CAN you do Disneyland Paris in a day? That was my question (and hope) as I set off for a short break to the French capital with my eight-year-old-daughter in tow.

Our holiday wish lists were chalk and cheese.

My Parisian menu was filled with images of charming cafés and chic boutiques with leisurely wanders around some of the world’s finest art galleries.

Eva’s goal was single and long held: Disney.

So we compromised. We would take a day trip to the theme park during our five-night stay in Paris.

Thanks to France’s fabulous public transport system, getting to Disneyland, some 20 miles or 32km to the east of Paris, is straightforward.

The RER, the fast commuter train network, runs a line from central Paris straight to the door of Disney at Marne-la-Vallee. Trains run every 15 minutes, with the last one returning to Paris at quarter past midnight. In summer, the firework finale and last parades don’t start until 10.30pm and the park closes at 11pm, so the length of your daytrip is largely determined by your own stamina (or most likely that of your junior offspring).

Gates open at 10am and we were there on the dot to collect our tickets and throw ourselves under Walt’s spell.

My reticence about “doing Disney” stemmed the horror stories about the queues, the expense and the sheer weight of commercialism.

And yes, there is no denying that it is hellishly busy (particularly in holiday season when we went); it’s not cheap (entrance starts at £48 a day and £41 for kids aged three to 11, while a hotdog and coke is about seven euros) and at every turn there seems to be an opportunity to buy another Disney keepsake – but it’s also some of the best fun you can have this side of the law.

Eva and me were joined by my sister, Yvonne, and we all screamed for our lives as we were blasted around the Big Thunder Mountain rollercoaster, our hearts thudding at every drop and twist.

Over at Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, we boarded space pods, loaded our zapper guns and blasted at targets as we travelled through space in pursuit of the Toy Story hero’s enemy.

For sheer magic, it was hard to beat Peter Pan’s Flight where you climb into a mini pirate ship and sail across the night sky, while Peter, Wendy and Captain Hook act out their much-loved story beneath.

More thrills were to be had on the Pirates Of The Caribbean ride, which featured two water plunges, and at Star Tours, where you feel like you are careering through space at lightning speed and crashing into meteorites and the like. In fact, you hardly move at all – it’s a simulator, but definitely the most realistic one I’d ever ridden.

Queuing has to be expected at theme parks and for most of the above rides, the wait was between 30 minutes to an hour. However, all of the above, bar Pirates Of The Caribbean, operate Disney’s FastPass scheme, which allows you to print a special ticket at the ride on the day allowing you to come back at an allocated time and join a much shorter queue. The service is free and worth using.

Other don’t misses include “it’s a small world”, where animated dolls from each corner of the earth are dressed in national costume and sing and dance. It’s fun to spot the countries – and not hard: windmills and clogs, oh it must be the Netherlands!

The Phantom Manor is great, too. Adults will love its OTT mock horror, while youngsters will grab your hands that bit tighter as another skeleton comes to life.

For younger children, say five and under, an undoubted highlight will be seeing and meeting the Disney characters in the “flesh”. You tend to know one is in the vicinity by the sudden swarming movements of the crowds.

There are opportunities to have your photo taken with the likes of Minnie and Goofy – again if you are prepared to queue. Otherwise, there are plenty of chances to watch them in the dance shows and parades that pepper the day.

By 8pm we were flagging, and decided to head back to Paris. But we all agreed we had had such a good time we would come back the next day and tackle the neighbouring Walt Disney Studios Park, which concentrates more on creating a behind-the-scenes look at Disney.

This park is open from 10am to 7pm in summer. It is smaller than the main park and requires its own ticket (or you can buy a two-day, two-park hopper for £107 for adults, £90 for children aged three to 11).

It’s well worth a visit, not least because many of the attractions are under cover – perfect if it is too hot or wet. It also hosts the newest addition to the Disney parks, Toy Story Playland, designed as a gigantic world where you are reduced to the size of a toy. Here, you can enjoy the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, take a spin on the Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin rollercoaster or travel at dizzying speed on the RC Racer, Andy’s favourite race car.

They were putting the finishing touches during our visit, but from what we could see, it will be a must-do for any Toy Story fan.

Our favourite parts of studios included the Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular where real-life stunt men pull off some remarkable feats. It’s loud and thrilling and there’s explosions and fire. Need we say more!

A more traditional dose of Disney magic came in the shape of Animagique, where Donald and Mickey are joined on stage by other animated characters for a 30-minute show of music, dance and puppetry.

Two of the parks’ biggest thrills are here too, the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The cries from the inside put us off, but not the adrenaline junkies judging by the queues.

And so our day trip to Disney stretched to a two-day visit. Eva was more than satisfied – particularly after raiding the Disney store in the Disney Village – and I was happy to concede that Disney had worked its magic on me.

Fact file

• For more information about visiting Disneyland Paris visit

• Find out all you want to know and more about the parks, including lots of great tips, with Disneyland Resort Paris, by Simon and Susan Veness (Foulsham, £9.99) available from Amazon.