Have you ever been separated or lost from your friends and family in a big crowd? Do you ever remember a time where you were lost (even if just for a moment) as a child? Even worse, have you as a parent ever lost your child? The feeling of panic swarms over you as every terrible possibility floods your brain. You can’t think straight as aisles and alleyways become labyrinths. Your heart and your feet switch places. And as the worry builds to its initial peak, you hear a familiar voice or see a familiar face. Found. A sigh of relief is emitted from your entire being. Being lost is no fun.
Disney World, on the other hand, is LOADS of fun! But, even with magic oozing out of every nook and cranny, one can easily become separated at Disney World! Today we are taking a look at the steps you should take in the event that you become LOST in the parks!
Locate a meeting place:
As a child, my family always did this. As a teacher, I do this now. Before we get carried away in the parks (or wherever we are), we talk about what would happen if we should become separated. Of course, the first step is check around you. I would say that there should be an amount of time that each party takes trying to locate one another before making the initial dash. With crowds, it is easy to get separated for just a second so finding a meeting place would be useless! For kids who have a watch, a set number of minutes might be a good starting place (smaller kids might work better with a set amount of times calling your name). If that doesn’t work, kids can go to a designated meeting area.
When Disney World is most crowded, it is a good idea to designate a meeting place for each new area of the park you visit (i.e., an area per land at the Magic Kingdom or per section in Hollywood Studios, etc.). I would work to make it a place that everyone can a.) remember b.) get to easily c.) is less crowded. A great meeting place is Town Hall in the Magic Kingdom. Taking a moment to designate a meeting place will save you a lot of time scanning the crowd in the event that someone becomes lost.
Opt for easy identification:
Wearing the same clothes or color can help locate a lost family member in a sea of people. I sat next to a family once, who all sported the same shirt design. When I asked if their last name was Reese, the father replied, “no, actually, our youngest gets lost all the time. We learned after a three-hour search on our last Disney trip that if we wear the same thing, bystanders and cast members have an easier time if we say he’s 3, blonde, and wearing this exact shirt!” Smart family!
Another great idea came from a fellow Chip and Co. writer, friend of mine, The Disney Diva (from Tips with the Disney Diva). She suggested this awesome idea: Take a picture of your kids before you enter the parks every day. With digital cameras and cell phones at the ready, it is easier than ever to document what your kids look like in the event that you’d need to share that information with cast members. I know how hard it is for me to remember what I wore just yesterday. I can imagine that in that moment of panic, a picture would help out so much! What a genius idea!
Say hello to a cast member:
When children are lost, it is important that they know what to do and where to go. A really great idea is to teach your kids to look for cast members. I love the idea of introducing your kids to cast members before starting your day in the parks. Because cast members wear uniforms, stand behind registers and wear nametags, it makes it really easy for your kids to identify them. In fact, chances are that wherever your meeting place is, there is probably a cast member nearby who would love to help your child!
Take a moment to label your kids:
There are a lot of different ideas for labeling your kids. From identification rub on tattoos to straight up writing your information on their arm, there are tons of ways to get important contact information on your child. I am not a fan of the “in your face labeling.” By in your face, I mean name and number plastered for anyone to see. I’m just not too keen on the idea of anyone who passes by having that much access to my kids. I like the identification tattoos, ID bracelets (a cheap idea is to write your contact info on the inside of a silicone “cause” bracelet), and even pieces of paper in pockets. The important thing is that your child knows what to do with this information. Be specific when you label your kids, talk about what the information is for, and who it should be shared with. Of course, in the age of cell phones, you may be able to skip a lot of this frustration!
In the end, I think the most important thing to remember is that everyone can benefit from making a plan. I know how it is when the crowds are thick and you are in a new place! The rule of thumb is to buddy up and look out for each other, if at all possible avoid being lost in the first place! It is always better to be way over prepared than way panicked! Use these steps next time you visit Disney World and hopefully being lost will be a thing of the past!