Should You Surprise Your Kids With A Trip To Walt Disney World?

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You’ll notice that the question here is not, “Should you take your kids on a trip to Walt Disney World?” The answer to that is of course a resounding, “Yes indeedy do!” What I’m talking about here is whether your trip should be a surprise. Should you spring your Disney vacation on the young ‘uns?

Many family vacations are decided by tradition, vote, parental fiat, or simply a collective desire to explore the world. Someone, or everyone, decides. You discuss. You plan. You save. You wait. And then off you go.

The cultural zeitgeist makes Disney vacations different. Disney vacations seem to demand an extra measure of razzmatazz every step of the way. Not “We’re going to Disney World,” but “WE’RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!” Surpriiiiiise!

If the surprise trip is a gift, how will your kids react to not having "things" for their birthday or Christmas?

You rarely hear of people surprising their children with a trip to the Great Smokey Mountains, or Hawaii, or even other theme park destinations, wonderful vacation spots though they may be. But surprise visits to Walt Disney World are somewhat common. Disney even built a substantial portion of their recent “Let the Memories Begin” advertising campaign around guest videos of children being surprised with Disney visits. There’s almost a competitive pressure to create the most magically happy, over-the-top, wowapalooza Disney trip surprise reveal video, featuring cherubic children dancing with glee. A YouTube search of “surprise Disney” yields more than 21,000 hits. Maybe you should be one of those folks, but maybe not.

First let’s clarify that there are two types of Disney trip surprises: one where the trip is presented as a gift to be enjoyed at some later date and one where the family is leaving on the Disney trip RIGHT NOW.

There are pros and cons to each of these.

Children are surprised with a trip as gift. Actual trip happens later.

  • This can be a money saver at birthday/holiday time. Instead of paying for a vacation and big ticket birthday/holiday gift, the trip becomes the gift and no addition funds must be spent.
  • Allows for learning opportunities during trip planning. Kids can help with souvenir budgeting, packing strategies, etc.
  • Allows time for children to prepare for some of the potentially emotionally challenging aspects of a Disney vacation. For example, you can practice meeting characters at a local restaurant so that the Disney characters are less overwhelming in the parks. Or you can practice having siblings share a bed so that they’re less prone to territorial fighting during the trip.
  • Allows time for children to become more well versed in the Disney universe. For example, they have time to watch some of the older Disney films which may make them appreciate related attractions more fully.
Are your kids familiar with older or non-core Disney parts of the Disney universe? Would a better understanding help their trip enjoyment?


  • Children may be disappointed by not having tangible things to play with on a special day.
  • Young children may not understand the concept of time enough to appreciate a trip several months down the road. Thus, they may pester you endlessly with, “When is the trip?”
  • Young children may not understand what Disney World actually is and thus may not have a sufficiently joyful reaction.
  • If you’re constructing an elaborate surprise or reveal, the children might not understand what the surprise is. For example, if you make a scavenger hunt including clues about the trip, the kids might not understand the clues.

Children are surprised with a trip right now.

  • Provides immediate gratification. There will be no, “When are we going,” questions.
  • Children who have been begging to go to Walt Disney World will think that you’re a hero.
  • You don’t have to contend with potentially unhelpful child input on packing or itinerary development.
Are your kids getting along well enough so that they can cope with the surprise of being together on vacation?


  • It may be challenging to keep the secret until the last minute. Most trip planning involves phone calls or correspondence that could be discovered by children, ruining the surprise.
  • Mom and Dad get no help from the kids with packing/planning.
  • Without time to prepare for the trip, some children may become overwhelmed or melt down.
  • If the surprise involves a cover-up, for example a fake cover vacation, children may be disappointed that the fake vacation is not real.
  • If your surprise happens in a public space, you may cause a disruption. Case in point – the one time I surprise my own kids with a Disney trip, we pulled up to my daughter’s kindergarten in a rented limo, ready to whisk her off to the airport. This distracted the other children in the class and I’m sure the teacher though we were pompous jerks. In retrospect, I should not have executed the surprise in that way.
Is the trip for you, or your kids?

