Thursday, 23 August 2018

Disneyland Paris Planning Tips


I may have mentioned once or twice (OK, who am I kidding…I haven’t stopped talking about it for the last year!) that we are going on a family holiday to Disneyland Paris in September. We’ve been once before, but it was ten years ago, so I feel like we’re approaching it as first timers again. This time round, I’ve done a lot of planning to help make sure we have the best time possible and experience everything we want to experience. To do all this planning, I’ve spent literally months researching everything you could possibly need to research, so I thought I would share some of the advice and tips with you that I’ve discovered. I can only speak from the point of view of a prospective holidaymaker, as we haven’t had a chance to actually put all this research and planning into action yet. But perhaps once I’m back, I can do another post about what I learnt on my Disney holiday and what we would do differently/the same next time. I’ve split my planning into smaller sections, so hopefully it will be a little less overwhelming!

General Planning:

One of the best ways I have found to plan for our Disney trip was by watching YouTube videos and reading blog posts. There’s so much Disney content out there that pops up with a quick search – you can pretty much find information on anything you could possibly think of. I will say that I found it easier to find content about DisneyWorld Florida though, which is why I wanted to create some content about Disneyland Paris. 



I’ve got a few favourite YouTubers/Bloggers who make fantastic Disney content, so I thought I would share them with you. Even if you’re not planning a trip to Disney any time soon, I can guarantee you will still enjoy their Disney videos and blog posts! They are:
·     Brogan Tate
·     Sarah Louise Porter
·     Brummy Mummy of 2
·     Louise Pentland
·     Alex Gladwin and blog
·     Lara Joanna Jarvis and blog



Another invaluable resource has been the Facebook group ‘Disneyland Paris for Brits’. It was recommended to me by a friend and has been so incredibly helpful with all my planning for our trip. There are thousands of members who discuss every possible detail you can think of including hotels, travel, disabled access, food, photos and so much more. I’ve asked quite a few questions over the last few months, and you always get a really helpful reply from someone that has already been to the park. 

Booking:

When booking your Disneyland Paris holiday, my biggest recommendation would be to look out for deals! Whenever I’ve looked at holidays to Disney (yes, I do sometimes just like to pretend I’m going to Disney and dream about holidays!), I have always found there’s a good deal to be had. Whether that’s getting a meal plan free or a couple of extra nights added on to your package, it’s always worth looking around to make sure you get the best deal you can possibly get.



We booked our holiday with the Walt Disney Travel Company, paying for two nights and getting another two nights for free. We probably wouldn’t have been able to afford to stay for a whole week if we hadn’t used that deal, so it’s definitely worth doing a little research and perhaps holding out a week or two if you can’t find a deal first time. 

Travel:

As you plan your holiday, you’re going to need to think about how you want to travel there. There are all sorts of different options from the Eurostar or Eurotunnel to taking a ferry or flying. The one you choose will depend on a number of things – where you’re travelling from, what you can afford, whether you want to take your own car and your own personal preferences. We decided to travel by Eurostar, as we don’t live too far from London so a taxi to St Pancreas is going to be relatively easy. The train also goes straight into Disney, so as soon as you get out of the station you are right in the middle of the action without having to worry about transfers. When we rang to book our holiday, the Disney cast member actually advised us to book the Eurostar tickets separately, as it would work out cheaper, so it’s worth considering that before you book the whole thing together.


With the Eurostar, you can also add something called Disney Express Luggage and Advance Check-in Service, which basically means you can go directly to the parks without having to check-in to your hotel first and your bags will be waiting for you at your hotel. We did this when we went ten years ago and it was really handy, but back then it was included in the price. Now, you have to pay extra for the service and we decided that it would be better for us to just sort out our own bags and check-in. But it’s something to consider if you want a completely hassle free start to your holiday.



Accommodation:

Another part of your trip to think about is where you’re going to stay. Again, there are a lot of different options depending on your budget, how close you want to be to the magic and the type of place you want to base yourself in. There are eight different Disney Hotels, which vary in price from the most expensive (the Disneyland Hotel) to the slightly more basic (Davy Crockett Ranch). If you stay in a Disney Hotel, you get Extra Magic Hours, which means you can get into the parks an hour before the general public. Great for if you want to beat some of the queues and ride the most popular rides or meet characters without too many people around. There is also a free shuttle bus, which will take you from your hotel to the parks and back again (apart from for the Davy Crockett Ranch). Each hotel offers something slightly different, so it’s worth having a read about each one to find one that suits what you’re looking for. We’ve opted to stay in Disney’s Hotel New York, which will soon be closing down to be refurbished, so it will be nice to have a chance to stay before it changes completely. 




