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How to book your European interrailing trip for under £500pp

 

 

Last month I took my first trip of 2018 as I went inter-railing round Europe (again!) with my sister. After inter-railing round Italy together back in 2016, we were super excited to be back on the road again, but this time exploring three countries in a row: France, Luxembourg and Belgium! We’d planned the route fairly quickly and, once we decided that we wanted to use the Eurostar to get there and back, had chosen our starting point as Paris and our final destination as Bruges, so just had one stop in between meaning that Luxembourg was the obvious candidate! Getting to and from the UK and each city was extremely easy, and both stress and hassle free. My sister and I organised every aspect of the trip before we left and we managed to get a week-long stay, including transport to and from the Eurostar stations, national and international trains plus six nights’ accommodation in 3-4* hotels for just £437pp! We had given ourselves a budget of £600pp for the entire week and well and truly smashed it. I like to think I’m quite good at getting a bit of a bargain, and this trip was certainly a steal. Being the geek that I am I’ve even worked out all the individual costings for this trip and included them in my total  pricing breakdown below. Want to know how I got a week’s inter-railing trip for less than £500pp? Let’s find out…

 

UK transport

 

 

Obviously this one depends on where you’re based, and I am lucky to live in Oxford so am very close to London, but our capital can be reached easily by most of the UK’s major cities, which makes getting to St Pancras Eurostar Station very accessible. We were travelling on Easter Sunday which may have slightly put the prices up, but usually a one way ticket from Oxford to London costs around £10 per adult, and is cheaper for me as I have a young person’s rail card. The Eurostar tickets themselves, from London – Paris and from Brussels – London were pretty reasonable and each journey was less than £70pp return. Have a look to see which trains are cheapest/most expensive on the day of travel as you could save a lot of money by going later in the day, or earlier on in the morning, or even the day before or after if you’re really flexible and want to get the best deal possible!

Costings:

Oxford – London return train – 1x adult, 1x rail card holder = £28.90pp and £19.05pp

London St Pancras – Paris Gare du Nord one way train – 2x youths = £65pp

Brussells Midi – London St Pancras one way train – 2x youths = £53.30pp (don’t forget your ticket should state that departure is from any Belgian station and includes onward travel between cities ie if you’re staying in Bruges and need to get back to Brussels Midi for your departing train, the journey between Bruges and Brussels is included in your ticket price, you don’t need to buy an additional ticket).

 

International trains

 

 

Sadly we were hit by the dreaded SNCF train strike during our time away – they had only just started and it caused havoc! Our train from Paris to Luxembourg was cancelled and, because it was bank holiday Monday, none of the phone lines were working and no one on the website online chat/social media pages were able to get back to me. Luckily we were able to use our existing ticket free of charge on the next available train which was only 3 hours later than our scheduled train, but if that one had been cancelled I don’t know what we would have done! I would recommend downloading the SNCF app for live updates to your train as this came in handy when the website crashed! All other trains ran smoothly though and international train travel is so enjoyable for me as I love the scenery between cities and the excitement when I pass over the border into a new country! My top tip is to book your trains as far in advance as possible for the best rates, be flexible on timings, and don’t forget if you’re under 26 you qualify for youth prices.

Costings:

Paris – Luxembourg international train (direct) – 2x youths = £25.61pp

Luxembourg – Bruges train (change at Liege) – 2x youths = £29.14pp

 

Accommodation

 

 

We picked some fantastic hotels for our trip and it made such a difference to have somewhere cosy and warm to come home to after a busy day of exploring. I knew the cities we had chosen weren’t the cheapest on earth and so we would have to use a significant amount of our budget to cover the cost of accommodation, but I think we did well considering we got 6 nights for under £600 which is just less than £300pp for the entire duration. I usually look at private rooms in hostels to keep costs down, but actually we found hotels that were still within our budget and so decided to spend a little bit more in order to get maximum comfort and security during our stay. Being a travel blogger, I usually reach out to hotels and offer my services (writing a review/promoting on social media) in exchange for a discounted/complimentary stay, however sadly I didn’t find any hotels that were free on my dates that were able to collaborate with me on this occasion which was a real shame. I did expect this though as we went over Easter weekend and the kids half term holidays, so be careful when you choose to travel if you are trying to pitch to hotels!

