Disney articles

How to Pull Off a Walt Disney World Surprise Trip

December 20, 2010
by Kathleen M. Reilly
DIS Contributing Columnist



So, you’re taking the family to Walt Disney World! Woohoo! But…wait. The kids don’t know yet? Oh, it’s a surprise?

Surprising the kids with a Disney vacation is part of the thrill for some parents. Others would love to do it, but aren’t sure how to pull it off. Good news: there are as many ways to pop the surprise as there are personalities in Aladdin’s genie. Here are some different approaches to creating that special surprise for your family:

THE GIFT

MAGIC AT HOME: DISNEY NIGHTS

If kids are anticipating a gift anyway (think birthday, Christmas, Chanukah), this is the perfect approach. It’s easy, straight-forward, and it’ll still be a surprise. The trick is to come up with a presentation that is fun and crams all that Disney magic into a gift.

Gift basket. Prep a basket with loads of items she’ll need for the Disney vacation: New beach towel, sun lotion, tour book, travel games and toys, customized T-shirt (“I’m going to Disney!”), Disney food items, pin lanyard, autograph book, and so on.

Let Mickey tell. Give her a Mickey plush wearing a custom-made shirt saying “You’re going to Disney World!”).

Story time. Be creative. Print a simple personalized book, telling the story of him getting ready, packing up, traveling by carriage, having adventures along the way with Disney hints…and finally arriving at (surprise!) Disney.

Avoid the flop: If your child really, really, really wants a puppy (but you aren’t giving both a puppy and a Disney trip), don’t drop red herrings, hoping to lead them in the wrong direction (“Gee, a puppy sure does sound like a great present!”). While a Disney trip is what many of us dream of, compared to a lifetime of furry love? Your child might have other thoughts and you won’t get the reaction you’re hoping for.

THE HUNT

MAGIC AT HOME: EDIBLE DISNEY

Got active kids? Let them hunt down the clues to figure out what’s up your sleeve.

Geocache. If your family is already into geocaching, this is a fantastic delivery vehicle for a surprise. Load up a special cache with Disney items, or just put in a huge note for the kids to unfold that announces what their “prize” is. Then hide the box, note the coordinates, and return with the kids. This works well if you can plan on finding some traditional caches first, then let them nab this one as a grand finale.

Scavenger hunt. There are plenty of different ways to create a scavenger hunt. For younger kids, give them a picture list of items for them to find all over the house. When he brings you each item, he earns a puzzle piece you’ve prepared ahead of time (more on that in a minute). After he’s brought all the items to you, help him put the pieces together—they’re a picture of Mickey Mouse, and you can spring the surprise then.

Older kids’ hunted items can each be a clue to the surprise—flip flops, an old Disney shirt, even tickets. Or, they can hunt for letters you’ve hidden around the house. When they’ve collected all the letters, they can unscramble them into a surprise message. Another idea is to give them Disney clues for everyday items.

Tangled. For young kids, get a roll of ribbon. (Gold would be great, but you can use any color.) At one end, create a Mickey masterpiece—a picture of Mickey, a Disney plush, homemade T-shirt. Anchor one end of the ribbon there. Then back out of that area, laying down ribbon as you go. Wind your way through different rooms or levels of your house until you get to the end. That’s where you can announce you have a surprise for her and let her follow the ribbon to the treasure.

Avoid the flop: If you’re doing a scavenger hunt, arrange the hunt so your child finds the more obvious clues after the tougher ones. That way, the surprise will last a little longer. And if you’re geocaching with young kids, be sure you don’t tire them out completely with a long hike pre-cache, or you’ll end up with cranky little guys and gals who care more about their achy feet than they do a Disney surprise.

THE MYSTERY

MAGIC AT HOME: MOUSE BEAUTIFUL

If your kid’s a little Sherlock, let her solve a mystery to figure out what you’ve got planned.

Themed meal. If they’ve been to Disney before and have a favorite meal there, serve it for dinner and see if they catch on. No? Add some Disney-shaped foods to the mix. You can buy Mickey-shaped pretzels or cheese bites, or make your own Mickey shaped cookies for dessert. Wear your own Disney shirt if you’ve got one, and drop comments if you have to (“Hey, remember the last time we ate this?”). When someone brings up Disney World, casually say, “Yeah, we sure had fun that time. I think we’ll go tomorrow…”

Brain games. If your child is into crafts or science, casually make some Disney-themed creations in the days (or weeks) leading up to your surprise. Then, when you’re ready for your big reveal—if your child hasn’t figured it out already—gather everything you’ve created and see if they can figure out how they’re all tied together. Or, tell him you’re learning a new language together—and teach them how to say “We’re going to Disney World!

Avoid the flop: If you’re too impatient, this one is risky. After all, if you thought it was hard to keep the ultimate secret, you’re going to be busting at the seams waiting for them to catch on to your clues. Instead, try to enjoy the moments as they slowly figure out that something’s afoot. Don’t spill the beans—give them time to solve the puzzle themselves.

THE SHOCKER (AKA THE “PIZZA BOX SURPRISE”)

MAGIC AT HOME: MOUSE BEAUTIFUL

With this approach, the surprise is given as a surprise. (Think gorilla jumping out of closet, only…not.) The key to this one is to spring it on kids when they’re not expecting anything…except maybe a hot pizza.

What’s in my closet? Here’s the scene: Your child just got up. He’s staggering over to his closet to pull on his clothes/bathrobe/slippers. Opens the door. Surprise! Hanging there is a big sign saying, “We’re going to Disney World today!” Another alternative: Hang the sign on the bathroom mirror (or write it in bar soap or with window markers).

Woof! Roll up your message into a little scroll and fasten it to the dog collar, then ask your child to feed/walk the dog.

Ding dong. Send your child to answer the door. It’s a neighbor, who smiles and hands the child a box before leaving. When your child opens the box, balloons burst out, with the message that she’s going to the World.

