Disney with Special Needs: SURPRISE!

So if you’ve been with me you know that my family had been planning a trip to Disney World for Thanksgiving week, and last week you learned the devastating news that the trip had to be postponed until spring. I’ve been doing my best to process it and not be absolutely crushed, and one way that I’ve done that is to think about our past trips and how they have all be different, but fabulous. One that keeps coming to mind is the year that I surprised the little one with a trip a couple weeks before Christmas. It was truly wonderful and I love the memories that we made not just once we got there, but during the ride as the surprise started to unfold.

I know that you have probably already spent months thinking about your trip, but I wanted to share the fun of a surprise trip so that someday you may decide to spring some magic on your family.


Commit. The first thing you’re going to have to do when you decide that you’re going to do a surprise trip for your family is commit to the idea. If you’re like me, that can be tough. I keep things real and focus my mind by talking about them. I might drive my family a little bit crazy by how much I talk about Disney, and it is at its worst when I first start planning and when the trip is getting close. It took a lot for me to really commit to not telling Avalon about the trip, but it was definitely worth it

Be accountable. The one thing that really kept me from spilling the magic beans was being accountable to Hubsy and Bubba. When I started to crack, they reined me back in and kept me from doing it. I’m so glad that they did. It wouldn’t have been anywhere near as much fun if the surprise came a couple of weeks ahead as it did when we did the big reveal. Which brings me to:

Choose your timing. My original dream was for Avalon to sleep the entire drive and wake up with us already in Disney World. Let’s be honest. The chances of that were pretty low to begin with. Our drive is pretty long, around 15 hours when we include all the stops we have to make for the animals, so the possibility of her actually dozing off in Virginia and making it to Orlando wasn’t good. But we did know that we were going to get her pretty far. So instead of choosing an exact moment to surprise her, we chose how to surprise her so that whenever she woke up, we’d be ready. It might work better for your family for you to choose an exact time that you will do the big surprise. Think about it and choose the one that will make your trip the most magical

Choose your reveal. The way we chose to surprise the bitty was pretty fun, if I do say so myself. Before getting her into the car under the pretense of a grocery store trip (which we did take once we got to Florida, so it really wasn’t a lie), we snuck our favorite ear hats under the front seats of the car. The plan was we would put them on when it got light enough so that we would be wearing them when she woke up. See the next tip to find out what happened with that one

Be prepared for failure. So of course we dreamed big about the surprise. We just knew that she would be absolutely delighted and it would be the biggest surprise ever. Well, things started going wrong before we even left. Work went nuts and I couldn’t stop until four hours after I thought. We had planned that we would be gone and then Tutu and Bubba would leave, but he got to our house before we left. So we had to convince the little one that Unken Justin was just at the house for a random 1 AM visit. Once in the car, she was very awake and didn’t doze off for more than an hour. She then woke up when we hit South of the Border, arguably the most recognizable stop along the way. Fortunately she was totally woozy and didn’t seem to notice. She then fell asleep again and stayed asleep for hours. Score. Unfortunately she woke up in her usual silent way and we didn’t even notice for a while, so the hat idea was out the window. Not so score. By this point we had gotten most of the way through Georgia, so we were getting close. Score again.

The little one looked around and asked where we were going. Hubs and I reached down, got our hats, and handed her hers. She unceremoniously put it on, staring at us with absolutely no emotion on her face. We asked her what she thought we were doing and she said she didn’t know. Apparently we are just that weird that she didn’t think anything of us driving down the road wearing our Mickey ears. So we asked where we wore the ears and she cautiously said “Disney”. We were all “YES!!!!!” —— and she just continued to stare at us. No emotion. No reaction at all. Then a few seconds later it came — “Where are Tutu and Unken Justin?” We told her that they were behind us and finally we got a smile.

So, no, that wasn’t what we thought it was going to be. Once we finally convinced her that it was real, though, she was thrilled. As disappointed as I was, I had to find humor in it. Leave it to my brilliant, analytical child to have to fully investigate a surprise before she could go along with it.

Then we were there. Let the magic begin!

While it doesn’t take away all of the sting of having months ahead of me before our trip, at least this time I get to share the excitement with everyone!

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Taryn was born and raised, and still lives in Richmond, Virginia. Neither she nor her husband ever had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World when they were children, but when their daughter Avalon came along, they decided she was not going to follow in their footsteps. They brought Avalon for the first time when she was 3 and have been hooked ever since. Now along with Taryn’s mother and equally Disney-loving older brother, they go “home” at least once a year, and by the time she is staring longingly at Cinderella Castle from the ferry on their last night, Taryn is well on her way to planning the next trip. As a group consisting of two adults with Asperger’s, including one who is also vegan, a very accommodating husband, an only child, a senior, and a service dog, they are a pretty special family, but Taryn is excited to show that the World really is The Most Magical Place on Earth and that there is a place there for everyone. When she isn’t thinking about her next Disney adventure and trying to come up with a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party costume that will beat her Oozma Kappa nerd look, she is a professional blogger and novelist, but Taryn also likes to indulge her Disney passion on her Etsy shop It’s Better in Vinyl.

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