To stay in a Disney Hotel is probably the most expensive option, so if you’re not so bothered about the benefits staying in one brings, it might be worth looking at the Partner Hotels. These are slightly further away from the parks and don’t come with the bus and extra hours facilities, but still do have a lot to offer. Again, they have varying rankings and offer different facilities, so there should be something to suit every budget.




If neither of these options appeals, there are plenty of other places to stay nearby. There will be other hotels that aren’t connected to Disney at all, or there are plenty of Air B’n’B options if you’d prefer to be in a self-contained place. 

Dining:

Possibly the most important part of any holiday is the food! Disneyland Paris offers plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, but it’s worth thinking about how you want to approach your dining. Disney offers Meal Plans, which you pay for in advance and will cover some or all of your meals. You can choose between Breakfast, Half-Board or Full-Board, then each type also has different levels depending on the type of restaurants you want to eat in. At first we didn’t think paying for a meal plan would be worth it, but after looking at the menus and working out how much we were likely to pay if we paid as we went along, we realised getting a plan would actually save us a lot of money. So we have gone for the Half-Board Plus Meal Plan, which means we get breakfast in our hotel, and then either lunch or dinner in a choice of more than 15 different restaurants. 




I would also highly recommend booking your meals in advance, especially if you’re looking to go to the most popular restaurants, as they fill up exceptionally quickly. You can ring 60 days before your holiday, which is what we did and the cast member was so helpful with getting everything we wanted booked in. If you book your holiday with the Walt Disney Travel Company, there will be a UK number on your paperwork. Otherwise, there is a French number on the main Disneyland website – I’d suggest either ringing early in the morning or late in the evening so you’re not on hold too long and therefore not having to pay too much for the call. 



I thought you might be interested to hear what our plan is for eating while we’re away. Most mornings we will be having breakfast in our hotel, so I haven’t added that to the plan. We also haven’t booked our lunches/lighter meals, so these may change once we’re there, but we thought it was a good idea to have a plan to aim for. This is our idea so far:

·     Monday lunch – Bistrot Chez Remy (We’ve booked a late lunch for 3pm, as they don’t serve dinner here)
·     Monday dinner –Planet Hollywood/Rainforest Café 
·     Tuesday lunch –Earl of Sandwich
·     Tuesday dinner –Cape Cod – 7pm
·     Wednesday lunch –Casey’s Corner
·     Wednesday dinner –Hunter’s Grill – 7pm
·     Thursday breakfast –Plaza Gardens – 9.45am (This is a character breakfast, so we will need to pay a top up, as it’s not included in the meal plan)
·     Thursday lunch –Colonel Hathi’s Pizza
·     Thursday dinner –Inventions – 7pm (Again, this is a character meal, so we will need to pay a top up)
·     Friday lunch –Vapiano

Disability:

Travelling anywhere when you have a disability can be anxiety provoking because there seems to be so much more planning needed than for able-bodied people. Obviously this advice will depend on what your disability is (or whether you have one at all), but I’ll try and cover everything that is likely to help me. If you don’t know, I’m chronically ill and use a wheelchair, so travelling and going abroad isn’t the easiest of things to do! The first thing I want to address is disability access on the Eurostar. When we rang up to book our tickets (months in advance) we were told there were no wheelchair spaces on the train we wanted to go on. So we asked about other trains on the same day/other days and again, were told there were no wheelchair spaces. It turns out that each Eurostar train going directly to Disney only has space for two wheelchair passengers, which I personally think is crazy considering how huge the trains are. It’s putting disabled people who want to travel at a massive disadvantage. We had to decide whether to cancel our holiday or try and work around it, so we rang back and they said we could bring my manual wheelchair (I had really wanted the independence of having my electric wheelchair) and fold it up, but that we would probably need to upgrade out of standard class so there would be room to store it. So we ended up doing this, and paying for the privilege. I’m personally pretty hacked off about having to pay a higher price to travel just because I need a wheelchair – I think it’s downright wrong. So, if you need to travel by Eurostar in your wheelchair, I would recommend signing up to their newsletter and booking tickets as soon as they come out to try and make sure you get one of the two wheelchair spaces. 




