Hunting a Gruffalo at the Mountain View Ranch

When I worked in Cardiff I used to travel down the A470 from Tredegar and would take Caerphilly Mountain road towards Pentwyn. I passed a sign for the Mountain View Ranch every day since the sign went up and always wondered what it was. One weekend, while wondering what to do with BattleKid, I looked it up. And discovered the Caerphilly Mountain Ranch was somewhere to take kids, so off we went. One of our main reasons for visiting – hunting a Gruffalo at the Mountain View Ranch.hunting a gruffalo at the mountain view ranch

As I’ve said, the Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly is on the mountain but is tucked away nicely, where it can’t be seen from the A470 or A469. With over 100 acres of fresh air fuelled fun for all the family, it is a treasure hidden on Caerphilly Mountain. From archery to high ropes, from a fairy forest, to the official Gruffalo Trail Wales, the Mountain View Ranch has something for everyone.

So, one Saturday morning we stuck on our wellies and water proof boots (it was drizzling), put warm waterproof coats on and off we went to see what the Mountain Ranch between Caerphilly and Cardiff had to offer.

Arriving at 10.15am, not long after they opened, we drove into the car park only to find a handful of other cars there. I think the rain might have put others off but we were undeterred. One of our main aims in visiting the Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly was to check out the Gruffalo Trail. BattleKid is a HUGE Gruffalo fan, and we knew he’d enjoy a Gruffalo hunt. He’s a big fan of our dragon hunting adventures, so knew a Gruffalo one would go down a treat too.

We paid our entrance fees (see below for details) and we started our walk past an adventure play area. It looked great but BattleKid was on a mission. There was a Gruffalo to hunt! We went past a pen with goats in it and I had to stop, goats being my favourite of all the farm animals. At the goats, there was a great bridge with a troll living under it. Not far from here is the start of the Gruffalo Trail. The clues say follow the footprints. And that’s what we did.hunting a gruffalo at the mountain view ranch

The first character we met on the trail of the Gruffalo was Mouse. The story started being recited to us from a certain little boy! At first, he was unsure of Mouse but he soon got over his fears and went in to give him a rub. I’ll admit you probably aren’t meant to go into Mouse behind the ropes. But as we seemed to be the only people there, we cheated.

Carrying on from there, we stopped briefly to have some fun jumping in puddles. Since he was well equipped I did nothing to stop BattleKid and let him enjoy himself. As you can see from the picture, he had fun amidst the misty morning. Unbelievably there were people playing golf on the course next to us!

hunting a gruffalo at the mountain view ranch
Puddle fun on the Trail of a Gruffalo

More footprints led us onto the next character from the story, Fox. This is where BattleKid really had to battle with himself. He really didn’t want to go near Fox as, at the time, Fox was the character that scared him a little in the TV adaptation of The Gruffalo’s Child. It was the eyes I think.

hunting a gruffalo at the mountain view ranch
Saying hi to Fox

Owl proved a little more elusive for us. We weren’t expecting him to be in a treetop house, but that’s exactly where he was. In an effort to bring the story and Gruffalo Adventure Trail alive for BattleKid, we had brought his Owl teddy from home. BattleDad kindly hid him and we let BattleKid find him, at the bottom of the tree where Owl was perched. Clutching his owl, BattleKid hurried us along the trail and instead of finding the Gruffalo, we stumbled upon a different but familiar character. It was the dragon from Room on the Broom. He was standing beside a gorgeous red wooden dragon.

And, although we hadn’t planned it, we did an impromptu dragon hunt and found our own dragon hiding in the wings of the wooden one. It took some coaxing of BattleKid to get him to retrieve it. I think the fact that the wooden dragon was on the ground, and looked big, had something to do with his reluctance.

hunting a gruffalo at the mountain view ranch
A Welsh Red Dragon

We soon found signs for Snake after leaving the dragon, and this character BattleKid refused to go near. Footprints from here led us across a small bridge towards a wood. And guess who was in there. Not only Gruffalo himself, but also Gruffalo’s Child! And we found a Gruffalo teddy hidden among the purple prickles on Gruffalo’s back, strategically planted by BattleDad. BattleKid was thrilled with himself.

hunting a gruffalo at the mountain view ranch
We found a Gruffalo teddy hiding among the purple prickles of the Gruffalo
hunting a gruffalo at the mountain view ranch
Our child with the Gruffalo’s Child

I have to say, despite to grey gloom of the day, the Mountain View Ranch Gruffalo Trail, South Wales, was absolutely brilliant. It brought the story alive for BattleKid. A few character teddy bears also helped keep his interested, although truthfully we didn’t need them. The craftsmanship that went into creating the characters is excellent and they are instantly recognisable.

Satisfied we had found the Gruffalo, we doubled back to the dragon and passed some people on Segway’s on our way to Hobbiton. I told you there is something for everyone at the Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly.

Hobbiton, or Hobbit Hill as they call it, looked so cute but BattleKid wasn’t having a bar of going in. So, a picture from afar was all I got. From there we walked past the three bear pods, making our way to a treehouse. However, BattleKid was too young to go into it so we moved on, heading for the Fairy Forest.

hunting a gruffalo at the mountain view ranch
Hobbiton

Fairy Forest is located up a slight hill, and we decided to leave our buggy at the bottom and walk up. With wet grass, we were struggling enough with it, without adding a hill into the equation. There was a tree house in the clearing that BattleDad helped BattleKid into. There was a tree with fairy doors in it and a swing. It was a lovely little place, set away in the woods from the main area of the Ranch.

BattleKid was chuffed to get into the treehouse. When he got down he made a beeline for the fairy doors and wanted to cross the rope to touch them. I think he thought he could, as we have a fairy door at home. It took all our efforts not to let him across the rope. Distracted with the swing, he soon forgot about it.

hunting a gruffalo at the mountain view ranch
An eager BattleKid was wondering why he couldn’t go and say hi to the fairies

Someone was starting to get a little tired at this stage and, as we had seen quite a lot of the Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly, we decided to head back to the car. Even when leaving the Ranch, there were very few cars in the car park, but bear in mind it was a grey and drizzly day in November when we visited. I have seen pictures of the Ranch in the sunshine and it looks lovely. That said, with the right clothes, this fabulous family place can be enjoyed at any time of the year, in any weather. Although I might stop when there’s snow involved.

We thoroughly enjoyed our few hours, hunting a Gruffalo at the Mountain View Ranch. I had hoped we might get a chance to return to it before we left the UK, but alas we didn’t have time. If we ever return for a holiday, I’ll be making time to go back to the Gruffalo Trail, Wales.

Things to note if you plan on hunting a Gruffalo at the Mountain View Ranch

  • Open from 9.30am to 4pm on weekdays and 5pm on weekends, during the summer. During winter the ranch is open 10am to 4pm, at weekends and is closed during the week.
  • Adults cost £6 in peak times, £4 in off-peak times, children are £6/4, seniors are £3/2. Under 18 months go free. There are also family tickets available which will save you a little bit of money. Peak times are weekends, bank holidays and school holidays.*
  • Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash at all times, must not enter the sand areas and must be cleaned up after. (We chose not to bring BattleDog with us so we could enjoy our visit more).
  • There is a café on site which closes at 3.30pm during the week and 4pm at weekends.
  • Toilets and bins are located near the goats before you enter the Gruffalo walk. These are the last ones in the Ranch, so visit the toilet before going further and keep your rubbish with you until you return.
  • There is a Gruffalo Trail sticker to be collected at the office once you complete it (we didn’t bother) and there is also a wider Ranch Trail to complete on the map (printable from the website).
  • The Ranch has ample parking in the car park and it is free.
  • There is a snacks and gifts kiosk beside the Adventure Play Area.

I highly recommend the Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly if you are looking for a great day out for the family. Older kids will love the High Ropes, Archery, Treehouses and Climbing Trees, while there is loads for younger kids as already discussed. You could even rent Segways. A 45-minute tour costs just £25 and includes your entrance fee into the Ranch. Just be aware there is a minimum age of 13 years for these.hunting a gruffalo at the mountain view ranch

The Mountain View Ranch on Caerphilly Mountain can be enjoyed in any weather, as we prove, so long as you go prepared. It really is a great family day out venue in South Wales. If you are wondering “is there a Gruffalo Trail near me?”, check out the Forestry Commission’s website for details. 

Cath x

*Times and prices were correct as the time of writing this post.

