Managing Kids in Costumes

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer

Any time of year, but especially in October, families often dress their children up in character costumes for visits to the Disney theme parks. But sometimes, the costumes can become a challenge. Hot weather, uncomfortable or elaborate costumes, busy crowded parks, and other factors can turn a fun visit sour. This week, we asked our Parenting Panel: How do you handle costumes in the parks without getting out of hand?

Chris Salata, also known as GusMan, is a Disney-inspired author and photographer, and loves to help people get the most out of their Disney vacation. Chris writes:

The Walt Disney World Resort during the fall can be one of the most festive times of the year. This also means that guests can enjoy Mickey's Not-So- Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom. That means an extra dose of the holiday as you see the park and characters transform for the season. It also gives kids a chance to dress up as their favorite character for the party. At the same time, it gives the adults a chance to do a bit of mild cosplay or Disneybounding during the parties, as well. In any case, having attended the parties, and even dressed up for them, there are a few things that I learned when it comes to costumes while on the road.

Planning Is Key. If you are considering gathering the items for your or your child's outfit while at the parks, you might want to consider a few different alternatives. I say this because you never know what the parks will have, if they will have your size, or if you would want to pay the prices for what is offered. In my opinion, it would be better to possibly order your costume materials before you leave, make sure it is what you want, and that it fits properly. Keep in mind that you have to transport the costumes, so be mindful of luggage space as a part of your planning.

The Salata family flashes back to Halloween 2003 when they dressed up for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Photo by Chris Salata.

Comfort Is Extremely Important. Keep in mind that if you or your child wants to dress up, it can still get quite warm during the day in September and October. You also need to take bad weather into consideration so that you do not ruin all your efforts if you experience a storm. At the same time, you are still going to be doing a lot of walking, so do not forget the comfortable footwear. We stored all our costumes in a locker during the day and then got dressed for the party about an hour before the park closed to all non-party guests. This kept us comfortable during the day and ready for the party at night.

Keep It Appropriate. In general, Disney wants everyone to have a happy and festive time. Costumes that are overly scary or spooky tend to be frowned upon, and you might be asked to change. At the same time, if you have that one costume that is over-the-top awesome for an adult and you look like you could be an actual Disney character, be aware that you also might be asked to change or tone it down a bit. In essence, you cannot act like you are the actual character by taking pictures with other guests or calling yourself by the name of the character you are portraying.

Keep It Safe. Like trick-or-treating at home, some costumes can pose certain hazards. Make sure you or your child can see clearly and that the outfit does not pose a safety issue for the wearer and surrounding guests alike. You might have a great Jedi costume, but keep the lightsaber in the holster.

Consider Simple. One year, my wife wore a pullover Minnie bath robe of sorts over her clothes, and my daughter wore her Minnie outfit that brought from home. Me? I did a bit of Disneybounding before Disneybounding became a thing. Yep, I had a pair of homemade red shorts with circles on them, white gloves, a dark shirt, and my Mickey ears. Yes, I looked kinda silly, but the outfit was so simple and I was in the spirit of things.

I am not a huge fan of Halloween in general. However, for Disney, I will make an exception. It's truly a festive time to visit the parks and enjoy all the season has to offer.

Sheena also known as Mermaid, teaches first grade in Arizona where she lives with her husband and two children, Matthew (4) and Katie (3). She visits the Disneyland Resort as often as she can and has passed on her love of the parks to her little Mouseketeers. Sheena writes:

Snow White poses with two very charming and amazingly cute guests at Disneyland. Many Disney character photo opportunities help guests pose for precious photos like this one. Photo by Sheena Byerley

When asked if kids should wear their costumes in a Disney Park, I would say enthusiastically: Yes! You will see kids of all elementary school ages in costumes in the park any time of year, but even more so during Halloween time. Of course, princesses are everywhere. On our most recent trip, my daughter dressed up in her Rapunzel dress. Although there were lots of young princesses around the park, she just loved the attention she got from the Cast Members. They greeted her as princess, asked her about her royal subjects and commented on her beautiful dress. She just soaked this all up.

