So, you want to let your child explore Disney World alone?

Disney World is huge and so are the crowds. It is likely the largest place your child has ever been without you, and parents often worry about the multitude of things that could happen when their child goes off without them.  After all, Disney is a very safe place, but it is still part of the real world.

Allowing a child to tour the parks on his or her own can teach important lessons of responsibility, and they may even feel compelled to behave in a way that reflects the trust you’ve given them.

Deciding to let your child be alone in Disney is a huge vote of trust and there are certain things you’ll want to know and do before letting him go off on his own.

1. Know the rules

In 2013, Disney established a rule that children must be at least 14 years old to be alone in a Disney Park. This seems like an arbitrary thing, so I would assume that if you let your 13-year-old roam free, Cast Members would only question it if the child was misbehaving. Obviously, though, it is not responsible parenting to allow a very young child to go off on his or her own.

2. Know your child

Despite what the rules say, it’s important to know your child and his or her level of maturity. If your child has performed well alone in the past like staying home alone or going to a public place, she may do well in Disney.

If your child is overwhelmed with large crowds and is very shy, Disney may not be the best place to test your child’s independence.

You should also make sure that your child has some navigation skills. If he or she cannot read a map or find his or her way around on their own, Disney World may seem like a daunting venture.

Disney parks are huge places. Make sure your kids can navigate with a map.

Disney parks are huge places. Make sure your kids can navigate with a map.

Keep in mind that Cast Members are not baby sitters, and your child needs to be responsible and mature enough to handle every situation that may arise by his or her self. However, children should know how to recognize Cast Members and be comfortable talking to them if they need information or help.  Teach them if they ever need help, to go to a Cast Member before an unknown adult any time they need help.

3. Set a curfew

If you’ve determined that your child is ready to be on his or her own in the parks, you should set a curfew. Do you want your child to return when the parks close? At dark? At midnight? Another time? Make sure that you are clear about what time you expect to see them again and that they understand your rules.

4. Maintain communication

In a world where we are in constant communication with each other, there’s no excuse for your child to be out of touch with you while alone in the parks. Be sure to program your number into his or her phone and consider setting up an ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact in the event that someone would need to know how to get in touch with you.

If your child doesn’t have a cell phone, consider purchasing a pre-paid phone before your vacation so that the family can stay in touch.

Discuss how you will stay in contact with your kids.

Discuss how you will stay in contact with your kids.

5. Practice

Perhaps the most important thing to do before letting your children free in Disney World is to practice at home. Let your teenagers stay home alone then expand to public places. They can go to the mall, the movies, the zoo, the park or any other public place alone or with friends to practice their independence.

Once you feel comfortable with them being in these places alone, you both are probably ready for all that comes with being alone in Disney World.

Is it OK for teenagers to explore Disney alone?