Tips for Single Parents Visiting Disney Theme Parks

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Set Clear Ground Rules Before You Arrive

CInderella's Castle
Google Images

One of the most important ways to prepare for a trip to Disney--or any theme park--is to review some basic ground rules with your kids:

  1. Stay together.
  2. Follow instructions on each ride.
  3. If we get separated, go to a park employee for help.

Talk about expectations, such as anticipating long lines, snack and meal plans, and taking turns choosing what rides to go on.

If you have older kids, you'll also want to set up a meeting location (such as the castle at Magic Kingdom), synchronize your watches, and confirm that you have one another's cell phones numbers stored before going off in separate directions.

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Recommended Disney Services

Rental Lockers
Photo © 2009 Jennifer Wolf

Plan to take advantage of these Disney services, designed to make your visit to the park more enjoyable:

Think about all the things your kids may need during your visit to a Disney theme park. For example, sunblock, bug spray, an extra sweatshirt, or a rain poncho. Rather than carry these items with you all day, plan on renting a locker once you arrive at the park, and store these items there. In Walt Disney World theme parks, lockers cost approximately $10 per day and can be found near the front entrance of each park.
If you have young children, I also recommend renting a single or double stroller. Single and infant strollers cost $15 per day, and double strollers cost $31 per day (not including multi-day discounts). Stroller rentals can be found near the front entrance of each park.
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Cut Back on Wait Time With Disney Fastpass

Disney FastPass Info
Photo © 2009 Jennifer Wolf

Disney Fastpass is a system designed to cut back on your wait time--a huge plus for single parents visiting the park with one or more children. To use Fastpass, simply insert each of your admission tickets into the machine in front of the ride or attraction you are interested in, and wait for the machine to dispense a Fastpass return ticket, telling you when to return for the ride. This allows you to go and grab a bite to eat, shop, or visit another ride or attraction instead of waiting in line.

Where do I get a Fastpass?
Your park admission ticket is your Fastpass. Children under three, who are admitted to the park for free, do not need a Fastpass.

Can I Use the Fastpass More Than Once?
Yes. However, in general, once you have inserted your admission ticket into a Fastpass machine, you can not use the Fastpass option again until after the return time has passed. There are some exceptions to this, though, such as times when the return time is hours away. In that case, your return ticket will have a second time printed on it, telling you when you can use Fastpass again.

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Know Which Disney Rides Your Kids Can Go On Alone

Height Requirements
Photo © 2009 Jennifer Wolf

If you plan to visit Disney with two kids, you'll want to know ahead of time whether your kids are tall enough to ride two-person rides, such as the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, alone, since you won't be able to sit with both kids simultaneously.

At the entrance of each individual ride's line, you will find a measuring stick to help you determine whether your kids are tall enough to ride alone.

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Know Which Disney Rides Will Comfortably Fit Three People

Dumbo ride empty seat
Photo © 2009 Jennifer Wolf

Fortunately, most of the rides at the Magic Kingdom are built to accommodate groups of various sizes. This is a huge advantage for single parents and adults traveling with two children ​because it means that you can ride most of the rides along with your kids, without one of them having to ride solo.

Recommended Magic Kingdom Rides That Accommodate Up to Three People Per Car:

Adventureland Rides:

  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin.
  • Jungle Cruise.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean.

Frontierland Rides:

  • Walt Disney World Railroad.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Liberty Square:

  • The Haunted Mansion.

Fantasyland Rides:

  • It's a Small World.
  • Peter Pan's Flight.
  • Snow White's Scary Adventures.
  • Cinderella's Golden Carousel.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
  • Mad Tea Party.

Tomorrowland Rides:

  • Astro Orbiter.
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority.
  • Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.
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Build Breaks Into Your Disney Schedule

Snow White's Scary Adventures sign
Photo © 2009 Jennifer Wolf

Your Disney schedule is going to be packed, but it's also important to build breaks into the day so that your kids don't become overtired. For example, there are plenty of rides that will allow you to sit and catch your breath, such as:

  • Walt Disney World Railroad.
  • Jungle Cruise.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Liberty Square Riverboat.
  • The Haunted Mansion.
  • It's a Small World.
  • Snow White's Scary Adventures.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority.

Make sure that you build some of these into your Disney schedule in order to give each of you time to rest and recuperate as needed.

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Disney Shows Will Allow You Longer Rest Periods

Chip and Dale on Disney float
Photo © 2009 Jennifer Wolf

Taking in a show is another great way to relax and rest during your visit to Disney. Whether it's an official show, like "Mickey's PhilharMagic," or a parade, enjoying a couple of Disney shows throughout the day will allow you and your kids to rest periodically for 20-30 minutes.

Particularly, if you plan to stay at the park through the evening hours, building in a couple of breaks with Disney shows like this is essential to staving off the potential crankiness many kids experience due to excessive heat and excitement.

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How to Buy a Cheap Disney Meal in the Park

Water and pretzel on napkin
Photo © 2009 Jennifer Wolf

Yes, it is possible to buy a cheap Disney meal inside the theme park! To save money, I suggest that you mix and match a variety of filling, healthy options, such as:

  • A soft pretzel.
  • A turkey leg.
  • Fresh fruit.
  • Bottled water.
  • Frozen lemonade.

In addition, make sure that you keep yourself and your children well hydrated throughout the day, and remember to reapply sunscreen often.

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Use Family Bathrooms at Disney Theme Parks

Companion Restroom sign
Photo © 2009 Jennifer Wolf

It's obvious that, at some point, you're going to need to use the bathroom with your kids. Throughout each of the Disney parks, you will find bathrooms labeled "Companion Bathroom." These restrooms typically contain a changing station, a toilet, and a sink. Some of the family bathrooms even have kid-sized toilets, as well as standard toilets.

Family bathrooms are a great option for any single parent traveling with children of both genders. In addition, using family bathrooms eliminates the risk of losing track of one another in larger public bathrooms that have many stalls.

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Budget for Souvenirs and Disney Shopping

Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin store
Photo © 2009 Jennifer Wolf

Finally, when visiting Disney, make sure that you plan ahead for the souvenirs and trinkets your kids are going to want to purchase. One way to make the Disney shopping experience more enjoyable for all of you is to give your kids a shopping budget up-front. For example, allow each child to spend $5-$10 on something of his or her choice. This not only reinforces your kids' sense of personal responsibility, but it's also a great way to minimize whining and encourage thoughtful spending.