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'We're Going to Disney World!!!' Tips & Ideas to Surprise Your Kids

by Mommy Frog on December 15, 2016 26 Orlando

'Tis the season for parents surprising their children with trips to Disney. Vacations are great Christmas gifts, and pulling off a great reveal can make the trip memorable before you’ve left the house.

Today we're sharing a few ideas on how we've surprised the tadpoles and yours too. We’ll also give you some tips and things to consider when planning the big surprise. No matter whether you're headed to Disney World or Disneyland, we've got plenty of ideas for telling the tadpoles, "Surprise! We're going to Disney!"

Now, keep in mind that not all children handle this type of surprise well and it’s possible that the video moment—the one you want to get TONS of likes and shares—may not happen like you want it to.

Surprise! We're going to Disney! - Woody

Two Approaches to Surprising Your Kids With a Trip to Disney World or Disneyland

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

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!

'We're Going to Disney' Tips and Things to Keep in Mind

  • Some parents create a fake destination story (Visiting a relative or hanging with mom/dad while they attend a conference). 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 somewhere else. Even if this somewhere else is Disney. While this is hard to believe, you need only do a search on YouTube to see documented examples of a dream reveal gone wrong.
  • 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 prospect and have an immediate meltdown. Because Tad and Lily have visited the parks before, they are better able to handle an immediate surprise trip to the parks. I will note that I was a little worried about how rowdy they were going to be on the plane a few years ago. For the benefit of our fellow air travelers, we allowed no sugar consumption at the airport!!
  • If you’re planning a 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. A month to you could feel like YEARS to them. Depending on the child’s age, a few days might be in order. For older children, a month or even longer might be possible and would allow them to get involved in the planning — which can be a great bonding experience and create excitement about the trip. With advance planning, you can also create calendars or crafting projects to help children countdown to the big day.
  • You can use this approach to space out "clues" if they would like, which also helps children anticipate a big surprise. This works especially well for Christmas surprises. Parents can theme gifts around Disney and the trip (Mickey PJs and backpacks, for example) with the last "present" the big reveal.

'Surprise! We're Going to Disney!' Ideas

Surprise! We're going to Disney World! - Cinderella Castle

Here are five ideas that are sure to make your kids' reactions as priceless as Tad and Lily's were when they finally figured out that they were going to Disney!!

Send It in the Mail

Tad and Lily LOVE getting their own mail, so when they started receiving letters with clues they were so excited to have something addressed to them that it never dawned on them that these letters might mean something. I started about a month before our trip and sent a letter every few days. The first one was vague: "Dear Tad and Lily, It's been a while since we've seen you. We're beginning to think you've forgotten about us. We hope you can come back soon." (They were convinced it was a letter from their grandparents.) The clues got a little more specific each time until they received the last one which read: "We talked to your parents and they said it was OK. You're going to Walt Disney World in just a few days! Love, Mickey and the Gang."

Put the Puzzle Together

Here's how I did it: I got one of those huge foam boards (but a poster board would work just fine) and a package of markers. I wrote "You're going to Disney World!!!" in big, bright letters. Then I cut it in about 20 puzzle pieces and hid them all over the house...taped to the bottom of the coffee table, in the linen closet, under the popsicles in the freezer, everywhere. Tad and Lily are like bloodhounds when they think there's a surprise involved, so finding the pieces took all of about 10 minutes. After they gathered all the pieces, I video taped them arguing as they put the puzzle together, only to break into a full-on "happy dance" when they figured out what it said. We still watch it for great memories and a great laugh.

Pack Your Bags

Surprise! We're Going to Disney WorldThis one takes a bit of preparation, but the result is phenomenal. A few days before the trip, I packaged things up that the kids would be taking with them on vacation. I put their toiletries in one bag, their pajamas in another, I got them both new autograph books and markers that I put in gift bags ... you get the idea. Then the day before the trip while they were in school, I hid the packages around the house. When they got home, the fun began. Tad grumbled all the way to the dishwasher, but when he found his toothbrush and toothpaste where clean dishes should have been, he didn't know what was going on. Lily complained about having to get the clothes out of the dryer until she found their Disney pajamas inside. When they had gathered all the packages, I told them to bring them into our bedroom where they found their suitcases and backpacks. Tad's had a stuffed Mickey Mouse inside and Lily's had a stuffed Minnie Mouse. Both had a note that read "Now that you're all packed, you're going to Disney World!"

