Disneyland Paris – the epilogue!

This has been in my drafts for FOREVER – so thought I should finally get around to actually posting it!  We’ve been away twice since then!! #holidayaddicts

So, I’ve blogged about our half term trip to Disneyland Paris, from my proposed behaviour plans in the prologue, to the ‘fun’ in the rain for Day 1, the lunch with Princesses on day 2, the ‘sod Mickey when there’s Messi’ of Day 3, the Snapchat filtering of a world famous painting on Day 4, and an emotional balloon release on Day 5.

But I thought I’d compose some advice on matters learned from our trip (and I will try and be the bigger person than just to say don’t bother with Paris, save up for Florida as they do Disney properly…………..)

Hotel
If you can – stay in the Disneyland Hotel, and if you can – book a Castle Club room.  This means you get characters at breakfast every day

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(the Disney ones – and sometimes the world famous footballer ones too!! #LionelMessi) which reduces the need to queue for them at other times.

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The fact that you’re between the parks means you can pop back for a battery recharge (metaphorically and for your phone) during the day.  You also get to enter the Disneyland Park earlier than the general public (although only certain rides are open for these Magic Hours).

The one thing I would say is that having a Castle Club room with a park view is fantastic (we stayed in Walt’s Apartment with a connecting room as there are 6 of us) but it is noisy.  You have a great view of the fireworks from the comfort of your room – but equally little kids may not sleep through it!  Then when the hoardes leave the park it can be quite raucous (and it’s not very ‘Disney’ to shout at them to shut up from your window……..).  Then the Disney music plays until around midnight and starts again at 7am – and for us this had a Halloween ghostly theme (last time it was Christmas music though!)

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Food
We struggled keeping everyone happy (but we do have 4 kids with differing tastes!)

We had an absolutely amazing meal in the California Grill in the Disneyland Hotel – but the kids meals didn’t have fries, which immediately meant child 3 had a meltdown.  The food was beautifully presented and the wine exquisite (but it is really, really expensive!)

Lunch with the Princesses in the park was also excellent in terms of quality (again no French fries) and a great way to get a few more characters off the tick list.

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The best all rounder meal, though, was in Chez Remy in Walt Disney Studios – great quality food – INCLUDING FRIES!!!!

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Fastpass
If you’re staying in a Castle Club room – and I think most of the Disney Hotels – you get unlimited Fastpasses for all of the rides that offer that facility.  At certain times of the day these are great (generally in the mornings) but at some points, the Fastpass queue can be longer than the regular queues – madness! And not all rides have the Fastpass option.
Sometimes using single rider queues can also be a way to beat the queues if you’re happy not to sit together in a group – I guess this depends on kids ages and such like.

Going into Paris
We paid to do a Disney trip into the centre of Paris.  This involved queuing for a coach at another hotel and driving through really slow traffic to get there.  Once in Paris we were dropped off to reconvene a few hours later.  We couldn’t face the coach trip back and ditched them in favour of the very reasonably priced train (double decker train at that) back to Disneyland Paris.  It was a straighforward, easy train ride – and so much better than hanging about and a coach.

Once in Paris then there are loads of different options for hop on / hop off trips – or even just walking – which we did loads of!

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The kids loved seeing some of the historic sites (although I’m not sure Leonardo was expecting teens to put Snapchat filters on the Mona Lisa……..)

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I am sure there are loads of other top tips I can offer – so if you think of anything then ask away – but there we go.

We’ve done Disneyland Paris…………….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disneyland Paris – day 1!

So it was an early start – but the flight all went fine (apart from quite a lot of annoying kids on the flight – other people’s not my own – although they did try too!)

The first problem was our pre booked Disney driver wasn’t there to pick us up.  Now I have to say this wasn’t a huge shock as exactly the same had happened to our next door neighbours when they’d last been.  I phoned to query this and was told to get a taxi and the hotel would pick up the tab as our driver was ‘stuck in traffic’.  We had a lovely driver – who said it should only take just over half an hour as there was no traffic today!!!  He was very informative – although spoke little English – but thankfully I understood enough of the French to translate for the rest of the car.

