Babes in Disneyland has shared a few (here and here) of our ways to countdown the days until your next Disneyland visit. But, you know how much kids (and perhaps adults, wink wink) love those Christmas advent calendars, the kind with chocolate or an activity for each day until December 25th? Well that was my inspiration for making this year’s countdown to our next Disneyland trip extra special! Last summer I planned a Surprise Vacation to Disneyland (and more) and in the past I’ve brought Surprise Treat Bags that I made ahead of time and brought with us to Disneyland. I think adding these extra thoughtful touches to any trip makes the whole experience just that much more magical, memorable, and fun for the kids AND the adults!
So first let me tell you what I did, and then I’ll share some simple ways you can personalize it to fit your family and vacation!
The first thing I think about when planning something – parties, meals, activities, etc. – is how to keep it easy, simple, and usually cheap. So when planning our family’s Disneyland Countdown Calendar I looked at what I already had a home first, before going out and buying a bunch of supplies or spending a lot of time on it.
My Plan: I planned to have the countdown last for the 10 days leading up to our trip. I wanted each day to have a different treat or activity. I wanted it to be a surprise for each day. And I knew I wanted to to be visible – so the mantle seemed like the perfect spot.
Supplies I Used: All things I found at home – 3×5 note cards, markers, Mickey stickers, ribbon, tiny clothespins, washi tape, regular tape, bunting (from Liam’s Mickey birthday party a few years ago).
What I did: I folded the note cards in half – on the outside I wrote the countdown numbers, and on the inside I wrote the surprise. I made a list of possible surprises, and tried to think of mostly free activities with a few purchased treats. I also thought ahead to what day of the week each surprise would fall on so that it would “fit” with that day – ie. on the day we go to Target to pick out Disney shirts, I needed it to be a weekend day; on the day we watched a movie, I needed to make sure it was a day we didn’t have any other evening plans. I simply taped up the bunting, and the ribbon, then attached the note cards in order with the small clothespins.
The surprises I chose for our countdown were specifically for our trip – driving to Disneyland (14 hours in the car), so I went with:
- Pick Out a “Disney” Travel Snack (had to have “Disney” printed on the box, ie. Star Wars Cheez-Its, Zootopia Fruit Snacks)
- Have a Penny Press $$$ Hunt (hide quarters andpennies around the living room)
- Family Coloring Contest (print free Disney coloring pages off the internet!)
- Watch a Disney Movie + Popcorn
- Pick Out New Disney Shirts (Target and Old Navy usually have a good selection)
- Make & Eat Mickey Mouse Pancakes
- Make a Disneyland To-Do List (use the Disneyland App or a map to scope out your plan)
- Decorate Your Own Autograph Book (purchase a small notebook, pen, and stickers to let kids decorate their own)
- Back Your Backpack
- Make a Disneyland-or-Bust Sign (construction paper, markers, more stickers – and hang it in the car window)
- Open Your Surprise and LET’S GO! (a brand new Disney book for each kid to read in the car)
The kids had no idea it was coming – it only took me one evening after they went to bed to make it and set it up – they were so surprised the next morning! Everyday was a little like Christmas morning, it was definitely the first thing they wanted to do when they woke up!
HOW YOU CAN MAKE IT YOUR OWN! The great thing about this countdown is that it can literally be whatever you want it to be!
- Change the format: I am certainly not the first one to make a Disneyland Countdown – Google will show you a thousand different possibilities for what your countdown can look like. You can have a jar with popsicle sticks, or use Mickey paint chips with magnets, print characters and cut them out! Make it as fancy or simple as you want!
- Change the content: You can also adjust your surprises to fit your trip and your budget – they can all be free if you don’t want to spend any extra, or they can be activities (chores) that your kids can do at home to earn treats once you are on vacation. Some other surprises I brainstormed, but didn’t make the cut this time were: write a letter to Mickey/Minnie and mail it, make/bake snacks to pack for the trip, pick your favorite Disney friend (stuffed animal) to bring with you, pick a new Disney movie/app/game to download for the trip.
I hope this gave you some good ideas – and got your juices flowing for other ways to make your next Disneyland trip extra special! Share any great ideas or thoughts you had for a countdown below!