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How To Surprise Your Kids With A Trip


You’ve been holding onto a secret for weeks, maybe months. It’s a big one, too. You’ve booked a fun family vacation. You’ve got airline tickets, a car rental, a hotel, time off work and school. The kids have no idea.

Planning a surprise trip for your kids can be a lot of fun, not just for the unsuspecting kids, but for the parental planners, too. Whether a family cruise, a road trip to a national park, or a vacation at Walt Disney World (especially for first-time visitors), a surprise vacation is sure to be wonderful for the whole family.
Shot of an adorable little boy completing a puzzle with his mother at home


When you set out to plan a surprise trip, you want your kiddos to be astonished, in a good way, of course. Only tears of joy, you know. So you’ll want to really dig deep into the kind of vacation they would love. Here are three key bits of advice to keep in mind as you begin to plan.

Think carefully about your destination. Consider what your kids like to do as you decide where to go on your surprise vacation. Think about the movies they watch, the books they read, the interests they have. This can help you decide whether to go to a beach or the mountains, take a cruise or stay at a resort, plan lots of activities or just have time to chill out and relax. 


Work with a travel advisor. When a travel advisor is handling the details, it can be much easier to keep the secret until the big reveal. A travel advisor can help you narrow your destination choices, as well as arrange for special tours and dining experiences that can take the surprise to the next level.  

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Button up the details. When you reveal the surprise trip, your kids will likely have a lot of questions. “Organize the details before announcing the trip to your kids. This way, you can answer their questions while managing expectations,” says Heather Clarke, a mother of two from Nova Scotia, Canada. “You don't want to tell your kids about a Disney vacation without already knowing exactly which parks you will and won’t visit.”

Husband and his wife walking with their little girl sitting on luggage at the airport


When it’s time to let your kids in on the secret you’ve been holding onto for what feels like an eternity, you want it to be good. As in, totally memorable. Maybe even more memorable than the trip itself. Here are a few parent-tested ideas for the big reveal.

Scavenger hunt. A scavenger hunt is a fun way to surprise kids with a family vacation. Place themed clues in various locations, even just around your house, that hint at the family trip. The last clue is the reveal. “My husband and I surprised our kids with a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando for Christmas,” says Kyleen Bontrager of Greenville, South Carolina. “The final clue led to the mailbox which had their ‘acceptance letters’ revealing the trip.”

Jigsaw puzzle. Use a photo of the destination to create a jigsaw puzzle that your kids need to complete to reveal the surprise trip. For example, puzzleYOU creates custom photo and collage puzzles. Opt for a puzzle with fewer pieces. A 2000-piece puzzle may be too large and time consuming for this surprise.

Holiday ornaments. The holidays are a great time to reveal a surprise vacation, and a keepsake ornament is a festive way to let the kids in on your secret. Larry Gottlieb, a father of two from New York, surprised his family with a cruise. “I had special ornaments made in the shape of cruise ships with the date of the cruise. This was followed with a second box with details about the ship and itinerary.”

Lauren Doyle, a travel advisor and mother of two children, shared one final note. “Make sure you get the reveal on camera.” She also suggests having surprise experiences during the trip. For example, don’t reveal everything all at once. Leave a few surprises for when you are together on the vacation.