Disney World is a place to get caught up in the magic, and this magic creates a sense of comfort and safety. It’s reasonable to enjoy this carefree feeling to a certain degree. But keeping in mind some safety tips as well as doing some safety planning ahead of time is well worth the effort—because things don’t always go as planned.
The primary focus of this article is child safety tips for parents of younger children, but many of these apply to all “kids” both young and old.
Safety planning should start well before your trip to Disney World because once you enter the park, the attention of parents and kids alike will almost certainly be divided.
So let’s look at some tips to plan ahead for safety.
Strike a Pose
If your family is anything like mine, you’ll take lots of family photos during your Disney vacation. Whether you take your own pictures, take advantage of the many PhotoPass photographers in the parks, or both, these pictures are one of the best ways to make family memories.
In addition to those memory-making photos, there is another photo you should take every day that has a more practical purpose. Use your smart phone to take a picture of the kids each morning (or each change of clothes if you break in the afternoon) where you can clearly see their faces and full attire. If your child should get separated from you, this photo can easily be shown or emailed to those helping to search.
Bonus: After our trip, these photos taken in our resort room, at the bus stop, or in line at rope drop have often been added to our official photo album. Without the usual “say cheese” for these photos, we have some adorable pictures of our kids waking up to another exciting day at Disney World.
Establish A Meeting Place
As you enter a park each day, make it a habit to determine a meeting place. Even if no one gets lost or separated, you can meet there if part of your group wants to experience different attractions or take a snack break.
Deciding on a meeting place when you first enter a park will mean that everyone gets a visual. The same place can be used on subsequent days if you are lucky enough to go to the same park more than once.
A highly visible attraction or landmark is a good place to meet, but be careful to be specific if there are multiple sides to it. For example, for Cinderella Castle, you could specify the hub side (at the flagpole) or the Fantasyland side (in front of Sir Mickey’s store).
Have a Plan in Case of Separation
The majority of you reading this article are probably “planners”—you’ve planned the parks to visit for each day of your trip, you’ve booked those dining and FastPass+ reservations, and your autograph books are at the ready for characters meets. Make time for one more plan: what to do if your child gets separated from your party. This plan should be kept simple to make it easy for kids (and adults) to remember, so make it as easy as “1-2-3!”
1 – Stop. Everyone should know that as soon as anyone realizes there is someone missing or that they are suddenly all by themselves, they should immediately stop where they are. Remain calm and look around because it’s possible that you may be only steps away from each other.
2 – Meet. If you can’t locate your family or a missing member of your party close to the location where you notice the absence, the next step is to go to the meeting place established when you entered the park. However, if the missing person is a young child who may not be able to sense direction or even see the meeting place when in a crowd, proceed directly to the next step.
3 – Get Help. Look for a Cast Member. This goes for child and parent alike. Make sure the kids know that all Cast Members wear badges with their names. If the kids can’t see a Cast Member, tell them to find a mom with stroller (child) and ask them for help. And for parents, this is the time to make use of your child’s photo taken at the beginning of the day.
A few other things to be aware of if your child is lost: Cast Members will usually stay with the lost child in the same place they were found for about 10 minutes. After that time, they are usually taken to a Baby Care Center. Parents can also check with any Security or Guest Relations Cast Member because they will have been notified of any lost children.
Parents’ Contact Information and Staying in Touch
Another tip you can use to help Cast Members find you is to make sure you have your mobile phone number and name with each child. This can be as simple as a notecard in a pocket or an ID bracelet. Make sure your child knows to show this identification to a Cast Member if they are lost.
You can also have your child practice telling a Cast Member their name, resort, and your phone number. For some real-life experience, ask a Cast Member to do some role play.
When your children are old enough to go their own way in the parks for a bit, communication is key to safety. The first order of business is to establish a time and meeting spot. You can keep in touch by text. Another resource that we have found particularly useful with our teen boys is the Find my Friends app that allows us all to see everyone’s location on a map.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Disney has lots of signs at various attractions asking parents to supervise their children. Although this request may seem obvious, it’s easy to get caught up in fun and forget to make sure children navigate the queues and slow down in order to board attraction vehicles safely. I can vouch that having a child run into one of those posts at the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean once is one time too many.
Also don’t forget that crowds in general can be scary, especially for the little ones. Not only do the crowds create a forest to get lost in but they also present opportunities to accidentally be bumped or tripped. Crowds can be particularly thick during events like parades and fireworks, and they can be particularly difficult to navigate at the end of such events when everyone is trying to get either to someplace else in the park or out of it. Also, keep your eye out for strollers and ECVs. Try not to haphazardly cross in front of them as it presents safety issues for you and them, and ECVs need a few moments to come to a stop.
A strategy to avoid crowds after the evening fireworks or shows is to either position your family for easy exit or enjoy the park for 30 to 40 minutes while most everybody else clears out.
Watch Where You’re Going
Ok teens and adults—this one’s for you. Don’t interrupt your vacation with a sprained or broken ankle because you were walking while looking down at your smartphone (optimizing your Touring Plan, no doubt) and stepping off or tripping on a curb.
Transportation and Parking Lots
Disney Transportation is a fun part of the experience of getting to the parks whether by monorail, ferry, boat, bus, or tram. Be aware of the potential traffic, water, tripping/falling, and climbing hazards that surround you and your kids. You may have to wait 20 minutes or more for your next transport, so it’s important to remain alert even when wrapped up in the excitement or when you’re bored or frustrated while waiting for transportation.
And don’t forget about parking lots. It is very difficult for small children to see or be seen, so stay together and don’t cut through rows of cars darting to the park entrance or tram!
Resort Room Safety
Back in your resort room, taking a few precautions will ensure that you make the most of your time to rest and rejuvenate before heading back into the parks.
First, upon arrival, make sure the locks are working on all doors, including balcony doors. Then be sure to use these locks not only when you are out of the room but when you are in it.
When you’re in the room, using the security swing latch that is farther up on the door will help safeguard against little ones leaving the room without you knowing. And unlock the balcony only when you plan to be on it; small children should only be on the balcony when you are.
When leaving your room, double-check that the door is locked once it has closed; even though a door looks closed, the lock may not be engaged.
Also, be wary of a flyer slipped under your door that advertises pizza delivery because these have been associated with scams. For a list of safe places that deliver pizza, check with the front desk.
With a plan and some basic awareness, you really can be carefree in the parks but also ready for action if things don’t quite go according to plan. Please share your own safety tips in the comments!