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 may 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
This 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. 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!”
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: Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade, 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.
Keep It a Secret
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.
After you’ve announced the big surprise, you are going to need a few ways to pass the time until your trip. Read Countdown to Disney – Ways to Get ‘Hopped’ Up For Your Vacation.