Traveling With Kids -
Maximizing Your Child's Comfort
Your child is likely to have a bad time at Walt
Disney World (or any other vacation, for that matter) for only
three major reasons. First, he can simply be uncomfortable,
second he can be tired, and third he can be stressed by "input
overload". The best way to ensure that you have a good
trip, then, is to help your kids avoid those conditions.
Comfort and theme parks are usually diametrically
opposed concepts. The thing that we have to figure out is how
to maximize comfort given all of the facts about theme parks
that make us uncomfortable. Each kid has his own quirks that
you can cater to individually. Some general things to keep in
mind, though, are:
Stomach...stomach aches (and other
gastro-intestinal problems) can be caused by many different
things. Poor food, irregular meal times, excessive quantities
of food...all of these things can provoke nausea or just
a bad feeling. The easiest way to deal with this problem
is the same way you do at home. Have regular meal times
(a difference of an hour isn't critical, but lunch at 11:00am
on on day and at 3:00pm the next can be tough to deal with).
Avoid snack foods (or at least minimize them). Have some
sit down nice meals, rather than fast food. Burgers and
fries can be your child's favorite meal, but a steady diet
of grease is bound to catch up to you eventually. Bottles
of Pepto and Dramamine can be good things to keep in the
fanny pack just in case. Of course, some attractions may
cause nausea, too. Body Wars, Star Tours, the Twilight Zone
Tower of Terror, the mountains at the Magic Kingdom, the
Tea Cups...these are just a few of the attractions that
might have such an effect on a child (or an adult).
Sound...a child's ears are very sensitive.
Loud and sudden noises can be frightening and even painful
for a child. What is simply noisy to you, as an adult, is
perceived very differently by a youngster. There are several
things to combat this concern. First, warn your kids about
noises that they will hear in any given attraction. The
Legend of the Lion King, for example, is extremely loud.
Tell your kids in advance so the noise will be expected.
Second, you might want to consider hearing protection for
your kids. Ear plugs can be purchased at any pharmacy. They
are also available from Cast Members at some of the louder
attractions (don't hesitate to ask). Older kids will probably
rebell at the thought of wearing them, but younger kids
might be relieved...and even think the plugs are fun.
Sights...kids can be carried away by
sights that are mere fiction for adults. Older folks can
more easily perceive reality than can a young child (except,
perhaps, for that invariable wish to hit the lotto...) Therefore,
it is important to prepare your youngster for any potentially
frightening or perhaps simply fanciful sights that they
might see. The appearance of the witch in the Snow White
attraction is a common concern. A child can potentially
see that image as a real witch, so let your kids that they're
about to see a pretend witch. Reinforce the idea that these
stories are "pretend" or "make believe"
and are just fun for us to read and ride. A famous philosopher
(Nietzsche, I think) is quoted as saying, "Knowledge
is Power". Nothing can help make someone over come
a phobia like being aware of the realities surrounding it.
Let you kids know what will happen, assure them that you
will be there with them, and allow them the liberty to "wait
'till next trip" if they are still frightened. One
last aside, don't forget to warn your kids about any characters
that might be at a breakfast or dinner event or that they
might come across in the parks. There are many stories floating
about of kids being scared to death by a 5-foot-tall Mickey
Mouse, and other similarly sized characters. Jafar and other
such "villains" can be especially frightening...beware!
Smells...this might be considered an
odd thought, but some smells can be irritating or disheartening
for anyone. A great example would be to avoid the petting
farm and the horse barn at Fort Wilderness if your child
has severe allergies. Also, the smells of baked goods wafting
over the crowds on Main Street can be tantalizing -- or
irritating -- depending on your state of mind...and stomach.
If Johnny just threw up on Space Mountain, you might want
to give him some time before making him walk by the bakery
or candy shop.
Separation...smaller children can be
easily intimidated by crowds. This is especially true if
you and your child are separated by the flowing masses.
Take precautions by teaching your child what to do if you
do get separated. Have a "I'm Lost Drill" on your
first day in the park and and walk though what your kids
should do if you get separated. Having been through the
"drill", you son or daughter might feel somewhat
more comfortable since they know what to do if a problem
arises. You might want to go so far as to take your child
to a cast member and ask "what would happen in the
event of an actual emergency." Make sure, too, that
you kids know how to identify a cast member (via the special
name tags that they wear).
The best way to handle the fatigue and "input
overload" problems is covered in the section about taking
a daily afternoon break. Another nice thing is that taking
a daily break works for adults and children alike.