For many families the big Christmas gift to their families will be a trip to Disney. We’re giving a Disney Cruise for Christmas this year. Shhh! Don’t tell! Some parents, though, have visions of a surprise vacation dancing in their heads. I think most of us have seen the somewhat hysterical yet hard-to-watch YouTube of the kids who would rather go to Dick’s house and even start crying (and not tears of magical joy) when their parents drop the pixie dust bomb. Of course, sometimes it goes fantastically right and is the stuff dreams are made of. Read on to find out if a surprise trip is the right choice for your crew.

Let the kids in on the secret if…

1. They don’t do well with change.

Some children thrive on routine and popping a trip, even to the Happiest Place on Earth, at the last minute may go over like a lead balloon. You can still have a little fun with a reveal, but do it with plenty of time until takeoff.

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2. They have outside obligations.

This would apply mostly to older kids who may be involved in music, sports, etc. They may have to clear rehearsal and practice absences in advance. While parents may be keeping track of this kind of information, too, there’s the chance that your high school senior doesn’t want to miss her last student council meeting or would rather not skip rehearsals for his senior recital.

Get Planning Wise: Most school districts put out a calendar at least a year in advance. Take a look at it before planning a trip, surprise or not, and decide if it’s worth it to schedule during the school year or if it’s easier to wait for a vacation period.

3. You’ll be disappointed with a lukewarm reaction.

Sometimes it takes the kids a little while to warm up to the idea. While we’ve done a fun reveal several times, we’ve done one true “We’re leaving TOMORROW!” surprise. It took the kids about five minutes for it to really sink in that it was actually going to happen since we’d made plans to play video games for the next 24 hours in celebration of the last day of school. Once they got it, they were pumped. If I were hooked on streaming tears of joy, jumping up and down and telling me I was the best ever, I probably would’ve been bummed out. On the contrary, I really liked the fact that they were in disbelief for a while because we’re annual Disney trippers, and I thought they’d have figured it out already.

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Not cooler than Dick’s house, apparently.

But, for Pete’s sake, don’t tell your kids they’re going to Dick’s house. They’ll never forgive you for changing the plans. 😉

By the way, here’s the not so adorable video of the kids who’d rather go to Dick’s house than Disney World . . .

Full speed ahead with the surprise if…

1. It’s something for which they’ve been pining for.

If the kids have been asking to hit Disney World since they saw their first “too excited to sleep!” commercial, chances are they’ll be pretty excited when you spring it on them. You can even expose them to a little more Disney prior to the trip to get them primed for a fun reaction.

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2. They know what the Disney Parks are.

Unless they’ve been to the parks before, chances are they might have no idea what you’re talking about when you squeal “We’re going to Disneyland!!” On my mouseketeers’ first Disney World romp, they were two and five. I told the toddler that we were going to Disney World. He looked at me with excited eyes, asked when and then went back to his coloring. He knew Disney was good, but he had no idea what was in store. My niece, on the other hand, knew exactly what it was and was beyond thrilled!

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3. They’re Disney veterans.

This may seem a little counter-intuitive. Why would a kid who has been to Disney several times enjoy the surprise? That’s precisely why! He knows what to expect, you know it’s a favorite spot and there’s not a major need for research and input when the family knows the parks already. My little guy, now eight, is a Disney pro, so it’s a lot of fun to mix things up and add surprises here and there (on our last trip, we surprised him and his best friend when she showed up at the airport) to keep him on his toes.

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Get Planning Wise: If your kiddo is used to regular Disney trips, it’s easy to ask her input on where she’d like to eat on the next trip, or which hotel he’d like to try next time. They don’t have to know when next time is just yet.

Have you done or would you consider a surprise trip? If so, how did it go?