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Possibly the highlight of the car journey was when the Vanessa Paradis classic ‘Joe Le Taxi’ came on – being the only French song I know!! Reminded me of when The Proclaimers were playing in a pub in Scotland in May.  Got to love a good stereotype!!

We arrived at the hotel and were given all of the relevant passes and tickets even though our room wasn’t ready (well, after a minor confusion when they tried to check us in as the Brice family rather than Price family!)

We decided to do a bit of a recce of the Disneyland Park ready for hitting the parks hard tomorrow – but the benefit of staying in a suite in the Disneyland Hotel is that you get to permanently Fastpass the rides!  No limit of a certain number per day, or only one every 2 hours, anything that can be Fastpassed you can join the queue.  However, it would appear that MOST OF THE WORLD has Fastpasses.  I began to question whether FAST meant something different in French?  “F*cking absolutely slow thanks” was my suggestion……

We tried to order some drinks and donuts from a stand and it took about 15 minutes – again, this backs up my opinion that the French just don’t do the service levels Disney needs as well as the Floridians (I am yet to do California).

Buzz Lightyear was a hit with everyone – as always – and obviously Mummy and Daddy were the most competitive (Daddy won – boo!!!)

Then our suite was ready so we unpacked before deciding the only way we could keep everyone awake until dinner was to go out again – this time to the Walt Disney Studios.  By now it was raining – deep joy…

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The big 2 wanted to go on the Tower of Terror, whilst the littlest wanted to go on the Toy Soldiers parachute drop – with Mummy (oh how my day was improving!) but we survived.  Then we Fastpassed Ratatouille – which was as efficient as all previous Fastpass attempts.  The highlight of the queueing was our 6 year old’s incredulousness that the French family in the queue in front of us had 5 kids – it’s pretty rare for us to find families with more children than ours!!

Finally it was back to our hotel for dinner (although we all needed a change of clothes first as we were soaked through).  At this point the husband and I fell off the wagon – and had the first booze for a fortnight – a lovely New Zealand Sauv Blanc – but we stopped at one bottle between us (high five to us!).  We ate at the California Grill – which the concierge said was the best restaurant at DLP.  The food was exquisite – BUT – no chips, and the 6 year old was gutted by this (she is renowned for being *slightly* fussy with her eating!!) however this did lend itself to the comedy comment of the night.

Husband “Oh, I think that boy’s got chips?  Oh no, it’s actually pasta”
11 year old “You should have gone to Specsavers”
6 year old “We should have gone to McDonalds”

Aside from that it was a lovely meal (and from hearing about the food my friends’ kids have in French schools, I guess they have much broader tastes than British kids!!) but the 4 year old was asleep before her main course.

We’re back in the room now and after catching the fireworks and laser show from our balcony (which could not be a better view)

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the rest of the family are asleep, which pleases me as:

a) we have a long day planned tomorrow and
b) with them all asleep and off their devices, the wifi is much more efficient for me #priorities

So day 1 has been survived.  And as far as my plans go from my prologue:

1) No characters have been punched.
2) You can not Fastpass the ass out of the parks as the Fastpasses are not fast.
3) OK – so I’ve moaned about queuing – but I have not had any fights with anyone in a queue – as yet!
4) The food has been amazing in the hotel (but with an amazing price tag too!)
5) The rain dampened the magic – but even I thought the fireworks and laser show were great.
6) It is not possible to stay on the wagon when combining Disney, rain, European queues and hotel rooms.

Here’s to day 2……..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disneyland Paris – the prologue…..

I am somewhat renowned for being a bit bah humbug when it comes to certain things – primarily Christmas and Disney!

