Disneyland Paris: Day Tripping
Trip Start Apr 19, 2010
14Trip End Sep 01, 2012
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For the trip in question, my family stayed at a hotel outside the Disney Resort that was good enough as hotels go, but far enough away from the park to require us to get up at the break of dawn so that we could "make good time" (as my retired Navy Dad used to say) to the park. Even getting up early, we were far from the first to get there. I suspect people camped out overnight....but that is conjecture. Suffice it to say, I still remember my father driving us there..and the subsequent testosterone infused competition for parking spaces
Why do I bore you with these details? It is simply to give a foundation for what has been my ideological stance when it comes to visiting Disney, which is if you are going to go to Disneyland and do anything besides waiting in lines then 1) stay at one of the Hotels in the Park so that you can take breaks if needed and 2) go when there are fewer people to avoid the above mentioned hell on earth lines.
Since that bygone era, Disney has tried to make inroads on resolving some of these problems and has instituted "magic hours" for those staying at the hotels. This allows anyone staying at the resort on particular days to get into the park before regular opening hours. So, by staying on site, one gets not only the ability to retreat to the hotel, but also the opportunity to beat the crowds to the most popular rides
However, now that we live in Paris, it seemed ridiculous to avoid at least making an attempt at a day trip. In fact, many of the other Mom's that I know here have invested in the annual pass, which would incline one to believe that day trips are at least feasible if not enjoyable. However, I wanted to stack the odds in our favor on this trip, so we had the following strategy. First, go mid week. Weekend at any Disney is packed. Even if a tornado touches down, there will still be people who won't give up there spot in line on a weekend. Second, go when they are predicting less than perfect weather. The truth of the weather forecasts here is that they don't really have a clue. The weather is very changeable and there are very rare days which are purely one thing or another. So, even if they are predicting bad weather, odds are that there will be a couple of hours of at least OK weather in there somewhere. Third, don't go during school holidays...think weekends, only worse
Getting to Disneyland from Paris.
This is quite surprisingly easy. It is a straight shot on RER A4 which runs from central Paris to Marne-la-Vallee Chessy, and takes about 35 minutes. Once you get to the Metro there are signs everywhere. The only issue is that , if you go early on a week day, you could be on the train with some of the business commuters. That being said, this can delight your inner sadist if you do it right. There is nothing like sitting down next to some uptight, overly made up, self important business woman in a suit when you have two kids in tow. Particularly if one of them is under two. Even more particularly, if they are still eating bits of their breakfast. I can assure you that she WILL move away from you...and the look of fear and horror is soooo worth it. If anyone says anything, you can always do the "je ne parle pas francais" with the sweetest look you can muster. OK, enough fun.
We arrived at the Magic Kingdom at almost exactly opening time, which is 10 am on the weekdays
Once inside the park we made a bee line for Buzz Light year ride. Mind you, we had had a game plan when we got into the park. Our idea was to quickly go to Buzz Lightyear, get a fast pass and then head to Fantasyland to ride Peter Pan, Pinocchio and Snow White before coming back. But a 4 year old will lay waste to even the best laid plans of mice and men. So, confronted with a Buzz Lightyear with no line, there was no stopping Lucas from running straight in. In retrospect, I should have sent Ashleigh with the tickets to get the Fastpass while I headed to the other rides... but live and learn.
By the time we had finished the Buzz ride, an already significant line had formed so, rather than riding again, we made our way to Fantasyland. This is where we made mistake number 2. We got a fast pass for the Buzz ride before we left. I have no idea what I was thinking. I knew even at the time that it was unlikely we would make it back, given the layout of the park and our lunch reservations in Frontierland
After lunch we made our way to Big Thunder Mountain, as Lucas LOVES Roller Coasters. It was packed so we got a Fast pass and headed to Adventureland to the Pirate playground area. This area is a life saver if you have really little ones as there is an area just for the under 3 crowd. Just on the other side of this play area is another for much bigger kids. The only complaint I have about this area is that the escape route is a bit too wide on the side for the toddlers. A smaller opening would make it easier to fling yourself into their path as they are trying to make the inevitable great escape. But this is a fairly small complaint. Both Lucas and Sebbie had tons of fun playing there for almost an hour, which gave us lots of great photo ops. By the time they were losing interest, it was time to head back to Big Thunder Mountain.
Lucas had been whining to go on a roller coaster for a good month before we came here. In fact, it was one of the triggers for deciding to go. As Lucas is a very large 4 year old, he is tall enough to go on lots of rides that other 4 year olds can't
When we got back to Fantasyland , Peter Pan had an hour long line, and no more Fast pass. So we went on Snow White instead. This was the third ride related mistake. This ride really is too scary for toddlers. I would guess that 70% of the ride time is dedicated to the evil queen / witch. Seb didn't cry but his little eyes were like saucers when we came out
As Promised, The Lucky Nugget Saloon
In short, I will start by saying, if you can afford to eat at Auberge de Cendrillon, then do so. The food is not just better, it is in a different class. The characters are more readily accessible, and the staff much friendlier than at the Lucky Nugget. If you don't want to read any further, that is OK, just take this piece of information and run with it.
