Tips for Keeping Calm and Avoiding Anxiety at the Disney Parks
Anxiety is something that all of us have experienced at one time or another. A situation such as speaking in public is enough to make most of our hearts race and palms sweat. For some people, including my daughter, anxiety disorders can cause anxiety to make an appearance much more often, sometimes daily. A Disney vacation, as magical as it is, can be filled with anxiety triggers for some people.
While every person’s situation is different, over the years we have learned what works for our family to make sure that our day at the parks is filled with pixie dust and not panic attacks.
Before your trip:
- Videos: One of the most helpful things that we have learned to do for our princess is to find videos of the parks and rides for her to watch before our trip. For her, knowing what to expect is crucial for keeping her anxiety levels low. Researching rides ahead of time helps her feel more confident and prepared and also helps her decide what rides she wants to avoid altogether.
- Talk, talk, talk: Another important part of preparing for a day at the park is to talk about what we will encounter during our day. The night before we visit the parks, we talk about what we will see, the noises we will hear, and all of the of the people that will be around us while we are in the park. This allows her to prepare herself for the day and helps her feel more in control and less anxious about the next day. We also talk about what she can do if she starts to feel anxious such as, deep breathing or finding a quiet spot for a break.
At the parks:
- Guest Assistance Card: A Guest Assistance Card can be a huge help during your trip. Simply visit Guest Services in any of the parks and they will assist you. Having this card doesn’t mean that you won’t have to wait in line.However, there may be a quieter area, such as a Fastpass entrance, where you can wait that may be a better option for you.
- Quiet spots for a break: I know it may be hard to imagine but if you know where to look, there are relatively quiet spots available at the parks. Sometimes, stopping for a break for a few minutes and separating yourself from the noise and people can be just what is needed to calm anxiety and put a smile back on everyone’s face.
- Quiet rides:Rides such as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover, Carousel of Progress, and It’s A Small World may not be everyone’s favorite but they hold a special place in my family’s heart. These, and others, are rides that our princess can enjoy without fear and anxiety. Someday she may ride on Space Mountain or Tower of Terror, but for now, we are happy to enjoy other rides together. If you are in line for an attraction and start to feel anxious or change your mind, there are exits available at each ride before you board; a Cast Member will be glad to point you to the exit.
- First Aid Centers: If you, or someone traveling with you, should happen to experience a panic attack while at the parks, Disney has resources available to help you. The First Aid Centers are staffed with very helpful, trained personnel who will be glad to help you.
- Dining: Much like the rides, planning ahead and learning what dining options work best for you is very helpful when dealing with anxiety. Some of the more popular quick-service restaurants, such as Cosmic Ray’s and Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, are really too crowded and noisy for my princess to enjoy, especially during peak hours. We have learned to eat at off times at locations like these to help avoid some of the noise and crowding. There are also certain hidden gem restaurants, such as Pinocchio’s Village Haus in the Magic Kingdom, and Flame Tree Barbeque at Animal Kingdom that have areas to eat at that are a little less intense and are a little quieter than other restaurants.
- Stay calm and check your status: One of the most crucial things that helps make our trips magical for all of us is to keep a close eye on our princess’s status during the day. Making sure she isn’t too hungry, sleepy, or overwhelmed is very important in keeping her calm. Of course, this is true for anyone at Disney!
- Don’t forget your medications: If you are on medication for your anxiety, make a plan to be certain that you take it on schedule. It is easy to get distracted and forget to take them when you are on vacation.
With planning and patience, anxiety doesn’t have to get in the way of a magical Disney World vacation. I hope that these ideas help you find what works best for you and your family. What are some of your tips for dealing with anxiety at Disney World?
Heather L is an avid Disney fan and has been visiting the parks since she was 4. She is a homeschooling mom and is happiest with a Mickey balloon in one hand and a Mickey bar in the other.
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