went and how being prepared made our trip to Disneyland Paris easy, even with a toddler on his first trip abroad!

Mum and Dad with a toddler on Main Street at Disneyland Paris with castle in the background

Last September, after much deliberation and sums we booked to go Disneyland Paris in January. Last minute as ever we finally booked on the last day of their special offer, within hours of the cut off!! With only a few months until the holiday, Christmas in-between and a toddler in tow we decided that planning and organisation were key to saving us a few quid and making it as stress free as possible!

So I'm going to share with you what we did each day, how our trip went and how being prepared made our trip to Disneyland Paris easy, even with a toddler on his first trip abroad!

Here's a quick summary of our days.

Sunday - Drove down to Heathrow. Stayed in the T5 Travelodge. Welcoming, friendly service on check in. 

Monday - Drove a few minutes to T5 and parked in the long stay parking. We have breakfast in Giraffe and collect babs milk from Boots. Flying with British Airways and transfer from Charles de Gaulle with Ezyshuttle. Arrive at Newport Bay and receive a warm welcome from Christian on the Compass Club reception, with all our passes, keys and ride fastpasses issued. We quickly unpacked, freshened up and headed to Annette's in the Disney village for a late lunch. We then went into the Disneyland Park with our first stop being A Small World! We head back to the hotel after a toddler meltdown and get snacks and drinks in the Compass Club.

  Child sitting between Mum and Dad on a ride at Disneyland
  (A Small World - has to be done!)

Tuesday - Breakfast in the Compass Club. We head to the Disneyland Park again and there's plenty of rides and character meetings throughout the day. We have lunch at The Lady and The Tramp themed Pizzeria Bella Notte. We share a pizza meal deal and buy extra drinks. We watch the parade opposite Casey's Corner and head straight to the Plaza Gardens Restaurant for the great buffet! The added bonus is we don't have to pay for Joseph and he probably eats more than both of us! We stay until closing and catch the amazing Disney Dreams huddled together under a blanket. I think this is my favourite day!

Mum and toddler with Donald Duck!
(Morning Donald!)

Wednesday - Breakfast and then onto Disney Studios. We then had fast food meals at Restaurant en Coulisse. Babs and I share nuggets and fries. It's a dull rainy day so we have tea from the selection in the Compass Club, which is made up of mini rolls, crisps, cakes and cookies.

Thursday - We do a bit of pre-packing before breakfast and head into the Disneyland Park. We get the lovely Disney hot chocolates at Cafe Hyperion and have lunch from the items we may or may not have swiped from breakfast! We have a lovely meal at The Rainforest Cafe in Disney Village, with us both having the set menu. Joseph has a kids meal but he is absolutely exhausted and spends most the time stealing mine, so he could of just had some of ours! We head back for a rest but have an unsettled night as we are aware of an incident at another hotel.

Friday - We take our time at breakfast and arrange for our cases to be collected and put into storage. We go for one last go on A Small World and have a wander round the shops in the Disneyland Park and the village. We make a stop at Starbucks but the staff aren't overly friendly and they stand around talking when there's tables to be cleared and the customers waiting. We relax in the Compass Club and wait for our transfer, again by Ezyshuttle. We fly back using BA again and have great service on the way back as we are ushered passed all the the business travellers and helped to settle in.

Now, here's my tips for you to have a great time at Disneyland Paris with a toddler in tow!

1 - Do you research!
Even though we booked it last minute I had spent hours hunched over the laptop figuring out which package was right for us, how to travel, which hotel to stay at, where to eat etc, Beside the usual Google searches I also took a look at TripAdvisor. There's some great, brutally honest views to help way up what's for you and what isn't. I also took a look at the forums. These are a fantastic resource, with some of the contributors being annual passes holders who visit repeatedly over the year. They can give you some great tips and it's well worth having a look at the posts of those regulars. We can credit them with being one of the reasons we had such a good time!

Whilst browsing the forum I found a lot of people didn't go for a package deal so I spent a while having a flick round the internet looking for the best prices and if a package or booking things individually would work out better cost wise for us. We decide it was cheaper for us to book things separately and although this would normally have terrified me, I felt more confident with the support of my new forum friends. I won't bore you with all the searches I did and the cost comparisons but here's a summary of what we went with and why.

