Why would any single parent want to take their child to the hectic, bustling Disney theme parks? Because Disney means all the eye-popping entertainment kids love, plus plenty of supportive services that will make your trip a breeze. It’s a great place for single parents! You just need to have the right game plan.
Here are 12 travel tips that can help you survive — and enjoy! — your Disney visit.
If possible, avoid summer and school vacations, as they’re peak times at Disney parks. If you have children who are too young for school or attend private school, choose a time when most kids are still in class.
A big question: How will you get there? Flying solo with one small child is fine; with two, somewhat terrifying; with three or more, nearly impossible. Driving, on the other hand, can be a lot simpler if the trip is not too long. Fun stops along the way, plenty of toys, audio books, and screens should keep your passengers busy. Train travel is another option: your kids can move from car to car including dining cars, keeping your prep a lot simpler.
They’re pricey, but location is everything. Staying at a Disney property means you’ll get to the fun a lot more quickly and—equally important—get away faster, too! If you’re in the middle of the park and one child starts to melt down, you can be back in your hotel room in a matter of moments. Disney resorts also offer themed rooms, family-friendly pools and events, and great dining options.
If you have young children, lugging along a Pack ’n Play and car seats can ruin your trip before you’ve even started. There are many services that deliver gear for babies and children, like Baby’s Away, Rent the Baby Gear, and Baby-Equipment-Rental.com. Car rental agencies are generally happy to supply a car seat. And whatever Disney city you’re going to, there’s a service that will bring groceries straight to your door. Try Postmates, Instacart, Peapod, Shipt and Amazon Fresh for groceries delivered in hours.
If your children are young enough, rent a single or double stroller at the Disney park. It saves you from having to drag the stroller on and off buses and trams, holds all your stuff, and leaves your hands empty to handle kid problems. Even if your child hasn’t touched a stroller in years, you might want to try convincing them. They will get more time in the park, and you will avoid an exhaustion meltdown.
Prevention is key here: If your kids will go for it, dress them alike—it makes keeping track of them in a crowd much easier. Take a photo of each child as you arrive at the park. If someone gets separated from the group, you will have a picture to hand off to anyone looking for them. If your children are old enough, tell them who to ask for help or where to meet you if they get separated. Guest services also has cute Mickey tags you can attach to your kids’ clothing with contact info just in case they wander off. Or devises like this GPS Tracker Smart Watch.
If your kids are too young to have their own phones, you may want to think about getting them a prepaid phone just for the trip. It can ease everyone’s mind if someone gets lost. If you have to separate for a few minutes—say, one child wants to ride something that the other doesn’t—it can make meeting back up a lot less stressful, too.
There may be certain rides at Disney that not everyone wants to go on, or that some of your children aren’t old enough or tall enough for. Before you go, make a plan for which ones you will visit. Many rides have a “chicken exit” that will allow you to wait in line with riders and to exit before hopping on. You can plan where to meet after the ride is over— there are generally places to sit near ride exits for just this purpose. Disney’s Fastpass system can also help. It allows you to insert your admission ticket into the machine and gives you a ticket telling you when you return to skip the long lines for each attraction.
Some rides and attractions have seats that hold two people, some hold three, some hold big groups. If you are traveling with more than one child, know which rides will hold your whole family, and which will ask you to split up. This should be part of your ride plan—is your child old/tall/mature enough to ride alone when needed?
Single parents are usually the ones behind the camera, which means you don’t appear in your family’s vacation photos. At Disney rides and attractions, professional photographers are ready to take photos for you. Buying a Photopass CD in advance can be less expensive than getting a la carte photos on a whim. For $14.95 to download a copy of each photo, $199 for an all-you-can-eat Photopass as you’re leaving the park, and $169 for Photopass in advance.
All that line-waiting can make you and your children grumpy. But some rides and shows have barely any lines at all. You’ll have a few minutes, even a half-hour to just enjoy yourself on rides like the Disney Railroad, the Jungle Cruise, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (the monorail), or for seated, air-conditioned attractions like Mickey’s PhilharMagic Concert or the Hall of Presidents.
Find the bathrooms on a map ahead of time and plan when and where you’ll take breaks. For younger kids, look for restrooms labeled “Companion Bathroom,” which are private restrooms with changing stations, toilets, and sinks intended for families.