Disneyland Paris: tips for visiting with guests with disabilities

We were privileged recently to have our second trip to Disneyland Paris within a year, and this time we had family with us that included someone in a wheelchair.

Now, just as all people are different, all disabilities are different – and two wheelchair users will not have the same needs as each other. However, I do now have a few tips for navigating the parks and transport when accounting for a chair.

I’ve written this from the perspective of someone who has attended with a guest with reduced mobility; some of this applies across multiple other needs but there’s definitely more to be discovered, so this really is only intended as a useful starting point.

Five Tips for Guests with Special Needs

Before arriving:

1. Check the online guides for info. Although the DLP website can have its navigation issues, there is a section devoted to guests with additional needs. You can download accessibility guides here, which include a chart of rides and attractions which do / don’t require transfer from a wheelchair (off the top of my head, all shows are non-transfer, and It’s a Small World and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast both have modified vehicles which don’t require a transfer).

2. Plan for transportation options. If you’re driving to DLP, parking for guests with additional needs is in the parking lot for the Disneyland Hotel (the big pink confection that sits over the Disneyland Park gates). You emerge right by the entrance, and you’ll be given a four-digit code to exit the car park when you’re ready. If you’re at a resort hotel and want to use the buses, there are two options. There are not ‘kneeling’ buses, but if they’re aware that there is a guest boarding in a chair the driver can pull right up to the curb to allow easy transfer (they likely won’t otherwise). Alternatively, there is an adapted minibus, and the concierge staff at the hotel and Guest Services in the park can arrange this for you, though it means a bit more inconvenience. As my family joined us there by car, that’s what the member of the group with restricted mobility used – so I can’t comment on the bus options, but all Cast Members were very keen to advise on services.

3. Be aware of distances. This one is more a warning for those whose role it will be to push anyone in a manual wheelchair. Surfaces are mostly wide and level, and there are few inclines, but distances mean it can be hard work. There are ways to help make things easier (eg, don’t go through the castle each time, but zip around past Bella Notte gelateria / Small World on the right to get to Fantasyland without having to huff uphill), but you will need a certain amount of stamina, particularly if heading back and forth between parks.

On arrival:

4. Pick up your green pass from Guest Services. When you arrive in the Disneyland Park, head straight to Guest Services near the arches under the railway station. Present your proof of disability status (the standard UK blue badge is fine) and you’ll be given a green pass which you’ll need to use any of the accessible entrances / adapted ride vehicles. Additional note: If you stay in a resort hotel, you’ll also get a modified hotel ID (the thing that means you’ll get in for Extra Magic Hours etc). It will have a sticker which indicates your status, and means you don’t have to pick a particular time for breakfast but can go when you’re ready. This also applies to up to another four people in your party. Because our bookings were linked, even though we stayed an extra two days, we had a modified ID for the duration of our visit.

5. Make appointments at non-transfer rides. Rides which have adapted vehicles, such as It’s a Small World need pre-booking to ride. You’ll go to a separate entrance (in fact, for IASW, it’s the exit), and they’ll sign you up for the next available slot, so you can come back there just before your time. A ramp is lowered, and you can wheel your chair straight in, plus there’s room for several additional guests. For Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast you queue at a special side entrance near the shop until the adapted car is ready to come back around (it’s an Omnimover type ride). You then head straight to the boarding area, the conveyor belt is stopped and you can wheel on to the car, with a guest next to you. It is quite a tight fit on BLLB, but should accommodate a variety of chairs.  We didn’t attempt any transfer rides, but I know from past experience that Cast Members will do things like stop conveyor belts, or slightly delay vehicle departure, to allow a smooth and stress-free transition.

Disney Parks in general are set up to accommodate a wide variety of needs, and Cast Members are usually very helpful. Accessible rooms are available in the resort hotels with suitable bathrooms etc, too. The best place you can start with any questions is giving the team a call – most issues can be resolved with enough prior warning.

Happy travelling!

(No disclaimer needed – it was a family holiday, not a free trip.)

Disneyland Paris with a Pre-Schooler: Sequoia Lodge

If you’re interested in more of a general overview of staying at Disneyland Paris (aka DLRP), please read this post first. If you’re all about the food, head here. None of these posts were in any way suggested by, paid for or anything to do with DLRP – this is just a family holiday report.

