Waiting CAN be Fun (OK, Well, At Least it can be Bearable)

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TouringPlans.com is happy to welcome Evan Levy to our blogging team. This is Evan’s second article for us. Her first, on planning your Disney vacation with your children, can be found here.

Waiting on line...

Most of us spend a lot of time waiting–at the bank, in the dentist’s office, at the drugstore, in the train station. Few people know, however, that studies have proven that 10 minutes waiting in line at the post office is equal to 7,468 human years.

When you are waiting and have children with you, you multiply by three, add the number of Goldfish crumbs they have deposited on your sweater, and figure in their ages times sixty nine. On a trip to Disney World, despite the joyous and fun-filled times that await, you and your kids will spend a fair amount of time waiting–at the airport/on line for the rides/at a restaurant/near the rack of t-shirts that mark the end of the line in your hotel gift shop. But wait (See? Even when you least expect it!) These times do not have to be full of dread, boredom and anxiety. With a little planning and foresight, these stretches of time can be, if not toe-tappingly uproarious; at the worst, bearable; at the best, something approaching enjoyable.

Plan Ahead, Plan ahead, Plan Ahead. There are certain occasions when it is acceptable to wing it. When you are on your honeymoon in Paris, you are permitted to stroll randomly along the Seine with no game plan.

Not so much with kids at the airport.

Take our advice, as Type-A as it seems: Before you leave, take out a pad or laptop and start making a list of all the times you anticipate having to wait for something on your trip. Do not give up in despair when you reach the bottom of the page and you have only gotten as far as the airport snack shop.

Do remember… that not every second of a child’s time needs to be filled with planned activities. I spent much of my childhood staring out of car windows at the passing scenery, and I turned out just fine. Do not feel guilty because your child may sometimes have to wait. It’s good practice for being an adult.

But having said that…Start buying small goodies to give kids while you wait : stickers, activity pads, books of crossword puzzles, joke books, etc. Divvy them up as you pack–you don’t want to use everything while the plane is taxiing down the runway. Put things in separate bags and mark them accordingly: plane there; plane back; ride to the hotel; mealtimes; etc. Get some favorites as well as some new stuff, like travel-sized games or drawing activities. You may not need all of them, but it’s best to be prepared.

Prepare Your Kids: Will it really make a difference to your daughter when you’re on your fifty-eighth minute of a wait for your dinner reservation at the Crystal Palace and you told her eight days ago that this might happen? Well, no, probably not, but forewarned is forearmed. Sit down with your kids ahead of time and explain that waiting is just part of the deal and it’s up to all of you to figure out ways to make it more fun. Remind them that behavior is “catching”—the less whining; the more likely it is that everyone will stay cheery.

Be grateful that it’s Disney World and not the dentist–at least the payoff will be worth it.

Ask for Their Help: Have kids find/suggest several waiting activities. Ask each child (confidentially) to come up with an activity that would be good for someone else in the family. Tell them to come up with ideas that are creative and you haven’t used before. Start compiling written lists, or keep a computer file. Research games that can be done with pencil and paper or verbally. Everyone likes “I Spy with My Little Eye,” but by the fifth round, even your super-observant 7-year-old is going to need a break. The internet can be a great source of word games. Make a list of them and jot down the rules if they’re new to you. You may now be asking yourself, ”With everything I have to do, plus that incredibly complicated law brief to draft, should I really be spending my time researching early 20th century hand-clapping games?”


You will be the envy of all on line with your attentive, whine-free, happily occupied children. Start  jotting down ideas. Look up clapping games and word games. Ask friends and family for suggestions.

Establish rules ahead of time. For instance, some families have a no hand-held game or cell phone rule at mealtimes; some families don’t mind these distractions. Be clear on what’s OK to use to while away the time.

Fulfill basic needs first. Children get cranky when they’re hungry/tired/bored. Before you go on a line or somewhere you will have to wait, make sure they are not suffering from the first two. A bored child is marginally better than one who is bored and hungry and tired. Always carry snacks and water.

