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How to Deal With…Lost Children at Disney World: What You Need to Know

Yes, it does happen quite frequently where children get lost at Walt Disney World.  The important thing is to understand who to handle it if it should happen.  I do speak from experience as both of my children have each been separated from us at Disney World.  Each happened at different times and very different scenarios that had nothing to do with negligence.  I was chasing after one to grab him and he still managed to get lost and the other was a communication mix up.  It happens to the best of us, even self-proclaimed Disney experts like myself.  Since I have lived this, I can at least impart my words of wisdom on what to do and ways to prevent the stressful situation for all of you!  Here are 10 great things you need to know about handling these situations:

10 – Don’t panic!

I know from experience that this is difficult, but try not to panic.  Think calmly and get prepared to follow all of the necessary steps and provide the necessary details and information you will need to seek help to find your child.  You will need to be clear headed and ready to observe everything.  You can cry and hug them frantically when you have them back in your arms.

9 – Find the closest cast member.

You want to immediately notify a cast member right in the area where you lost them.  They are able to communicate with other cast members in the area and help the search.  They have an efficient process in place to handle these situations and will put it in motion about 10 minutes or so after the child is reporting missing.  They wait this little bit of time to make sure the child is actually lost before they execute the process for all cast and radio out to others across the park.

8 – Remain visible in the area you are in.

At least one adult member of your party will want to remain visible and with the cast member in the area where you last had your child with you.  They may be very close by and you want them to be able to have a visual on you, and you can scan the entire area looking to see them.

7 – Be prepared to give a full description, including clothing.

You will need to recall everything that they were wearing, what was on their shirt and other pertinent details to help cast members definitely identify the child while they are also looking.  Try to remain calm and give clear, precise details to the cast member. See #5 to help with recounting the details.

6 – Send other adults to roam and look.

If you have other adults in your party, send them out to search.  There is no reason why you all have to stay in one place.  The child will likely be more comfortable coming to someone that they know, so send them out in different directions to cover ground and try to find them.

5 – Try to take a picture of your children each morning.

It is a good idea on any vacation to take a picture of each of your children each morning before you get started so that you have the best photo to show to cast members and others that are helping you look for the lost child.

4 – Wear bright clothes and even matching shirts that are easy to see.

This is a great excuse to wear the brightly colored matching shirts that some folks groan about.  They really do serve a helpful purchase, which is making it easier to spot your group in the crowd.  This makes it easier for you to spot your child and also easier for them to spot you.  It also helps others in locating the child since they know exactly what color shirt they are looking for.

3 – If kids are old enough, have a regroup plan in place just in case you get separated.

Pick a place that will be your meeting spot if you get separated and make sure everyone knows what that is.  That way if you do get separated, even from an adult in the party, you can find each other.  I know we all have cell phones, but sometimes you never know when they are going to die or have other problems, so it’s always good to have a backup plan in case you can’t communicate.

2 – Use the stroller.

There are parents who feel like having a stroller is a hassle and they look to ditch the stroller as early as possible.  As a stroller parent, I can definitely understand this, but they are very helpful for preventing lost children.  If you utilize a stroller then your child is riding safely in the stroller and won’t as easily get separated when you are moving from place to place in the crowd.

1 – Don’t be too hard on yourself.

I can’t stress this enough.  It can be easy to beat yourself up or worry that others are judging you.  I mean you think that you must be a bad parent if you could get separated from your child a Disney World, right? Well you aren’t.  It has no measure on the quality of parent you are.  It can happen to the best of us, even if we have our eyes locked on our children.  When my oldest was 2, I was chasing after him at the resort and he darted onto the elevator and it closed before I got to him.  He pushed buttons and we didn’t know which floor he was on.  I had my eyes on him chasing after him and he still managed to get lost.  It can happen in numerous situations, so just prepare yourself to handle them and don’t beat yourself up.

Bonus:  Don’t forget to pay it forward.

If you happen to see a child that is roaming around and appears to be lost, intercept the child and help them get to a cast member for help.  It is very scary for them, and you will help be a part of getting them reunited with their family much faster and away from any potential dangerous situations.  If you have the time and don’t mind, then after you have sought help from a cast member you could look around the area for a family that appears to be looking for a lost child.  We helped out at an event at ESPN Wide World of Sports.  I noticed a very small child, probably around 1, toddling around on his own.  It was very crowded and I had the hands of both of my sons, so I sent my husband to check out the situation.  He intercepted him and held his hand to lead him to the first security cast he could find.  They were able to radio and the family had been frantically looking for him.  It was great to be a part of getting this family reunited.  Just remember not to judge, as it really can happen to anyone and can happen VERY easily!  It only takes 1 second for it to happen.

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Christy Caby

Hi! I’m Christy, and I am a wife and mother of 2 young boys (ages 5 and 2). I first fell in love with Disney when my mom took me when I was a child. After that I proceeded to go to WDW for my senior trip with my friends, and I completed a year in the Disney College Program (working in merchandise at Mickey’s of Hollywood at Disney’s Hollywood Studios). I shared my love of Disney with my now husband and sucked him in. He proposed at Disney, we honeymooned at Disney, we started bringing our boys before they were born and then as early as 8 weeks old. We then continued to vacation to Walt Disney World 2-3 times per year. We decided that what makes more sense than just moving to Orlando so that we could live the Disney life and be here for all of our favorite events and seasons every year. That is exactly what we did! Now we are at the parks a couple times a week and go for most events and major holidays. We can’t get enough and get to experience Disney in a whole different way. I love to share this love and passion for all things Disney with the world and hope that I can help others appreciate the magic that Walt Disney World has to offer!
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