Movie time. Settle in to watch a family movie together. But when the movie starts…wait! It’s not really a movie. It’s a video you’ve put together with scenes from Disney, a map showing your travel route, and a personal message from you.

Avoid the flop: Know your kids—do they actually LIKE sudden surprises? Are they tired? Having a bad day? Read your kids—as much as you may be bursting to do the big reveal, if your five-year old just got home from school and is running on low blood sugar, bummed about an incident on the playground, and a bit irked that his younger sister chewed on his prized video game while he was gone…postpone your announcement. Your big news may be met with a burst of tears instead of cheers.

THE SWITCHEROO

MAGIC AT HOME: MOUSE BEAUTIFUL

The kids think they’re going to Grandma’s or the water park, but…surprise! They’re actually going to Disney!

There are plenty of variations on this, but the gist is the same: The kids know a trip is in the works, because their bags are packed and they’re piled into the family truckster. But the destination is revealed en route—either in the car, or at the airport. You can drop clues along the way with Disney videos or travel games, or play it straight and let it hit them as they drive under the familiar welcoming arch.

Avoid the flop: Be careful with this one if your kids truly love the faux destination. If they’ve been dying to see Grandma, they’re going to be pretty bummed to know they won’t be seeing her after all (unless she’s coming with you on the trip). Instead of setting up the trip with a different fun destination, try using something less appealing to kids (“We’re going to go hang out at a boring hotel while Dad attends his conference on sprocket recovery systems.”). That way, the real destination will knock their socks off.

TIPS

MAGIC AT HOME: MOUSE BEAUTIFUL

Pulling off a surprise can be tough—on you and the recipients. And if the anticipated reaction isn’t what you’d hoped, it can be disappointing. Some final thoughts on surprises:

  • Be sure to pick an approach that fits your family style. If your family members like to know what’s coming next, give them a surprise that’s low-key and not last-second.

  • Be subtle with the video, recording the surprise reveal. You want to immortalize the moment, but some kids aren’t crazy about a video cam suddenly blinking in their face while they’re trying to process the news.

  • Kids who haven’t experienced Disney before might not “get” the big deal. That’s okay. They’ll still have a great time, even if they’re more perplexed by the surprise than ecstatic.

  • Older kids might be too “cool” to respond with shrieking…but you knew that already.

  • And about the shrieking. Don’t expect it if that’s not your family’s style. Just enjoy the moment, whatever it turns out to be (think of their reaction as a surprise for you, too). You’ll still have a fantastic, magical trip together!

  • Don’t forget to come over to the DISboards and share your surprise reveal. Other families would love to hear about it!

Kathleen M. Reilly is the author of WALT DISNEY WORLD EXTREME VACATION GUIDE FOR KIDS and is polkadotsuitcase on the DISboards.


67 Comments
Nicole
I love reading this; my eyes are teary thinking about the excitement!! About six years ago our kids were 12, 6, and 2, and my sister lived in FL. We decided in case the kids caught on, we would make it seem like my sis was coming for a visit, when in reality we were heading to Disney. We even went so far as faking phone calls with her (while she's laughing on the other end of the line) to throw them of; just in case! On the morning of our trip, we did a scavenger hunt/poem with pictures that went all through the house to my bedroom door (which they truly thought my sister was behind), and when they opened it, I had placed one final rhyming "We're going to Disney TODAY" note and a group of Disney presents on my bed. I cannot tell you the excitement! That being said, they are now a little older, and we've been back many times since; however, we want to surprise them again. I think I may make them sweat it out a little bit this time. I LOVE all the ideas everyone has! I think I'm going to take a bit from each of you: PJs the night before; the "switch-a-ROO" (GET IT?? hehe); and, maybe even order "Ears." Thank you all!!

Heidi
I used gifts of a lifetime at Epcot to set up a scavenger hunt for my hubby's birthday. The five year old got small gifts along the way. Hubby received notification of our Disney cruise and five days in the park afterwards, all planned for this march. He is thrilled.'we kept it a secret from our son. When we discuss march we use it in terms of a boring meeting mom has to go to. We are not telling him anything but because of bags, etc...we have the back up boring mommy meeting story. We will pick him up at lunch the Friday before and see how long it takes for him to realize we are headed to the airport. We will let him figure out about the cruise when we reach port Canaveral. Can't wait to see his eyes. He saw a model of the magic at our hotel in march and asks frequently about going...I am busting at the seams with anticipation...hope I can keep the secret forv2 more months!

Jennifer
I LOVE all the great ideas!!! We did something different this Christmas and thought I would share. Our 5 yr old twin daughters love both Disney and Willy Wonka so what we did was on Christmas morning was we left a letter from Santa telling them that he had left them some golden coins in their letter envelope and they could buy something special with it but they had to search the house for the special prize. So they took their golden coins (chocolate covered coins) and searched until they found 2 huge chocolate bars. Inside the bars we had placed a golden ticket resembling that of Wonka's except I had photoshopped it a bit to change the wording to fit Disney and placed an image in the background of Cinderellas castle. When they opened up the candy bar they found the ticket which read "Greetings to you the lucky finder of this GOLDEN TICKET from Mr. Walt Disney.... And so on. It was a huge success. We then told the girls they would soon be able to visit Disneyworld whenever they wanted (we live in Florida and decided to do the Annual Pass). It was too much fun! Hope this helps with the ideas. I will definitely be using some of the other ideas posted on here though for our upcoming trips :) Thanks for sharing!

Lori
I'm back! The surprise to Disney was a success. We had our boys open their SANTA gifts and than it was a special surprise from Mom & Dad. They had two gifts each to open - 1st being a xmas gift bag with all the disney characters on it - 1st clue, inside that bag I had their play airplanes wrapped up - 2nd clue. Than the big gift was wrapped in xmas disney paper which was their suitcase - Surprise they guessed it when they opened that! Inside their suitcase I had a xmas card of mickey in a santa suit and the card said "I hope this puts a smile on your face, Merry Christmas" when they opened it further I had a sign stuck to the inside saying "your going to Disney". They were excited but with the whole Santa thing I think it never really sunk in until later that day and now they are estatic! 9 weeks to go from today and we will be on the plane. Can't wait!!!!

