by Fancy Free Diva
On our last trip to WDW in July of 2015, I saw the scariest thing. No, it wasn’t the hitchhiking ghosts from the Haunted Mansion. It wasn’t even the Yeti on Expedition Everest. It was a young boy crying hysterically in the Canada Pavilion at Epcot. He was probably four, and he had gotten separated from his family. Several of us stopped to help, and we made sure to alert a cast member, who knew exactly what to do and whom to call. My family and I waited in the vicinity for about ten minutes before we decided that we weren’t really helping, so after saying a little prayer, we headed on our way. We were just passing the outer reaches of the France Pavilion, several minutes later, when a frantic father sprinted toward us. We could tell, just from the look on his face, that it was his son we had seen earlier. We called out to him to let him know his son was safe, with a cast member, and near the Canada Pavilion, and after a shouted “thanks,” he kept running, hopefully to be reunited with his son.
That event brought back memories of our first trip to WDW with our own daughter. In June of 2012, I saw something similar to the events I had witnessed just this past summer: a mother frantically searching for her lost child. Tears streaming down her face, she stayed in the last place she had seen her child, while her husband and several kindly (and extraordinarily compassionate and helpful) cast members, who communicated via headsets, went off in search of the child.
In both cases I have just described, the parents and child were reunited, but I know how harried and wrought I felt as a mere onlooker; I cannot imagine what those parents must have felt like.
Now, for our first couple of trips to WDW as a family, my son and daughter were young enough that they either spent most of their time snuggled close to me in our baby carrier or safely ensconced in the stroller, so the chances of their wandering off was pretty limited. However, I have done plenty of research and reading up on strategies for keeping young children safe while traveling, especially if they are not yet old enough to communicate their parents’ names, cell phone numbers, etc.
Of course, there are a lot of tips about child safety available online, including sewing labels into the backs of their shirts, attaching tags to their shoes, or using clothing markers to write the child’s information and parents’ cell phone numbers somewhere that the child could easily find and reference them. Disney Diva has a great page with some handy tips. Based on all of the tips that I read, there are a few I definitely recommend that are both useful and feasible. Not only that, but I have tested all of these tips on our trips to WDW with my own children, who have traveled with me from the age of 2-months to 5-years on our most recent trip.
One tip that worked for us was using our phones to take a picture of the kids each morning before we left our resort. That way, we had a complete picture of exactly what they were wearing in case we got separated and needed help looking for them.
We also decided to use Safetytat. I had seen these products advertised in Parents Magazine, and they were referenced in a number of Internet sources I relied on for research.
For our trips to WDW, we have ordered Safetytat’s “Princess Pack” and “Race Car Pack.” We also purchased the write-on tattoo set instead of the pre-printed set – that way we could share the pack with my nieces, too. The tattoos are waterproof and last for several days. You just have to be sure to write clearly with the marker that is provided with the product. Another caution is that these tattoos become wrinkled quite easily, so you have to be very careful in the application process.
If you look closely at the above picture, you can see Fancy Free Daughter’s Safetytat on her right forearm.
The Safetytat provides clear identification for children, but it is also pretty unobtrusive, so we were very clear to point it out to our young children so that they knew to show it to a grown-up or a cast member in case we got separated.
Diva Tip: It’s also a good idea to show young children what cast members look like. You can tell them to look for the name tags they all wear, which are similar despite the different costumes in different locations. That way, children will know who to turn to in case they get separated and need help.
We also found this super cute backpack, complete with a tether (leash?) that allows a child to feel independent while the parent still feels connected and safe. We purchased it from Amazon, and it also comes in a green-blue color (which we purchased for our son). It’s the perfect size to stash some small snacks and amusements for entertainment at restaurants or while waiting in line or for a show. Fancy Free Son, 15-months on our last trip, did not use his backpack much on our last trip, but he’s much more mobile and adamant about exploring the world on his own two feet now, so I’m sure it will get more use on our upcoming vacation!
For our older daughter, who will be 5 on our upcoming trip, we plan to use Gripsterz Grippy Monkey. We ordered ours on Amazon, and she loves it. It attaches to our stroller (or to a backpack or purse handle), and has a cute purple monkey she can hold onto. What’s nice about Grippy Monkey is that it comes with a storybook to explain the concept of safety to younger children, but it also gives older children agency. I often give Fancy Free Daughter a choice: she can hold my hand, or she can hold Grippy. Often, she’ll choose Grippy. I like that Grippy is something she holds onto rather than something that fastens onto her. It gives her agency and helps her learn how to make responsible choices.
Fancy Free Daughter’s old enough now, too, that she knows my cell phone number and my husband’s. I turned our numbers into a song she can sing to the tune of “Yankee Doodle”: “If there’s an emergency, I have to call my mommy. ###-#### is how I call my mommy.” Setting the information to music has definitely helped her to remember it.
Walt Disney World is the most magical place on Earth, and I have honestly never felt as if I (or my family) was ever unsafe there. Despite that, the sight of those distressed parents strikes fear into my heart. Elizabeth Stone once said that, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” For me, this is totally and utterly true, and when we’re on vacation, I want the focus to be on the fun we’re having and the way my children’s faces light up every time they meets Mickey or Pooh. I don’t want to be worried about what might happen – especially since my teaching schedule dictates that we vacation at WDW during all of the busiest (and most crowded) times. But, I really believe that the more prepared you can be ahead of time, the more relaxed, enjoyable, and safe your vacation will be!
If you need help planning your Disney vacation, contact Patricia with All for Dreams Travel, the official travel agent at Tips from the Disney Diva.
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