I don’t aim for controversy on the blog. Rather it has always been my goal to write about things and in ways that make people feel optimistic about traveling as a family with young kids, the occasional bought of sarcasm is just an added bonus for you the reader.
I just have this feeling however, this one will stir up some deep emotional feelings in people, particularly in my North American readers, and to be clear right up front, if you love going to visit a Disney park, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Thrill rides are awesome. Staged lightsabre battles are awesome. Corndogs are awesome. Making your kids happy is awesome.
At some point going to one of the mouse’s destinations became a childhood right. If one didn’t get to go “before it loses it’s magic” they had been deprived of the greatest joy of childhood. Even visiting other theme parks is somehow not good enough. As a parent failing to take your kids is akin to the greatest acts of cruelty that a parent could inflict on a child. #FirstWorldProblems
This is the problem I have with Disney vacation concept, the marketing not the reality.
In discussions with people, when we talk about where we have taken our kids, the one question I always get is, “When are you going to Disney?” Some people seem to believe, if even only subconsciously, that having a soon to be nine year old boy who has seen some of the greatest works of Western art, visited monuments of ancient history, tried countless new cuisines, and stood in awe of natural wonders of the world, all across different continents is okay, but deep down, we are depriving him of something by not having visited the mouse and his friends yet.
In my youth, I visited both Disneyland and Disney World, yet my greatest travel memories as a kid growing up in Canada were family camping trips. I remember travelling through the Rocky Mountains, seeing the Calgary Stampede, Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump, hiking in Algonquin Park, the spray from Niagara Falls, the Alexander Graham Bell museum, and seeing both coasts of Canada. Looking back, on our Florida trip where we spent 3 or 4 days at the Orlando area theme parks, my most memorable experiences were at Kennedy Space Centre and counting Waffle House restaurants along the roadside. What do I rarely think of when I think about travel as a child? Disney parks. Did I have fun? Yes. Do they have a role in family travel? Yes. Are they different than other theme parks? Ummm no.
So again, why do so many feel they must visit Disney? Marketing. It is all marketing. By all means go and have fun, but they are no different than other theme parks and you should not feel like you NEED to take your kids.
We mix theme parks in with cultural experiences, outdoor activities, and just general relaxation during our travels. When I asked my son about his travel memories so far, the surprise visit we made to Legoland Windsor was almost an afterthought. He spoke about museums, food, and cultural experiences, much more than the theme parks. (If you want to read more of my son’s thoughts, check it out…What Does My Son Think of Travel?)
If I have stressed anything in my blogging, it is balance. One of my life motto’s is everything can be ok in moderation. In fact, I hope to take my kids to Disney in the next few years, but as part of a trip along the US East Coast. I’d love to take them to Kennedy Space Center, the Freedom Trail, the great monuments of Washington, and to a Yankee game. We will go to Disney because we want to, not because we feel like we need to.
And if you never want to visit a Disney Park, that is ok too. Society may judge you, but I shall not.