This post is a couple of months late but at least it is here which is more than I can say for the post about my 40th birthday trip to Walt Disney World (WDW) which still hasn’t materialised! Anyway, my husband and I planned a surprise trip to Disneyland Paris (DLP) for my son’s 18th birthday and this is my blog about it.
First, just a bit of background. My son has a learning disability so, even though he is 18, his development is around that of a 6-7 year old. Keeping this a secret from him was really hard and I nearly slipped up more than once!
OK, so here is the story of my son’s 18th birthday surprise. At the beginning of the year (2012), we asked my son if he wanted to go away for his birthday and, if so, where he wanted to go. As we had been to WDW for my birthday the previous year he said he wanted to go back to WDW. Sorry, but much as I would have loved to be able to pull that one off, it wasn’t going to happen – we can’t afford to go to WDW two years in a row and my son’s birthday is in the October half term holiday which means we only get a week, not two. So, he decided that he’d like to go to London and go to London Zoo, the Science Museum, Buckingham Palace (actually go inside not just see the outside) and the Transport Museum. That was OK, I could let him keep thinking we were going to London while planning a trip to DLP as we could get the Eurostar from St Pancras which just happens to be next door to the station we arrive in to when we get to London.
My son’s birthday actually wasn’t in half term, officially, but his school had a teacher training day on his birthday which meant that he had a day off. So, we got the train to London on the evening before his birthday when he had come home from school and stayed in a B&B near the station overnight.
On the morning of his birthday, he opened the few presents and cards we had taken to London with us and then we packed the cases up again and headed out of the B&B. We had told him that we were changing hotels after the first night in London to one which was a bit nicer and closer to where we wanted to visit. My son loves transport so we had asked him if he wanted to see if we could have a look at the Eurostar before we got the tube to the new hotel, he said yes so we took a walk over to St Pancras. When we got to the Eurostar area, we were told that you can’t see the Eurostar unless you are travelling on it. When we found this out, I asked my son if he wanted to go on the Eurostar. He said “No, London Zoo”. Oh boy! I was praying that I hadn’t just made the biggest mistake of my life by planning this holiday. I then asked my son if he thought I was being silly and he said yes which was why he had given the response he had. I got my holiday file out and sat down with my son to show him that we did, in fact, have tickets for the Eurostar and asked him if he knew where the Eurostar went. He said DLP and I asked, again, if he would like to go on the Eurostar. Thankfully, this time, he said yes! I wish my husband had been ready with the camera to catch my son’s reaction because he was so shocked that I thought he was going to cry.
The journey on the Eurostar was great. They provided and activity pack for children under 12 but I went to the information desk and explained that my son had a learning disability and asked if he could have one, they said yes.
The journey on the Eurostar takes around 2 hours 30 minutes to get from London to Disneyland Paris and it went so quickly. When we got to DLP we decided to walk through Disney Village to the hotel rather than wait with everyone else for the shuttle buses. DLP is very small and it took about 20 minutes to walk from the station to the hotel through Disney Village pushing the suitcase. I’m glad we did decide to walk because the check-in area at the hotel was deserted. Check-in was really easy and the cast members very helpful.
We then went to our room and unpacked before going down to the Disneyland Park for a quick look around before our next surprise (dinner). When we got in to the Park, we went straight to City Hall to ask if they did a Guest Assistance Pass like they do at WDW. They do! The cast member we spoke to was very helpful and gave us lots of tips on what to see and do. She also gave us a booklet with maps of each area of the Parks and marked on the disabled viewing areas for the parades in both Disneyland Park and Studios. By the time we had done all that it was 4.30pm and the parade at DLP is at 5pm so we decided to find a space to sit down and watch it before having to leave for our 6pm dinner reservation. When we had found our spot, one of the Cast Members spotted my disabled guide and asked if we wanted to go in to the disability area. I said that we were fine where we were but thank you. The parade was lovely and, as always, had a great catchy tune.
After the parade we left the Park to go to the Disneyland Hotel as we had dinner reservations for a character dinner in Inventions. The interaction with the characters was great but the food wasn’t right for us as it was mainly seafood although the blurb which I had read about it said that there was roast meats too so I had thought that it would be OK. My husband found plenty to eat but my son and I didn’t so that is a lesson for next time, we’ll probably try Cafe Mickey in Disney Village instead. That said, the puddings were amazing! I certainly made up for not having much of a main course with those 🙂 and, like I said, the interaction with the characters was brilliant.
There were birthday wishes from Mickey, Pinocchio, Chip, Dale, Pluto and Tigger.
Tigger was very funny. My son has a tuft of hair which always sticks up at the back (we can’t get it flat regardless of what we try) and Tigger came up behind him and started to flick the tuft of hair before my son knew he was behind him. It made my son’s evening and he is still talking about it now, 2 months later! Finally, as they do in WDW, they brought my son a slice of cake with a candle in it and played a celebration song over the loudspeaker system in the restaurant.
That was just the day we arrived! We stayed for 4 nights and had a blast. The parks are very small and we could have done it in 2 or 3 nights rather than 4 but it was still a lot of fun. The organisation for meet and greets with the characters has improved greatly since we were last there 10 years ago. I also liked the way they helped those with disabilities. At WDW, if you have a non-physical disability you are able to access the attractions through the FastPass entrance. At DLP all disabilities access the attractions through the disabled entrance. I found this worked really well. With some of the rides you just queued in the disabled area and in others you were asked to book a time to come back as they were only allowed to let so many disabled parties in at any one time. It worked great for us.
All in all, it was a great trip and a wonderful surprise for my son. He went back to school absolutely buzzing and actually spent 20 minutes telling his Pastoral Group about it with the help of the Park map. They usually have to encourage him to speak about his weekend/holiday.
My son did get his trip to London Zoo too as we had an extra couple of nights in London when we got back from DLP.