I thought I’d lighten things up a bit this week and talk about one of the best aspects of a Disney World vacation: telling your kids that you’re going to one of the happiest places on Earth! There are so many creative ways to break the exciting news to your children, but your general approach will probably depend on whether you’ve decided to tell your kids about the trip from the beginning or whether you’ve decided to keep the vacation a secret.
For our first Disney World vacation, Eric (my husband) and I wanted to surprise Jack and Sadie (our kids), and we planned to withhold the big news from them until the morning of our departure. The night before our trip, I made a series of one-word signs that together spelled out "We Are Going to Disney World", and I hung them going down the hallway and the stairs. On the day of our trip, bags already packed, we woke Jack and Sadie up and told them that it was time to get ready for school. When the kids emerged from their rooms, Jack saw the signs and read them aloud to Sadie. I held my breath, waiting for what I could only assume would be the most ginormous celebration in the history of the McCutcheon household. Unfortunately, their initial response was not as intense as I had imagined it would be. In fact, I sometimes get a bigger reaction when I tell the kids that we’re going to the Dairy Queen. I attribute this to the fact that my children had no reference point for this trip; they really didn't understand why they should be excited. Nevertheless, we had an amazing vacation that we will remember for the rest of our lives. And I DID get the big reaction that I was hoping for eventually…when we told the kids that we were going BACK to Disney World.
This time, Eric and I decided to tell the kids about our vacation from the beginning. When we broke the news, I finally got the screaming and jumping and general hysterics that I had been anticipating the first time around. To involve the kids in our trip even more, I created a “Countdown to Disney” calendar that began 100 days before our vacation. Each night, the kids took turns crossing off a day. At the end of each week, they decorated the calendar with a Disney sticker of their choosing. On the final week before our trip, each day was dedicated to some sort of “vacation-preparation” activity: creating lists of “must-do” theme park attractions, having a family Disney movie night, throwing a Disney dinner party, etc.
In retrospect, it probably would have been better to tell our kids about our Disney vacation the first time. Since they had no idea what to expect on our inaugural trip, they really had nothing to be ecstatic about. Furthermore, if we'd told them about the vacation, we could have spent time actively preparing them for what they would experience at Disney World. Then, if we’d surprised them with our second trip, they would already know what to expect, and it truly would have been like Christmas morning.
What about you? Do you keep your Disney trips a secret from your kids? How do you break the news on the big day? If you tell your children about your Disney trips from the beginning, what sorts of things do you do to build their excitement as the vacation draws closer?