Thursday 29 January 2015

10 days and counting...

Well it's not long to go now until we head off for Disneyland Paris and to say that me and the rest of the family are ready for this small vacation would be an understatement!

Especially as the last few weeks have been a testing time with sudden family illness, broken cars, work name it and it seems to have fallen our way.  But everything is now looking much better and we are getting ourselves back on track ready for some Disney time :)

So in getting ready for this trip I thought I ought to be prepared for the cold weather...I've already got my snow boots and this week my new hat arrived...
Hat selfie!!
We're already to go with cameras as we treated ourselves to a new video camera at Christmas and my daughter has a 'Go-Pro' camera which should mean we can get some brilliant footage on rides.

I'm just about to order some Euros to go spending with and then I think we'll be all set bar the packing!

One of my Disney community friends (Jenni) has just spent a few days in Disneyland Paris celebrating her birthday so I was able to find out from first hand experience about something that I had resigned myself to not seeing - Disney Dreams.  I had presumed that because we are visiting in the low season and we won't even be there over a weekend that the show wouldn't be happening, but guess what I was wrong!  Jenni confirmed that Disney Dreams (or to give it it's full title A Night Time Spectacular Show: Disney Dreams!) runs every night at park closing come rain or shine!!  I am now one happy person.  I have heard so much about this show and about how good it is that I was pretty gutted when I thought we might not see it but now I can't wait to see it...and I've been told I'll want to see it again and again.  The show is a mix of fireworks, lasers, projections onto Sleeping Beauty's castle and water fountains and sounds amazing.  I have resisted the urge to look at videos on the internet and am looking forward to experiencing it for myself with no preconceptions just the hope that I will be blown away by it all.  I love the Wishes Night Time Spectacular at Walt Disney World and it always brings me to tears so it will be interesting to see what the effect of Disney Dreams will be!

The more pre-trip reading I do the more I am remembering things from our previous trips and the more I am looking forward to going.  I am really looking forward to experiencing those attractions that are unique to Paris like La Taniere du Dragon (a dragon underneath the castle!) as well as being able to compare and contrast the classics like Pirates of the Caribbean.  And having children that are that much older with us this time I am hoping that we will be able to experience the whole resort with fresh eyes.

10 days to go....

Sunday 18 January 2015


OK so it seems to be that every time Disney gets mentioned so does food!

The US parks are haven to some amazing food choices; everything from the expected theme park staple of burgers all the way to high end dining. But what about Disneyland Paris? Just what is on offer?

Well it's kind of the same picture really, there is plenty of the usual fast food, counter service options but there are plenty of other options including fine dining too.  But what will we be doing?

Although we all love our food and are pretty happy to try all sorts of different dishes, when we get to Disney we kind of just go with the flow.  On our last trip to Walt Disney World we predominately ate at counter service restaurants and found that we were able to get a good mix of foods with plenty of variety and even some healthy options too!  But we also made a choice to have one splash out meal which for us meant a visit to Teppan Edo at Epcot to try some amazing Japanese food.

Now I know for some people eating at 'proper' table service restaurants is essential to their Disney vacations, but for us we're really happy eating wherever the mood or situation takes us.  We're not hung up on 'having' to eat at the latest sensation or seeking out that 'must do' meal, we would much rather enjoy all that the parks have to offer and fit in the food as we go along.

On our last couple of visits to Walt Disney World we have taken advantage of 'free Disney Dining Plans' being offered by travel companies.  This essentially meant that our food was paid for upfront (or for 'free') meaning we didn't have to budget it into our vacation spending money.  The Dining Plan we chose in WDW worked really easily through a point system that equated to 2 counter service meals plus a snack per day.  But the beauty was you could 'spend' your points as and when you wanted throughout the duration of your vacation so some days you'd use the 'correct' number of points but other days you could choose to use up more, or even less...when the points were gone the points were gone!

So I was eager to see if Disneyland Paris offered anything along the same sort of lines...well they do...and they don't!  Apologies to any DLP fans who have used the system out there but I'm finding it really quite confusing and that has put me off which may or may not be a good thing...I don't know...I got confused!!!

From what I can make out the DLP system operates around Meal Plans - of which there are four to choose from, and each of these four can be for either 1 meal or 2 meals per day, which by my reckoning gives you 8 options!!! Depending on the option you choose depends on what type of meals you can have. So the basic option is just for eating at your hotel, the next option includes buffet restaurants, the next adds on set menus at table service venues and then the top level includes a la carte choices, character dining and a dinner show.

