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?