I am a big advocate of using online promo codes/vouchers to book hotels though and my travel hack when booking accommodation would be to book using Expedia. I have used them for years and never had a bad experience! For every hotel I booked I was able to find a 10-15% off voucher online (literally just Google Expedia promo code and one usually always comes up!) and also received up to 200 nectar points for each booking which is another bonus for me. I’ll be talking a bit more about the hotels I stayed in over the course of the next few weeks as I will be putting together individual travel guides to each city, but I wanted to keep this post purely about the costings/planning of an inter-railing trip so hopefully these tips will come in handy when you’re looking to book something!

Costings:

Hotel De Seine, Paris – 2 nights = total £246 = £123pp

Hotel Parc Belle Vue, Luxembourg – 2 nights = total £204 = £102pp

Ibis Hotel Brugge Centrum, Bruges – 2 nights = total £140.98 = £70.49pp

 

Activities/optional tours

 

 

Luckily as a travel blogger I am able to reach out and pitch to tour companies/excursion brands in order to enhance my trip and book some much needed add-on’s. On this occasion I was lucky enough to work with tour company Triple and holiday company Euroventure whilst in Paris. I went on a guided tour around the secret passageways of Paris with Triple and went up the famous Montparnasse Tower with Euroventure and both of these experiences really enhanced our stay. Again I will be writing about both tours in more detail when my Paris travel guide goes live. I also worked with the Luxembourg Tourism Board whilst I was exploring their beautiful capital city and was offered complimentary visitor cards which enabled us to make use of free public transport, free museum entry and discounted entry to a range of other attractions which really helped our budget in a city which is quite expensive! Where possible, pitch to brands in order to keep costs down – you’re probably going to be writing about them for your blog anyway, so you may as well get something in return for it. Obviously we did more tours/trips whilst we were there, but here are the ones we pre-booked/pre-paid before we left and what they cost/saved us in money…

Costings:

Montparnasse access for 2 adults, Paris = £17pp – GIFTED to us by Euroventure

Guided passageway tour for 2 adults, Paris = £30pp – GIFTED to us by Triple

Luxembourg card for 2 adults, Luxembourg = £17.50pp – GIFTED to us by Luxembourg Tourism

 

Total breakdown

 

 

Transport: £284.55 (£142.28pp)

Accommodation: £590.98 (£295.49pp)

Extras: £129 (£64.50pp) if we hadn’t been kindly gifted them.

GRAND TOTAL = £437.77pp – still would have been under £500pp even if we had paid for the optional extras!

So as you can see, there were lots of different elements to this trip which did make it add up, but everything was kept at a relatively low cost, which definitely helped to stick within budget. Obviously we had additional spending money for food/drink, other excursions and attractions we wanted to visit, and this was covered by the euros we used for spends. When planning an inter-railing trip like this I would definitely take into consideration the time of year, dates of travel (ie try and go mid-week where possible) and try to book transport as far in advance as possible. As you can see, even with a train strike, we were still able to travel to our intended destination and it didn’t affect our holiday too much, but having as much planned in advance really helped to take the stress away from what was otherwise quite a hectic trip. We had a brilliant week away and I can’t wait for my next adventure… inter-railing is definitely my favourite method of travel and I hope this might inspire you to take a similar trip in 2018!

Have you ever been inter-railing before? Get in touch – I’d love to hear your train tales!

Love Jess x

 

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HAPPY NEW YEAR! Top 15 InstaTravel Moments of 2015!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

I hope you all had fun partying last night.. I know I did! I thought I’d kick-start the day/year/month with a round up of my Top 15 InstaTravel Moments of 2015! This has been my first EVER year of using Instagram and it has fast become my favourite social media platform! So here are my top moments of the past 12 months…

JANUARY

Spending my birthday in London with an epic walking tour across the city with one of my best friends! We walked from Kensington to Tower Bridge and took in all the major landmarks- what a way to start the year!

