You know the drill. We’ve all been there. You’ve saved for a couple of years to take your family on the dream vacation of a lifetime, and five minutes into the first day at least one of your children is in tears because you won’t let him have a six inch tall stuffed animal that costs $39.99. Walt Disney World has such amazing shopping opportunities, that I have known locals to visit the parks simply to shop! Clearly the deck is stacked against you when you head into Disney’s four theme parks…someone is going to want to buy something.
Before I share my tips on surviving the souvenir gimmes, I need to disclose something. I am that mom who – with a very straight face – can look into the eyes of her beautiful little children and speak the words that strike fear in every child’s heart: This trip IS your souvenir. I am not a shopper myself, so we have worked very hard to not raise tiny consumers. They are fascinated by products and love to look at them, compare them, talk about them (oh my gravy, how they love to talk about them), but they understand completely that they cannot have them. But of course you want to purchase something for your kids to remember their amazing vacation. Here are some tips to get you through the whining and fighting.
1. Disney Dollars: A few months prior to our first Disney vacation, we printed out fake money with Mickey Mouse and Cinderella instead of our fabulous founding fathers. The kids knew that they could earn those Disney Dollars by helping out around the house above and beyond what is expected of them, committing random acts of kindness, and being a good family citizen. When we headed to the World, each child knew exactly what they had to spend on souvenirs, and this helped them make careful choices. They both waited until the end of the vacation to spend those precious dollars!
2. Encourage Them to Wait: One thing that you’ll find when you get to Walt Disney World is that, unlike the people working the stores on Black Friday, the cast members are actually incredibly knowledgeable. If your child happens to see the perfect souvenir within moments of setting foot in the parks, simply talk to a cast member in the store to find out if that item is available in other parks and stores or even at your resort. Knowing that he or she may have that item but just not at that moment will help them look at all future product puppy loves more carefully. At the end of the vacation, if that first item is still the top choice, now is the time to buy!
3. Take Your Own Souvenirs: When we went on our first vacation in December of 2008, we went armed with our own products ranging from t-shirts for the princesses and characters to sign, to home-made autograph books, to glow sticks for the parks at night, all of them infinitely less expensive than what we would have purchased in the parks. Did this mean we got through the vacation without spending money? Of course not. But it kept us from buying those $20 light up toys and other items that would lose their luster once we returned home.
4. Buy Everything at Once: By locating some of the larger stores such as Mouse Gear in EPCOT and The Emporium in the Magic Kingdom, you’ll be able to take care of all of your purchases at once. These stores have big ticket items for that amazing family member who deserves something special as well as small items for your friends who checked in on your cat while you were out of town. By purchasing all of your items at once, you will also rack up a big enough charge to qualify for some great promotional items. We generally allow the kids to pick out any one souvenir within reason, and then my souvenir is the promotional tote bag available at a discount due to their purchases.
Happy shopping….er, I mean, happy vacationing!