As one who frequently writes about planning affordable Disney vacations, I have learned that people work very hard at the planning part, so that they can save money on their trips. Folks book far in advance so to get the best rates, they learn about free dining and other ways to save money on food, and they look at ways to cut costs on their transportation, tickets, vacation supplies, and pretty much everything else related to their trip.
But what often happens when they get to the parks? There is Disney, luring folks into hundreds of shops filled with the cutest darn things! Shirts and hats, pirate and princess garb, jewelry, trinkets and treasures of every conceivable size, shape, color…and price point. Shopping at Disney can get expensive in a hurry, because it’s just so hard to visit and not stop to shop once…or twice…or more. And that doesn’t even account for children….and their desire to buy (or have you buy) souvenirs for them too. Well, there goes the budget!
The good news here is that there are lots of ways to find some wonderful and affordable souvenirs of your trip. The key is to think ahead a bit, and if you have children, get them involved in planning for souvenirs too. Kids are going to want to buy stuff, it’s part of their nature. But when they have something specific to focus on, it’s actually quite easy to keep that souvenir budget under control.
Want some ideas? Here are 3 great ways to come home with super souvenirs, without busting your budget in the process.
One of my absolute favorite Disney vacation souvenirs is to create a scrapbook. I know this can sound very scary to those of you who don’t feel that you are creative, but honestly….the true joy of making a scrapbook is not in achieving a design masterpiece, but rather in collecting items that are meaningful into a place where you can look at them again and again.
So think of it as a way to tell your Disney vacation story. And then go about saving items from your trip that will help tell that story. Here’s the best part: you will be gathering items that are free. As in, no cost. Now, doesn’t this sound like an awesome souvenir?
Throughout your trip then, watch out for things that cost you nothing that you can put in your book. Things we have used in scrapbooks in the past include: park maps, napkins, postcards in the rooms, parts of Disney bags, Photopasses, Fastpasses (sometimes the Cast Members have let us keep them once the time is expired), park tickets, Key to the World cards, receipts, even pixie dust (Mickey sequins that are part of the Magic Kingdom daily opening celebration). That is, of course, just a start. You really can…and should…use your imagination here. Nothing is off limits here, as long as it can fit in a book. Oh, one more thing you absolutely will put in your scrapbook of course…pictures.
Yes, once you get home, you will need to buy some basic supplies: a scrapbook album, a bit of cardstock, some good adhesive (please don’t use Elmer’s glue!), and perhaps spray fixative to preserve some of your items (be sure to check with a salesperson before you buy). But you don’t have to spend tons of money creating this scrapbook. Sure you can….but really, try to keep it simple and inexpensive, and remember: there is no right or wrong way here. The best way is however you….and/or your children want to do it. And yes, please get your children involved in this great family souvenir project: they will love collecting items…and will love putting everything together even more.
Most importantly, everyone will love looking at your scrapbook over and over again. That of course, it priceless!
Be a Collector
Of course, there are lots of things that one can collect beyond what will fit in a scrapbook, and building a collection can be a great way to keep a Disney souvenir budget under control. Get your children involved here because collecting “stuff” is a favorite thing for many kids to do…and what they collect doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. But when a child has a collection that they know they will be adding to, then that becomes the focus of souvenir buying.
Of course, Disney is a treasure trove of collectible items: pins, vinylmation, pressed pennies, postcards, mugs, t-shirts….whatever you and your children find interesting. In our family, it is pins, and over the years we have added hundreds. Not all at once of course. But the great thing about it is that is what we know we are going to buy, and we have a budget/set number to buy. That’s it, no more. We make it more interesting by keeping to a “theme”, and then the focus of our souvenir shopping becomes finding a few pins that meet our criteria. Ultimately, we’re not spending tons of money here…but no one feels souvenir-deprived either, because we spend quite a bit of time finding the ones that are “just right”. And that’s really the fun part.
The key here is to pick something that you can really enjoy adding to over the years, and really focus just on that when buying souvenirs. Then have a specific budget/plan of how many…and when you’re done, you’re done. Finally, once you get home, be sure to find a great way to keep and display your or your child’s, collection…because again, that’s part of the fun of it!
One of the best places I can think of to find some really great souvenirs is at World Showcase. And even better, it’s a fantastic place for kids to learn about other countries, other cultures, other food and languages….and find some interesting souvenirs in the process. For years, this was our daughter’s only real place to spend her own money, by her choice. She had a tradition of buying some small item from each country around World Showcase, and let me say that it’s really not hard to do this without spending a great deal. Many of the countries have some very interesting but inexpensive trinkets. A few special treasures we discovered over the years:
- In Japan: Choose a pearl
- In China: Silk screens and small embroidered wallets and change purses
- In Africa: Small wood carvings
- And of course, in every country: KidCot masks where your child picks up a mask at the first country you visit. The Cast Member in each country will then give your child and a passport stamp to add to the decoration of their mask.
One of the things that I love about souvenir hunting in World Showcase is the “hidden” benefit of kids learning…without even realizing it. Another free…but priceless souvenir.
Buying souvenirs is one of the most fun parts of any vacation, and happily at Walt Disney World, while this can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Plan for souvenir shopping in your budget and then shop specifically…and thoughtfully…for this most essential part of your Disney vacation. Because what kind of trip is it without some special mementos of a special vacation? So don’t fight it, go with it!
While she and her family currently live in the Baltimore, MD area, Nancy considers Walt Disney World to be a “second home”. Wanting to share what she has learned about how to save money at Walt Disney World with others, Nancy started her own blog, The Affordable Mouse in 2009, in order to help people plan their own affordable Disney vacations. A Disney travel specialist, she recently published an ebook about saving money on food at Disney World: Magical Meals: A Guide to Affordable Dining at Walt Disney World.Share