I had reserved a table ahead of time at the Lucky Nugget, having already had the experience of trying to eat at a Disneyland Paris restaurant without a reservation (in short, you are SOL). When we made it to the restaurant, we were 5 minutes early. We had to wait for another 10 minutes or so while the hostess contemplated all the possible impacts and metaphysical repercussions of the choices she made in seating the people in front of us.
As the restaurant is set up in an amphitheater type arrangement, there is very little space on the floor and lots of tiers on the sides with a bar and bar stool configuration for eating
So, there we are with Lucas and Sebbie shoved up against the bar between myself and Ashleigh. This set up creates for numerous difficulties. The first annoyance is that it is almost impossible to have a conversation with anyone besides the people right beside you. This means if you sit your kids between the two adults, then the adults will be yelling over their heads. If you choose any other arrangement, you up the chances of really annoying strangers as your child starts yelling or asking them for things...ketchup, napkins, stocks and bonds, etc. So we opted for the hand signals over the heads approach. The Second annoyance is that you really really have to go get food in shifts. The rows on the sides are not easy to get to, so you can't really walk away from your kids, even for a short period of time because you couldn't reach them very quickly if they need something or if they were about to bean someone nearby with a chicken leg. But the last, and most emotionally devastating part for kids, is that it is very hard for the characters to get to people. When the characters come out, they ALL start with the tables on the floor This means that your kids are watching the beloved Mickey Mouse talking to everyone but them
Mickey had been making his way down our row. Sebastien, who has formed a bit of a Mickey obsession at 18 months, was making these little "uh, uh, uh" need noises and pointing to Mickey. Lucas was being an unusually sensitive older brother by saying "Don't worry Seba, he is coming". Just as Mickey got to the people next to us, some sort of Mickey handler person dragged him away to another table near the front. I don't know quite what that table had done to deserve the special treatment, but poor Sebastien's face just fell apart. ..really, it just collapsed. When he started crying, it was not the "I didn't get my way" sort of cry. It was a "my heart has been broken" kind of cry. I had to take him outside to calm him down. He just sort of clung to my neck and sobbed. On my way out I had to walk by the hostess, who just sort of looked at me with lukewarm interest at best. I might have responded a bit better if she had seemed remotely concerned but as it was, I got snarly. "In case, by some miracle, you happened to be wondering what was wrong. He got snubbed by Mickey". OK, I know. I tend to get a bit over the top when it comes to this kind of thing but I really despise ambivalence. So, I took Seb out and calmed him
A Note on the Magic of Disney Merchandise
As we should all know by now, leaving the last ride is not leaving the park. You still have to walk down Main street USA to get out. They do this on purpose. They know that at this point you will be at your most vulnerable to the Disney merchandising machine. I could blame this on whining kids, but it's not really true. I, like many other parents before me, could have played hardball and refused to buy anything...or limited them to one thing each. But, truth be told, I didn't want to. ..it was as simple as that. Buying some of these things was part of the magic for me, so I didn't feel inclined to be too much of a hard *%&. In the end, we didn't spend much money on what we bought, and it gave Lucas some great show and tell items for school. Plus, I bought their summer PJ's there, so that was actually useful. My warning to you is....consider this when budgeting. Don't just think, "we won't buy anything" because it is almost a foregone conclusion that you will. Be realistic. Set a budget, even if only in your head, and you may be able to retain some level of control over the purchasing
In the End
All things considered, I felt pretty good about our coverage of the rides. While we didn't go on that many, we went on the most valued ones without a ton of filler. We also saw several bits of shows in between which the kids loved. The only regret was not making it to Peter Pan..but that will be for next time.
I won't go to the Lucky Nugget again. The stress of the way they have set up the character experience is not worth it with a toddler. I will most likely suck it up and go back to Auberge de Cendrillon. It was costly, but a much nicer experience. Or just go for the character breakfast, which we have experienced at previous stays. It is craziness, but that is easier to tolerate at breakfast somehow.
So, was it worth it to go to Disney for a day. On the train ride home, watching Lucas in his sorcerer ears and Sebbie cleaning his toy gun (what can I say..he chose it), I had to answer a resounding yes. We were tired but we made it home by 5 and the boys were in bed, happy and exhausted before their usual bed time. Since doing this, I have seriously considered purchasing the annual pass.
All that being said, I have already booked a stay at the Disneyland Paris' Newport Bay resort for Seb's 2nd birthday. I guess some habits die hard. :)