Disneyland Paris provides more than enough entertainment for even the most demanding child, writes Barry Coughlan
Grandkids, you either love ‘em - or love ‘em more because you can give them back.
Six years ago my first born grandchild was about to celebrate his seventh birthday, so for Christmas, I purchased a family package to Eurodisney with flights, hotel etc thrown in. The guy was ecstatic, his little sister, just over two, was a little less so.
She went, of course, then got sick and slept most of the few days they had in this magical resort.
Moving on, we now have four youngsters to engage with; the eldest guy is more interested in rugby, soccer and basketball and has a skiing trip to look forward to, so I guess it was time to re-introduce the lost young lady — and her younger sister — to Mickey, Minnie et-al.
My last personal trip to Eurodisney was well over 20 years ago. We tied in our almost annual camping/mobile home holiday break with a visit to the park, accompanied by two disinterested teens who would probably have preferred to be somewhere else.
It didn’t help that I’m not the happiest driver in the world — at least not on the right hand side of the road — or that the accommodation was a 90 minute drive away from Disney; in my case, 90 minutes means almost double that.
Fast forward to 2019, I felt it necessary to give my eldest granddaughter, 8, the chance to see what she had missed way back when. And she was joined by younger sister, 6, for what was to be the trip of a lifetime. It was.
This time around we boxed clever. There was no driving, we flew from Cork to Paris, got picked up by pre-arranged taxi, delivered from terminal 1 in Charles De Gaulle Airport to the front door of Staycity aparthotels (Irish founded) in Marne La Vallee, 45 minutes from the airport and 10 minutes drive from Disney.
Apart from the wonderful facilities in this, one of several aparthotels founded by two Irish brothers, getting to Disney was a breeze. Guests can avail of free travel to the parks several times a day on a hotel courtesy bus, to and fro, and even outside normal working hours there’s a local bus link from Disney (number 34) that operates into the early hours and will drop passengers off right outside the front entrance of the hotel for just €2 per head.
Aparthotels such as this will accommodate at least four people, even in a studio formation and represent excellent value for money. This brand new Staycity, who are about to do a deal with the adjacent Disney Golf course — which will be a nice diversion for some of the adults — was the perfect example of that (about €80 a night), even if the price will rise heftily in the high season.
But hey, this trip wasn’t about excellent accommodation, or that the hotel has an internal breakout area (much used at every opportunity) for the children and an outdoor swimming pool suitable for later in the year. This was about kids having fun and adults watching the enjoyment.
We did have to spend a fair amount in Disney shops; for instance, I cursed the fact that Frozen 2 had just been released (an Elsa dress cost €80 and a pair of matching boots €45).
The younger of the two girls was a little easier to deal with, although she took a shine to everything that was named Minnie — there was sleeping Minnie, baby Minnie, etc, etc. Lucky for us that weight wasn’t an issue and we had the protection of having checked in a 20kg bag for the three-day trip.
Speaking of time, three days (two in Disney) is probably too short. We were fortunate that we went in late November; the crowds were down at that particular time of the year, because everything about Disney is about queuing — for up to an hour in some cases.
There is no doubt that Disney is a magical place. Eurodisney Paris is not the biggest of Disney’s global network, but it provides more than enough entertainment for even the most demanding child — Pirates of the Caribbean, rides with themes based on Pinocchio, Peter Pan, the legendary Small World and, in Walt Disney Studios (next door to the main park), the must-experience Ratatouille, Stitch and Slinky Dog events.
Given more time, the girls would have gone around the houses more and more. As it was, they got a chance to experience seven of 16 rides twice or three times and the quality of the Disney product does compensate for a somewhat hefty cost for two days admission.
Ten years ago, we brought the eldest grandchild with us to the Canary Islands for a week. Three years ago, older and a bit wiser, he accompanied me to Lapland for a couple of days, at the end of which he proclaimed that he had no recall of his week in the sun before saying “but I’ll remember this one for the rest of my life.” That comment brought a tear to my eye. I can only hope that the girls will feel the same about Euro Disney in years to come.
Off-season prices with Aer Lingus from Cork to Charles De Gaulle come in at sample €600 for four return in late February.
Expect to pay €650 for a two-day pass to Disney (for four people).
Transportation from CDG varies. Rail Fares on the TGV would cost around €60 on-way for a family of four and a little less on the RER.
Taxis vary between €65 (pre-booked) to €85, while Staycity offers a luxury direct executive service for €120, but the benefit of that is it caters for larger families of up to eight people. Other Parisian taxis are mostly limited to three people.
Food can be expensive in Disney so a good idea is to have a hearty breakfast and bring plenty of snacks in back-packs for the kids. There’s a range of restaurants of the more reasonable variety there too — we tried McDonald's (shock/horror — at the strong request of the kids on night one), but we went rather more upmarket to the Rainforest Café and Planet Holiday; prices in both came in at around €100 (they offer kids menus for around €14) on both nights for the four of us, which is not bank-breaking at all.
Staycity has studio apartments (home catering) for either three or four people for between €279 and €293 (for three nights) or one-beds for four (including full Irish breakfast for upwards of €410. the company can also accommodate much larger groups (from between 12 and 20) of friends/family in newly built houses/apartments on-site, and there is a reasonably priced breakfast (substantial full Irish that saves food expenditure in the middle part of the day) and a very well priced dinner menu to add to a 24-hour snack service.
Details: www.Staycity.com for direct bookings and afull list of prices throughout the year.