Travel - by air with British Airways from Heathrow T5.
I expect this will be a shocker to most but they worked out cheaper than EasyJet. It's not practical to take small carry on bags for a wintry week in Paris with a toddler and luggage is where the budget airlines sting you. British Airways also let you pre-book your seats FREE OF CHARGE when you travel with little ones, which personally I think is bloody brilliant!. They also let you board first if you want too. We missed the first few minutes of the gate opening but were ushered to the front. You can also take your pushchair to the gate and part way up the tunnel BUT beware it may not be at the door as promised when you disembark as this depends on the luggage handlers. You also have to check it in when flying back from Charles de Gaulle. The saving in travelling by air meant we could stay in a Travelodge near to Terminal 5 the night before, so even less stress to get there! Plus we pre-booked our parking and saved around £50!

Things to consider
We would have used the direct to Disneyland Paris Eurostar but it wasn't running at all on the week we travelled. Having used the local trains before there was no way I fancied doing the normal Eurostar and RER again with a toddler in tow!!

Transfer - by private transfer courtsey of Ezyshuttle. 
A great service by a family run company. We were greeted by an English speaking driver, who was super friendly and helped us with the luggage. The company also ask for the age of your child on booking and collect you with the right sized car seat, all fitted and ready to go. They just ask that you check it over. John, the owner of the company also text me the day before we travelled and on the day. We also used their service on the return journey and John text me that day too, having kept a close eye on the traffic due to the local strikes and protests. This was really reassuring and I would recommend the service and use it again.

Things to consider
There is a transfer bus but it isn't overly regular during the low season and it would have taken nearly two hours, which I didn't fancy with a tired toddler!

Accommodation - Newport Bay Hotel on the Disneyland Paris resort. 
This was a bit of a gamble! We had heard very mixed reports as the hotel was coming to an end of a major refurbishment. We decide to take the chance having stayed there a few years ago with my brother and his family. Cost wise it was more or less in the middle when it comes to resort hotels. The same goes for the walking distance to the park. We were also offered an upgrade at booking for around £50. This really paid off! We got a better room and were given an even larger room when we checked in. We had breakfast in the Compass Club and it wasn't just a standard continental. There was sausage, bacon, potatoes, name it they had it! Even better, we could go when we want and there were no time slots! There were also snacks and drinks available at the Compass Club all day, including crisps, cookies, cake, fruit and mini sandwiches. Plus the only refurb work being done was the last of the window frames and the gardens. The staff in the Compass Club were very attentive and helpful. Staying on resort there was also the added bonus of a morning visit of a character in the lobby!

Newport Bay hotel room     Newport Bay hotel room - bathroom area

Newport Bay room - wardrobe area     Newport Bay bathroom - robes hanging on doors     Newport Bay hotel room with dad and son in background

Newport Bay bathroom

Things to consider
Obviously you can stay offsite but you then need to take into account the cost of your park tickets, which are normally included in the price when you book a Disneyland Paris resort hotel.

If you want to save on costs you've really, really, got to do your research. It might take a few hours but you could save a couple of hundred quid in the process. 

2. Plan, plan and plan some more!
This goes along with the research. Take the time to look at park maps, restaurants, baby changing areas etc. Consider the time you'll need to get up, have breakfast and out to the parks. Can you make use of the extra magic hours? If not, take it easy and don't rush. What time do you want to have lunch and how much do you want to spend? Look at the meal deals and sharing. The forums are again a great source of information for pricing and recommendations. Flixster is also worth a look as people post pictures of menus, prices and their meals. This gives you a great idea of how much you're going to need to spend. We planned our first few days like clock work and these were definitely the better days. The ones we didn't plan we found ourselves debating where to eat and which rides to do. Not ideal with a hungry, tired toddler in tow.

Things to consider
Be prepared for a spanner to be thrown in the works though! If you're little ones tired and won't nap in the pushchair whilst in the parks call it a day. Nobody, least or all you wants to hear a toddler tantrum or meltdown. Joseph had his first one on the first afternoon whilst waiting for the parade, so with most the crowd looking at us we walked back to the hotel. He fell asleep on the way back and we enjoyed the comforts of the Compass Club as he napped in the pushchair beside us! 

