Visiting Sea Life London with Kids: How to Have an Awesome Visit

As some of you will know, we spent a day in London prior to our USA Road Trip. We acted like tourists and visited the London Eye, did a spot of dragon hunting in the Tower of London and we also went to Sea Life. It was a day dedicated to BattleKid as we knew he was facing some long days of flying and driving ahead. In this post I tell you all about our visit and give you some tips about visiting Sea Life, London with kids to ensure you have an awesome visit.

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit

Sea Life was our second attraction of the day, after our trip on the London Eye. It is conveniently located right beside the London Eye, meaning you can easily combine the two. As with our tickets for the London Eye, I booked Flexi Anytime Priority tickets. Given that it was the end of the summer holidays, I thought it was best to book these tickets as it meant we could arrive at anytime on our chosen day and by-pass any queues. As it was there wasn’t a huge queue when we arrived, but this isn’t always guaranteed.

Sea Life was opened in 1997 as the London Aquarium and is located on the ground floor of County Hall in Southbank. It plays host to one million visitors a year. Within Sea Life there are around 500 species of fish and various marine areas including a Shark Walk, Ray Lagoon, Nemo’s Coral and Penguin Point. There are various feeding times during which staff give family-friendly talks. Sea Life is also heavily involved in conservation and has programmes including ray breeding, coral propagation and a big fish campaign.

When we arrived, we had to pick up a Ranger Pack for BattleKid which I had ordered when I booked our tickets online, and then we were in. I had been apprehensive about what visiting Sea Life with a toddler would be like, whether it would be any good. And we weren’t disappointed. Sea Life London is huge!

We started out by walking over the shark tank, and to be honest, it gave me the heebie jeebies. I’m not a huge fan of sharks but walking over them on glass was a bit disconcerting. Things like “the glass is going to crack and break” were running through my mind. BattleKid, however, found it fascinating. From the Shark Walk, we entered the Atlantic Coasts area, we saw sand eels and an octopus.

We soon found ourselves at the Ray Lagoon and saw rays and sharks of various sizes before moving onto Rockpools. In Rockpools we saw anemones, starfish and crabs too. In this area there are open tanks, allowing you to get your hands wet, although we stopped BattleKid from doing so.

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit
Amazed at each and every tank of fish and sea creatures.

From Rockpools we passed under the Ocean tunnel, giving us another chance to see more shark and ray swimming over our heads. It was a cool tunnel and reminded me of the one in the Blue Planet Aquarium. We also saw some Green Sea Turtles in this area. They were so beautiful, so majestic. They were one of my personal highlights of our visit to the aquarium in London.

The tunnel led us to the Pacific Wreck area where I discovered the skeleton of a whale inside one tank (see our vlog video for a glimpse of this). And then came the main attraction for kids of all ages, Nemo’s Coral Reef. There was a tank huge of both white and orange, and white and black, clown fish (Nemo to you and I), and a certain little boy did not want to leave this tank I can tell you. It was hugely popular with kids and was the busiest place in the aquarium during our visit. Be prepared to spend quite a bit of time there!

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit
Nemo was a hit, someone didn’t want to leave this tank!

We visited the Seahorse Kingdom and saw a few different varieties. BattleKid wasn’t that interested in them and we swiftly moved on to the creatures of the Rainforests of the World. Here we saw fish, including piranha with vicious looking teeth and catfish, as well as a crocodile. From the Rainforests area, you pass by the Thames Walk where you can learn about the creatures of this great river, as well as the efforts it takes to clean the river and its banks.

Then it was time to meet the penguins. You pass through an ice tunnel to reach their enclosure and it’s a bit chilly in there. The penguin enclosure is not the biggest I’ve seen but it more than caught the attention of BattleKid. He loves seeing the penguins swimming past him at the window. They are one of his favourite creatures thanks to the Oliver Jeffers book, Lost and Found.

By this stage someone was starting to get hungry, so we quickly passed through the Conservation Cover before entering a new area for Sea Life in London, Ocean Invaders. In this area there were tanks of jellyfish of various shapes and sizes, and jellyfish projected onto the floor, which BattleKid loved jumping on. It was a really impressive display and one BattleKid enjoyed a lot.

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit
Seeing ALL the jellyfish at the Sea Life London Aquarium
Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit
Trying to keep up with the jellyfish on the ground.

While all the areas and tanks of Sea Life London Aquarium are impressive, none are more so than the main and biggest tank around which the London aquarium in centred. It forms most of the Pacific Ocean display and spans the three floors of the aquarium. You pass this tank on several occasions during your visit and it is by far my favourite part of the aquarium at Sea Life. It houses fish, ray, sharks and turtles and plays host to some Easter Island Head statues. It is the most impressive aquarium tank I’ve ever seen. Each time we came upon it during our visit I was awed by it.