Small Gifts Lead to a Big Surprise

This is similar to Pack Your Bags, but it’s all done in one sitting. In this approach, you build up to the big reveal with smaller things. First, I purchased items that they would use on their trip—travel size toothpaste, a book to read on the trip, sunscreen. Then I bought some Disney vacation items—personalized Ear Hats, MagicBands, autograph books and such. I wrapped all the gifts and we gathered the family together. First, I handed them each a box with an obscure item—I think it was toothpaste. From there, the gifts built up to the final item—the Ear Hats. Taped inside each hat was a note reading, "You’re Going To Disneyland!"

Status Update = OMG GOING 2 DISNEY!!!

If your tadpoles are on social media, give them the surprise status update of their life. The evening before your reveal, wait until they’re asleep. Before you head to bed, post a new status update announcing the trip and tag them in the update. Perhaps include a picture of a past trip or video announcing the trip. Be creative with the different platforms. Do a video for Snapchat or tag them in an Instagram photo of the matching vacation shirts you'll wear. #BestFrogParentsEver

Give Video Clues

Use videos from our YouTube channel of attractions your kids don't necessarily know are at a Disney park. Here's a sample list of video clues: Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, Finding Nemo - The Musical, Jedi Training Academy, Disney Junior - Live On Stage, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and of course, the Park Opening when Mickey officially opens Magic Kingdom. You could also make a video of yourself announcing "We're going to Disney World!" as the final clue. You can tailor the list to suit your children's ages and likes.

Surprise! We're Going to Disneyland! - Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen

When the Surprise Is a Surprise

Making a surprise trip to Disney can be a surprise onto itself. Find a way to reveal the trip when they least expect it. Hang a large "We’re Going to Disneyland!" sign in the shower or leave a small note in their lunchbox. Write the surprise on a window or leave a message at the bottom of a box of doughnuts. While we're all about leaping, we caution you about jumping out from behind a couch or door with a huge sign. A scared tadpole won't be interested in any kind of vacation.

Keep It a Secret Until You've Arrived

Surprise! We're Going to Disney World - Disney's Hollywood Studios Entrance

This one is either the absolute best way to surprise your kids OR the absolute worst way to surprise your kids. Here's what happened when I kept our trip a secret up until the moment we drove under the big Walt Disney World sign. Tad and Lily literally thought we were going to a local park. When I turned around in my seat and announced, "Surprise!!! You're at Disney World!!!" Lily screamed with joy. She began thanking her father and me for being the best parents in the whole entire world, she promised that she would be a good girl and never get in any trouble the rest of her life, she announced "Watch out, Mickey! I'm on my way!" It honestly sounded like an Academy Award acceptance speech. Tad, on the other hand, went into a panic. The spontaneity of the whole thing did not sit well with him at all. Keep these two scenarios in mind if you're thinking of keeping it a secret up until the last minute.

The surprise arrival works best if your tadpoles don’t connect their destination with Disney. It’s possible to take a flight to Southern California, rent a car and drive right up to the Disneyland Resort—all without so much as hint as to Disney being there. The Orlando airport features huge Disney, Universal and SeaWorld gift shows, so while you may be able to get them to Orlando, it can be a challenge to keep your travel plans quiet upon landing. Think about springing the surprise at the gate once you’ve landed.

Here’s a few of the ways our readers surprised their children with trips to Disney:

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."

Parents, are you planning a surprise trip to Disney World or Disneyland? Share your ideas in comments below! And for those of you who have done a "we're going to Disney" surprise, how did it go? For more vacation planning tips, check out the When to Visit Orlando page inside our Orlando Planning Timeline!

Hoppy Planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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Sue Dec 15, 2016 at 6:15 p.m.