Shannon
I am surprising my 11 year old daughter with a trip to WDW for Christmas. She has no clue. She has never been on a plane before either, so this will be a double surprise. I plan on having the bags packed the night before while she is asleep, loading them in the car. Our flight leaves at 6 am,so we will have to be at the airport by 4 am. I will have to wake her up early, so when she wakes up to see nothing under the tree she will be so disappointed. Luckly we will recover fast and she may still be a little sleepy. I will tell her that we have to go to her grandma's house since they have a fireplace for Santa to come down. (I think she is over the Santa thing, but she plays along for me). Instead we will get dropped off by grandma at the airport. On the plane, I will let her open a present, a shirt with Minnie Mouse (which she will think is cheesy at first...until she get where we are going. Later on the Characters can autograph her shirt as a keepsake. I am also considering giving her a digitial camera, so she can take her own pictures too. I don't know if I am more excited or if she will be =) Merry Christmas!!!

Lori
Im writing in hoping that Lara K will read this and answer me back. My husband and I are surprising our two kids this christmas with a trip to Disney. Just wondering on some ways to go about that after they finish opening their SANTA gifts. What are your plans for surprising your kids. I can't wait, we have kept this a secret since Sept when we booked. Love to hear how your surprising your kid/kids on christmas morning....

Mrs. M
Oh, thank you for the wonderful idea of opening a box full of balloons with the messgae inside! We are surprising my children on Christmas morning with a Disney trip scheduled to leave that afternoon! I have been boggling with a creative way to deliver the news!

SP
We are going on December 23rd. The kids (7 and 3) will receive a letter from Santa telling them that they have to pick the gifts in WDW.... cannot wait to see their faces !!!

Heriberto Hinz
Aloha there! I completely agree with your opinion.

Amy
We just went on Disney Cruise then to Disney World for few days during Halloween; we kept this a secret from our 6yr old daughter for 6 months! We surprised her by scheduling a phone call from Ariel (done thru cruiseline website) and mailing her a package of items she could take on trip from Ariel. In addition, we arranged to do other activities: princess makeover, dinner at Cinderella's castle and trick-or-treating at Magic Kingdom - to surprise her with these, we left invites on her bed each afternoon. All went off without a hitch and she was in cloud 9 the entire time!

Norman Chacko
Hey mate! I completely agree with your thoughts. Thanks for blogging.

Anna
We are taking our 10 year-old and soon to be 6 year-old for a combo Disney cruise and park trip for sping break in April 2012. Reading how everyone else has gone about surprising their kids is great. The plan is to let them know that they are going to WDW at Christmas. They wont find out about the cruise until we go to the treminal. We told them that the passports are for going skining in Canada.

Barbie
I just booked 3 nights in December. The hubs and I have been talking about how much withdrawal we are going through - our last trip was in July 2011, and our next planned trip isn't until May 2012. I don't know how I'll surprise him, but I will hold off as long as I can. Maybe until the day before. The kids are still easy to surprise - they are 6, 4, and infant. We could be halfway there before we tell them. That's what we did last time. I have NEVER surprised my husband like this before, and I am extremely excited to surprise him this time. He will be thrilled! Like a kid! Several of the how-to-surprise-the-kids tips will work for surprising him. I just have to figure out how to do it without letting the cat out of the bag. I am so excited; I want to go clothes shopping right now so I can pack our bags without him knowing!

Melanie
I am surprising my 6 year old with a trip to Disney on March 6th for her 7th Birthday on March 8th....When I asked her what she would like to do for her 7th birthday, her resoponse was to have a family and that she would really like to invite her brother who is away at college....Little does she know but her older brother and sister will both be going. The morning of the 6th, I am going to wake her up, tell her she will not be going to school, I am having a special Minnie Mouse outfit made for her to dress in, and I am going to tell her we are going to spend a family day together since her brother came home last night.....when we get to the Airport we will then tell her the surprise.....

Addie
My parents knew that I was a bit stressed. It was the last week of school and thus, finals. It was my freshman year of high school, and at 15 i was still a Disney nut. One Sunday morning I got up and saw my parents sitting tight- lipped and serious at the kitchen table. I started freaking out, thinking that they were preparing to break some horrible news. My dad called me to the table, and said he had something he wanted me to see. I saw my ypunger brother was just as confused as I was. I was nervous about opening the unmarked whit , imagining all the things that it could be. So it's safe to say that I was completely unprepared for the glossy picture of Mickey Mouse and the words "Pack you're bags. June 20." It was a little less than a week and a five finals away. I couldn't have been more surprised and overjoyed. My parents were grinning broadly; this was alway how they imagined on surprising me.the first trip I was far to sick with stomace bug to care when they told me and the second time I had figured it out months before they broke the news.(Being the planner in the family, they had always let me know a good time before the actual trip.) It was absolutly amazing and it was the best feeling in the world to leave that english final and heading straight to the air port!!

