No vacation experience is complete without a little shopping. Disney completely understands this, and makes sure that you get every opportunity to purchase clothes and trinkets to help you remember your trip for years to come. In fact, so many attractions empty into a shop, that sometimes guests find themselves browsing through a store without even thinking about it. That’s good for Disney, but perhaps can be detrimental to your vacation budget.
So what to do? After all, for some of us, shopping is a favorite pastime. How do you make sure you don’t go crazy, but still have a few trinkets to bring home from your trip? Here are some tips to keep your souvenir budget in check while on a Disney vacation.
Have a budget. Seems simple, right? Well, maybe. But be realistic. Do you collect an item you would like to purchase? Will you be tempted by special clothing, holiday items, etc.? It’s fine if you are, just make sure that you are realistic. Knowing ahead of time if you’re the type of traveler who thinks, “I’m on vacation, I should treat myself and my family,” is important. Lots of us are like that. Just be honest in your budgeting.
Put your kids on a budget. Honestly, those precious little doe eyes staring at you holding yet another plush Mickey are enough to melt any heart and wallet. If your kids are old enough to understand prices, give them a set amount. That may be a set amount per day, or for the entire vacation. Whatever works for you is fine. But let the kids know that all of those purchases add up. Older kids especially are much more frugal with their own money than they are with mom and dad’s money. Many sources recommend putting a set amount of money on a Disney Gift Card, so that your child has their own card, and can keep up with how much they can spend.
Prepare for the typical vacation purchases. What’s a trip without a t-shirt to commemorate it? Or maybe hats are more your thing. Whatever it is, take that into account. Sometimes mom and dad are willing to purchase everyone a t-shirt, hat, etc. and then the rest of the souvenirs are out of the kids’ budgets.
Pre-purchase. Yes, it might seem odd to buy a souvenir before you even go anywhere, but it’s a good budgeting tool. The Disney Store online (www.disneystore.com) has a section of park merchandise and there is a Shop Disney Parks app available for free from both the Apple Store and Google Play Store. Not only can these resources give you an idea of prices, but it gives a small taste of what is out there. It might be fun to purchase those Mickey ears ahead of time as gifts rather than wait until you get there. It also builds excitement.
Rather than purchasing t-shirts at the parks, you can make your own. Some families even like to coordinate their shirts, or make special ones to mark the special trip (Smith Family Reunion, Tom’s 40th Birthday, etc.) Again, this is a fun way to prepare for your trip and create a keepsake for afterward as well.
You can also purchase gifts ahead of time for the little ones. Licensed Disney merchandise can be found lots of places at home. Spend some time collecting smaller items, and surprise the kiddos with something each morning. It will save some money to make the purchase ahead of time, mom and dad can purchase items that they feel are appropriate, and the little ones have something new to hang on to for the day. Of course they may still be tempted by the shops, but it might slow down the “Can I have…” moments.
Take pictures. Sometimes an item is so amazing; you can’t take your eyes off of it. You might just want to take it home with you, even though it might be out of the budget, or something you might not really use again. Take a photo. Frame it. Of course this might not work well with a t-shirt or flip flops, but it works just fine for collectible item. Better yet, if you still love it on your next trip, it might just be in the budget next time.
When you have to have it, buy it when you see it. If there is the most adorable trading pin that you just have to have, don’t think you can just find it in one of the next shops. If you like it, and can afford it, then go for it. Too many of us have spent hours trying to remember where we found that special item, or worse, going back to find out it’s gone. It happens, and it doesn’t make for a pleasant experience. If you’re sure that’s what you want, save yourself some time and possibly lots of footsteps buy making the purchase. Buy now, you’ve saved, planned and budgeted, so go ahead and get it. If you do pass by an item and later realize that it is the souvenir for you, check out the Shop Disney Parks app. This app includes a map and search function that will help you to find that perfect item you saw somewhere on the first day of your trip. Using the app, you can even order the item and save yourself that trip across Walt Disney World.
We all like to bring home mementos of our trips. Hopefully with a little planning and creativity, we can have our wonderful Disney souvenirs without breaking the budget.