Our Philly editor shares her VERY strong opinions about Disney World. 

“But, really, when ARE you taking the girls to Disney World?”

“They’re really missing out if you don’t make the trip! Don’t be mean!”

“They’re little princesses themselves; they HAVE to meet Belle!”

“Don’t deprive them of the experience! You’ll regret it!”

“Um, No. Absolutely not. Never. Not in a million years.” Those are all the answers that run through my head when anyone tries to shove the idea of a trip to the purported happiest place on earth down my throat. I will not take my daughters to Disney. Ever.

When our A Child Grows in Brooklyn editor, Rebecca, mentioned that she was writing a piece about going to Disney World alone with her two kids, I confessed my vow never to take my kids to there. When she told me she’d never been able to go as a child herself, which is one of the reasons she made the trip with her kiddos, I started thinking – does that make me a mean parent?

Am I “depriving” my children by taking that particular locale off the table? I did a little soul searching (as much soul searching as one does about a first world problem such as this, anyway), and I have to say, mean parent or not, this is a vow I’m keeping. Aside from the fact that I have many, many issues with the Disney princess/knight in shining armor genre in the first place, let’s consider all the places we could go and things we could do with the money we will NOT be spending on an expensive trip to Orlando. The plasticized and corporatized fairy tale land of Mickey, Minnie and all the other vapid fairy tale folk does not inspire me to open my wallet. I want my kids to travel the world, and, no, Epcot doesn’t count as world travel.

We traveled to Vieques, Puerto Rico with our kids when they were 2 years and 5 months old and I remember thinking it wasn’t exotic enough (we were married in Nicaragua and honeymooned in Honduras, for crying out loud – Puerto Rico is child’s play!). So, a year later, we hopped on a flight to Mumbai. With the kids. And this summer we’ll be in Guatemala and Belize, traveling across both countries by land in busses and rental cars. A couple South American countries are calling our names for the next big trip. If our bank accounts and schedules allowed, we’d probably spend half the year on the road.

My worn out three year old in Goa, India.

You see, my husband and I have long believed that travel should inspire a sense of adventure and exploration in our daughters, not to mention a greater understanding of different cultures, languages, religions and ways of life. Traveling should be educational and inspirational and fun – and yes, sometimes uncomfortable and weird. That’s not to say there isn’t room for a spa weekend here and there, or a two week long stay on the beaches of Lake Michigan where my mother romped and played as a child, but to get to the heart of what real travel instills in the hearts and minds of our little ones, you have to get out of your comfort zone and head to a far flung locale.

So, why not throw a vanilla, corporatized trip to Orlando in there, just for some good, clean fun? This is America, after all! I honestly never have a great answer for this that doesn’t make me sound like a Scrooge-y curmudgeon who’s punishing my kids because of my anti-Disney stance.

But, for me, it’s simple. I want my kids to experience true magic when they travel. I want them to SCUBA dive off a remote island in the Caribbean, or ride a tuk tuk through the crowded streets of Mumbai and understand they should don a head scarf out of respect as they walk through a crowded Muslim marketplace. I’d rather they brave the jellyfish and jump off a sail boat in Nicaragua or play with Guatemalan kids in a local school while their mommy learns more Spanish.

Because those moments of joy, understanding, respect and pure bliss… those are the moments when dreams really do come true.


A Child Grows in Philly‘s Editor, Mollie Michel, is a South Philly resident and a Philadelphia public school parent. A recovering non-profit professional, Mollie is also an experienced birth doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, and the mom of two awesome girls and a sweet pit bull named Princess Cleopatra. In her spare time, she is usually trying to figure out how Pinterest works, training for a(nother) half-marathon with her dog at her side, or simply trying to keep up with her increasingly wily daughters.