So I figure I need to work out how much we are likely to be spending on food as well as where we'd prefer to be eating and to be honest this is when it all gets a bit confusing. For example if we went with the buffet restaurant option that would mean that our meals would have to be buffet meals but what if we don't fancy eating at yet another buffet...does that mean we've 'bought' a meal plan that is redundant? Well according to the forums that I've been on I should be able to exchange my 'meal plan voucher' for its cash value at ANY Disney owned restaurant...but this could mean redeeming a voucher for a meal in say a counter service restaurant that is less than the cash value of the voucher...which means I would be out of pocket!

So my next question is what is the cash value of the vouchers? But this is proving some what difficult to track down bearing in mind that the 'meal plan vouchers' also include a 'free' afternoon treat - so we all know that 'free' means it's been worked into the cost of the meal plan  - so do I just assume that the amount I pay for the meal plan voucher per day is it's cash value or is it less because this includes the 'free' afternoon treat!!!

Argh! See my confusion?? Now I'm sure I'm probably missing something pretty obvious in all of this but at the moment I'm struggling to figure out what it is! All I know is that we are likely to eat at mainly counter service restaurants with perhaps an odd buffet thrown in and if we're really lucky a meal or maybe two at a table service restaurant and I can't see which 'meal plan' (if any!) could be the one for us. So I think I shall just pay as we go so to speak, because having looked into it as best as I can it all feels a little messy, and I don't want to be spending my time on vacation thinking/worrying about whether we are getting best value for our meal plan and then restrict where we are eating just to get the best value. I want to be able to enjoy the parks and all that they have to offer whether that be attractions, shopping or food!

I shall let you know how we get on!

Sunday 11 January 2015

Getting Ready

So we are now about 28 days from our trip to Disneyland Paris and I'm beginning to think about the practicalities of the trip and what I need to be doing before we go.

Now we will be there in early February...two reasons for going at this time...firstly it is during a school holiday and secondly it is much cheaper going in February than in one of the other school holidays like Easter or Summer.

This does however mean that we have to contend with some sacrifices, the weather being the most obvious.  It is going to be should be very similar to weather here in the UK but still it will be cold and as we shall be outside for a good amount of time we will need to be prepared!  I suffer with poor circulation so this is quite a big deal for me because if I get really cold I struggle to get warmed up and it becomes really painful.  So I have already bought myself some snow boots that are lovely and snuggly and I've even got some ski socks to give me some extra protection for my toes!
Hoping these keep by feet warm and dry!
I think that layers will be the order of the day, plus hats and scarves and winter coats...definitely a different wardrobe to what I would usually take on a Disney vacation!! But provided we can wrap up nice and warm and have plenty of stops to warm up...this will of course mean lots of opportunities to wander around shops or stop for a warming cup of coffee/hot chocolate plus snacks...I'm sure we'll be fine.

We also have to accept that by going at this time of year we will be visiting in the 'low season' and that this will mean some attractions being closed or operating with restricted opening and closing times and probably parades/entertainment not being operational.

Having checked various websites already, and keeping an eye on social media, I know that Space Mountain: Mission 2, Les Mysteres du Nautilus and Les Voyages de Pinocchio will be closed whilst we are there.  I don't think this is too bad (especially as I'm not a big roller coaster fan!) and some of the other rides I thought may have been closed like Casey Jr - Le Petit Train du Cirque and Le Pays des Contes de Fees actually re-open just a few days before we arrive, which I am really pleased about as I love both of these rides.  Just shows what a softie I am as both of these rides are very gentle and really aimed at the very young...oh well I'm just the very young at heart!

At the moment I am not sure about daytime parades (Disney's Magic on Parade) but I am pretty convinced that we will not be able to see Disney Dreams their night time spectacular :( Looking at the information I can find it sounds like Disney Dreams runs daily during peak season but only on weekends during the low season and unfortunately we will not be there over a weekend.  It's a real shame because I have heard such amazing things about this show but I suppose it just gives me another reason to re-visit at another time.

I had thought that the parks operating hours might be shortened too but looking at various websites I'm quite happy as both parks open at 10.00am with Walt Disney Studios closing at 7.00pm and Disneyland closing at 8.00pm. This gives us plenty of time to explore as much as we want without having to worry that 'parks are closing early and we must run around to fit everything in'.  I think over the nearly 5 days that we will be there we should be able to get everything done that could possibly be done and most importantly that we want to do.

