Helping Children Cope with a Cancelled or Delayed Disney Vacation


You’ve been counting down for weeks if not months. The countdown calendar hit zero, but the magical Disney vacation that was supposed to happen had to be cancelled or delayed. You’re obviously disappointed and frustrated. But worse yet, you now have to explain and try to help your child understand that, despite all the planning, the trip isn’t happening as scheduled.

Fortunately, there are some strategies that can help you share the news with your child in a way they will understand, as well as strategies to keep in mind as you plan future family vacations.

Wait to Tell Your Child About the Trip

Bear with me on this one. This advice will obviously be too little too late if your child already knows about your Disney vacation, but consider it a lesson learned for future trip planning.

Some families choose not to tell their kiddos about their upcoming Disney vacation until a few weeks before travel or even wait until they are in the car or airport. Families that didn’t spill the beans definitely have an advantage when a trip needs to be delayed or cancelled.

My children, especially my daughter, like to be in the know about upcoming plans. Surprises tend to throw her for a loop, so we’ve always started our Disney countdowns early and included her in all aspects of our planning.

If your child is like mine and a surprise like a Disney vacation would be overwhelming, the next tip may be more helpful.

Add an “If” Factor to Your Vacation Plans

Again, I realize this may be too late for those who have already had to cancel or postpone their vacation, but going forward, you may want to add an “if” clause when you’re describing your vacation plans to your children.

Coronavirus is impacting our daily lives and plans in unprecedented ways. But once this is all behind us, keep in mind that other factors can impact your vacation as well.

Hurricane season can impact travel plans, your work schedule or the kids’ school schedules might change, and any number of other factors might cause a cancellation or a delay to your magical vacation plans.

Even once you're on vacation, factors like colder than normal temperatures can change your plans (for example, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach can close due to cold temperatures), so keep that if-factor handy!

When doing your vacation countdowns and planning, it’s good to remind your kiddos that there’s always a chance something out of the ordinary could happen. The goal is for our children to hear the word “if” (if everything goes according to plan, if there’s an issue like a storm, etc.) and to know what might happen if those circumstances do come into play.

Be Honest and Share Feelings

Now let’s get into advice everyone coping with cancelled or delayed Disney vacations can use right now. You’ve been counting down, preparing, and possibly even packing, and now the trip isn’t happening. Or at least, it’s not happening when it was supposed to happen.

First, I’d suggest working through your own frustrations and disappointment out of view of the kiddos. We’re not going to be very helpful to them if we haven’t gotten a handle on our own feelings. When you’re able to calmly talk through it, let them know what happened that caused plans to change.

If you have really young kiddos, you may not have to explain much, just that you have to wait a little bit longer before you can take the trip. School-age children who have a better understanding of time and know when the vacation was supposed to happen will obviously need more of an explanation.

In my opinion, the best plan is to be honest. It may be tempting to try to sugarcoat the situation, especially now, given all the other changes our children are dealing with. But being honest and describing the feelings you experienced when you found out, such as frustration, disappointment, and even sadness, can help your children label, express, and move through their own feelings.

And, once everyone has had an opportunity to experience and express their feelings about the cancelled or changed plans, you can move on to the next and more fun way of coping:

Make the Best of Bad Circumstances

We are already having to make the best of many changes happening because of coronavirus. Why not add in some of your own Disney magic to those efforts?

Did you buy or make matching shirts for your vacation? Go ahead and wear them! Especially if they were made for a birthday or other special occasion, wear them on the day you planned to wear them on your trip.

Were you supposed to celebrate a larger family gathering? Wear your matching shirts and do a video chat! Did you buy or make ears? Wear those, too! Below is my favorite pair from Animal Kingdom:

Were you looking forward to a special dinner? Look up the menu, see if you can find the recipe for one of the dishes or look up similar recipes online, and re-create it at home.

If you’re like me and cooking holds no magic, treat yourself to take out from a favorite local restaurant. They will appreciate your support! If you were looking forward to pin trading or collecting other Disney collectibles, look for Facebook groups or other sites where like-minded Disney fans are trying to continue their hobbies from home.

Many of us are supporting our kids with e-learning at home while schools are closed. Incorporate some Disney activities to keep your kids busy during the day, like coloring or craft activities, reading Disney books, and even doing a Disney scavenger hunt around your home (I think there’s at least one Mickey in every room of our house!)

With access to Disney+, POV ride videos, views from Disney park benches, podcasts, and more, there are many ways to bring a little Disney magic into your home while you wait for your next opportunity to visit the parks.

Make New Plans

Regardless of how creative you are, we can likely all agree that nothing beats the experience of actually being in a Disney park or on a Disney cruise. Though we are in the midst of uncertainty as to when life, including vacation plans, can return to normal, at some point, this will all be behind us.

Whether you decide to go ahead and rebook your vacation now or you decide to wait until everything has reopened, there are at least some steps of your planning that you can think about while everyone is cooped up at home.

Here’s your chance to try those strategies we talked about first, including waiting to tell your kiddos or telling them and adding that “if” factor to your plans so everyone is at least a little prepared for the possibility of more change.

While you want to be careful not to get your kiddos too excited if you don’t have definite plans in place, planning for a rebooked Disney vacation can be just as magical - if not more - than it was to plan the first time!

Elements of the countdown calendar above can be found on Disney Parks Blog!

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