Can it be? Yes! Another line!

Suggestions to Get you Started: Here are a few activities you can do while you’re in a holding pattern somewhere on your way to/ in/on your way back from Disney World–we’re sure you’ll come up with tons more!

* Start a (VERY SIMPLE) crafts project that can be easily stopped and started, like making (Disney?) stick figures with Popsicle sticks, glue sticks, and fabric or markers; or filling small blank books with collages made with adhesive shapes.

* Make the waits part of an overall larger game. For instance: On each line at a Park, have kids look at some of the themed displays, then turn away and write down everything they can remember in two minutes. Save your sheets, and on a new line, have everyone come up with a story or drawing that includes the objects they have found. Or at each stop, start a story that everyone contributes to, but stop it the minute the line ends and only continue it on the next line.

* Play alphabet: Have a conversation all in questions where each person has to start with a succeeding letter of the alphabet (“Are you my aunt?” “Bother! I am,” etc.) Start with a different letter each time.

* Play “America.” Someone names a destination, and then someone else names another place that starts with the last letter of that word. For instance, I say, “Georgia,” then you say, “Albuquerque.” You can also play this game with animals, foods, TV shows, etc.

* Play “Two Truths and a Lie.” Each person has to say three things about themselves, one of which is not true. The other people have to guess which statement is false.

* Teach kids how to play “Hidden Truth.” Choose a destination and have kids start asking questions about what they can bring. The “hidden truth” will determine if you say yes or no. For instance, kids might ask, “Can I bring a puppy?” The hidden truth might be “things that start with the letter P,” or “animals.” If it’s animals, you would say yes, and so forth. Have kids keep guessing until they figure out the hidden truth.

* You will no doubt have a handful of maps and brochures as you travel around. Use them to your advantage. Challenge kids to find certain words and images (magazines work as well.) Tell them to see how many words they can make out of one or two of the longer words.

* Sometimes kids (and grown ups) need something silly to lighten the mood. On a long line or while waiting for the plane/meal/Disney Express, try something unexpected: Suddenly suggest that everyone switch shoes; hand the person next them one thing from their pocket; or join up with another family member to imitate a famous painting or scene from a movie and have everyone else guess what it is.

* With a camera, have everyone take turns taking pictures of details that you pass. On line, show everyone the details and try to guess where they’re from.

* Make Disney Work for You: It’s Disney World, people! Their theme-ing on lines for attractions is astonishing, and definitely part of the fun. Spend some time just looking and enjoying.

* Get a Fast Pass for rides: This will cut down your wait time substantially.

* Make a looking and finding game out of it–for shapes, colors, letters, designs. Someone choose a detail from the display and have everyone else make up a poem, sketch it, etc. Then someone else gets to choose the detail and decide how to have everyone capture it.

* Bring along some pins and trade with the cast members nearby.

* Have Bobby prepare something fun for Kylie to do, and vice versa . (If your children are not named Bobby and Kylie, feel free to insert their names.)

* If you can get out of a line at any point, switch off with another adult for a while, and take one child for a walk.

* Save some surprises for the lines: Finger puppets, Mad Libs (or make up your own fill-in-the-blanks game), small puzzles.

* Record video messages to bring home.

...Yet another line...

* Give everyone a few time-fillers each day to put in a bag that they carry. Each evening, have everyone add one new activity to someone else’s bag.

* Have a family meeting each evening to go over the day. Ask kids what went well when you were waiting and what could be improved upon.

Who knows? Waiting may become as much fun as the attractions themselves!

* If not, at least you have some ways to make the time more enjoyable!

Leave a comment or share your own tips on how to make waiting wth kids at Disney World easier and more fun!

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Evan Levy

Evan Levy likes baking cupcakes, hanging out with her family, and all things Disney.

17 thoughts on “Waiting CAN be Fun (OK, Well, At Least it can be Bearable)

  • June 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Great ideas! I’ll add a thought. On our Grand Gathering each child had a spiral index card book and retractable sharpie to use for character autographs. While in line or waiting for transportation or food they drew pictures or we used a card to note memories of what we had just done and what they liked about it, favorite things, things on the “wish to buy” list, etc. It will be fun to go back and read them down the road when we get home or when we plan the next trip.