Which is why I am now trying to do a little reading before we go; a way of refreshing my memory of what is there as well as filling me in with all the new additions since 2006.  And whilst the internet is great for information there is something about having a book to flick through that just makes the whole impending trip seem that more real.  There are not that many books around about Disneyland Paris and I have had to download one book onto my phone - The Independent Guide to Disneyland Paris 2015 - but I have also got an actual, physical book too!
Better stop writing and get some reading done...

Monday 5 January 2015

Let's get planning!

As you will know we have not been to 'Disney' since August 2013, and by 'Disney' I mean any sort of Disney resort!  My 'go to' choice would always be Walt Disney World, although I think as my podcast co-host Michelle has spent an awful lot of time in Disneyland these past 12 months I will confess to a renewed desire to venture out to the West Coast once again.

But aspirations of a US visit are some way off at the moment and so in approximately 34 days time we will be off to our closest Disney resort; Disneyland Paris.

Having gone for over a year with no vacation, let alone a Disney vacation, the whole family was starting to show the signs of why taking time away from home, work, school and the usual daily routine is a good thing!  So when I started seeing adverts for 'extra days and nights free' at Disneyland Paris, and then realised that our school break in February seemed to be at a slightly different time to the majority of the country resulting in slightly cheaper rates, it was a no brainer - let's get booked!

So we are all booked and getting ready to what exactly are we doing? Where are we staying? How are we getting there? Let me explain...

So let's talk travel. On our previous visits to Disneyland Paris we have either flown or used the Eurostar train service.  We had been fortunate previously to get flights to Paris from our local airport (only a few miles from our home!) and then transfer to the resort by way of coach, but when flights started to become tricky to come by we changed tact and used the Eurostar.

Now the direct Eurostar train service starts off at London St Pancras and travels straight to the doorstep of Disneyland Paris; it is literally a 3 minute walk fromthe train station to the main Disneyland park.  This service makes only a couple of stops en route at Ebbsfleet (just outside of London) and Ashford in Kent (on the Southern UK coast line).  Previously we have driven to Ashford (about a 5 hour drive) in order to pick up the train and go straight to Disney but this year we are picking the train up from Ebbsfleet which will only be about a 3 hour drive for us.  The option of going from London for us just wasn't viable as to get a local train to London would have been more expensive than using the car to drive to Ebbsfleet and we would then need a hotel in London for the night before we travel which would have been another expense.

So we are going to drive to Ebbsfleet, stay overnight in a cheap hotel (booked!) so that we will be ready for the Eurostar train the following morning.  We will park the car in a long stay car park (already pre-booked) and simply jump onto the train where we can sit back and enjoy the journey to the other side of Paris in just over 2 hours.  We will be able to check into our hotel and receive our park tickets on the train and then use the Disney Express Luggage Service when we get to our destination.  This means that we can take our luggage to the special Disney Express counter in the train station and our luggage will be taken straight to our hotel, leaving us free to head straight into the parks.  And when we come to return home the system operates in reverse - we drop our luggage off at Luggage Services within our hotel, we can go and make the most of our last few hours and then we simply collect the luggage from the Disney Express counter at the train station before getting on the train home.  This has worked brilliantly for us in the past and is one of the main reasons for choosing the Eurostar service.  It may not be the cheapest way to get to Disneyland Paris but it suits us, it gives us the knowledge that we can make the most of all days of our vacation and it saves us long check-in times for planes and a very long drive if we were to get there under our own steam!!

Next is the hotel; now for us we wanted to have the full on Disney experience and stay in a Disney hotel.  There are lots of other hotels within close proximity to Disneyland Paris and most of which operate some sort of shuttle service to and from the parks but for us it had to be a Disney one.  There are seven hotels to choose from; Disneyland Hotel, Disney's Hotel New York, Disney's Newport Bay Club, Disney's Sequoia Lodge, Disney's Hotel Cheyenne, Disney's Santa Fe and Disney's Davy Crockett Ranch.

We have opted for Disney's Sequoia Lodge which is one of their mid-range hotels (comparable to a moderate resort in WDW) and one we have stayed in once before. We have also stayed in Disney's Hotel Cheyenne on a number of occasions which is themed around the Wild West and was great for when our children were much younger.  The Sequoia Lodge, as the name implies, is themed around North American forests with a cosy mountain retreat vibe going on.  There's plenty of log fires which I think will be very welcome visiting in early February!! It is on the perimeter of Lake Disney, within close distance of Downtown Disney and only a 15 minute walk away from the parks.

And as I said before one of our main reasons for going is that by booking a package with Disney we are getting 2 nights and 2 days for free which means we are going to be able to spend nearly 5 full days in the parks and really explore everything that Disneyland Paris has to offer. Really starting to look forward to it now :)