About the Column

Congratulations! You're going to Disney World, the Happiest Place on Earth! Now what? Do you have a plan? Do you know what to expect? Are you determined to 'see it all' - or die trying? Lesley Sawhook has been there, done that so many times that in her sleep she counts marching Mickeys, not leaping sheep. Her years of experience as a Disney mom, a Disney planner, and now a Disney Certified Travel Agent uniquely qualify her to dispense the Happiest Tips on Earth. Learn from Lesley how to have the Happiest Time at the Happiest Place on Earth.

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FROM: Happiest Tips on Earth Published Fridays

How Not to Lose Your Child at Disney World

I like to joke around when writing these brief intros, but the topic of Lesley Sawhook's column today leave no room for jokes: it's about how to prepare for the very worst thing that can happen at Disney - the disappearance of your child.

Close your eyes with me for a moment and envision a perfect day at the Magic Kingdom.

It's a beautiful June day filled with sunshine and the parks are a bit crowded. You have just experienced Disney magic at its finest, and have gone on many rides and attractions with your children. But that hot mid-day sun is beating down. You're ready to head back to your Disney resort for a dip in the pool to recharge your batteries.

Near the park exit, you have your children climb out of your rented stroller while you quickly return it. Then, as you approach the turnstile at the gate, you look down and... ONE OF YOUR CHILDREN IS MISSING!!!!!

I have experienced this panic first-hand. It was the most terrifying moment of any Disney vacation I have ever had. I can tell you that ours ended happily, and we were reunited with my daughter after about 5 VERY harrowing minutes (which seemed like hours) thanks to some very helpful Cast Members who sprang into action and then literally showered us all with pixie dust to calm us down.

My column today will help you avoid this situation. If, God forbid, it does happen to you, my tips will ensure a speedy reunion with your missing child.

Happiest Tip: Purchase products in advance to identify your children.

Many companies have come up with incredible products to aid in finding lost children. I highly recommend purchasing one of these products for your young children (or for a disabled child of any age) so that a Cast Member will be able to tell at a glance their name and your phone number.

The first such product is a shoe identification tag. These tags fit easily on a child's shoe, display your name and contact information, and are bright enough to grab the attention of someone helping your lost child. MyPreciousKid sells a great tag that is water-proof and has ink that won't fade or wipe off.

If you have a child who, like one of mine, won't wear tennis shoes in the park, you can use instead the ingenious temporary tattoos from SafetyTat. Not only can you have the company print your contact information on the tattoo, you can also customize it with different messages (such as 'Please Call My DAD') and different kid-friendly images.

Happiest Tip: Pay attention to what your child is wearing.

When we approached the gate and realized Lauren wasn't by our side, panic hit and I began yelling to Cast Members who immediately came to our aid. They closed the front gates while we searched for Lauren. But as I scanned the vast crowd of people, the boat docks, the monorail entrances, I was overwhelmed. "Where is my daughter?!?"

The Cast Members asked me for very specific details about what Lauren was wearing and issued an APB while my husband quickly ran back to the Main Street hub - where we found Lauren in the care of another Cast Member, crying but safe. She was found so quickly, in part, because I remembered what she was wearing.

In this age of Smart Phones, make it easier on yourself and take a picture of your children each morning before you leave for the parks. Then, if you're separated, all you have to do is show the picture to a Cast Member.

Happiest Tip: Teach children the power of the nametag.

Show older children an example of a Cast Member nametag, and explain to them that if you ever get separated, they're to find someone wearing one of those nametags and ask for help. Make sure your older children know your cell phone number so they can repeat it to a Cast Member. That's the quickest way to reunite.

My hope for you is that you'll never have to put any of these tips to the test, and that together your family experiences Disney Magic at its finest. But please take the necessary precautions.

Fortunately, we had a fairytale ending to our frightening situation, and we're very thankful to all of the helpful Disney Cast Members who sprang into immediate action that day to quickly reunite our family.

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The Happiest Tips on Earth can only get you part-way to the Happiest Place on Earth. For the rest, you need Destination Magic. Drop Lesley a line and see what magic she can make for you when you're planning your next Disney trip!

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