We go to Disney World just about every year, but had to cancel one year. We tried to plan a drive to visit my brother in Indiana for that week, but that too got cancelled. We told our boys we had rescheduled the Indiana trip for a couple of months later, but were flying out this time, with a non-direct flight. A few days before the trip, I told the boys I received an email from the airline that we would have a second stopover added in, and that it would be either through Atlanta or Orlando. The next day, I told them it would be Orlando. When we landed in Orlando, we were on our way to the "next gate", and my husband accidentally mentioned that we left the secure area. The boys panicked, so I told them we could get on the elevator, go downstairs, cross to another elevator, and go back up. When we got downstairs, we were right near the Magical Express counter, but they didn't suspect a thing. I took out my phone to record their reaction, and one son asked what I was doing. I told him I was checking our next flight. Then we told them we weren't going to another gate, but we had arrived at our destination. They didn't believe us and insisted we were going to Indiana. I pulled out Magic Bands since the cast members were ready to welcome us, and the boys still didn't believe us. It took a few minutes for the truth to sink in, and they were ecstatic! We also surprised them with my sister's arrival at Pop Century that night.

Melinda B Nov 4, 2016 at 11:12 p.m.

I just booked our trip for next October. Our daughter will be turning 10 while we are there. My husband and I have ever been to WDW. Our daughter's bff has been there 3 times now and she gets to hear all about it. I told her its too expensive and we can't afford it. Well one set of grandparents live in Tennessee. So I just told her we are going to fly down down with the other grand parents and celebrate her birthday down there next year and rent a cabin in the Smoky's. Well she was a little bummed about not having a party with her friends instead. We are supposed to fly down to Disney on a Friday and her birthday is that on the plane ride....towards the end of the flight...for the sake of other travelers....we were going to give her an early "goofy" birthday card and have a print out of our Disney reservation/itinerary inside and write "CHANGE OF PLANS...WE'RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!!" written in the card. I am almost more excited about her reaction that the trip itself!

Ashley Dec 28, 2015 at 5:49 a.m.

I love the idea of the letters! Do you still have them? Would you be willing to share the content and more info about how many and how often?

Trevor Jan 11, 2016 at 4:01 p.m.

Wife and I, Just Surprised my 6 year old with a trip to Disney World

Check out this video on YouTube:

Chris Jan 18, 2016 at 9:13 p.m.

We did as well a couple of years ago. Definitely a video we will keep around!

MrsSmith Nov 27, 2015 at 1:23 p.m.

We are flying out on January 3, and they will open it on Christmas morning. There are some great ideas here, in the post and comments. I like the puzzle idea.

Skyler roberts Dec 20, 2015 at 2:56 a.m.

My girlfriend and I are flying out on the 4th of January. She won't know till the night before. We have a son and my parents are going to watch him. He is only 8mo old. I am going to propose at Disney.

Melissa Aug 26, 2016 at 12:55 a.m.

That is very sweet!

Gigi4 Jul 25, 2015 at 1:35 p.m.

Does anyone know of a service that will do the mailings for you I'd like for the addresses to be different than our home address. We want to surprise our grandkids with surprise mailed invitations

to Disney....

Catherine Jul 1, 2015 at 3:22 p.m.

To surprise our son with a Disney vacation, we made a letter from Mickey Mouse for him to find in the mail and a video on iMovie about his Disney vacation. He loved it!

momma b Jun 14, 2015 at 3:42 p.m.

I originally was planning Santa to deliver a ticket to Walt Disney World on Christmas morning and then my husband and I would buy our 5 year old a plane ticket for a Christmas gift. Well, now my parents are coming as well and my dad would like to rent an RV and drive down. SO, my question is how should I still have Santa give the gift of Disney and how do I make it a great present on Christmas morning? We are driving from WI leaving Dec. 23 and would like to stop somewhere Christmas Eve close to Orlando that way we can go in on Christmas after Santa delivers her present. Any thoughts would be helpful :-)

Roxy Sep 1, 2015 at 12:22 a.m.

Hi Momma B, How about this, since you will be traveling, on your stop on Christmas Eve have your child hang this in the window of the RV. That way Santa can track her since she is traveling for Christmas!

FrogBlog Jun 22, 2015 at 8:09 a.m.

