Disneyland Paris

Disney

Disneyland has always been a destination I wanted to take my kids to, it didn’t matter which one they went to. We booked online for the “5 days for the price of 4” 2 park entry tickets for a total of £833, which was for the main park and the Walt Disney Studio’s park.

There was a shuttle every 45 minutes from the resort to the park which was a 5 minute ride, and costs €2 per person for both ways.

I was really excited about going back to Disneyland! The first moments were magical, for me, just seeing the castle in the middle of the park brought back so many memories…

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My kids weren’t that impressed (I guess the castle is a little girls thing), but were more excited about the futuristic part of the park. The rides were a bit busy (we figured out later that its better to come earlier in the morning where lines were about 10-15 minutes long rather than 30-45 minutes later in the afternoon). The kids first ride was the Pirates of the Caribbean, and the play area next to it.

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For peak season I was a little disappointed that a lot of rides were closed, It’s A Small World, which is a must see, was closed all 5 days we went! The Ratatouille ride was closed most of the day but when it opened the wait would be at least 1 hour long.

On our second day there I figured out there is an app that had the queue times updated on it by park goers which made us better plan which area to go to based on the wait, rather than walking a long way to find out the ride was closed, I highly recommend anyone going to use it.

A huge warning to parents, the amount of themed shops after each ride is unbelievable, we ended up buying costumes from each movie just because the stores were so inviting (I fell for that too honestly!). What I told the kids to do was buy 1 thing from each themed store, but would only be able to open 2 toys from this trip; everything else would go back to Kuwait unopened.

What got the kids into the experience was the parade… magical!

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Unfortunately, we missed the fireworks shows, which were at 10 pm and was too late for the kids who were exhausted by then.

What disappointed me the most was the food, I know I shouldn’t be surprised with park food, but for a huge attraction like Disneyland, and the ridiculous prices we were charged, I expected more. Furthermore, the park has no ban on smoking in the park, and the French smoke A LOT! I was annoyed by the number of times cigarettes grazed my kids faces, and the rudeness of the local people; French people are not my favorite to say the least.

Bonjour Paris!

Panorama of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France in a beautiful summer day

Probably the week I was most excited about was when we went to Disneyland Paris! I honestly think I was more excited about it than my kids! As a child I visited Disneyland Orlando and to this day the memories are vivid; I couldn’t wait for my kids to experience the same feelings.

To add more experiences to the trip, we travelled by train to Paris. We got on a lot of trains on the underground but taking in the scenery would be a lot different. I was concerned about luggage and the stroller, so we packed all the kids clothes in one small bag and my clothes and my husbands in one bag. We gave my eldest son the responsibility of pulling one of the bags (which he enjoyed doing as that made him an “adult”). The train ride was beautiful, I got the iPad’s just in case but ended up not needing them.

I arranged with the resort we are staying in to have a car pick us up from the train station, as the resort is about 30 minutes out of London. We stayed at the Marriott Village d’lle-de-France which is a 10 minute shuttle drive to Disneyland Paris. We had a lot of options and the Disneyland hotel was one of them, but honestly I didn’t like the idea of being cooped up in a hotel room and loved what we heard about the Marriott (and thank God we didn’t stay at the hotel).

The resort was spectacular, it was so good I wished we stayed a few more days just to enjoy the nature and relaxed environment. Here are some pictures of the resort:

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I bought a 5-day pass to both parks online and we wanted to visit an outlet mall that we’ve been told we cannot miss, so our plan was to visit the park as soon as we got to Paris (we took the 12pm train to get to Paris early and have time to go to the park). We planned our days based on the weather, we knew there would be 1 day where it was going to be very windy and heavy showers, so we made that day the outlet visit.

The Marriott was a breath of fresh air after London, anxiety was high in London because it was a city and the kids couldn’t roam around freely, but the resort was closed, there were playgrounds everywhere, kids could rent bikes and scooters, there was an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, and a kids play area that had many activities. Furthermore, there were restaurant’s and a mini grocery store, so technically you had no need to leave the resort for anything. The villa was equipped with everything, a kitchen that had all the pots and pans as well as basic groceries they provided when we first got there, a washer and dryer with detergents to use, and a dishwasher. Most importantly, the place was CLEAN! The furniture wasn’t worn out, the bathrooms were spotless, it absolutely exceeded my expectations. Don’t forget, this was mid-August, peak season for such resorts, but their services were impeccable.

