Disneyland Paris: How to have fun as a family

Dave Leonard
Review: Disney dreams the family way
Review: Disney dreams the family way

It's been almost a year since Disneyland Paris celebrated its 20th Anniversary. Since then, more than 16 million guests have flocked to the park to join in the celebrations with Mickey and co. If you missed it, the good news is that this historic event was such a success that the park has extended the celebrations until the end of September 2013! We went along (complete with a three-year-old) to see what's new for 2013...

London to Disney in less than three hours
The thought of travelling little ones in tow may sound daunting, but it's a pleasure. Getting on and off the train is seamless, staff are on hand to help with the usual excess baggage that comes with taking a child anywhere and if you have really little ones there are a number of special facilities such as bottle warming and baby changing to take advantage of.

Top tip: Don't forget to pack things to keep the little ones entertained – a selection of colouring books should do it and if you own a tablet, upload a few of your child's favourite programmes.

Best rooms in the house?

If you opt to stay at one of Disneyland Paris' seven hotels, most of them are within walking distance of the station and the parks themselves. Yes, we know it sounds clichéd, but if you are a true Disney fanatic, then the magic really does begin when you set foot in the hotel. Staff go the extra mile to welcome children by greeting them personally and giving them a name badge. You also get priority access to the main characters, so don't be surprised if you see Mickey and Minnie greeting guests as they arrive.

We stayed in the Hotel New York, one of the resort's key hotels. With two swimming pools, a gym, restaurants and bars, there are plenty of things to keep you occupied. Rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable – but let's face it, you don't really go to Disney to spend your weekend in a hotel room...

Top tip: The Disney hotels provide a daily schedule of the characters that you can meet and this is probably the quickest and best way to get some great photos.

What's to love?

Every little detail of the Disney experience has been carefully planned and executed so that whatever age you are, you get the most out of your stay. Having only visited the park before with adults, it was amazing to see the park though a child's eyes. Needless to say, accompanying a three-year-old means that a lot of time is spent in Fantasyland and we were totally fine with that!

Top tip: If you stay in a Disney hotel, you get priority access to the park before it opens (between 8-10am).

Review: Disney dreams the family way
Review: Disney dreams the family way

Top tips for families

From princesses to rollercoasters, families with youngsters can easily spend a whole day just exploring Fantasyland. Our particular favourites were 'It's a Small World' and 'Dumbo the Flying Elephant', while meeting Sleeping Beauty was the icing on the cake.

Do plan your day meticulously to avoid queues. Savvy parkgoers should take advantage of the fast passes, designed to give you a timeslot to go on some of the more popular attractions.

Don't miss the Disney Magic on Parade – teeming with princesses, characters, music and colour, this really is a great way to break up your day and you can hire buggies at around €12 (£9) 3– this is really recommended if your child is under five as there is a lot of walking. A buggy can really help you all get the most out of your time in the park.

Check the height restrictions on all of the rides. You will be surprised at how many rides the little ones can get on. Height restrictions for Thunder Mountain, Crush's Coaster and The Tower of Terror are all 1.02m.

Beware of the gift shops! They are everywhere and purchases all add up. Set a budget and stick to it! On the other hand, if you are buying gifts, the best place to do it is Disney Village – be sure you check the opening times.

Disney's award winning 'Dreams' show has been given a makeover with the addition of brand new sequences from the Lion King and Brave. This unmissable show, projected onto Sleeping Beauty's castle, is packed full of lasers, fountains, fireworks and Disney characters. We particularly loved the Disney Light Ears, which are all synched to change colour.

Review: Disney dreams the family way
Review: Disney dreams the family way

If you do one thing while you're there...

The Finding Nemo themed 'Crush's Coaster' in Walt Disney Studios. It is easily our favourite roller-coaster in the park. Queues get very long and there are no Fast passes so this is best visited as early as possible!

Review: Disney dreams the family way
Review: Disney dreams the family way

And the best bit of all?

One of the key highlights for us were the staff – they really went the extra mile to help our experience go as smoothly as possible and to help make the magic come alive for the little ones.

Review: Disney dreams the family way
Review: Disney dreams the family way

How to book

During 20th Anniversary celebrations at Disneyland Paris prices for a two-night three-day package including return travel with Eurostar in April 2013 start from £1,610 for a family of two adults and two children (aged 4-6yrs). The price includes return travel with Eurostar, two nights' accommodation in a lakeside room with continental breakfast at Disney's Hotel New York and three day hopper tickets with unlimited access for the Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park and is based on two adults sharing.

Please call 08448 008 111 or visit www.disneylandparis.com for more information.