Letting your Child go off on their own at Walt Disney World

I get this question a lot from my friends heading to Walt Disney World with their tweens.  My answer is Walt Disney’s policy is 12 years and up but I then stipulate ‘it really depends’.  As everyone knows kids are all different.  Some may be ready to spread their wings early while others may always want to stick with Mom and Dad (this can be good or bad).  My recommendation is let your children be the judge and listen to your instinct. The good news is Walt Disney World is set up to give you children all the independence they could ever desire.

  • Keys to the Kingdom Card – If you are staying on property this card is great.  You can put your park pass on them and/or charging privileges.  This way they can grab a bite to eat when they are off on their own without having to carry cash. Helpful Tip:  Don’t worry if your child loses their key/park pass, all they have to do is go to guest services for a replacement card (you don’t have to be present).  Our son lost his twice last trip and he handled it on his own. 
  • Disney Transportation – The busses and boats at Walt Disney World are perfect for kids to get around on their own.  They are clear and drivers can always help out in a pinch.  In fact this was our son’s first taste of independence.  He was not being nice and we told him that if he was going to act this way he could just take the bus back to the hotel.  By the time we finished that sentence he was halfway to the bus.  So don’t hesitate to let them ride alone.
  • Maps & Cast Members – Disney has maps of everything and there are always Cast Members around to help.  Helpful Hint: While your kids are younger show them what a cast member badge looks like. And introduce them to different Cast Members.  Tell them if you ever need help you can go to them.  This will help now if the little ones should get lost and later if they need help. 
  • Cell Phones – In the days of cell phones it’s easy to keep in touch with your tweens and teens.  Helpful Hint: There are now aps for the parks that can track where your children are. 

If your children aren’t quite ready to take off to the parks on their own there are opportunities for independence at the resorts. Why not let then go to the pool alone when a life guard is present.  There are a lot of organized activities there that the kids may like.  And a lot of the resorts have Community Halls that allow kids to get together and play games or do crafts.  These are great ways for you to have a little downtime in the room while the kids go off an have fun and make some new friends.

I have just scratched the surface, so what are your tips for letting those kids off on their own?

~ Mary

6 comments for “Letting your Child go off on their own at Walt Disney World

  1. 6 February, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Hi Mary. I’m so glad you did this post. We’ve been going to WDW and DLRP regularly since our son was 2yrs old. He turned 8 last August and as he’s not much of a ride person, we let him have some free reign while we rode. I know 8 may seem a tad young, but as you say each child is different. Last year was also our first trip to DL and D23 Expo where he also got to spread his wings at. We each have a walkie-talkie, he has a badge with my cell number and name on the back and he’s well ‘trained’ in who the CMs are and knows if he gets lost or worried to go to a CM and have them call me…we’re never far though. Most times he hangs out in the gift shop exit of the attraction we are on. He also loves Tom Sawyer’s Island and we have let him go play there while we wonder off, we call him on the walkie talkie as we head back to him and he then gets on the boat back to the ‘main land’. He’s very responsible for his age, he knows all about ‘stranger danger’ and that although its Disney, to always be careful. He talk play with and talk to other kids but not go off anywhere with anyone, he knows where he’s supposed to stay, etc. He always comes back to us with the cutest stories about his ‘adventures’ like when he began running tours through Tom Sawyer’s caves for people including letting them know that “now is a great photo opportunity if you’d like to take photos” and once when he went to get popcorn and a soda (he had money) and because he was so polite saying please and thank you, etc. the CM gave it to him for free.

    I think a Disney Park is the best place for your child to get used to being on their own some as long as there are ground rules that the completely understand and a mode of contact is available (walkie talkies or cell phones).

    • Mary at Capturing Magical Memories
      6 February, 2012 at 6:59 am

      I know some very matures 8 year olds so this is not suprising. And I like that you are giving them freedom but you are still in the park. Great first step!

  2. 6 February, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Great article. We are headed to WDW in October w/ our tween Girl Scout troop, and I’m a bit nervous about this very thing.

  3. 6 February, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    We’re looking forward to giving our older boys a little freedom next time we’re at Walt Disney World. We will probably get them their own limited cell phones, that can only call our phones, each other, and 911. I’m a little more comfortable letting them go off on their own knowing they’ll stick together than I would be letting either of them go alone. As you mentioned – Disney World is a great place to practice independence!

  4. 6 February, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Great post! I went with my hs band when I was 15 so I’m pretty sure I won’t think twice then.. but I also did Universal with band when I was 11 or 12, so that age makes sense, too! I was thinking – if I’m comfortable letting my sons go to the mall by themselves, then why not WDW? Way safer there, in my mind!

  5. 7 February, 2012 at 5:47 am

    Great post….we were allowed to go to the parks alone when I was 12, but the difference was I also took my 8 year old brother with me. Not sure if I’d trust a 12 year old with a sibling at the parks, but it always worked out for us…

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