Our family discusses everything, so usually everyone, except the occasionally clueless child, knows what is going on in our lives. We make menus together, discuss our upcoming weekly events, take votes when we want opinions, and have an ongoing discussion about what trips we want to go on. On three occasions, we have secretly planned trips for our kids and sprung it on them, either a day or two before or while we were driving to the trip. 3 out of 4 of them loved the surprises.
The first time we did this was when we went on a Disney Cruise. We had done Disney World and Disneyland before and had been on cruises but had never made the splurge for the Disney Cruise. Late one night (when most our best deals happen) we saw a "kids sail free" special so we booked on the spot. We knew if we told them they were going to have to spend a lot of time waiting for this dream trip to happen so we kept it quiet and scheduled a Mickey Mouse call to break the news to them a few days before we left. However cute the call was, it was a total bust (when Mickey called they didn't understand what he was talking about) so we basically had to explain the reason Mickey called, and when and where we were going on the cruise. They were overjoyed at that point and the cruise was a smashing success.
A few years passed and we really surprised them. It was the end of summer vacation and due to some scheduling changes we ended up with 4 days with nothing scheduled. I packed bags, hid them in the back of the minivan and we drove my mom home after a visit at our lake cabin. After we dropped her off, instead of going back home we continued to drive. About an hour into the drive they realized they had no idea where we were and started asking. At that point we told them we were driving to Mount Rushmore. The first response, from our type A child was, "We don't have any clothes, how are we going to do that?". When I responded that I had packed for everyone, he stated, "But what if you didn't pack enough underwear?". After all of that was cleared up, we had an amazing trip. In fact, it was so great that our daughter couldn't decide if she liked South Dakota or Paris more!
We really got into planning our last surprise trip. After a couple's trip to Colorado in the summer, where we scouted out ski resorts, we decided to take them on a trip to Beaver Creek and Vail for Christmas. The kids came home on the Friday that break started and we told them we had an early Christmas present for them. We had bought ski gear bags and had put their Epic season ski passes in the bags. They opened them and were a bit confused so we broke into a song we had written about leaving in the morning for a ski trip! The song did not impress them very much but the surprise trip sure did. That night we packed for the trip and loaded the car, and in the morning we left for Colorado. On Sunday we were skiing in the mountains for the first time in their lives. The only part of the surprise that concerned them was that we were not going to be home on Christmas and how would Santa find them. We didn't disappoint (well except the one kid who doesn't like change all that much).
The best part of these surprise trips was the secret planning and the joy of giving them something they were totally not expecting. The spontaneity was great for all of us and truly made us be in the moment enjoying things as they happened. Go ahead, surprise your kids with a trip and see how they react!