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A couple weeks ago, I read an article on homeiswherethemouseis.com about keeping your kids safe at Disney World. I was so happy to see this article! I always take the time on every trip to talk to my son about what to do if he gets lost while we are at Disney World. However, it didn’t occur to me to write an article about it until I saw it over there. This is such an important topic that I feel it is worth covering again. Here are some simple tips to keep your kids safe at Disney World.
On our first trip to Disney World, we were walking towards the Magic Kingdom one day when my then 10-year-old niece veered a little to her right as we were walking. A large group walked between her and us. For a minute or so, she lost sight of us, and we lost sight of her. It wasn’t a big deal. But it made me realize just how easy it is to lose a child at Disney World. There are literally tens of thousands of people in those parks every day. You want to make sure you and your children are prepared in case you get separated. These tips for keeping your kids safe should help.
Teach Your Kids
You can’t always be with your children. So, you have to empower them by teaching them what to do to keep themselves safe in case you aren’t there when they need you. If you lose your child, it is vital that they know what to do in order to find you again. It can also give you some peace of mind if you are in this situation to know that your children know what to do.
Teach Them Full Names and Cell Phone Number
As soon as your children are verbal, start teaching them what their full name is, as well as what your full name is. Also, teach them your cell phone number. This is information you should go over with them over and over again until they are 7 or 8 years old. Just because they know it in June doesn’t mean they will remember it in September. Practice this a lot in the weeks leading up to your trip. Go over it all again while you are at Disney World. My son has known my phone number for a few years now, but I still make him recite it to me on the arrival day of each of our trips.
Yes, I know, this may cause you to have to endure your toddler calling you by your first name for a while, but that’s better than them being lost and only knowing your name is “Mommy.” Your child knowing your name and cell number, as well as your spouse’s information is vitally important regardless of where you are. If you were to get into a car accident with just you and your toddler in the car and you were knocked unconscious, you will want your toddler to be able to give important information to first responders.
It’s also a good idea while at Disney World to teach your child the name of the hotel you are staying at. This is especially true if you are staying on property. In the event that it takes a while to reunite you and your child, it may be useful for your child to be able to tell a cast member or police officer where you are staying.
Teach Them What To Do If They Get Lost
Don’t assume that just because you have thought about this that your child knows what to do if he were to get lost. Teach your kids what to do in this situation. Go over with them early and often. The more times they hear what the plan is, the more likely they will remember it if they need it. Start teaching them the plan before you ever leave home for your trip. When you arrive at Disney World, go over the plan again. Remind them of the plan each day on your trip. You should have a plan for this anytime you take your children to crowded places. And make sure they can recite it in their sleep!
Point Out Cast Members and Their Name Tags
At Disney World, your plan should include your child finding the nearest cast member and telling them that they are lost. Children are separated from their parents there every day. So, Disney has a plan of their own in place, and all the cast members know what to do if they have a lost child. They even have a designated place in the parks to take lost children to be reunited with their parents. Plus, you can have some comfort knowing that your child will be safe if with a cast member until you can get to them.
Explain to your children what a cast member is. Point out cast members to them as you are walking through your hotel and the parks. Show your kids the name tags that all cast members wear so she will be able to locate one on her own if lost. All of the name tags look alike, so it is an easy way for a child to recognize a person as a cast member. On every trip, I go over our plan with my son and make him point out a cast member to me. I then ask him how he knows that person is a cast member to make sure he is looking for the name tags.
Being separated from your parents can be one of the scariest and most stressful things in the world for a child. Even the most level-headed child may forget what they are suppose to do and say when they need to put your plan into action. This is why it is so important to go over these things multiple times. It is also helpful to do some role playing so your children can practice the plan and visualize what they should do. You can do your practice runs at home before your trip and then again while at Disney. This can also help to calm your child’s nerves about the topic.
If you can find a cast member who is working as a greeter, and they are not busy, they will probably be happy to help you go over it again with your child. I don’t suggest actual role playing with the cast member. But they can help you to explain it to your child again. They will also show your children their name tag and let them get an up close look at it.
There are some helpful products out there on the market that can help you in case you lose your children. These products are great if your child is too young to communicate or remember your contact information. They are also helpful for those kids who know your phone number but may forget it in the event they actually do get lost. All of these products perform the same function, so you will just need to decide for yourself which one is best for you and your child.
Engraved Dog Tags
Several years ago, we were at a college baseball game, and they were engraving dog tags for free. I had one made for my son that has his name, my cell number, and my husband’s cell number on it. When we are at Disney World, he wears his dog tags under his shirt. It’s a great reminder for him if he forgets our phone numbers. I love this option because it is durable and waterproof, and the information is not going to come off. It’s also lightweight. And, if your little one decides to chew on it, it’s not going to hurt a thing! You can find similar dog tags at Amazon.com.
Another option is the safety tattoos. These are temporary tattoos that say, “If lost, call ###-###-####.” You use a special pen, which is provided with the tattoos to write your phone on the tattoo. Then, you apply it to your child, preferably in a discreet place. Then, if your child is lost, they can show the tattoo to someone helping them. If you use the tattoos, please be sure to put it somewhere that is easy to find for a helpful cast member or good Samaritan but that doesn’t advertise your number to the world. I have not personally used the tattoos, but do know a lot of parents swear by them. They are a good option if you have a child who will take a bracelet or dog tags off. You can find them at Amazon as well.
Travel ID Bands
You can also use travel ID bands. These are wristbands similar to what you would get at a concert or festival. They have a place on the inside for you to write your contact information using a ball point pen. The outside of the bracelet says, “If I’m lost, please look inside.” This would be a good alternative if you didn’t want to stick something on your child’s skin. Because the contact information is on the inside of the bracelet, it will not be visible to people unless needed. It will also be easy to see on your child’s wrist. Again, I have not personally used these, but a lot of parents seem to love them. One parent put the band on her child’s shoe instead of his wrist. This could be a good option if your child doesn’t like anything on his arm. Amazon also carries these as well.
