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'Surprise! We're Going to Disney World!' -- Our Latest Trip and Stealth Planning Tips

by Mommy Frog on December 13, 2012

Shh! Don’t tell Tad and Lily, but as we speak I am in the midst of putting the final touches on a surprise trip to Walt Disney World. They won't be expecting it at all. In fact, when I asked Tad what he wanted to ask Santa for Christmas, and I sneakily suggested a trip to Disney, he told me that he hadn't been that good!

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge at ChristmasSince the Frog Family loves the holidays, we can’t think of a better place to celebrate than Walt Disney World! And this holiday season will be even better since we’ll get to experience New Fantasyland™ as well as the re-imagined Test Track® Presented by Chevrolet! We can’t wait to share our lists with Santa Santa at the Festival of the Seasons and experience Christmas all over the world at Epcot®. And we’re staying at our very favorite deluxe resort -- the Disney’s Wilderness Lodge -- which always feels so cozy yet still impressive with its traditional Christmas decor. (By the way, we'd love to answer any questions you might have about any of these places while we're there.)

Rapunzel MinnieSince we’ve surprised Tad and Lily with trips to Disney World before, I am keeping it simple this time. My plan is to pick up Tad and Lily from school this afternoon and head straight for the airport! I’ve stealthily packed their bags already, so they have no idea it’s coming! I am going to put Lily’s miniature Rapunzel Minnie and Tad’s Goofy hat in the back seat with them to see if they ask questions when they get in the car. I can’t wait to see if they figure it out before we get to the airport. I’ll be sure and let you all know how it goes!

Planning your own surprise

With Christmas right around the corner, this is one of the biggest times of year that parents surprise their children with trips to Disney, so I thought it would be a good time to share our own insights as well as the many, many ideas that you readers have sent us.

When it comes to the surprise, there are two approaches to this:

1. Create an elaborate plan for surprising your kids with a trip in the near future

... OR ...

2. Surprise your kids with a trip to Disney right now!

A few tips for each of the approaches and things to keep in mind:

  • Be careful about misleading your children about where they are going. Children often get attached to the destination, and then are disappointed when they learn they are actually going to Disney instead. While this is hard to believe, you need only do a search on YouTube to see documented examples. The benefit of picking up Tad and Lily from school is that they will just assume they are going home.
  • If you’re thinking about planning a surprise trip to Disney right now, keep your child’s temperament in mind. Some children will literally be jumping for joy at the idea of a surprise Disney trip. Other children simply cannot process the magnificence of this and have an immediate meltdown. Because Tad and Lily have visited the parks before, they are better able to handle an immediate surprise, although I have to confess I am a little worried about how rowdy they’re going to be on the plane. For the benefit of our fellow air travelers, there will be no sugar consumption at the airport!!
  • Pixie Dust OrnamentIf you’re planning the trip in the future, surprise the kids when the trip is within a relatively short period of time. For younger children especially, the future is a nebulous concept. Depending on the child’s age, a few days might be in order. For older children, a month or even longer would be possible and will allow them to get involved in the planning -- which can be a great bonding experience and create excitement about the trip. Also with advance planning, parents can create calendars or other crafting projects to help children countdown to the big day.
  • Parents can use this approach to space out “clues” if they would like, which also helps children anticipate a big surprise. This approach works especially well for Christmas surprises. Parents can theme gifts around Disney and the trip (Mickey PJs and back packs, for example) with the last “present” the big reveal.

Here’s a few of the ways our readers surprised their children:

From Stacy F.: "We surprised our kids and my nieces and nephew this year by doing a scavenger hunt with clues. All the clues had little hints about Disney with either the names of rides or parades in them. Once they found the last clue it led them to a bag with T-shirts in them. Since we had 6 kids, each of the backs had a separate word on it that said "We Are Going To Disney World" on the back. They each opened them in age order and once they got to the last two everyone stood up together until the oldest two opened their bags and they put it all together to tell them they were going to Disney World."