Given these points, here are some questions you should be asking yourself before you decide to surprise your children with a Disney trip:

  • Who is the surprise actually for, you or your children?
  • Have your children expressed a desire to visit a Disney destination? Will they be impressed by the surprise?
  • How does your child react to expected experiences? Is he easy going or does he need time to get used to new ideas/situations?
  • Can you actually keep the secret? Will you be disappointed if a third party accidentally spills the beans?
  • Can you physically prepare for a “right now” surprise trip without alerting the kids? Will they wonder where their favorite sweatshirt is if you’ve packed it already? Can you intercept the Magical Express envelope in the mailbox before they see it?
  • Do your kids like other kinds of surprises?
  • Are your kids old enough to understand a complicated surprise reveal?
  • Will you be filming/photographing the surprise reveal? Why? What will you do with the video? How will you feel if your kids don’t have the reaction you anticipate?
  • Are there learning opportunities your kids will be missing if they don’t help with the trip planning?
  • For a “right now” surprise, are you sure that your kids have not made plans that will be disrupted by you taking them away from home unexpectedly? For example, will a friend be disappointed by a missed playdate? Will the child be missing a test at school?

You get the idea. Every family is different. While a surprise visit may be great for many, it may or may not be the best approach for your individual family.

So fellow travelers, have you ever surprised your kids with a trip to Walt Disney World? How did it go? Did you get the reaction you were hoping for? Why did you decide to surprise them? Let us know in the comments below.

Next week: Sample ways to surprise your kids with a trip, assuming you think it will work for your family.

UPDATE 12/5/12: Here’s the link to ideas about how to pull off the surprise.

Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel at, a regular contributor to, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obession - Broadway theater. Erin can be reached on Twitter @MsErinFoster.

52 thoughts on “Should You Surprise Your Kids With A Trip To Walt Disney World?

  • November 28, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    We surprised our son this year with a trip for his birthday. We told him that morning and we drove down that day. Without a doubt, best surprise ever! I still get teary eyed thinking of that morning. We had the trip planned for months and, yes, keeping the secret was difficult but it was awesome. We acted like we were getting ready for work/school as usual but before we left, the phone rang with a call from Mickey. Then we gave him a box filled with Disney things. When he was about done with the box, we pulled out suitcases. That’s when it all clicked that it wasn’t going to be an ordinary day. He was so shocked and still talks about it.
    We’ve got another trip planned for Christmas but the kids already know about it. It has been fun to have their input for this round of planning but I definitely don’t regret doing the surprise trip at all.

  • November 28, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Oh my gosh, YES! We surprised our three kids last year. We were planning our yearly trek to see my parents in Florida. We had decided to go for Thanksgiving because my husband and I had decided we would like to go to Disney to see the Christmas decorations. The kids were asking if we would be going to Disney because we had gone the previous two times that we were in Florida. We told them it was too much money and maybe we could go another time. I made a DVD with all kinds of pictures that I found online of MVMCP. We put them in the car the morning of our trip and played the DVD. I was SHOCKED that my then 10 year old son had NO idea we were going! I had been looking at Disney stuff and talking about Disney stuff and was sure he would pick up on it. At the end of the video my 6 year old daughter had no clue what was going on. We were a little concerned about her reaction because she has some sensory issues and gets overwhelmed easily. Well, when I explained to her that we were going to Disney after seeing Grandma and Grandpa she let out a HUGE shriek of joy! It was awesome! And we have the whole thing on video. The best part of last year was that we also surprised my parents and my mother in law with tickets to MVMCP so we were all able to go together. I would have to say it was the BEST vacation we’ve ever had. 🙂

  • November 29, 2012 at 1:14 am

    How timely! We are leaving next week for WDW, and our 4.5 year old knows we’re going he’s but he’s not sure when. So we’re doing a kind of in between surprise, and will pretend to get ready for school that morning and spring it on him in the car. We’ll see how it goes. We’re heading to Disneyland in May and will try a 100% surprise.

