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Tips for revealing a surprise Disney World trip to kids (and how we told our own)

Last week, I asked for advice on how to tell our kids about our upcoming trip to Disney World for the Social Media Moms Celebration. I also did a round-up of some of the most epic surprise fails:  footage of children who were surprisingly devastated instead of elated as their parents told them the big news. I used these videos as a cautionary tale, and tried to avoid the aspects where most of these reveals went wrong. My experience this week taught me the good to a good surprise involves:

1. Give them time to process. It seemed like kids who freak out about a Disney trip surprise did so because it was so abrupt and sudden.  I didn’t want to surprise them as we boarded the plane or as we entered the gates. I wanted to give them time to get comfortable (and more excited) about our plan.

2. Build anticipation. We did a slow reveal, with progressive clues, so that by the time we confirmed our destination, they already had a hunch. I think this contributed to their excitement once we told them, because they were HOPING it would be Disney World. Related:

3. Don’t create a story (lie) that you have to dismantle. This seemed to be the biggest common denominator for the videos that went wrong . . . kids could not seem to let go of the fiction the parents created, even though a Disney World trip was clearly  a better option. Children really do have a hard time switching gears and making transitions. I didn’t want to set mine up to believe one thing, when reality was another.

Our strategy was to do a progressive reveal, providing clues about our destination every day for a week.

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  • The Clues 1 of 10
    The Clues
    To start our gradual reveal, I printed several images of clues that were progressively more specific about our destination.
  • image-152 2 of 10
    image-152
    I placed the clues into 8 envelopes. Then I attached the clues onto twine using clothespins, and secured the twine to the wall using a thumbtack. It was simple, but they were so excited when they woke up and saw the hanging clues!
  • Clue #1 3 of 10
    Clue #1
    Our first clue: we're going on a family trip!
  • Clue #2 4 of 10
    Clue #2
    Our second clue let them know we needed to take an airplane to get there,
  • Clue #3 5 of 10
    Clue #3
    Our third let them know our trip was in the United States.
  • Clue #4 6 of 10
    Clue #4
    Our fourth clue: somewhere warm!
  • Clue #5 7 of 10
    Clue #5
    This clue was a picture of the state of Florida, but none of them recognized it. We consulted with a map. Once they realized we were going to Florida, they had a hunch it might be Disney World. I refused to tell, which just made the anticipation more fun,
  • Clue #6 8 of 10
    Clue #6
    The sixth clue was a picture of the Contemporary Hotel. They didn't recognize the hotel so I think it threw them off the Disney trail.
  • Clue #7 9 of 10
    Clue #7
    Clue #7 showed the monorail inside the hotel. This got them excited that maybe it was Disney World again. Also . . . a hotel with a monorail inside? How could is that?
  • Clue #8: The Big Reveal! 10 of 10
    Clue #8: The Big Reveal!
    You'll have to watch the video to see their reaction!

Here is their reaction to the last clue:

 

Have you ever surprised your child about a family trip? How did you pull it off? What was their reaction?

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You can find Kristen Howerton  blogging at Rage Against the Minivan, or avoiding housework over at Facebook or Twitter. You can follow along the Social Media Moms Celebration via the @DisneySMMoms Twitter handle or with the hashtag #DisneySMMoms.

 

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