Toddler napping in a pushchair
(Post-tantrum nap!)

Consider downloading the Disneyland Paris app before you go and give it a glance a few times before you go. This helped us see the quieter wait times the week before we went and helped us plan which rides we were going to do when and was a great resource.

3. Organise!!
I think this goes without saying but it is key to having a good time and not being stressed! I admit that I was perhaps a bit over the top with this but hey it worked! As we were packing I laid out each of our outfits so not to take too many clothes and then I packed them in day order. I even went as far as to put the underwear with them! 

I also prepared snack packs with a variety of Joseph's favourite snacks to keep him occupied in the queues. Although I did find a number of raisins in my bra at then end of the day!

4. Take all the essentials!
If needed you can venture to the station shops or to the shopping centre a few miles away to stock up but if you have the space take everything you need. That way you aren't losing time that could be spent having fun! 

As we were very lucky with our British Airways luggage allowance I took the lot! Nappies, wipes, nappy sacks, all the creams and bath items you would usual take as well as Joseph's prescribed ones. All of the creams were put in smaller pots but I labelled them in case our luggage was checked. I acknowledge that Sudocrem isn't an international smuggling issue but I thought it best with the amount of different ones we had to take! 

I also took medicines in sachets, having a learnt lesson from the trip with my brother and his family. This was before the nearby village was finished and there was no chemist insight! 

Babs still has milk at night so I also took bottles and a sponge and washing up liquid to wash them with! As I mentioned before I used the Boots milk service to buy ready mixed cartons. Sadly, I didn't have the best experience with this as it took ages for my order to be found but I did complain and they have made the service easier as a result.

As it was a January trip so I also took extra layers, hats and scarves. There was bedding in the travel cot but I took some extra and his usual sleep bags, so it smelt of home and babs was warm enough. 

Toddler asleep in a cotbed
(Last night exhaustion)

5. Consider the extras
Meal plans, character meals and photo packages aren't for everyone but they are something to consider once you're there. 

The extra we went with was the PhotoPass. The photographer got some really great shots and as we were on orders from both sets of grandparents to get a nice picture we went with the pass. Once we'd added added up the cost of individual snaps it was better value to get the PhotoPass. We then got all the photos taken by the Disney photographers as well as the ones taken by them and us on our phones.

Here's a few of my favourites, taken both by us and the Disney photographer.

Toddler on the teacups at Disneyland Paris
Toddler on the teacups at Disneyland Paris

Toddler meeting Mickey Mouse

(Babs was so excited to see Mickey that he ran back to tell the other people in the queue!)     

Toddler meeting Mickey Mouse

Toddler and Mum and Dad meeting Mickey Mouse 

Toddler kissing Mickey

Dad, toddler and meeting Mickey
(Mickey and Daddy having a chat about Spider-Man)

Mum, Dad and toddler meeting Woody 

*Super Top Tips*

Checkout cashback websites, like Quidco and see if you can save even more money. When I booked Travelodge, Heathrow Parking, British Airways and Disneyland Paris were all offering cashback via Quidco!

Buy a small new toy or book, or even hide a favourite a week before and give to your toddler on the plane as you wait for take off to distract them. I got a bargain little set of Cars books, with accompanying Lightening McQueen on offer in Mothercare before we travelled.

There's no children's television channels on the hotel networks but there is free wifi. Take a tablet, kindle or ipad if you want to distract the kids for a few minutes.

Consider upgrading if you can. As I've said we got a great deal and only paid an additional £50 to be in the Compass Club area and with the better breakfast, snacks, drinks and 
amazing staff it was worth its weight in gold!

There's nappy changing areas in both the ladies and gents toilets, so take a break Mum's and let Dad's take a turn! 

Hit the buffet restaurants! Under 3's are free! 

Toddler in a Mickey highchair

A lot of my tips are complete commonsense but hopefully my advice and tips with give you a little guidance in how to have a truly magic time at Disneyland Paris, even with a toddler in tow!

Safe travels and enjoy the magic!

Mummy Snowy Owl

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