FEBRUARY/MARCH

Taking in the beautiful sights of Prague by climbing to the top of the Old Astronomy Tower! This was my first city break of the year with my sister and what a trip we had!

APRIL

Myself and my sisters purchased season tickets for our family to the beautiful Blenheim Palace which is just down the road from us! We’ve had so many lovely days out at this place!

MAY

For my nans 80th birthday celebrations we headed for a family weekend away in the nearby Cotswolds. We had a wonderful weekend and the weather was just perfect!

JUNE

I had a fantastic day out to Royal Ascot this month along with my sisters, cousin, mum and aunty. We got all dressed up, bet on lots of horses and even saw the Queen!

I also headed to London at the end of June for a fantastic day out at Hyde Park’s annual British Summertime Festival. Myself and my close friend had great fun watching Kylie in concert who was incredible live!

We have had the besstttt dayyy!! Roll on next year wooo 😁🎉🐴👑 #ascot #races #family #love #girls #dayout #weloveascot #wesawqueenie

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JULY

This month brought our annual family holiday and we headed down to Cornwall to spend a week in our own holiday cottage right in the heart of lively St Ives. The weather was fantastic ALL WEEK and we had the best time with each other making lots of memories and revisiting places from our childhood!

AUGUST

August Bank Holiday weekend brought a fantastic day out filled with music, fun and laughter! I took my sisters to their first ever festival, Fusion Festival near Birmingham, and we had a brilliant day out seeing lots of top artists perform- the highlight was McBusted who were amazing!

SEPTEMBER

This month it was time for my second city break of the year so my sister and I flew to Budapest for a long weekend of sightseeing. We both fell in love with the city; it was beautiful and we had the best time away!

OCTOBER

This month was super busy for me but my highlight was a personal achievement which saw me run a 5k charity fun run for The Pituitary Foundation. I raised over £300 on my Just Giving page and beat my personal best! I had a fantastic day and was so proud of myself. A big THANK YOU to everyone who has donated to this fantastic charity who have supported my since my prolactinoma diagnosis in 2011.

NOVEMBER

I had a jam-packed November but my highlight was getting my first EVER paid job as a freelance travel writer! I was absolutely over the moon and it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet- hopefully I’ll take on more roles which will allow me to become a freelance writer full time!

DECEMBER

The last month of the year was kick-started with a magical trip to the beautiful Disneyland Paris! I went with two of my closest friends for a pre-Christmas treat and we had the most amazing time, it really was beautiful and certainly got us in the festive mood!

Hope you’ve enjoyed my whistle-stop recap of my InstaTravel highlights from 2015! I’d love to hear what your favourite was? I just can’t pick one!

Wishing you every happiness for 2016!

Love Jess x

December Newsletter – End of year round up!

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Hi everyone,

It’s that time of year again! I can’t believe we are now at the end of 2015… IT IS CRAAZYY! I have had a fantastic year and been to some beautiful places so am excited to start planning my 2016 over the next few months! I’ll be combining this newsletter with my end of year review but I’ll start with December and it’s been a cracker of a month.. here’s what I got up to…

I went to DISNEYLAND!

I had the most MAGICAL time at my favourite place on earth a couple of weeks ago. Me and two of my best friends booked a last minute, Christmassy trip to our happy place and we never wanted to leave! Read my trip highlights for photos, reviews and tips a plenty.. I dare you not to be filled with Disney wanderlust!

I finished my content writing internship!

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If you saw last month’s newsletter you’ll know that I recently took part in a month long internship for Freedom2Explore. I’ve now finished the internship and got a great LinkedIn Recommendation from my point of contact over at the company. I’m hoping the invaluable experience I gained whilst carrying out the internship will open other doors for me and will enable me to take my first steps into the world of travel/content writing when the time comes. A HUGE thank you to Becky & Jonathan for having me!

I had my works Christmas do!

Works Christmas parttyyyy 🎄🎅🎉👯

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For my annual works Xmas do we dressed up and headed to the beautiful Eynsham Hall for a casino night. We were treated to a slap up three course meal, disco and casino experience and danced the night away! I’ve been to Eynsham Hall many times over the years and it’s such a gorgeous place- I even had my two school proms there! Here’s me glammed up not looking like my usual, plain-Jane self at alllll!

