7 tips for Disneyland Paris with young children
The key to visiting Disneyland with young children is moderation. And preparation. For you would not be the first who gets carried away by all this fun and excitement at the park. On the one hand, what is wrong with getting carried away? Perhaps that is what an amusement park is for. On the other hand, if you are planning to stay for more than one day, you would like to spread your energy evenly over the days at Disneyland. Based on our two visits to a Disneyland park – Disneyland California and Disneyland Paris – here are my 7 tips to visiting Disneyland Paris with young children and staying sane.
- Choose your hotel wisely
We stayed two nights at Sequoia Lodge, one of the Disneyland Paris hotels. If you have kids who still sleep during the day, this is your best bet. You will be able to go back to the hotel for their sleep, older children can go for a swim at the hotel pool or play in the room or in the hotel lobby. There are hotels in several price ranges, all located around a lake close to the entrance of the Disney Village, a street outside the parks with restaurants and shops.Disney Hotel Sequoia Lodge is one of the mid-price hotels. We stayed in a family room in one of the lodges a bit further from the main hotel. I can recommend Sequoia Lodge for short stay. Both hotel facilities and room were sufficiently catered for a family with younger children. A definite plus of staying at a Disney hotel is that you can enter the parks itself before it opens to the public at 10 in the morning. Most rides will not be open yet, but you will at least be in the front of the line.
- Plan ahead
So you booked a hotel to start with. Now there is some more planning to do. If your children are looking forward to meeting Disney characters during your stay at Disneyland Paris, be sure to book this in advance. If you do not mind paying for this experience, have a look at the pre-bookable extra’s on the Disney website. There are some opportunities at the park to meet a Disney character without paying. You can find the time and place on the daily schedules, but be prepared to stand in line for 30 minutes or more to shake hands. Bring refillable water bottles from home and some small snacks you can carry in your backpack. Food at Disneyland is expensive and it is hard to find anything even moderately healthy. Maybe the most important part in planning your visit is that you want to involve your children in preparing the rides and attractions you are going to see. YouTube is a fabulous resource for rides, so they can see what is in store. Bring a stroller to the park, even of your child is large enough to walk. We brought a scooter with us, but unfortunately it was not allowed in the park.
- Early breakfast booking
Planning is the key word for a visit to Disneyland Paris. And booking your breakfast slot is key. You are expected to choose a time slot for the breakfast buffet upon arrival at your hotel. Since we visited with family whose children also wake early, we booked the 8 o’clock slot on both mornings for the breakfast room. If you do not mind getting up that early, I would advise you to do the same. We had to stand in line for a few minutes, people who booked the 9 o’clock slot had to stand in line for 20 minutes or longer. And since you will be standing in line a lot during the day, you might want to avoid that.
- Choose one park a day
Whichever day of the year you choose to visit Disneyland Paris, you will not be alone. We visited for two days and two nights mid-July. Both parks Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios were busy but not overcrowded. Although the Walt Disney Studios park’s streets are smaller and will appear more crowded. The new attraction Ratatouille had just opened the week before our visit, so that part of the par was busy as well. On your first day, stick to the Disneyland Park itself. And here is the hard part, focus on one of the themed lands. With small children, I would advise to choose Fantasyland. This part of the park caters best to young children with rides and attractions. You will be surprised how little you can actually do in a day, so choose wisely. Start the day with a ride that is not that busy, so you do not start your adventure with standing in line.
- Save the larger rides for the second day
We started off this second day in a considerable slower pace than the day before. We took our time for breakfast, the long day in the park did take its toll. But there was still one more day of fun and excitement ahead, so we took off to Walt Disney Studio’s for the larger rides. If you are staying in one of the Disney hotels, you can enter the park before 10 o’clock when the park opens for the rest of the visitors. So be there early and start off with … planning. It is best to go for fast passes to the most popular attractions, to avoid standing in line for more than 30 minutes. Your itinerary could look like this:
- One souvenir policy
Next to fabulous rides, fun and adventure, the Disney parks offer a lot of merchandise. There are themed stores in the different Disneyland Park lands, and a wealth of shops in Disney Village and Main Street USA. Before visiting Disneyland Paris, we discussed the topic of souvenir gifts with our kids, then five and seven years old. They could both pick one souvenir at the end of the trip. This way we hoped to avoid endless pleading and whining about all the wonderful merchandise displayed. We visited many shops, and told them to pick the gift they liked best so we could go back and buy it at the end of our second day. We ended up buying a Disney princess dress (Frozen-themed) for our daughter and a Buzz Lightyear blaster for our son.
- Choose and prioritize
Even though you have prepared your visit, brought snacks and drinks and booked in some play time during the day, you will have to make decisions every other step. When walking from one ride to the next, you will pass so many other fun things to do, your children will want to enjoy every ride they see. So either stick to the plan, which means you will have to say no to the children’s requests a lot. Or choose and prioritize while walking through the park. It is good to have a plan, but do not underestimate the power of flexibility. So for example, if you did not plan on taking the Disneyland Railroad train, but it just happens to stop at a station nearby, seize the opportunity. You do not want to drag your family through the park to ‘do’ the most rides possible in a day’s time. Your goal probably is to have fun as a family. You have a plan, but use it wisely and adapt it to the circumstances during your visit. And keep in mind, your children will probably have the same look in their eyes mine had at the end of two days of Disney fun …
Day one (all Adventureland)
– It’s a small world (short lines, great fun)
– Dumbo the Flying Elephant
– Peter Pan’s Flight
– Alice’s curious labyrinth
– Casey Jr. the Little Circus Train
– Round-about on the Fantasyland square
If your children are older than five or six, you might want to take them to one of the larger rides as well. The younger ones will love these too, they are both safe and will not scare the smaller children:
– Pirates of the Caribbean (Adventureland)
– Buzz Lightyear’s Laser blast (my favourite, Discoveryland)
If you still have the stamina, go visit the Parade in the evening. Some of us stayed at home at the hotel after a quick dinner at the Disney Village. The rest of the family went to see the Parade. The benefit of staying at a hotel at the park itself is, that you can split up without having to leave as a group.
Day two (all Walt Disney Studio’s park
– Grab a fast pass for Ratatouille at the entrance of the park
– Crush’ Coaster
– Ratatouille (at the time designated on your fast passes)
Playgrounds at Disneyland Park
If you still feel like you could take in some more after this, there is still so much to see and do. But if you had enough of standing in line, one of the playgrounds at the Disneyland park will appeal most to your family. There is the Indian themed playground in Frontierland at the shores of the Rivers of the Far West. For children older than five, I would recommend the playground Adventure Isle in Adventureland, pirate-themed. There’s also an indoor playground, located in the Buzz Lightyears Pizza Planet Restaurant in Discoveryland.