Shoe tags are fabric tags that attach to your child’s shoe to provide contact information in the event they are lost. They would also work great on kids who don’t like things on their arms or are tempted to take it off if on their arms. However, with these, you must have laces or someway to attach them to the shoes. They won’t work well for sandals or flip flops. They probably won’t work well for Crocs either. Plus, you must remember to change them over if your child wears a different pair of shoes from day to day. I have also not used these. The reviews on the shoe tags are mixed. Some parents love them; others hate them. You can buy them from Amazon as well.
For a free option, try luggage tags. If you booked a vacation package through Disney, you will receive free luggage tags from Disney prior to your trip. If not, you probably have some luggage tags laying around your house. You can put your contact information on the tag and then attach it to your child’s shoe or clothing. You could attach it to a lanyard for your child to wear around his neck.
Everyone staying at a Disney hotel will get a Magic Band. Each band has your contact information and your hotel information electronically stored on it. Make sure your child wears his band. A cast member can scan the band of a lost child to get the parents’ information. If you are not staying on property, you can buy a Magic Band and have your information linked to it.
The benefit of this is that it will contain your hotel information as well as your phone number in such a way that only a cast member can get access to it. The drawback to this solution is that the bands are fairly easy for kids to take off. So, it might not be a great option for little ones. My 6-year-old had no problems leaving his band on the whole time though.
There are a lot of things that we, as parents, can do to keep our kids a little safer as we go throughout our vacations. But, sometimes, we get caught up in the excitement and/or exhaustion of the trip and forget these simple things. So, these are just some gentle reminders for you.
Take a Picture
Losing a child in the parks can be scary and stressful on parents too. When we are frantic, our minds don’t always think clearly. So, each morning, before heading out of your hotel room, take a photo of your kids. This way, if you need it later, you can refer to it to jog your memory about what they were wearing that day. You can also show it to cast members or police officers so they will know what your child looks like.
Be Hands On
When you are walking through a crowded area, especially when coming out of a show or after the fireworks at night, hold onto your child. Either hold their hand or put your hand on their shoulder or neck. By physically touching your child at all times, you will be able to keep track of them easier. They won’t be as tempted to wander off. And, if they do wander, you will know it faster. Teach your child that it is a rule for them to stay in physical contact with you at all times when in crowds.
Walk Beside Me, Not Behind Me
Do not let your child walk behind you! If they stop to look at something or wander off in a different direction, you may not know it until it’s too late if they are behind you. Make them either walk in front of you or beside you so that you can keep your eyes on them at all times. It’s also easier to put your hands on them to keep them close if they are in front of or beside you. This is a hard one, especially when you walk faster than your child. But, it is very important for you to train yourself and your child to keep them in eyesight at all times.
Carry the Little Ones
I know what it’s like to be at Disney World with a toddler. I know that they sometimes throw a fit to get down and out of the stroller. However, as a parent, you have to be strategic about when and where you let them burn off that energy. This is especially true if your child is a fairly new walker. The middle of Fantasyland on a busy summer day is not the time to let your 2-year-old roam freely. This increases the chances of him getting lost. It also increases the chances of your child getting hurt. More than once, I have almost collided with a very small child who unexpectedly cut in front of me. On every occasion, the parents were letting the child walk without holding their hand or guiding them in any way. This is just not safe!
The grounds of your hotel is a much better place to let your little toddler get their wiggles out. If you must give them some free play time while in the park, please find an uncrowded area out of the main walkways to do this. In every park, there are great places for wee ones to burn some energy in a safe manner. Both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom has areas designed specifically for kids to run and explore freely. While in crowded areas, please either carry or put your tots in strollers!
Don’t Forget About the Older Kids
Getting lost is not something that just happens to little kids. Remember your older kids too. Talk to them about what to do if they get separated from the family. Have a plan for them too. My friend, Mary, didn’t think about this with her 9-year-old until she was in the parks. When she asked him what he would do if they got separated, he didn’t know. She had to do some quick teaching! Likewise, teenagers may not know as much as you think they do. So be sure to talk to them to make sure they know what they’re doing.
If your older kids have their own cell phones, that can make it easier to find each other if separated. However, remember that sometimes it’s hard to hear a cell phone ring. Even with a cell phone, it may be hard to get in touch with one another. You will need to have a plan in place in case the phones aren’t working for whatever reason.
Have a Meeting Place
If your kids are old enough to go off on their own, be sure they know where and when to meet back up with you. Make sure they have a watch or phone with them so they can keep track of time too. Even if your kids aren’t going off on their own, give them a place to meet in the event that you get separated. This will make finding one another a little easier. It also doesn’t hurt to tell them about cast members and their name tags too!
Make Sure They Can Use Disney Transportation
Make sure your older kids know the name of your hotel. If you drove to the park, make sure they know where the car is parked. You can also take a picture of the car’s location and texted it to your children. This way, they can meet you at the hotel or car if necessary. Additionally, make sure your older kids know how to use Disney transportation. This will make it easier for them to get themselves to wherever they need to be without you. We sometimes think teens will automatically know how to do this, but they may not. Spending a few minutes talking about it can give you a lot of peace of mind later on.
Not of this stuff is hard, but it is useful to be reminded of. Take a little time to talk to your kids and have a plan. Make sure each person in the family knows the plan. Then, if something unexpected happens, you and your kids will be prepared. An ounce of planning is easier than a pound of worry! Happy travels and have a magical day!