Once you actually get to Disney, there are certain things you can do to make your holiday a bit more relaxed and enjoyable. If you have a disability, you an get something called an Access Card by either going to Donald Desk, City Hall or Studio Services when you arrive. You will need to provide evidence of your disability (so something like a Blue Badge, PIP/DLA letter, Medical Certificate etc.) but it’s best to check what evidence is accepted for your specific disability before you go. There are two types of Access Card:

·     Priority Card – for anyone officially registered as disabled
·     Easy Access Card – for guests with a temporary illness and for pregnant women

The cards have a number of benefits, although these do vary depending on the type of card you have. But they can include:

·     Not having to queue for rides
·     Accessing rides through specially adapted entrances
·     Access to specially designated areas for parades and shows (so you can actually see if you’re in a wheelchair!)
·     You can take up to four helpers with you as well



If you have a registered disability, you can also claim back the cost of the Disney Parks admission for one helper, as long as you have your official disability documents. I know this will be a massive help for us, as I wouldn’t be able to travel and access the parks without a carer. There are also accessible rooms in the hotels, which you can ask for when you ring up to book your accommodation. And Disney also produce Accessibility Maps, which contain information about accessibility on all rides, restaurants and attractions within the parks. 

In the Park:

To round this post off, I thought I would also share a couple of tips to help you when you’re out and about in the parks themselves. Firstly, there are a couple of apps, which I would really recommend downloading (they’re both free!) The first is the MagiPark App which allows you to keep a track on waiting times for rides, rather than having to go to the actual ride to find out. This means you can be enjoying other things around the park whilst keeping an eye on the waiting time for your favourite ride. As soon as the time goes down, you can head on over and join the (hopefully shorter!) queue. The app will also tell you which attractions are experiencing momentary service interruptions or closures, where restaurants are and where the nearest toilets are too. 



Another app that will be good to have while you’re in Disney is the official Disneyland Paris App. This app also allows you to check wait times for attractions in both parks and makes exploring easy with GPS-enabled maps that show your location and the attractions, restaurants, shops and more near you. It contains information about timings for parades and entertainment, as well as park hours, accessibility information and descriptions of attractions to help you plan your days to be as fun-packed as possible. 

The final thing you may want to consider is whether buying a PhotoPass+ would be a good investment for you and your family. There are official photographers at all Disney Character Meet & Greet Attractions, as well as a few dotted around the parks, who will be more than happy to take great-quality photos of the whole family. Buying the PhotoPass means you get all of these photos, plus your ride photos as high quality digital image files. It is valid for 10 days from first use and the photos will be available for one year after that, so it’s worth transferring them to somewhere more permanent once you’re home from your holiday. You can buy the pass either at the beginning or end of your holiday (I believe there’s a slight difference in price if you buy in advance). We’re considering splitting the cost between the five of us, as I’ve seen other people’s photos and they really are lovely.




And that’s everything – phew! I really hope that if you are planning a trip to Disneyland Paris, these tips will help you on your way. Hopefully when I get back, I can do a round up of things we learnt on the holiday to give you some tried and tested advice too. If there are any other blog posts related to Disneyland Paris that you would be interested to see, please do let me know. You can also watch the video I made in conjunction with this post over on my YouTube channel.

Are you planning to go to Disney any time soon? Or are you just a massive Disney fan like me?!


Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Blogger Event with The Body Shop Reading


The Body Shop holds fond childhood memories for me. I remember going there as a teenager and buying soaps, hand creams and my first perfume (Strawberry Eau de Toilette), which they still have on the shelves all these years later! I also recall going on a weekend away with my church youth group – we must have stayed somewhere in West Sussex, because one of our outings was a tour around The Body Shop Head Office/Factory – I was seriously in my element, and that trip as a ten year old cemented my love for The Body Shop. Since then I have kept a close eye on their latest launches; trialling all sorts of luxurious but affordable products, and turning to them whenever I’ve needed a Christmas or birthday gift for someone special. So when I was contacted by a lovely man called James, who asked me if I would be interested in coming along to a blogger event at The Body Shop Reading, I didn’t have to think twice!