Addie
Well, my parents knew that I was having a stressful year- it was my freshman year of high school- and that I was doubly stressed with a week of finals looming on the horizon. I got up one incerdibly rainy morning and saw that my parents were sitting tight liped at the kitchen table. My dad called my over and handed me a white unmarked envelope saying that he had saved opening the evelope because he had wanted to see my reaction to it. I was completely freaking out, because my dad generally only acted that way when he he was asking me about my grades (which were usually very good.) I was sweating ridiculusly over the envelope and opened it with extreem caution. Little did I know that inside was a glossy picture of Micky Mouse with the words "Pack your bags, June 20." little less than a week away. It also happened to be the last day of school and thus, my last final. I am a complete Disney freak and couldn't have been more over joyed. This was my third time to Disney and a very welcome suprise. My first time I was far to sick to have cared when my parents first told me, and the second time I had figured out the surprise weeks before they had told me. At 15 years old I couldn't have been more excited bragging about it to my friends!!!

sky
June 2012 will be very memorable for my family, my cousins, my other cousins, my uncle, my aunt, etc because we are spending one week in wdw!!! we are SOOOOO excited. My little cousin adopted from Guatemala is going for his first time, and is very excited. He doesnt understand everything about disney, but he is excited to be going to see mickey, whom he watches on mickey mouse clubhouse pretty much every day. There is no suprise, but it will be a suprise of what logan thinks of the trip.....

Joanne
Reading all these is making me fill up with tears, I just booked Disney as a surprise for me and my 8 year old daughter but we have to wait til April 2012. It's gonna be a long 6 months to keep a secret, the excitement is already killing me, but I can't wait to see her face when I finally tell her. And reading all these has made me all the more determined to keep the secret :)

A.D.
We are taking our kids, two girls age 6 and 4 in Jan. after a July trip fell through. I wanted them to help with a few details so they know we are going only they think it's next June. Our plan is for me to pick up the oldest from school and have the hubby who works there to meet me and them with a bunch of Disney ballons, some gifts and a card that tells them they are going to Disney World today. The waiting is hard but I'm so excited!!

Amy G
We are suprising our kids 6 & 8 on Saturday morning with a Disney World trip we have been planning for a year! (that was a tough one to keep secret for that long) Better yet, we are going with another family who our kids are best friends with. The kids all think we are going to an amusment park in the area. We are going to get them up early Saturday for the flight and at breakfast hand them both a wrapped Mickey Mouse shirt to open and an envelope with Mickey Mouse on it and inside it is going to read "Suprise! You are going to Disney World TODAY!" I am so excited I can barely stand it. It is going to be the longest week EVER!

Nana K
My husband just retired this year and I decided I wanted us to take the entire family of 3 children, 2 spouses and 7 grandchildren ages 2, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10 to WDW as a special Christmas gift. None of the grandkids know about the trip yet. As it has turned out, we are going for 5 nights the week of Thanksgiving. We plan to reveal the surprise 2 weeks before our trip with a scavenger hunt. I have written a poem for the oldest to read: Two little Princesses and 5 little Pirates Are loved by their Nana and Pop A big Christmas gift will be revealed If you keep searching for clues and don't stop Just follow the clues and soon I'll bet You'll find a surprise You will NEVER forget Unscramble the letters and you will know The special place we want to go I will then give a clue of a location in the house for the next clue and envelope with jumbled letters spelling Disney World. We can not hardly wait!!!

Mrs. Jones
We are going to Disney for Christmas 2011 & it's my 4yr. old daughter's 1st trip. I'm renting a Mickey Mouse to delivery a special Christmas invitation to go to his house for Christmas. He'll come with Mickey ear balloons and treats too. Can't wait to see the look her her sweet face! I'm having a mini Christmas tree set up in our room from a local florist, Mickey house slippers & pj's set out for her on the bed, Personalized Mickey Mouse M&m's with dispenser. And the surprises keep coming! :)I'm so excited~!

MissRebecca76
The first time we went we didn't say a word until the day we left, at which point we told the kids- 1,3 & 5 at the time, that we were just going to meet someone. They had no idea that their grandparents were following behind us, their car loaded down with luggage. When we got to the airport, they were confused that we drove two hours just to see their grandparents who only live about 15 minutes from us, and why we were at an airport. We told them "surprise" we are going on a "plane ride" we will get to go up, go for a long ride and come right back to where we started. Then my five year old questioned the luggage- I explained that we had to pack a bag just in case the pilot gets tired and had to take a break. Well, we arrived in Orlando and when we did, even though it was 40 degrees hotter, they had no clue we were anyplace different. When my husband pulled up the in the rental car we had explained that our car was being washed and we would get it back in the morning. They were young and didn't suspect a thing. It wasn't until we were seeing sign after sign for WDW about a half hour in the drive, that my oldest put two and two together- then the shrieking ensued. They were soooo happy! We started a tradition of having one of the characters "visit" the hotel room every night while the kids were sleeping. They left a note telling us what we were doing the next day, and leave a small gift- either something useful we had brought (ie: first night autograph books and ears) or something that they really wanted that day from the gift shop (we wait till no one is looking and sneak back in to buy it) It cut down on the begging for things, and it helped them behave- (Think about how many times you say Santa is watching you during the Holiday Season- same concept- You better be good or the princesses wont visit our room tonight!) We did it again Christmas of 2010- We had finished dinner and we were getting ready to settle down to watch a movie- when I "noticed" an ornament on the tree that wasn't there before- I pulled it off the tree and it had a clue from Santa- it sent them on a scavenger hunt all over the house- finding a new Disney ornament plus a clue leading them somewhere else. Finally they were lead to basement where there was a big box- they opened it and balloons and confetti came out- there were new suitcases and new Disney gear- plus "tickets" for our stay- the best part is we left on New Years Day so there was not much time to wait and all the new Christmas toys kept them busy. We are planning to surprise them with a trip again this Christmas- I cannot wait!!

google
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Mandi
I am so excited that it will be my daughter's turn to celebrate her birthday at the "World". This has been a tradition starting about 5 years ago, when I took my oldest son for his 5th birthday to WDW for a special "Mommy and Me Trip"...Dad and the other kids had to stay home!!! It was such a magical trip that I will cherish forever, that I decided it would be a tradition that Mommy would take the other two on a special birthday trips when they were older too! I took my middle son on his 6th birthday and this time Grandpa decided to tag along too 2 years ago! She has been asking constantly since her Brother's trip, "When do I get to go". So this is the one I have been waiting for the most (because we can do special girl things!!!!) My youngest daughter's 7th birthday trip. I have it planned to give her a big box of Disney goodies on her birthday which will be on a saturday. The box will include customized disney maps that I ordered, a disney vacation planning video, and various goodies that she can use on the trip with a card explaining that we will be leaving on Monday morning for the trip! I am so excited, I have never been able to surprise the kids with a Disney trip, because I am always to excited, I just can't keep the secret! So I have 6 months to keep the secret and I hope I don't spill the beans! Plus we will also be taking the second half of the trip to look at houses in the area because our family loves Florida (and Disney) so much, we are planning on making the BIG move from Michigan to Florida in the Summer. I can't wait for our Mommy/Daughter Disney trip, it will be soooo very special for us.

