I’ll never froget the one day I got distracted by the giant Mickey Mouse balloons at Magic Kingdom and wandered a few yards away from my Frog Family. Luckily, Mommy Frog noticed right away, so we weren’t apart for too long! Unfortunately, things like this can happen in an instant when you’re at an unfamiliar place with thousands of people … including the Most Magical Place on Earth. Even if you think it’ll never happen to you, it’s important to be prepared in case your child gets lost at Disney World. After our scare, my parents, Mommy Frog and Leap, updated our family safety protocol, which includes many of the tips below.
Learn from our (literal and figurative) misstep, and read through our guide to keep your child from getting lost at Disney World. If the accidental separation does happen, you’ll know exactly what to do.
How to Prevent Your Child from Getting Lost at the Parks
Take a Picture in the Morning
Before you leave for the parks each morning of your trip, take a picture on your phone that clearly shows what your tadpole is wearing from head to toe. Repeat for every family member (hey, you never know if Dad’s cell phone will run out of battery). The photo will come in handy when a cast member asks you what your child looks like. It’s one less thing you’ll need to stress about when you’re trying not to panic. If you happen to change clothes during the day, remember to take another picture.
Wear Noticeable Clothing
Speaking of outfits, pack bright or neon-colored clothing! Whether it’s day or night, it’ll be much easier to spot a fluorescent yellow shirt among the sea of strangers. Consider wearing light-up shoes or cheap glow stick bracelets or necklaces so it’s easier keep track of your child at night. If you have multiple tadpoles, dress them alike in similar colors or matching outfits. Taking it a step further, many families create custom T-shirts so that everyone has the same shirt design. Tad rolled his eyes at ours, but we think it also serves as a nice memento!
Have a Predetermined Meeting Location
As soon as you walk into the park, find a place where you can meet if you get separated during the day. Be as specific as you can. For instance, wait next to the tall flag pole at the entrance of Main Street, rather than next to Cinderella Castle where there are multiple pathways. Keep in mind that this backup plan may only work for older children and teens who can navigate their way to this spot, or can at least remember it and find help from a cast member to get there.
We also suggest finding the exit or choosing a nearby spot before you get on each ride. Point it out in case your party gets split up, and meet there once you exit the ride.
Stay Close in Large Crowds
If small enough, the easiest way to keep your tadpole close is simply picking them up during the busiest times for crowds. Whether it’s during a delightful Dapper Dans performance or as a character cavalcade or parade is passing by, you need to be extra vigilant, as these times are most likely when you could get easily separated! If you have a stroller, keep them buckled in. At the very least, remain in physical contact by holding hands or hanging onto your child’s shirt.
Practice Your Plan
Before you begin the day, explain the importance of staying together, and tell your kids what you would like them to do if they get lost. Some parents want their tadpoles to stay put, while others prefer that they find a cast member. Make sure that your children know what a cast member’s name tag looks like, so they can recognize it and seek help from the right person. Advise them not to leave the park with anyone, even if they think it’s a cast member (they are instructed to stay out in the open when escorting a lost child). Have them recite your cell phone number if they’re old enough to memorize and remember it.
Attach Identification Info
On the other hand, if your tadpole is too young to know your phone number or needs it written down, you can attach identification information in several different ways. Put a business card in your child’s pocket, or fasten an ID tag to a shoelace. Wear a Travel ID bracelet, or write your phone number with a Sharpie on your tadpole’s Magic Band. Temporary safety tattoos can add a bit of fun to this crucial precaution.
What to Do If Your Child Gets Lost at Disney World
Look Around the Immediate Area
If it’s a matter of seconds, it’s likely your tadpole is only a few yards away, like the time I got split up with my family. Quickly look around to see if there are any possible distractions, such as a character walking by or an animal exhibit near you. Check alternative exits, as rides, restaurants and restrooms could have multiple entryways.
Notify a Cast Member
Find the nearest cast member in the same area where your child went missing and let them know about the situation. They have extensive training for this scenario and will radio security and other cast members in the area to stay alert. Disney protocol tells them to remain with the child and allow enough time to search for the "lost parents" first, before taking them to the park’s Baby Care Center where they entertain the tadpole.
Here are each park’s Baby Care Center locations:
- Magic Kingdom — Near First Aid between Casey’s Corner and the Crystal Palace
- Animal Kingdom — To the left of the Tree of Life and before the bridge to Africa
- Hollywood Studios — Near the front entrance in the same building as Guest Relations
- EPCOT — Outside of the EPCOT Experience, next to the restrooms
Split Up Your Search
If you’re in a group, remain with the cast member as you continue your search, but have someone else — a parent or teen — stay put in the location where you last saw your child. Another person can go to the specified meeting place.
When Reunited, Avoid Playing the Blame Game
We know it’s a very stressful and scary situation, but there’s no need to yell at your child for not staying together once you’re reunited with each other. You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself either. It can happen to anyone at any time, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent! Just hug it out, and adjust your safety plan so it doesn’t happen again.
Nobody ever plans to get lost at Disney World, but the plan you can control is taking safety precautions and knowing what to do in case the worst happens. Do you have any other tips for parents?