Just as there are many foods that kids simply will not eat, there are also many places that kids adamantly refuse to go. Like the dentist, or Military School. When a clever parent wants to take them there without resistance, they will lie about their destination to elicit their cooperation. This averts the struggle of trying to get them in the car.
Usually, the pretext is picked based on the parent's knowledge of what their kids like. Disneyland is a common stock location as it is generally accepted that no kid would miss the opportunity to go there.
Naturally, the parents will need to deal with the inevitable fallout when they arrive at their destination and the kids realize they are not at the fictitious location. This can be a gag itself if the family clearly doesn't live near enough to a Disney theme park to make it there in a day, yet the kids fail to notice they haven't packed for an overnight trip.
The destinations (both real and alleged) and the relationship between the characters, can vary. However, the lie is always to a subordinate, whom the superior character has the right to take places. Possible variations might include:
- A dog owner tells their pet they are going to the park when they are really taking them to the vet.
- An employer tells their employee they are going to an office party when they are really going to a training seminar.
If the deception is to trick someone into being taken somewhere for a nefarious purpose by someone with no right to bring them there, there is an index of kidnapping tropes that are more likely to be suited to that situation.
For other fibs that adults tell kids out of convenience, see Lies to Children.
- A mock-documentary style commercial for Toys "R" Us had a spokesperson dressed as a forest ranger pretend to take a bus full of schoolchildren to a forest, only to change his outfit and take them to a Toys "R" Us store instead. The ad was criticized for portraying nature as a less desirable destination than a strip mall.
Film — Animated
- An inverted example occurs in The Lion King (1994). Scar coaxes Simba to go to the Elephant Graveyard, and when Simba meets up with Nala, they trick Zazu into leading them to the Water Hole so they can ditch him there while they explore the Elephant Graveyard. Zazu is not happy when he finds out that the cubs have tricked him, as it's his responsibility to keep them safe from the hungry hyenas.
- In The Secret Life of Pets 2, Max is taken for a walk by his owner Katie. Then they pass a dog being dragged by his leash begging not to go to the vet; that's when Max realizes where Katie is actually taking him.
Film — Live Action
- In Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, Jon decides to fly to London to surprise Liz. Garfield thinks he and Odie are going with him, but when he wakes up in Jon's car after a nap:
- In Hannah Montana: The Movie, Miley arrives in her hometown of Crowley Corners, Tennessee instead of the World Music Awards in New York. She finds out that her father Robby had them land there as he had observed that fame was running through her head when she dons the Hannah persona. Not to mention the incident earlier in the film, such as fighting with Tyra Banks over a pair of shoes, which almost blew her cover. Plus it's Grandma Ruby's birthday, so Robby could have a legitimate excuse for a two week stay.
- In Miracle on 34th Street, Shellhammer lies to Kris to get him into the cab that is going to take him to Bellevue, saying that they're going to City Hall to take pictures with the mayor.
- Inverted in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul. Frank and Susan tell the kids that they're going to a retirement home for their summer trip, when really, they were going to Disney World, as to surprise them. This then backfires on them as Manny had actually wanted to go to the retirement home, so everyone had to do that before going to Disney World.
- Dog with a Blog: When Stan doesn't want to go the vet, Avery tells him they are going to the park instead.
- It's mentioned on occasion in The Golden Girls that Dorothy used the Disneyland variation of this lie when sending her elderly mother, Sophia, to Shady Pines— a Bleak Abyss Retirement Home. This causes Sophia to become extremely suspicious when Dorothy finally does plan to take her to Disney World.
- Discussed in the B-plot of the Good Luck Charlie episode, "Charlie in Charge"; Amy tries to get P.J. to have a "Mommy and P.J. Day" under the guise of going to the dentist. Unfortunately for her, P.J. doesn't fall for it, since he doesn't want to have a "Mommy and P.J." day. After Amy explains her plan to Teddy, Teddy asks her why she has "Take Gabe to Laser Tag" written on the refrigerator. Amy tells her that she's really planning to take Gabe to get a haircut.
- In an episode of Happy Days, Fonzie reveals that as a kid, his parents took him to the doctor and lied that they were going to the amusement park.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode: "The Beast of Hollow Mountain". The riffers add their own dialogue to a scene where Pancho takes his son Panchito to a dilapidated shack in the middle of nowhere:
Tom Servo: [as Panchito] Papa, I thought you said we were going to the Chuck E. Cheese.
