Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: How can we stay sane on our family trip to Disneyland Paris?

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Q I'm about to commit to an excursion to Disneyland Paris next summer with my two daughters (age 6 and 11) and a very reluctant spouse.  What advice can you give to get the best out of the holiday whilst maintaining some resemblance of sanity? The plan is to stay on site at one of the Disney Theme hotels for 3-5 days, eating on site.

Simon Mulholland, Harrogate

A Great question, but I must say your plan “to stay on site at one of the Disney Theme hotels for 3-5 days, eating on site” strikes me as a short-cut to bankruptcy – without, actually, being a huge amount of fun.

Disneyland Paris is a superb theme park, and I have visited it with my two daughters a couple of times. Each time, we have stayed for a nights in the painfully-expensive-but-still-worth-it Disneyland Hotel. That’s not because we wanted to “savour the charms of yesteryear, and live it up in the unequalled style of a Victorian mansion,” as the Disney publicity has it, but because the hotel is right above the park gates and we wanted to get in early – the most alluring parts of Disneyland Park are available to hotel guests up to two hours before the park opens to normal people. That means you get in quick, whizz around the most enticing attractions with hardly any queues, and can wander back to the hotel for breakfast just as the lines start forming. (The Disneyland Hotel has an excellent swimming pool, which has been surprisingly uncrowded on our visits.)

Suitably reinvigorated, you saunter back in around noon, which is when lines start to dwindle because people are eating lunch. Spend the afternoon appreciating the atmosphere and picking up the less sought-after attractions, then take in the parade before dinner.

But beware: even eating frugally, I have never been able to dine at the Disneyland Hotel for under €100 for a family of four. So my advice is to push the boat out for a maximum of two nights at the Disneyland Hotel (or one of the less expensive and convenient Disney hotels) then retreat to proper Paris to savour the Parisian capital and its many excellent-value restaurants and picnic opportunities.

Better still, from Mrs Mulholland’s point of view, would be to stay in real Paris and commute out to Disneyland – about 35 minutes on the RER (suburban railway) from Gare de Lyon. My preferred place to stay in this locale is the Hotel de France, about five minutes’ walk away, and with quadruple rooms for €100 or less:

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