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit
My favourite part of our visit? The Easter Island Heads in the main tank.

After visiting the gift shop for a magnet for our fridge (we collect them everywhere we go), and buying a little treat for BattleKid, it was time to say goodbye to Sea Life Aquarium in London and move on to our next stop on our 36 hours in London.

Tips for visiting Sea Life in London with Kids

  • Sea Life London is open 7 days a week from 10am to 7pm, with last entry at 6pm.
  • It will take you a few hours to get around so plan your visit accordingly.
  • Sea Life London ticket prices are as follows*: Standard adult tickets cost £26 and children are £21 (ages 3 to 15), under 3’s are free. There are savings to be made online if you book in advance, and Sea Life tickets can be combined with certain other London attractions. We booked Anytime Priority tickets at a cost of £25 per adult and £17.55 per child. These allowed us to arrive at anytime on our chosen date and enter with no queuing.
  • Sea Life is also part of the Merlin Annual Pass, making it easy to visit regularly if you are pass holders. If we were still in the UK I’d seriously consider getting Merlin Passes.
  • A Sea Life Ranger Pack is available for £4 from the ticket office and includes an activity trail, magnifying glass, dress-up accessories, trading cards and a lanyard for tickets. This will make the visit a truly interesting one for kids a bit older than BattleKid (three and a half at the time of visiting).
  • There are toilets available on every floor, along with baby changing facilities.
  • Sea Life is fully wheelchair accessible with lifts going to all floors.
  • Note that there is no café or restaurant in the aquarium and you are not allowed to bring food in with you. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby for refreshments though.
  • There is no parking at the Sea Life London Aquarium. For details on how to get to the London Aquarium, nearest parking to Sea Life and the nearest tube station to Sea Life London Aquarium, visit the information section of their website.
  • There is an area for official Sea Life photos, although I am afraid I cannot remember how much we paid for our 3 photos.

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Sea Life in London. Although it was the end of the summer holidays it wasn’t too busy. We kept bumping into the same group of mums with their buggies, but apart from that it wasn’t crowded. We also liked the fact the aquarium was right beside the London Eye, meaning we could easily combine the two. And there are additional attractions nearby for kids of various ages too.

Sea Life in London is definitely worth a visit with kids and wasn’t as busy as I expected at the end of the summer holidays. If you are planning to go during the peak of the summer holidays, I’d suggest getting there early or booking the Fast Track tickets. Be prepared to take your time and go at your children’s pace. And expect a lengthy stop when you come across Nemo. By keeping these points in mind you are bound to have smiling children, although they might be reluctant to leave.

If you are visiting London with kids and are looking for an interesting and enjoyable place to visit with them, then we highly recommend a visit to Sea Life. They won’t be disappointed.

Cath x

*Prices correct at the time of writing this post. We were not asked to write this review of Sea Life London

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit. With hints and tips to make your visit an awesome one.

Visiting Sea Life London With Kids and How To Have an Awesome Visit. With hints and tips to make your visit an awesome one.

5 Things to Do in Missoula with a Toddler in Tow

Last year, as many of you know, we embarked on our biggest trip to date with BattleKid. It was a two-week USA road trip taking in the stunning Yellowstone National Park, smoky Missoula in Montana and the hip and vibrant city of Portland. Missoula is a place not many people will have heard of, us included before our trip, but is definitely worth a visit. And today I’m going to share with you 5 things to do in Missoula with a toddler in tow, should you be visiting yourself with a toddler or young kids.Missoula with a toddler - blog graphic

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

Now, we chose Missoula, which is in the state of Montana, as it was roughly the halfway point between Yellowstone and Portland. Stopping there would enable us to break up the driving and have some down time with BattleKid during our road trip. We also chose it because there was a town called Lolo right beside it and also Lolo National Forest. Lolo is the nickname my Dad got from his first grandson and it stuck. So naturally we needed to visit the town that shares his name.

We also intended to visit Lolo National Forest but alas it was not to be. Montana was cloaked in smoke due to widespread forest fires, some of which had reached Lolo National Forest, causing it to be closed to the public for safety. But it gives us a reason to return. With the forest no longer an option, we needed to find things to do in Missoula with kids.

Our first port of call was Google. We searched for things to do with kids in Missoula. These had to include fun activities for kids as we had BattleKid with us. We were also fortunate that our AirBnB host had left a few magazines in the apartment one of which had articles about things to do in Montana with kids. The articles proved so useful to us. They not only showed what to do with kids in Missoula and the wider Montana area, they also gave some ideas of free things to do in Missoula.