If you’re planning a trip to Disneyland Paris, one of the first questions you’ll need to ask yourself is “which hotel?”. There are several considerations – on site or off? If off-site, a Disney affiliated hotel or not? What the hell is my budget? – but this particular posts assumes the possibility of choosing a Disney resort hotel, but perhaps not having the budget for the gloriously convenient Disneyland Hotel – the one which sits proudly over the gates of the Disneyland Park itself.

There isn’t really a low-budget Disney option per se, but don’t make too many assumptions based on Disney’s rating system; its ‘keys’ are not exactly equivalent to usual star ratings. For what it’s worth, Sequoia Lodge is a 3-key hotel and this does seem to roughly translate to three star, but I’m not sure this necessarily applies across the board.

Based a 15 minute walk – or short bus ride – from the station and parks, Sequoia Lodge is spread over a main large hotel building (whose exterior shots on the DLRP website in no way do it justice) and several low lodges that extend back through the land surrounding the property. The theming is rather suggested by the name, and the towering evergreens clustered around the property don’t disappoint; we even spotted a rabbit bouncing around in the grass!

Approaching Sequoia Lodge

Approaching Sequoia Lodge

Buses run from directly outside the hotel every 15 minutes (allegedly; it’s was actually often a lot faster than that), but it can also be walked in that time. Due to the colder, wetter weather and easily tired legs of the youngest of the party we didn’t try it, but I’m told it’s a lovely walk. If you’re ridiculously energetic, a run around the hotel grounds would make a great start to the day.

When arriving, there was a temporary-looking security tent set up outside the front door, which rather ruined our first impressions; more to the point, the only people who put their bags through the scanner were the ones who ambled over out of that British sense of Doing The Right Thing. The rest simply charged straight past unchallenged – so quite what the point of it was, I’m not sure.

The main reception is spacious and lovely, all wood panels, crazy paving and bear statues. The desk staff were quick and efficient, providing one person from each room with a pack of tickets, maps and general information, and booking the breakfast sitting for the week. For this, you’re handed little colourful tickets marked with the day and sitting time (it’s the same time all week). Pay attention to when Extra Magic Hours are; if you’ve paid to book a Disney hotel you surely want to take advantage of these. In our case, Fantasyland in Disneyland Park opened from 8am, two hours ahead of general opening hours, so we opted for a 7:30am breakfast, deciding 7am was just that bit too early.

Sequoia Lodge reception

Sequoia Lodge reception

Also in the main building is the concierge desk, which is great for booking restaurants, character meals and dinner shows, and giving you information about special events and the local area. Beyond that, heading back and down, are the two restaurants; the Hunters Grill and Beaver Inn Tavern, while on the same floor there’s the lovely Redwood Bar and Lounge (complete with roaring open fire in winter) and a small but well-stocked shop with Disney Parks merchandise. There’s also a themed posing area for character meet and greets; I understand that it’s common for characters to frequent Disney hotel lobbies around check-in time, and my daughter was incredibly delighted to find Pluto waiting for us when we arrived.

The Redwood Lounge

The Redwood Bar and Lounge

The only request we made was to link our bookings on the website and ask for adjoining rooms if possible; we didn’t check to see if this had been done, but it had. It might have been easier to accommodate us because it was term time, but we had two lovely double rooms linked by a connecting door in the Big Sur Lodge. This was towards the back of the complex, next door to the lodge which houses the swimming pool.

The whole hotel underwent a substantial refurbishment in 2011, bringing an apparently much-needed coat of paint and some new Bambi theming in the rooms. Annoyingly, I’ve misplaced the photos we took inside the rooms, but will post them as soon as I can track them down! Decor is quite dark, but not dingy; the dark woods contrast beautifully with paler walls, and the result is lovely and cosy. The bathrooms are compact, but contain everything you need (bathtub with a showerhead, shelf and towel rail, loo), with an external sink. Tap controls were easy to work out, and water pressure was great. The only complaint was that housekeeping was a little spare with the mouse-eared toiletries. These were just a bottle of shower gel and a Mickey-imprinted soap; it took til day 2 to get an extra bottle or two, and there was no array of the kinds of knick knacks you find even in cheap chains these days, nor signs indicating that you might be able to grab a spare toothbrush etc. There’s also a wall-mounted hairdryer of the kind I tend to refer to, childishly and with accidental punnery, as ‘mouse-fart dryers’ because they usually provide about that level of warm air; I brought my own, though my mother-in-law used the room’s dryer and declared it perfectly adequate.

