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On our first trip to Disney World, we were walking towards the Magic Kingdom when my then 10-year-old niece veered a little to her right. A large group walked between 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 the parks every day. Before your next trip, make sure you and your children know what to do if you get separated. To help, here are some tips to keep your kids safe at Disney World.
Teach Your Kids
You can’t always be with your children. So, empower them by teaching them how to keep themselves safe when you’re not there. If your child gets lost, it is vital they know what to do to find you again. Knowing that your kid is prepared can give you some peace of mind if you find yourself in this situation.
Teach Them Full Names and Cell Phone Numbers
As soon as your children are verbal, start teaching them their full name, as well as yours. Also, teach them your cell phone number. This is information you should go over with them repeatedly until they are at least 8 years old. Just because they know it in June doesn’t mean they will remember it in September. In the weeks leading up to your Disney trip, practice this a lot. Go over it again while 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.
It’s also a good idea while at Disney World to teach your child the name of your hotel. This is especially true if you are staying on property. It can be helpful if your child can tell a cast member or police officer where you are staying.
Teach Them What To Do If They Get Lost
Don’t assume that your child knows what to do if he were to get lost. Teach your kids what to do in this situation. Go over this with them early and often. The more times they hear the plan, the more likely they will remember it when they need it. Explain the plan before you leave home. When you arrive at Disney World, go over it again. Remind them of the plan each day on your trip. And make sure they can recite it back to you without hesitation!
Point Out Cast Members and Their Name Tags
At Disney World, your plan should include your child telling the nearest cast member he is lost. Children are separated from their parents in the parks every day. So, Disney has a plan in place, and all cast members know what to do with a lost child. They even have a designated place in the parks to take lost children until reunited with their parents. Plus, a cast member will keep your child safe until you get to them.
Point out cast members to your children as you walk through your hotel and the parks. Show your kids the name tags the cast members wear so they can locate one on their own. The name tags all look alike, so it is an easy way for a child to recognize cast members.
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 lost 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 in this situation. So, go over the plan multiple times. It is also helpful to role play with your children so they can practice. Do practice runs at home before your trip and then again while at Disney. This can also calm your child’s nerves and increase their confidence.
Ask a Cast Member
If you see a cast member who is not busy, ask them to show your children their name tag. Tell the cast member your plan to keep your kids safe at Disney World. They will probably be happy to help you explain it to your child again. They will also let your kids get an up close look at their name tag.
There are some helpful products that can help you keep your kids safe at Disney World. These are great if your child is too young to communicate or remember your contact information. They are also helpful if your kids free up if they actually do get lost. All of these products work great, so decide for yourself which one is best for your family.
Engraved Dog Tags
My favorite product for keeping your kids safe at Disney World is engraved dog tags. I use these with my son. They have his name and our cell phone numbers on them. He wears them under his shirt. It’s a great reminder for him if he forgets our phone numbers. I love these because they are durable, waterproof, lightweight, and the information is not going to come off. And, if your little one decides to chew on them, it’s not going to hurt a thing!
Another option is safety tattoos. These temporary tattoos say, “If lost, call ###-###-####.” Use a special pen, which comes with the tattoos, to write your phone on the tattoo. Then, apply it to your child, preferably in a discreet place. If your child gets lost, they can show the tattoo to someone helping them. If you use the tattoos, 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 a lot of parents swear by them. They are a good option if you are afraid your child will take the dog tags off.
Travel ID Bands
Travel ID bands could also be used. These are wristbands similar to what you would get at a concert or festival. They have a place on the inside 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 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.
Shoe tags are fabric tags that attach to your child’s shoe to provide contact information in the event they are lost. They are another good option for kids who don’t like things on their arms or are tempted to take them off. 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. I wouldn’t use them on Crocs either. Plus, you must remember to change them over if your child wears a different pair of shoes from day to day. The reviews on the shoe tags are mixed. Some parents love them; others hate them.
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 lying around your house. Put your contact information on the tag and then attach it to your child’s shoe or clothing. You could also 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, howver, wore his band the whole time though.
There are a lot of things that parents can do to keep your kids safe at Disney World. But, sometimes, the excitement and/or exhaustion of the trip can lead to forgetting these simple things. So, here are some gentle reminders for you.
Take a Picture
To prevent not being able to remember what your child is wearing in the event he gets lost, take a photo of your kids each morning before heading to the parks. This will help jog your memory if you need it later, plus you can show it to cast members or police officers to show them what your child looks like.
Be Hands On
When walking through a crowded area in the park, hold onto your child. Either hold their hand or put your hand on their shoulder or neck. Physically touching your child at all times allows you keep track of them easier. Teach your child that they must 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. Make them 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 keep them close if they are in front of or beside you. This can be hard if you walk faster than your child. But, it is very important to train yourself to keep your child in eyesight at all times.
Carry the Little Ones
Being at Disney World with a toddler can be hard, especially when they throw a fit to get out of the stroller. However, you have to be strategic about when and where you let them burn off their energy. 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 or hurt. More than once, I have almost collided with a very small child who unexpectedly cut in front of me. And every time, the parents were letting the child walk without any guidance. This is just not safe! When in crowded areas, please either carry or put your tots in strollers!
Don’t Forget About Older Kids
Older kids can get lost too. So, keep your older kids safe at Disney World by talking 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 about the parks as you think they do. Be sure to talk to them and make sure they know what they’re doing.
Even if your older kids have their own cell phones, it may be hard to get in touch with them while at Disney World. Sometimes you can’t hear your phone ring or the battery may die. You 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 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.
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. Take a picture of the car’s location and text 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. Then they can get themselves to wherever they need to be. Sometimes, we think teens 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.
It is easy to lose a child in the parks, but with a little time and these simple tips, you can keep your kids safe at Disney World. Have a plan and teach it to your children. Then, if something unexpected happens, you and your kids will be prepared. An ounce of planning is easier than a pound of worry! For more tips on Disney World with kids, see how to stop meltdowns, how to save money on souvenirs, how to go without a stroller, how to prepare your kids for Disney, and tips for teaching kids at Disney World. Happy travels!
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