I published my first post for ShopperLottie.com

My first post for the fantastic Shopper Lottie magazine went live a few weeks ago and I was sooo proud to have ANOTHER piece of published work! My first post was all about London at Christmas, and it’s so beautiful you just HAVE to visit! Read on for some serious city inspo

ITS CHRIIIISSTTMMASSS!

This Christmas I spent some super quality time with my nearest and dearest, and I was able to really relax and enjoy myself at home with my family. We had such a lovely day playing games, exchanging presents and eating lots of yummy food! My family mean everything to me and have been there for me every step of the way, so I was thrilled to be able to share this special time of year with those who mean most to me! Ok that’s enough soppiness now… 😉

We're the three best friends that anybody could have…Merry Christmas everybodyyyy! 💖🎄🎅👯💖 #sisters #girls #love #christmas

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Overall I’ve had a fantastic 2015, filled with lots of fun and adventure, but also some personal health traumas and heartache along the way! If you’re an avid follower of my blog (I love you, thank you! If not, why aren’t you subscribed yet?) you’ll know that I recently hit a bit of a brick wall and have been struggling to feel content with my current situation so have decided to make this year the time for change!

I’m yet to decide what to do, I’m torn between interailing round Europe or road tripping across America for a few months… HELP! What do I do?! Your response to my recent Mid Life Crisis article was AMAZING! I was so overwhelmed with all your lovely comments, some from people I know in the travel blogging world, and some from complete strangers! THANK YOU!

I’m now looking forward to 2016 and the life changes I’m going to make to ensure I see as much of this world as I possibly can and I want to meet lots of shiny new people along the way! As ever, I’ll be posting regularly and will keep you all updated. I’ve also got some new blog features planned which I’ll be sharing with you into the new year and I want to say a massive THANK YOU again to each and everyone of you who have subscribed to this blog, liked me on Facebook or followed me on Twitter.. it means the absolute world and I can’t wait to reach out to even more of you in the coming months!

All that’s left for me to say now is… HAPPY NEW YEAR PEOPLE! Wishing you love and happiness and the very best for 2016! Now where’s my glitzy party dress?!…

Love Jess x

#oxford #itsstillchristmas 👯🎄🎉🍸

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A Magical Disney Christmas

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MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!🎄🎁🎊

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful break! So if you’re an avid follower of my  Instagram account you’ll know that I’ve not long returned from an AMAZING trip to the beautiful Disneyland Resort Paris with two of my best friends, Lauren and Tiffany, where I had the most magical time! Here’s some of the highlights from our Disney trip, as well as a lo-down on the parks, hotel, restaurants and attractions.. get ready to be mesmerised!

 

The Journey

We chose to travel the most convenient way possible to Paris and hopped on the fantastic Eurostar from St Pancras in the heart of London direct to the Marne-La-Vallee station at the entrance of Disneyland itself. The journey couldn’t have been easier! All it took was a quick check in at St Pancras, a smooth 2 and a half hour train ride between England and France and before we knew it we were on Disney soil! Don’t forget to check out the GIANT Christmas tree at the station made up of hundreds of Disney toys- so beautiful!

Our booking included the Disney Express option which was fantastic and well worth adding on if you’re travelling as a family. The option enabled us to check in to our hotel on board the Eurostar; Disney cast members registered our bags and handed out our park tickets and accommodation vouchers before we arrived at Marne-La-Vallee station. We then made our way up to the Disney Express stop to drop off our luggage, safe in the knowledge they would be waiting for us at our hotel later, and were then able to head straight to the parks for our first taste of Disney magic!

The Hotel

We stayed at the cosy 3* Sequoia Lodge Disney Hotel which was perfectly located right on Lake Disney just to the rear of the fantastic Disney Village. The hotel was impressive on arrival and, after a brief check in, we were taken to the outdoor luggage store to retrieve our bags and take them straight up to our room. As we had already ‘checked in’ on the Eurostar this usually painful process was nice and easy and super speedy!

