Katie Lewis-Davies works as Group Travel Manager at South Wales based tour operator, Leisuretime, and writes about her family’s recent winter magical break!
As a firm Disney fan and a mum to two young boys, Disneyland Paris by coach was the perfect mini-break for our family. Joining the coach in Cardiff, we were greeted by a friendly driver and a coach buzzing with anticipation for the journey ahead. Making friends onboard was easy as children and parents mixed in together and we all settled into the journey filled with excited energy. I’d been by coach before but have had to change coaches which is time-consuming, boring and, with the kids in tow, quite draining. Knowing that ‘once you’re on, you’re on’ with an operator like Leisuretime made everything really easy and with no coach changes to worry about, we arrived at Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe relaxed and raring to go!
Staying in an ‘on-site’ hotel, meant that we were only a short 10-minute walk from the Disney Village (and the gates to both theme parks) and so after we’d dropped the bags in our room, it was here that we headed to get something to eat and start living the dream!
The Disney Village offers a really great choice of fast food outlets as well as more substantial restaurants which suit most budgets. The kids got the say this time and Café Mickey ended up with the pleasure of our company. We were not disappointed! Whilst it is not the cheapest choice compared to some of the other eateries, we found that Café Mickey gave us grown-ups and our little ones, 1-to-1 time with a selection of Disney Characters throughout the meal. We an amazing time with Mickey, Minnie, Eeyore, and the highly excitable duo of Tigger and Pluto!
Leisuretime included breakfasts with our trip, which not all operators do. This was well received by my little family, especially as we aimed for early starts each day so that we could take full advantage of the Extra Magic Hours that are only available to guests staying in the ‘on-site’ Disney Hotels.
Even though I’ve done it many times, nothing quite matches the feeling I get when I enter the Disneyland Paris park! Walking under the Main Street Train Station, the feeling of excitement builds, music surrounds, smiles and laughter everywhere – and I am carried off into a world of fantasy. As we walked down Main Street, the Castle came into view and that was it… full Disney mode hits, and without speaking we find ourselves involuntarily skipping along the street with my youngest desperately breaking out of his buggy in sheer excitement.
Then there’s the choice of which park first. This can be overwhelming, but on this occasion, we opted for Adventureland, followed on by everything else we had time to get around. No matter which direction you decide on though, believe me, you NEVER have enough time to cover all the magic! My 7-year old was able to enjoy the larger rides with Dad, and I was able to go on any I wanted to, shortly after using the ‘Parent Switch’ option available on most rides. Here an insider tip... if you, like us, have a younger child that cannot go on all the rides, you don’t have to miss out! Parent 1 (let’s be honest, normally Dad) goes on the ride and when they come out, they ask for a Parent Switch ticket which allows Parent 2 to skip the queue and get right on the ride almost immediately. This Parent Switch even allows for 2 people which meant that my eldest went on the rides twice on most occasions – but only had to queue once. How great is that?! We tried everything from Space Mountain through to the Magical Castle, the Peter Pan ride and even Pirates of Caribbean. Really… there just aren’t enough hours in the day!
When we had finally had our fill, we were pleasantly exhausted and took advantage of the free shuttle back to the hotel for a wash and brush up. Later, we headed back to the Village for dinner at Planet Hollywood and afterwards enjoyed some Disney shopping. We sauntered back to the hotel and our ‘Cars’ themed bedroom for the best night’s sleep I’ve had for a long while.
The next day, we unanimously agreed that it was time for a visit to Walt Disney Studios, the smaller of the two parks. The amazing Crush’s Coaster was our first priority, and we loved our adventure under the Australian coastline so much, we did it twice! Despite being the smaller park, there was so much to do and taking advantage once again of the Parent Switch made it another great day out. Slinky Dog turned out to be the favourite ride for our youngest whilst our eldest loved parachuting with the army men. We rode the tram, saw magnificent stunts and daring car chases before checking into the Twilight Zone of Terror! This isn’t for the faint-hearted and was the only ride my eldest did not approve of at the still tender age of 7. He did, however, absolutely love the Aerosmith Rollercoaster - which both my husband and I were also secretly thrilled with and felt was the best ride of both parks! We grabbed a bite to eat in the sheltered walk-thru and of course, indulged in some retail activities! These shops mainly catered for the Marvel lovers so was a firm hit in our family.
We enjoyed our last night experiencing full-on Disney magic in the main park with a spectacular light show against the castle (don’t forget that tickets with Leisuretime are Hopper Passes which means you can flit between both parks as much as you like). The show is jam-packed with magic experiences, finishing with a truly outstanding firework display. The perfect end to a wonderful day.
Any visit to Disneyland Paris is an action-packed adventure so it was great to just be able to hop onto our coach and travel directly back to South Wales with no need to worry about coach interchanges (and a much quieter coach on the way back than the way out!). This was certainly one of the best family breaks we have ever had. Booking with Leisuretime was a life saver as it meant that all the travel was taken care of. No missing luggage at the airport, no delayed transfer (both of which we’ve experienced before). ‘Once you’re on, you’re on’ (sorry, I just like saying that!). Are we absolutely knackered, yes? Are we doing it all again in 2019…? Absolutely!
Immerse yourself in childhood memories of swashbuckling pirates, beautiful princesses and daring space missions! Whether you are a family with young children, a thrill-seeking group of friends or just young at heart, Disneyland Resort Paris is a truly magical destination. Leisuretime offers Disneyland Paris breaks departing from South Wales - check out our choice online today!