Laura
We're planning to take our 8 yo God daughter to WDW the week after Thanksgiving. This will be her second trip (we took her on her first trip in October 2010), and she's done nothing but talk about the trip since we came back. We're planning to tell her that she's getting the day off from school because "Granny" (my mother to whom she is close and lives next door to us) is going out of town for a while, and we're going to take her to the airport and see her off. We'll have all the luggage loaded in the back of the truck before we pick up Granny, who will, of course, have her luggage with her. I'm making a customized autograph/scrapbook so once we arrive at the airport and go to get Granny's luggage out of the back of the truck, we'll say something like, "Boy, I wish we were going on a trip too. If we were, where would you want to go?" We're assuming she will say Disney World and then we'll hand her the autograph book and her suitcase and say, "That sounds like a good idea. You might need these." (or something to that affect). I know she is going to be so excited, and the wait is unbearable since we can't talk about it with her. We debated on whether or not to tell her something in advance, but I really believe the surprise will be something she'll never forget. Her mother actually asked her a few weeks ago if she could go anywhere, where it would be. She said, "Disney World, of course. Duh." So, that's the same answer we're expecting the morning of November 29. I can't wait..the anticipation of the surprise is almost as exciting as the trip itself.

Laura
We're planning to take our 8 yo God daughter to WDW the week after Christmas. This will be her second trip (we took her on her first trip in October 2010), and she's done nothing but talk about the trip since we came back. We're planning to tell her that she's getting the day off from school because "Granny" (my mother to whom she is close and lives next door to us) is going out of town for a while, and we're going to take her to the airport and see her off. We'll have all the luggage loaded in the back of the truck before we pick up Granny, who will, of course, have her luggage with her. I'm making a customized autograph/scrapbook so once we arrive at the airport and go to get Granny's luggage out of the back of the truck, we'll say something like, "Boy, I wish we were going on a trip too. If we were, where would you want to go?" We're assuming she will say Disney World and then we'll hand her the autograph book and her suitcase and say, "That sounds like a good idea. You might need these." (or something to that affect). I know she is going to be so excited, and the wait is unbearable since we can't talk about it with her. We debated on whether or not to tell her something in advance, but I really believe the surprise will be something she'll never forget. Her mother actually asked her a few weeks ago if she could go anywhere, where it would be. She said, "Disney World, of course. Duh." So, that's the same answer we're expecting the morning of November 29. I can't wait..the anticipation of the surprise is almost as exciting as the trip itself.

Beth
We are taking my brother,sister-in-law and 2 nieces ages 8 and 9 1/2 to Disney in November for about 5 or 6 days and they have never been before but, my parents and I have we went last OCT. and had a blast as it was our first time. We are planning on doing a little scavenger hunt as we travel in the car at each place we stop and they have to find the clues at each place we stop. The kids do not know any thing about this trip and they have never been to Walt Disney World before. The parents know a little bit about the trip but, the kids do not know anything. They will have the time of their life. any ideas on clues for the scavenger hunt that we are planning on doing when we travel.

Debbi
We a suprised planned for our 13 year old twins. They think we are spending thier 14th birthday IN DISNEY WORLD when we are really boarding the The Disney DREAM! We are DVC members so a trip to WDW is not out of the ordinary. We are arriving 2 days before cruise to play out a typical WDW vacation and on the morning of thier birthday we are giving them their luggage tags in their birthday cards. This has been planned since January and we can't wait go to in less then a month! We suprised them with a cruise Christmas 2008 - it is so much fun to suprise people you love!

Lara K
We are surprising our children 13 and 7 with a trip on Christmas morning. It is killing me not to say anything. We are down to less than 7 months now. Still working out the details as to how to surprise from all gifts Disney, balloons or simply the ears that say I'm going to WDW. This is the ultimate for my kids. They talk about WDW nonstop. Their friends were just surprised with a trip last month and when that first picture of them in front of the castle revealing where they were popped up, my heart broke when I saw the look on their faces. It was then that we knew what we would do. Christmas + a week a WDW is the ultimate vacation and surprise for our kids. And for anyone to say what is right or wrong really needs to keep to themselves because every child is different. When we went in August they could care less about planning. They just wanted to go for their first time. They didn't know what to expect and loved every minute of it. Not to mention that it isn't deception in any way. A surprise is just that and in no way are you harming your child with a WDW vacation surprise! I cannot wait for December 25, 2011, God willing!!!

Mommie to 1
My son will be 2 when we go to Disney in December and I would REALLY love to surprise him! (He gets excited watching all the disney commercials and even the planning DVD "LOOK CASTLE!!!!") I'm just not sure if he's too young to surprise (if he'll "get" the concept, especially because the trip is so long-- we'll be driving and/or taking a train from NY) Any suggestions?

sydney
we surprised our kids on easter with having an egg search.When they found all the eggs they opened them and spelled out disney.My one daughter threw an egg at us because she was so excited. GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF YOU!!!!!!!!!

sydney
we surprised our kids on easter with having an egg search.When they found all the eggs they opened them and spelled out disney.My one daughter threw an egg at us because she was so excited. GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF YOU!!!!!!!!!