**We were not asked to write this review.

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and make a purchase, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. hunting a gruffalo at the mountain view ranch

hunting a gruffalo at the mountain view ranch

5 Free Things to Do in Bluestone with a Toddler in Tow

It’s safe to say that we are huge fans of Bluestone National Park Resort. We have gone no less than 5 times since being first introduced to Bluestone by friends of ours and the fact we’ve returned every year since our first visit is testament to how good it really is. Many of our visits have been weekend breaks with toddlers in tow and we very recently had the pleasure of experiencing a mid-week stay there too. Since we’ve had quite a few Bluestone holidays with toddlers now, I thought I would put together a list of 5 free things to do in Bluestone with a toddler in tow, just to show there is plenty to do without having to break the bank.bluestone with a toddler

5 Free Things to Do in Bluestone with a Toddler in Tow

Blue Lagoon Bluestone

Visits to the Bluestone water park are included in your booking and you can visit as many times as you like. You get access to the water park from the day of your arrival from 11am, and you can use it until 3pm on the day of your departure. We never miss an opportunity to visit the Blue Lagoon, and both BattleKid and our friends’ children always enjoy themselves. This gloriously temperature-controlled water park is open all-year round and can be used in all-weather conditions. There is a large pool with a wave machine, a rapid river, 2 water flumes (which you must be over 1.1 metres to use), and two separate play areas for kids to enjoy. The pirates shipwreck is for slightly older kids, although BattleKid always heads there at some stage during our visit. And there is a smaller enclosed little water cove for the little swimmers of the family.

You don’t even need to get in yourself if you don’t want to. Accompanying guests can sit around the edge of the pool area on deck chairs or you can enjoy drinks and snacks in one of the two eateries at the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon Café is located upstairs and overlooks the water park, while the Fish Shack is located pool-side downstairs. The Blue Lagoon is an ideal place to spend a few hours with the kids, especially if the weather isn’t great outside and it’s included in your booking.

mid-week stay at bluestone - the blue lagoon pool
The Blue Lagoon of Bluestone

Enjoy a Nature Trail Walk around the Lake

We have always enjoyed walks around the lake during our Bluestone weekend breaks, and BattleKid and I enjoyed another walk around the lake on our solo morning together during our last visit. This time I turned it into a nature trail and we spent our time spotting frosty leaves, ducks on the lake and even a Halloween scarecrow who was fishing. We also had to step aside for a tractor who was on the footpath around the lake.

Just to one side of the lake is a bug hotel and BattleKid found it fascinating, albeit a little frustrating that he couldn’t see any bugs. I told him they were still in bed and he seemed to accept it. He also spotted some toadstools under the bug hotel. This was a great chance for me to explain to him that we should never pick up anything from the ground, even if it looks like a mushroom, as it could be dangerous and make us very sick.things to do in bluestone with a toddler in tow - spotting toad stools under a bug hotel at bluestone

On a previous visit to the lake at Bluestone one June, we spotted baby frogs on the paths around the lake. We were very conscious of not stepping on them, although there were so many of them it was hard. No matter what the time of year for your visit to the Bluestone Resort in Wales, there will always be something for your toddler to spot and that can be incorporated into a nature trail walk around the lake.

bluestone with a toddler
Spotting frogs on a nature walk in Bluestone

Go on a Gruffalo Hunt towards Camp Smokey from the Village

We have visited Camp Smokey once during our visits to Bluestone and it is where we first discovered s’mores (thanks S). The setting for Camp Smokey is deep in the woods and has some fantastic nature trails around it, one of which leads to and from the Village. On our last visit to the Bluestone holiday park, I took BattleKid on a Gruffalo hunt in what we termed “the deep, dark woods” on the trail that leads from the Village to Camp Smokey.

Now, this little hunt does involve a bit of imagination (and a Gruffalo teddy bear or picture). I had stashed BattleKid’s Gruffalo teddy in my coat pocket, and we headed into the deep dark woods of Bluestone on the hunt for a Gruffalo. We checked around the trees, we checked under leaves and branches, but couldn’t find him. We stopped briefly to watch a squirrel running around on the ground and then going up and down tree trunks. BattleKid wanted him to come to us and kept calling him. We carried on further into the woods, and eventually found the Gruffalo hiding in the V of two branches near the ground.bluestone with a toddler - a Gruffalo hunt in the deep dark woods

BattleKid was thrilled and we spent a lovely hour walking in the woods, picking up acorns on branches and watching the squirrel. You don’t have to make it a Gruffalo hunt, it could be an extension of the nature trail around the lake. You don’t even have to go all the way to Camp Smokey. But it’s a great area to get out for a walk and discover nature with toddlers. And even better, it’s also free. Just a word of warning, bring your raincoats and wellies as you never know when the weather might turn on you.

Run off steam in the Bluestone Adventure Centre

Although we haven’t visited the Adventure Centre ourselves, except for the Bluestone Kingdom of the Elves, it is filled with activities of all kinds for toddlers and older children. There is a den, mini golf, soft play, a ball pool, Lego with Lego walls which will delight fans old and young and a circus zone. These activities are all free and there are other paid activities on offer in the Adventure Centre in Bluestone such as messy play and sensory sessions.

The majority of the activities at the Adventure Centre are free and included in your booking. As it is an indoor venue it is ideal should the weather turn particularly horrible outside. That said, it’s also a great place to let kids of all ages run off some steam. And as it is situated beside the Blue Lagoon, you could combine a visit to both to really tire them out. I’m dying to visit the Adventure Centre with BattleKid, and maybe we’ll get the chance one day.bluestone with a toddler in tow- run off steam in the Adventure Centre

Visit the playgrounds in the Village

I was really impressed by the Treetots Toddler Play Area located in the Village of Bluestone when we first visited back in June 2016 while we waiting to access our lodge. This area has a tree-house type tunnel leading to a slide and some slides. The ground is covered in chip bark and is separated from the Treehouse Play Area for older children by a cargo netting fence.

So impressed by it were we, that we visited it again during that same weekend break with our toddler. Both he and our friends’ son thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

things to do in bluestone with a toddler - visit the playgrounds in the Village
Enjoying the toddler playground beside the Village in Bluestone

And now there is a new addition to the Village area. The Village green has been turned into a big playground and was a lovely surprise for BattleKid and I to stumble upon during our solo morning adventures in Bluestone last October. This area has been designed with kids in mind and has everything from climbing frames and swings to slides and roundabouts. BattleKid had to be torn away from it so we could get back to our Grassholm Lodge.

We visited it again later the same day with our friends who hadn’t seen it, and despite the rain both boys had a blast. I can highly recommend both playgrounds in the Bluestone Village for toddlers. And if you aren’t in a hurry you can always get a coffee at the Ty Coffi shop or stop at the Knights Tafarn afterwards for some food.

living arrows - BattleKid on the playground boat at bluestone
Fun in the new playground of Bluestone

There are also lots of things to do near Bluestone which are free such as a visit to the beautiful seaside town of Tenby or the glorious beaches of Newgale and Barafundle Bay. There are also things you can pay for like a visit to Folly Farm which is less than a 10-minute drive from the Bluestone Park. You could also do a spot of dragon hunting in one of the many castles nearby as we did at Pembroke Castle. Entry to the castles is not expensive.

Whether you choose to stay in the Bluestone National Resort Park for your entire stay or plan to venture further afield, I hope I’ve shown you that there are at least 5 free things to do in Bluestone with a toddler in tow. And by all means, these activities can extend to older children too.bluestone with a toddler in tow

And if you are still in two minds about whether Bluestone is suitable as a destination for holidays with toddlers, then can I suggest you read my post about our Mid-Week Stay at Bluestone and my review of the Grassholm Lodge at Bluestone. You could also check out my four Holiday Diaries for our other visits to Bluestone, in our Travel Section.

Cath x

bluestone with a toddler

5 free things to do in Bluestone with a toddler in tow

Tips for Visiting Disneyland Paris: The Ultimate How To Guide

As many of you know, we’ve recently been to Disneyland Paris as a family for the first time, although BattleDad and I have been before. BattleDad also worked there for a year as part of the opening crew. And it’s fair to say I did A LOT of planning before we went, getting the help of the blogging community with things like how to plan Disneyland Paris, the best places to eat in Disneyland Paris and the best rides for under 5’s at Disneyland Paris. I can also tell you I learned a lot during both the planning stages and while we were there. So, I thought I would share with you all the knowledge we gained with our top Tips for Visiting Disneyland Paris; tricks, hints and other secrets.tips for visiting disneyland paris

Tips for Visiting Disneyland Paris

Research & Planning a Trip to Disneyland Paris

I cannot stress enough that in order to get the most out of your time at Disneyland Paris, I highly recommend that you do your research. Everything from where to stay, to where you’d like to eat, to the rides best suited to your kids; research it. This will help you plan not only your trip, but also your time in Disneyland Paris so you can get the most out of your trip. I have a few blog posts I wrote during my research and planning which you might find helpful.

