I was at Walt Disney World a few months ago when all of a sudden I heard a woman scream in terror. “Someone help, my baby, I can’t find him!” Everyone turned to look, and there was a mom looking around frantically, her hands clutched to her face, absolutely panicked. People went over to her; some tried to calm her down, some asked questions. A man ran to find a Cast Member to help. Within less than a minute however, a family came running over with a little boy who was in floods of tears. “Is this him?” Mommy and son were reunited, and although both were visibly shaken, they were unhurt. I walked away holding my little boys hand a bit tighter, wondering exactly what I would have done in that situation – probably stood and panicked and not done anything useful. When a child gets lost at Walt Disney World it’s scary for everyone involved, but if you prepare in advance, and have a plan in place for what do to if the situation occurs, it can be reassuring for both you and your child. That night, my son and I sat down and talked about what we would do if he ever got lost at Walt Disney World, and these were some of the ideas that we came up with.
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Tips for you:
Teach your child as much information as they can remember:
In a toddler or a very young child, make sure they know their full name (both first and last name) and if they are able to, have them learn your real first and last names too. Make sure they understand the very basics of the concepts of strangers; that they never go anywhere with a stranger.
In an older child, have them learn a phone number to reach you on. At this age you could also teach them that, while they still never go anywhere with a stranger, there are safe people that you can turn to if you are lost.
Put identifying information on them:
Even if a child is old enough to remember a phone number, in the panic of losing mommy and daddy, they might forget. This is why I think it’s a great idea to put your phone number somewhere on your child. You can simply write it on a piece of paper and put it in their pocket, but if they are found by a Cast Member, that person won’t know to look there and a child might forget. There are several products on the market that I think are fantastic for putting identifying information on your child:
- Liquid bandage – a liquid band aid that doubles up as a sealant, so if you write your phone number on your child’s arm with a pen, it won’t rub off! It’s smudge-proof and water-proof, so the number stays on your child’s skin for the whole day.
- Safety ID tattoos – these are stickers you can put in an obvious place, such as your child’s forearm or lower leg, that literally say “if lost, please call” with space to write a phone number. This makes it so easy for a Cast Member to know exactly who they need to call in case they find your child.
- Child ID bracelets – these are cute bracelets that have an insert where you write down your child’s information, including their name and a contact number. There is also space for other information, which would be a great place to write down allergy information, or any special needs information that a Cast Member might need to know if they find your child.
- My Buddy Tag – this is actually an amazing invention! It is a silicone bracelet with a GPS tracker that links up to an app on your phone. The tag alerts you when your child walks away from you and out of range. It also alerts you when submerged in water (an amazing tool to prevent accidental drowning), and is able to tell you where your child was last located and at what time. For less than $40, this is the ultimate piece of mind for traveling anywhere with a child.
Take a picture of your child that morning:
When looking for a missing child, you will have to describe what they look like and what they’re wearing. Not only might you struggle to come up with more than a basic description, your panic might cause you to completely forget what your child is wearing. Make it easy for those looking for your child to identify them by taking a picture of them that morning before you set out. This way you can show them exactly what your child looks like and what they are wearing.
Easier said than done, of course! If you can’t find your child for even a few seconds, chances are that you’re going to panic. But try to stay as calm as possible so that you can think clearly. Stand still and take a few seconds to really look at your surroundings before going to look elsewhere. Remember everything you have talked about with your child, and stop to think before deciding what to do next.
Find a Cast Member:
As soon as it becomes apparent that your child is no longer in the immediate area, notify a Cast Member. They are well trained in what to do in this kind of situation, and you’ll be amazed how quickly they can spring into action to help you find your child. They can help you look, call for management or security, and even radio other areas of the park so there are more people helping to look. Cast Members are used to looking out for lost children, and are often who other people will fetch is a child is found without a parent, so chances are, that is where you are going to find your child.
Tips for your child:
Call out your real name:
The first thing I’ve taught my son to do if he ever gets separated from us, is to stand still and call out our real names as loud as possible. No calling out mommy or daddy, actually use our names. At somewhere like Walt Disney World, there will be hundreds of cries of “mommy” or “daddy”, but chances are you will instinctively turn around if you hear you name being shouted out. In a situation where you have simply become separated in a crowd, a child yelling your name might be all it takes for you to figure out where they are.
Look for a Cast Member with a name tag
The next thing I’ve taught my son to do if he can’t find me is to look for a Cast Member with a name tag, and tell them that he’s lost. As previously mentioned, Cast Members are experts in helping out lost children. They know what to say to keep a child calm, and what to do to quickly locate the parent. Show your child a picture of a Cast Member wearing a name tag, and once you arrive at Walt Disney World, point out what the Cast Members look like and how to identify them.
Look for a family with kids
If for any reason your child can’t find a Cast Member, the next best thing will be a family with kids. Parents with kids are more likely to be safe people for your child to approach, and are more likely to know what to do to help.
Stay where they are
My son knows that, if he gets lost, not to wander too far from where he is. He can look for a Cast Member or a family nearby, but he knows not to just walk off looking for us; that chances are, we will find him quicker if he stays put.
Have a designated meeting place
This is something that we plan to do once the kids are older. Once they are old enough to read a map, or ask for directions, it’s helpful to have a meeting place somewhere obvious where you can all agree to meet up if separated. At the Walt Disney World parks, the best places are the central locations that are easy to find on a map, and easy to get to. At Magic Kingdom, this is in front of Cinderella’s Castle; at Epcot, Spaceship Earth; at Hollywood Studios, in front of the Great Movie Ride; and at Animal Kingdom, in front of the tree of life. This is actually a great tip for any large parties traveling with or without kids – having a designated meeting spot can help get everyone back together if you need to meet up for a meal or to leave the park together.
These are just some of the ideas you could talk about as a family to come up with a plan of action should your child get lost at one of the Disney parks. Going into the trip with a plan in place should add an extra level of reassurance for everyone.
What are your tips for what to do if your child gets lost at Walt Disney World? Let me know in the comments below!