As soon as you open the villa door there is a playground, and I could sit back and relax knowing the kids wont get lost, there were staff everywhere that would help kids, and I got Meshal (5 years old) a bicycle and he would go around the resort and back easily with no problems. Hamad (3 years old) of course opted to sit next to the lake and feed the ducks 🙂

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If you are planning to go to Disneyland Paris, I highly recommend the Marriott. I haven’t tried any other place, but honestly, I would go to the Marriott even if I wasn’t planning to visit Disneyland, and no, this is not a paid review!

More on our trip in the next posts…

Chessington World of Adventure

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The third trip was to Chessington’s World of Adventure, a short drive out of central London which took us longer than expected (30 minutes usually) as the was a lot of roadwork. Again, we hired Mohammed to drop us off and pick us up when the park closed. My husband was very familiar with the place as he’s been going to it since he was a child, which was a good and bad thing; it could be very old rides that I wasn’t comfortable letting my kids get on, or it could be very well maintained that it still exists today!

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The park is fairly big, with a lot of rides to suit both young kids and older teenagers, it was nice that on the map they had a “ride key” which showed Little Adventurer, Family Adventurer, and Brave Adventurer (makes it easier to decide which way to go).

The rides for young kids were nice, well kept, and the lines were not crazy. We did catch a fun penguin show, and an educational presentation about insects (the kids actually got the touch them).

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Another educational ride was the Zufari, a drive into the safari, where the kids got to see the animals roam around outside rather than in cages. There was also a Sea Life adventure, and a huge area with bouncy castles (you have to pay to get in).

The food in this park was good; there is a great free play area that is right next to a restaurant, which was convenient to let the kids play while we had coffee.

The park opens from 10 am – 5 pm, we paid £156 for the family, but kids under 0.9 meters get in for free. This was a nice trip that I’m glad we took, we had enough time on our trip, but if you were to choose one park to go to, I wouldn’t think Chessington should be it.

Peppa Pig World

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Our second trip was to Paultons Park, home of Peppa Pig World, this was a 2-hour drive and we decided that we would spend a night nearby. We hired the same driver who took us to Legoland (he has kids and is really patient with bored kids in the car!), and set off early. The drive was fun, passing by farms the kids enjoyed seeing horses and cows, playing “I Spy”, and just gazing out at green pastures.

We booked our stay at the Mortimer Arms Inn, which is a really cozy family owned inn, a 2 floor building, which was really charming, you feel like you are at home. The staff were amazing, really friendly with kids, and their food was so good, you could tell it’s homemade. Upon inquiry, we found out that all their food is sourced from local farmers, and the family runs the inn, including the kitchen.

We checked in, changed as it was colder than central London, and headed to Peppa Pig Park. On our 10 minute walk from the inn you pass through a dreamy forest, the kids got so excited seeing many kinds of berries growing on bushes, as well as the occasional squirrel making its way around.

Peppa Pig Park is located in Paultons Park, when you go in you find the park has 3 zones, one is Peppa Pig World, the other is a zoo, and the third is the Paulton’s Theme Park. The first thing I noticed is how clean the park is, as well as the well-kept rides in it. My kids went crazy over everything as they can recognize the rides from their reading books and show, I actually didn’t mind letting my older son roam around on his own.

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Everything was organized, there were area’s for free play that had padded flooring, then a smaller play area inside for toddlers that was gated. In that same area there was a water playground where the kids could experience the “muddy puddles” that Peppa and George usually jump in. The Peppa Pig characters made appearances frequently in a specific area where you could go and take pictures in a well-organized way (no pushing or people cutting in line).

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There were rides as well as display houses, you could go inside Peppa’s home, or the school class, and in most places you could take your picture with Peppa and George:

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Once it started to rain we moved inside into the free-play area that had the rocket theme, it was spacious and there was a parents sitting area that also had a cafeteria. The food served was good (so was their coffee) but just like the other parks, it was overpriced.

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The park opens from 10 am – 5:30 pm, and everyday we left we had tantrums from the kids! We took a 2-day family pass for £219, and it was worth every penny. The merchandise was of very good quality and you would literally want to buy everything! If you don’t mind the 2-hour drive (you wont feel the time fly), I would definitely recommend you visit Peppa Pig Park, but stay over for a night. Need more info about it? Just send me an email and I would gladly provide you with it J

Legoland Windsor Resort

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Our first trip out of central London was to Legoland Windsor Resort. It isn’t very far out, you can get there by train, but it requires a bit of a walk from the station to the park itself, and had I been with older kids I would have taken that option. Travelling with 3 kids and a massive stroller, we hired a driver for the round trip. The tickets were £173 for 2 adults and 2 children (under 3 go for free, my youngest was 2 months shy of 3 when we went).