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As there were three of us we had two comfortable double beds in a good size room which was clean and tidy and boasted a fantastic view across to Lake Disney. The bathroom was spotless and there was plenty of hanging safe along with a fully working safe to store our valuables.

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The cosy bar and onsite boutique store at the Sequoia made for excellent facilities onsite and we heard great things about the swimming pool – unfortunately it was closed during our visit but we would have loved to go!

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Breakfast was included with each day of our stay and we were treated to an unlimited continental feast of cereals, croissants, breads, meats and cheeses. We were seated in the Hunters Grill or Beaver Creek areas which doubled up as buffet restaurants in the evening- both looked lovely but sadly we didnt have chance to eat in the hotel!

Top Tip! Take some rolls and fillings and make your own lunch to take with you to the parks- this will save you a fortune on daytime meals throughout your stay!

Click here to read my Trip Advisor review of the Sequoia Lodge Hotel.

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Disneyland Park

The Park is split into 5 lands all filled with fun and adventure offering something different for Disney’s guests….

Main Street USA is where most of the action happens, including the many daily parades and character appearances. The star of the show is the beautiful Sleeping Beauty’s Castle which looks even more magical lit up for Christmas!

Fantasyland best for little ones, fly with Dumbo and Peter Pan or lose yourself wandering around Alice’s maze in Wonderland. There’s also plenty of opportunity for Meet n Greets and a chance to spot Royalty outside the Princess Pavilion!

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Adventureland best for boys who’ll adore the Pirates of the Caribbean theme and the rides/attractions that are in this section. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafe’s to choose from.

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Frontierland the Wild West theme runs prominently throughout this land and is reflected in the fantastic Cowboy shops, restaurants and attractions. Yee-hah!

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Discoveryland explore the sci-fi element of Disney and find your inner geek. The scariest ride in the park is also found in this land – Space Mountain Mission 2 is not for the faint hearted!

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Walt Disney Studios

Split into two parts, Front Lot and Back Lot, the Studios offer a wealth of fun and discovery and are a fantastic way to spend the day! There’s a whole host of top rides including Crush’s Coaster (scarier than it looks!), Aerosmith Rock n Roller Coaster and the terrifying Tower of Terror.

There’s a Toy Story village for kids (yeah we definitely didn’t go on those rides… ;)) as well as animation shows and Stitch Live over on the Disney Junior stage. Although the Studios no longer hosts a daily parade, there are plenty of Meet n Greets throughout as well as restaurants, kiosks and Disney stores.

Disney Village

The Village is an additional bonus and a great way of extending the Disney magic way into the evening after a long day of exploring at the parks. The Village is home to a number of popular restaurants, bars and cafe’s as well as a large range of Disney Stores for hours of endless shopping!

We chose to go on the fantastic Panoramagique, a hot air balloon ride, which took us 100ft up in the air for the most magnificent views across the parks and the rest of Marne-La-Vallee. The cost was just 12 euros per adult and this was a great way to end our last day at Disney!

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Disney Attractions

If the parks and studios aren’t enough to keep you entertained and you’re still wanting MORE you’ll be pleased to know that Disney runs tonnes of extra shows and programs throughout the year and Christmas is no exception! We were truly mesmerised by the incredible lights show, Disney Dreams of Christmas, an illuminated musical extravaganza bringing the magic of Disney (and Christmas) to life with water fountains, glittering lasers and spectacular fireworks!

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During our stay there was also a host of other shows on offer throughout the week, including a Frozen Sing-a-long show at the brilliant Chapparel Theatre (kids will love it!), a special Frozen parade, and a Royal Christmas Wishes show on the Castle Stage featuring all your favourite Disney Princes and Princesses. We caught this show twice throughout our stay and it was beautiful. The Disney Magic On Parade runs daily through the park and is not to be missed!

We also bumped into the Princes and Princesses walking through the parks just after the shows had finished, and we caught them at the start as well just before they went on stage! Little finds like that just add to the magic and we were so pleased to have seen the shows. At the end of each day there’s also a Magical Tree Lighting Ceremony with Mickey & Friends where the giant Disney tree is spectacularly illuminated- don’t miss it!

