What to Do if Your Child Gets Lost at Disney World

What to Do if Your Child Gets Lost
••• Deborah Faulkner/Getty Images

If you've ever lost track of your child for even a millisecond in a crowded public place, you know how terrifying it can be. Disney World, with its dizzying number of attractions and distractions that may draw a child away from parents, can get incredibly crowded, especially during school breaks. Big crowds always gather for parades, fireworks displays, and live shows.

As you can imagine, Disney employees are well trained in finding lost children and reuniting them with their families. Here are tips to keep your children safely with you as well as advice on what to do if you get separated.

Before You Go

  • For kids too young to have cell phones should have their parents' cell phone numbers somewhere such as on a card tucked in a pocket. Consider using waterproof SafetyTat temporary tattoos, or—worst case scenario—even jotting your number with a Sharpie on your child's wrist.
  • Before leaving your hotel, take a photo of each child with your smartphone camera. If one of them gets lost, you will be able to show park authorities a current photo in the same day's clothes. If your childen are old enough to understand, tell them to take a mental snapshot of what you are wearing that day.
  • Make sure you keep your smartphone charged. It's a good idea to bring a small, portable charger, since phones can get drained during a day at the park. If your child gets lost, your phone will be a godsend. Be sure every family member who has a cell phone has each other's current contact numbers stored.

In the Theme Parks

  • Upon entering one of the theme parks, make your child aware of how to identify a Disney employees (called "cast members") in shops, restaurants, snack stands, souvenir kiosks, and so on. Cast members wear white oval name tags. Instruct your child that if he gets separated from you, they should find the nearest cast member and that they will help find you. Likewise, the minute you realize your child is missing, find a cast member. They are trained to help find lost children.
  • If your kids are old enough, choose a landmark as a meeting place where you will meet up if separated. Go together to that specific place. Don't just say "Cinderella's Castle," since the circumference around the castle is a very large area. Never choose the park entrance or parking lot.
  • If your child is old enough to go to the restroom by herself, note that it may have multiple exits. Tell your child that if she exits and doesn't see you, to stay put outside the restroom and you will find her. 
  • Don't get distracted during parades and fireworks, and keep small children in strollers or hold hands. Tell older kids not to walk too far ahead in a crowd.
  • Also be vigilant when you're among a crowd entering or exiting one of the live shows in the theme parks. Hold hands if possible.
  • Remind your child to never leave a theme park or go to the parking lot by himself. He should find a cast member and stay put until you are reunited.

General Crowd Safety Tips

  • Dress kids in bright tops so they're easily spotted in a crowd, but avoid clothing and accessories emblazoned with their first names. A worried child is more likely to trust someone who calls him by name.
  • Role play to reinforce who are the best people to ask for help. Many young children feel most comfortable looking for a mommy with children. As kids get older, teach them to recognize uniforms and name badges, since security guards and park employees are also safe helpers. 

– Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher