So, you’ve decided to go to Disney World. Now, when do you tell the kids? We have all seen the commercials of parents surprising their kids with a trip to the world and the kids are really excited, and so are the parents. But when is the right time to tell them? When you book it? Just surprise them and show up? Or somewhere in the middle? After trying a few of these methods, this is what we found.

Let’s start with telling them right when you book your trip. Being Disney Vacation Club members, we can start booking our trip eleven months in advance. Telling your kids you are going right when you book the trip has some positives, but has some really big draw backs. The advantage is that your kids can take an active role in planning the trip. You can get their input on what to do and where to eat. If it’s a first trip with older kids, they will be more invested in the trip. They also have more time to be a more informed consumer by reading about Disney World through various blogs such as this one and books about the parks and other activities. There are a couple disadvantage of telling your kids when the trip is so far away. First, if you have a younger child, it can be a bit painful for a parent. Your child asks non-stop, “are we going today”, “are we going tomorrow” and “when are we going.” Imagine this every day, even multiple times a day, for eleven months. Then there is the situation that is most damaging. They spend their time wishing their summer or some other time of their life away waiting for their Disney vacation. So with little ones, makes sure not to tell them months before you go, for older kids it may be beneficial.

Now for the surprise of just showing up. This can have a couple of different results: excitement, bad, and maybe a little let down for you as a parent. We experienced all three on one trip. We will take the easy one first. Really, what kid, or adult for that matter, isn’t excited about being at Disney World? Since we drive from the northeast, we have a long car ride. We make stops along the way visiting various family members. As we were getting closer to the world, billboards started to pop up along the highway. About four in the morning we passed one such billboard and our younger daughter saw it as she was stirring in her seat. Thankfully she didn’t wake her siblings in all her excitement. She eventually settled down again and fell asleep. When we arrived at the hotel, our oldest daughter woke up. We were staying at the Dolphin resort this time on a last minute get away before the start of the school year. When she looked up at the hotel her response was a little anticlimactic, she stated, “I hope we are staying at the Swan, the last time we stayed at the Dolphin” (we added a night at the Dolphin our previous trip before switching to the Beach Club). She said she figured out where we were going because we stopped only briefly to visit family in North Carolina. As the others woke up, the excitement ensued, since it was six a.m. it was a lot of excitement for that hour of the day. Our kids did fantastic as usual since this is an average arrival time for us. One of the problems we found with this method was that the kids didn’t have time to mentally prepare for a trip like Disney. They were so excited all day and it backfired later. We went to the Magic Kingdom that day and headed back early for a nap since our room was ready on arrival. Remember the daughter I told you about that woke up all excited at four a.m., well her nap was really long. She fell asleep in the afternoon and woke up at seven a.m. the next day (well rested but very hungry). Her first comment was, “can we still go to the pool” we had to explain to her that she slept the whole night and it was the next day. As I said before this was a last minute trip for all of us, so we were all unprepared. This created a few problems for us as a whole. Since we didn’t prepare for the trip, we made no dining reservations and we were all exhausted throughout the week having not “trained” for vacation like we usually do (see the Training for your Disney Vacation article). As you can see your surprise trip may have a few surprising results.

The method we recommend the most is telling your kids two months to two weeks before you go. This works if you have “seasoned Disney kids” or not. It gives your kids a chance to give their input by telling you what they would like to do. It’s also not so far away that they wish time away. For those kids that ask non-stop, there is an easy solution for that, get a small spiral notebook and write the numbers of days until vacation so that they can rip away each day until they get to one. With this method you can also set up when you are going to surprise them by telling them you are going. My wife and I blew up balloons and put pieces of paper in them with the words, WE, ARE, GOING, TO and left out the word Disney. Since we have four kids they each got a balloon and popped them at different times. They had to make a sentence out of the first four words and the word Disney was written on a sign in the next room where their Magic Bands and Mickey shaped pancakes were waiting for them. We spent the day discussing the details of the trip and talked about what attractions they wanted to go on and where they wanted to eat. Also on the sign was the date we were leaving to go. It worked out perfect. Our oldest son went straight to the calendar, our youngest was in aww and our daughters, who are the oldest, were screaming with excitement and all of it was captured on camera.

All in all, find the way that will work best for your family, but keep these examples in mind and have a great trip. Please leave a comment on here, like us on Facebook at Disneyhelp or follow us on Twitter @Disneyhelp.