Wednesday, 7 March 2018

A Very Snowy Trip To Disneyland Paris In January

A couple of weeks back, after having purchased Annual Infinity Passes for us all with the intention of taking a good 4 or 5 trips to Disneyland Paris this year, we headed off for our first visit of 2018.

In order to make those passes as cost effective as possible and be able to visit often as cheaply as we can, we had decided to drive over for the first time.

We were pretty nervous about this, no one more so than me as the world's most nervous passenger even on car journeys in the UK, but we were hopeful after reading up on peoples experiences that we'd manage the French roads ok.

Unfortunately, we didn't even get that far! We were booked on to the Eurotunnel leaving at 8.30 am Monday morning which should have meant we would arrive to Disneyland Paris around break up the journey we were booked into a hotel in Dover the evening beforehand to rest and prepare for the journey.

So on Sunday afternoon, we piled our luggage (lots of it as we were taking full advantage of driving and had packed tons of snacks to last the week and save us money!) and the 3 boys into the car and began the 4 hour trip to Dover.

Unfortunately, we only made it half way when suddenly and without warning....our car died.

We kept our fingers firmly crossed and our breath held while we waited in a very precarious spot on the road for the AA to arrive, but when they was game over. The guy couldn't fix it, it was too big a job...all he could do was get us back on the road temporarily to make it home but with a warning against attempting to drive it to France as it simply wouldn't make it.

So there we were...over £500 wasted on non-refundable hotel rooms in Dover, European break down cover (ironically!), a full tank of petrol and Eurotunnel tickets we couldn't use...and on our way back to Devon at 20 miles per her with 3 very upset children in the back crying about Disneyland.

All the way home, I furiously googled away - trying to find some sort of miracle solution of how we could get there.

The only answer was to book flights for first thing the next morning....which, at the very last minute, were far from cheap!

My mum & dad offered up the money to pay for them which was so lovely of them, as I'd already lost so much, so without much time to think about it we went ahead and booked them - and the next morning, we were flying in to Charles De Gaulle airport.

When we got off the plane, we were greeted by a huge flurry of snow! Noah thought this was the most magical experience ever and that Queen Elsa had sent it from Disneyland to welcome him to France!

We'd managed to arrange last minute private transfers through a company called Prestige - they were recommended to me on a Disneyland Paris facebook group, I was in two minds about whether to book them or just use the Magical Express coach but I decided that at only 12 EURO more each way than the coach it would be worth it to have our own space after the flight...I'm so glad we went with them as they were amazing! They met us off the plane, helped with our bags, and the car was so modern and comfortable with a DVD player in the back for the kids and car seats provided for them too. They took us right to the hotel door.

We book our hotels directly through Disneyland due to having annual passes but for those not using the passes, its always worth having a look on third party sites for cheap hotels as there are some great deals to be found!

Our check in at the Newport Bay was slightly irritating/time consuming as the rooms weren't ready at 2.30pm so we had to wait until 3pm and the receptionist there was pretty unhelpful when I realised I'd mislaid a print out I needed to collect my annual pass so we weren't off to the best start but in all honesty this is probably because we're used to arriving to Disney by Eurostar where we always make use of the Magic Express service (this enables us to drop our luggage at the train station for transfer to our hotel, and we then go straight into the park and don't check in until after 9pm when there's no queue at all!) so having to actually check in during normal hours is new to us and felt inconvenient.

Once we got checked in and dropped our bags at our room, we made our way to the park - unfortunately because I had to change my annual pass voucher for a full pass I had to head straight to the pass office which took up another 30 minutes and sort of killed the usual "We're in Disneyland!" buzz I also meant we missed the parade!

It snowed heavily for the rest of the afternoon so we spent the time on some indoor rides, and then headed inside to Inventions at Disneyland Hotel for our dinner reservations at 6.

It was our first time eating at Inventions and we weren't sure it would live up to expectations because it is always spoken of very highly and my experience with other Disney restaurants has always been mostly disappointing - but I'm pleased to say that was not the case this time! Inventions more than lived up to the hype!

The character interaction was great, the surroundings were beautiful, we had a perfect view of the Illuminations show at The Castle and the food was far the best we've ever eaten at Disneyland!

