Instead of going for quantity of gifts (or “clutter” as Sharee would say) we wanted to go for quality. In other words, we wanted to spend our budget on a big family surprise that everyone could enjoy together and the clues were leading up to that big reveal.
There were a lot less presents under the tree this year, but we tried to make them all count. We got each child something that we knew they would love and then they also got some other gifts that had blue paw prints taped on them. (We got this idea from Blue’s Clues—a favorite family show when our older kids were little.)
The gifts with the paw prints were actually all clues to the big vacation:
First we got Nathaniel a Harry Potter themed calligraphy pen and ink set (since he had been learning about calligraphy in school and had requested a pen and ink. He was very excited to not only get what he wanted, but that it was Harry Potter themed.
We also got them each a handcrafted unique wooden wand (the wand chooses the wizard!) that we found on Etsy. They love those and continue to have wizarding duels with them.
Floo Powder Viles – these came with the set of wands and are mostly for looks but are fun to put on a shelf and pretend.
At this point the kids thought the theme was Harry Potter but didn’t understand why.
Since we will be driving to California we wanted them to have some travel games that could entertain them in the car for at least a portion of the trip. The games we chose for the older kids are listed immediately below and include some of my all time favorites (including Trouble, Battleship, Checkers and Mad Libs). We’ve already played Trouble as a family since Christmas and it was a lot of fun (I’m still a little bitter that I lost). Battleship—the kids already had, but they have lost some of the pieces and we wanted a good version for the car.
We also needed some toys for our littler girls that would keep them entertained without being messy and without needing constant help. Here is what we ended up getting: Melissa & Doug On the Go: Scratch Art, Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book, Aquadoodle Travel Doodle, and Aquadoodle Replacement Pens (for when the original gets lost)
After opening a few travel games they figured out and announced, “We are going on a trip in the car!”.
Mom & Dad weren’t admitting anything at this point, so they put two and two together and decided among themselves that we were going to “Harry Potter World”.
Then the next clue confused them because it wasn’t Harry Potter or a travel game.
Despicable Me – the original movie, we did not yet own it, and so we got it on DVD. (Despicable Me is one of the lands at Universal Studios.) This was actually a sacrifice for my wife because she really dislikes minions and usually avoids buying anything minion related. We considered getting the new Minions movie, but since we didn’t have the original we decided to start there.
We watched as our oldest, Josh, looked at all of the gifts and said, “Wait…Despicable Me… is at Universal Studios…and so is Harry Potter! We are going to Universal Studios and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!!!
The last clue present they opened was Sand Castle/Beach Toys.
And then they yelled “And we are going to the beach!”
I then told them that there was one more present upstairs under a bed. This present had a large “gold ticket” with our trip itinerary emblazoned on it (I made this on the computer and printed it on card stock) confirming what they had already deduced from the clues. That ticket now hangs on their mirror where they see it every day.
Our trip isn’t until later in the year (we have a little time to save up for it), but the anticipation has already begun! Those clues added an extra level of fun and a new twist to our Christmas morning traditions.
What does your family do to make Christmas morning fun? Please share in the comments below!
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