  • November 29, 2012 at 7:16 am

    We surprised our n

    • November 29, 2012 at 7:23 am

      Sorry – hit button early – phone posting!

      We surprised our now-grown son when he was about 8. He was a low-key guy and this was pre-YouTube so we had no big expectation. He was certainly excited and it was very fun to pull off.
      With our young son, I know he’s the type who likes to know what to expect. We went when he was 3 and we are going again in March (he’s 5). We are surprising him with the hotel (Animal Kingdom Villas) but not the trip. I think when he’s older we might try it – I think we wouldn’t have tried for his first trip but it could be good now that he knows what WDW is all about. Indeed, he heard me talking to his dad about this post and begged me, “PLEASE surprise me with a trip to Disney World!”

      • November 29, 2012 at 10:23 am

        Ha! Even the kiddos know about the cultural phenomenon of the surprise Disney trip. I find this extremely interesting.

      • December 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm

        Ie it would be better to surprise them with a trip after they’ve been before. We went on a family trip in June 2011 w/ dd 2 and 9. For that one we planned and prepared extensively. But the. We went back in September when I had a conference at Disneyworld. We didn’t tell dd9 until the week before. We got a great reaction with screaming and jumping all over the house. But she knew exactly what getting a trip to Disney meant as opposed to the first time when she wouldn’t have known as much as if she hadn’t gotten to plan with us.

  • November 29, 2012 at 7:23 am

    We are trying for the best of both worlds. We have told the kids we are going to Disney World after Christmas. In fact we are surprising them and leave next Thursday December 7. They have been helping with the planning and anticipating the trip for a month but we as parents get to enjoy surprising them with waking up that morning and saying lets go.

    • November 29, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Let us know how it goes!

  • November 29, 2012 at 7:37 am

    We surprised our 4 year old with a trip to Disneyworld a month in advance of the trip. It worked well because she could watch some of the potentially scary rides on Youtube in advance and she also helped to plan some of the days.
    I solved the “when are we going” problem by giving her an adapted advent calendar and every morning she would count the days left.

    • November 29, 2012 at 10:24 am

      I love countdown calendars. They make time so much more tangible for kids. Great idea.

  • November 29, 2012 at 8:08 am

    We attempted a “surprise” trip a few years ago, telling the kids that we were going to visit grandparents earlier than usual for Christmas. As we drove south instead of west, they were oblivious. When we finally reached Orlando and we shared that we were going to Disney, my daughter (then 10), was ecstatic. My 6 year old son had a meltdown. I was so disappointed because in that moment, all my plans were ruined and it felt like my son was ungrateful. Turns out he needs that time to prepare and had a really hard time shifting gears. We learned an important lesson about his personality that trip. Now, we give our trips as “gifts” but allow plenty of time to prepare and plan which is great fun too!

    • November 29, 2012 at 10:20 am

      This is a great example that what might work well for one child could be a disaster for another, even in the same family. Two of my daughters are usually game for anything, but one of them does much better in situations where she emotionally prepare a bit. She doesn’t usually like surprises, even happy ones.

  • November 29, 2012 at 8:42 am

    We did a surprise trip. Told the kids we were going to Tallahassee for an overnight business trip for Dad. Drove two hours from our home in the Panhandle to Tallahassee and then pulled over and told them. Every car trip afterwards for months they hoped that we were tricking them again. My three year old had a bag packed with her disney essentials and she would refuse to leave the house without it for close to a year. I guess I didn’t pack all the things she wanted with her on the surprise trip. She sure did know what she wanted with her when we went to WDW the next year.

    • November 29, 2012 at 10:25 am

      I love this story. Your “be prepared” daughter is my kind of girl.

