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Family travel: Disneyland Paris

Take your kids away for an ultimate quick getaway to Disneyland Paris, where the ease of the Eurostar and the magic of Mickey Mouse pleases parents and kids alike — if you don’t mind the odd queue

Family travel: Disneyland Paris
A firework finale at Disneyland Paris. Image: Getty

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“There’s Mickey!” Our three-year-old hasn’t even set foot in Disneyland Paris and he’s pointing out the famous mouse in all forms — poster, toy, sign…

“There’s Mickey!” We knew he’d be excited but hadn’t foreseen weeks of “Mickey Mouse land” questions; our departure couldn’t come soon enough.

“There’s Mickey” And now, as we step out of Marne-la-Vallée — Chessy station, we realise that although today was the day we said we were going to Disneyland, we weren’t actually going to be in Disneyland until tomorrow.

“There’s Mickey!” This was going to be difficult. Thankfully he’s a little more open to reasoning these days, and the short bus transfer to our hotel, the Vienna House Dream Castle, meant a swimming pool with a slide would happily suffice for the next few hours.

One of eight ‘partner hotels’, it’s cheaper than the seven Disney hotels that are all walking distance and the regular 10-minute free shuttle proves as easy as the Eurostar — the trip from London to the 24-year-old theme park was done in under three hours. 

But it pays to plan with military-precision — which we thought we had but soon realised the following morning that we had done nothing of the sort. We didn’t quite get there for opening, (10.30am instead of 10am); we didn’t quite get to grips with the FastPass system (they’re pretty much all gone by lunchtime, if not before); and we didn’t quite get our heads around the food.

As the Insight Guide states ‘food is expensive and of the fast-food variety. Fresh fruit and vegetables appear to be banned’. We took this on the chin, although redemption came later.

Heading straight to Fantasyland — one of four ‘worlds’ — we rattled through several of the rides and attractions in quick succession: It’s a Small World, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs…

With some precision, but not particularly military, we left some key attractions for our second day, and focused on two of the worlds — Fantasyland and Discoveryland. 

With kids of a certain age it rules out several high-octane rides, which means less, if not a lot less, queuing. Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast was our main attraction for standing in line on the first day, before finding a spot for the parade, which is a lot more exciting — especially when the characters are the highlight for the kids.

We decided splashing out on the Mickey Cafe would be worth the money — and given the look on the children’s faces as Goofy, Mickey and Minnie toured the restaurant, it was. Somewhat to our surprise, the food was exceptional.

Passing on the fireworks — 10pm is a bit late, Walt — we all collapsed into bed again, and there was no waking them early the next day. Like I said, precision but not military. 

Disappointed (an understatement) when he was told Spider-Man would not be at Disneyland, our youngest was ecstatic when we found him in Walt Disney Studios Park. After more queuing, and superhero demands sated, we focused our remaining hours here. Designed as a film lot, it’s set up as a standalone theme park.

We went on Crush’s Coaster, Flying Carpets Over Agrabah, and Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin, before we split up. The subsequent queue for Ratatouille with our eldest was testing — over 75 minutes — but for us it was the highlight: a clever 4D experience, in which you race through Gusteau’s kitchen with the rats. Recommended — even with queuing. And that was that, a whirlwind 48 hours. We’ll go again — as soon as the youngest stops saying: “There’s Mickey!” 

A 10-minute shuttle bus from Disneyland Paris and the Eurostar Marne-la-Vallée — Chessy train station, the castle-themed hotel offers surprisingly reasonable rates for family rooms — our two connected rooms with double beds and a lounge area were spacious, modern and comfortable. And the breakfast buffet offered ample opportunity to approach the theme parks on a full stomach. A family room (double bed and bunk bed) costs from €85.50 (£76) a room a night without breakfast, or from €115 (£103) a room a night with breakfast.

Essentials

Who: Pat and Jo Riddell with Mia (aged seven) and Dexter (aged three).

Best for: Small kids, big kids, grown-up kids.

Highs: The look on the kids’ faces almost all of the time — especially when any characters were in sight.

Lows: The queuing and the food. Oh, and the tears on the Snow White ride.

How to do it: SNCF fares from London St Pancras International to Marne-La-Vallée — Chessy start at £51 for children and £72 for adults standard class return.
A two-day two-park hopper ticket costs from £102 for adults and £92 for children (up to 11). attraction-tickets-direct.co.uk

More info: Useful for planning: dlpguide.com

Published in the 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller Family (UK)