Despite Storm Dennis, we headed to Disneyland Paris in February 2020. This wasn’t our first visit but it was the first time we have stayed at the Disney Resort, and whilst we had a fantastic time, this was definitely quite a different holiday to our previous visits during our year with an annual pass – we’ll have to write another blog on that experience.
If you have been to Disney you will know that this isn’t a relaxing holiday, you will spend a lot of time queueing, but the magic is real and it is definitely worth the investment to see the kids faces as they meet their favourite characters and become fully immersed in it all.
Getting to Paris
We have always opted to drive to Paris and head over from Dover to Calais. Travelling from Derbyshire it takes us around 3-4 hours to get to Dover, so we break up the journey by utilisting our National Trust membership with a trip to Anglesey Abbey in Cambridge. This property has a fantastic house, lovely grounds (if the weather permits) and a spacious cafe as well as really friendly staff who will spend time with the children. As it was winter we were also able to find lots of snowdrops.
After lunch we proceeded to drive onto Dover, despite the weather warnings the drive was actually fine and we even got over the Dartford Bridge with no problems – it was wet and there was some wind but we thought we were going to escape the worst of Dennis!
We have always booked a night at the Premier Inn Marine Court in Dover – this hotel is right next to the ferry port and as long as there is no traffic takes no more than 5 minutes to get to border control. The family rooms are comfortable and they have a nice pub where you can get dinner. As we always take an early ferry (6.40am) we’ve not had breakfast there but it is our preferred place to stay when travelling from Dover.
Crossing the Channel in a Storm
As we settled two excited girls for bed on Saturday night, we were quite anxious about what the morning would bring. Dave had been outside and the wind was increasing and we had been seeing on the P&O Twitter feed that ferries were experiencing major delays and cancellations that evening. We had even been told to expect the ferries not to sail the next morning. Sarah often finds it hard to sleep the night before a holiday anyway, especially when she knows we need to be up at 4.45am so we can be ready for check-in – so throughout the night she monitored the ferry situation and we pleased to find that when the alarm sounded our ferry was scheduled to leave on time!
After packing up, getting two sleepy girls in the car and passing through border control, we were checked in and ready to board the ferry with plenty of time to go. However as we sat watching the waves in the harbour and the ferry that had arrived, we couldn’t help but be concerned as to what our crossing would be like. As we got closer to departure time with no boarding instructions we doubted we would get to France.
However, 20 mins behind scheduled, we were boarded and ready to go. There had been some minor incidents during boarding with the ferry ramp hitting cars but once aboard (at least in the harbour) we felt like we would be ok! As we set sail we felt the full impact of Storm Dennis – the boat was literally rising and crashing down with a bang – this was one of the worst crossings ever with both Sophie and Sarah turning rather green!
We made it safely to Calais only 30 minutes later than expected and started out drive to Paris – with a short stop for lunch once everyone was feeling better.
Arriving at Disneyland
For this trip we had opted to stay at Davy Crockett Ranch which was booked for us via our travel counsellor Janet Tomblin. We were surprised by the woodland setting and had a little explore of the playground, pool and restaurant whilst getting our magic passes.
So far so good, the only downside we found was that we couldn’t check in until 4pm! Note for next time have swimming gear for on arrival as we all could have done with a shower and the pool was really quiet in the afternoon.
We decided to head over to the parks for a couple of hours, and check out how to get there – it is so easy from Davy Crockett – 10 minutes straight down one road once you are out of the resort and you are in! Access to the parks is the same as for those staying off site but parking is free (saving €30 a day) as we are staying at the resort.
Be prepared for queues to get parked if you go at peak times (usually between 9.30am and 11.30am) and you will also queue for security to get in but these never take long and before you know it you are into the magic of the resort!
We headed straight for Disneyland Park, and marvelled at the atmosphere. One of our favourite family rides is Pirates of the Caribbean so as it was a little windy and threatening rain we decided we’d head over there as the queue is all under cover. After a great ride, we wanted to check out the Frozen parade, however as the winds were increasing all parades were cancelled, so we made the decision to head back to the ranch to check in and go for a swim.
