James D. (NDD#152) (8 Posts)

A happily-married father of 4 children, James is a lifelong Disney nut. Ever since he found a map of the Magic Kingdom on his aunt's refrigerator over 25 years ago, he has been obsessed with planning trips to Walt Disney World, whether those trips were for himself or for others. This obsession led to the founding of MousePlanning.com which provides concierge-level custom itineraries for people traveling to Walt Disney World.

Photo Credit: Serena Skretvedt, NDM 332

For many Neurotic Disney Moms and Dads, the idea of going to Disney World without their children is a pleasant thought. For all parents, the idea of going to Disney World with their children and suddenly finding one or more of those children unexpectedly missing is a panic-inducing thought. I don’t think there is really anything that can be done to prevent the rush of adrenaline that comes with realizing that your child is missing, but there are ways to mitigate the panic as well as ways to minimize your chances of your children becoming lost.

Be Prepared!
As a parent, you need to address with your children the issue of becoming lost before you arrive at Disney World. This not only prepares your children for the possibility of becoming separated from you, it prepares you as well. There are two basic steps you can take to prepare for this possibility:

First, long before you leave for your Disney World vacation, you need to make sure that your children have your cell phone number accessible in some manner. Knowing that your child, or the person who finds him, knows how to get in touch with you will go a long way toward keeping your head on straight should you become separated. Don’t take for granted that your older children know your number. Be sure they have it memorized! Younger children can memorize the information if you help them by incorporating the number into a song and practice singing it with them ad nauseum. For toddlers (or as an extra precaution for other kids), you’ll want to “tag” them with essential contact information. There is no shortage of choices for tagging kids. There are bracelets, necklaces, dog-tags, ID that attaches to various articles of clothing, and even custom temporary tattoos.

The second thing you need to drill into your kids’ heads is what they should do if they find themselves separated from you – approach a uniformed Cast Member and inform him that you’re lost. (By the way, this should also be the parents’ response when they realize a child is truly missing.) This means training your kids to look for the distinctive name tag worn by each Cast Member, and practicing with younger children once you actually get to Disney World.

I think you’ll find that these two steps will go a long way toward making sure you are easily reunited with your child should you become separated at Walt Disney World. Disney does a great job training their Cast Members in what should be done for both missing children and their parents. For me, given the choice between losing one of my children at the local mall or losing one of them at Disney World, I’d pick Disney World.

So now that we’ve covered preparation, I’d like to go over a few tips to help prevent you from losing your children in the first place. Please note I have four children, and I’ve learned some of these lessons the hard way.

  • Never send a child, even an older child, into a shop or restroom by themselves unless you have to. Why? Many of these locations have multiple exits. If you do have to, designate an obvious landmark to meet at once they’re done.
  • Be sure to “take small children by the hand.” Hold hands any time your group is moving with a bunch of other people. These times include exiting shows in theaters (e.g., Mickey’s Philharmagic, Indiana Jones Stunt Show), after a parade or night time spectacular, or watching a live performance (e.g., Main Street Philharmonic, Off Kilter).
  • Be aware that when you are watching a live performer, you are not watching your kids. It may look like your kid is enjoying the performance, but as soon as you look away and start enjoying it, too, he’ll get bored and wander off.
  • Don’t rely on a stroller to keep a child in place. You can buckle your kid into a stroller and fool yourself into thinking that she won’t escape while you’re purchasing a Dole Whip, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve fooled your kid into thinking the stroller is more exciting than the Swiss Family Treehouse.
  • If any of your kids have an established history of running off, don’t hesitate to use a device to keep them close to you. The tether is a classic example, but there are a number of reliable electronic devices available.

One last thought: At some point you will be given the advice to dress your children in identical neon green t-shirts so that you can easily spot them in a crowd. For the love of Mickey, please ignore this advice and think of what all your pictures are going to look like. If you really need such brilliantly colored piece clothing, choose a hat that can be taken off for photographs.

Contributed by: James Dolan (NDD#152) James is the DDL Travel Tips Blogger. He is also the creator of Mouse Planning.


  1. I love this article, James! Especially the part about the stroller and the Swiss Family Treehouse! LOL! We have our kids put a business card in their shoe because, like you said, even older ones can forget the numbers, especially if they’re lost and scared. Great tips! 🙂

  2. On our first few trips to The World, I would complain that I spent more time looking for people in my party than actually enjoying the parks. With the older kids, we came up with the plan that if we lost each other, we would return to the place where we last spoke to each other…no matter where we were when we got separated.

    I do need to come up with a good plan for the little ones though because I have lost each of them, one in Adventureland and the other (with autism) at Animal Kingdom Lodge and again at Beach Club Resort. I tell you, I almost passed out from stress when they were finally found. They disappear in a blink. Super scary.

  3. Lucinda, I agree that it is a super scary how fast a kid can disappear. It’s good to know that you already have a plan in place for your older kids. Would you mind relating exactly how you were assisted in being reunited with your lost child? I didn’t have the space for that kind of detail in my article and I’m sure that the readers are interested in a first hand account of the recovery process.

  4. We have a Google Voice number that we have forwarding to both of our cel phones. It gave us options before we took the number, and we put each one into a “what does your phone number spell?” program. Our number is (area code)WOW-COWS. She was in the Ikea kids club one day, and she wanted us, so she kept telling them the number (even though they had it.) It’s a free, easy way to get an easy to memorize number and have it forward to as many numbers as you like!

  5. Also, as far as dressing, even though lots of kids are in costume, when my five year old was briefly separated from me, the bright colors and glitter on her Snow White dress made her easy to spot in the sun.

  6. We got custom lime green T-shirts last year for my daughter’s 8th birthday which we celebrated at MK.  I love the color, and our pictures turned out great!  We got compliments all day on our shirts.

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