Planning Our First Family Visit to Disneyland Paris.

Rides for Under 5’s at Disneyland Paris.

Best Places for Food at Disneyland Paris.

Once you’ve done your research it’s time to plan your trip. BattleDad only half-jokingly said I put as much planning effort into this trip as Disney does to make things look easy. High praise indeed, but well worth it! It can be a logistical nightmare and a huge undertaking, but with the right research and planning, you can take most of the stress out of a trip like this. And just because it’s Disneyland, don’t let it fool you. People everywhere, stressed adults, stressed kids – minimise all of that by getting your research and planning right and let them freak themselves out while you have a great time. Let’s look at some of the things to look out for.

Tips for booking your trip to Disneyland Paris

There are many companies who will do an all-in-one service for getting to Disneyland Paris, but we booked our stay through the Disneyland Paris website. We then booked our flights separately as we were travelling to Paris from Portugal.

If travelling from the UK, you have many options for getting to Disneyland Paris. You can travel by plane using any number of airlines including Ryanair, EasyJet, Air France and many more. Compare prices through sites such as Skyscanner (click here to start researching your flights).

You can get a train to Disneyland Paris via the EuroStar as either a food passenger, going all the way to Disneyland either direct or via Gare du Nord. Or by car, disembarking when you arrive in Calais and driving to Disneyland Paris. Keri over on Our Globe Trotters has a great post full of information about driving from the UK to France, if you are electing to take your own car.

Personally, I will always book separately as that’s my preference but by all means you can choose to book via an all-in-one package travel agent such as Thomson or Magic Breaks. The choice really is yours, but you’ve got limited options to make savings if you do an all-in-one trip so bear that in mind.

When booking your trip, I recommend you check out the Disneyland Paris UK site, the Disneyland Paris French site and Disneyland Paris German site, and compare the prices. Sometimes you’ll find one is doing a deal where the other two aren’t. And don’t worry about the language. Just use the Google translate button on the web page and you’ll be fine.

One final tip here is check out whether there are any European school holidays on while you plan to visit, particularly if you are visiting Disneyland Paris outside of UK and Irish school breaks. Just Google “school holidays (country name) (year)” and you should find pages giving this information. Be especially aware of booking your visit while there are French school holidays as the parks have the potential to be incredibly busy during this time.

Should you stay in an on-site Disney Hotel?

There are quite a few advantages to staying in one of the Disney hotels over any of the non-Disney Hotels located near Disneyland Paris. I was actually surprised at what was included such as:

  • Park tickets for each day of your stay including the day of your arrival and departure.
  • Hotel Fast Pass (only available with certain hotels).
  • Extra Magic Time included (more on this later).
  • Character meet and greets in the hotels.
  • Free shuttle bus to the parks from your hotel (not needed for the Disneyland Hotel and not available for the Davy Crockett Ranch). That said some of the non-Disney hotels run their own shuttle buses to the parks but check this out before booking.
  • Sometimes you can get free breakfast or half board deals when booking a Disney hotel, or extra days free. Please note that bed and breakfast is no longer a guaranteed deal, this stopped early in 2017.

Disney hotels include the Disneyland Hotel (where we stayed), the Disney Hotel New York (looks fab from the outside), Disney Newport Bay, Disney’s Sequoia Lodge, Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne and Santa Fe (in descending order of star rating). There are also on-site self-catering cabins in the form of the Davy Crockett Ranch, which are ideal if travelling to Disney by car, or if you have a large family and don’t want to fork out for two hotel rooms. Just note that there is no free shuttle bus from here as mentioned. All the Disney hotels can be found, and prices compared, on the relevant Disneyland Paris website.

You might ask which is the best Disneyland Paris Hotel. Truthfully, we have only stayed in the Disneyland Paris Hotel itself, and while it was amazing, so too was the price. I would advise you read reviews of the hotels within your price range and decide from there. Realistically you won’t be spending all that much time at your hotel, unless the weather is particularly dreadful. What I will say is watch out for deals for Disneyland Paris hotels with park tickets. These are often included and will save you money in the long run if your park tickets are included.

disneyland paris day 4 - The stunning lobby of the Disneyland Hotel
The stunning lobby of the Disneyland Hotel in December 2017

Tips for preparing to visit Disneyland Paris

Decide whether you want a meal plan or not.

Breakfast used to be included in your hotel booking but it was changed early in 2017 and it is now an add-on option. At the time of our original booking, we added it on. However, we later changed it to a Full Board Plus Meal Plan. I could remember wandering around for ages at lunchtime with BattleDad during our pre-BattleKid trips, trying to find somewhere to have lunch. We ended up in Toad Hall, eating awful over-priced fish and chips, and I didn’t want history repeating itself with a toddler in tow.

There are different levels of meal plans from Standard to Plus to Premium, and which one you choose will depend on both your budget and where you want to eat. We chose the Plus as we could eat in places like Captain Jack’s and Bistro Chez Remy without having to budget additional money for them. If you choose Standard and want to eat there, you will need to top-up on your meal vouchers.

Also, I would recommend thinking long and hard about your Disneyland Paris dining plan, and whether you need Full Board or could manage with Half Board. We chose full board and I ended up giving away three sets of meal plans vouchers because we didn’t use all ours. We could have easily managed with just Half Board and perhaps paying for one meal. Next time I think we’ll go Half Board. The food is plentiful and good quality, but we didn’t need a large breakfast then a three-course meal at lunch time and a three-course meal at dinner time. It was just a bit too much for us.

Decide whether you want to buy the Photo Pass

This pass can prove very useful if you plan on doing quite a few meet and greets, but less so if you are not. I knew we were going to try get to a few meet and greets, so added it to our original booking (costing £45 in June 2017). If you don’t buy before you go, you can still get it in the parks or your hotel boutique (if staying in a Disney hotel), and in December 2017, it cost €70 when bought at Disney itself. Note that the price is going up in 2018.

In the end it proved very useful for us. Not all the meet and greets we did had official photographers at them, but those that did resulted in at least three pictures or more. Between rides and meet and greets we came away with 43 photos. Those from the meet and greets were worth buying it for alone. I’ve heard of some people coming away with 100+ photos, so consider whether you want it or not. And if you do, buy before you go so it works out more cost-effective. Here are some pictures from our photo pass.BattleKid meeting Mickey Mouse in Disneyland Paris BattleKid meeting Darth Vader in Disneyland Paris

Watch Disney films

Disney films are part and parcel of growing up, but that said, the films are always changing, and classics are being replaced in the eyes of our children by newer, shinier films.

Before visiting Disneyland Paris, we made sure to watch a few of the classics with BattleKid so he would at least be aware of the characters before going on certain rides. We had never watched Peter Pan with him but knew we wanted to go on the ride, so we watched it with him in the weeks before our trip. We watched the following films:

  • Peter Pan
  • Jungle Book
  • Dumbo
  • Ratatouille (a first for us adults as well)
  • Toy Story 1 and 2
  • Cars (a regular in our house).

We also watched a few episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse so the characters were fresh in BattleKid’s mind should we meet them at the character’s breakfasts we had booked.

Prepare your snack bags

One thing I can remember from our previous visits to Disneyland Paris was the cost of food and drink in the parks. And everyone I had received advice from in my planning stages said to bring snack bags to keep hunger at bay with little ones, especially in between meals, or for use in queues.

So, I packed two snack bags per day for BattleKid, which was overkill but better to be safe than sorry. I found it quite hard to fill them here in Portugal as we don’t have kids treats and snacks such as the Kiddylicious range or the Organix range.

In our snack bags, which were Ziploc bags, I packed the following:

  • Two small Kinder chocolate bars (from a multipack)
  • A packet of apple crisps
  • Oaty Biscuit bar
  • One fruit/yogurt pouch
  • One small chocolate bar
  • A few jelly teddy bears.

Anything that doesn’t need refrigerating, could melt, or go off quickly, will be ideal, especially individually wrapped items. I also brought apples and grapes in our luggage, as well as a knife, so I could bring a small lunch box with fruit into the park each day.

And remember your drinks bottles. But beware, although there are numerous drinking fountains throughout Disneyland Paris, we found none working during our trip in December. None! Whether this was due to the cold weather or not, I don’t know. So, we had to buy some water in our hotel and fill our drinks bottles from those (and from the bottles at breakfast, but this can be frowned upon). Also, get yourself a bottle or two of concentrated squeezy juice to make flavoured drinks for your kids if they’re not big on simply water. Grab them in Boots or a newsagents through security in the airport if going to Disneyland Paris by plane.

Prepare your kids for the crowds by watching some YouTube vlogs

One hint given to us was to watch some YouTube videos with your kids to prepare them for how crowded and busy Disney might be. Although I did this with BattleKid, I don’t think he quite got it at his age (almost 4), so I think this would be better for slightly older kids who might be going for the first time. One thing to note, don’t watch vlogs from the year you are going, especially if it is one of the anniversary years. I started to watch the Illuminations 25th anniversary video and stopped a minute in as I didn’t want it ruined for our visit.

Visitors with disabilities or special needs

There is a plenty of information on the website with regards to those visiting Disneyland Paris who might have disabilities or special needs. From whether you can get priority passes, to the documentation you’ll need to get these, I suggest you check out the website. If your answer cannot be found, ring the Disneyland Paris number (UK –  08448 008 111 , Paris – +33 160 306 053).

One of the Facebook groups I joined prior to our visit, which has so much useful information, is the Daniel Potter’s Disneyland Paris Advice Group. You can search for relevant threads, or ask your question. They are really helpful and willingly give advice to those who need it. I did join another Facebook group which I won’t name, but found it less friendly than the Daniel Potter one!

How to get to Disneyland Paris from the airport

You have a few options here. We booked the Magic Shuttle to and from Orly, but I never checked the times before we went. Do this BEFORE you book it. I thought it would be a regular 15 to 30-minute bus but not so. It has a specific timetable. When we landed and cleared customs in Orly, we had just missed the 17.50 bus and the next wasn’t until 19.00 (also the last one of the day). We didn’t fancy waiting around for 50 minutes in the cold with a toddler, so we took a taxi. Which cost us €125, due to the awful rush hour traffic through road works. Be warned! We did get it back to the airport but had to forgo breakfast in order to get one which would leave us at the airport well in time for our flight.

You can also take the TGV or RER trains from Charles de Galle or Orly but depending on where you land you may need to make a change. Not ideal if you are travelling with luggage and buggies.

You could book a private transfer, and this may be the best option. Had I known about the Magic Shuttle timetable before booking it, I’d have opted for a private booking. Information on these can be found via the Daniel Potter Facebook group too.

Additional tips before visiting Disneyland Paris

If you want to eat at the best Disneyland Paris restaurants while there, you can book these 60 days in advance. DO IT. Call the reservations number (+33 1 60 30 40 50) and make all your bookings in one go. I have read there is a UK freephone number for restaurant bookings, but have also read of people not being able to get through or being kept on the line for hours. I would recommend ringing the direct French reservations number very early in the morning. I rang at 7.15am UK time and was answered immediately. The French number is open 24/7 so avoid calling at peak times.

Also, buy your children’s autograph books and costumes before you go as they are more expensive to buy in the Disney parks. There are some great ones on Amazon such as this one.

If you don’t already have waterproofs for the family, buy them before you go. All-in-one’s for kids and waterproof over-trousers for adults would be a must in my opinion. Although we didn’t need them in December, the French weather is an unpredictable as the UK or Irish weather so it’s best to be prepared. Why bring waterproof over-trousers for adults? Who wants to sit on a wet seat on a ride and have wet pants for the rest of the day!

Before you go, or as soon as you arrive, get yourself a lanyard for your park tickets, at the very least. This will save you so much time when entering the parks or going between the two. I also had my hotel charge card, hotel room card and my driving licence (more on this later) in my lanyard, along with our park tickets. Saves you rummaging through your bag to find them. Again, you buy Disney lanyards (such as this matching set) on Amazon.

If you can find the Disneyland Paris timetable prior to your visit, plan your days at Disneyland Paris. I wasn’t going to do this until I read about it on the Daniel Potter’s Facebook group and was glad I did it in the end. We fitted in so much more than if we had just gone there to ‘wing it’. I am planning another post about what we fitted in, so watch out for that.

Hints and tips for visiting Disneyland Paris parks

Getting into the parks and planning your day

You can either walk to the parks from Disney hotels, or get the free shuttle buses. Be warned that these get very busy at peak times, so you might have to wait on the next bus. And you will have to collapse buggies.

If you are staying in the Disneyland Hotel, you have the shortest distance to travel to the parks as you are right at the Disney park entrance.

If you haven’t already done so, pick up a Disneyland Paris Schedule leaflet in the park for the most up-to-date times and programme. This will also tell you what meet and greets are taking place, where and when, and whether there will be an official photographer there (handy for those with the photo pass). Then plan out your day if you haven’t already done so. They will also give you up-to-date times for any Disneyland Paris parade times and shows being held during your visit.

There are two parks and we spent more time in the Disney park than the Disneyland Paris Studios park. We had three days so spent two in Disney. When BattleDad and I visited for one day, we did Disney in the morning and finished off in Studios. But this meant we missed the castle lights show as we had to travel back into Paris each time.

Extra Magic Time

If you are staying in a Disney hotel, you get additional time in the parks called Extra Magic Time (EMT) – formerly Extra Magic Hours. The length of this time will depend on the time of year you are visiting but can be from 8am to 10am. When we visited in December 2017, our EMT was 8.30-9.30. And don’t worry about that missing half hour. You remain in the park, and can keep enjoying this quieter time before the parks open to the public.

And if you have EMT, USE IT. We entered the parks just before this time and enjoyed rides which normally have long wait times, as well as did one or two meet and greets. We enjoyed EMT in the Disney park one morning and ticked off all but one of the rides we wanted to do in Fantasyland with BattleKid, which freed up more time in our day. Just note that only Fantasyland in the Disney park is open during EMT. That said, you can queue at the entrance to other areas and be one of the first to arrive at your ride of choice. BattleDad went to do Indiana Jones at 9.45am and was first on at 10am.

Getting into the Disney park before EMT will also give you a chance to get a picture of the castle with no one in front of it as they have a rope across the entrance until the official EMT opening hours. For example, we got to the castle at 8.20am one morning and that is how I got my castle picture as used in my graphics for this post.

I would recommend doing the Peter Pan ride in Disney and the Ratatouille ride in Studios during this time. This will leave your hotel Fast Pass (if you get them) free to use for other rides during your visit. These were two rides recommended to us as ones not to be missed.

Fast Pass

As mentioned, if you stay in certain Disney hotels you will receive one Fast Pass per person, per day of your stay. These can be used on certain rides to beat the queues. You simply scan your ticket at the Fast Pass machine at the entrance to the ride. You will receive a ticket with a return time, enabling you to continue to enjoy the rest of the park without queuing for that ride. However, you can only use one Fast Pass at a time or when 2 hours has elapsed. I’ll be honest and say that although we had Fast Pass tickets, we didn’t use any of them as we managed to get the rides we wanted to do done either in EMT or without queuing because the wait times were incredibly short. Rides which have Fast Pass can be found here.

Dining at Disneyland Paris

You have many options for dining while visiting Disneyland Paris, whether you have a meal plan or not. There are fast-food restaurants, table service restaurants and also character dining experiences. Full information about all the places to eat at Disneyland Paris can be found on the website here.

If you have a meal plan, you get one voucher per meal per person. For half board you will get a breakfast and one meal voucher per day, full board is one breakfast and two meal vouchers per day. Each meal plan voucher has a nominal monetary value (not shown on the voucher), and these can be used towards a meal if you want to eat away from the menu your voucher is for.

For example, we had Plus meal vouchers, so were able to eat at most restaurants from the Plus menu. However, BattleDad fancied the Premium meal at Captain Jack’s so he ordered from that menu and we paid the difference (although the difference turned out to be more than the advertised price difference between the Plus and Premium menus so be sure to ask. We paid €20 instead of the advertised €6 difference. Not a problem, but if you’re on a strict budget be aware of these little surprises).

On the Daniel Potter’s Facebook Group, there is a file containing full information about each meal plan, the restaurants included in it and where you might need to top up. Be aware that there are certain restaurants in the Disney Village that DO NOT accept meal vouchers including Planet Hollywood, Vapianos, King Ludwigs Castle, Rainforest Café, McDonalds and 5 Guys.

As for character dining, where you get to meet characters while you eat, there are a few options. The first is a character breakfast in Plaza Gardens within the park, which we did. I’ve written about that in my Disneyland Paris Holiday Diaries. Please note, there are no longer characters present in Café Mickey.

You can also do character dining at Inventions in the Disneyland Hotel, or Princess character dining at Auberge de Cendrillon, within the Disney castle. Both of these options are significantly pricier than the character breakfast, although I’ve heard are a more relaxed affair than the breakfast experience. In truth, we enjoyed the character breakfast when we went to the earlier sitting of 8.15am rather than 9.45am.

One thing I cannot stress enough is to book your meals 60 days in advance. BattleDad and I never did in previous years, and as mentioned, ate over-priced awful fish and chips for lunch. This time, I rang 55 days in advance and booked our table for Bistro Chez Remy, Steakhouse, Captain Jack’s and the California Grill, ensuring we had nice meals planned.

However, our Bistro Chez Remy meal was mixed up and we had to go to a later sitting than planned, screwing up our planned day in Studios. So, my advice is to confirm your meals BEFORE you go, just in case. I confirmed our time for Captain Jacks early in the morning on the day we would be eating there just to be certain there was no further mix ups.

Photo Pass and how to use it

As mentioned the Photo Pass can be purchased before your visit or while you are at the parks. This gives you digital copies of all your photos from rides and meet and greets as high-resolution copies, which you can access on line for one year from first use. Note, not all rides have photos, nor do all character meet and greets. Those that do are clearly marked by a symbol on the park’s timetable.

Before you go, create a photo pass account on the Disneyland Photo Pass website, and download the Photo Pass app too. Once you get your photo pass at the parks, insert the code into your account and start collecting your photos.

You will receive one main photo pass card, and two smaller fobs. These are handy if your party wants to split up for any reason.

On rides, you can either use your QR scanner on your phone to add your photo to your account. Or, each photo has a code associated with it in the format A1234. Simply add this to your account and hey presto, ride photo will be added.

As for meet and greets with official photographer’s present, simply hand them your photo pass card when it’s your turn and they will do the rest. Alternatively, if you haven’t got a photo pass, they often hand you a card which you can bring to a booth to get your photos, or which you can add to a photo pass account later. But be aware there is a time limit on this, and you cannot put them onto a photo pass account after you’ve left Disney.

As already mentioned, it can work out cheaper to buy before you go. The Photo Pass lasts for 10 days from first use, but you can access and download your photos for 1 year. And as far as I am aware, you do get a warning email when your Photo Pass is about to expire.

Shopping while visiting Disneyland Paris

If you are staying in a Disney hotel, you can shop until 4pm and avail of the free delivery service to your hotel, meaning you can remain bag free. And whatever you do, DO NOT leave shopping bags on strollers or in the basket underneath. You run the risk of your bag being stolen.

Kids will be tempted by EVERYTHING they see, so why not give them a spending limit and once it’s gone, it’s gone. BattleKid had his own spending money from us and his grandparents, and apart from his Buzz Lightyear action figure, he paid for everything else he wanted. He even came home with some money left.

My advice is leave your shopping until the end of the day. We waited until after the Illuminations to visit the shops along Main Street. This was for two reasons; one, we didn’t plan to shop during the day, and two, we wanted to kill time before attempting to get “The Picture”.

We also did most of our shopping after our day in the Studios in the World of Disney shop in the Disneyland Paris Disney Village. While it was busy, we were heading for our hotel straight afterwards, so this was the best time for us to get it done.

A word of warning: If you are going to use a hotel charge card, like the one we got in the Disneyland Hotel, please make sure you have ID with you at all times, corresponding to the person whose name is on the card. We had used the card for small charges without needing it. However, in the World of Disney, our total was well over €100, and the lady on the cashier desk asked to see my ID for the card. I didn’t have any with me and as a result, BattleDad had to run back to our hotel with BattleKid to get my driving licence. So, carry your ID, preferably your driving licence, in your lanyard along with your charge card. Better to have it with you, than be caught out without it like me.Tips for visiting Disneyland Paris - The Ultimate how to guide

Other tips for inside the parks

Download the Disneyland Paris app: This proved so useful during our time in the parks. Not only does it have approximate wait times for each ride, but also has other information along the top scroll bar such as dining, photo pass rides and also restroom locations, essential for while visiting Disneyland Paris with toddlers.

Stroller: Do not second guess yourself on this. We nearly did, and it would have been to our detriment. Whether your child uses one at home or not, bring it with you, just in case. BattleKid hadn’t used one for six months prior to our trip to Disneyland Paris. Although he was fine on our first day, albeit with a little carrying, he asked for his half way through our second day. And we were glad we had it in our room to grab! You other option is to hire one in the park.

Bring your character costumes from home: Make sure to buy your children’s costumes outside of the parks as the costumes in Disney shops within the parks are a lot more expensive. I wasn’t convinced of this, but bought BattleKid’s costumes before we went. I was convinced when I saw the cost of the Buzz Lightyear costume within the park. I paid £30.99 for the costume including gloves. The same costume, without gloves, was priced at €59.99, and you had to pay for the glove separately! Why bring costumes? Not only will your kids get more interaction with cast members and characters but you could be allowed to skip the queue if your children are dressed as the character such as the Buzz Lightyear ride.

tips for visiting disneyland paris
The price tag of a Buzz Lightyear costume in Disneyland Paris

Buy your autograph books before you go: These too cost more inside the parks. And also bring pens with you into the park. No one wants to get caught short at a character meet and greet without a pen. And the characters and their minders will not have any!

Eat at unusual times: If you’re planning to wing it when it comes to meals, if you are prepared to eat at unusual times, then your wait will be shorter than at peak times. For example, we strolled over to Annette’s in the Disney Village at 4.00pm one afternoon and were seated straight away as a party of 7. This is the time most people were headed to the Disney park for the Parade at 5pm. The evening before we’d been in the village from 8.30pm and the queue for Annette’s was out the door and extremely long. Our friends had also visited the Village at 7.15pm and managed to get a table at Café Mickey within in a few minutes as people were watching the Illuminations in the Disney Park. So, if you can time your meal at those unusual times you can get lucky.

Queue to the left: If there is an option, queue to left for a ride (e.g. at the turnstiles in Pirates of the Carribbean just before the boats). These always move quicker than right hand queues, most likely because most people are right-handed so naturally gravitate to the right.

Single Riders: Many of the rides have a line for single riders, meaning if only one of you wants to do a ride, you can get onto the ride quicker by being a single rider, willing to fill up empty seats. BattleDad went on both the Tower of Terror and Indiana Jones as a single rider and didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes for a seat. A friend went on Ratatouille and was on within 5 mins while the larger queue was 45 mins.

Baby Switch: I wasn’t aware of this before, but this facility enables parents to enjoy the rides, one after the other, if they are with a child who cannot or doesn’t want to go on the ride. One parent rides first, while the other waits with the child. Then when the ride returns, they swap without having to queue again.

Bring spare batteries and memory cards: Ensure you have at least one extra battery and one extra memory card for your camera. You will need them. And also bring a portable charger for your phone with you. This can come in handy if you are using your phone to keep kids entertained in ride queues.

Leave the selfie sticks at home: Selfie sticks are banned in Disneyland Paris, as are camera tripods with extendable legs. You can bring Gorilla pod type tripods into the park if you really want to. I brought one with me but didn’t use it at all.

Try catch the parades, Disney Castle lights show and a few Studios shows: These are three events you really don’t want to miss. We caught the Christmas parade but missed the main one. That said, the Christmas one was at a perfect time and was a perfect length for keeping BattleKid’s attention. He even got good interactions from some characters as he was dressed as Kylo Ren.

Tips for visiting Disneyland Paris - the Christmas parade
The Christmas Parade in Disneyland Paris (December 2017)

The Castle lights show, called Illuminations for the 25th anniversary, was amazingAnd we managed to see both the Moteurs Action Show (a big hit with bike-and-car-mad BattleKid) and Mickey and the Magician. The shows in Studios could be a good option too if the rain is particularly heavy during your visit.

Things to watch out for while visiting Disneyland Paris

You might find some people advising you to take a bike lock for your buggy/stroller, as it has been known for them to go missing from the entrance to rides, in order to lock your buggy to the railings at the entrance to rides. However, during my final check of hints and tips for Disneyland Paris I discovered it is NOT allowed to lock buggies to railings. The best you can do is put the lock through your buggy wheels (if you have one that allows this), to deter it being stolen. Otherwise you just need to take a chance if you are all going on the same rides. I have a long Velcro strap for our buggy (the folding catch doesn’t work great) and when we were with our friends, I strapped the two buggies together. Also, never ever leave anything on or in your buggy while it is unattended.

I advise you to get an ID bracelet for each of your children and put your contact details on it, just in case you should get separated. I found some on Amazon such as these ones. BattleKid wore them everyday in the park and after the first few hours didn’t notice it at all.

Watch out for families placing a ‘seed’ in the queue in front of you. What do I mean by that? I took our son on the Dumbo ride while BattleDad went to do the Indiana Jones ride himself. We had one girl of about 10 years of age in front of us in the queue. It turned out that her siblings and mother were behind us. As we got nearer the front, she dragged her siblings through to her. I turned a blind eye to this. As the ride was a two-person ride, I allowed the mother to join her three children. It just made sense for them to take two elephants rather than three. And as we got to the entrance, this mother then called forward SIX more adults to join them! Six adults! For the Dumbo ride! I was furious and let them know, but they just pretended they didn’t understand English (they were Spanish). My warning is do not be polite unless you know exactly who and how many may join this ‘seed’ person in front of you.

Adults, please can I ask you to look down when rushing about the place. Our son was nearly knocked over three times by adults in a hurry who didn’t look down and check for a child in their way. You cannot avoid children of any ages when you visit Disneyland Paris. Each time our son was only saved from a nasty fall by BattleDad grabbing hold of the person before they knocked him down. None had bothered to look down.

If you are planning to watch the parade I would advise you to stake your spot at least 20 to 30 minutes before the start and guard it with your life. We found a great spot to the left of the castle if you’re facing it from Main Street, with our backs to Discoveryland. We also chose to stand beside a rubbish bin and we put one of the buggies at the other end of our line to avoid people trying to push through. On the other side of the buggy (not in our line) I saw a family push their kids through at the last minute in front of people who had been waiting as long as we had. It’s the height of rudeness and is no example for your children. Get there early and wait your turn.

And for those of you planning to watch the lights show (Illuminations), please do not sit children on your shoulders right in front of people who have been waiting 20 minutes already. You obscure their view, especially if they want to capture pictures or videos, and you force them to move. We had this happen to us and it is infuriating.

Tips for visiting Disneyland Paris - Illumiantions, celebrating Disneyland Paris' 25th anniversary
Illumiantions, celebrating Disneyland Paris’ 25th anniversary

For shows, I’d advise arriving 20 minutes before the show in order to get a good seat. We arrived about 15 minutes before Mickey and the Magician was due to start and there were already two massive queues to get in. We ended up with seats to the side of the stage. Now our view wasn’t bad, but if you want the prime seats, arrive extra early.

Tips for visiting Disneyland Paris- Moteurs Action show
Moteurs Action show in Studios, featuring Lightening McQueen

Most importantly, enjoy yourself. Visiting Disneyland Paris can be a magical experience, even more so with kids, and you should still take time to just enjoy yourself and soak up the atmosphere. If you want to get the most out of your visit, make sure to plan your time there. But be prepared to deviate from your plan, as we had to on two days. This was due to a mix up with one of our restaurant bookings and also due to one meal over-running quite a bit.

I hope you have found this guide to Disneyland Paris useful and that the hints and tips included within prove helpful. While I’ve tried to cover as much as I can, there may be one or two items I have missed or not covered. If you have any questions, please drop them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them, or update this post accordingly.tips for visiting disneyland paris

And last but not least, you could also head into Paris itself with the kids if you fancied a change of scenery. There are two great posts about taking kids into Paris, one by Keri of Our Globe Trotters and one by Vanessa of Wanderlust Crew.

Are you planning a trip to Disneyland Paris soon? Have you got any further Disneyland Paris tips to share?

Cath x

For additional resources about Disneyland Paris, read these other great posts:

Other information:

For full details on Disneyland Paris tickets, please visit the Disneyland Paris website (Disneyland Paris park tickets section) for full details. Here you’ll find information about prices of tickets. Be aware you can buy Disneyland Paris tickets at the gate, as BattleDad and I did on our two previous day trips.

Up-to-date Disneyland Paris Opening Times can also be found on the Disneyland Paris website here. The website also has a full list of things to do in Disneyland Paris and there is a Disneyland Paris Rides list too.

*Please note that this post contains a number of affiliate links.  That means that I receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking the link – this doesn’t cost you anything extra.

tips for visiting disneyland paris

 

The Portugal Diaries #15

Our two-week America road trip was a resounding success and turned out to be the trip-of-a-lifetime. It couldn’t have gone any better and has given us a bug for road trips. We got back to Portugal late on Sunday 10th September after a delayed flight from London. 

be in the picture 8 - mum and son watching a herd of bison in Yellowstone
Checking out a small herd of bison in Yellowstone

The plane had come from Athens and there was a man with a broken leg stuck in his seat. It took them an hour and a half, with medical assistance, to get him off the plane and get us off the ground. Not the best way to end an epic holiday. But we got home safe and sound.

When we arrived home, we discovered the workmen of our park had finally started sorting out our garden for us. We wanted paths put in and grass to cover the gravel and dust which had started to annoy us. It was great to know the end was in sight where our little patch of Portugal was concerned. And it was completed before the end of the month. It has made the garden look much cleaner and complete now. No more dust coming into our home.

As soon as we were back from our holidays, we went to the school to see the secretary. They had BattleKid on their register and so, on the Tuesday we started him off with four hours, going to up seven hours (until 4pm) by the end of the week. He had no problem at all going in and the language difference didn’t seem to bother him at all. With BattleKid starting school, it made me spend more time on the language app, Memrise, to continue my learning of the language too. And I was soon surprising BattleDad with some of the things I understand and can say. I’ve a long way to go but I’m making the effort.

All the teachers in kindergarten understand English to some extent, but only one speaks it with some confidence. They’re all lovely and very accommodating of both us and BattleKid. There is also another child in his class from an English-speaking family which is great to know. And he seemed to be settling in well.

The weekend after we arrived back from America we attended our first proper motorbike racing meet with BattleKid at Portimao. World Superbikes have a date on their racing calendar at the Algarve Circuit and BattleDad had gotten us paddock access for €35 each. That’s a lot less than the same type of tickets for the Isle of Man TT, I can tell you!

We set off by 10am on the Saturday and just less than an hour and twenty minutes later we arrived to the noise of Superbikes doing practice laps. BattleKid wasn’t too sure of the noise at first, but once the race started he was extremely excited. We also spotted a few racers we know like Stefan Bradl and Eugene Laverty, both ex-MotoGP riders. And BattleKid got to meet the Yamaha pit girls too.

living arrows - An excited BattleKid at WSB at Portimao
One excited boy at the racing!
living arrows - BattleKid with the Yamaha pit girls at Portimao
I don’t think he was too sure about the pit girls!

It had been five years since BattleDad and I had been to a race meet and we agreed it had been too long. I think between WSB at Portimao and MotoGP at Jerez, we are going to be spoiled rotten. We missed Jerez this year but will be eagerly awaiting next year’s date to see if we can get tickets!

Shortly after our racing weekend, we had our friends, W and S, arriving for a week with their two children. It was lovely to see them in Portugal and spend time with them, and I know BattleKid was thrilled to see L!

And the Landy also completed her change from UK to Portuguese number plates. It’s strange looking at them and I was not used to them even a month after they were changed.

We also had some lovely days at the beach during September with the cooler weather, both with W and S, and also with BattleKid’s grandparents. We hadn’t visited the beach too much during July and August due to the heat but with the slightly cooler weather, it was much more inviting.

living arrows - BattleKid enjoying himself on the beach
Enjoying the beach at the end of September!

The month of September ended on a relaxed note as we continue to find our feet in a country we have fallen in love with.

To be continued….

Cath x

Catch the full tale of our big move in our Portugal Diaries here on the blog.

50 Amazing Trips to Make: Our Long-Term Travel Plans

We are a family that love to travel. Simple. If you hadn’t figured that out already, then where have you been. I wrote a post recently about how travelling has taken on a different shape since BattleKid came along and has even changed since then. A little while ago, we adults sat down and listed out everywhere we’d love to go with BattleKid and what started as a list has become our long-term travel plans as a family.our long-term family travel plans

Photo by Deanna Ritchie on Unsplash

I was born abroad to Irish parents and have travelled since I was very young. BattleDad less so, but has made up for it in more recent years. I think my love of travelling comes from my Dad. He was a deep-sea fisherman in the 60’s, travelling as far North as Iceland, and has so many tales to tell about that time.

Then, shortly after marrying my Mum, they emigrated to South Africa, before heading into Botswana, where both one of my sisters and I were born. A return trip to Ireland for just over a year was followed by five more years in South Africa where my middle sister was born. We also spent a summer in Saudi Arabia, all thanks to my Dad’s work. So, you could say travelling is in our blood.