  • November 29, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Very timely! We are surprising our 2 sons (age 5 and 8) with their first trip to Disney World tomorrow night! Like some of the others who have posted, we are have been looking at Disney related things for the last few months, so they are somewhat aware of what it is. They know we are doing something special on Saturday, but they have no idea we will be going to Disney for a week! My oldest is convinced we are going skiing for the day! His mind will be blown when we tell him Friday night we are leaving in the morning for Disney! It has been fun to plan the first trip as a surprise, but I imagine the kids will want to have some input on future trips!

  • November 29, 2012 at 9:00 am

    My parents surprised me with a weekend in Disney (tagging along on Dad’s business trip…) for my 16th birthday. It was amazing and I’ll never forget it. I opened my birthday card and a plane ticket fell out. Your “kids” are never too old for a surprise trip to Disney!

    • November 29, 2012 at 10:21 am

      I know I’d be thrilled if someone surprised me with a WDW and I’m way old grown up. 🙂

      • November 29, 2012 at 4:07 pm

        Me too!! Surprise me any day.

  • November 29, 2012 at 9:12 am

    We surprised our also now adult daughter with a trip for her 12th birthday. Foolish mortal that I am I didn’t have a video camera handy because it was very entertaining. We bought her a WDW travel book with a Mickey Mouse bday card with all the details spelled out.

  • November 29, 2012 at 9:43 am

    We get on the plane tomorrow for disny world and my two boys, six and seven, are pumped! They have known for monthes so it was no surprise. however, what fun tom watch them count it down. “tomorrow when I wake up it will only be 3 days till Disney!” etc. For me, the planner of the trip, the anticipation has been fun to watch. And away we go!!!!

    • November 29, 2012 at 10:21 am

      Have a great time!

  • November 29, 2012 at 10:09 am

    We just surprised our two kids (ages 7 & 8) on Halloween. They had a break from school and we decided to surprise them. We had special shirts made and woke them up to give them the shirts and then there was a lot of running around and excitement, as we grabbed our bags and headed to the airport. They were very happy, but my daughter told me that though she loved the trip, she disliked the “surprise” aspect of it. She is a planner, like me, and I don’t like surprises either. We had a magical time though, as always!

  • November 29, 2012 at 10:43 am

    I actually surprised my husband last year for Christmas. I had a ton of ideas planned but had no idea how to go about executing any of them. Then one night in early December we were sitting on the couch and he was complaining about wanting to go, the cold NYC weather, etc so I simply pulled out my iPad and showed him the airline confirmation email. It took a few minutes to register but he was really excited and it worked out well since the trip was for the end of January so he got to help with all the planning of it.

    Also, on our most recent trip two weeks ago (third time this year!) we noticed that there were tons of families running around more concerned with the parent’s getting their way over what the kids wanted to do. One notable example was a parent dragging her sobbing child on the Haunted Mansion while repeatedly saying (loudly) “We went on Peter Pan like you wanted now we are going on Haunted Mansion like Mommy wants…”

  • November 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    I am finishing up all the little details of our very first trip right now! We are surprising our 5 and 7 year old daughters with their first trip to Disney. We are going to Disneyland not Disney world though. My kids have been wanting to go to Disney for some time now. So we have had our trip booked and payed for since MARCH!!! We are telling them Christmas EVE and leave that evening! I am sooo extremely excited as I have never been either. but this whole trip is for my ladies!!! So if they want to walk around and get autographs the whole time we will be just as excited!!! I cant wait, we always told our girls Disneyland is so expensive and we would have to win the lotto to be able to go, so my girls are going to be soooo surprised/excited!!! We will be video taping it for sure!!! Wish us luck!!

  • November 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    We’ve booked a trip to Disneyland for April 2013. Our last trip there 3 years ago wasn’t a surprise at all. This time, however, we’re thinking of surprising them on April Fools Day. Something like “Guess what! We’re going to Disneyland tomorrow! April Fools – we’re actually going in 2 weeks!” That way they still have some time to prepare & anticipate, but we get the fun of a surprise as well. That is, if they don’t figure it out before then. We’ve talked about going to Disney in 2013, but we haven’t given any dates or anything yet. And I don’t think watching some of the older Disney movies will tip them off because we regularly watch movies on Sundays anyway. I’ll just make sure we watch more Disney movies than normal over the next few months.

