We haven’t been on a vacation in many years, so we wanted to surprise our girls, 17 and 9, with a Disney World trip. My 17 year old had already been 3 times but it was when she was younger and couldn’t remember much. They had both been asking for Disney World for several years, so we decided to jump on board and make it happen. They got a Disney World Countdown Calendar for the big reveal in a way they won’t ever forget.
Since it’s so expensive to go, we actually gave our girls the trip for Christmas. It’s definitely a Christmas morning surprise that they will always remember. If you want to read more about the details and costs of this particular vacation, check out Our Disney World Vacation Experience 2016.
In this post, I’m going to tell you how we surprised them Christmas morning with a Disney-themed Scavenger Hunt ending with a Disney World Countdown Calendar.
Thinking back, I wished I had taken a video of Christmas morning, but I didn’t. My shady cell phone pictures will have to do. 🙂 Sorry about that!
***Throughout this post, there are affiliate links, which means when you click on a highlighted word or picture, the link will take you to Target or Amazon where you can read about the product, see the reviews, and if you make any purchase using one of my links, I will make a little money as a referral fee. However your price remains the same. See my full disclosure here.
They Got Disney World for Christmas
Our yearly Christmas Eve tradition is that everyone opens one gift, which is always pajamas and then we have a family gift to open, which is our Christmas Eve activity. It’s usually a family game, gingerbread house set, or a movie. This year it was Disney themed PJ’s and the Disney game Pictopia. It was a lot of fun brushing up on our Disney trivia and movie memories that night.
For Christmas morning, we had a scavenger hunt all over the house (and even outside to the mailbox) to collect the gifts. Gifts? I hear you thinking … but I thought the Disney World trip is their gift. That can easily fit in one box. Haha! Of course it can!
But let’s be real. Kids love to open up gifts on Christmas morning, and as a parent that doesn’t splurge often, I love giving them gifts at Christmas because it’s an opportunity for me to remind them about God’s greatest gift to us, Jesus. Okay … okay. Back to my story.
How are they going to unwrap a trip to Disney World in different gifts? You’ll see.
A Disney World vacation is just one of those trips where you FEEL like you need all the extra stuff. Especially, when you arrive and see all of the Disney spirit everywhere! The ears, the shirts, the balloons, the water bottles, the … EVERYTHING! Well, I’m not sure if you have caught on to this yet, but I’m not a big spender. Haha! I already know the “I want this and I want that” is coming. So how did I handle that? Gifts beforehand. Christmas gifts I purchased on sale, not at Walt Disney World Park’s regular prices. See what I mean?
Christmas morning gifts all consisted of things I knew they would want or could use once we got there. I also spent a lot less than my normal Christmas budget, considering that the vacation itself is way, way, way over what I would ever spend on Christimas gifts. At the end of the scavenger hunt, they were overjoyed.
They each got a Disney T-Shirt, 2 Disney-related books, 2 Disney themed water bottles, a very lightweight backpack, and a Disney gift card for each of them for souvineers. Target, Amazon, and Wal-Mart all have great choices!
A little Disney savings tip: I even saved 5% off of the giftcard and got free shipping by getting them at Target and using my Redcard debit! I’m not sure this works anymore in the store. It may still work online though. Sam’s Club also has 5% off of their Disney giftcards, if you have a membership. Another tip about giftcards, is that you can pay for your trip with them too! Therefore, saving you an additional 5% off of your vacation.
Why Get the Kids Giftcards?
Getting the kids a giftcard in advance also cuts down on the “I want its” because they have a budget to stick to. Help them divide it up so they can spread it throughout your vacation time.
The Disney World Countdown Calendar
The final BIG gift (the trip) was given to them as countdown calendar that I had created with a print-out of the vacation details. Later in this post, I’ll tell you about how I made the countdown calendar . They had a blast counting down the weeks! Well… we did too! Haha!
Our Christmas morning scavenger hunt was a hit!!!!
I don’t know if you noticed, but the picture above says 287 days until Disney so I created a weekly countdown calendar to keep the excitement going. We had 39 weekly links to tear off each Friday. Each link had an activity to do on it that was Disney themed. I also included activities that got them involved in the research and planning, as well as a few fun crafty things to do to prepare.
For example, our Magic Bands came about 3 weeks before we left so one of the weeks was to plan your design and go shop for whatever supplies we needed. Another week was to decorate them! This is how ours turned out! We loved them!
The weekly countdown calendar included instructions to help with research and planning our itinerary. We watched YouTube videos about all kinds of things, we read in our books, we pinned all kinds of things on Pinterest, and decided what our “must-do” list included… from restaurants to rides, from character meet and greets to sights to see. We kept a notebook, made a list for just about every detail, and kept it all together.
The countdown definitely made our 39 weeks (287 days) go by fairly quickly. Of course, that was the goal. Haha!
Don’t forget the Mickey Ears!
Just a little something to ponder …
This was a Christmas scavenger hunt the girls will never forget. They will carry these memories with them for their entire lives. Of course, you don’t have to go to Disney World or give the gift of Disney World to make memories, or any vacation for that matter. Memories can be made for free every single day that you devote quality time with those you love.
You can set a “making memories budget” aside for vacation or special activities throughout the month. The point is to be intentional in spending time together and always be open for meaningful conversations. Those are memory makers too.
If you want to read more about being intentional in your conversations, check out my blog post about Conversation Starters! After you read that one, plan your next memory making opportunity and do it!
If you are interested in going to Disney, but think it’s not in your budget, I want to encourage you to dig deep and consider a few savings strategies. I mentioned one earlier in this post, but there are several ways to save a few dollars off of your Disney vacation. Samsclub has Disney giftcards at 5% off. We paid for our entire vacation with the discounted giftcards and saved 5% off of our vacation by utilizing that one trick.