Going To Disney: When to tell the kids
Many parents prefer the "right away" method. Some families prepare a year or more in advance. It is fun to let you kids know way ahead of time so that they can have input into the planning process. They can interview friends, vote on the resort, check out menus, read up on the attractions, and start the countdown. While all of that can be fun - especially for an older child - the wait can seem positively endless! And if you think "how much longer" can drive you crazy in the car, try counting down for months!
Lots of parents prefer the "getting close" method. Mom and Dad can get the resort and dining booked and then wait until a holiday or special occasion to spill the beans. Sometimes letting the kids know a month or even a week in advance is perfect. That gives the kids enough time to get excited and make some plans without having too much time to drive the rest of the famliy crazy. If you are taking your child out of school for a few days, it also helps if they can get a head start on the work they will miss.
A few parents manage to pull off the "surprise". I know kids who thought they were off to visit Grandma up until the minute they rolled under the official Disney World welcome sign! The look of shock and delight is most definately picture worthy and the surprise is always great fun. Of course that does have a bit of a trade off, as the planning,counting down, and anticipation are all part of the fun.
My family goes the "hybrid" route. Our kids know we are going, but they just don't know when. For our family this works out perfectly. We are able to openly discuss out trip and make plans for resort, dining, and parks. We avoid the calendar obsessing that my girls are famous for. I often joke that in our house we operate on a "Need to know basis, and my children don't need to know!"
For our last trip, we woke the children up and told them to get dressed because we were hopping on a plane and would be at Disney by lunch time. My daughter was still having trouble with her "R's" and kept asking, "Aww you seaweous?" After assuring her that, in fact, we were serious, her little face just lit up. One of my favorite memories. Ever. In fact the girls, enjoyed the hybrid approach so much they told me that they want to do it again. They asked for us to surprise them on the actual day of the trip.
My oldest is a pretty smart cookie and likes to think that she doesn't miss a trick, so I have been playing into her cute little hands. Our trip is in December, but at least once a week I will "slip" and say something about "When we go to Disney in Feb---I mean whenever we go to Disney..." Now she is convinced that she is one step ahead of me because I have accidentally let it slip that our trip is in February! Mwaaa-haaaa-haaa! (or insert your other favorite evil laugh here.)
What works for your family? Have you tried multiple approaches? Let me know in the comments section!