The choices included all sorts of things from olives and deli slices, pastas (the most delicious cheese pasta I've ever eaten!), meats and sauces, vegetable casseroles and delicious potato bakes to a huge array of seafood - the children's choices were quite limited with only pizza and potato stars that my own would eat, but the dessert section made up for it with tons to choose from!

We had also booked to have a birthday cake brought out for Sailor's birthday during our meal, this did take quite a long time to come and we had to remind them about it but it was really lovely and was brought out by Mickey Mouse himself!

We headed back to our hotel after a quick visit to the lego shop in the Disney village, and crashed out after a manic 24 hours of travel nightmares!

The next morning we woke up pretty late and decided not to bother heading in for Extra Magic Hours as we were reading reports online of most of Disney being closed due to staffing problems thanks to heavy snow over night...we stayed warm in our hotel rather than brave the weather only to find most of the rides closed!

When we did head in after lunch, things were just starting to open up and all rides were operating as normal - the crowds were non existent (I can't blame people for staying away as it was FREEZING, the snow was constantly coming down and the walking conditions were pretty treacherous!) which meant that so were the queues!

Every ride was pretty much a walk on, in fact on some rides we were offered the chance to just stay on and keep riding a few times as there was nobody waiting to get on! That was a pretty unique and fun experience!

We did Peter Pans Flight, Small World, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Snow White and Star Tours a few times each - we didn't bother with Buzz's Laser Blast or the Carousel this time, and Dumbo was closed for renovations.

It was our first time riding Star Tours and we all loved it! Unfortunately the babies were too short (which seems a little silly as its just a simulator ride that barely moves!) but Tyne took it in turns to ride with me and Jon, and it really was great! The queues for this were always long though so make sure you get fast passes!

After a day of rides, we hadn't bothered with any meet & greets as it was just too cold to stand out in the snow and I think most were cancelled anyway - we had hoped to catch the parade but this was cancelled due to the snow, and at this point the weather started to get the better of us. It was still coming down heavily and we were all getting very cold!

We weren't sure if the fireworks would be going ahead, so we decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel for a pizza. We used a takeaway delivery service called Pizza Fast who were great - dining in Disney can get pretty pricey and we found most places in the village were closing early due to the snow, so having pizza delivered to the hotel neant that we could enjoy it from the comfort of our rooms which was great and it saved us a lot of money too as two large pizzas, fries and drinks only came to around 30 euros.

The next day we were hoping that the snow might have eased - but no! It carried on coming down and was still thick on the ground.

We used the day as our Studios Day with the intention of seeing the Star Wars show but again, each one we tried to watch was cancelled! Instead we did a few rides, and headed back to the main park - the parade was on today but it was a reduced version of it with only 3 or 4 floats out and a handful of walking performers - Noah still loved it though, and was delighted when Kristoff came out of the parade to see him in his Elsa costume and wig!

We managed to stick around to watch the illuminations this time, but unfortunately the fireworks element wasnt running because of the snow - it was still impressive even with just the lights, laser and water works though.

For our final day, we managed to do some of the things we'd missed in studios like catching the Star Wars show and meeting Moana - this had been the main thing we'd wanted to do as Moana isn't there year round and we'd never had the chance to meet her before, so I'm glad we ticked that off our lists!

And that was it...time to head home!

It was far from the kind of Disneyland trip we're used to as quite honestly, I just don't think they were prepared for the level of snowfall they had and although they seemed to start getting it together on the last day and doing a better job of clearing the pathways and operating everything - on our main two days, they seemed to really struggle with it and so much was cancelled. Obviously the weather can't be helped, and it's not really anybody's fault but it did make the trip an unusual one without the usual parades and illuminations shows and with far fewer meet & greets than we usually do in a visit.

In hindsight, I'm not entirely sure that paying so much extra to get us there last minute was the right thing to do - with the way the weather affected the trip, we might have been better off cutting our losses and cancelling when the car died.

But all I could think of at the time was what we'd be missing out on...if only we had a crystal ball and could have known how much the weather would affect things in Disney!

But still, we had fun and Disneyland certainly looked even more beautiful than usual in the snow.

It was an experience we won't forget, that's for sure! And the boys were just delighted to have FINALLY experienced real at least I don't have to go booking any ski trips any time soon!!!

To take a look at our trip in video form, have a look below:

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