Swimming is definitely at its busiest from 6pm – the pool was packed! Even the relaxing whirlpools were full of children – the girls loved it but Sarah wasn’t quite so impressed! We left the pool in the rain to get changed and back over for dinner at the all you can eat Crocketts Tavern.
Food was fantastic, lots of Disney themed treats and enough to fill everyone, there may even have been some treats squirrelled away for elevenses the next day!
Day Two – Princesses and Parades
As we had booked a 3 night/4 day stay at Disney we knew we would need to have two busy days as our first and last days would include travelling time. With this in mind and based on our knowledge from before we wanted to maximise our time whilst ensuring the girls both get to do the things that were important to them. For Molly this was the big rides that back in 2016 she had been a little too short for and for Sophie is was meeting characters.
When you stay at the resort you get ‘extra magic’ time – basically the parks open 1-2 hours early depending on the time of year and you can meet characters (with shorter queues) and go on certain rides. It is important to note though that if the park opens at 8.30am you need to be parked up and heading through security by 8am as it can take a while at this time of day to get through.
We also decided to book Breakfast with the Princesses (we’ve done lunch before and whilst it was lovely the girls weren’t keen on the food). Today was the day for this!
Heading into the park a little later than planned, we first went to meet Pluto – who is now Sophie’s favourite – at this time of day the characters are great as it is quieter they spend more time with you. We then said we’d head to Peter Pan as it always has long queues and is a family favourite, on the way we spotted Donald Duck, so were side tracked and whilst some of us got grumpy waiting, it is was worth it to see Sophie’s face as she met another of her favourite characters.
Characters completed, it was time for breakfast!
Breakfast with the Princesses
With our standard meal plan we were able to upgrade to include breakfast for just £96.76 – it seems a lot but there was so much food and it really is much better than queuing at Princess Pavillion.
We were shown to our table where there were bread and pastries waiting for us, with a selection of jams and spreads.
We were then served drinks – a choice of milk, water, orange or apple juice, as well as hot drinks of coffee and tea. Breakfast was then served and were really impressed by the range of foods and the quality.
There we cold pots of salad, smoked salmon, museli, fresh fruit and yoghurt for the adults, with similar posts of yoghurt and fresh fruit for the girls, followed by hot places of scrambled egg, sausages, Micky shaped waffles and potatoes. Whilst not everyone liked everything there was more than enough food for us all and it was all really nice.
As we all tucked in we saw some Princesses across the room, and we got to meet Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella – not bad for a 1.5 hours breakfast stop!
With full tummies it was time to head to the rides! Dave and Molly went in search of fast passes whilst Sarah and Sophie went on ‘It’s a Small World’ one of their favourites! We regrouped for the carousel and teacups, before watching the Frozen parade and then taking a ride on the Steamboat which circles Thunder Mountain.
After a drink and sit down at OutPost (great rocking chairs!), we headed to Peter Pan and Molly had her first upside down ride on Indiana Jones. Snow White and Alice’s Maze were next, before a 4D show with Mickey.
It was then main parade time – now if you haven’t been to Disney you need to be in position for the parade at last 30 minutes before the published time – depending on where on the route you want to be some people start to queue 1 hour before. We struck lucky and found a good spot near the start this time. If you are looking to watch the parade from nearer to the park entrance, you will still need to get in position early but the parade won’t get to you until around 20 minutes after the published start time. The parade is amazing, and it is so lovely to watch our girls faces in awe of all the characters singing, dancing and waving at them.
Dinner and Fireworks
After all the excitement we headed to Plaza Gardens for dinner, this buffet restaurant is really popular and we had made the mistake of not booking ahead – however, we had seen the start of the parade, we snuck out of the crowds and got in during the lull whilst the parade was on!
After dinner, we explored the many shops at Disneyland Park, before getting ourselves ready for the 8pm fireworks, light and water show. We had picked out a spot earlier in the day and like with the parades headed there around 45 minutes before to ensure we could be a in a position where we could all see the castle. This show is amazing, we are all in awe of the seamless coordination of the animation, water, lights, music and fireworks. This was the first time Sophie had seen this, having fallen asleep on all of our previous visits, so it was great to see her face in awe at the castle at night.
Exhausted we headed back to the ranch for a good nights sleep ready to do it all again tomorrow!