They knew we were going on a trip, but we refused to tell them where! We did get a few questions here and there, but we would not budge! LOL. The only clue they got was that it was within Florida (we live here so it could have been anywhere) and that we would be stopping off in Orlando on the way there to stay at a hotel and we had a special dinner that night. Our kids wanted it to be Disney, and we both suspect they wondered if that was it, but they did not expect it to be that or all we did!
As travel agents with Ohana Adventures Travel, we set it all up ourselves! We knew we wanted a hotel with a family suite because of the size of our group (6 all together!) and enough room where each 1/2 of our families had their own sleeping space. We chose the Art of Animation Resort, because it is geared towards families just as ours! The fact that the rooms were themed was an added bonus! We planned for 4 nights, 5 days. We opted for two park days without hoppers and chose Magic Kingdom (always a must) and Animal Kingdom. This helped down on the cost and gave the kids time to enjoy the parks without being overwhelmed. We chose a day in between parks to just have fun and enjoy the resorts and take advantage of our Magical Extras and played Fantasia Mini Golf. We wanted to make sure we used the dining plan!!! Not only is it way more convenient (especially when you have a larger group) to just wave your magic band, with this many people we saved a lot of money and were able to do several character dining experiences, which also helped us utilize our time better and not wait to meet a lot of characters! The kids really enjoyed being able to pick a snack of their choice every day too!
I do not know about your kids, but our kids all constantly want to know the entire schedule for every minute! It can drive us a bit crazy and one of the things we told them ahead of time, was this trip would be about family and enjoying the moment every minute. They were not allowed to ask any questions about what was next or anything even close. We put this into their heads quite a bit before we even left! Not only does it help them relax, but it lets you plan your dining reservations and fast passes and gives you as the parent more control. Otherwise with 4 kids, we would constantly hear "I want to ride ____" and "I want to go to _____". Anytime during the vacation they started to ask, we just said "Whats the rule?" and it was OK! We also assigned a buddy system every day. We often did an older child with a younger when at the parks and the younger together at the resort day. This not only helped to keep everyone safe and together, but we told them they each had to learn one new thing about their buddy that day! While at the parks, we told them before each attraction who would ride with who next, this cut down on the arguing about that as well (it was still there a little of course). I think with any kind of vacation like this, the more planning the better!!! The extra rules just help to cut back on unmet expectations and sibbling bickering.
On trip day, we loaded up the van (with a ton of bags of surprises they had no idea about!) and headed towards Orlando! At this point, they knew we would be staying in the Disney Springs area that first night (which we had done before on the way to the Tampa area once) so they all had on Disney Shirts and Mouse Ears and Disney pins with no alarm. (We actually gave them extra disney pins the night before to trade "that night" as their first surprise!). You could feel the excitement, it was GREAT!
As we pulled on to Disney property, they were reading every single sign trying to figure out what "our first night" would be! When we pulled into the Art of Animation resort, there were mouths wide open and squeals! As Lillie realized we were staying in a Lion King part, she was jumping up and down and beyond excited! She didnt even know that existed and had been saying a few weeks earlier how Disney really needed a Lion King hotel because it was her favorite movie (I just kept quiet knowing what was coming LOL.
After we checked in, we let them see another surprise and gave them their magic bands with customized decals from ThimbleThreadsDotCom on Etsy. They loved them because each kid has their favorites that are not always the most popular, and only ThimbleThreads had them! We told the kids these were the keys to the room and we needed them at our special dinner! (They still had no clue what was coming!).
We had Pinocchio, Disney Princesses, Lion King, Peter Pan, Star Wars, and Frozen!
When we first got to our room, we made the kids stand outside and went in and put all the luggage up then opened the door for the big reveal! Their faces were the best in this moment!!! So much JOY!
After explored the resort a bit, we went back and got the kids all dressed up for our very special fancy dinner! Our kids did not even know what character dining experiences Disney had to offer, so anything would have been a fun surprise to them! We took the busy to the Magic Kingdom then the boat to the Grand Floridian. Just the thought that we were eating at the Grand Floridian excited the kids, but when they realized what 1900 Park Fare was and that they got to experience it, they were floored! I heard several times, "How did you guys do this?!?" "How did yall get us in!?". It was adorable!!! (and trust me parents, if we are able to pull it off, you can too!!)
The next morning we had them wake up extra early! They only knew they had another special surprise breakfast! What we didnt tell them, was it was at Be Our Guest Restaurant inside of the Magic Kingdom! When we got off the bus, they still did not know because of how we set it up the night before! We told them we need to go to the guest services window to take care of something (we actually did LOL) so when we went through security, they still didn't know! After we got everything taken care of, they were standing at the gate looking in with dreamy eyes, it was so cute. When turned them around to tell them our special breakfast was inside, only one kid really understood! They all just stared at us! LOL. It wasn't the reaction we expected! Once they did the rope drop ceremony, it all started to sink in! All the kids were now getting pretty hyped up and excited!
At breakfast, we let all the excitement sink in, then we told them the whole trip we would be staying there and that the next day we had more surprises around the resort and on the following day we would be going to Animal Kingdom! They started squealing again! It was great!!!!
Every day, we had different surprises! We gave them special shirts and little trinkets here and there. Each day we also had a different surprise character meal planned! This truly kept the magic alive the entire trip!
I know a lot families feel they can not afford a Disney trip or pull it off, but if you use a Travel Agent who specializes in Disney, you can pull it off! With a lot of planning, creativity, and making payments, I promise anyone can do it!!!!!
The memories we made is evident in our pictures and will truly last these kids a lifetime! They still talk about it often! (On a side note, ALWAYS get the Memory Maker! It was so nice to have so many great pictures taken of our whole family!)
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