Armed with as much information as possible, we set out to discover Missoula and other nearby things that we otherwise would have missed had the forest been open. And as a result, I am able to share with you 5 things to do in Missoula with a toddler in tow. All of these are fun things to do in Missoula and the slightly wider areas around it.

5 Things to Do in Missoula with a Toddler in Tow

Have a Picnic in Caras Park Missoula

Caras Park is located in Downtown Missoula along the Clark Fort River. It is a lovely area and the Park Pavilion plays host to a variety of events throughout the year including music concerts, festivals and even a type of Oktoberfest, which was being set up the day we had our picnic in the park.

We visited one day during our time in Missoula after being in the wider Montana area, and I had packed a picnic. We found some picnic benches near the Pavilion and enjoyed our lunch in the sun. Other families soon joined us on the adjacent benches for their own picnics. And if you don’t want to sit on the benches there are plenty of lovely grassy areas for picnic blankets too. Afterwards, you can enjoy one of the following two things.

be in the picture 8
Picnic time in Missoula

Have a Ride on the Carousel for Missoula

Located in Caras Park, the Carousel for Missoula was opened in 1995 and was the culmination of the labour of many volunteers and over 100,000 construction hours. Featuring 38 hand-carved ponies, two chariots, 14 gargoyles, mirror frames and the largest band organ in continuous use in America, it is somewhere kids, young and old, can enjoy. You need a token per ride, which costs just 75c, and if you, as a parent, want to ride and share a pony with your child (as I did), it will cost you two tokens.

There is also a chance to win free rides by collecting rings from a chute as you pass by, but you need to be on an outside pony to try your luck. BattleKid and I enjoyed two rides together and he didn’t want to get off. The Carousel for Missoula is really one of the fun things to do in Missoula with kids that shouldn’t be missed. It is open 364 days of the year between 11 and 5.30.

be in the picture 8
One the Carousel for Missoula

Let your toddler run wild in the Dragon Hollow Playground

Also located in Caras Park, right beside the Carousel for Missoula, the Dragon Hollow playground is a brilliant place to visit with toddlers and kids. It was designed by artists and consultants after getting advice and ideas from local school children. It is a very safe playground which is enclosed by a picket fence and has chip bark flooring. Featuring a huge Dragon themed play house with tunnels, stairs and slides, BattleKid had a great time weaving his way through to the biggest slide he could find!

There are also swings, musical play features and an area for smaller children. It is suitable for kids from 18 months to 12 years of age, is open all year round and is free to use. There are seats around the playground for parents to take a breather. One thing I will point out is that once your child enters the dragon, you cannot easily see them until they emerge from a slide. So just be cautious. But it is one of the best wooden playhouses I have ever come across and BattleKid thoroughly enjoyed himself here.things to do in missoula with a toddler in tow - visit dragon hollow playground

Visit the National Bison Range

Established in 1908 as a sanctuary for the American bison, the National Bison Range is located approximately an hour north of Missoula. It was one of the places featured in the magazines that our AirBnB host had left in the apartment and somewhere we might have missed. It is home to a herd of between 350 and 500 bison but is also home to other animals such as coyote, black bear, elk, bighorn sheep and pronghorn deer.

There are two routes you can drive at the Bison Range. The short Prairie Drive is open all-year round while the longer Red Sleep Mountain Drive is only open from mid-May to early October. We did the Red Sleep Mountain Drive and it was challenging. It has sharp switch-backs and steep declines and I’d recommend you do this in a 4×4 car due to the roughness of the road. Note, this drive is closed during the winter months.

Although we had seen bison in Yellowstone, we were hoping to see other animals and saw elk and pronghorn deer during our visit. A day pass costs just $5 (you can get an annual oass valid from your first visit for just $15), and the gates are generally open from 7am to 7pm. The visitor’s centre, where you pay, has plenty of information about the range and also has toilets too. Although we only spent a few hours there it was worth the drive from Missoula.

usa road trip day 8 holiday diaries
Visiting the National Bison Range, Montana

Visit Ewam Buddha Garden, the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

This was one of the most surprising places we visited in Montana. Situated in Arlee, about 40 minutes north of Missoula, the Ewam Buddha Garden has to be one of the most peaceful and tranquil places we’ve ever visited.

In the centre of the garden lies a 24-foot tall statue of Yum Chenmo. One thousand Montana-made images of Buddha are arranged in the shape of an eight-spoked Dharma wheel, which encircle Yum Chenmo. 1000 additional stupas surmount the two exterior throne walls, creating the outer rim of the Dharma wheel. And it is a mesmorising sight to see.

