I have never understood the hoopla over Disney World. 

As a tween growing up in South Florida,  Disney was an easy, grab and go weekend activity. My mom packed up the station wagon and we schlepped five hours north to Orlando, my uncle and cousins often trailing behind. Polynesian Village was our hotel de choix, the South Seas themed decor and Spirit of Aloha dinner show felt extremely glamorous at the time. Here’s what I remember: Space Mountain was thrilling. Tomorrowland’s futuristic exhibits (video cameras outside a house?) were engaging. The crowds were annoying. And, the food was creme de la crap. We gorged on greasy fries, Disney dogs, cotton candy and pizza. My sister and I found the hyperactive Princess theme cloying and silly. After all, we were street smart Miami kids, not girly girls. In short, it was like any other forgettable road trip. With rides.

Then, I started to see the world. It started with a quickie European tour with my grandparents at 14. Next, I was an exchange student in Spain. By 23, I was living in London. By this point, I had a sentiment well known to travel junkies: a lust for experiences unknown and a physical loathing of tourist activities devoid of some form of cultural enrichment.

I didn’t think about Disney until I had kids. Suddenly Princess themed baby paraphernalia started to flood the house; Cinderella diapers, Jasmine blankets, Little Mermaid videos. Moms at pre-school talked of planning the first big trip  to Disney. Their exuberance was bizarre. They seemed to lump this impending dream vacation as a milestone on par with crawling. When I told them about how I couldn’t wait to travel the world with my daughters, the women looked at me quizzically. “Why would you go to Europe when you can go to Epcot?” They weren’t kidding. 

So, years ago, when my daughters asked about this magical place everybody was talking about,  I replied “Oh, some people like it but it’s not interesting. I will take you to somewhere much more fun. It’s called Paris.” And, I did. 

 I wrote about my take on family vacations for The New York Times and included five alternative vacations that offer more than the minor miracle that mom didn’t puke on the Downhill Double Dipper.