Introduction: Disney Trip Reveal: Letters From Disney Characters

My husband and I were surprising our daughter with a trip to Disney World for her sweet sixteen, so I went online looking for ideas for the big reveal. Many were too childish, but by mixing and matching various ideas, I came up with a method that is part trivia, part puzzle, and takes a while to set in.

I opted to write her letters from Disney characters using clues as to who they were and what the trip was. Each letter ended with the characters' initials instead of full name.

The choice of stationary, handwriting, stamps, and postmark were all clues to help her figure out who was sending her letters. The last letter was from Mickey himself who had the pleasure of revealing that we would be leaving for Disney World in just a few days.

You can see how the whole process unfolded on Instagram @SecretDisneyTrip


Step 1: Gather Materials

You'll need a range of stationary, envelopes, stamps, and pens/markers/crayons. We have a local shop called Scrap that sells items for "creative reuse." It's a great place to get lots of random items. There's locations in Portland OR, Arcata CA, Denton TX, Baltimore MD, Richmond VA, and Ann Arbor MI.

You'll also need:
Stamp pad (black)
Large pink eraser
Glue stick
Inkjet or laser Printer
Software with a range of fonts

Step 2: Digital Letters

When you've only got a few sheets of each type of stationary and you're trying to write in a handwriting that isn't your own, you're more likely to make mistakes. To ease the stress in this step, create a digital version of each letter first. Pick a font that goes well with the character while remembering you'll have to trace it later. I hand-wrote most of mine on my tablet, but used the occasional font to help me achieve difficult styles.

Print your digital letters, pair them with stationary that fits the character, and trace the handwriting in a pen/pencil/crayon that also fits the character.

I used a large clear bin with a lamp nearby as a tracing table.

Step 3: Finished Letters

These are all the finished letters. Can you tell who all of them are from?

Step 4: Stamps

After looking online for some fake stamps/stickers from different countries, I bought a pack of 100 or so random worldwide stamps from a guy on Ebay for less than $5.

Sort the stamps by country.

Make note of which country each character is from. For example, Snow White is a German fairytale and Russel travelled to Venezuela with Mr Fredrikson in his balloon house in Up.

Step 5: Matching

Match each letter with an envelope and stamps from the characters' home countries. Sometimes I didn't have stamps from the right countries, so I picked some from neighboring countries or those that were unclear where they came from.

Step 6: Postmark and Ready to Send

I couldn't actually mail the letters, because then they'd have a local postmark that might give away who was sending them.

The stamps were a hint to the country of origin for the character, but I also wanted to hint at Disney World as the location of the trip. To give that subtle hint, I used my laser cutter to create a stamp to suggest the letters came through Kissimmee, Florida. The date on the postmark, May 2019, is when we would be leaving.

Use a glue stick to attach the stamps, address the envelopes in the same handwriting as the letter, and cancel the stamps with the Kissimmee postmark.

Step 7: Delivery

Since I'm the one who checks the mail, I was able to slip one in with the mail every couple days leading up to the party.

I tried to deliver some of the more challenging ones first and leave the more obvious ones for later, but she didn't figure out the puzzle until the day of her party when we gave her some hints. She did worry she had a stalker for a few days, but we were able to reassure her that there was nothing sinister to these letters once she received one written by a child in crayon.

Her reactions were priceless and hilarious. I had so much fun making and delivering these and her father enjoyed pretending he didn't know anything about them while trying to help her solve the mystery.

Step 8: Post Reveal

After the surprise trip to Disney World was revealed, Josie turned the letters into an autograph book and had lots of the characters sign them, so they're now a treasured keepsake.

You can see how the whole process unfolded on Instagram @SecretDisneyTrip

If Josie were younger, I would sign the characters' names and just let the trip be the mystery. What does Rapunzel mean when she says we should get together to braid each other's hair?

What new letters can you come up with? Post your own versions as an I Made It comment below!

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