Should You Make Your Disney World Vacation a Surprise?

It seems that everyone loves a trip to Disney World. It also seems that everyone loves a surprise.

So does that mean you should make your trip to Disney World a surprise?

Normally most folks don’t think about making a vacation a surprise. After all, part of the fun can be involving the family in the planning:  when will we go,  what will we take, and what will we do?

Another big part of the fun can be the anticipation of going. Depending on when you launch the surprise, the anticipation period could be quite short.

Another part of the fun can be getting ready,  which of course, you will still need to do, but if you are planning a “surprise, we’re going to Disney World, and we’re leaving right now” type of surprise, then you might have to do all of the getting ready (planning, packing, and making arrangements for the house and the pets) on your own.

If you are planning to make your trip to Disney World a Christmas surprise, there can be even more considerations from dealing with family traditions to setting expectations about gifts.

Consider the ramifications of making your Disney World vacation a surprise.
Consider the ramifications of making your Disney World vacation a surprise.

Even with all the potential pitfalls, there seem to be lots of people who take this approach. If you check out YouTube, you can find dozens upon dozens of Disney-vacation-surprise videos by searching for “tell kids going to Disney World”.

A few years back, Disney even built a video marketing campaign showing kids being surprised by their parents with a trip to Disney World. Of course in Disney’s version there were big smiles, big hugs, and plenty of excited giggles.

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The fun version of a surprise – good stuff starts around the 30 second mark.

However, it doesn’t always work like that. Here’s a Disney vacation surprise video that contains wide eyes and crying. Probably not what you want.

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A surprise Disney vacation isn’t always a good thing, as seen in this video.

It isn’t necessarily a simple decision on whether you should make your vacation a surprise. To help you make a better informed decision, let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of making your Disney World vacation a surprise. For this list, we will assume you are going to spring the surprise on the kids, and then leave shortly thereafter.

Advantages Of A Surprise

  • Big Dose of Fun – Learning about a Disney World vacation and then soon after showing up on the doorstep of the Magic Kingdom translates into a huge dose of fun – going (possibly) from one level of excitement to the next.
  • Amazing Memory – A big part of parenting is creating memories with your children. Imagine the impression you will make when you surprise them with the trip and then have so much more fun on the trip itself. You might just get a “Parent Of The Year Award” for this.
  • Limited “Un-helpfulness” – Some kids can make planning and getting ready a chore. From wanting to pack all 93 of their plush toys to an endless stream of “how long until we get to go” questions, a surprise can wipe away these issues that are brought on by anticipation.

Disadvantage Of A Surprise

  • Keeping it a Secret – Some adults just have a hard time keeping a secret. Word can get out, whether it’s by seeing an envelope from Disney World arrive in the mail or by word of the surprise going from Mom to Aunt Sally to Cousin Johnny to your kids. If you are going to make it a surprise, know that you need to be careful about keeping it a secret until the right time.
  • No Help in Planning – You want to make sure that everyone has a good time on your family vacation, and one way to do that is by involving everyone in the planning to make sure that they get to do some things they consider fun. Involving everyone in the planning also makes sure they have some ‘skin in the game’, and don’t just endlessly complain about the vacation planning choices that were made. If your vacation is a surprise, you won’t get this planning help or this type of buy-in.
  • It Could be Overwhelming – Some kids might be overwhelmed with the excitement of a surprise followed shortly by a trip – especially since the trip will no doubt involve less sleep and more sugar than they are used to getting. If your children need time to process and adjust to things in “real life”, reconsider the surprise strategy.
  • Limited Time to Anticipate – Sometimes part of the fun of a vacation is waiting for it to happen. A surprise vacation will reduce the time available for anticipation, and sometimes that can negatively impact the vacation itself.


When considering whether you should make the announcement of your Disney World vacation a surprise, consider the ramifications on your family and how they will react. It’s not always a good idea to make your trip a surprise, but if it is right for your family, it can make a magical trip even more special.

Would you like to make your trip to Disney World a surprise?