Travel Tips Tuesday: Surprising Your Kids with a Vacation

Travel has become such a regular part of our family life that the kids have come to view the next big trip as a rather mundane occurrence.    Often when we pile in the car they don’t even bother asking where we are headed, figuring they should use the travel time (and relaxed rules) to log as many Nintendo hours as possible before we arrive.  This penchant has allowed us to pull off some pretty big traveling surprises in the past, but it also takes away from the magic of anticipating the trip along with the kids and watching them get giddy with excitement. Come on kids!  Sometime your parents need a little giddiness!

A fortunate string of trips on the horizon has given me the opportunity to spend a few days on a vacation with just one of my kids at a time.  Talk about giddy?  I am practically over the moon at the thought of having one on one time with each of my kids.  I am so used to dealing with them as a mob in constant motion that focused time with each individual is something to be treasured. 

Can you guess from these pictures where we are headed?

With my excitement so high, I wanted to pass on the excitement to each of them, so that we could anticipate the upcoming trips together.  Since they had no idea that there were even trips on the horizon, it was easy to pull off a surprise.  For each child (and trip) I searched the house for items that would give clues to our destination.  In some cases, I had to go out and spend a few dollars to get a special clue item, but for the most part, I was able to find everything at home.  I assembled all the items in a cheap bag, along with a calendar that marked the date of the trip and presented the bag of clues. 

Wait for it…wait for it…

It was so exciting to watch them pull the clues out one by one and watch as they puzzled through the confusion of what all these items had in common. Then, there was the moment of clarity and sheer excitement as they realized that the items were all connected and led to a special trip.  It was a priceless moment that set the tone for the excitement to come.


This pre-trip fun added so much to the thrill for me that I am already planning other ways I can surprise the kids with trips in the future.  I am even thinking that I could make a regular educational field trip look pretty special if I presented with the right panache. 

  1. A Box of Balloons: This would work especially well if the trip was a part of a holiday or birthday celebration.  Attach words or pictures to the streamers of helium balloons that give clues about the upcoming trip.  Wrap the balloons in a box so that when the box is opened the balloons float to the ceiling and reveal the trip.   It’s a double surprise as the balloons pop into the air and reveals the fun to come.
  2. A Scavenger Hunt: Similar to my bags of clues, clues could be hidden around the house and collected to expose the upcoming surprise.    
  3. Surprise on a String: Tie a trip themed package to one end of a ribbon and anchor it to a specific point in your house or yard.  Back out of the room, laying the ribbon along with you as a trail to the trip surprise.  Offer the other end to your child and let the follow the trail to the fun.
  4. Check the Mail: Kids love getting mail and will love it even more if they find an “invitation” to an upcoming trip addressed just to them.  You could even get super creative with this option, and have Mickey Mouse send a letter inviting your kids to Disney World, or create a message in a bottle for a beach vacation.
  5. Theme Time: Plan an evening of fun centered on the theme of your trip and do the big reveal at the end of the evening if the kids haven’t caught on already.  Planning a trip to Hawaii could involve a pineapple and macademia nut snack with a viewing of Lilo and Stitch.  A ski vacation could include hot chocolate and an indoor “snow” ball fight with crumpled paper.   Use the theme to plan games, snacks and entertainment and have the tickets to your destination as your final surprise.

Have you ever surprised your kids with a trip?  Share your best surprises in the comments. Don't forget-today is Travel Tips Tuesday.  Link up your best travel tips below!



  1. says

    Great ideas, Jessica!  For the last few years we have been surprising our girls with a trip as a Christmas gift rather than buying stuff that they don't really need.  I wrap up clues separately and number them before wrapping them in a large box.  The girls open the clues together one at a time, the excitement builds as each clue is opened and they start to piece it together and then pandemonium breaks out when they realize where we are headed in a couple of days.  It's better than any toy that would be forgotten about in a couple of weeks.  So far we have surprised them with Montebello, Quebec; Chicago; New York; San Diego and Orlando.

  2. says

    I'd just like to say that I think the ski trip clues should include a first aid kit and an air cast, but that might be too much of a giveaway. 
    Great ideas for surprising the kids. I might even steal the balloon idea. Maybe I'll even test their reflexes by having them open it outdoors.

  3. says

    So many great ideas. I love the progression photos of your son figuring out his next destination. Thanks again Jessica and Travel Tips Tuesday!

  4. says

    Such adorable photos of the lucky son who gets to go to the Aloha state with you =)  These are all wonderful ideas.  Sadly, we haven't surprised our kids with trips.  We just sort of tell them where we're going and then I set them free to research on what they want to do =) I may have to rethink especially the scavenger hunt and balloons.

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