I am also known for sucking the fun out of things for being over competitive.  There were the owls in and around Birmingham in the summer of 2014.  Way after the kids had lost interest I was still insisting we travel around the greater Birmingham area to ensure yet more inanimate objects were ticked off our master schedule (I’m still quite annoyed we didn’t see them all!)  And then there was a friends’ wedding recently where I managed to drop the f bomb in front of the entire reception.  There had been a quiz, but 3 teams had drawn and so there was a round of ‘heads and tails’ to decide who won (deciding a quiz with a game of chance somewhat rankles!)  Anyway, I’m still *almost* sure that the coin was ‘f*cking tails’ as I announced to everybody present……..

Anyway, back to the whole bah humbug about Christmas / Disney thing (which is mostly to off set the fact that my husband is obsessed with both – just imagine him in the Disney Christmas shop!)  We’re off to Disneyland Paris this half term.
Last time we went it was Christmas – so at least this time it will be Halloweened up rather than that (small mercies and all that!).
We’ve been a couple of times before.  I have just about recovered from the first time – about a decade ago – where 2 glasses of warm milk on room service cost 38 Euros!  Admittedly the exchange rate was better than the practically parity it is now – but still!
So – I’m going to try and embrace this trip.

I will:

1. Be pleasant to all characters (I almost punched “Mary Poppins” at Epcot)
2. Not stress about the order we go round the rides (although I want to Fastpass the ass out of both parks!)
3. Be patient when queuing (hey, I did queuing theory as part of my maths degree – but that isn’t about how rubbish Europeans are at the entire concept)
4. Not moan about the food (you’re in France, where amazing cuisine is prevalent, but everything available at the park is either simple carbohydrate, fried, or often both!)
5. Generally have a ‘tres’ magical time

And I plan to do all of this whilst *possibly* staying on the wagon.  We shall see.

More updates coming soon…….

[Edited to add – this would not post from Birmingham airport this morning, so we’ve already done half a day at Disney.  I have already struggled with items 3 and 5…….]

Florida 2015 – fun in the sun? Or evil bootcamp?!

At the start of the summer a friend of mine went to the west coast of America and had the most amazing time – some of it due to her OCD planning (one of the many reasons we’re friends!) but some of it damn good luck – bears and whales for example.  Her blog was fabulous – and I can’t wait to do a similar trip in the future, when our youngest 2 are old enough to cope with it – but for now other US holidays are on the table.  Just after she got back we headed off to the other coast of the USA to ‘do’ Florida.  Proper, full on, Disney-tastic Orlando based ‘holiday’.  Us 6 – plus my parents and my sister and her family – so a party of 12 (the dinner reservation all LOVED us!!)

Any attempt to blog each day was thwarted by the ridiculous timetable my husband – and life long Florida fan – had planned!  So here’s a random summary of a family holiday to Orlando – with the party ranging in age from 3 years old to 70 years old!

The Countdown

My sister is 35 – but was possibly the most excited member of the party in the countdown.  She had a Disney app with our flight details in that was counting down the days / hours / minutes until our flight.  Which was all well and good until we had a 3 hour delay taking off!  But at least we could amuse ourselves at the airport with a selfie stick (and shopping and champagne!)

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Timing and weather 

Historically we’ve ‘done’ Disney at Easter – when the weather is perfect.  Warm enough to not freeze after getting soaked on a water ride in the day – but needing a cardi first thing and last thing. BUT the parks are uber busy, as the US and UK have Easter at the same time (no sh*t Sherlock!) and consequently lots of people go.  This time we did the last 2 weeks in August when – supposedly – the US kids are back at school. However, I have to say it’s still really quite busy!  And the weather is roasting – with ridiculous levels of humidity.  Apparently it’s always bad at this time of year – but is even worse than usual this year.  We’ve noticed it particularly in our youngest and eldest members of the party – just as you’re advised when the UK has a heatwave!!  We have many photos of the little ones sweaty and asleep in the pushchair!

