Don’t Do a Surprise Disneyland Trip

Don’t do a surprise Disneyland trip. It’s a piece of advice I get a little heat for but here’s my spin on how to do it right.Disneyland surprise trip

You’re SO excited for your surprise Disneyland trip, right?!? And you’re totally gonna reveal it to the kids and it’s gonna be so freaking awesome! They’re gonna flip out . . . or cry, or not really care at all.

It’s a disappointing reality and that’s why today I’m telling you, don’t do a surprise Disneyland trip.

I know, you think I’m crazy. You have grand plans and you’re sure the Disneyland surprise is going to be amazing. I get it. It’s SO much fun to surprise people and who wouldn’t want a surprise trip to Disneyland? I’m going to break it down for you with why our best intentions fail and how to do it right.

Surprise Disneyland Trip Fails

I’ll start off by sharing our own surprise Disneyland vacation fail. We were in the car, almost to Anaheim. The kids thought we were just going to Build-A-Bear at Downtown Disney during one of our L.A. vacations.

But, our plans started to unravel. Our kids were playing detective. Wondering why the waitress at lunch was overly excited for us (she knew our secret), why Grandpa had brought their Mickey ears to lunch (he knew our secret) . . . it was all good though, we still got to reveal the secret. . .

“Ok guys! We’re going to Build-A-Bear and then we’re going to spend the night at our friend’s house because tomorrow we’re all going to Disneyland!”


Where was the hooting and hollering? Where were the excited screams? Not there. We just got some timid, embarrassed smiles and some, “Are we really Mom?” Sure it wasn’t a grand reveal but the reaction was a little underwhelming. Kinda like this one . . .

But at least we didn’t have tears . . .

Sometimes you get a combination of joy and sadness like this one . . .

YouTube is filled with surprise Disneyland trip fails. Kids are just very sensitive and emotional. It’s not something to mess with.

Surprise Disneyland Trip Makeover

Because you’re gonna do it anyway.

I know, you’ve read this as a skeptic. And you’re still a skeptic. You think you can pull it off. And that’s cool, we knew you were going to go through with the Disneyland surprise trip from the get-go. So we’ve put together a little surprise Disneyland trip makeover—some rules to make it as much of a success as possible.


Merida Brave


No lies. Do not create a false story to cover up your surprise Disneyland trip. We teach our kids to tell the truth, and then we lie to them. When you lie, kids have a hard time processing what is true and what isn’t.

If you say you’re going on a long drive to Grandma’s, but then surprise them with a Disney trip, they will also expect to go to Grandma’s. And they’ll likely be very sad if they can’t see Grandma and go to Disneyland.

Surprise them in advance. It’s still a surprise even when it’s a week or two early. Don’t wait until you get on the plane. Don’t wait until the morning of when you wake them at 5:00 am to catch a plane or drive to Disneyland. They just won’t process it the way you expect and want them to.

Don’t video it. I know, I know! You were totally on board up until this point. Let me explain. Kids (adults too!) tend to get nervous when you’re videoing for what seems to be no apparent reason. I promise you’ll get tons of great family pictures at Disneyland


Mom and Me Disneyland


But back to the video. They’re automatically on guard and suspicious. Kids also have a tendency to act differently when we’re recording them, be it very goofy and over-the-top, or shy and reserved.

I know you’re afraid you’ll miss the golden moments like those videos above. Consider videoing them after they’ve had time to digest the surprise Disneyland trip. Get them comfortable and ask them to tell the camera about the surprise and what they’re hoping to do and see at Disneyland.

Include surprise elements to your trip instead. A meal with Disney characters, a princess makeover in Sleeping Beauty Castle or stay at one of these amazing water park hotels.

Surprise Disneyland Trip Must-Haves

Giving clues or going on a treasure hunt is a classic way to reveal a surprise Disneyland trip. Here is some Disney treasure you don’t want to miss!

Disney tickets for less than Disneyland’s gate prices. It’s true, Disney ticket discounts are hard to come by. That’s why we’ve teamed up with the #1 Disneyland ticket reseller online.

Get your Disneyland discount tickets from our partner, Get Away Today before heading over to Disneyland Resort.Discount Tickets

Encourage the kids to start saving for souvenirs. Some families defer allowance money to Disney money. Use a cute Mickey Mouse piggy bankDisneyland surprise trip to stash coins and cash. We also use Disney Gift Cards to reward good behavior and gift cards can be used almost anywhere at Disneyland

Disneyland surprise tripDisneyland surprise trip

We love our Disney lanyards for collecting and trading Disney pins. It’s a fabulous and affordable (when you trade) souvenir and gives the kids something to do and look at when they’re waiting in line. These lanyards come in a set of 3 with coin purses attached.

This Minnie Mouse travel pillow doubles as a cute stuffed animal to sleep with once you get to the hotel. Plus, it comes with an autograph book for your favorite characters to sign at the parks! Get the Mickey Mouse version hereDisneyland surprise trip.
Disneyland surprise tripDisneyland surprise trip

I personally would love a surprise trip to Disneyland. And I bet you’ll get a huge, excited reaction. But besides the surprise trip mentioned above, we have always included our kids in our Disneyland plans.

We talk about it for months on end and plan out all the fun details like where we want to eat (check out 10 Disneyland Meals for $10), and what to ride first.


Pirates disneyland


I feel it’s part of what makes our trip so magical, that we plan it together. I love hearing how excited my kids are as we pour over park maps and decide if the kids will be joining me on Guardians of the Galaxy this time or not.

Now that you’ve heard our rules for a successful Disneyland surprise, what are your thoughts? What did we miss? Are you ready to reveal your surprise Disneyland trip or will you just clue them in from the get-go?

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By Jessica Sanders

Recognized authority on all things Disneyland Resort. Offering dynamic planning strategies and the latest theme park information since 2013. Jessica's insights have been featured on Yahoo! News, InStyle, The Washington Post, and many others.

8 thoughts on “Don’t Do a Surprise Disneyland Trip

  • Anonymous

    The anticipation is as much a part of the trip as the actual trip is for me. The planning, booking reservations talking about it nonstop. I think it’s fine to surprise them with the trip, but give them time to really get excited about it.

  • Natalie

    We did a secret agent type reveal for our 6 yr old with clues and a secret mission letter recruiting his for a secret mission if he chooses to accept the mission he was to locate and interview characters at the parks and investigate ride for clues on who may be causing havoc at the parks. Provided images and travel plans as clues and tools needed for the mission. We recorded it but he knew something was up as we gave him the package. Going to revamp this again for our upcoming trip. But to find a new recruit ( his brother)

  • Ok. These are great! I don’t think I could do a whole surprise trip. I do love the idea to do different parts of the Disneyland trip as surprises. I will do that. We are planning on going the last week in April next year. Fingers crossed!

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