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A trip to Disney World presents parents with a huge guilt-ridden dilemma: how much money do you spend on souvenirs for your children? Most parents fall into one of two groups: this is a once-in-forever trip or they visit pretty regularly. Either way, kids seem to beg for a new souvenir at every turn. Disney doesn’t help when almost every ride ends in a gift shop! The trip itself is expensive, but your children don’t understand that. So, do you splurge on souvenirs because that glowing light saber will help your child remember the trip forever or feel like a horrible parent when your kid is crying in the middle of the Magic Kingdom because you told them no? Fortunately, I have a solution for you to help ease this agony. Below are several ways to save money on souvenirs at Disney World without breaking your kids’ hearts.
It’s amazing how conservative most kids get when they are spending their own money. A great way to curb the constant “I wants” from kids while at Disney World is to give them a preset amount of money to spend on souvenirs during the trip. One way to do this is to give each child their own gift card loaded with their money. When the card is empty, then their spending is over!
This will eliminate your children from fighting over whether one got more than the other. Just be sure to keep an eye on the remaining balance on each card. You don’t want to be at the register with them buying something and realize that they have gone over their limit and you have to fork over the extra amount. You can buy the gift cards either when you arrive or before you get there. Most stores like Michaels and Target carry Disney gift cards that can be used at the parks.
Envelope of Money
Another way to give each child a budget for souvenirs is to give them an envelope with their money in it. If they are younger, you may want to hold onto the envelope for them. But, the same principle applies as above: when the money’s gone, it’s gone. With either of these methods, just make sure you explain this to your child before you arrive and then again, at least once, after your arrival.
I have used both of these methods with my son. In fact, we use one or both methods on every Disney trip. They work wonders to save money on souvenirs at Disney World (and other places too). Instead of constantly bugging me to buy something, he spends his time thinking about what he really wants to spend his money on. And, even at 6, he was pretty good about not asking for anything after he spent all his money. These methods also teach him to budget his money and set priorities without him even realizing that he’s learning!
Limit of 1 per Person
If you don’t want to give your kids a budget, then limit them to only 1 souvenir per child. Let them pick out a special souvenir for the trip and that’s all. The only problem with this method is that it is harder to control the amount of money that they spend. You may find yourself in a pickle if they pick out something that costs an arm and a leg. Consider limiting the souvenirs to 1 per child with a cap on the cost. Just be sure to explain this policy to your children before you arrive. You will probably have to remind them of it several times during the trip too.
Save Your Money
If your kids get an allowance, or somehow earn money, make them save their money to use on souvenirs during the trip. You might also consider setting up a rewards system for them at home as a way for younger kids to earn some money for the trip. A plus to this method is that maybe you can get some extra chores out of them in the months leading up to the trip!
Many people plan their Disney trips months or years in advance. If so, and your kids will be celebrating their birthdays and/or Christmas prior to the trip, have them request money instead of gifts from relatives. In 2015, we went to Disney for my son’s birthday. He asked his grandmas and other family members for money in lieu of birthday gifts. This gave him a much larger amount to spend on souvenirs for that trip.
Buy Before You Go
When it gets dark at Disney, carts full of glowing toys for sale come out. Kids can’t resist them! To battle against this temptation, stock up on glow sticks before you go. Each day, throw some in your park bag. When you see the glowing carts, pull them out and give them to your kids. It’s an instant fix to the problem! You can get glow sticks at Michaels, Target, and other stores for crazy cheap, especially around Halloween. I usually take a few dozen on our trips. At 12 for a dollar, if my son wants to wear 5 at a time, it’s no big deal!
Consider stocking up on other common souvenirs before you go too. You can find all sorts of Disney themed toys for pretty cheap at Michaels, Party City, Target, and other places. Many times, you can find Disney toys at your local dollar store too. Just keep them a secret until your kids start asking for something while on the trip. Then present them with the surprises. They will never know that you bought them at home!
A cool, and free, souvenir is character autographs. Most characters that meet guests will sign an autograph if asked. Don’t buy the autograph books at Disney World, though! They are crazy expensive! Instead, either make your own or buy a generic journal before your trip. Another cheap option for autographs is to get a spiral bound book of index cards from an office supply store, like this one from Staples. Then, when you get back home, you can take the autograph pages out and put them into a scrapbook with the photo of that character.
Another possibility is to use something unconventional for your autographs, like photo mats, hats, shirts, and pillow cases. You could also take your child’s favorite Disney storybook and have the characters sign the book. All of these things are much cheaper than buying an autograph book in the parks. Plus, if your child sees all of the autographs and character pictures they are getting, maybe they won’t ask for as many toys!
A Camera of Their Own
One trick to get kids to stop asking for souvenirs is to keep them occupied. If they have something other than merchandise to focus on, they will be less likely to beg. A great way to distract your kids is to let them have their own camera. There are a million things to take pictures of at Disney World. Plus, it will be interesting to look at their pictures later to see the trip through their eyes. Cameras are a great way to keep kids busy, and you might just foster a new hobby in the process!
Don’t forget that there ARE some free souvenirs in the parks! This is the best way ever to save money on souvenirs at Disney World! Melissa over at Pixie Pointers has a great list of 20 free souvenirs you can get. My favorite free souvenirs are park maps, celebration buttons (get one if you are celebrating your first visit, a birthday, or other special occasion), and the Wilderness Explorer guidebook from Animal Kingdom.
Another option is to donate money (any amount) to the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund while in Animal Kingdom. When you make a donation, they give you a pin. My son loves making these donations and then wearing the pins. He usually will make a donation out of his spending money when he buys something at Animal Kingdom. This is the best because he gets the pin and the satisfaction of knowing that he is helping a good cause at the same time!
There you have it: nine of the best ways to save money on souvenirs at Disney World. These methods will let you save cash while preventing those crocodile tears from your precious kiddos. And of course, the best souvenir of all will be the wonderful memories you will make with your family! For more ways to save money on your Disney trip, see how to save money on food. To save money on general travel, see how to save on airfare, rental cars, and hotels. Happy travels!