I’m sitting here enjoying several things: Magic Kingdom Background music on my computer (I’ve already gone up Main Street, USA, turned left and wandered Adventureland, then veered north where I’m currently in Frontierland), my nice comfy Walt Disney World blue hood sweatshirt (which feels extra comfy on this dreary, rainy Wisconsin day) and finally, the fact that I have a trip to Disney World coming up in 35 days. The best part about that last item is that my kids have no idea it’s coming. For the first time ever, we’re planning a surprise trip.
My family’s situation is a bit different than most, in that my wife’s parents live 45 minutes from Mickey’s doorstep. They are our children’s only living grandparents, so the kids (and us, and the grandparents) really enjoy our visits. Since we are separated by 1200 miles, 7 states and a time zone we don’t get as many visits in per year as anyone would like. If we’re lucky, we’ll get down there twice a year, and they’ll come up to our house once or twice.
When the visits are over, the kids are pretty heartbroken. So it helps to be able to tell the kids things like “we’ll be back down in June” or “Grandma & Grandpa will be up to our house for your birthdays” (The kids’ birthdays are one day apart in October). We always have a date and time in the future that the kids have to look forward to the next time they can see their grandparents. And because of that, we’ve never been able to plan a surprise trip. Until now.
Last fall we started planning a family trip to Houston to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Houston, TX over my daughter’s school’s Easter Break. The plan was to fly down on Good Friday, spend a few days, then return on Wednesday. We’d spend the rest of the week around home, taking care of all of those odd jobs that never seem to get done. Then in February, my wife was talking to her mom and found out that her dad has been having a pretty rough time. His father recently passed away, and after spending several weeks with his family in Northern Wisconsin, was once again feeling isolated down there in Florida. My wife approached me with the idea of spending the last half of the week in Florida with them.
We hadn’t purchased our plane tickets yet, so I started looking into the pricing of adding another leg to our trip. Southwest had some pretty good deals, so booked a flight from Houston to Orlando. I called DVC Member services and booked 4 nights in a standard view at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kinani Village and set up Magical Express. We have Annual Passes from out December trip, so tickets aren’t a problem. I made one ADR – O’Hana. We know it will be busy because it’s Easter Week, so our touring plan will be very relaxed – do what we can and just enjoy the time with family. And just like that, we had a trip planned and we still haven’t told the kids.
We talked about it (in hushed tones and using code so the little rugrats won’t catch wind of our plans) and have decided to not tell them at all. They already know that we’re going to Houston, so packing bags and driving to the airport won’t be a surprise. If they notice and question why our departing flight is going to Orlando, we’ll just tell them we have a layover. (We won’t tell them that it’s a 4 day layover 🙂 ) Part of the excitement for us is wondering when they will figure it out. At the Magical Express counter? On the bus? Once we drive under the Magical Sign that announces your arrival at the Happiest Place on Earth? And what will their reaction be? Jumping up and down? Screaming? Disbelief?
I have heard both sides of the argument for surprise trip vs. involving the kids from the get go. Some kids may really enjoy helping to plan – picking out ADRs, must-do rides, etc. Other kids will drive their parents crazy everyday by asking “are we going to Disney World today?” Our kids have always been involved in the planning. From the resort to the park days to the dining – they get a say in everything. So this trip will be very different and very special for us.
So what say you, Dis Dad’s Universe? To Surprise or Not to Surprise? Have you done a surprise trip? Let your voice be heard in the comments section!