  • November 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    We started planning a trip for our daughter’s fifth birthday about 10 months ago (we leave on Sunday!). We did not keep it a secret, but let her help plan and save for the trip. We won’t get the over-the-top video that you see on the commercials, but we have had all kinds of exciting moments the whole time while we were planning. My daughter shared in our excitment of planning meals, planning schedules, and planning touring plans. We also made a countdown calendar for about 30 days before our departure date. She was thrilled every morning.

    If you don’t care about posting a youtube video with a lot of hits, I vote for letting your child help plan. It gives you lots more moments of excitement and joy.

  • November 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Very timely article.

    We are surprising our 3 kids with a trip in mid-December. They have been talking about a return trip for months. Our 6-year old is even saving his Tooth Fairy money so he can help us pay for the trip (someday).

    We leave in the evening after school and I plan to have their bags packed and ready for them when they walk in the door after school. To make it very obvious…I got the entire family Mickey Santa hats that I will have sitting on top of their bags.

    My kids love surprised so they will go nuts! Can’t wait!

  • November 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    We did a mix of both. The kids knew we were going but not when. We told them we had to save and find a good time to go. This allowed them to help with the planning but saved us the ‘How many more days? How many more hours?’ that would have driven us CRAZY. We told them we were going on a shopping trip that neither of them were excited about. This allowed them to help with the packing. Then just before we got in the car we told them we were going to Disney World. My 6 year old cried just before we got in the car because it was just too much for her. She was back to herself before we even hit the airport 🙂

  • November 29, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    We have done both. For us, planning together is better. The kids love the excitement of planning and counting down the days as much as the parents.

  • November 29, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    We’re giving the kids (3 1/2 and 5 1/2) a trip to Disney for Christmas and going 8 days later. I know they’ve heard us talking about it because my family keeps blabbing about it so I hope it’s a good surprise. We took them 15 months ago so they are familiar with it. Still trying to finalize the reaveal Christmas morning. I bought them each the glow necklaces and a light-up Buzz for the parades and am having Disney shirts made. They’re still getting a few small things I’ve been buying over the last 6 months but the trip is the real present.

  • November 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    We surprised the kids one summer a couple of years ago. While they were happy they did express dismay at “being lied to” since we kept telling them we were going on a “beach vacation”. We did – to the Caribbean Beach Resort! I don’t think we’ll be doing that again. It was super fun for me anyway since they had no clue until we actually pulled into the parking lot. Even then they were confused!

  • November 29, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    My daughter, now 18, has always loved to plan our trips to WDW with me. Years ago I asked her if she thought she would ever like a surprise trip. She said definitely not! Planning is half the fun. She is a very organized person who makes lists for everything. It is just not in her DNA to enjoy a surprise of this sort.

  • November 29, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    We have surprised our kids both ways- a RIGHT NOW trip, and as a Christmas gift for a future trip. In both cases, our children had been to WDW before, so they knew what to expect.

    The RIGHT NOW trip was definitely fun for us! I had packed in secret and loaded the car. We woke them up early one morning and told them to get dressed – we were going to do something fun that day. We would neither confirm nor deny until we drove under that magical arch, but by the time we arrived at the airport, they had figured it out.

    The Christmas gift trip worked out well too, in a different way. We didn’t overspend on “things” that no one really needs. The actual trip was far enough away (March) that everyone could prepare and help plan, but not too far that the waiting seemed endless. (Although, lets face it: by the time we are three months out, Mom already has everything planned anyway!)We did a “reveal” with a big box full of Mickey balloons, but it took them a few minutes to catch on, which surprised me!

