Fun Ways to Reveal a Disney Surprise to the Kids

Caroline Knowles Avatar

two boys in Mickey Mouse ears at Disney - SheBuysTravel
Photo Credit: Matt Stroshane

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 trips as birthday or Christmas gifts and count down the days. There are so many creative ways to add some extra pixie dust to your big reveal. I can’t wait to share some of our ideas with you.

Disney Surprise: The. Best. Gift. Ever!

I have planned surprise Disney trips several times for my family. 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.

SheBuysTravel Tip:  If your child is under the age of 7, consider waiting until the day you leave to share the surprise trip. Children at this age simply do not understand time and you could end up with a tearful situation. And choose to stay in one of these magical Disney World resorts for kids.

boy shows off his Disney surprise - SheBuysTravel
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 Disney’s 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 ears 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, “Are we going on a Disney World Trip?” 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.

Disney Surprise with a Scavenger Hunt or Treasure 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 / Minnie ears, autograph books, backpack, MagicBands, customized Disney shirts, their favorite Disney character plush, etc.) and use them as clues.

Read More: The Complete Disney Packing List

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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.

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

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you are giving the trip as a Christmas gift, consider waiting until January 1 to travel. The crowds in Walt Disney World and Disneyland are at an all-time high from Christmas morning through New Year’s Eve. In my opinion, 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 www.portraitpuzzles.com and turn it into a puzzle. You can select different sizes from 15 to 1000 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 1000 pieces: Ages 9-up

Puzzle prices range from $34.99 and higher, 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.

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 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 arrive at the parks. Whether you are heading to Anaheim, Orlando, Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa, or on a Disney Cruise, the surprise trip is always a great idea.

SheBuysTravel 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 present the big surprise, I want to share with you some of our favorite surprise video reveals.

YouTube video

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Caroline Knowles Avatar
Caroline Knowles lives on the Gulf Coast in Fairhope, Alabama with her husband and two children. She is the owner of Magical DIStractions Travel Co., a travel agency that specializes in Disney, Universal, and all-inclusive travel. She is also the founder of Magical DIStractions, a website focused on her love for all things Disney.
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10 responses


  1. Oh man this is amazing! I love the warning on younger kids because you wouldn’t think of that otherwise. I am def going to blast this on social media as I think MANY will value this post.

    1. Thanks Krystel! Over the years I’ve had many different people ask me for advice on how to pull of a surprise. It seemed appropriate we write an article with our recommendations.

  2. 4.5

  3. It is definitely hard to pull off a surprise. In the long run it is worth it to see their excitement.

  4. 5

  5. 5

  6. I love this! We’ve tried to do surprise trips, but one of us always slips up or the kids nag us until we crack.

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