Disney in a day
A daytrip from Belgium to the magic kingdom of Disneyland Paris is eminently possible thanks to the high-speed Thalys train. We find out more.
Whichever way you looked at it – and believe me, I've tried working out all the possible stress-free angles – a visit to Europe's number one tourist attraction, Disneyland, Paris, is pretty hard to avoid.
Especially if you live in Belgium and have kids.
Why? Because from Brussels Midi Station, it's only an hour-and fifteen-minute train ride to the magic kingdom, and with a drop-off less than 100 metres or so from the front-gate, even 'rock star parking' couldn't get any better.
You can do Disney in several ways. But a progressive option, and a highly recommend one, is the single-day approach.
This is because the high-speed Thalys train that links France and Belgium offers a special fare that includes a return trip in Comfort 2 and admission to one of the two Disney Parks. The price is EUR 80 for an adult and EUR 54 for children under 12. Children under three-years of age ride for free.
And of course, part of the fun is the trip by train itself.
“It's like the magic starts on the train, compared to sitting in a car,” claims Patricia Baars, Attachée de Presse with Thalys, admittedly not the most neutral of observers.
But she does have a point.
The speed of the train trip is ideal for kids who can't sit still for a long drive.
“We're moving! We're moving!” cries four-and-half-year-old, Leo as our train begins to pull out of Brussels Midi Station.
The train is part of the fun
Within 20 minutes of leaving Brussels, get ready for the tunnels, a sure favorite for the under sevens.
“Oh! Mommy! Can we do that again?” hollers four-year old Tom with his eyes practically glued to the train window.
“It's more like the train ride itself is an attraction. It's like two attractions in one – the Thalys and Disney,” claims mother of two Sibohan Herman-King.
For the really best deals book your package early and enjoy the comfort of 1st class. Between the refreshments and light-fare food being served on-board, the journey time feels like it's been cut in half.
In fact the train ride provides an ideal opportunity for mealtimes. It saves on time, leaving more of the day free to enjoy the park's activities.
A word of warning
Doing Disney in a day is not for everyone. The time goes f-a-a-a-s-t, so in order to make your visit worth the price of the popcorn it is advisable to do some advance planning.
As a first step you should order your Park map from the Disney website – http://www.disneylandparis.com
It will make your one-day excursion an even better experience and is undoubtedly the best way of navigating your way around the magic kingdom. In short, it's a must.
If you want to see any of the many live shows on offer, reserve your seating early or expect disappointment.
You should also avoid falling into the trap of trying to do everything.
The park is one-fifth the size of Paris, so you will not be able to visit all of it.
Instead you should choose carefully what you want to see during your eight-hour visit.
“Doing Disney in a day can only be feasible by choosing one out of five areas of the park to visit, such as Frontier land, Adventure land, Fantasyland, Discovery land or Main Street, USA,” says Jennifer Constantino, a mother of two children.
Of course there are no hard and fast rules about how many attractions you can cram into one day.
But as a rule of thumb expect to wait an average of 40 minutes to use a ride in the summer, slightly less in the spring or fall.
It is also a good idea to avoid visiting Disneyland during the French school holidays, as the park is full to bursting at these times.
Another good way to make the most of a one-day trip is to use the FastPass system that allows you to avoid queuing up for some rides.
The FastPass works by giving you an allocated time to turn up at a given attraction.
But don't get too excited, it currently works on only five rides.
A possible programme
If you are considering doing Disney in a Day, below is an outline for one-day visit based on the author's personal experience:
10.20am – Leave Brussels. Lunch on the train
12pm - Pick-up admission tickets and stroll leisurely into Disneyland, Paris
1.45pm - First ride - 'It's A Small World'
2.20pm - Second ride - Merry-Go-Round
2.50pm - Bathroom pit stops, candies from a trolley and stroller rental
3.20pm - Pick-up FastPass ticket for 'Peter Pan's Flight'
3.45pm - Visit the 'Winnie-the-Pooh and Friends, Too' show
Around 4pm – Use FastPass ticket for 'Peter Pan's Flight'
4.50pm – Get lost but enjoy taking pictures and bumping into Disney characters.
5.30pm – Attend The Legend of Lion King show and eat a light snack. After the show, go shopping for family gifts and Cinderella outfits.
7.33pm – Catch train back to Brussels.
Doing Disney in a Day is worth every second, minute and hour of fun, at least that's what the kids say!
The Thalys promotion for a return trip in Comfort 2 and admission to one of the two Disney Parks ends the last week of September 2004. However the Smiley fare is an alternative deal to Disneyland Paris. This EUR 49 fare consists of a return trip in Comfort 2, but does not include your admission to Disneyland Paris. There are a few conditions for the Smiley fare. The ticket has to purchased 15 days in advance and no changes can be made to the itinerary. If you really become hooked on the idea of Doing Disney in Day on several occasions throughout the year, be sure to look into the various Disney Passport admissions fares.
This site lists good package rates and specials. Click on your country of origin - and go!
Go to theme parks and the rest will follow.
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