When I was a child Disney was my absolute life. I have so many beautiful memories of snuggling up on the sofa as a little girl with my family, the VHS flicking into life and the magical Disney castle lighting up the room as I enthusiastically sang along (like a strangled cat) to every word – especially the Christmas specials where the little mouse ears bounced along with the music! I’d have given absolutely anything to go to Disneyland as a child but sadly I never got the chance… until now that I’ve had two children of my own and can use them as my excuse to finally meet Mickey!
The Jungle Book, Cinderella and Aladdin are still my all time favourite Disney films closely followed by Beauty & The Beast, The Little Mermaid and Lady & The Tramp – but I could never pick between 101 Dalmatians and The Aristocats so when I grew up I got a pet cat and a dog who adored each other. Each Disney character is so wonderfully animated, thoughtful and delivers such a poignant life lesson that will forever stand the test of time. Disney for me has always been about positive role models across magical lands that transport you into a dream world where everything is possible and their more recent films where the classic stories are remade are phenomenal; Millie and I cherish our girly evenings out to the cinema to see Alice Through The Looking Glass, Maleficent and Beauty & The Beast.
This will be the first time that I’ve taken both of the children on holiday before as I’ve been a single parent for almost five years, since my son was a baby, and last took Millie to Italy when she was two but she doesn’t remember it at all, just what she’s seen in holiday photos. I’ve been umm’ing and ahh’ing over when the right time is to take young children away for them to firstly enjoy the experience and secondly remember that it even happened. Seeing as we’ve been through a lot of heartache this year with my Mum having cancer, two of our beloved pets dying and various struggles with my health I came to the conclusion that life is too short and there’ll never be a perfect time, nor a perfect bank balance for me to say let’s go on the holiday of a lifetime. My parents were always so desperate to take my brother and I to Disneyland as children but work and money and life just got in the way that we grew up suddenly before they realised. This year Gabriele turned 5yrs, Millie’s about to turn 10yrs and I’m going to be 30 the day that we leave for Paris so it seems like the perfect time to go.
I was actually getting my hair done when the discussion about Disneyland came up with my hairdresser as she asked what I was doing to celebrate my 30th birthday and I felt torn between taking a holiday with a friend to a hot beach for some adult rest and relaxation away from the children as a worn out single parent, or to take the children on the holiday of a lifetime and live out my childhood dream of seeing Disneyland. She told me she’d gone with her grown up daughter to Disneyland Paris just last year and had the most amazing girly weekend and that this year was in fact the 25th Anniversary celebrations which are set to be incredible so it made up my mind for me! Disneyland Paris it is!
My friend (who is coming with us) booked it all online directly through Disney because they offer the best package deals for travel, hotel and park tickets for which we got 30% off by booking on the day of my birthday on Friday October 13th 2017 – one month before we go. We looked into the best times to travel knowing that we’d be going by train on Eurostar from London to Paris and booked a taxi for 4am to take us to the station so that we’ll have time to check in at the station and arrive at Disneyland for around lunchtime making the most of our first day before returning on Sunday afternoon for a long weekend and to get back for school. We have travel insurance through our banks but my daughters passport had expired for which I was able to pay for a replacement for around £50 including postage and get her new one through within a week as it’s past the summer now and so the applications are thankfully processed super quick or I’d have had to pay more to fast track it to have it back in time. I’ve also taken photos of all of our passports and emailed them to myself incase they get lost or stolen then we’ll still have a copy and hopefully won’t get stranded in France.
We decided to announce our trip to Disneyland Paris to the children by setting up a treasure hunt in the lounge when they got home from school so I ordered lots of mousey treats and chuckled to myself as I printed off clues and charged the camera. The children loved the red balloon floating on the ceiling with a note when they came home and after eating chocolate mice sweets, cuddling mice teddies and opening a Minnie dress, Mickey hoodie and iconic mouse ears they pieced together an anagram of ‘Disneyland’ and guessed where we were going – only they had absolutely no idea what Disneyland even was and presumed it was a play park down the road! Umm, no! So I spent the rest of the day showing them video clips of the parades and castle and they soon became just as excited as me! It’s going to be a first for all of us to experience Disney and I can’t believe how iconic it was to me as a child yet almost unknown to my own children, this is literally the most amazing thing in the world that I could think of for a child and I just know they’re going to love it – it’s somewhat extra special that we’ll all discover it for the first time together and I’ll cherish the memories forever.