    The surprises worked out well for us, but again, you need to know the personality of your family members to decide if it is a good idea or not. As the planner, I’m not sure how I would feel if someone surprised ME with a trip that I didn’t get to plan! Although I’m sure a Dole Whip would help me get over it…

  • November 29, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    We chose not to surprise our 2 kids (5 and 3). The first reason is because it is the older child’s birthday and he was asking about his birthday party. We wanted him to be aware ahead of time that it was not happening this year! I was also afraid of him being to afraid of going on some of the scary rides so I wanted them to watch youtube videos to be prepared and know what to expect and they can make good decisions on which ones will and won’t scare them. The unexpected outcome is that it has been a joy planning with them! They have felt like big shots picking out the hotel (I gave them a choice) and watching videos about the them parks. We ordered maps so they can mark where they want to go. The joy of spending the time planning with my little ones have been worth it!! They are even helping me with the customized Touring Plans!

    As for the toys on his birthday… we got a $50 gift card when we opened up a Disney credit card – that will be his “gift” – he will have free reign of the stores at the Magic Kingdom and it will not cost us any extra money.

    Cannot wait for my boys first trip in January!

  • November 29, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    2 years ago we surprised our son with a stay at Great Wolf Lodge.. Drove up said… surprise, we’re staying here for your birthday!! his reaction.. “okay”… major let down for the parental units.

    We leave for the World in 2 days, he’s helped plan, watched the rides online (to get him used to new things) and can’t wait to go. He’s been looking at a countdown clock on my clock everyday for 3 months, and now, for the last week, he’s been waking up 30 minutes earlier than normal, and first thing runs to look at the counter… this kid is excited!!

  • November 30, 2012 at 4:53 am

    When my daughter was 4 (she’s 16 now) I surprised her with a trip to WDW. She was really into Disney Princesses at the time and talked about going back to to Disney World again for months and months (we had been the previous year). I told her it was too expensive though (we live in the UK) all the time secretly planning the trip. At 3am on the big day we woke her up (our flight was early) and asked her where in the world she would most like to go today, imagining she would of course say WDW – but oh no, her reply – the swimming pool! She obviously just didn’t get it, maybe it was the early hour, or maybe she’d well and truly believed me when I said we couldn’t afford it. However, once we explained it she was unbelievably excited and we had a great trip.
    This year, as we were planning our trip which she knew well about in advance, I asked her if she would have liked it if I’d sprung the trip on her as a surprise to which the answer was a resounding NO. She said that half the fun of the trip is the actual planning, shopping for new clothes, making dinner reservations, watching ride video’s on You Tube etc. Not to mention that if it had been a surprise she might have made plans that she would have had to cancel and would have been disappointed if she’d been looking forward to them.
    I think surprises are great, but you have to take into account the age and personality of those involved – what might work on one occasion, will not work on another.
    Having said that – I know that if I did spring a surprise on her, even now, she wouldn’t complain about it – after all – its WDW!!!!!

  • November 30, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    We made spur-of-the-moment plans for a long weekend at WDW during the holidays one year, so we were able to surprise our kids a few days in advance of the trip. That was fun; it was completely out of the blue and they were totally excited. But my kids get a lot of enjoyment from the anticipation, and their knowing adds to the fun. WDW vacations aren’t cheap; I think you get more bang for the buck if you let the kids in on the good news. 🙂

  • November 30, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    For our son’s first trip to WDW, we arranged for a special call from Mickey on Xmas day (I think it was a 2008 promotion) to let him know we were going. The only problem was that the robo call kept dropping (like 5 times!!!!) so my dh finally called himself and pretended to be Mickey. Our son was excited but a little confused. A few hours later, Mickey finally got through, and after they hung up, he was still confused. So we explained that we were really going to Disney World. He didn’t understand. And then he started going crazy when it finally hit that it was true! So… it didn’t go as we expected it to, but the surprise worked in the end. And it was a fantastic birthday present for him.