My son dressed as Peter Pan the same day. You don't see as many boys in costume as the girls, so he received even more attention than his sister. Cast Members tried to duel him, asked him about flying and Captain Hook. He was not as enamored by this attention... until he met the man himself, the real Peter Pan. We saw Peter meeting with people and, when it was our turn, he asked my kids if they wanted to go on an adventure. They were very star-struck but mumbled out a "yes." He skipped them from Storybook Land to Pixie Hollow, where they dug through the bushes looking for treasure. Peter emerged with two pine cones. My son asked, "The pine cones are treasure?" Peter didn't miss a beat and replied, "They are a treasure because we found them together." I know we had this priceless interaction because my son was dressed in costume.

The attention from the Cast Members is well worth dressing up the kids—not to mention, it is adorable!

But... what about when it is not? When the kids are over it and the whining begins? The key to a good costume is knowing when to take it off. My daughter's Rapunzel dress lasted until the first bathroom break. It was poofy and itchy and hot and she wanted it off. I was prepared for this with a baggie of clothes for her to change into. Once she was changed, she was happy and ready to continue on her day. I packed her spare clothes in a quart-size zip bag. In hindsight, I should have used a gallon size. I got the dress into the baggie, but it was tough! We had a stroller, so I shoved the bag into the bottom, but if we didn't have it, the dress would have fit into a backpack or a locker. I had a spare set of clothes for my son, as well, but he stayed in his Peter Pan costume all day. It was more comfortable than the dress, and it didn't bother him at all. Both kids wore their regular shoes with their costumes. This might not have completed the look, but it was a lot more comfortable.

You also gotta know your kids. Although it might be tempting to dress them in costume, if they are on the shy side or easily upset by textures and a different fit of clothes, it just isn't worth it. An unhappy kid can quickly bring down the whole group...and an adorable picture with matching Cinderellas just isn't worth that!

If your child is willing, and you have a good escape plan for when he or she is done pretending to be a favorite character, have them wear the costume. It is fun, amazingly cute and might just create memories that last forever.

Lisa is a married, stay-at-home mom of Joey (5) and Matthew (2). She has been a Disneyland annual passholder since 2002, and has made several trips to Walt Disney World, as well. Lisa writes:

My boys are not big “dresser-uppers”, but they humor me every year and wear their Halloween costumes to Disneyland for pictures. I realize that because they aren’t really into it, I may be getting off easy, but I try to keep it as simple as I can, so they are comfortable for a day at the parks.

Joey has a friend in Jesse. Dressing up in costumes, children can meet their favorite characters' buddies, like Woody and Jesse. Photo by Lisa Maulhardt

I have found that the easiest and most comfortable kinds of costumes for my kids are either the T-shirt costumes or the PJ Pals found at the Disney Store. Both are great for Halloween, especially if you add a couple accessories to them. Plus, they are also wearable as regular clothes, so you can get your money’s worth out of them. Over the years, my boys have been Buzz and Woody, Mickey Mouse, Jake, and more recently some of the Marvel super heroes (Captain America, Hulk, Spiderman and Iron Man). I even have a Donald Duck T-shirt costume from a few years ago, so I am also able to “dress up” for Halloween without being in “costume”.

Brothers and buddies. Families often choose to dress their children up as buddies or in common themes. Photo by Lisa Maulhardt.

I realize this might not work for some of you that have little girls with closets full of princess dresses. But, I have seen some really cute, non-costume, shirts/dresses/outfits on some kids at the parks lately. Or, think along the lines of Disneybounding and be creative!

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!



  1. By LLevy

    Ok. I need to know.. What is "disneybounding"?

  2. By candles71

    Quote Originally Posted by LLevy View Post
    Ok. I need to know.. What is "disneybounding"?

    Disneybounding is dressing in an outfit themed to a character. So, the essence of a character without breaking the rules with a costume.

  3. By GusMan

    At the same time, Disneybounding is sometimes meant to be somewhat subtle.
    I know a person who has a Disneybounding outfit that at first makes her look like a sailor. But after additional glances, it is an outfit that looks like something Donald Duck would wear.

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