Surprising as it may sound, despite being American I had manged to make it some 47 years without stepping foot into any of Walt’s magical kingdoms. I’ve just never had the urge nor was it really my parent’s kinda thing. I think I sort of surprised myself when I suggested a few days in DLP for the twins’ 5th birthday. We would be in France anyway prior to the big day so thought that maybe now was a good a time as any.
A bit of research and deep breaths and the hotel was booked as well as a half board arrangement and really nothing more was thought of it It’s Disneyland ‘its going to be great and the kids will LOVE it’.
The brevity of both my complacency and naivety only began to dawn on me when my sister in law innocently asked what I had booked or planned for our time at Disney. What do you mean? Room and board are booked and they give us vouchers for our meals, whatever else do I need to plan? Don’t we just turn up and let the magic happen, like on the commercials? Um, No. Apparently, there is quite a lot that you need to plan. Actually, you need to plan everything, down to the very last minute. Well if you want to eat and go on any rides. OOPS.
Nevermind, I downloaded the app, that will be ok. I can always trust an app ( well not actually as my trust in an app got us a wee bit lost heading down to our holiday house but let’s not dwell on that), the app would tell us what to do. Not. What the app did do was make me obsessed with the app and waiting times and trying to find elusive tables for supper and what is the must see / do ride / experience. I think looking back I may have spent more time looking at the app than on an actual ride.
In retrospect, and to be fair, I don’t think anything could have really prepared me for what the next few days would be like. I did have one BIG preconceived notion and that was as an American company, Disneyland would be top range entertainment and nothing left to chance, after all in America the customer is king (or prince/princess ). Well I was wrong. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that the staff weren’t pleasant or helpful, they were, kind of, but I don’t think that you can get the OTT friendliness and OMG nothing is too much for me to do for you, without being genetically American. Maybe that’s what the European visitors like about DLP, but for me it was a bit of a let-down. I guess I wanted America without having to share a continent with Trump.
So here are a few things that took me a bit by surprise;
The cost- I’m not going to give an exact figure as to what was spent but suffice it to say that you could buy a compact car for the cash that was handed over to the jolly guy with the big ears. I know it is partially my own fault, I did go a bit overboard with the treats and gifts but in my defence, there came a point that I felt powerless to fight it, the pressure to spend, and at hyper inflated prices is immense. The prices are extortionate, there is no reason why 4 slushies should cost €24, or one coke and 3 Soleros should cost €19. Or a burger and fries €22.99. It is simply madness. I know, I know, its market forces and that if people weren’t prepared to pay it then the whole thing would shut but I’m sticking to my guns here and saying that it is just monetary madness.
The queues/crowd management- seriously I have never experienced anything like it. I don’t know what else I can say about this but that it was hell. People overall had no manners, no patience, no understanding of queue etiquette, no comprehension of personal space and at times no knowledge of their odour. There we are, I’ve said it. People stood too close to me and stank. I think this particular aspect and lack of management is inexcusable of Disney. The queues should and could be better supervised, then perhaps I and the 100’s of other prisoners / guests wouldn’t have had to spend 75 agonising minutes next to someone who wanted to use us to dry their sweat whilst simultaneously inviting/forcing us to smell their stinky pits. This is of course whilst waving to the 30 people that they had been holding a place in line for. Just sayin.
The crowds. I Know, we were part of those crowds but really Disney, you know they are coming, plan for it. Bottlenecks and inexcusable waits to get into certain areas, see ‘certain’ people or into restaurants are just beyond.
They have the money to double, even triple up on the most popular things. Do it for God’s sake. And then send some of your customer service people out to TALK to your guests, explain and suggest, offer help-or condolences. I was not the only parent walking around with a look somewhere between labour pains and lobotomy ready to punch the next fool who dare to slow down my epic journey to get an overpriced burger.
The size. It was huge, but like 90% of it was shops selling the exact same things at VASTLY inflated prices. If we can’t get you to buy a snowglobe of Goofy in the shop with a pink door then oh my gosh my golly by the time you get to the shop with the fake Tudor exterior you are practically begging to buy the bloody thing- and the shirt that says Je t’aime Mickey, even though you really really don’t. If the shops were to be reduced even by ¼ then the place would still be big enough to take a good couple of days to navigate without feeling like someone is really having a laugh at your (wallet’s) expense. The kids, who are normally dynamos were overwhelmed exhausted and begging for mercy whilst being frog marched in a desperate attempt to get our money’s worth. Rest is for wimps! We are Welsh and by God we will overcome! One thing I now know for certain, Disneyland in 34 degree heat with 4 tired cranky kids jacked up on sugar and E numbers in the middle of a celebration of commercialism is not for the feint hearted. I may have shouted at them once or twice.
The Commercialism- It is insane. How an entire shopping mall- yes that is what it really is if you think about it- can have shop after shop selling THE EXACT SAME THING and still be a success is beyond me. It was boring, irritating and frustrating.
Ok, so the big question- Would I go back or would I recommend that YOU go to Disney? The answer is perhaps surprisingly YES. To explain I will use the analogy of sex. More specifically one’s first time. Before having sex, you think a lot about it, imagine how it will be and what you want it to be. You talk to your friends about it, you look at pictures, websites and maybe read a bit about it. You’ve seen it in films and on TV or maybe you’ve just gone on expecting it but not given two hoots about the whole thing and are quite open minded with no preconceived ideas. Truth is, until you’ve actually HAD sex YOURSELF you have no clue. The reality is often a bit of a let-down. That however does not deter us or detract from the desire to do it again (and again, and again etc, etc….). No, we regroup, and jump back in with the hopes that the next time will be better, you’re more prepared and able to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride . So yes, I am planning on hopping back into the proverbial sack with Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Cinderella too. It won’t be immediate, I do need a bit of time to recover from our first dalliance but I will be back.
Pre Disney checklist-
Download the App and study it!
Look online at the map ( it is small on the app) and then highlight what is of interest. Then cross reference with review sites with regards to average waiting times. A trick is to try and start at the furthest point of the park and work your way backwards ( I was offered this tip pre visit but stupidly chose to ignore it-at my own peril).
Pack a rucksack with plasters, hand sanitiser, spare knickers / pants ( you chose if they are for you/them/both) small snacks, aspirin, calpol etc and water bottles. There are water fountains dotted around the park in which you can refill them and hopefully helping to avoid overpriced park beverages.
Book your meals. If you are planning on eating in the park then I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you pre book your meals. You can do this through the app. You can cancel should your plans change but it at least saves you either a hell of a long wait at a restaurant that you don’t actually want to eat at or paying hyper inflated prices at a restaurant that you REALLY don’t want to be at. Picnics are NOT allowed in the park so please don’t think that you will be able to take a lovely baguette and cheese and dine alfresco at the foot of Sleeping beauty’s castle. You have to leave the park to do that and then queue to get back in.
A pre-agreed daily amount for each child to spend on treats or gifts- and be strong! Don’t underestimate how much this should be. €10 will NOT cut it. Sorry but that’s the God awful truth. I would say that between €20-30 a day is more realistic. It sounds a lot but with a drink and ice lolly coming in at about €10 you can see that it won’t go far.
A sense of humour. You will need it.
A huge amount of patience- you will REALLY need it.
Dress in layers- if you are going in the winter that is. Comfy shoes and pack a macs are essentials.
If going in the summer please bear in mind that there is little shade for most ride/event queues. This means up to and over an hour in direct sunlight. Hats, fans, water spray etc… anything to try and keep you and the target of the festivities cool calm and collected.
My most sincere and deepest well wishes for an excellent time. Please let us know how it went.