If you’ve been following Park Wise this year, you’ve no doubt seen photos of my little mouseketeers. The adorable and sassy princess-turned-pirate is my niece. She travels with us at least once a year, and although the kids act just like siblings, there are a few extra things to consider when taking someone else’s  child to Disney.


First and foremost, make sure this is something you want to do. In essence, you‘re going to be their mom or dad for a week. Chances are you’ll be hundreds of miles away from their family. You must keep this child safe, healthy and happy. If you decide that’s something you’re ready to take on, keep reading.

The Necessities

When traveling with my niece, there are a few documents we have with us at all times.  We keep a copy of her birth certificate (although we’ve never had a need for this) in our accordion folder (remember that from Five Weird Things to Take to Disney?).  Additionally, if the child you’re taking has health insurance, be sure to take a copy of the card.  Either way, a medical authorization form is a must.  This is provided by the parents/guardians of the child and authorizes you to seek medical attention, if necessary.  Although we’ve never had to use it, we get a new and updated authorization for each vacation.


Be Up Front About Expenses

We all know a Disney vacation involves a fairly substantial financial commitment.  Adding another child (especially if that child is a Disney “adult”) to the mix can easily raise the cost of your vacation by several hundred dollars, if not more.  Will you be footing the entire bill?  Will little Johnny’s family be paying for his airfare and theme park tickets?  Or maybe they‘re just responsible for souvenir money?  Discussing this information before presenting the idea to the kidlets will help avoid embarrassment, awkwardness and possibly a revoked invitation.


ŸGet Park Wise: Instead of trying to keep track of everyone’s cash, consider gift cards.  You can differentiate the cards easily by writing names or choosing different designs, or little Johnny can even slip it into his own lanyard pouch or cargo pocket.

Parenting Someone Else’s Child

We have a pretty simple rule that applies when children are over for playdates: our house, our rules.  For the most part, the same would apply to vacations.  Speak with the other family about your expectations prior to your trip.  Are both families comfortable with teenagers exploring the parks by themselves?  How do you handle discipline should a situation arise?  What would work best if Sally got homesick?  Luckily, most people are just a phone call or text away, but setting up some parameters in advance can ease a few hiccups during your trip.


The Kids

While inviting your BFF to hit the Happiest Place on Earth may seem like the BEST IDEA EVERRR at first, the reality of it can be different.  The girls who dress alike, talk alike and have best friend lockets may be a little tired of each other by day four of rope drops and constant together time.  Be sure to plan some breaks during your vacation so everyone can decompress from the go-go-go of the parks.  If you have enough adults, let the kids try different things.  Your son may want to tackle the resort water slides while his buddy may prefer to build sandcastles.  Allowing even the best of friends to have some “me time” during your trip will help prevent any conflicts.

Or you could just let them go after each other with these.


Have you ever taken another kiddo to Disney?  What worked and what didn’t?  Would you do it again?

  • Great tips Jessica. If you are going to take someone else’s child with you, as much pre-planning and discussion as possible is required.

    • Absolutely! It’s a big responsibility but can come with big rewards!

  • lionheartkc

    I actually did this when I was a child and my parents made the worst possible mistake that you could make. They overcompensated for the fact that my friend was the “outsider” of the group and lavished all of their attention on him, thus leaving me feeling like an outsider by the 3rd day of the trip. While I have some great memories from that trip, I also very much remember feeling miserable for a good portion of the trip and absolutely hating that I felt miserable in my favorite place in the world.

    • I thought about that exact angle when writing this article. While trying to make sure your guest is included, it’s definitely possible to make your own feel a little excluded. Hopefully all adults will keep that in mind. Hope you have made up for the not-so-magical feelings since then! Thanks for sharing!

  • jcruise86

    In S. California, there are probably more one-day, buddy trips. One issue can be if you’re APs and the friend is joining for a special once-a-year (or less) trip. The friend and his family may want to try every overpriced, unhealthy treat, get toys, might think Fastpass-shmastpass–why bother with Fastpasses when you can just wait in line for Space Mountain for 65 minutes? But as long as everyone defers to the many options provided by Micechatter, former CM moi, nobody gets hurt. It’s good to share your healthy eating strategy with friends before the trip, then go along with a couple snacks. And bring healthy treats–never in glass containers.