Crow: [as Pancho] It's not Chuck E. Cheese, but there are mice here.
- The pet variant happens in Mongrels where Destiny believes that the V.E.T.S. she is taken to is a prestigious award of some sort. Marion remarks that somehow, whenever an animal gets taken to the V.E.T.S. they end up at the vets. When Nelson points out that she is being taken to the vets by removing the dots, both Destiny and Marion are dumbstruck.
- Jokingly referenced in The Flophouse where Dan tells Stu they're going to the park and then stage whispers to Elliott that they're actually going to the vet. Stu plays along by acting like an excited dog for the bit.
- In his stand up special, Donald Glover mentioned how his dad would lie and say they were going to Toys "R" Us when they were actually going to Home Depot.
- Discussed in a "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey" segment on Saturday Night Live:
"One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. 'Oh no,' I said, 'Disneyland burned down.' He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late."
- Bioshock Infinite: Booker DeWitt is on a mission to retrieve Elizabeth Comstock from Columbia in order to wipe away an unspecified debt. Elizabeth is a young and naive woman who has spent her whole life stuck in a Gilded Cage where her only knowledge of the outside world comes from books; she develops a particularly strong desire to visit Paris. Booker manages to coax her into coming along with him by promising to take her there in an airship. She eventually sees through the deception when she realizes that the coordinates he sets in the airship aren't for Paris.
- In the Red vs. Blue "Cultural Appreciation" PSA, Simmons and Donut trick Tucker into going by saying they're going to the "Annual Ice Cream and Monster Truck Rally".
Tucker: You sons of bitches! This is just like the time you promised to take me to the Victoria's Secret Thanksgiving Day Parade!
- In RWBY Chibi, Ruby tries to take Zwei to the vet, lying that they are going to the park to keep him from freaking out. The ruse is revealed when Nora gets ticked off that she wasn't invited to come along and bluntly (and screaming) blurts out the truth to Zwei.
- Big City Greens: In "Photo Op", Bill takes the Green family to the mall to get their photo taken at the family portrait studio by tricking them into thinking that they're going to the food court. When Cricket, Tilly, and Gramma find out the truth, they spend the rest of the episode trying to escape to the food court before Bill can find them and take them back.
- In one episode of Family Guy, Lois takes Peter to a seminar hosted by self-help guru Tony Robbins. Peter complains, claiming that she told him they were going to Baskin-Robbins. Lois insists she meant they were going to "Bask in Robbins' glow".
- Johnny refuses to take a bath in one episode of Johnny Test. His mom convinces him to go in the car under the pretext of going to a toy store, but she actually brings him to a bathhouse. Despite this, she fails to clean him up.
- Played with in the Peppa Pig episode "Santa's Grotto". When the family are driving in the car after visiting Santa, Peppa notices that the family's luggage is also in the car and asks her father why. He tells her they're going to sleep over at Granny and Grandpa Pig's house for Christmas Eve.
- Invoked by Homer and Marge repeatedly in The Simpsons.
- Played with in Elementary School Musical". The family goes to see the presser celebrating Krusty the Clown winning the Nobel Peace prize. After Krusty invites Homer to join him on his trip to Olso to accept the award (and lets Bart come along, too), Lisa is depressed because she anticipates that Marge's idea of consolation is to take her and Maggie to get ice cream. Instead, she drops off Lisa at performing arts camp, revealing that she remembered to bring along her saxophone.
- In the episode "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson", they use it so they can bring Bart to military school. Later, they claim they're taking the kids to Disneyland as a reward for Bart and Lisa successfully graduating... only to reveal that they actually brought them to the dentist (and laughing that the kids fell for it twice).
- In "You Kent Always Say What You Want", Bart complains that Marge is taking him to the dentist when she said she'd take him to ride dirt bikes around the cemetery. Lisa groans, "You fall for that every six months".
Homer: [in full motocross gear] Hey, suckers! Check it out! Marge is taking me to ride dirt bikes around the cemetery!
Lisa: You're going to the dentist too, Dad.
Homer: "Why the cemetery", I wondered. But my dreams were too strong.
- In one of the Ullman-era shorts, Marge and Homer told Bart and Lisa that they were going out for frosty chocolate milkshakes, but instead they bring them to a family therapy session.
- A variant: Until the Hayes sextuplets were four years old, their mother wouldn't tell them where they were going on car trips (their fourth birthday party, for example) until they got in the car. She found that if she told them any sooner than that, they would get too wound up to focus on preparing to leave the house for their destination.