After booking I printed all of the confirmations and references to put into a file along with the passports and handing in Leave Of Absence forms to the children’s schools. Schools in the UK fine parents for unauthorised absences and as such I’ve never taken my children out of school before, they’ve only ever been off when they’re ill, so I’ve requested they have just one day off on the day that we go to minimise their time away from school but I’m expecting the requests to be declined, hopefully without a fine but we shall see! We’ve also pre-booked a photo pass for around £45.00 which entitles us to unlimited family photos on rides and with the characters so that I can print a photo book once we’re home to capture our memories. I’ve always declined a photo pass at theme parks as it usually costs as much as the park tickets but after spending £20.00 on two key rings at Alton Towers a few weeks ago it seems amazingly reasonable to take plenty of professional pictures without worrying about the price and if we have a really special one I’d love to print it to canvas.
My son is currently undergoing testing for the diagnosis of Autism and as such he’s attended multiple hospital appointments, school and home assessments, paediatrics, behavioural specialists and receives one-on-one care daily during school hours in order to participate in a classroom environment. Despite being five I’ve been informed that he has the mental capacity of a two year old. Because his condition is still under diagnosis (which can take up to 18months and has been ongoing for 10months so far) I’m travelling with my friend in order to allocate one adult per child which allows me to give my full attention to Gabriele. It also means that on rides and at tables nobody is left sitting alone as whenever I go out with my children alone I put them both on a ride and stand and watch or if it’s an adult to a child then Gabriele can’t be left alone so Millie has to sit by herself, so it’ll be nice to have everyone partnered up and involved for once. Gabriele struggles with a change to routine, panics with loud noises, bright lights and big crowds so I’m not sure how he’ll cope with everything involved in this weekend away but I’m sure that travelling by train will be more comfortable than sitting still in a seat whilst flying.
We contacted Disney to inform them of Gabriele’s condition and they’ve asked me to bring medical papers to the check-in desk at the park for which they can fast track the rides so that we don’t have to spend hours queuing but because he doesn’t have his final diagnosis yet I can only bring his school reports and proof of hospital appointments which they may or may not accept so fingers crossed! I’m brining Gabriele’s iPad and headphones for the train to keep him calm and focused and have a Minnie Mouse diary for my daughter so that she can write about her favourite things everyday and record her memories. I panic at the thought of such large crowds and being in a foreign place that the children won’t recognise so I’ve purchased some bright red wristbands online which I can write my contact number, hotel details and my children’s identities on for them to show an adult should they become separated from me at any time – so far I’ve never lost a child but you can never be too careful! The bands were just a couple of pounds and once fitted stay on securely the entire time (until cut off) and are waterproof just like an all inclusive hotel band when on holiday.
As we’re going for three days and I’ve already given the children their Disney clothes and toys during the treasure hunt I’m planning on taking £200.00 for food (for one full day and two days of travelling) and the rest of the family are giving the children spending money for their birthdays so that they can choose what they like when we get there. I’ll be changing my euros at the post office in the next week or so as we leave in 18 days time and if I need anymore money when I’m out there I’ll use my bank card. I’ve been told there’s a McDonald’s restaurant on site which I know the children will love as a huge treat because they struggle to eat in regular restaurants when we always have home cooked food – either the vegetables are too crunchy or the meat isn’t cooked enough and nothing gets touched. So with burgers and chips the children won’t leave a bite and I’ll just have to find something vegan for myself! Our hotel is a 10-15min walk on the park itself so we’ll get plenty of exercise daily to burn off any fast food and hopefully sleep well at night in our Bambi themed family room. Now all we have to do is pack and wait for the big day to come. I’ll be keeping a blog here on how we get on, what we see and all of the tips and tricks we use along the way incase you’re planning a trip to Disneyland too and would like to know what to expect and what we found helpful. Likewise any advice you have for us before we go would be greatly appreciated – what should we see first, where can we eat and how can we save time and money to pack everything into a long weekend!? So many questions, so little time! Eek!
UPDATE: 26/09/17 – 17 Days To Go
So crumpled up in the bottom of Gabriele’s school book bag was this beautiful piece of paper which states that he has been granted leave from school to go to Disneyland! Wow, I really wasn’t expecting that! No fine, no punishment just a straight forward request accepted. I’m not sure what makes this request any different to those that are turned down and enforced, perhaps it’s his special needs, being a single parent family or the special birthday occasion and time of year that we’re going? Either way I’m incredibly relieved and thankful that it was processed without a hitch! Now just Millie’s to go…
Watch this space and remember to check back soon to see how we get on!