  • December 1, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    No right way/wrong way; everyone’s family is different. Our child’s first trip was to celebrate her 6th birthday; we told her on her 5th birthday and simply had the most wonderful year reading and planning and preparing for her first trip to WDW. Those memories are just as special as the ones we experienced in the parks. By the time she was a teen and I ‘suggested’ we go to WDW “this weekend” (already booked!), we were old pros at knowing what we ‘had to’ do and where we could leave room for new experiences.
    I trust parents know their children and have given the matter much thought before making a decision. This is an excellent post! It allows parents the luxury of so much relevant information to assist with the process.

  • December 1, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    We are planning a surprise trip to Disney. Santa is leaving a big box with balloons and the vacation details. We leave Dec 31st so the wait is not too long. The kids (7+2) have been talking about DisneyWorld for months. The 7yo wants to go so bad he said he would save up so he can help us pay for a trip when he’s 8 or 9. And of course the 2 year old wants nothing but “Merida” happy will she be to meet her in real life!

  • December 3, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    We decided not to surprise our boys, who are 7 and 5 years old respectively. In part it had to do with personality. The oldest one needs time to adjust to any change. We would NOT have gotten the reaction we would be looking for. Also this is our first trip and the boys would not have fully understood where we were going. It has allowed us to watch videos of all the rides, which then helped them come up with a list of rides that they absolutely had to do. I agree with another poster that stated you can get more bank for your buck if it isn’t a surprise. We have a countdown calendar, we’ve been watching old Disney movies and they’ve been planning along with us. As it is their first time and we leave in 4 days I can honestly say that they are incredibly excited and I think have a better understanding of where we are going and (hopefully) a less overwhelming experience!

  • December 3, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Quoth the middle kid in an infamous video I won’t link to (but was the first thing I thought of), “But I wanted to go to Dick’s house?!?”

  • December 3, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    As a little girl in elementary school I got surprised with a trip to Disney. I remember Mom telling me that I wasn’t going to wear the outfit that we picked out last night, but a different one because we were going to Disney World, I was sooooo excited. It’s a wonderful memory.

  • December 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    We went the surprise route. All their bags had been packed for a “possible” weekend at the beach if their father was able to get time off. Their surprise wake up call was at 0345 a.m. for a 0600 flight – first day of summer vacation. The wake up call was the old Mickey Mouse Club song being blasted from the multi-room stereo speaker system. My husband was yelling “Let’s go, let’s go….this is not a drill!!!” They had about 10 minutes to brush teeth and put their clothes on before they were in the car and eating breakfast. No tears, but lots of confusion until it sunk in on the drive to the airport.

    • December 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      That’s great! I think we will do the same thing. Debated telling them Christmas morning but I think it will be overshadowed by their love of new dinosaurs. We’re going Jan 2nd and will probably wake them up and tell them where we’re going. Boys are 3 and 5 and have been before.

  • December 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    This article arrived at the perfect time. We are getting ready to surprise my 5yr old next week. We were trying to decide how to surprise her. We have a few presents we are giving her before the trip. Thought about telling her the night before we go as it will be really crazy in the morning. If any of you have any tips for making this a memorable surprise please share! I would love your imput. (My daughter loves surprises of any kind) Thanks!

    • December 4, 2012 at 5:58 pm

      Article on this topic coming this week. Stay tuned!

  • December 5, 2012 at 11:58 am

    My brother and his family moved from Alabama to California last year and our kids used to be really close. We planned a surprise trip to Disneyland/San Diego this summer for them. We told my son we were taking my friend to the airport, when we got there he asked if we could go to and we said “Sure!”. We were flying into Las Vegas and we just ‘ran into’ my brother and his family there. We spent one night at their house then drove two hours to “dinner” which was at Disneyland. The boys were so engrossed with playing cards together in the car that we couldn’t get them to look out the window to see the big Mickey wheel and had to bring them flyers of Disneyland from the hotel lobby instead to reveal the surprise. It was a great trip!

  • April 4, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Your advice is SOOO TRUE! The delivery of the surprise is KEY to the kids’ reactions! Your level of excitement in the reveal will have a huge effect on theirs!! See our video! The surprise turned out GREAT! (And the trip was AMAZING!)

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