Traveling to Disney World is both exciting and daunting, since you must possess the fortitude of an intrepid explorer, the cunning of a master spy, and the fun-loving nature of a game-show host.
Traveling as a single parent requires all this, and more. Whether you’re flying solo by choice or necessity, going alone with your kids to the World can be exhilarating, memorable, and, ultimately, thoroughly enjoyable–with a little planning.
Ask Your Kids for Help
You kids probably know this already, but you’re not infallible. Sit down with them before the trip. Explain that you’re going to have to work together as a team, that certain rules are non-negotiable, and that you’re not out to ruin their good time, but that your job is to take care of them, and everything you do, you do for a reason.
Explain to Your kids What Non-negotiable Means
No ice cream before 11 am: possibly flexible. Not wandering off by yourself: not flexible.
Make Disney Work for You
The hotel staff and park employees in Disney World are enormously helpful to parents traveling alone with their kids, but only if you ask them for help. Call your hotel before you go and explain your situation. Ask for anything that will make your life easier in terms of location, special needs, etc. Will you need help carrying luggage? The number of an all-night drugstore? Extra packets of coffee in your room? They won’t know you need it unless you tell them.
At the parks, find park staff and express any concerns or difficulties. If they can’t solve every dilemma, they can certainly help in some way. Disney staff often excel at dealing with special issues like this. Disney World is a great place to be alone with your kids, because they’re so welcoming to so many different kinds of families and travelers in general.
Figure Out What Your Biggest Issues Will Be
When you’re the sole parent, it’s all you, all the time. Figure out ahead of time what issues this will pose. One child is a night owl and the other conks out at 7 pm? One child is tall enough for certain rides and the other isn’t? Older sister likes to ride Kali River Rapids five times in a row, while little brother would rather go see It’s Tough To be a Bug? You probably won’t be able to solve all the issues, but knowing what they are before you go can let you approach them and talk to your kids about them. If some issues can’t be solved, come up with alternatives.
You also need to figure out what works for you, and realize that you just won’t be able to do everything, but that enjoying what you are able to do is what’s important. Are you more comfortable staying close to your hotel for meals, or are you game for exploring? Is venturing outside of Disney World too much, or a nice diversion?
Arrange ahead of time rules for what you do if you get separated, if one child has a meltdown, etc. Think about giving kids temporary cell phones or other ways to communicate with you. Whatever you need to do to ensure peace of mind is worth it. Make sure to carry small activities for kids to do while waiting in line, have emergency numbers with you, and so forth.
Once you have a rhythm going, many parents find that it’s not as difficult as they feared to be alone with kids in Disney world. But that realization requires knowing when to stop: When to stop touring, when to stop planning activities, when to stop trying to give your kids The Best Time Ever and just chill out. It’s not admitting defeat; it’s being smart.
Ask Kids for Feedback
You’re a team, and everyone on the team plays. Have a nightly meeting to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. Be frank with them (without making them feel guilty). It’s perfectly okay to say, “I want this to be fun for all of us, so let’s figure out what we can do to make this trip more fun with less yelling on my part.”
Make Time for Yourself
Parent downtime is not frivolous. Whether it’s sitting on your patio for half an hour by yourself while the kids color nearby, or choosing an activity or ride that you really want to do (and doing it three or four times in a row, if you like, you need the time to recharge.
Do you have suggestions about traveling alone with your kids to Disney World? Let us know!