Heather
My husband and I r taking our son 10 and our daughter 8 to disney in 19 days.We live 45 min away from wdw and they have no idea about it. our kids r going to go to school and while they r there I'm going ahead to check in and drop the luggage off at the All Star Movies resort. when they come home my hubby and i r gonna tell them we r going to go to dinner at a restaurant down there (not odd for us to do) at the wilderness lodge and to watch the water pageant (which they have never seen) afterwards we r gonna drive over to our resort saying we are stopping by to see some friends that r here visiting and when they get to the door it will have a "surprise" banner on it (we got the Mickey"s grand welcome for them) and the whole time we r gonna have the camera rolling lol. our kids love to b surprised and this will b the biggest 1 we will pull off they r gonna b blown away. best part is even though we r only staying for 4 nights we will get so much more since they will also find out wehave gotten them annual passes so they get a whole year of fun Disney World memories

Katie
We are leaving in 3 weeks to celebrated my college graduation. All along we had planned to visit Disney to celebrate but took a big trip 2 years ago when we were worried the recession would be worse at this point. My daughter doesn't remember much of the first trip (she was only 6). We are driving to visit my aunt who lives about 45 min away from Disney and she can't wait (she's now 8). She knows we will have to "pass" Disney World to get there. She's been beefing up on all of her Disney classics on DVD. We are planning on driving 13 hours in one day and crash at a cheap hotel nearby. When we wake up in the morning we are going to get ready to continue our trip to my "aunt's house" after breakfast. During breakfast we are going to test out the video camera to see if it's functioning properly and we will do a quick interview to see how she enjoyed her 13-hour car ride there. Then we will tell her we got invited to dinner with a friend in a nearby town and would delay our trip to see our aunt for a few days. When she asks who we will tell her, "Cinderella"!! :)

Jaclyn
In 2003 I was surprised in Disney World with an engagement ring from my now husband. This year, actually in a week from Sunday, we get to surprise my 5 yr old daughter with a trip there. We will get up Easter morning and her basket (not the one the bunny fixes for her, but the one that mom and dad does) is going to have many disney "treats" as well as the t-shirt that says "I'm going to Disney World!" It will be a major highlight in our family memories I'm hoping. Disney gets to be a part of the good surprises in my family's life. Hopefully in a few more years will be able to do it all over again and surprise my daughter, and her baby sister!

Laloa
Well when I was 13 (I'm 18 now) my parents said about April that we were going on holiday in August and that wed rented a villa for the month near Paris. We did the eiffel tower and stuff and then one day my mum said "okay were going to a hotel tomorrow" and we did - we spent 3 nights at Disneyland Paris. It was there she told me that me and my dad were divorcing (please don't do this to your kids it totally ruins the holiday).

Julie
I started planning a surprise trip in October for my daughter's 10th birthday. I didn't tell my husband until a few weeks ago as a surprise for his 40th. I plan to tell my daughter and then 5yr old son the night before we leave or the morning of. It has been a stressful yr, my 4 yr old had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and everyone is stressed and needs a break or a bit of fun at least. So what better way then to spend you 10th bday at disney & universal

Rebecca
I told my two youngestchildren (then 11 and 7) that we were going to visit their aunt in portland maine for the weekend(we live i bangor). When we got to the airport, my mother and I turned the camcorder onto them and said, "you had better hurry and get out of the car. The man has come to take your luggage to Disney. You don't want it to go without you!" This year, they are 14 and 9. They think that they are going on the 22nd of July, we are actually going on the 21st! Another surprise, their older brother and his girlfriend are going with us!

mom
We've been to WDW several times- We usually let them plan but this year will be a total Surprise trip. We've told the kids (8yr and 12yr) that we're having a mini-family get away in Dayton. (This won't be something new- we often drive a couple hrs away to a town for a mini-vacation.) What they think is we're seeing the Airport & Wright Pat Air Force Museum on this trip - what they don't know is we have a non-stop flight out of Dayton to Orlando for a week in Disney. They will be told we're going to the gates for a special exhibit... only when we're sitting there waiting for the exhibit to "Open" will they be told we're actually waiting to board the plane!! We have their Disney ear hats from a prior trip and they'll be told - at the gate - they're "going to need these today." We can't wait!!

Amanda G
We are surprising my 4 year old with a trip to Disney in 20 days. He knows we are going to Disney sometime but does not know when. I have created a power point presentation and I am going to burn it to a dvd and put it in a box wrapped in cool paper and have it on the front porch. My husband is goint to ring the door bell. When my 4year old opens it I am going to tell him to put it in the DVD player. The video asks him if he believes in WISHES (WHICH HE WISHES ALL THE TIME) then tells him to count to 3 and then a picture of Mickey Mouse comes on the screen and it says IS THIS YOUR WISH. And tells him he is going to Disney and is leaving right now to go get in car MICKEY MOUSE is waiting.

Jenise
My son and I look at the Disney website for fun because I am a Disney nut. So I already know all the research a 5 year old would provide. I think I am going to surprise the kids next time we go. Maybe on his 6th Birthday, which is a couple of weeks before we want to go. Surprises are fun! We go to FL to see my family for Thanksgiving, and we think we'll just head over to Orlando one morning for our trip the week after. I could surprise them then. On our last trip, my husband knew I had something planned for us, and I arranged a sitter in the room and took him to a special Dine with an Imagineer. He was so thrilled with my surprise. Even at Disney World, there are plenty of surprises to make the day magical.

Carolyn
We are trying to surprise a 15 yr old & 13 yr old. Two weeks ago my husband and I decided to make an unplanned trip to WDW this summer. In one day, while the kids were out, I booked every thing. So last night, we are all watching TV and the WDW commercial comes on with the pizza box surprise. My son looks straight at me and announces "Mom, the next time we go to Disney I want it to be a surprise." I do not know how but I kept my game face on. I hope I can keep the secret for 5 more months.

