It’s always fun to talk about food, rides or entertainment at amusement parks, but we are going to take a detour from the fun to talk about a little safety. Any trip to Disneyland is a hoppy day indeed, but the thought of a child wandering off can strike fear in any parent’s heart and ruin that glow. One of the best ways to prepare for the parks and avoid losing a child at Disneyland is to consider some lost kids tips you can follow before you even get to the park. Nobody ever plans to lose their kids, but with crowds, distractions, loud music and miscommunication it can happen to even careful parents. Nobody on vacation needs that kind of stress (let’s keep the thrills to the rides, please). The best plan is prevention, and today we're going to share our tips to avoid losing your child at Disneyland.
We are expert Disney-goers. We don’t expect to experience any flaw in our system, but I will confide that one time we lost Tad for a few minutes at Disneyland—the scariest minutes of my life. And because of that, I now follow my lost-tadpole tips religiously. I am sharing these tips to avoid losing a child at Disneyland so you do not experience the same panic I did in the few minutes that he was “missing.” Of course, he never thought he was missing. He assumed I was missing. Getting separated is likely to be more stressful on you than on your child. Here’s how you can plan to not lose your child at Disneyland. With this information in hand, you can then focus on the fun!
8 Tips to Avoid Losing a Child at Disneyland
1. Dress Alike
Get matching T-shirts for the journey or simply all wear the same color scheme. May we suggest green? It makes spotting each other so much easier, plus it makes it easy for your little ones to keep an eye on you and your group. Another trick to keeping your eye on children once it gets dark and more crowded is to pull out some inexpensive glow bracelets or necklaces from a dollar store. Here is a DIY craft to make your own Mickey glow ears with glow stick bracelets. Glow necklaces can also double for a fun glow dance party when you get back to the hotel at night. Play some Disney tunes, turn off the lights and let them hop about and get their wiggles out before bed. Celebrate safely!
2. Talk to Your Children About Safety
Before you go to the park, talk to your children about the importance of not running off. Assign buddies and explain the buddy system. Older siblings can help watch out for younger siblings and help with holding hands. We’ve told our children if they suddenly realize that Mommy or Daddy is not there then to stop and stay still. Don’t move on in search of us. Tell them to look for a cast member with a name tag and let them know you are lost. Teach them strategies to remember your cell phone number by singing it to the tune of a recognizable song.
3. Remind kids to stay calm.
While you're having the "talk," remind tadpoles if they get separated not to panic. We always reassure our tadpoles, especially Lily, that no matter what we will find her! The theme parks, especially Disney, are experts in reuniting parents with kids. Explaining this in advance goes a long way toward reassuring the little ones before you head to the parks, but it's especially important once you arrive. On busy days and even on the least-busy days, there are still A LOT of people in one place. It helps to go through the safety procedures when you get there and especially remind your kids to stay calm if they get lost in Disneyland. Make sure to point out what cast members look like, so that they can seek them out if they do get lost.
4. Take a Photo
At the start of your day, take a photo of your children so you know exactly what they are wearing. This goes a long way toward easing the stress of losing a child at Disneyland. In a panic, you can easily forget. That’s why dressing alike also helps. You can use the photo to give a good description to a cast member. Have your children take note of what you are wearing too.
5. Choose a Meeting Spot
It’s always a great idea to select a meeting spot and time, especially for the end of the night. If your children are old enough to wander by themselves for short periods of time or could find a location if they become separated, determine a meeting spot. Take them to the meeting spot and show them where to meet you. Is it an information booth? The Corn Dog cart in front of the Baby Care Center? The Sword in the Stone in Fantasyland? Try to avoid a ride because that can be confusing with changing lines, entrances and exits. Use a permanent object. For example, benches tend to get moved.
Our family always meets up by the tall clock on Main Street USA that is across the street from The Penny Arcade and Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlour. It is a great spot for us to meet at the end of the night after fireworks if, say, Tad has hopped off to take advantage of a shorter line for a thrill ride during the show. In Disney California Adventure it is the information booth across from Carthay Circle restaurant. Having a planned meeting spot for the end of the night comes in handy if you have older children or teens in case a dead cell phone prevents communication.
6. Attach Labels
For small children or nonverbal children, you can attach a label to them with your name and cellphone number, just in case. You can also have them wear a Travel ID bracelet with your details. They even make temporary tattoos and jewelry that you can have your contact information on. Another idea is to use a Sharpie to write your cell phone on a free birthday or 1st visit button that you can acquire in the park.
7. Stay Connected
There are several tools that can help you stay connected such as your hands. Hold hands, especially during very crowded times such as before and after parades and fireworks or other shows. Keep small children and babies strapped in a stroller. A bubble blower goes a long way in terms of keeping a toddler or preschooler content in the stroller. They will enjoy making a trail of bubbles as you move around the park or wait for a parade. Pile larger kids in the stroller if needed or put kids on your shoulders.
If you have a bolter who would give Dash Parr from "The Incredibles" a good race, you can attach a leash to them. Always have one adult assigned in charge of a particularly busy child (especially if you have multiple children, a special needs child or are traveling with a large group) unless your have verbal confirmation that someone else is taking over duty. It is too easy to assume someone else is watching the child—being the designated dasher means you will be on high alert for escapes. Don’t look at your phone while walking. Keep your eyes on your crew. If your children have cell phones, put them on vibrate so they can feel it if you call them.
8. Keep cell phones charged
Speaking of cell phones, keep those phones charged in case of any emergency communication. There are limited power plugs in the parks, so carry a portable charger with you. They sell some chargers by the locker areas at kiosks around the park. They cost $30, but you can keep swapping them out for charged replacements for free. You don’t want to find your phone dead if you become separated (and that’s why a planned meeting point also comes in handy).
9. Know the Disneyland Lost Child Protocol
If you lose a child in either park, knowing where Disney employees will take a lost child can help you get to your child faster. Immediately report a lost child to a cast member. Lost children will usually be taken to the Baby Care Center in the respective park. At Disneyland it is located next to First Aid at the end of Main Street USA. At Disney California Adventure you can find the Baby Care Center behind the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop. There is no Baby Care Center in Downtown Disney. Lost children will be taken to either the Disneyland Hotel or the Baby Care Center in Disneyland. Another spot for "lost parents" to inquire about missing children is City Hall at Disneyland or the Chamber of Commerce at Disney California Adventure.
10. Be Especially Cautious in Downtown Disney
I speak from experience when I say this—Downtown Disney is a new ballgame. There is no Lost Child section. You tend to forget to pick a meeting spot. While a custodian or security cast member may happen upon your child in the parks, there's slightly less of an opportunity for that here. It can be just as scary to lose your little one in World of Disney as it is in Tomorrowland.
This leads into the story of how I lost Tad. Leap was not with us on a short journey to Downtown Disney for dinner one night, so it was just the kids and me. Tad really needed to use the restroom and was getting impatient as I got Lily out of her car seat and into the stroller. He had to go now! He misunderstood me when I said he could go in a second and instead went to find the restroom right then. I turned around once I was done with Lily and he was gone. Gone!
I leaped in fear with Lily to the first restroom and called in. No answer. I ran to another. No Tad. We had not chosen a meeting spot. He had no cellphone. I tried to get a security guard to help. I did have a photo of him, but Tad did not realize he was lost (he knew where he was after all) so he was not turning himself in. He had wandered back to find me and then looked for a payphone to call me, but I was running around looking for him.
He finally called me—at least he knew my number—and we were reunited. Whew! What a relief! The crisis was over, but I was sweating and shaking and a little greener than usual for a while. It was not my best night. And I knew we needed a plan for future visits. That’s why we implemented a safety plan into our Disneyland Resort prep so it would never happen again.
Hopefully, this never happens to you. Having a plan in place to help avoid losing a child at Disneyland can help everyone remain calm and know what to do should you somehow get separated. Like I said, nobody plans to get lost, but knowing what to do if the unexpected happens can help you all reunite quickly so you can go back to having fun.
Have a tip to share that has helped you avoid losing a child at Disneyland or any amusement park? Share it in comments below!
Related: Mom's Secrets to Taking a Baby to Disneyland