Hi Momma B,

I think you can still do this, although since you will already be on the road, you have to tell your child you're going somewhere. Is it possible that Santa could come early since you are leaving for your trip? That way, he could also deliver some Disney-related gifts that could be used in the parks or along the way? That is probably how I would do it, although others reading this may have other ideas ;)

Mommy Frog

Kimberly Mar 30, 2015 at 3:07 p.m.

I am waiting to tell my 8 yr old that we are taking a vacation until we are in the car! We have 2 destinations so double the fun. Bought a big lot of trading pins cheaply on ebay and getting other stuff to make 2 trip baskets. I can't wait!

Sarah Nov 8, 2014 at 5:10 a.m.

We are headed to Disney World for the first time this week and are surprising our 7yo daughter. We are picking her up from school and I made a hangman puzzle that will spell out "We are going to Disney World...tonight!!!" We will then get picked up and taken to the airport!!! SO EXCITED!

Lisa Robertson Nov 3, 2014 at 7:45 p.m.

We just surprised my 7 year old with a trip to Disney the week of Oct 27- 31. We gave him clues at the front door. The first one was a free pass out of school for 1 week. The second one was Get ready for a trip of a life time. He enter the door to see all of his family waiting for him to a sign that that he was going to Disneyland. We have it on video and it is amazing to see him speechless. Everyone in the room had tears in their eyes. It was GREAT!!!! We had a AWESOME time at DISNEY......

Marin Jul 8, 2014 at 10:53 p.m.

These are such great ideas post more

Disneylover8 Jun 8, 2014 at 9:25 p.m.

I know every ride at Walt disney world so 4 is off but I would be happy if u could add more I love all the ideas

‘Surprise! We’re Going to Disney World!’ — Our Latest Trip and Stealth Planning Tips Dec 13, 2012 at 1:45 p.m.

[...] 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 [...]

Eric Sep 5, 2012 at 9:46 p.m.

A year in the making, our 2010 visit was a complete surprise for our boys, then twelve and ten. In fact, they didn't know until we got on the Disney bus at MCO. Imagine keeping a secret for months, creating a complete ruse at the airport, on the plane and landing. Parents, this is exhausting on so many levels. But the excitement on their face is so worth the effort.

Alejandra Porras Oct 25, 2016 at 10:03 p.m.

We are planing the exact surprise for our 11 year old son, we are going for Halloween week and he has no idea, i would like some tips on how to break the news to him right after arriving at the airport... any tips?

KAthe Oct 23, 2016 at 2:44 a.m.

HOw did you keep it a secret at your departing airport? Taking our 5 and almost 3 year old great grandkids and have been planning it for 17 months but now curious on how and when to tell them.Do not want to get to airport to leave and someone say something and ruin the surprise

Paula Sep 5, 2012 at 6:32 p.m.

We just returned from a surprise Disney World trip for the kids, and it was a great success! We woke our son and daughter up at 5am, since we had an early flight, and gave them cards with all the letters in "Disney World". They had to figure out our destination by using the letters on the cards. The kids are 9 and 5 and together they worked it out. The 5 year old actually figured it out first! Both were surprised and shocked; and, of course, we were the "best mommy and daddy EVER".

I think the hardest thing about the surprise was packing the bags in secret.

Jacob May 14, 2012 at 6:25 a.m.

I think i'll skip 4. My kids litrally know everyride in disney

Brianne Apr 17, 2012 at 3:52 p.m.

Last year all my son wanted was to be at Mickey's House for his 5th birthday and if he couldn't have it, he was just going to skip 5 and turn 6. I bought a few Vinylmations and sent him on a treasure hunt - each one had a new clue that ultimately let him to a treasure chest in his sandbox where he found park maps, a toy airplane and a shirt that said, "I'm Going to Mickey's House for my 5th Birthday!" I don't think he fully understood because he kept saying are we really going tomorrow Mommy and we have to pack (which of course I had done). Early the next morning we got up for our 6am flight and he didn't really believe it until he got his Birthday ears and new shirt on to head for the airport. He had the best birthday!

dejiana Nov 21, 2014 at 4:48 p.m.

is it fun were is it at

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