We picked a weekday and left home early to avoid the crowds; traffic was ok for the most part, at some points slowing down, but we got there in about 40 minutes. Getting in was very easy as we had booked online (recommended) and printed the tickets at home (all done before I actually travelled).

LegoLandOnce we got in, we felt the place was very crowded but we were hoping it was just because we were close to the entrance and many groups were holding maps to figure out which way to go (us included). As we went in, it was clear that the park was actually crowded, most rides had a queue of 30+ minutes and this was around 11 am.

The kids got very excited about the Lego playground where they could climb and slide, it was very impressive with shredded rubber flooring that prevented injuries if a child falls.

The only problem was safety; the playground was clearly overcrowded and I was very worried my kids would get stuck somewhere because all the kids were pushing to get into the tube slides. My kids seemed oblivious to the crowd of young children that kept coming in, but my husband and I saw hazardous it was getting.

LegoLand5We walked around trying to find other rides to get on, but most had long queues, so we went to have lunch. There isn’t anything good I could say about the food honestly, I read reviews about how horrible park foods were, but I didn’t think it would be that bad. Options are limited and anything that was fried (my kids ordered the chicken nuggets) was soaked in oil. I would definitely recommend you pack your own food, as for the ridiculous price we paid, it wasn’t worth it.

The kids loved getting knight costumes, the merchandise quality was very good, and we got many gifts from there. We spent around 7 hours at the park, and we managed to get on 4 rides. The Lego sculptures were amazing, especially the ones of cities; the attention to detail was impeccable. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make up for the time wasted in lines due to the sheer amount of people in the park. I knew we were going during peak season, I just felt that the resort should have taken safety precautions to limit the amount of people in the park at one time.

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The kids say they had a good time, I honestly think it was a waste of time and money. If you plan on going, I strongly recommend you find an off season time.

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How are we going to do this?

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As much as we were excited about our trip, I was apprehensive about how my kids and I will manage without “help”. Although I tried my best to make them self-dependent at home, there was a lot that was done by our nanny.

We started off by implementing a routine the kids had to follow, for example, every morning each child had to make their bed, go to the bathroom to wash and brush their teeth, then change by themselves (I would have laid out the clothes while they were having breakfast). We weren’t expecting perfectly made beds, but they had to be neat; their pajama’s and underwear had to go in the laundry basket; their dirty dishes in the sink.

Behaviorally, we gave the kids a talk once we arrived in London and our expectations were clearly communicated to them (even to our 3 year old). To make sure they stick to the plan, my husband devised a “point system”; every morning the kids start with a 100 points (the full “grade”) and based on what they do during the day they get a plus or minus on their grade system.

For example, if my 5 year old helps his younger brother to get dressed in the morning he would get 10 extra points (110 points); if he doesn’t listen to instructions while we are heading to the park (goes too far from us), he gets a minus 5.

This point system determines what the kids can buy the next time we visited a theme park, or toy store. The toys weren’t all opened while we are in London, many of those toys would only be opened once we were in Kuwait.

Was it smooth sailing? Absolutely not, it was very bumpy the first 10 days, but once the kids got a hang of it, the minuses lessened and the time-outs faded away. The kids were helping me do the laundry and change the sheets, because they wanted to help, and they were being nice to each other. When we were out they would make sure everyone was close by, they even took their youngest brother to the bathroom when he needed it without my help.

The trip wasn’t a vacation for my husband and I, but it brought us so much closer as a family that it was well worth the physical and mental exhaustion. I saw my kids eat better, play nicer, and discover their own personalities. They were more open to experimenting with food (my eldest loved lobster!) and making new friends from different cultures. It was well worth it.

We are Going to London!

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This summer my husband and I decided to take a big leap in summer vacations and take our 3 boys to London and Paris for 6 weeks. We didn’t think it would be a big deal, we already have an apartment in London and we would take a nanny with us to help out, little did we know that this trip would be anything but why we planned!

The first disappointment came when the British embassy refused a visa for our nanny, after several attempts, we got a rejected visa letter a couple of days before our tip, so there was no alternative we could have tried. Not wanting to cancel our plans (we made reservations for everything 6 months ago!), or disappoint our overexcited kids, we decided to go and make it work for us.

