If you’re a Disney fanatic, you’ll have to fight off the urge to buy everything as soon as you step into a store on Disney property. And after working in a Disney World gift shop, I’m willing to bet that your kids are the same. The only thing worse than a kid in a candy store is a kid in a Disney store. Souvenirs are not completely necessary, but they do serve as a physical reminder of your happy vacation memories. Children will especially love a new toy to play with or a t-shirt to wear to school. But you do not have to buy every toy, or even any toy. Here are a few tips on saving money on souvenirs.
How much to spend?
You can limit your children’s spending in fun, educational ways other than a harsh “no.”
Setting An Amount
Giving your kid a Disney gift card is a great way to teach financial responsibility. Give them a preloaded gift card that they can use throughout the trip on souvenirs. They have the freedom to spend it all in one place or on one souvenir each day. Please note that this may work best with older kids.
If you do not wish to give your kid money, you can always just limit the amount of souvenirs that they buy. For example, you can set a limit of one per day, or three for the entire trip.
Another parenting tip is to have your kids earn the money that they spend. This works well with younger kids. They can earn money for being polite to cast members, waiting patiently in lines, getting ready to leave the hotel on time, finishing a meal, not fighting with siblings or not throwing temper tantrums. At the end of the day they can buy a souvenir with how much money they have earned.
Please note that Disney souvenirs are expensive. A small plush toy will be between $15-$30. Shirts can range between $25-50.
What to spend money on?
While everything in Disney is spendy, there are a few souvenirs that are less expensive than others. Consider pins and pressed penny collections.
At 51 cents each, these are the cheapest souvenirs in all of Disney World. Pressed penny machines are scattered throughout the parks and resorts, and each one has different characters. Make a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt out of it. Searching for penny machines in the resorts is a great way to spend down time away from the parks.
I highly suggest this activity for shy kids or to teach kids manners and social skills. Pin trading involves interactions with cast members. While individual pins can get expensive as they range from $10-15 each, there are great bundle deals on pins. I suggest buying a starter pack. This includes a lanyard and at least 4 pins and costs around $25. The trick to buy a pack with only one or two pins your child really wants as they will be trading away most of them. Mystery packs are also fun. Each mystery pack has two randomly selected pins. If you kid gets a pin they like, then great! If they do not like the pin in the mystery packs, they can always trade it away for one they like better. The next step is to seek any cast member wearing a black pin lanyard. Some stores even have a pin board – a giant corkboard filled with pins to choose from and trade. Some areas get very creative with pin boards. The custodial staff at Animal Kingdom has a pin trashcan. The stroller rental area has a pin stroller. The Pirates of the Caribbean cast members have pin swords.
What NOT to spend money on
Packing essentials such as hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, umbrellas, ponchos and a water bottle will save you time and money from having to purchase these items in Disney. The parks also sell handheld fans for $20, and believe me, your kids will want them. I recommend buying some for cheaper at Wal Mart before your trip to avoid the temptation.
Another big seller at Disney World is autograph books. If your child is meeting characters, an autograph book is a must. Instead of buying an autograph book, I suggest making one yourself! It can be a fun craft to do with your child to get them excited about Disney World. I made my own. I bought a small sketchbook with blank pages from Hobby Lobby. It is small enough to fit in my purse, yet big enough to tape pictures of the characters into. I then decorated it to look like Mickey Mouse with red pain and white buttons. Your child can do something similar or make one based off their favorite character. You can use paint, jewels, glitter, buttons, scrapbook paper and stickers. And all of the supplies will most likely be less than an autograph book for sale at Disney.
When to buy it?
A strategy that some people have is not to buy any souvenirs until the last day of vacation. Most will go to World of Disney in Disney Springs, as it is the biggest store on property. The benefit of this is that it prevents kids from impulse buying. They will be much more secure and happy with their decision if they have time to think about what they really want. The downside of this is that World of Disney, despite being the biggest, does not sell everything. There are certain park specific or area specific items that are not sold at WoD. For example, they will not sell Animal Kingdom picture frames. Only Animal Kingdom has them. If you choose to do most of your souvenir shopping in Disney Springs, please keep this in mind. If you are not sure if an item is sold at World of Disney, you can always ask a cast member. They will look it up for you on the computer system.
Of course, there are certain items you may find more appropriate to buy in the beginning of your vacation. For example, Minnie ear headbands or Mickey ear hats that can be worn throughout the duration of the vacation should be purchased first. Another suggestion is to buy small toys or books to keep toddlers busy while waiting in line. Stores sell small toys packaged together in boxes or carrying pouches for easy storage.
Some parents will do their entire souvenir shopping at Wal-Mart. This is not recommended. Wal-Marts in Orlando will carry plush Mickey and princess shirts, but that’s about it. Supermarkets are great for stocking up on Disney themed clothing before visiting the parks. But if you want something that specifically says “Walt Disney World” on it, you’ll have to buy it at the parks.
What tricks work for you while souvenir shopping with kids? Comment them below!