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Accommodation

Before kids, the husband and I did Disney and stayed in a Disney hotel (he even proposed to me at Magic Kingdom – bless!) Since having the kids, the ability to escape the Disney shite magic has become more important.  This time we stayed in an amazing villa in Formosa Gardens. Only a few minutes drive from the 192 and all the Orlando parks – but in an oasis of calm.

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The facilities were fabulous – more than a home from home (as if we’ve had a summer outdoor kitchen in the UK!!)  We were able to buy supplies from local supermarkets (we had a Target (think Tescos), a Walmart (think Asda) and a Publix (think Waitrose – and my favourite!) within a few minutes drive). Even the chemist at the end of the road sold booze (when 2 of our kids had an ear infection I went and bought drops and painkillers for them, and bottles of Prosecco for us! #winning)

Planning

When we went last time there was the option of ‘fast passes’ – but these were booked on the day when you were in the park.  Everything is far more fancy nowadays – and through websites and apps you can book restaurants, experiences and rides from the comfort of your own home before venturing anywhere near Orlando.  You need to do this as early as possible.  Even a few days after the spaces were opened we’d failed to secure fast passes for anything Frozen related or for the Magic Kingdom fireworks.

Every day we reviewed the plans for the next day to ensure everything was already in place before we left home in the morning.  Sounds a bit dull and anal – but it meant every ride we wanted to go on and character we wanted to see was ticked off!

And this was the husband – also the planner – with his whistle and autograph books at 6.30am on the first morning. And I’m not joking…..

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Eating

Food is Florida is ENORMOUS!  The portion sizes really do have to be seen to be believed – and the breakfast combos of sweet and savoury are something else.

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As a group we were a little divided on food.  Our family of 6 often ate out at lunchtime.  We found that an air conditioned restaurant in the middle of the day was a welcome respite from the heat and chaos – and also meant the kids had eaten something decent at lunchtime, so if they then fell asleep on the way home at the end of the day they could be smuggled into bed without worrying they’d be starving.

My parents and sister and her family did more eating on the go.  They didn’t want the expense of eating out daily – but also didn’t want to waste time in a restaurant.  They would take a mini picnic and snacks.  You have to be a bit careful as different parks have different rules about picnics and coolers – but they never had anything taken off them when going through bag check. Which brings me on to….

Bag Check

Getting into every park means a big queue so that bags can be checked (poked with a stick!) by security staff.  We learnt that this point was a good time to divide and conquer!  So some of the group would have the bags to be checked, and others would go through the ‘no bag’ line to get quicker access to the park to sort out pushchairs,.  Which brings me on to…..

Stroller rental

At home we have a pushchair for the 3 year old (useful to pop her in if she’s having a strop!) but not the 5 year old – but due to the walking involved we suspected she might need some help too – so we hired a double stroller every day.  This made life much easier – and was a great place to hang the bags / fans / water bottles etc.  My Dad also found it useful to push the pushchair to hold himself up!  (And I was pleased, as if I pushed it, not all steps would register on my Fitbit – and the brother in law and I were being a *bit* competitive about steps!)

The only downside with hiring a stroller was getting to and from the car, which in some car parks could be quite a jaunt.  Thankfully the aforementioned brother in law was a lovely Uncle and helped carry his exhausted nieces many times.

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You can also hire mobility scooters for older folks – although my 70 year old father resisted!

Stroppy Children

Whilst we were in Florida, I joined in a regular linky over at Brummy Mummy of 2 with a photo of our 3 year old having a variety of Disney inspired strops. As someone pointed out to me, around most corners in Walt Disney World you have a parent telling a small child ‘come on, you need to enjoy yourself, we’ve brought you to Florida’.  Actually, come to think of it, I think my husband and sister both said that to me at numerous points during the fortnight…….

Characters

This is obviously a big part of Disney – and all of the kids had autograph books – even the teenagers!  We managed to see lots – and some were amazing (Cinderella did a fab video message for a little girl back home)

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and some weren’t (I came close to punching Mary Poppins for being rude and running off before we could speak to her – despite us queuing!)