BattleDad visited America as a baby and had plenty of holidays with his family to the UK and around Ireland, but his first real foray into travelling abroad came when he spent a year working at what was then called EuroDisney, as a member of the opening crew. Since then he has travelled to many European countries, most of them with me. He has returned to America several times over, both for work and with us, and has even visited India and Singapore for work, destinations BattleKid and I are yet to visit.

So, travelling is a big feature in our family life. And none more so than with the adventure we embarked on last May when we up sticks and moved from wet and windy Wales to sunnier Portugal. And our travels don’t stop there. Since moving to Portugal, we have done a two-week USA Road trip, which was epic. We have returned to the UK for a mid-week break in Bluestone, and visited Disneyland Paris for the first time as a family, celebrating 25 years since BattleDad’s time as part of the opening crew.

We already have no less than three destinations organised for trips next year, which I will reveal in my Holiday Diaries Plan for 2018. But there is such a big world out there and so many amazing palces we want to visit, that we decided to write them all down. And we will be doing our best to tick them off slowly as we fit in travel around work and school.

So, what are our long-term family travel plans? Well, they had to be split into two categories. The first category consists of non-bucket list destinations we plan to visit with BattleKid while he is still young. We realise he might not retain great memories of these trips, but we also know they will be destinations he could easily return to when he’s older.

The second category of bucket list destinations in our long-term travel plans are more far-flung, exotic, or expensive destinations. These are more once-in-a-lifetime destinations and we want to be able to share these with him and know he will have memories of them, particularly if he cannot return to them in the future for one reason or another.

Interested to see where is on our two lists, and why? Read on.

Non-bucket List Destinations in Our Long-term Travel Plans

Route 66 – This is a trip my sister-in-law has done twice, once with twins and then again with their younger brother. And having done our own USA road trip, Route 66 is definitely on our list. It’s a classic road trip route and takes in many great states and cities in one trip. Our plan is to try organise this one in a few years’ time.

long-term travel plans - Route 66 highway

Photo by Jakub Gorajek on Unsplash

The Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego via San Francisco to Seattle – Another USA Road trip high on our to-do list is the full length of the West Coast of America, taking in San Diego, San Francisco and ending in Seattle. For most of it we’d plan to drive the Pacific Coast Highway along Highway 1 and the 101.

Canada – And more specifically the National Parks of Jasper and Banff. Friends of ours honeymooned there and have stunning pictures and amazing tales that we knew we had to put them on our long-term travel plans. They potentially could be combined with the destination below for a nice long three-week trip.

Glacier National Park, Montana – We’d heard of Glacier before our trip to Yellowstone but didn’t factor it into our trip. It was recommended to us by a few people during our trip, and having looked at pictures since our return, it’s another place we really want to visit.

Cape Town and the Kruger National Park – I lived in South Africa for over five years when I was younger, but we left just before the troubles started in the late 1980’s, and I’ll be honest and say there aren’t many places there I’d like to return to. That said, Cape Town is somewhere I never visited and is a place BattleDad has always wanted to visit. But if we were going all that way, I’d have to combine a visit to Cape Town with at least a week in the Kruger National Park. My Dad took my sister and I when I was seven, but I have no memories of it, other than the tales my Dad tells us and a few photos. My sister and her South African boyfriend usually go when they visit his family, so maybe we’ll tag along in a year or two!

Croatia – Croatia has been on our list for a few years and we very nearly booked a trip there last year, but Yellowstone took priority. I’d love to visit Dubrovnik and travel along the coast North towards Pula. A work colleague of mine visited there a few years ago and it looks stunning.

Italian lakes – In particular, Lake Como and Lake Guarda are on our long-term travel plans list, especially after we enjoyed our holiday at Lake Bled so much. A lakeside holiday had never ever featured for me before we visited Bled with friends but with so much to see and do, they can be a great holiday destination for families.

Cinque Terre – Another Italian destination, I hadn’t heard or come across Cinque Terre until I saw a drone video on Facebook taken over Cinque Terre. From there I started looking at pictures and reading blog posts about it and it went straight onto our list from there. A visit to Florence and Pisa would have to be combined with this trip though.long-term travel plans - Cinque Terre in Italy

Photo by Jack Ward on Unsplash

Paris – BattleDad lived in Paris for a year during his time at EuroDisney and he took me to Paris for my 30th birthday, the first of five trips for us as a couple. I had visited during a school trip, but that first trip with BattleDad started a lifelong love affair with the city. It remains my favourite city in the world and can be thoroughly enjoyed whatever time of year you visit, so long as you dress appropriately. I cannot wait to explore it with BattleKid and to see it through fresh eyes and from a child’s perspective.

Amsterdam – BattleDad, his sisters and I visited Amsterdam five years ago, one cold and snowy December and had a blast. But it was a short weekend visit and felt a bit rushed. I’d love to return with BattleKid and wander the canals, exploring it with him.

Marrakesh – This city in Morocco has been one I’d love to visit for a long time and now that we’re living in Portugal it is even closer. We can either fly there or we could even drive via the Gibraltar strait ferry. Having seen many colourful pictures of this city and reading many posts about it, I’d love to visit with BattleKid in the not so distant future.

New York – New York had been on mine and BattleDad’s wish list for many, many years, and two years ago we finally visited for the first time with BattleKid in tow. We weren’t sure how it would work out, but we proved that New York CAN be done with a toddler in tow. We plan to return in a few years’ time to visit some of the places we didn’t fit in during our first visit.

Black Forest – This area in Southern Germany is somewhere that has recently become more attractive and higher up on our priority list since discovering that there are many castles to be explored in Southern Germany. We’ve never visited Germany, but this area has always been on our to-do list, and what better way to discover a country for the first time than with our son.

Switzerland – BattleDad and I have visited Zurich, but never went further than a quick day trip to Lake Lucerne. Switzerland is a country we’ve always wanted to explore, and we might just combine it with both the Black Forest and the next destination during an awesome European road trip.

Austria – Another country yet to be visited by us, Austria has always fascinated us and yet never really made it near the top of our travel priority list. However, having done some initial research it would be easy to combine it with both Switzerland and Southern Germany in a European road trip.

Prague – BattleDad very nearly went to Prague on a stag do, but for some reason didn’t make it. This is a European city that has always been mentioned whenever we’ve been looking into booking our next getaway but somehow never got booked. We’d love to explore this city with BattleKid.

Budapest – Again, like the previous city, Budapest is somewhere we’ve always listed as a place we’d love to visit but never made it to. My mum has been and thoroughly enjoyed it, so we’ll visit at some stage.

Latvia – I’m not really sure what it is that has made Latvia make our list, but I think it must have been from reading some blog posts about it,

Iceland – Another destination BattleDad and I have had the privilege of visiting as a couple, it is a place we want to return to with BattleKid. Not so much to see the Northern Lights as we neve saw there for more than 5 seconds there, but to explore the geysers and glaciers of the Golden Circle. And of course, to enjoy another day at the Blue Lagoon.

Ireland road trip – BattleDad and I had two honeymoons and our first was a road trip around the West Coast of Ireland. It was the first time we had really ventured into areas of Ireland we’d never visited previously and made us soon realise there was so much more of our home country we had yet to visit. BattleKid has also only ever visited Dublin and Kildare when we have returned to Ireland to see family. So top of our list is a road trip in Ireland to areas we’ve not visited as a family. And I have to say I cannot wait to see more of the Emerald Isle.

Thailand – We were unsure which list to put Thailand on as it can often be regarded as a bucket list destination. However, holidays to Thailand do not cost an arm and a leg if you are savvy enough. And we also thought it could be a destination we’d enjoy but was still reachable by BattleKid later in life. So, it’s made the non-bucket list of our long-term travel plans. The only thing is choosing when to go. We’re eager to go soon but at the same time do not want to go during monsoon season. But I do think we’ll visit within the next three years.

Rome – Again, Rome is a city BattleDad and I have visited before and thoroughly enjoyed. We both like Roman history, BattleDad more so than me, and we’d love to revisit with BattleKid. I think this city can be enjoyed at any age, and can be a wonderful educational trip with children.long-term travel plans - Rome and the Colosseum

Photo by Bence Boros on Unsplash

Disney World Florida – Having visited Disneyland Paris, no long-term travel plans with kids would be complete without a trip to Disney World Florida. I think I’d like to visit it once but perhaps when BattleKid has a few more years on him.

Sardinia – This Italian island has been on our list, like so many, for a few years but never quite got booked. I think we’d probably do a mini road trip around the island with BattleKid to take in as much of it as we could.

