Christmastime at Disneyland Paris

Last July, I received a text from my cousin: “So Paris. When?” Within about 3 hours, we’d booked Disneyland Paris for a few days after Christmas, including New Year’s Eve (thank goodness for book now, pay later). It was undoubtedly the most magical way to spend New Year’s Eve, full of classic Disney moments and surprises.

This will be quite a photo heavy post, as I just have so many to share. The Disney Parks at Christmastime are just the most photogenic! I’ll write about New Year’s Eve below but I’ll also be working on a post about my top tips for NYE at Disneyland Paris, so let me know in the comments if you have any specific questions!

Looking back at these pictures almost a year on makes my heart melt. I’m so grateful we got to go before the chaos that has been 2020. We stayed at the Dream Castle Hotel, just a short free shuttle ride to the parks. Our room for the 3 of us was huge, and included a great view and hearty breakfast (much-needed for those long Disney days). We also took advantage of the relaxing spa and pool to rest our feet!

The daily Disney Stars on Parade

We stayed from the 28th December until 1st January with a 3-day ticket to both parks, Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park, as well as our separate New Year’s Eve ticket. The first couple of days we used to ride as many of the rides as possible, buy all the Christmas decorations we could fit in our bags, and eat many Mickey shaped treats. The Disney Stars parade and night time spectacular, Disney Illuminations, were as joyful as ever!

We also visited the Disneyland Hotel, which you can enter even if you’re not a guest. At Christmastime they have an incredible Gingerbread House and Christmas tree display, which is perfect for photos. The smell is just so nostalgic and Christmassy, I can’t recommend taking some time in your schedule to visit the hotel enough!

There were 2 parades on New Year’s Eve. The first was the Disney New Year’s Eve Parade at 8.30pm, with some special character appearances as well as the usual daily Stars on Parade crew! The second was the Countdown to Fun Street Party at 10.30pm, with tons of characters in their special cars, including the Incredibles and Mushu (two of my highlights)! Most of the rides had really short queues (they lead all non-NYE ticket holders out around 6pm), and there are also smaller special events on throughout the park including free face painting, shows with the Princesses and Mickey and the gang, and meet and greets (the queues for these were gigantic).

Of course, the fireworks at the countdown to midnight were beautiful. They lasted for about 10 minutes, and focused on 2019 releases such as Aladdin, Star Wars and Marvel’s Avengers, as well as some old favourites, with a big finale. Afrojack came out afterwards to DJ until 2am! The rides (except for Fantasyland) were also open until this time, and with the younger kids heading home by then, the rides were practically all walk-on.

Some quick iPhone snaps of the fireworks and Afrojack DJ set – I was too excited!

I’d highly recommend Disneyland Paris for New Year’s Eve – there’s nothing quite like a bit of Disney magic at any time of the year, but especially Christmastime. Look out for my top tips for New Year’s Eve at the Disneyland Park, coming soon, and comment below if you have any questions!

My top tips for Walt Disney World

A trip to Disney is a pretty big holiday to plan. So much goes into it – where to stay, where to eat, fast passes, restaurant bookings, using the app, and so much more. With four theme parks and two water parks, you want to make sure you plan your time well so you get the most out of your trip.

On our two week trip last year we visited all of the Disney parks as well as the two Universal parks; Universal and Islands of Adventure. Our plan made sure we visited every place we wanted to, as well as having a few rest days to enjoy the Florida sun (and fit in a skydive)! Don’t think that all this planning ruins the trip, it ensures you use your time effectively and it makes you more excited for Disney!

I’m writing this post to hopefully help other visitors, first-time or not, get the most out of their Disney experience. However, I’m no expert and there are so many in-depth guides out there, which I’ll be linking to! You can check out more of my highlights on my previous post.

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Booking your tickets
We used Attractions Tickets Direct for our Disney tickets. It’s nice to book with a trusted company, as they can help you if anything goes wrong. It also means your tickets usually have a special added extra – we had tickets to the Cirque de Soleil show at Disney Springs! Our two-week tickets got us into all of the Disney parks as well as the 3 Universal parks, and included the My Memory Maker for Disney (usually an extra 169USD).

My Disney Experience 
The app is a dream (screenshot above). With your advance tickets, you can book your fast passes, character meetings and restaurants, see live queue times, save all of your Memory Maker photos and more. All of the parks have free WiFi to use the app. Add your ticket code to it and invite the rest of your party so you can coordinate your days. There’s a great guide here with a lot more information.

Pick your top rides
If you’ve visited Disney before, you know your favourite places. The first thing each of us did was write a list of our top rides or locations so nobody missed out on their favourites.

