"Twos" in Queues -
Tips for Waiting in Line with a Little One

by Bonnie Corso
ALL EARS® Guest Columnist and Disney Dollarless List Member

Feature Article

This article appeared in the July 23, 2002, Issue #148 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

The Terrible Twos. Enough said! Just ask any parent who has had to wait in a queue for a ride with a 2-year-old!

But the "Twos" do not have to be terrible -- they can be terrific! Here are a few sure-fire ways to at least lessen the trauma of waiting in line at Walt Disney World with small children in tow:

One way to eliminate the waits in line with a toddler is to take advantage of Disney's "child swap" option, offered on most height-restricted rides -- that is, one guardian waits with the child in a special location, while another party rides the attraction, then the two guardians "swap" places. This allows both guardians who want to ride the chance without having to wait in line twice.

Of course, there's the big question of what to do while waiting in the child swap area or waiting in queue. While waiting for a swap, take advantage of what very few know: visit the ride's gift shop and ask if there is anything available for "future riders". The gift shop at Splash Mountain, for example, offers a certificate suitable for framing for little ones who are too small to ride. Splash Mountain and other rides have a special toddler area that is easily overlooked when you are traveling accompanied by a 2-year-old terror.

While the child-swap option can save a lot of stress, there are, of course, several rides that 2-year-olds can go on and enjoy, particularly in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland.

If you find you must wait in line for one of those attractions, check the current estimated wait time and make your decisions based on how badly the child wants to go on the ride. Most of the time, you can return to the ride at another time when the line isn't as long.

If the ride offers Fastpass, use it! Getting a Fastpass allows you to return later, usually walking right onto the ride, or with a very short wait. Your child may put up a fuss that she wants to ride NOW and will not wait. A good distraction is to show the child your pass and tell her she now has a special ticket to ride, but first it's time to clean up, have a snack, visit a gift shop, or whatever quick distraction you would like.

If you do wait in a line, don't be upset if your child decides after several minutes that he does not want to ride anymore and wants to go on something else. After waiting 90 minutes for a ride once, our son decided, just as we got to the entrance, that he did not want to go on. If this happens to you, remember: it is your child's vacation, too. Try to do as we did: We didn't overreact, we just got out of line and reminded him that he shouldn't insist on going on a ride just because there's a lot of people in line.

To coax your child to wait "just a little longer" for any ride, Liss from the DisneyDollarless List suggests to "bring small containers of bubbles for the kids... It doesn't make a mess, they're easy to store away and they don't weigh much. I recently found some really awesome bubble containers that are small, as well as spill-proof at WalMart."

You may also use this wait-time to bring out a small puppet or stuffed animal and then put it away in its "secret hiding place" while you are on the ride. A small hip bag for the 2-year-old would be great for this -- Don't forget to include a pillow and blankie to tuck in the toy!

Another practical and inexpensive distraction is baby wipes. Our daughter had fun cleaning up while waiting in line, making sure her face and hands were nice and clean, as you never know when Mickey could show up!

An inexpensive disposable camera is one of the best memory makers you can buy. You can only imagine what a 2-year-old's perspective is from down at their level! Trusting a 2-year-old with taking pictures is a big deal to them. (Most disposable cameras are easy enough for a 2-year-old to handle easily.) Can you imagine a page in your scrapbook of pictures taken from their point of view? What could be more memorable?! Of course, you'll have pictures of your face at 56 degree angles, pictures of the clouds, or extreme close-ups of their faces! But since a picture is worth a thousand words, it's priceless!

The big sanity-saver is allowing your child to interact with other children their age who may also be waiting in queue. Children relate to other children and like to tell each other about what they have seen and done. We have found that sharing stories is not only cute to listen to, but lets other children know what they can expect to see and do. This also lets your child know that they are not the only children who are waiting (and, hopefully, being good!).

We have also found that small voice recorders (such as a Yakbak), the kind that alter the sound of your voice, are wonderful distractions. Most can clip on to you and a typical 2-year old always finds that Mommy's or Daddy's voice, and even their own, is the most hysterical thing when it's made to sound high-pitched and squeaky!

If the area allows, waiting in queue has always been a good time to break out the snacks and juice boxes.

In the event of inclement weather, consider this fun idea while waiting in queue: Most likely your 2-year-old will be wearing a vinyl rain poncho or slicker, which makes a wonderful canvas! You can pick up some very inexpensive sticker sheets of your child's favorite character before you leave home. (The sheets with several small stickers will be best.) Create a story around each sticker as you stick it to your child's raincoat. They peel off relatively easily and can be rearranged later.

Even if it's not raining, the children can "decorate" themselves with the stickers. If you use sticker charts at home for rewarding, you can take small round stickers in different colors (we use yellow and red), and draw faces on each color sticker: e.g., smiles on yellow and frowns on red. When your child is good, stick a smiley on one side of them, but when they are not being a little angel, a red frown on the other side quickly reminds them to be good. When your child reaches so many smileys, reward them with an offering of your choice.

Another idea, if you dare, is to bring out washable markers while waiting in line -- with adult supervision, of course. They will provide for some silly entertainment and will wipe off easily enough with a napkin. Let your child be the artist -- time will go by so much quicker when your child is absorbed in an activity, especially if it's a messy one!

The most important thing to remember when you're stuck standing in a line with any small child is to be patient! Go with the flow and let the kids lead every now and then. Stressing out not only upsets your child, making the situation very unpleasant for everyone, but will also ruin any chance you will have for enjoying the whole vacation experience. There may be some tough moments, but the pleasant ones will be the most memorable!

With any luck, the Twos won't be so terrible, after all, and you'll be looking forward to spending next year in line with a Thrilling Three!


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.