    • June 2, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      Great idea! That’s going in my files!

  • June 2, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    You forgot the most important thing. Use a Touring Plan so you don’t have to wait in line any longer than you absolutely have to!

    • June 3, 2011 at 9:36 am

      Yup, I concur. My favorite thing about a Disney line is handing in my fastpass and walking right on by. (Respectfully and politely, of course. Booyahs are highly discouraged.) I am a devoted user of the touring plans, and just love that they are in Lines now so I don’t have to spend so much time printing them out prior to departing.

      Great article Evan! I would be excited to try any tip that didn’t require putting too much extra stuff in my parks bag. 🙂

      • June 3, 2011 at 12:25 pm

        I completely understand! Check out the comment about using an ipad, and verbal games are always great! You can even make up your own!

  • June 2, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Give your child their own map! My son (5 now), just LOVES maps. Including the Disney maps. Have him look up where you’re going next (using the touring plan, of course), where you’re eating lunch, where the closest bathroom is (useful!)… Obviously this works better if your child can read, but even those who can’t read can find the symbols for things- and the picture are pretty self-explanatory for a lot of rides. In fact, my son loves the maps so much that every time we go we have to grab 4-5 maps, since he studies them so much the first one is falling apart by the afternoon (and if I don’t have extra he takes mine!).

  • June 2, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    And of course the maps make great souvenirs–perfect in shadow boxes with other Disney memorabilia!

  • June 2, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Don’t forget to look for Hidden Mickey’s!! They are everywhere, some official, some not.
    Also, we bought a book of the Hidden Magic at Disney World, then my sister made notes on 3X5 cards for each park, then we chose a few of the things to look for. For instance, in The Magic Kingdom, we went in search of the party line phone. In the book it says it is in the General Store, but it is actually in The Chapeau.
    It was fun to listen in on the conversation, and a great photo opportunity!!

    • June 3, 2011 at 12:26 pm

      Hidden Mickeys are always a treat!

  • June 3, 2011 at 5:57 am

    One of our family’s favorite ways to pass the time is Disney trivia cards. We pack a handful of Disney Trivial Pursuit and Scene It trivia cards in a sandwich bag and take them with us. During long waits, we quiz each other. We’ve even had other families join in on the fun.
    I’ll also echo bringing a book with activities/things to see. In addition to the Hidden Mickeys Guide, the Complete Walt Disney World has hidden Mickeys and “Fun Finds” for each attraction. I recently received “Walt Disney World Hidden History” by Kevin Yee. It has lots of interesting facts and trivia about details in the queues and around the parks. I plan on bringing it on our next trip.

    • June 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm

      Great ideas!!! Love the trivia card suggestions!

  • June 3, 2011 at 7:34 am

    For my two-year-old, we kept children’s books on an iTouch that we would read in longer lines. 3 or 4 books were good for the week and really kept him going for hours at a time. He would read and re-read. A few matching games and number and letter games rounded out the mix. As long as you are charged, it can really help!

  • June 3, 2011 at 10:45 am

    OMG!!!! this was the best information i have gotten. i will be traveling with a 4 y/o and you have given my some wonderful ideas for the 10 hour road trip also line waits!!!! you also sparked my brain and i have come up with a few myself…like i am going to get some pics of the princesses and the castle, cottage, tower, etc and glue them to magnetic paper and let her play “paper dolls with a twist” on a dry erase board in the car!!!! I love this!!!! thanks so much!!!

    • June 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm

      Thank you so much!! And a dry erase board is a great suggestion!

  • June 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    We have the Disney app for my iPhone, which has a Disney trivia game as well as lots of other Disney character games. My kids loved playing those whenever there was a wait!

    • June 15, 2011 at 8:57 am

      It’s always so nice to be able to use something you already have with you!


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