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Get guided
Lots of guide books and online sources share the best days for each of the parks. We used the Brit Guide Orlando 2017, and we found that it was right the majority of the time. Magic Kingdom on a Monday meant we got 13 rides in one day! Which leads me onto my next point…

FastPass + time
FastPass + is when you book an hour time slot for your favourite or most popular rides on the My Disney Experience app. You can choose your FastPass+ ride selection up to 30 days before your first day, and if you’re in a Disney hotel, it’s 60 days. As soon as that date hits you want to be on the app booking them, especially newer rides such as Avatar’s Flight of Passage! You get 3 FastPasses a day and once you’ve used them up you can hop on the app and book more as you go.

Eat, love, Disney
As well as booking your FastPasses, you can also make your dining reservations for the parks on My Disney Experience up to 180 days in advance. The restaurant bookings are insane. When I tell you that I was booking some of our dinners almost 6 months in advance and evenings were fully booked, I’m not exaggerating!

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Be camera ready
For those of you with Memory Maker, take advantage of it! There are so many photographers around to get great pictures of you, and it means nobody is left out as the cameraman. From views of the castle to character meetings to rides, there are so many photo-ops. Just scan your ticket or MagicBand and the pictures save to your app where you can easily download them to your phone. There’s an in-depth guide on MickeyBlog.com.

Getting around
We used our rental cars to get to and from the parks as we stayed very close in the Windsor Hills Resort, but there are plenty of hotels and resorts that have shuttle buses to get you to Walt Disney World. There are also plenty of shuttle buses to get around the various parks and resorts. The parking is $20 a day, even if you leave and come back.

The countdown is on!
Get an app, a little whiteboard, use your calendar – anything to get excited for visiting the happiest place in the world!

Disney Diary

This time last year I was walking into Animal Kingdom with my family for the first time in 8 years. Walt Disney World Orlando has always held a special place in my heart – I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few times with family and those trips are some of my favourite memories of my childhood.

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There’s something so magical about walking down Main Street for the first time and seeing the castle sneak into view. It may sound odd to some, but there’s a sense of escapism at Disney that you just don’t feel on other holidays. Where else can you jump off a 50mph rollercoaster and grab a Mickey-shaped ice cream sandwich before bumping into Olaf for a warm hug? Not forgetting the magic of the Universal parks.

I won’t bore you with all the details of my trip, but here are some of my highlights with a mix of iPhone and camera photos! We spent the first few days of our trip to Florida in Clearwater Beach, which was stunning. Perhaps we should’ve saved this part for the end of our trip, though, as it was so relaxing and peaceful. The calm before the Disney storm!

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We stayed in a Windsor Hills villa and it was perfect – a 10 minute drive from the parks with comfy beds and a lovely pool! The blue circle in the app picture above is how close we were to the parks. There is a shuttle bus, but it wasn’t as frequent as we thought so we mainly used our rental cars.

Animal Kingdom was as beautiful as ever, and the new addition of Pandora takes it up a level. My top ride (probably of the whole trip) has to be the Avatar Flight of Passage – the technology is epic! Pandora is great to wander around – make sure to try the refreshing, super-sweet Night Blossom drink. A few of my other top spots are Expedition Everest (of course), the wonderful Lion King Show and the Kali River Rapids to cool off in the Florida heat!

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Magic Kingdom has always been my favourite of the parks. On our first day back there we managed to fit in 13 rides (thank you FastPass)! This trip to Disney was our first time dining inside the park restaurants, and the first we visited was Be Our Guest at the Beauty and the Beast Castle where I got to try the ‘grey stuff’ – yes, it’s delicious!

More of my favourite moments in Magic Kingdom were the three mountains (Space, Splash and Thunder), Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in Tomorrowland and the classic Peter Pan ride. The point before the big drop on Splash Mountain, with the great view of the castle, is my favourite MK moment, as well as the Festival of Fantasy parade.

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While we were in Florida, it was my cousin Amy’s 23rd birthday and we celebrated in Epcot. We had a great experience at the Nine Dragons Chinese, where they treated Amy to a slice of cake and cocktails! Epcot is a great place to wander in the sun, especially around the Epcot World Showcase. Soarin’ and Test Track are our old family favourites, too!

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Hollywood Studios has another two of the best rides – the Tower of Terror and the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. We got chatting to the loveliest cast member, Edward, who gave us Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster fast passes after hearing that we didn’t have enough time to wait in the queue! The fireworks show Fantasmic was as magnificent as I remembered.

I can’t forget about the Disney waterparks and Disney Springs. Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are great to cool off in the sun in the mornings and there are so many fun rides – the 6ft tidal wave is such a rush! Disney Springs is the new ‘Downtown Disney’, with restaurants, shows and shops, including the World of Disney, the biggest Disney store!

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Another highlight of my trip which was surprisingly non-theme park related was my skydive! Amy wanted to do one for her birthday and, honestly, it was one of the best experiences of my life. I’d highly recommend Florida Skydiving Lake Wales!

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I hope you enjoyed my Disney Diary. Look out for more Florida posts coming soon!

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