LC
I don't think deception has ANYTHING to do with it. Haven't you ever surprised anybody with anything? Do you tell everyone what you've bought them for Christmas? For some kids the excitement would be more than they could be added to the waiting for weeks or months, especially if they are little ones and the concept of time is difficult. Many times it is a first trip to Disney and the first time on an airplane. Kids can plan when they are older, but everyone loves a wonderful surprise. These ideas are great!

Damian
Re: EKW Each child is different and as a parent you need to judge what would best fit your child. If your child is one who likes to plan their trip, then no, a suprise would not be a good idea (though you can suprise them with advance notice). My daughter is 5 and we will be doing most of the planning. So in her case a surprise will work well. I don't think it's deceptive or lying. It's no different then suprising them with a birthday gift. However, I probably would avoid telling them something else to throw them off track. If they look forward to that something else, they may be disappointed that is not going to happen. I plan on surprising my daughter the morning we leave. I will not make up any stories to throw her off track, however (she probably would not understand it anyway). Again, every child is different, and we as parents need to judge what will work best for our child and whether a surprise is appropriate.

Dick H.
My wife and her sister had not seen their cousin in over 25 years. They were like 3 sisters but a little spat split them up until last August when out of the blue they started talking again. We live in Florida and she is Massachussetts. Well, I surprised the 2 girls by having the cousin sitting in a chair at the Yacht Club Lobby on Dec 4th behind the tree and wished them an early Merry Christmas. So even 60+year old adults can be super surprised and enjoy the merriment that a Disney surprise can bring. There were tears, hugs, stares of disbelief and laughter. Our greatest Disney trip ever.

Gerrie
Years ago we went to Disney each year. One summer we had decided to stay closer to home. The day before our vacation was to have started we were under a hurricane warning and I told my husband I did not want to spend my vacation in a shelter from the storm. He said just let me know when I get home what direction I am driving tomorrow. Our daughter was 5 at the time and we told her we were going to the Mall of America in Minnesota, she was excited. All along the trip she was checking her kid's atlas asking her dad where we were and she was following and telling him that we would have to go this way or that. At dinner time we had stopped at a restaurant in Georgia and when we were getting back into the car a car pulled in next us and the dad said "going or coming from Orlando" we really hoped our daughter did not hear him which thankfully she didn't. We arrived at Fort Wilderness at about 2am and she was sleeping. I was able to get out of the car, go in and check us in and we drove to our Wilderness home when we woke her up. She got out of the car and went inside only to come running back out to announce that Minnesota had homes just like Disney. I had to take her into the bathroom to show her the Mickey soaps and shampoo so she would figure out where she really was. It was priceless and we were surprised that she didn't wake up the entire campground after she figured it out where she was.

Mom of two
We are surprising our son and daughter for the 1st time this spring it will be my sons birthday. Since neither of my children can read yet we were really struggling with how to surprise them and we came up with the idea that "Mickey" has to invite you and he does that by sensing you Mickey ears with your name on them. So we have been telling then over and over as soon as Mickey sends those ears we can go. We have it planned to have my sons bday party the day we leave and are going to have them both open gifts with Mickey ears in them! So excited!

Kim
Taking my 3 kids on Disney Cruise in spring (8,7, &4) not telling any of them where we are going. I have been dropping hints saying that my Christmas gift to them is not finished being built yet and must be bigger then I thought. Maybe one day we can see the real princess, and it would be cool to go to a pirate party on a big boat. Looking for fun ways to suprise them at the airport (we are going to have be there at 4am).

Elaine
Before our 2nd trip to Disney to tell our youngest (who was and IS STILL in love with Mickey) was 5 (now 6) My husband and I went to pick her up from school and we had an extremely large MICKEY balloon in her car seat (almost looked as if he was waiting for her) and we opened the car door and there was the balloon at first she just thought we bought her a balloon. With a little bit of 'hinting' 'I think Mickey is trying to tell you something Aleshia' 'I think he wants to see you' and she figured out what it REALLY meant!! My older two KNEW as soon as they seen the balloon!! Now we are planning trip #3!! We will be there in September and we are looking for a great way of telling the kids ALL TOGETHER this time! SURPRISE!!

linda
The has been a running joke in our family that our two kids have always felt that they have missed somehting in their childhood. If one of their friends had gone to Disney; They would say to us "We never have gone to Disney". My husband and my response has always been "We have never been to Disney either!" But We did it this year! We surprised our 16 yr old girl and 21 yr old boy this Christmas with a trip to Disney World. We gave our daughter a Mini Mouse and our son a Mickey Mouse stuffed toy, with a note on each that said SAVE THE DATE you're going to Disney!! When they unwrapped the stuffed toys, My 16 yr old daughter had the best reaction. Just like the commercials you see on TV. But not a little kid, a teenager that was so excited to finally be going to Disny. It was the best reaction and we can't wait!

K8
We surprised our daughters (1 & 5) for Christmas. I put a little bug in my older daughter's ear to ask Santa for 3 things.... one of them, a trip to Disney. I was going to make a scrapbook for each of them to open, but then ended up not having enough time. So they each got an empty scrapbook with a "magical ticket" that admits them into Disney! Everything else was Disney themed (doll, toys, bags, etc. for the trip), and those books were put in the back to make sure they were opened last. Now the countdown begins to our trip in February! I like the idea of the Valentine! ;)

Jen
Love it! I have surprised my husband twice with surprise trips. One time I told him about 3 months before we were going, the other time I told him the night before we left! That trip was the most fun to pull off because I had to work with his boss to change his work schedule & submit some vacation time! Everyone knew we were going but him! I packed a few items for him, but not everything as I wouldn't want someone packing for me, but I did get him his Disney essentials & had a shot of his favorite alcohol ready for him when he realized he was going on a plane in the morning! (He's afraid to fly.) Hubs was VERY surprised to say the least & we had a GREAT trip!

