Family Travel

Surprising Your Kids Doesn’t Always Work

For many families, there’s nothing better than surprising the kids with a trip, whether it be to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Grandma Judy’s house.

We’ll be taking our (almost) annual trip to Walt Disney World this May* and we’ll be there during the girl child’s sixth birthday. 

Walt Disney World Surprise isn't for everyone

As soon as I realized this, I started to think, “How awesome! We can totally surprise her with a trip for her birthday! I’ll wait until we’re on our way to the airport and I can tell her then! OMG I’ll take video of it and it’ll be the best thing everrrr!”

And then I realized how bad of an idea that truly would be.

You see, my kids aren’t keen on surprises. They like knowing what to expect ahead of time, especially Bunny. It’s not that they wouldn’t eventually be excited for the trip, because they would be. They realize how special any family trip is, so it’s not a matter of being spoiled. I imagine our surprise would go something like this:

Me: Guess what, guys? We’re on our way to the airport right now to go to Walt Disney World! ::waits for screams of joy with iPhone recording::
Bunny: What? Right now? But, I’m supposed to be at school. I want to go to school! I didn’t get to hug (insert random classmate here) and we have (insert random school holiday party here) and now I don’t get to bring cupcakes in for my birthday! And where’s LK?! And who’s going to watch kitty? ::starts to whine and cry::
Bubba: I WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL TOOOOOOOOO! ::starts to whine and cry because sissy is whining and crying::
Me: Guys! We’re going to Disney! Bunny! You get to spend your birthday at Disney!
Bunny: But, but, but, but!

Continue conversation for next thirty minutes, assuring them that their teachers know where they are, a house sitter will take care of the cat, and we’ll still bring in a treat for Bunny’s class. Spend entire plane ride realizing we forgot to pack a favorite stuffed animal or book, or that we didn’t pack the right snacks.

Don’t get me wrong; I love watching videos of kids getting all excited because their parents are surprising them with a trip. I totally admit to crying 99.9% of the time, but not every kid likes surprises. If yours doesn’t, it’s ok.

In fact, it’s more than ok. Since we broke the news to the kids tonight, they’ve been over the moon. We’re talking about where we’re going to stay, where we’ll eat, what they want to do, and how much fun it’s going to be. They’ll both help me pack their clothes and carry-on bags so we’re sure we have everything they want and need. Once we hit thirty days out, we’ll take our our Walt Disney World Vacation Countdown and flip the numbers together every morning before school.

There’s something to be said for the sweet reward after a few months of anticipation. I’m looking forward to spending the next 80-something days getting excited with my kids. It’s not the way that you tell the kids that makes the trip special. It’s spending time as a family and enjoying the destination…as well as the journey.

*This trip serves as my compensation for my participation on the 2014 Disney Parks Moms Panel. My thoughts here are my own and are no way endorsed or a reflection of the opinions of the Walt Disney family of companies.

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  • Reply Andrea (Lil-Kid-Things) February 27, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Woohoo! Star Wars weekends! I agree with you, the anticipation is half the fun! I wouldn’t want to take that from my kids. That said, you are brave. 80 days is one long paper chain!

  • Reply Cecilia @MommiesRun February 27, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    Haha I can picture my girls being the same way if we tried to surprise them. Worrying about everything else instead of being over the moon excited!

  • Reply Melinda February 27, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Thanks for sharing! My little guy is very rigid with his schedule & likes to know what to expect ahead of time too. I imagine when we do go to Disney there will be a pretty good amount of warning! 🙂

  • Reply Brian Skinner February 27, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    That was my plan for Brets birthday this past January. We had planned everything out right down to having a script for the day we would tell him as to not slip up. The plan was to pick him up from school and hand him his present which was the box of MagicBands and go straight to the airport. Then mother nature decided to change that, it snowed so no school. Then on to plan “B”, luckily everything was packed and stored away where he wouldn’t find it. Just 5 minutes before we were to walk out the door for the airport we gave him his surprise. I had 3 cameras running, had planned on filming every step of the weekend and compiling it into one great Birthday Surprise video. Then there was the surprise……pulled it off without a hitch, except there was no excitement on his part. It was like we just said we were going to get groceries.,,,,nothing. I was so disappointed, I was hoping for that jump up and down screaming excitement but….nothing. We went and had one amazing trip and it will be one birthday he will never forget, but the two months of sneaking around and planning everything in secret was for nothing.

  • Reply Jenn February 27, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    Awww! So exciting!

    If we tell little man too early, then we deal with DAYYYYYYYYSSSSSSSS of “Is it time? are we going? are we leaving today can we go right nowWHENISITTIMEAREWETHEREYET???!!!!?111!” And. Well.

    I can’t wait to hear all about this awesome trip!

  • Reply Meranda@fairytalesandfitness February 28, 2014 at 3:57 am

    Aww, as a teacher it is so cute to see that your children love school so much! Kids are so adapted to their routine and it’s perfectly okay if they don’t like surprises, especially something that big. Maybe you can surprise them in other ways once you get to WDW!

  • Reply Carolyn March 4, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    I couldn’t surprise my kids either – mainly because I can’t hold in my excitement haha. I love talking to my toddler about it in advance cause he gets SO excited!

  • Reply wendi March 4, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    There is a fine line between surprise and freaking them out…. oh and then having them drive you crazy about when you are leaving.

  • Reply Kerri March 6, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    We surprised our kids in January with birthday trip in the week between their actual birthdays. It was incredibly challenging to pull off the surprise. Friends and family kept encouraging us to “tell them at the airport!” Or “don’t tell them until you actually drive up through the gates!” My dtr does not like not knowing where we are going and surprises are stressful, not fun. In this case, we told them the night before and had time to reassure, but I will definitely tell them next time and really enjoy the countdown with them. She did not believe us until we were at airport!

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