Last week, I talked about whether you should surprise your kids with a Walt Disney World vacation. Let’s assume you’ve done the family analysis and decided that you do want to make a your Disney vacation a surprise. Here are some ideas on how to make that surprise happen. I’ve broken this up by general categories of “reveal,” but there is some crossover among them.
REVEAL VIA TRANSPORTATION, Driving Version
If you’re driving to Walt Disney World, you can reveal the trip en route. You may want to do this by:
- Asking the child to input a WDW address into your GPS unit.
- Asking the child to look up something on a map. Have a “We’re going to Disney World” message written on the map, or place a big “You are going here” sticker over WDW.
- Telling the child that you’re heading to a different destination. See how long it takes for him to realize you’re going in the wrong direction.
- Change the lock screen of your portable entertainment unit (iPad, portable DVD player, etc.) to read “We’re going to Disney World.” Hand it to him during the trip for on the road entertainment.
- Create a car bingo game featuring only items that can be found on the way to Walt Disney World.
- Decorate the exterior of the car with Disney related magnets/stickers/streamers. When the child heads to the car for a routine errand (trip to school, etc.), he’ll ask why the car has gotten a makeover.
- Place water bottles (sippy cups, etc.) in your child’s cup holder. When he gets a drink he’ll see a “We’re going to Disney World” message that you’ve stuck on the bottle.
- Stock the car with Disney themed snacks. Target always offers a range of Disney branded juice boxes, fruit rollups, and fresh fruit. Ask the child to save a Mickey juice box to share with Mickey later in the day.
- Make a surprise chalk drawing of Mickey on your driveway.
REVEAL VIA TRANSPORTATION, Flying Version
Some of the auto transportation ideas can be adapted for flying, but presumably once the child realizes he’s getting on a plane headed to Orlando, he’ll figure it out. If you’re heading to Los Angeles, a Disneyland surprise trip via plane might be easier to conceal.
- Invent a non-Disney reason to be headed to the airport (dropping mom/dad off for a business trip, etc.) Say you’ve changed your mind about business, are chucking it all, and going to WDW.
- Invent a non-Disney air travel trip (going to grandma’s house). Ask child to check the gate number on the ticket. He’ll see the Orlando destination.
- If you have a small child who does not realize that Orlando=Disney, you can ask a flight attendant on the plane to deliver a note/package “from Mickey” which includes the revealing information.
- Use an unusual transportation method to get to the airport (limo, antique car). When the child asks what’s going on, say that a special trip needs special transportation.
REVEAL VIA TANGIBLE GIFT
Really anything Disney related can be wrapped up in a box with a bow as a birthday or holiday gift. See if you child “gets it” when he opens a package containing:
- An assortment of plush Disney toys, DVDs, books, etc.
- A Disney gift card.
- Disney parks guide books. The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is a lovely choice for an older child.
- A selection of Disney parks maps.
- Disney-themed clothing, or special pirate or princess attire.
- Disney-themed helium balloons. Perhaps a message/note describing the trip can float out of the box.
- A packing list.
- An empty photo album labeled “Disney vacation pictures.”
- For a child who has never been on a Disney trip before, a personalized Disney tree ornament.
- Personalized ear hats, autograph book, sunscreen, other vacation essentials.
REVEAL VIA SPECIAL MESSENGER
Here the fun comes from the method of reveal delivery.
- If you live in the NY Tri-state Area, visit Manhattan and ask one of the knock-off “Mickey” characters to tell your child he’s going to Disney World.
- Dress a plush Mickey, your dog, the child’s babysitter, or anyone else special in a “You’re going to Disney World” tee shirt.
- Ask a cast member at your local Disney store to tell your child about the trip.
- Disney periodically offers promotions in which character will call your home with a special message for your child. Keep an eye out for the return of this service. As an alternative, enlist a creative friend to pose as Mickey and break the news.
- Order customizable fortune cookies. Ask the server to give one to your child after your favorite Asian meal.
- Serve your child a meal of all Mickey-shaped food. (Mickey pancakes are easy to make.) Hide a reveal message under his plate. He’ll see it when he clears.
- Mom and Dad make a “We’re going to Disney World” video and post it to an older child’s Facebook page during the night. Child will see it when he checks his page in the morning.
- Have “Mickey” send an invitation to the trip via snail mail.
- Have your child pose for photos (like the family holiday card photo) instead of asking them to say “cheese” ask them to say “We’re going to Disney World.”
- After a major sporting event or American Idol finale, tape the commercial of the winner saying “I’m going to Disney World.” Tell the child that they’re going too. Works particularly well if you child is fan of the winner.
- Order a cake from a local bakery. Ask them to decorate it with a “We’re going to Disney World” message.
- Ask the department store Santa to break the news.
- Spell out the reveal with refrigerator magnets.
- Write a “We’re Going to Disney World” message in soap on their bathroom mirror. They see when they wake up.
- For an older child, create an app for the trip and surreptitiously load it onto his phone.
REVEAL VIA CLUES
Make the kids work for their surprise trip by revealing it via a puzzle or game.
- Write your reveal message on a create-your-own jigsaw puzzle. Have child solve the puzzle.
- Make a crossword puzzle or word search with all Disney-related clues.
- Make a scavenger hunt with the trip reveal as the prize.
- At a party, have the child break open a Disney-themed pinata, clues to the trip will be released when the pinata breaks.
- Place a dozen or more small Disney trinkets (Vinylmations, Disney-themed cars, action figures, bulk trading pins from eBay) in places where the child will happen upon them: in their shoes, in the lunch box, in their bed, etc. Reveal the news when the child asks what’s going on.
- For a spring trip, hide clues inside plastic Easter eggs prior to a family egg hunt.
- Fill your home with “Hidden Mickeys.” Put the dinner plates in a Mickey shape, put loose change on the table in a Mickey shape, arrange round pillows in a Mickey shape, etc. See if the child notices and then tell him.
You can be as creative as you like in designing your big surprise reveal. You can use these ideas as springboard, but be sure to consider the age and maturity of the child when devising your plan. Some kids need to be eased into new and surprising information, while others can be hit with an “Oh My, Oh Wow, OH WOW” piece of news and take it in stride.
Are you planning to surprise your kids with a trip this holiday season? Let us know what method you used and how it went. Happy travels!