You’ve been working for months to plan the perfect surprise Disney vacation. Your dining and FastPass+ reservations are booked. You have the packing list and everything is good to go. Now, it’s time to decide how to reveal the Disney surprise to the children. Many wait until the day of departure to avoid the “how many more days?” questions. Others give Disney vacations as birthday or Christmas gifts and count down the days. There are so many different ways to add some extra pixie dust to your big reveal.

Disney Surprise

Cheerleading squad reveals to one of their members she is going to Disney. Photo: Stacy Nelligan

Disney Surprise: The. Best. Gift. Ever!

I have surprised my children several times with Disney vacations. As a travel agent, I truly believe there is no other greater gift than travel. I have learned from each experience the age of your children is very important when determining how and when to reveal the Disney surprise.

The first time we surprised our son he was 5.  We let him open a present full of Disney Parks’ items two weeks before departure. He was thrilled to open a present. Sadly, the reveal ended in tears for our son, and myself. He wanted a toy. Something he could play with right then and there. Of course he did, he was 5.  We should have waited until the day we left to avoid the disappointment. Lesson learned.

TravelingMom Tip:  If your child is under the age of 7, consider waiting until the day you leave to share the Disney surprise. Children at this age simply do not understand time and you could end up with a tearful situation.

Disney surprise

This little guy is too little to read so the secret is safe for a little while longer. Photo: Rachel Horsley

Disney Surprise Reveal in a Restaurant

This was by far my favorite Disney surprise! We took our children to Walt Disney World for a week in December. Yes, we are those parents who take the kids out of school to visit Disney when the crowds are low. We told our kids we were going to see an amazing Christmas light display in Florida one evening (we live 45 miles from the state line). This was back when the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights was still in Hollywood Studios.  I packed the car earlier in the day and secured the suitcases so they could not see them. On our way to the lights, we stopped by Cracker Barrel for dinner.

 My husband gave the hostess a bag (containing two Mickey Santa ear hats previously ordered from the Disney Store). He asked the server to deliver these to the table with our drink order.

The reveal was priceless. The children were in shock when the server arrived at the table with their ears. My son (then age 13) immediately looked at me with big eyes and asked “DISNEY?!” My daughter (then age 5) started crying and grabbed onto me for dear life murmuring “Thank you! Thank you!

All of the nearby tables started clapping which added to the excitement. We left the restaurant and drove halfway to Disney that evening.

My daughter's reaction to our restaurant Disney surprise.

My daughter’s reaction to our restaurant surprise. Photo: Caroline Knowles, Travel Agent Traveling Mom

Disney Surprise with a Scavenger Hunt

Surprising your children with a scavenger hunt is a very popular reveal. Warning – this will require some creativity on your part. The ultimate goal is to give the children an idea of where they are going without outright telling them. Purchase some of the items you will need for a Disney vacation (Mickey ears, autograph books, backpack, MagicBands) and use them as clues.

Candid Traveling Mom, Patty Holliday, surprised her children with a scavenger hunt. She woke them for school and had them participate in the hunt. They solved all these clues through the house until they ended on the porch. There were two sets of Mickey ears for her three children.  The reveal was – let’s go get another set of Mickey ears!

Surprise Disney

The reveal at the end of a scavenger hunt. Looks like it’s time to get another set of ears. Photo: Patty Holliday, Candid Traveling Mom

Want to create a scavenger hunt? Click here to download a template from Lulu & linen.

Christmas Reveal with Elf on the Shelf

One of the best ideas I have seen for surprising children with a trip for Christmas is to use your Elf on a Shelf. Those of you who are crafty can easily create a set of Mickey ears for your elf. If you are lacking in the creativity department, you can purchase the Mickey Mouse Mouseketeer Ear Hat Ornament or the Mickey Mouse Ears Hat Keychain from the Disney Store. All you have to do is remove the string/chain and pop it on your elf’s head. Set the elf out wherever you desire and the reveal is sure to be magical.

Have your Elf on the Shelf display your children's MagicBands for the Disney Surprise.

Have your Elf on the Shelf display your children’s MagicBands for the Disney Surprise. Photo: Christy Slavik

TravelingMom Tip: If you are giving the trip as a Christmas gift, consider waiting until January 1 to travel. The crowds in Walt Disney World are at an all-time high Christmas Day through New Year’s Eve. This is the worst time (crowd-wise) to visit. Alternatively, visiting the first two weeks of December is an ideal time.

Personalized Puzzle Reveal

I was kicking myself for not thinking of this when I first read about it. This is such a simple thing to do. Find an image (or create one using Canva) that shows your Disney destination with the wording “Surprise! You’re going to Disney!” (or something similar). Once you have the perfect image, visit and turn it into a puzzle. You can select different sizes from 15 to 1008 pieces which are specified for different age groups.

  • 15 pieces: Ages 2- 3
  • 48 pieces: Ages 3-5
  • 99 or 204 pieces: Ages 5-6
  • 252 or 300 pieces: Ages 7-9
  • 513, 720 or 1008 pieces: Ages 9-up
Surprise Disney Vacation

Image created with for puzzle reveal. Photo: Rachel Horsley

Puzzle prices range from $27.99 to $49.99 depending on the size. The process is very quick. It only takes 1-2 business days for your puzzle to be created and shipped. All you have to do is give the kids the puzzle and have them put it together for the reveal.

Disney Surprise

There is no better surprise than a Disney surprise! Photo: Natasha Bachmann

Disguise Vacation as a Work Trip

If you aren’t very good with packing suitcases and concealing them from the kids, consider this Disney surprise. All you have to do is tell the kids you are going out of town on business and taking them with you. It doesn’t matter where you tell them you are going. If you don’t want to actually tell a fib, suggest you are going to stay in a hotel for a few days. This will work with the younger kids. Simply pack up the car, or hop on an airplane and go.

If you are flying and your children are older, you may want to consider revealing the surprise at the airport. Once they see the destination at the airport, your surprise may be over. We used the work trip surprise on our son when he was 9 and waited until we were on the plane to reveal.  If your children are little you may be able to wait until you actually arrive at the parks.

Disney Surprise

My son (age 9) waiting at the airport for a “work trip.” Photo: Caroline Knowles, Travel Agent Traveling Mom

TravelingMom Tip:  Be careful you do not get the children too excited about the “work trip” destination. Too much hype could end up with disappointed children when they learn they aren’t going to visit the intended destination.

Surprise! You’re Going to Disney!

Now that you know some great ways to surprise the kids, I want to share with you some of our favorite surprise video reveals.

Our Texas Traveling Mom shares her video reveal for her daughter. Grab the tissues!

Here’s hoping your Disney surprise is everything you dreamed it would be and more!