One thing that can really freak out parents is the thought of their child getting lost at Walt Disney World. The resort and park complex is enormous and literally covers miles, with woods, hundreds of buildings, and people everywhere, and it is very easy to lose someone in the crowds. Being the parent of a child on the Autism spectrum who just starting to express himself verbally, child safety is of utmost concern to me – especially since my 5-year-old son thinks it’s hilarious to run away and hide, only running faster if I chase him. We all know that advance preparation for situations like these is important, but when you factor in the panic that can set in for both kids and parents – especially being many miles from home in a large, noisy place – having a practiced system in place is even more of a priority.
Even though I had my own ideas of how to prepare for a possible separation situation, I asked a group of moms what they do to help get their children returned to them quickly should they become separated at Disney World, and here are their suggestions:
Make sure your child knows how to spot a Disney World Cast Member.
They may not all dress alike, but Disney World Cast Members are easy to spot by their name tags. Teach your child to recognize a few different cast members by looking at pictures on Google. Another good option is to also teach your child to look for another mother with children and to tell whoever they find (mother with kids or Cast Member) that they are lost.
Make sure your child knows the real names of the adults in your group.
It will help Disney’s Cast Members find you more quickly if your child can say “Mark Sullivan” instead of “daddy”.
Dress in color-coordinated clothing.
Family members are less likely to be separated if they wear matching clothing – it makes groups easier to recognize and also cuts back on people cutting through your group. Matching shirts also allow parents to show Cast Members what their child is wearing, and children wearing matching shirts as the rest of their family are easier to spot in a crowd.
Take a picture of your child on your cell-phone each morning.
Sometimes, when an emergency arises, it’s hard to think or remember anything. Taking a picture of your child each morning of your vacation will allow you to show Disney Cast Members exactly what your child looks like that day and what they are wearing, making them easier to find.
Have whichever parent is in charge of the kids carry the backpack/bag.
If the parent responsible for the kids carries the bag of necessities, there can be no “I thought you had them!” situations…and these come up, TRUST ME.
Have your child wear something with your contact information on it.
In an emergency, kids sometimes forget things like phone numbers. There are tons of options for this – SafetyTat will custom print temporary tattoos, SayItBands makes embossed silicone wristbands (no minimum purchase required), you can write your cell-phone number on the back of special celebration pins that can be requested at Guest Services, you can put stickers inside clothing, you can order custom “dog tags”, or you can even write your phone number on their shoes.
Make sure your child knows which resort you are staying in.
Tracking you down will be much faster if your child is able to tell Disney’s Cast Members which resort you are staying in (along with your first and last names).
Write your contact information on your child.
Use permanent marker and paint over it with liquid bandage.
Tell your child to stay where they are, to find the closest Cast Member, and that you will come and find them.
There is nothing worse than realizing you have been separated from your child for only a few seconds and to turn around and find them gone because they went looking for you in a panic. If your child knows to find the closest Cast Member (they are pretty much EVERYWHERE) to where they were when they realized they were lost, the chances of you finding them quickly and before things escalate are much greater.
Keep in mind…
Disney World has procedures in place for when this happens. They know that NO parent wants to lose their child, but it can happen, and they handle it professionally and quickly.