Traveling as a family is a continual exercise in counting heads and keeping your crew together. A crowded Disney park can be an easy place to lose someone if you’re not vigilant. To avoid having your own “Lost Boy” (or girl), consider some ways you can address the risks before and during your vacation.
1. Identify yourself. Consider ordering safety tattoos or bracelets with your cell phone number listed. Be sure to try them out before your trip and instruct your child on when to show them off. For older children, be sure they have your cell phone number memorized and know your full names.
2. Cast Member connection. Show your children a picture of a Cast Member with a name tag displayed. Talk through what to do if they feel lost or left behind — stay put, ask for help from the right people, give good information. Cast Members may take them to a park’s Baby Care Center if they can’t locate “lost parents” quickly.
3. Match them up. It’s not just about cute photos — wearing matching family shirts (preferably in bright colors) helps you keep track of a child and have a visual representation of what they are wearing if they get separated from you.
During your trip
4. Stand out. Wear bright colors as a parent to make it easy for your child to spot you too. Take a photo of your child or group of kids each morning so you have a good current photo if you need it.
5. Buddy up. Assign each smaller child an older sibling or parent to partner with for the day. It eliminates the confusion of “I thought you had her!” It’s easier to stay in charge of one person continuously than play zone defense.
6. Show some restraint. You may need to physically have a hold of your child in crowded areas like theater exits, fireworks crowds, or buses. Don’t be afraid to insist on hand-holding, staying in a stroller, or even a leash if you need it to keep them secure. Their safety is more important than others’ opinions of how you parent.
7. Never too old. Make sure even preteens and teens know what to do if separated. My 13-year-old naively thought that if he got lost he should leave the park, walk to our hotel, and wait for us outside of our room. I’m glad we discussed this before our trip as that would have been the last place I would have looked for him! And remember that cell phones have dead batteries and dead zones — have a firm backup plan.
In all likelihood, you’ll never lose sight of your kids for more than a heart-stopping few seconds, and it will probably be a result of miscommunication. But if you do, you’ll have done everything you can to find each other quickly. Keeping your crew together isn’t simple, but it is possible.
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