Our room contained two standard doubles, so did feel a little crowded, but to be honest we weren’t there much. There was a large chest of drawers and a TV that wasn’t used because we were too busy being out and about; opposite the sink there was a small clothes rail and the all-important room safe. There is no mini-bar or fridge.

The adjoining room only had one bed, a fairly vast king-size number, and therefore felt much bigger despite being the same dimensions. Both were perfectly clean and in an excellent state of repair. The connecting doors came in very handy on the night we stayed in the parks and my in-laws took care of our three-year-old, as they could put her to bed and keep an eye and ear out from the adjoining room without disturbing her with light or TV sounds. For bigger families, it could also be a useful way to put the youngest, who have to sleep earlier, in a separate space while others stay up later. We didn’t opt for any sort of child bedding, as our daughter is big enough to sleep in a normal double by herself and indeed she did so perfectly comfortably.

Beds were lovely, and a medium softness which is perfect for me; I have a bit of a knackered back so hard or very soft beds are hard work for me (too hard, and my hips and lower back ache; too soft and I strain my back trying to turn over!). Pillows were so deep we both dispensed with the second one.

The setting is beautifully peaceful and dark (though you can see hints of Disney Dreams! far off!), and being apart from the main building there was very little noise; there was one occasion when I heard a rather loud family bumbling in late-ish – as the parks were closing at 9pm and Disney Village started wrapping up by 11pm, there was no reason to come back staggeringly late – but the walls and doors were solid enough that it wasn’t a major issue.

Breakfast is orderly and plentiful, with a range of cereals, baguette and ciabatta rolls, cold cuts, cheese, jam, chocolate spread, butter, marge, fruits and yogurts. There’s a machine with hot chocolate (decent), coffee (according to Ash, coffee-flavoured hot water, but he really likes coffee) and hot water for various teas, plus apple and orange juice on tap and plenty of jugs of cold milk. Scrambled eggs or other cooked options range in price from €3-4.50. Ash tried the scrambled eggs, and said they were fine, but nothing to write home about. We found it very easy to get in and grab a table, but my sister’s family – who went during October half-term – found very long queues and crowds.  Bearing that in mind, you should consider the earliest, 7am dining slot if you’re visiting during school holidays because of older kids, and are keen to get in and out in time for EMH.

I didn’t personally experience the evening buffet at Hunters Grill, but my in-laws took our daughter and all three of them were raving about it; my mother-in-law counted 20 options for dessert and said they were in much more generous portions than in the park (for more about park food in general, read this post). She and my father-in-law – self-confessedly not always the easiest person to feed – found the range and quality of mains on offer very impressive and felt that despite it being one of the more expensive buffets on property (around €30 per adult, and more than half that for kids), it was one of the best value.

We sadly didn’t have time (or energy!) to visit the swimming pool, so I can only go on general impressions I’ve gained from reviews on this one; it usually gets a very good reaction, with only a handful of complaints saying it was on the cold side.

Cast members (staff) were universally helpful and pleasant; though a couple of times we encountered staff who were not fluently bilingual I’m not really sure that’s a cause for complaint – after all, Miss, this is France.

Summary

Overall, I would certainly recommend Sequoia Lodge as an excellent mid-range place to stay; the frills are fewer than you might expect from three keys, but the comfort and cleanliness are probably more than you’d expect, so I guess it balances out! I didn’t go into the Hotel New York, which was undergoing its own renovation, but the outside was a bit uninspiring and surgical-appliance pink; if you want to stay on site but don’t have the megabucks to stay in the Disneyland Hotel (and who does?!), then I think I’d skip the next one down and opt for the gorgeous surrounds of Sequoia Lodge anyway.

The only request we made in advance was to link our bookings on the website and ask for adjoining rooms if possible; we didn’t check before arrival to see if this had been done, but obviously it had. It might have been easier to accommodate us because it was term time, but you can always call and check after booking, by ringing the central reservation line.