5 things to do in missoula with a toddler in tow - visit the Ewam Buddha Garden
A view of the Ewam Buddha Garden from the hill of prayer flags. See how smokey it is!

The gardens also have a small lake hosting fish and surrounded by large Buddha statues. The garden is open all year round from dawn until dusk and is free to visit (with donation boxes at various points throughout the garden). It was designed for people to enjoy the space, flowers and serene surroundings. Guided tours are available and there is also a gift shop and ample parking.

Once we found out about the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas we knew we had to visit it. A dear friend of ours in Wales introduced us to Buddhism. BattleKid enjoyed our walk around the garden, stopping here and there to admire certain Buddha statues and to say hello to the fish. I’m just sorry we didn’t know there was a prayer flag mount there before we went, or we would have created our own to add. You wouldn’t think this is a place to visit with kids but BattleKid really enjoyed it, so I’m sure your kids would too. And as it is on the same route as the Bison Range you could visit both in one day.

5 things to do in missoula with a toddler in tow - visit the garden of one thousand buddhas
The central buddha in the Ewam Buddha Garden.

Missoula with a toddler - Facebook graphic

I can hand-on-heart say we enjoyed each and every one of these activities in Missoula and Montana. And in hindsight the forest fires and resulting smoke were a blessing in disguise. We might not have visited any of these sights had it not been for the fact that Lolo National Forest, our original reason for visiting Missoula, was closed. Our sudden change of plans worked out for the best and we got to visit places even BattleKid enjoyed.

So, if you are wondering what to do in Missoula and Montana with toddlers and young children, I hope I’ve given you some ideas of both paid and free things to do with my 5 things to do in Missoula with a toddler in tow.

And if you are considering visiting the USA with kids and not sure what there is to do with them in certain cities, these posts might help decide for you!

20 Things to do  in Oklahoma City with kids (or without) – Parenthood and Passports

How to do a weekend trip to Sarasota, Florida with kids – Our Globetrotters

My perfect 24 hours in San Francisco with kids: itinerary – Learning Escapes

5 Things to do in New York with a Toddler in Tow – BattleMum

Cath x

Missoula with a toddler - pinterest graphic Missoula with a toddler - twitter graphic

A Fun Day Out with Thomas the Tank Engine

If your little boy is anything like BattleKid, he is a huge Thomas the Tank Engine fan. Every afternoon after nursery before we left the UK, BattleKid would make a beeline for our cwtch room and ask for Thomas and his friends to be put on the TV. It was on so often I even knew the words to the theme tune. But imagine my delight when I discovered we could bring BattleKid on a fun day out with Thomas the Tank Engine.a fun day out with Thomas the tank engine - blog graphic

While researching family days out in the UK, I came across the Thomas the Tank Engine Days Out. I discovered that these days out were held across various locations in the UK and were a chance for fans to meet Thomas the Tank Engine and friends. Looking at which locations were near us in South Wales and on what dates Thomas and his friends would be there, I found a suitable date at the end of October at the Forest of Dean Railway. This was just over an hour drive from our house in South Wales, perfect for a family day out.

I booked our tickets many months in advance on the Day Out with Thomas website and they arrived promptly in the post. All that was left to do was wait until the day for our visit arrived.

A Day Out with Thomas is a family day in which your little fans can meet a real Thomas the Tank Engine and some of his friends, as well as the Fat Controller. There are many locations across the UK to choose from and I’m sure there is one near you. There’s even a chance to meet Thomas and friends in Denmark in 2018!

We left our house just after 9am on the Saturday of our visit with Thomas and friends, and headed for the Forest of Dean Railway. We arrived before our friends who were joining us for the day and parked up. There is a large car park just a short walk from the entrance to the Railway. Once our friends had arrived we got ourselves ready and headed in for our fun day with Thomas.a fun day out with Thomas the tank engine - photo collage from Forest of Dean Railway Thomas day out

A day with Thomas the train starts at the entrance to Norchard Station and we immediately had a certain little boy shouting “Thomas”, who happened to be pulling into the station just as we arrived. Norchard Station was decorated for Halloween as we visited towards the end of October. After we had handed in our tickets at the office, we were given little goodie bags for the boys which had some activities and sweets inside. There was even a Halloween spider in the bag for BattleKid, much to his delight.a fun day out with Thomas the tank engine - photo collage from Forest of Dean Railway Thomas day out

We decided to leave our ride on Thomas himself until the end of our day and we began by heading to the café for some breakfast rolls and a cuppa while we caught up with our friends who joined us for the day. Next up, we went to Platform 3 for the train to Parkend. As we waited for the large steam train to arrive, we spotted a naughty Diesel on the tracks. Once our train arrived, we found a seat and off we set, bound for Parkend.a fun day out with Thomas the tank engine - photo collage of Thomas and a Diesel engine

We were greeted by a marquee and a large bouncy castle. This is where the other fun activites were held. There was a Brio-type train set on a table for little ones to play with. Story-tellers were reading different Thomas the Tank Engine characters’ stories, and there was also a magician. We spent about an hour in the marquee and managed to avoid a rain cloud that had rolled in.