Madeira – Madeira had not even featured for us prior to us moving to Portugal. But, this Portuguese island off the Northwest coast of Africa came to my attention via a blog post by Ana of Faded Spring. It looks amazing and would be easily accessible to us from Portugal.

Santorini – This Greek island in the Aegean Sea immediately came to my attention when I saw pictures of its famous white buildings with the blue roofs. It looks like such a picturesque place to visit and easily done with children.long-term travel plans - beautiful Santorini

Photo by Alan Bicknell on Unsplash

Tuscany – Another area of Italy we’d love to visit is Tuscany. With both Pisa and Florence located within this region, it has been on our list for a while and could easily be combined into a two-week road trip with Cinque Terre.

Moscow – BattleDad very nearly visited Moscow during one of his last contracts but work decided against it. With so much to see and do in this amazing city, it’s somewhere we’ve both wanted to visit for a while. Whether we do or not remains to be seen, but we will still keep it on our list.

Barcelona – This Spanish city is somewhere many of our friends and family have visited but is somewhere that has seemed to escape us. With the Sagrada Familia and more to see and do, I think we’d easily enjoy this city with BattleKid.

Spanish road trip – One road trip we’ve loosely research and which we could easily do from where we live would be a road trip around Spain, taking in Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Valencia, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Salamanca. It would be great to see some of the famous Spanish cities and their history all in one trip.

Portuguese road trip – We have so much of Portugal yet to explore and what better way to do it than on a road trip. If we were to do this trip, we’d be looking at visiting places such as Evora, Castelo Branco, Porto, Coimbra, Caldas de Rainha, Obidos, Sintra, Lisbon, Setubal and Sines. My parents have visited most of the towns and cities near Lisbon and we’d love to visit ourselves.

Lapland – Who doesn’t want to bring their children to see Santa in Lapland. And we plan to do so in the next few years. We’ll visit Finnish Lapland and will most likely spend a day or two in Helsinki as well during the trip.

Scotland – A country full of myths and legends, BattleDad and I have always wanted to visit Scotland but never managed it while we were living in the UK. I think we’ll make a point of visiting it one summer while BattleKid is off school and make a road trip of it. You never know, we might even see the Loch Ness monster!

Bucket List Destinations in Our Long-term Travel Plans

Yellowstone and Oregon – Although this trip was on our bucket list, we bit the bullet and visited it last year. Yellowstone was a place BattleDad and I wanted to visit for aged, and although we really wanted to visit it with BattleKid when he was older, impatience got the better of us. And even though he may not remember much of it, we all thoroughly enjoyed this trip and it gave us our road trip bug!

be in the picture 8 - mum and son watching a herd of bison in Yellowstone
Checking out a small herd of bison in Yellowstone with my boy

Australia and New Zealand – If we are going to visit the Southern Hemisphere, we are going to visit both Australia and New Zealand in the one trip. Why go all that way only to visit one destination? It makes more sense to visit both in one go and tick them off the list together. If we ever manage to do this trip I think it’ll probably be a three or four-week trip to give us time to adjust to the new time zone and to take our time exploring two countries we’ve always wanted to visit,

Cambodia – Had either of us gone backpacking in our late teens or early twenties, we both agree Cambodia would have been top of our must-visit lists. I especially want to visit and photograph Angkor Wat. Every time I see pictures of it, or read a blog post about it, it sparks my interest yet again. But this is definitely one we’d like BattleKid to have memories of.long-term travel plans - Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Photo by Cristian Moscoso on Unsplash

Vietnam – Possibly to be combined with a trip to Cambodia, this is another of the famous backpacking destinations that we’d love to visit. We know people who have visited it and their stories are just wonderful to listen to. If we don’t manage it as a family, I will be highly recommending BattleKid goes travelling before settling down into a career and will encourage him to make sure he includes South East Asia as a destination along those travels.

Nepal – This is a destination not many people would include in their bucket lists, but it is somewhere BattleDad and I have always wanted to visit. One of the homes to Mount Everest it is a country steeped in culture and history.

Tibet – The other home to Mount Everest and thought of as the spiritual home of Tibetan Buddhism, the world’s highest country has long been on our list of places we’d love to visit and even more since a close friend of ours in Wales introduced us to Buddhism.

Bhutan – Another Asian country we’d love to visit, Bhutan made its way onto our list when we saw pictures of the most amazing looking Buddhist temple on the side of a mountain – The Tiger’s Nest. Built in 1692 on the side of a mountain, Paro Taktsang, to give it its proper name is somewhere I really want to visit with BattleKid when he is around nine or ten. We’ll have to train as a family for this one as it’s on average an eight-hour round-trip trek up the mountain and down again to visit it. But it would be worth it if this blog post is anything to go by.

China – BattleDad and I very nearly booked a tour of China a few years ago but for some reason didn’t in the end. We watched the BBC series Wild China and that was it, I wanted to go. I’d love to visit the Great Wall of China, see the Forbidden City and visit areas of the Yangtze River and Yunnan Province. But this is firmly one of our bucket list destinations.

Mongolia – Parts of Mongolia were featured in the BBC series on Wild China and it is a country that has been on my Dad’s bucket list for many many years. We also saw Mongolia in the series The Long Way Down and it was this that sparked our own interest in Mongolia. We’d love to visit in July for the Naadam festivals and looked into it for this year. However, my Dad would prefer to go off the beaten track and I cannot do that with BattleKid in tow. I want to do a private guided tour. So, we’ll wait a few years for this one. I do think living in Portugal and getting used to the heat of July will stand us in good stead when we do eventually visit Mongolia. I know Mongolia can be done with kids from this post by the Smiths Holiday Road.

Norway – BattleDad and I saw, and photographed, the Northern Lights when we visited Tromso in 2012. And ever since BattleKid came along I’ve longed to return to Tromso with him during winter for a variety of reasons. We’d love to go Northern Lights hunting with him, visit the Sami’s and also do a husky sleigh ride. But, this trip is one I want him to have memories of his whole life. So, we’re biding our time until he is about ten or eleven and then we’ll organise this trip.

Botswana – The country of my birth and a country I must visit before I die. We left Botswana before I was two years of age, so I have no memories of it. I’d like to see Orapa, the town at the mine I was born in. And I’d love to see the animals at the Okavango Delta, preferably during migration season. This was featured in the BBC nature series, Nature’s Great Events and I think would be thoroughly enjoyed by us all.

Argentina – The only South American country to make our list, Argentina is a country we’d love to visit. And especially the region of Patagonia. Pictures of this area always look amazing.

Japan – This destination is one we’d love to do but we will be sorely torn as to when to go. There are two seasons I’d love to see in Japan. Springtime, for the cherry blossom trees, and autumn for the colours of the Japanese acers. I do think autumn will probably win out over spring should we get the chance to go to the Far East.long-term travel plans - Japan in the autumn

Photo by Boudewijn Huysmans on Unsplash

Seychelles and Maldives – I’ve put these two destinations together as it really wouldn’t bother me which I got the chance to visit. These two tropical paradise destinations have been places we’d love to visit but were always just a little beyond our budget.

Myanmar – Formerly Burma, Myanmar is somewhere I’d like to visit but may be torn about given its reputation where human rights are concerned. That said, you only need to Google images from the country to see how stunning some of the architecture and landscapes look.

Sri Lanka – A destination that BattleDad and I considered as a holiday spot a few years ago, we’d love to visit Sri Lanka one day. I’ve read a few blog posts about the diversity of the island and think we’d really enjoy it.

Cuba – We have had the privilege of visiting Cuba on our proper honeymoon the year we fell pregnant with BattleKid. It was also shortly before the USA lifted the embargoes on Cuba so we got to see it before it opened up again. Having seen the pictures and short videos a friends captured on her recent visit, I’d love to return one day with BattleKid. I’d be interested to see if it changes much from when we first visited. I’d also be able to see a lot more of the island as we had to stay close to our resort as I couldn’t use regular mosquito repellent.

So, there you have it. The Battle Family’s long-term travel plans including both a non-bucket list and a bucket list of destinations around the world. Much of our non-bucket list includes European cities and places we believe would be easily accessible to BattleKid when he is older, should he wish to return.

Our bucket list is just that, a bucket list of destinations we’d love to visit with him, but might not. We’d want to visit these places with him when he is older as they are certainly bucket list destinations, most likely visited just once-in-a-lifetime. That said, should we be lucky enough to win the lottery, I plan to visit as many of the countries in the world as I can possibly stomach. A girl’s gotta have dreams, hey!

What countries or destinations are on your family’s long-term travel plans?

Cath x

 

our long-term family travel plans

our long-term family travel plans