Ben
We suprised our three DDs ages 6,7,and 11 with a short trip to Disney last summer. My in-laws live in Lake City, FL so we told the girls that we were going there for vacation. Grampy and Grammy's house is a normal trip we would make during the summer, unlke Disney which we only go to during the coller months. You know they did not figure out where we were unitl we were about a 1/2 mile from property. Needless to say there was much joy in the minivan when drove under the welcome to Walt Disny World sign. Best part is that we got their reactions on video!

Lori McIntosh
We have a trip booked this Feb. My children know a trip is coming in the new year. They think it is around March Break. They have asked us to surprise them with the date. I do like that they have time to let it sink in. They also have a ton of friends going in Jan and this past year. We will be in Disney on Valentines Day. I plan on giving them a Mickey Valentine on the Friday morning. The Valentine will say Surprise you will be spending Valentine's Day with Mickey! This way they can go to school and tell their friends. We will leave after school to stay at a park and fly. I can't wait!

Karen
On Dec 12th, our Son-in-law woke our Granddaughter at 5am with the announcement "get dressed, we're going to Disney World!" This was a surprise, healing trip for her, as our Daughter suddenly passed away on Nov 22nd after a 14 month battle with leukemia. She was so excited! We arrived to take them to the airport, with her bag all packed. It was truly a magical trip for the 2 of them. We know our Daughter was smiling down at them... my Tinkerbell Angel

Mom of 2
Our upcoming trip is a surprise. Well not really my 3&5 year old know we are going on a trip they just have NO IDEA it will be to Disney. In the early planning stages they overheard their Godmother and I planning so I had to make up a place that they were going. They belive we are going to "Marshmallow land" Now they are old enough to believe anything you tell them so we are goin with that. I even have their teachers and all of our family members going along with it. We are NOT telling them until we get to the park where we are going. We figure that when we land in the airport and go to the Disney shuttle they will figure it out. I can not wait to see their reactions. It's going to be great because my oldest has already said numerous times that she would LOVE to go to Disney.

Dana
Ah some really good ideas here, I'm surprising my kids at Christmas in a few days! As for the comment about how can you surprise your kids, they need time to research, well some kids are too young for that and couldn't care less about the details. Even my oldest at almost 10 wouldn't be doing any research if she had the advance notice. Cheers!

PabR
I planned a trip for my husband and daughter ( and 2 grandmas too) a few years back for Christmas. My gifts for my husband were - a biography of Walt Disney, Mickey PJ's, a CD of Disney music. I then gave him a note saying Walt Disney book - $15 Mickey PJ's - $20 Disney Cd - $30 A Week at Disney with your family - $ PRICELESS I then told my daughter and husband we were going to WDW with the grandmas (who already knew about it)..

EKW
At first I thought I misunderstood the title...that you were just sharing interesting ways to tell the kiddies that they're going to Disney. But, then, all the deception came in. I just don't understand this. For my kids, a big part of the fun is the research they get to do prior to a trip. It's fun to see what they put on their "must do" lists. We would have skipped Carousel of Progress had my older son not read about it and decided he wanted to visit it because it was a link back to Walt. At best, you're depriving your loved ones of the fun of preparing. At the worst, you're teaching that lying and witholding information is okay. I just don't get this!

Becki
We are plannning a trip in May. We are going to pick up the girls from school (their last day) and drive all night. Arriving in Florida the following morning. My husband told then that he wants to see the largest ball of twine & the worlds largest frying pan. Not sure where to go from there....

Trevor
I did this for my wife's birthday. And she didn't have a clue until we got to the airport. Mrs. C the best advice that I can give you is make it a need to know basis. If too many people know then there is more chances for a slip up and ruining the surprise. get a secret credit card to make it truly memorable and cancel it after. (can't see a paper trail.

Janet
I told my daughter we were spending in the weekend in Kansas City and on the way we stopped for Chinese food. I I had put my own message in a fortune cookie before leaving home which I pretended came with her meal - 'We're going to Disney World!' was the message. All you need is a tweezer to get the old message out and put the new one in!

Julie Zuber
This is a bit off topic, but we have been to disney and the kids would love to see the new Harry Potter World at USO. We have purchased a package for Spring break and have not told them yet. We haven't decided how to tell them yet, as we will need to get up at 3 or 4 am to get to the airport. We will have to tell them something then but haven't an idea to that point yet. Our kids are 8 & 9.

Angel
It was a couple days after Christmas and my parents decided to surprise my brother sister and i with a trip to Disney World.They woke us up at 7 am and had this box in the middle of my dining room table that had a note on it saying: Christmas is over, and school will be starting soon so where are we going next? And when we flipped over the card and it said we were going to Disney World it was the best surprise i ever got. Of course we did have to wait till April to go on the trip, but that just the best gift ever and i remember that day rather then that Christmas!!!

Colleen
We surprised our 12 & 14 year olds last year. We set all clocks ahead an hour, took them to school and acted surprised no one was there. We then said "surprise" you're skipping school today to take dad to airport. (he travels a lot). Once at the airport we opened the rear of the car to show them their suitcases and said "surprise! We're going with dad to Texas" (that's where they thought he'd been going for weeks) We told them we had a layover in Orlando. Once in Orlando we told them we had to take a bus to the other end of the airport. I went alone to check in for the Disney express while my husband told them our bus broke down and weren't we lucky to get to ride a Disney bus to the correct terminal. The older one was getting suspicious but it wasn't until the bus driver confirmed our hotel destination with me as we boarded that the kids truly started to get it. As we took our seats and they kept saying "were really going to Disney!?" the other passengers started to laugh and clap for them. It was grat fun!!

Mrs. C
What a great blog!!!! Even though I don't have kids at the moment,I bet I can translate this into something to surprise my husband with soon... The real surprise will be when he gets the bill :)

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