    My MVP moment on Tuesday, June 18:
    –besides getting Space Mtn. FPs while they rode Casey Jr.
    –and the birthday button we got for the birthday friend, which we presented when we met them on Main Street,
    –my best move were the cool signs I made for Jedi training. One read, “It’s my BIRTHDAY! Please pick me!” And my daughter’s sign had an arrow pointing to her friend with the words, “Please pick my friend!” They both got picked. My daughter is now 8 for 8 in getting picked for Jedi training thanks to the signs–big letters on a manilla folder, folded into a T-shirt at the bottom of my backpack in case I get that one security, bag checker who once made a negative fuss, but then let us bring them in. Actually once my daughter lent her one sign “I wanna be a JEDI, not a princess!” to a friend who got picked instead of her as we had planned that time.

    • It can definitely be an issue trying to get other adults to defer, but if you’re just taking the kiddos, tell ’em it’s my way or the highway! 😉 Most kids are thrilled to be there, especially if it’s a rare treat, so I’m willing to bet they’ll go along with the plan.

  • eicarr

    Although it upsets that their PR dept. is sucessfully getting people to call DL or WDW generically “Disney”, taking a friend every 3rd trip or so was a highlight growing up. Trips along with Knotts and universal always made for memorable weeks with friends. Nobody ever got homesick with all the tightly packed DL, Hollywood and so cal beach fun

    • Well, “Mom, Can My Friend Go to Disney With Us?” flowed a lot better than “Mom, Can My Friend Go to Disneyland and/or Walt Disney World and/or on Our Disney Cruise With Us?”

      Growing up as an only (my niece is technically a second cousin), I loved having a buddy on vacation, too! It was a highlight for me, too.

  • Gregg Condon

    Great stuff Jessica. We took our niece to Disneyland for a long weekend once and these tips could have really helped us. Where were you 10 years ago? 😉

    • Ten years ago? I was a freshman in college, so I hadn’t thought about this specific topic yet. Haha!! If you decide to have another tag-along some day, though, you’re all set! 🙂

  • StevenW

    I can’t imagine taking care of someone else’s kid for one WHOLE week. It doesn’t seem right. I can certainly see the logic behind it for a child who might enjoy a few extra companions, but they are outsiders to your family dynamic. I remembered when a kid, I went to Disneyland with my best friend’s family. It was an ackward situation at times. I didn’t do it again. It might be different when going with blood relatives, but family vacations are less frequent as I grew up into my teenage years.

    Family traveling means roughing it. Everyone stayed close together. Eating the same things and doing the same things. There was a lack of flexibility. Everyone slept at the same time in the same tight quarters. Using the bathrooms at the same time. Parents expect their older kids to do the parenting of the younger kids. This doesn’t always work.

    A Disney vacation with someone’s kid seems like an extreme indulgence. It is expensive and it is likely that you’re spending a substantial amount of money to take the kid with you despite their parent’s willingness to compensate you. It is impossible to account for everything. If you attempt to figure it out, you may find it impossible to ask for a fair amount in return.

    • It happens all the time. Especially at Disney. Lots of Disney trips revolve around special events or birthdays. And that often means that little Jr. wants his best friend to come along.

      • Most definitely, Dusty. Special events are more fun with friends!

    • Wow! I can see why you wouldn’t want to add another poor soul to that dynamic. Luckily none of the vacations we’ve been a part of seem to fit that mold.

      I loved being a part of others’ vacations as a kid, as well as adding a friend or two to ours. They were great experiences, and I’m grateful we can offer the same fun to the kiddos!

  • WorldLover71

    We recently took my 13 year old nephew for his first trip. He has much younger siblings and his parents won’t be ready to take the little ones for a few years, by which time he’ll be in high school or even college. We laid down the ground rules in advance and all had a great time. We had a letter from his mother but didn’t have an insureance card. We’ll be sure to have that next time just in case.

    • A photo text can help in a pinch, but we like having the physical card with us. Hope he had a great trip!!

  • DobbysCloset

    I applaud the human parents that find it in their hearts to bring an extra child along to enjoy the Magic. I myself would not be able to endure my human showing ANY attention to anyone else. To be a Chihuahua is to be jealous and possessive and I must be the Star of the Show. Did someone say Bibbedi Bobbedi Makeover?