On a warm Thursday evening, my sister-in-law, Emma, and I made our way over to The Oracle Shopping Centre and had a bit of a look round some of the shops (Disney Store and a huge Primark!) before meeting some other bloggers in The Body Shop. The team were really welcoming, and James came over to introduce himself and tell us a bit about what we could expect from the evening. We started by each being given a personalised name sticker – they are generally used to personalise Body Butters (which I think is a super cute idea for a gift) but we used them as giant name badges – massively helpful when you only know a lot of people by their blog names! 








We were given a bit of time to have a browse around the store and explore some of the new products on offer this summer. Everything is so well laid out – there aren’t too many items on the shelves, so it’s really easy to take in all the individual products. I also love the fact that the scents aren’t too overwhelming, so you’re able to really get a feel for each distinct smell, rather than being overpowered by all of them at the same time. There were a lot of familiar products to see as I made my way around the shop – their famous Body Butter, hand creams, shower gels and skincare. But there were also a few new things that I hadn’t had a chance to test out yet. The Body Yogurts were so good – they come in a range of gorgeous scents and absorb into your skin so quickly, which is a must in my eyes. 

Once we’d all received our stickers and had a look around, the team brought us back together for an informative talk about The Body Shop’s history, what they stand for and their recent campaigns. It was really interesting to be reminded about where The Body Shop started and to hear their stance on animal testing. They now have over 3000 stores in 66 countries, employing over 22,000 people, which is just amazing. Their brand is 100% vegetarian and more and more of their products are now being made vegan friendly, so it’s nice to see how much care and thought they put into providing sustainable and cruelty-free products. We were also shown some of the best-selling products and were able to test them out – this was where I found out how brilliant the Body Yogurts are! 




After the talk, their resident make-up artist treated one blogger to a summer festival makeover, whilst talking us through the products she used. I’m very much a natural make-up kind of girl, so it was nice to see how you can create a glowing summery look just by using a moisturiser, brick bronzer and blusher, lip liner, gloss and brow gel. I really love the idea of being able to pop into a Body Shop store and having a trained make-up artist to chat to, who can recommend the best products for your skin and show you how to apply them.



We were then set loose in the shop again to have another look around and enjoy some of the entertainment they had organised. Wagamama were there providing food and drinks, which seemed to go down very well! I wasn’t able to eat any of the main meals, but I did have my first try of Edamame Beans (I know, I’m ridiculously late to the party!), which were absolutely delicious. I also had a really yummy fruit smoothie, which they make from scratch in their restaurants every day. 








We then had a fun game of blindfolded hook-a-duck. I don’t think I’ve played the game since I was in Infant School and they would have it at our school fairs, so I’d forgotten how difficult it was without a blindfold, let alone with one! But after a lot of giggles both Emma and I managed to get a duck and were able to choose a prize – yay!








I was then able to have a longer look around the store and take in some of the newer products I hadn’t seen properly yet. The new Banana range was surprisingly nice, from someone that doesn’t like bananas! It kind of reminded me of that banana medicine you have as a child, which I always loved the smell of! As well as that and the Body Yogurts, they have also recently brought out some Face Mists in a variety of different fragrances. As it was a hot day, we all enjoyed spritzing our faces with these to cool down. 


























They have recently completely revamped their men’s range as well and you can now buy a variety of products including various moisturisers and beard oils. I really like the way things are labelled around the shop, so you can tell which products are new. They also have some Icon items, which are The Body Shop’s biggest sellers, so it helps to know which products customers use time and time again. 









I always seem to forget that The Body Shop also have a really good make-up range – from foundations to lip products and everything in between. I was also excited to see their Skin Defence Multi-Protection Essence with SPF 50, which would be a brilliant base for your make-up, whilst protecting your skin on a daily basis. I’ve tried a few of their make-up pieces over the years and have always loved the quality and the reasonable price, plus the fact I know their cosmetics aren’t being tested on animals.










For me, the most important message of the evening was The Body Shop’s continual fight against animal testing. Together with Cruelty Free International, they are taking a stand against animal cruelty and are asking their customers to help them too by signing a petition. They’re aiming to reach 8 million signatures to present to the UN and there are only 17 days to go, so it’s time to get signing! You can find the petition here - they’re so close to their target, so please help them with that final push. 

I had a great evening learning a bit more about The Body Shop, their latest products and campaigns and catching up with some fellow bloggers. I’ve already started making a shopping list of things I want to treat myself to!

Are you a fan of The Body Shop? What are your favourite products? And will you be signing the petition to get animal testing for cosmetics banned?