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Surprising the kids with a Disney vacation

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Can you keep a secret? A really big secret?

If so, you might be a parent or grandparent who wants to surprise the special child in your life with the news that your family is going on a Disney cruise, to Walt Disney World or another Disney theme park. There are so many fun and easy ways to deliver this one-of-a-kind message. It's really just a matter of choosing what works best for your family.

Since my family and I live in Orlando and are fortunate to have Disney World annual passes, there's little surprise in showing up there. But boarding a DCL cruise ship remains a very special occasion. Before my children, then ages 7 and 5, stepped onto the Disney Wonder for our first family cruise a few years ago, I knew I wanted to completely surprise them with the news. I began gathering items in preparation for the big reveal, which would be a themed family lunch and movie.

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First, I ordered the Disney Cruise Line planning video, which is free. (This takes several weeks to arrive, so order early, if possible.) Next, I looked on eBay for kids' pirate costumes for Pirates IN the Caribbean night on the Wonder. I knew my daughter would want to dress up. My son was going through a phase where he thought dressing up was for kids younger than him, so we got him a cool Mickey pirate T-shirt.

Then, I made a trip to one of the Walt Disney World outlet stores in the Orlando area to scope out the DCL merchandise. These stores carry theme-park quality merchandise that has been discontinued or overstocked, and prices are routinely 40 to 50 percent off. I found some cruise T-shirts, photo albums and trinkets. (Back then, the outlets were the only places on land that guests could purchase DCL merchandise. Now, a nice selection is available on DisneyStore.com.)

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So, while their dad took them to soccer practice, I transformed the kitchen table into a party scene with all my goodies. When they came home for lunch, they were stunned to see everything and knew what it all meant. We had a fun lunch, discussing what we were all looking forward to, and afterward we watched the planning DVD. Parents with an interest in cooking could also make a recipe or two that is served on the ship. (Be sure to check out the AllEars.Net index of hundreds of official recipes from Disney Cruise Line and Walt Disney World.)

When we broke the news that we would set sail on the Disney Dream last year, we drove the kids out to Port Canaveral. They didn't find this unusual because we have been going to nearby Jetty Park beach for years. But instead of entering the state park, we pulled into a channel-side parking lot where we could see the ship and share our news. Afterward, we went to lunch and again discussed the upcoming trip. Every other sentence in that conversation contained the word "AquaDuck!"

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For our family, the anticipation of the trip is a big part of the fun, so we like to have time to plan and dream about what's to come. Some parents, however, revel in the awe they see when their kids realize they are not going to Grandma's house and instead are about to land in Orlando. For those folks, the trick is not in planning a reveal but in being able to keep the secret a lot longer.

Recently, my parents, who live in another state, used a video call to tell all the grandkids that their Christmas present will be a cruise on the Disney Fantasy in December. I tried to persuade them to wear their snorkel gear for the big announcement, but my parents didn't need any special props to excite the kids for what awaits.

Have a creative way to share the news of an upcoming Disney vacation? We'd love to hear about it in the comments.

The previous post in this blog was Tips for helping your kids start pin trading at Disney World.

The next post in this blog is SeaWorld Orlando features fun summer-only entertainment.

Comments (10)

Tim:

We're a little farther away from The World, so our strategy has to be a bit different. We want our 4-year-old to be able to handle the nearly 8 hours of travel and still be excited. We don't tell him until the morning we're leaving, but we do a lot of Disney stuff leading up to it to make him excited. Watching the planning DVDs, going through pictures of the last trip, and generally hyping it up. Then when we tell him he's so excited that he can handle the drive, security, and flight and just be getting worn out when we get on the Magical Express, just in time for him to see Mickey and get all excited again.