From Angela H.: "We aren't going until the end of December. We are going to surprise our kids Christmas morning with tons of Disney stuff and tell them that we are going, but not tell them what day. Three days later on the 28th, we are going to wake them up at 3am and give them one more present, an I'm going to Walt Disney World shirt, tell them to put it on and get in the car. That's how I have it all planned out anyways, haha. Who knows what I'll decide on between now and then."

From Ellen E.: "One Christmas we wrapped boxes inside each other. The first one was huge! They thought it was a TV or something else. The next boxes were wrapped and nested and said "Guess", "Where", "You're", and "Going?". In the final box were autograph books, a stuffed Mickey and park maps. Once it clicked, they jumped around like crazy!"

From Linda D.: "I surprised my kids the first time. But now that they are 14 and twins that are 13, I get way more enjoyment in letting them plan the trip with me. That way they feel invested in the trip and are sure to get to do the things that they want to do."

You can read all of the ideas shared by our Facebook readers here and here.

Parents, are you planning to video your Disney surprise? Send us the link to your YouTube channel and we’ll share them with our readers!

Related: 5 Ways to Surprise Your Kids with a Trip to Disney

Related: Countdown to Disney - Ways to Get Hopped Up for Your Vacation

Happy surprising!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
Sort newest to oldest Sort oldest to newest
FrogBlog Dec 17, 2012 at 3:49 p.m.

Hey everyone --

I just wanted to let you all know the surprise went exactly as planned. Tad and Lily were so excited by the trip!

-- Mommy Frog

Christina Mar 15, 2013 at 6:05 p.m.

WE (I) have been in the midst of planning a surprise trip for our 4 yr daughter. WE are leaving the morning of her 5th birthday and will spend a week there along with my sister. I am so excited and the day can't get her quickly enough. i have ordered her new favorite disney princess dress to be packed and opened once we arrive at Disney. Our flight is way early in the am and the night before I will out her backpack filled with Disney stuff in the car along with her IT's My Birthday Mickey Ears. We aren't going to tell her, and see if she figures it out before we land in orlando.

FrogBlog Mar 18, 2013 at 2:19 p.m.

How exciting, Christina! Let us know how the surprise goes.

-- Mommy Frog

Red Apr 19, 2013 at 3:37 a.m.

so the hubby and I have had a trip to Disney planned since early January for our 8yr old daughter and 6yr old son. They believe that we are taking a planned vacation to innerharbor Maryland where the national aquarium, baltimore zoo and childrens museum is located. We showed them a tour book of places and they picked out their interests. We told them that we were not going to be able to go to all of the places due to the cost of admissions so they have no high expectations except to go to the aquarium to see the dolphins.....sound like Epcot to anyone else? We had told them that we looked into going to Disney but it was going to be to expensive for this year but we are trying for next year. They were a little disappointed but still hopeful knowing that we are trying for next year. I have even let them look at the disney website (without being logged in to disney). I have let them pick out some of their wishes and such for "next years trip maybe" which is helping me plan this trip including the hotel which surprisingly they both picked pop century. We are taking the train from Baltimore down to Orlando. When we are at the station my hubby and i have a skit planned where we try to get train tickets to inner harbor and well just so happens that all that is left is tickets to Orlando Fl. The next thing my kids will see is being handed disney gift cards that are printed YOUR GOING TO DISNEY!!!!! along with a Disney for Kids Tour Book. At least this is what is planned.....right now. We are going at the end of May 2013 and just cannot wait. It is the first time for our kids.

Rachelle Jul 12, 2014 at 1:33 a.m.

Slightly off topic-Where did you get the Minnie Mouse dressed as Rapunzel? My daughter would love that!

FrogBlog Jul 14, 2014 at 4:11 p.m.

Hi Rachelle,

We got it at the park a few years ago. I don't remember seeing it on our last trip (although I wasn't looking). You might try eBay.

Lily loves hers so much!

Mommy Frog

Drew Apr 2, 2015 at 7:38 a.m.

Longer ago than I care to remember, my parents took my brother and I to visit our grandparents in Calgary. Because we were 8 and 5, we really weren't paying all that much attention to details during the check-in and boarding for the flight home. We didn't find out we were going to Disneyland until the plane had already landed at LAX. Beat that. :)

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