Disneyland as a single parent is a pretty daunting prospect and there are probably lots of things going through your mind prior to booking it. Can I do it on my own? Where do I stay? Will I be able to do everything? And more. This article explores all of these things and will also give some handy hints and money-saving tips along the way.
Firstly, I have not long returned from a 4 night and 5 day trip to Disneyland Paris with 2 children (5&7) and I am happy to say, “we made it!” A little tiring in places, the odd whinge, but lots of fun and magical moments shared together.
The trip didn’t get off to the greatest of starts as we forgot my sons shoes – don’t ask! It happens to the best of us! Once we managed to sort that issue out, the three of us were very excited in what the next few days had in store for us. We had our matching Disney jumpers on and away we flew…
Where to Stay
We stayed in a golden forest family club room at the Sequoia lodge – which I would recommend, for a number of reasons:
Breakfast in golden forest lounge
Breakfast can be a pretty stressful time in Disneyland. People all have the same idea and that very simply put is to have breakfast and make use of the magic hour on the rides before it opens up to everyone else. This means massive queues and waiting for a table usually.
We stayed at the Sequoia lodge hotel and paid extra to have access to the club room. There are quite a few advantages to having access and I’ll go through them, but breakfast for me, was probably the most advantageous.
On the first morning I joined the back of a long queue in the main part of the hotel only to discover that if we had access to the club room they have their own breakfast…result! No more queues and a slightly quieter environment. By having this access meant we could make full use of the magic hour too as there wasn’t much of a wait for a table.
Free drinks and snacks
Well I am sure you pay for it prior to your travel, but while we were there, we benefited from free daily snacks served in the golden forest lounge from 3pm till 5pm. This consisted of small cakes, finger sandwiches, fruit and some sweets. This certainly kept us going when we were flagging in the afternoons.
Drinks were pretty much available in the club lounge from 11am onwards – all day and we often took water to our rooms or a hot chocolate at the end of the day. The staff didn’t seem to mind on quantities and would gladly let us stock up on water etc for our backpacks.
Afternoon sleeps don’t work
Well not for my two anyway! Yes, there is lots of walking about, but if you are staying 3+ nights, you can pretty much explore Disneyland Paris under your own steam. The first two days, I had two tired children on my hands, so I thought we would have a siesta in our room. I made the mistake, two days running by letting them sleep for a good hour or so – by the time they woke up they were too groggy to do anything more.
The Disneyland Park
Magic Hour and Fast Passes
Make no mistake, if you haven’t been before, the park is a daunting place. All this talk of fast passes and magic hours – what does it all mean!?
If you are able to stay on site then you need to make use of the magic hour. It all becomes incredibly strategic and tactical as to what you decide to go on during this time. As we stayed in the club room, we got given a daily fast pass each – more on that later.
What became apparent fairly quickly is that some rides do not allow fast passes at all (Crush’s Coaster being one of them) – my suggestion would be to use your magic hour to go on rides like that. You are still likely to queue with other people making use of the magic hour, but the queues won’t be as long during this time as to when the park opens to the public.
As I mentioned earlier, we had a free daily fast pass that courtesy of the hotel, which allowed us to go on one ride each and jump the queues. If you are given one of these, check the small print as these are likely to be limited to a specific day and time range.
Anyone can get a fast pass for certain rides using their Disneyland park entrance ticket. This does have restricted availability, but near the entrance to where you queue there are machines that will issue you a fast pass ticket and will give you an allotted time slot to return and experience the ride but without the queues! Keep your eyes peeled for these machines, but like I say, not all rides will offer this and this operates largely is a first come, first serve basis.
This was something that shocked me a little, dotted around the park are various water fountains providing drinking water. Not one of them worked! I couldn’t help but think that this was pure exploitation.
Leg room on rides for bags
I know it sounds daft, but if you are on your own with kids and you are carrying a big bag or rucksack, getting on a ride and ensuring your children are safely seated suddenly means you are quickly having to get seated and find a home for that bulky bag. My tip here would be; while queuing up, simply watch what other people do with their bags – this time-saving tip will really help when it’s your turn to get and make the start of the ride that little bit less stressful.
Meeting the Characters
Every child loves meeting the characters and to be fair, despite the fact the characters don’t talk, they were fantastic at communicating via expressions and actions – impressive stuff. They would gladly sign an autograph book if you had one.
We were fortunate enough to have the premium half board option which allowed us to have some character breakfast and lunches. Again, this does come at a cost, but for me was worth it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the food was fantastic, all of the breakfasts were a buffet style and the lunches were a mixture of buffet’s or a la carte, depending on where you had booked – but each meal was tasty!
(my daughter’s dessert from when we lunch with the Princesses)
If you have a meal experience, you would tend to meet maybe 5 or 6 characters and they would come around to your table and pose for photos and sign any autograph books. As well as the food being tasty, this made life a little easier as it largely meant we didn’t have to queue to meet the same characters around the park. Dotted around the park at various times are many Disney characters and you are often queuing for up to an hour to have your photo taken etc – so for me the character dining experiences were well worth it – if you can afford to do this.
(Tigger and I!!)
Stand your ground
One thing we did experience a few times were people trying to push in front – chancers, blaggers! We had a pretty decent spot at the daily parade (which is well worth a watch by the way) and we must have waited a good 25 minutes before the event started. The event commenced and we had a good view of the procession until a family tried to push in front. Neither of my children could see, so I politely asked them to move as they were blocking our view – this didn’t go down very well, but they did move 🙂
Be prepared to stand your ground!
Money saving tips:
Presents to give throughout
Disney is a very expensive place and with the plethora of shops and paraphernalia available, it is geared up for one thing for sure…children telling you how much they need new toys!
What worked well for me was buying a few things before we went and drip feeding them to the kids throughout our time in Disneyland. This basically suppressed them and the concept worked well.
(ears and a hat purchased before we went away!)
Definitely buy this in advance before you go, there are loads of websites who can personalise the book for you and when your children meet the characters, this will definitely give them a fantastic memento of the whole magical experience.
So we went in April and the weather was meant to be mixed. Again, purchasing in advance meant there were some savings to be made. If you are planning on going any time other than summer then it’s worth buying your ponchos beforehand. They take up little space but again are pretty pricey in Disneyland.
So there you have it, I hope this guide helps anyone in a similar situation to me, I haven’t gone in to detail about the rides as there are plenty of guides online with information about them. Let me know if you have any questions and I will be happy to answer. Feel free to check out some of my other articles on being a single parent and my holiday nightmare or dating as a single parent.