Elyssa:

I turned the tables on this and surprised my MOM with a WDW vacation this past Christmas. I put together a video of all of our past Disney trip photos and put text at the end that told her she was going to WDW. She was just happy to see all the pictures again, but was even more excited that a WDW vacation was in her future! Sometimes the kids have to pay back the parents. :)

Diane:

My 9 year old son & I had been to Disney 4 other times together but he wanted his Dad to go along with us as a family. We always do a family name exchange for Christmas, by drawing the names out of a basket. So, I took the names out of the basket and replaced the "names" with slips of paper stating: I AM GOING TO WALT DISNEY WORLD WITH MY MOM AND DAD.....
There were 9 family members present & we told my son to go ahead and "draw the names for our family out." He picked one out, read it, & started squealing and jumping up & down. No one else in the room knew about the surprise & had no clue what in the world was going on?!? So, he read what the slip of paper said & no one could believe it was true. They all looked at me & I was just as thrilled as he was! Oh, They wanted to know if we were still exchanging names & I produced the slips with the real Christmas exchange names for the drawing! They were all so jealous, and we went and had a wonderful time!!!! PS I recorded him reading the slip & it was priceless!

Dan in NH:

A few years ago when our kids were younger (and more easily tricked) we packed all the suitcases while they were in school and picked them up when they got out & told them we were going to the mall to do some shopping. The airport is like 2 miles from the mall road.

As we pulled into the Mall, we saw a plane taking off, and we said to them let's go over and watch a few. Some gripes and grumbling from them, but off we went. After we parked and walked in, I said I left something in the van, so I went back and got a carrier and loaded all the luggage..

My wife took the kids to the viewing area...both kids said "wish we were here to go to Disney!". So we said, well, let's go then!
They didn't believe we were really ready with tickets etc...so they didn't believe us until we went to the counter and checked in. The look on their faces was worth the effort.

Always reminds me of the first time we emerged from under the train station and they saw the castle for the first time (15 years ago!) and that look on their faces!! priceless!!! That's the job I want at Disney! Be a greater at the beginning of Main street...to see those looks every day! Never ever can you have a bad day at work!

Emma:

Love how you surprised your kids with the cruise!

I've not surprised anyone with an entire trip; but in the past I have planned surprise meals and events for my husband or people we're travelling with - I like to order something from the Disney Florist for our resort room, or book a backstage tour or carriage ride :)

Hey! Great Blog!
I am 25 years old and still wish my parents would surprise me one day with a trip. lol. I'm still dreaming. But with every trip I'm the planner. Lol. If I ever have kids of my own I'll surprise them. :)

Rachel:

We tried to surprise our son with a Disney visit when he was eight. We were driving down and we told him that we were going to visit grandma, who lived in Pompano Beach at the time. My mom had moved there about 2 years before and my son had only seen her once since the move. They were very close though, talking on the phone once a week.
About an hour outside of Orlando we broke the news. "We are going to Disney for 4 days!!"
My son's reply - "Is grandma going to be there?"
"Well, no but you'll see her after Disney."
He very calmly replied "Then I don't want to go."
We still laugh about this. Has to be the only kid who did not want to go to Disney World!

Jason Fuller:

We have suprised our son once before and we are about to do it again in a couple of weeks. We usually go once a year to WDW. We did not think we could go this year and my son was all wrecked up. Through a great Swan rate and travel vouchers for previous delays we booked a trip at the last minute. We will wake him in a couple of weeks and tell him we are going to spend the day in Houston(nearest airport) and see when he figures it out. Should be a blast.

Jennifer M.:

In 2007, my then 6 yr old daughter and I took a girls only trip to WDW (her first) and I told her we were going to the mall to shop for school clothes- then she saw the planes and questioned what kind of mall was this!

We are planning on going back in 2014 and the kids know that much-but they don't know when. It is our plan to pick them up on the last day of school with the bags packed and immediately head to the airport! I can't wait! It seems soooo far away!

Amy:

We can't wait to surprise our 5 kids! We are taking them on their first trip in October for two wks of Disney magic! The boys are 10, 8, and 7, and the girls are 3, and 4. We plan to send the boys to school and tell them they are getting picked up early for a Dr apt. On the way to the airport we will put in a custom made DVD with Mickey and the gang telling them "You're going to Disney World!".

I can't wait to get their screams and shouts on camera!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 19, 2012 9:15 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Tips for helping your kids start pin trading at Disney World.

The next post in this blog is SeaWorld Orlando features fun summer-only entertainment.

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