Eating Out

Our stay was offered with a free Half Board Meal Plan which I had never used before, I’ve previously only stayed Bed and Breakfast but the Meal Plan worked surprisingly well! Our standard option entitled us to breakfast and dinner as well as an afternoon Tea Time Treat (soft drink and sweet snack) on each night of our stay. The Meal Plan limits the restaurants you can eat out in for dinner, so booking ahead is strongly recommended. Don’t do what we did and leave it til the day otherwise you’ll miss out!

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We ate in the Silver Steakhouse in the Disney Park, the Empire State Lounge in Hotel New York and the superb Cafe Mickey in the Disney Village. For lunches/afternoon snacks we ate in the parks outlets including Bella Notte, Toad Hall and Casey’s Corner as well as Annette’s Diner in the village. The food was expensive when we weren’t using our vouchers so money wise it’s a great option to have the meal vouchers included!

Disney Characters

We were on the lookout for plenty of characters throughout our stay and we certainly weren’t disappointed- we saw LOADS! Christmas was a great time to see extra characters in additional parades and there were lots of Meet n Greet locations set up between the two parks. My friend Lauren brought an autograph book and we were like little children running around chasing all the characters for their signatures!

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We queued for over an hour to meet Winnie the Pooh, Marie from Aristocats and, the stars of the show, Mickey & Minnie themselves. We also met Pluto, Goofy, Chip n Dale, Gepetto from Pinocchio and Rafiki & Timon from The Lion King as well as glimpsing the Princes and Princesses and lots of other characters in the fantastic parades.

For us, character interaction was a massive part of our trip and the highlight was the incredible Cafe Mickey, an amazing dining experience for adults and children alike. Located in the Disney Village, the menu is pricey but it is worth it to have the interaction with the characters!

The likes of Mickey, Minnie, Tigger, Eeyore, Goofy, Pluto and many more come round to each table to spend time and have photos with each guest making you feel truly special whilst enjoying your meal. I’ve been three times throughout my life at different ages and I have just ADORED every single visit, I’ve had wonderful experiences which will always stay with me!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my amazing Disney trip.. I can’t wait to go back to my happy place in the not too distant future! Have you been to Disneyland before? Or have you been to Walt Disney World in Florida? How do the two compare? I’d love to find out!

Hope you’ve had a magical Christmas!

Love Jess x

'Twas the night before Disney..

‘Twas the night before Disney, and all through the house, not a thing was stirring, not even a Mickey mouse…

OHMYGOSHIMSOEXCITED!!!!!

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Putting Tinks on top of our beautiful Disney tree!

Hey everyone,

So as you can tell I’m just a TAD excited about going to my happy place tomorrow.. I’m travelling to Disneyland Paris for my third visit, and my fourth and final trip of 2015, and I can’t wait to return to the most magical place on earth to see everything all lit up and Christmassy!

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On my most recent trip to DLP in 2013…

 

As many of you lovely readers will now know, I am a huuuuuge Disney fan- I love it all! Ever since I was a baby I’ve just loved it so much, Bambi was the first ever Disney film that I watched.. don’t believe me? The proof is below…

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Watching my first ever Disney movie…

 

I’m all packed and ready to board the Disney Express Eurostar from St Pancras direct to Marne La Vallee station tomorrow morning with my Minnie Mouse ears firmly attached to my head!

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A set of ears for each of my friends!

 

I’ll also be taking loads of Disney tops and my Disney pj’s to keep in line with the evident theme! I’m hoping to meet lots of princesses and popular characters just like I’ve done for my last two visits!

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Meeting Sleeping Beauty in 2013…

 

I can’t wait to check out the giant Disney Christmas tree at St Pancras station and will of course write up my magical adventure when I return from my trip at the end of next week.

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Photo courtesy of Google Images

 

To keep up to date with all the Disney magic don’t forget to follow me over on Instagram!

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See you when I get back.. With faith, trust and pixie dust!

Love Jess x