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Disneyland Article
Should Parents Send Their Kids Alone To Disneyland For Summer Vacation

ID:TMS-3945
Source:Orange County Register
Author:Robert Niles
Dateline:July 17, 2018
Posted:July 24, 2018
 
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Are theme parks appropriate babysitters?

One of the many challenges of being a working parent is finding stuff for your kids to do when they are not in school. In summer, that means finding enough day camps and other community activities to keep your children occupied when you are at work.

Could local theme parks provide one answer?

Sending your kids to a theme park for the day works only if your children are both old enough and mature enough to spend the day out in public by themselves. Disneyland says that children under age 14 must be accompanied by someone 14 or older in order to enter the park. So there's no dumping your crew of elementary-age kids on Mickey for the day.

But what about those teenagers? I have seen middle schoolers cruise around Disneyland like pros and grown-ups who needed to be put in time out. So it all really does come down to maturity. And that can be tough for anyone to demonstrate when wait times are getting as high as the temperature in the middle of July.

I never would consider sending kids alone to Disneyland or any other theme park if I hadn't taken them there frequently in the past. Why set up a child for failure in a strange new place like that? No other guests in the park want to babysit your kids, either.

But a familiar theme park can provide a relatively safe environment for a responsible teenager to spend a day completely on his or her own for the first time. Captain Hook isn't going to steal your 14-year-old in the middle of the afternoon parade. The worst that might happen is your kid running out of money.

Ah, the money. Disneyland might be the world's most expensive babysitter. Unlike Edna Mode, Disneyland doesn't do freebies. You likely could hire a darned good child care professional for the day for less than the $270 it would cost you to buy one-day, one-park tickets for a couple of teenagers on a peak day during the summer. A Deluxe annual passport that gets you in the park on most weekdays during the summer will set you back $729. Compared with some fancy summer camps, that might be a deal, but you certainly could do better.

Knott's Berry Farm provides one cheaper alternative, with one-day tickets online for $50 and season passes for $127, plus tax, or $149 if you throw in the water park. But even at Knott's, you still are looking at theme park prices for lunch and drinks, unless you have the kids smuggle in their own.

So maybe Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and other theme parks aren't so much summer vacation babysitters as the bribe that parents can use to reward kids for gutting through whatever cheaper alternative you send them off to endure for the rest of their vacation. "Make it through Miss Trunchbull's Bone-Crushing Summer Camp, kids, and you can spend a day with Mickey Mouse!"

Of course, as your children get older, there are other ways for them to spend their summers at a theme park that won't cost you anything. Both of my children now have turned 18, and if they said that they wanted to spend the summer at a theme park, I would not take them to the front gate. I'd show them the way to the park's employment office, instead.

Enjoy your summer at Disneyland, kids!
 

 
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