Thrifty Thursday: Lost in the (Disney) World

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Like so many other parents, I know what it is like to be walking down the sidewalk at a Disney park only to realize that a member of your family is missing. I have felt that utter panic and paralyzing fear that is associated with losing a child at Walt Disney World. During our trip in 2000, when my youngest son was only 6, he got separated from us. Those five minutes was the longest time of my entire life. In fact, that event is when I started to go gray.

Lost children are a very serious matter — not only to us as parents but to the Disney cast members as well. First, I am sure you have heard that at Walt Disney World there is no such thing as a lost child, only lost parents. The cast members are excellent at taking care of your precious little prince or princess until you can be found. I hope that your child is never lost, but we all know it does happen, so I am going to share some tips for hopefully making your reunion a lot quicker.

There are many things you can do to prepare; both before you leave home and while you are on your trip. Below are some of the many ideas that can help you to be ready, just in case. Some cost little to nothing, even though I know that no price is too high for us to keep our treasured children safe and with us.

Before you leave home

There are many methods people use in order to identify their children, especially those children too young to memorize a cell phone number. The types of identification methods are:

  • Dog tags can be printed at PetSmart or Petco and then attached to his/her shoelaces near the toe. They will stay on even if untied.
  • Create an Iron on transfer by creating a label on your home computer with name, parent’s name and cell phone numbers; then print it onto transfer paper with your printer. Finally, iron it into the inside of his shirt by the tag or above the hem, only to be revealed if he gets lost.
  • Create a laminated card and stick it inside the cardholder on the lanyard. They should take it out and give it to the cast member or at least point to it if they are very young.
  • Writing with permanent marker on the inside of the rubber bracelets the kids wear (like the Livestrong bands).
  • Purchase a waterproof luggage tag and put all your contact information on it. The tag can be worn on their belt (or belt loop) and tucked into their pocket or hidden under a long shirt.
  • Purchase a Who’s Shoes Child ID kit, enter your contact information and fasten to your child’s shoe before heading to the park.
  • Take a wallet size photo of your child with you on your trip. On the back, write the height, weight, hair color and eye color of your child, as well as any other identifying information such as glasses, freckles, braces, etc.
  • Pin a card with your contact information somewhere inside their clothing and be sure to tell them that they will need to show it to a cast member if YOU should get lost.

While you are on your trip

  • Tell your child that if YOU get lost, he should stay right where he is. A cast member is sure to find him, but you will be backtracking your steps so your child needs to stay out in the open. When we got separated from Joshua, he wandered into a restaurant where the cast members kept him safe but he was completely out of our sight.
  • It used to be that Disney cast members were the only ones who wore a name tag, but now the parks sell some name tags which are very similar to those the cast members wear. When you tell your child who to find if you should get lost, tell them the cast members have a WHITE name tag. Cast members will gladly be available for you to show your child exactly what the cast member name tag looks like up close.
  • Plan your daily wardrobe such that you and your children are wearing the same color shirt on any given day. When you are losing your mind with panic and someone asks you what color clothing your child is wearing, you may not be able to remember, but you will be wearing the same color so you won’t have to.
  • Some people use their cell phone or digital camera to take a picture of their kids on their way into the park every morning. That way, if you are not dressed in the same color, you will know exactly what they wore that day.
  • Don’t send your child to the restroom alone. Some restrooms at the parks have multiple entrances/exits, so if he goes into one door, he could come out of another. At the Magic Kingdom, your child could enter the restroom from Adventureland but exit into Frontierland.  If they must go in without you, decide on an exact location to meet when he exits and not just “meet me here when you come out.” If they exit and don’t see the designated spot, they would need to go back in and exit through another door. This tip is obviously for children who are a little older.

I know that we all talk to our children about the dangers of wandering off. Still, when we are taking a picture or checking the map, and they are mesmerized with all the magic of Disney, it is easy for them to get distracted and wander off. Hopefully, that will not happen to any of you but I can tell you it is a feeling I would do anything to help someone avoid. A couple of years ago, our family was in EPCOT and there was a woman there who was frantic. She was crying and running around hysterically; it was very hard just to try to calm her enough to be able to help her. We asked what her lost daughter looked like, what she was wearing, and what her name was. We all went around looking everywhere, calling the little girl’s name. Finally, a cast member found her. She didn’t look anything like the visual I got from the description. If you can act on at least one of the tips I have offered here, it might make it easier to reunite you with your loved one.  Being separated for five minutes is six minutes too long.  I wish you happy and safe travels.

Author’s Note:  It has been a while since I have had small children. If you have young ones, I would like to recommend a book by one of my favorite authors: Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers, by Lisa Battista. It will be such a great help to you!

Brenda is a native Texan born and raised on the Gulf Coast. She visited Disney World twice as a teenager and always dreamed of growing her family Disney. She took her first-timer husband and their three children to Disney World in 2000 and they now spend every Thanksgiving there. Brenda writes with a comedic twist on various Disney topics. She will be sharing tips she has learned during her travels and also hopes to enlighten people on little-known freebies that Disney has to offer. She wishes she could have met Walt Disney and considers herself to be a student of Walt. In parallel to his dream it is her wish that everyone would take at least one trip to Disney World in order to share in its magic with their families.

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