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The boys took a particular liking to Rapunzel

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Photos

We took A LOT of photos.  In fact there are about 800 on Facebook (yes, I’m one of THOSE people!)  We invested in the various photo passes at different parks to ensure we could have all of the group / ride photos that were taken by the professional photographers kicking around.  For Disney this was amazingly good value and we really got our money’s worth.  We would definitely recommend this investment.

Be warned at Busch Gardens – if you buy their photo package it DOESN’T include photos taken feeding giraffes on the Serengeti Safari.  We were very cross to be charged extra for this after the event – definitely left a bit of a sour taste.

Pre-conceptions

Last time we ‘did’ Florida Busch Gardens and Seaworld were our favourite parks, and the ones we remembered most fondly.  So this time we were a little disappointed that they weren’t. Whether it’s because there’s been a change in ownership (which also meant no free Budweiser at Seaworld much to the husband’s disappointment – it was the one day I was going to drive home!) I’m not sure – but they seemed a bit less slick than Disney – and a lot more money grabbing.  Disney have the parking and fast passes etc down  to a fine art – and the other parks could learn a lot from them.

Shopping

Long gone are the days of 2 dollars to the pound – but there are still bargains to be had with shopping. We did outlet malls and regular malls and did lots of purchases in both,  My eldest daughter and my niece both bought Timberlands (they’re cool again, apparently!) and they were $150 whereas they’d be £150 at home – so a definite saving.  Obviously they had to wear them home as they were too heavy to pack!

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I also like clothes shopping in the US – as it makes you look 2 sizes smaller #result

Orlando International Airport

For a long time Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France has held my ‘worst airport in the world’ award – interestingly after a trip to Disneyland Paris.  But this has now been surpassed by Orlando.

Upon arrival at the start of the holiday immigration took forever, luggage then took 2 hours (due to a storm stopping the conveyors), then you have to either lug all of your luggage on a train (which is tricky with 4 kids, all the suitcases and 2 car seats) or recheck it in – which we did.  The lady on the recheck conveyor told us it would be about 20 minutes – but when we got to the belt to collect it we were told it could be up to 2 hours!!!  There is then not an easy route to the car hire – and they just send you off across an immense car park to find your car. But we survived – just (with a lot of swearing, and clothes so sweaty you could wring them out!)

Flying back out again was even worse! At the check in desk we were told that despite us having a 40kg luggage allowance each (Virgin Premium Economy) each individual bag could only be 23kg.  Apparently this was health and safety.  BUT – you could pay $60 if you bag exceeded this weight. This seemed utterly ridiculous – it is either health and safety or it isn’t?!?  So – in the middle of check in I was repacking bags to make sure all came in below the 23kg mark – which they did (I would not be beaten!!)

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Then, the luggage belts weren’t working, so all of our bags were lined up in the middle of the check in area – with people milling about them.  Not exactly high security!

The waiting area in the airport had minimal seats  – although thankfully we managed to bagsy some.  But the queue to get a round in Starbucks took AN HOUR!!  Utter madness.

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Some of us look happier than others to be about to board the plane!!

Once on the plane we thought we could be on our way home. But no,  the inept ground crew struck again, and it was apparent to our captain on the way out to the runway that she’d been given the incorrect paperwork so we had to taxi back.  Then we had to refuel, as she’d used up too much fuel on the taxing forwards and backwards  Argh!  So 2 hours later we took off.

And don’t even get me started on the rubbish service on board.  Children’s meals that had been sorted on the way out not available, entertainments systems that didn’t work, seat that reclined about 5 cm – premium my arse!

But we survived!  And some of it was quite enjoyable!!

We all came back exhausted, and it took a while to recover – a combination of walking 6 miles a day and jet lag is not fun.  It’s definitely not a holiday you could do regularly – in fact our kids have all said ‘please don’t make us go to Disney again’ – but I’m sure we will.  Maybe.