Attendance at Walt Disney World stands very close to an almost unfathomable fifty million guests per year among the four parks. Quite simply, that is an amazing amount of humanity that goes in and out of these areas on any given day. A large percentage of these guests are, of course, families with small children.
Naturally, any responsible parent would worry that their child could become lost or separated in such a potentially hectic setting. There are so many ways for it to happen - the sheer volume of sights, sounds, and smells dictates that kids (and parents) will certainly get distracted by a beloved character, by a trinket in a shop, by the spectacle of some attraction. One child stumbles, and while you tend to their injury, your other child keeps walking. Add in the aforementioned crowds, and a wise parent will plan for a separation as an eventuality, instead of as an unlikely possibility.
First of all, make a point each morning to take a photograph of your child in the outfit that they will be wearing that day. Mentally make a note of the colors and patterns of the clothing - including the shoes and socks. If a child becomes lost, physical appearance (including clothing) will obviously be the first factor used to help locate them.
Obviously, you want to teach your children to stay with you, and to not become lost. A frequent piece of advice that parents use it to "stay where I can see you." Unfortunately, the child may not realize that you have moved, and that you can, in fact, no longer see them. Instead, teach them to stay where THEY can see YOU.
If at all possible, be sure that the child knows their full name, as well as your name. If they know your cell phone number, all the better. Disney cast members typically do not have access to phones, but if the child knows your number, they may be able to borrow a phone for calling you.
Make sure that your child can spot a cast member, and instruct them to find one if they become lost. It may not be a bad idea to further teach them that if, for some reason, they cannot find a cast member, to look for another mommy nearby who has multiple children of her own.
Older children can be entrusted with a cell phone, but if that doesn't apply to you, consider purchasing a disposable, prepaid cell phone (a tracphone) to be used only in the event that the child becomes lost. Program your number into the phone, and show the child how to operate it.
Older children can also be taught a meeting spot to go to if you do become separated. Pick a highly visible, easily located, yet specific location. "Meet us at the castle" isn't a wonderful plan - while visible, the castle is huge, and you may miss one another. "Meet us at the Partners statue" is much more specific, and more likely to work for you.
Younger children should have some sort of identification on them. We personally took a Disney luggage tag, filled it out with our names, cell phone, and resort room number, then attached it to a ribbon so that our two year old son could wear it as his "special Disney necklace" - which he did with pride.
Other ID ideas include:
Engraved silicone bracelets (similar to the popular "Livestrong" bracelets you see everywhere). These can be worn on the wrist or ankle.
Temporary tattoos. http://safetytat.com has these in sets of six and eighteen. Write your contact info on them, and they don't wash off.
Shoe tags. http://whosshoesid.com has velcro straps that fasten across shoelaces, and contain all of your contact info.
Stickers. Blank labels (such as those from an office supply store) work nicely for this. Do not place a sticker inside of your child's clothing, however - cast members may not look beneath clothing for any reason, even if the child tells them that they are wearing such identification. Also, stickers can get wet, so you may want to keep spares handy.
Make your own. Try laminating card stock, applying stickers, using markers, etc to create a one of a kind item the child is proud of.
Whatever method you choose, make sure that the child knows to show it to a cast member if they become lost.
Realize that, no matter how prepared you are, no matter how vigilant you may be, the time may well come that your child gets lost or separated while at Disney World. If this happens, follow the advice you gave them - remain calm and notify the nearest cast member. Many children are lost every single day in WDW, and virtually all are reunited within just a few minutes. Keep your head, give a good description, and all will be well.
I have lived through this experience, myself - when our two oldest children were five and seven, we took them to play in the Boneyard playground at Animal Kingdom. Our son (five at the time) got separated from us, and panic set in. The cast members were wonderful - one radio call, and the only exit to the playground was instantly shut down, then multiple cast members popped up to help search for our son. They told us that they handled this situation several times per day, not to panic... and sure enough, he was found (happily digging for dinosaur bones in another section of the playground) within ten minutes.
Educate yourself and your family, make a contingency plan, prepare for the possibilities, and you will be fine.
By Author. All Rights Reserved. Date
July 12, 2011
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