Visiting Disneyland isn’t any old holiday, this is where dreams come true. Having visited recently here are my top 5 tips for you….
1. It Really Is Magic
My husband visited Disney World 20 years ago and he still talks about it now, in fact his memories, as well as the fact our daughters love of all things Disney prompted us to choose this as our holiday destination. At 5 and 7 they have already got quite enough rubbish memories, what with their mother nearly dying on them, so we felt justified spending some of my retirement cheque on creating some new, extra specially good memories.
We walked into Main Street at 8am (if you stay in the park hotels you are allowed in 2 hours before the general public. Not much is open but you can go on a few rides or start queuing nice and early). All 4 of us were like big kids. It really is exactly like you thought it would be, it is clean, nothing is worn, threadbare or faded. Chris chased the girls around lamp posts and I actually wanted to cry when I saw that castle sparkling with frost and sun. I thought I was way beyond this sort of thing, turns out I’m not. Don’t bother being cynical and go with it. Every employee you see will be chatty and helpful. As long as you are polite to them they will do whatever they can to help. Even waiting your turn in the queue doesn’t seem so bad. Not when you are waiting in a fairytale castle or watching C3PO have a meltdown in space shuttle departure lounge. In French.
2. Make Reservations For Every Meal
There is a number you can call to make reservations from the hotel or you can go in a do it in person. Do one or the other and do not make the mistake we did. Firstly we skipped breakfast in our hotel because the queue probably comprised of at least 500 people. It isn’t an exaggeration the Santa Fe hotel has 1000 rooms. We thought there would be somewhere either in the Disney Village shops and restaurant area at the park entrance, or in the park itself. Turned out that we couldn’t get into the one place that was open without a reservation. Undeterred we headed into the park expecting it to be like Alton Towers with a concession stand on every corner. It isn’t and so we ended up with no breakfast at all. The shops don’t sell much in the way of snacks either. We saw one large auditorium where you can purchase MacDonald type meals in the Adventureland part of the park and a crepe van in Frontierland and that was it.
No matter how empty a restaurant might seem when you go in, you will still need a reservation. Food is expensive but there is a garage right next to the Sante Fe hotel where you can stock up on nosh more cheaply or bring your own food. But even if you only book one meal you must…
3. Go For Breakfast At Mickeys Cafe
This is none negotiable. One of the best part of being in Disneyland is meeting your favourite characters. You will probably come across one or two around the park and as any dedicated Disney fan knows you can collect their autographs in your very own autograph book. However when you are out and about it can get a little fraught with so many people wanting to meet and greet. For around 70 euros you can enjoy an all you can breakfast buffet. Choose as much as you like from croissant to cereal to a fry up AND the characters will come to your table, cuddle you (or your kids), sign autographs and pose for photos. The food is lovely and the atmosphere is so relaxed. I saw more than a few teary eyed adults as they snapped photos. Everyone waits for their turn and during our visit we met Pluto, Tigger, Chip, Dale and Mickey. Whether you meet characters here, queue for your turn to meet Mickey in his special backstage area or a Princess in their parvilion it is worth the queue. The characters will chat (if they are the talking kind), dish out cuddles and basically not make you feel rushed through.
I was slightly worried the girls would either combust with excitement or be rendered mute when they actually met Snow White but she chatted away to them and made them feel special. And that’s the point.
4. Be Careful Walking Back To Your Hotel At Night
The shuttle bus service from the Disneyland hotels to park are regular and efficient Santa Fe is the hotel furthest from the park and the bus took no more than 5 minutes. They get VERY full at busy times though. At the end of our first day we stayed to watch the truly spectacular light and firework extravaganza that marks the close of every day in Disneyland and so joined the entire park leaving en mass.
Not fancying the prospect of a wait and then a very full bus we decided to walk back to our hotel. We followed other people and the route was well sign posted and took about 15 minutes on very tired legs. You need to be careful because the route is not well lit at all. We didn’t feel in any danger but we were aware of the man made Rio Grande canal next to us and the occasionally uneven ground underfoot. If you have young children, mobility difficulties or just don’t like the dark then waiting for the bus is probably the best course of action.
5. Magic Doesn’t Come Cheap
There is no getting away from it, this is not a cheap holiday. There is a HUGE Disney Store as you enter the Disney Village and plenty more all around the park. Princess dresses are around £60 and even ear muffs and gloves are around £15, even a Mickey motif bucket of flying saucers will cost the equivalent of £5. You can take food with you and resolve you won’t be moved to open your wallet by the wobbliest of bottom lips. Thing is they have so much cool stuff and shop after shop of it that there is a pretty good chance it will be you not your mini me’s that end up with a mad gleam in your eyes and arm fulls of hoodies, t-shirts even PANTS people. In fact some of the underwear on offer for adults aren’t so much tongue in cheek as python in pants… or feature the Aristocats.
To be totally honest I think it is just easier if you accept that this holiday is going to hurt your wallet. Set a limit and stick to it. There is no point spending the entire time you are here grumbling about the cost. I bought both girls a Minnie Mouse balloon, it cost 15 euros. No, I’d never spend the equivalent on balloons in the real world but in DIsneyland it doesn’t count.