Many of our personal plans would be cancelled, only a few that we really wanted to do were left on our list; we would hire a local nanny. I would have to calm myself down as my biggest fear as a mother is a lost child in London, I don’t know why London, it just is. I packed our bags and sat the kids down to give them a lecture on how the trip will go.

Honestly, this was a great opportunity for the kids to be more independent, to learn how to take care of each other, and a good time to introduce basic chores to them. That is exactly what happened, our kids now wake up each morning with a basic morning drill; wake up, make the bed, bathroom (pee, brush teeth, wash face), and underwear goes into the laundry hamper. Other responsibilities would be helping younger brothers get changed, putting the dishes in the sink after eating, and clearing the toys after playtime. It was tough in the beginning, but now they do it without thinking.

Twice a week we hire a local nanny that the kids loved for my husband and I to have some alone time. They are very affordable and trusted; they have been working with Kuwaiti families for the past 15 years, she basically knows most of my family and has at some point worked with them. If she isn’t available she always sends someone she trusts and who are just as good as her.

Is it really a holiday for me? Not really, but when my husband and I decided to go even without the nanny we knew it was a trip for the kids, we would have another trip to relax sometime later this year. For the time being, we are loving how are kids are absorbing a new culture and lifestyle! I”ll be posting about are many adventures in London, we had so much fun!

Discipline

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I am tackling a big one here today! Disciplining your children, how do you do it? When do you start? Are you pro “spanking”? Do you think spanking messes up your kids? “Our parents did it to us and we turned out fine”… is that true? How do you decide to teach your kids that there are consequences to their actions?

As with every subject involving kids, everyone has an opinion that they think is the correct one, and most probably it is; for them. There is no “right way” of disciplining your kids, each will have a different temperament, a different approach to life and situations, so even in your own home, one style does not fit all. So, how do I set the limits at home?

I have 3 boys, the eldest being 6 years old, the middle 4 years old, and the youngest 2, so what I do with each one is not the same, but the general guidelines are similar. There are things that are absolutely not acceptable (playing with dangerous things, hitting each other with objects, disrespecting elders, etc.), these things are important to me, but not necessarily to others. Then there are things that I take based on age and emotional/developmental stage, for example, my 2 year old still hasn’t mastered the control of his emotions, so I’m tolerant of his tantrums and crying fits, but I will not tolerate it from my 6 year old because we established a verbal communication channel that he can use instead of crying (I am referring to the whiney cry here, not the “I need to be held” kind).

Furthermore, when each child is on his own, they act differently than when they are together in a group, so when my 4 year old does a mistake when we are alone, I know the intention was to do it and so he’s held accountable for it, but I wouldn’t be as tough if I knew he did it because he saw his older brother do it, which requires a different approach to the subject.

Let me give you examples of different situations and how I handle them:

  • Sa’ad (6 years) teaches Hamad (2 years) how to say a bad word, and every time Hamad uses it Sa’ad giggles. Hamad wont get any attention from me about using the word, it would only make him say it for a longer period, Sa’ad would get a talk from myself or my husband, then his weekend iPad privileges would be revoked for 1 day.
  • Meshal (4 years) pushes Hamad by mistake while they play catch. No one would be punished, but Meshal would get a talk about safer playing methods and how he should be taking care of his younger brother.
  • Sa’ad and Meshal get into a fight over the football which ends up in kicking and punching. Both would get timeouts first to cool down, then a talk each, then no treats on our Thursday family lunch. If they do it again the same day, they get another privilege revoked.

These are some examples of discipline in our house, we use spanking for major issues, like purposely trying to hurt each other, but try to avoid it as much as we can. I truly believe that for boys a clear line should be drawn with what they can or cannot do as their limit testing goes on for a long time. With the relaxed ways parents are disciplining their kids now-a-days, my husband and I are very particular about manners and respect for others, which seem to have been lost in the new generations, therefore these come high on our parenting list.

Having a clear goal for your discipline methods helps you and your child parent better, sit down with your partner and prioritise whats important to you when it comes to raising your child, and based on that decide how you will guide your child to reach that goal. Both you and your spouse have to be on board, as undermining each other will get you nowhere, it could actually make a minor problem worse.

Let me know your thoughts! What’s important to your family and how do you go about instilling them in your kids?