After this, we let the boys run off steam at the bouncy castle before getting the train back to Norchard for our date with Thomas himself. Thomas pulls Toad the brake van up and down the track and this is your opportunity to meet Thomas the Tank Engine and ride with him. BattleDad agreed to stay with S, who had their buggy with her, while BattleKid and I went on Thomas with W and L. You are pushed back along the tracks a certain way before Thomas pulls you back to Norchard Station, leaving a trail of steam behind him.a fun day out with Thomas the tank engine - photo collage from Forest of Dean Railway Thomas day out

With peep-peeps and a steam trail, BattleKid was thrilled to be on real life Thomas the train and was singing the theme tune the whole way. We left the Forest of Dean Railway just after lunch with a very happy boy who slept the whole way home. He talked about his visit with Thomas and friends for months afterwards. Here’s a little vlog from our fun Day Out with Thomas the Tank Engine.

Things to note if you are planning a fun day out with Thomas the Tank Engine

  • A Day Out with Thomas is held across various locations in the UK (and now in Denmark) on selected dates throughout the year. Check out the website for more details and the Day Out with Thomas schedule.
  • Day Out with Thomas tickets cost £16 per adult, £10 per child and under 2’s are free.*
  • For the Forest of Dean Railway, we had unlimited train rides throughout the day between Norchard and Parkend, and all fun activities were included in our ticket.
  • Norchard Station had baby-changing facilities, toilets, a gift shop with lots of Thomas the Tank Engine merchandise and a café.
  • There was ample parking at Norchard Station.
  • The station was also wheelchair accessible.
  • I would suggest you look into the facilities available at your location of choice as they may differ slightly from place to place.
  • The Forest of Dean Day Out with Thomas opened at 9.30am and closed at 4.30pm.

We had a great time during our fun Day Out with Thomas and I can highly recommend it, especially if you have little Thomas the Tank Engine fans in your house. With lots of activities and unlimited train rides included in your ticket, it’s great value-for-money and makes for a brilliant family day out.

If a Day Out with Thomas isn’t enough for your Thomas fans, why not spend an entire day with Thomas and friends at Thomasland at Drayton Manor. Here’s a great post with hints and tips from Learning Escapes.

And if you are looking for another train-themed day out in South Wales, I highly recommend a visit to the Brecon Mountain Railway!

Cath x

*Prices correct at the time of writing this post.

**We were not asked to write this review.

a fun day out with Thomas the tank engine - pinterest graphic a fun day out with Thomas the tank engine - twitter graphic


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 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. And if you’d like a FREE Disneyland Paris Daily Planner with an easy how-to-use-it guide (which includes a copy of our recent daily plan), scroll to the bottom to see how you can get it!

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.

*Update Jan 2018

We paid for breakfast at the time of making our booking with Disneyland Paris, as there were no meal plan deals on offer, and we received vouchers for the buffet breakfast in our hotel upon our arrival. Our friends also received hotel buffet breakfast vouchers, although they had to eat in one of the Studios restaurants as the restaurant in their hotel was undergoing refurbishment. 

It has also been brought to my attention by one of my readers that with some “Free Half Board” deals, you may not get a buffet breakfast in your hotel, that you may instead receive vouchers for breakfast in one of the Counter Service outlets in the park instead. Please make sure to check exactly what is on offer when you book, and if you really want the buffet breakfast, and not a counter service breakfast, I’d suggest ringing the Disneyland Paris customer service telephone number to see if you can “top up” for the buffet breakfast.

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 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

This post is being added to the following great link-ups:

Fearless Family Travel with Wandermust Family

Wanderlust Kids

The Places We Will Go
Hilary Style
Tips For Visiting Disneyland Paris: The Ultimate How To Guide - So you want to visit Disneyland Paris but don't know where to start. Planning a visit to Disneyland Paris with the kids can be easy if you read my post which is packed with hints, tips and secrets to having a great holiday at Disneyland Paris.