Updated for 2017!
With my family right next to me, I spend a lot of time in Disney gift shops when we’re in Orlando on vacation. I’m as much at home and happy on the back bench in the Small World ride as I am in a gift shop at the Polynesian Resort. Through the years, I have realized that my vacation time spent shopping for and purchasing Disney items wasn’t nearly the waste of time that returning those purchases was.
The Disney Company is great about allowing you to return merchandise with no questions asked, provided the item was not altered or ruined in any way and you have a receipt. I love how I can buy something anywhere on Disney property and return it anywhere on Disney property, rather than running back to the exact store where I made the purchase.
In some ways, they have actually made returning gifts almost too convenient. When I find myself back in line for a return, I’m mentally kicking myself in the pants because, dang it, wasn’t I already in line with this item once before? Time is money at Disney, and standing in a return line is not the best use of my vacation time.
My children have been “window shopping” at Disney since before they knew what the term actually meant. I advise, “Darlin’, let’s just look around right now. You need to make doubly sure this is what you want before we buy it.” The problem with kids is that they always seem to think they need to make their purchases right then, right at the beginning of your vacation, possibly in the very first gift shop you step in.
A word of financial advise in taking children to Disney…have your kids wait as long as possible to purchase their souvenirs.
Let’s assume you haven’t given your child an unlimited amount of money to spend on souvenirs. Just knowing that will help me sleep better at night! We can then assume your child knows how much money they have to spend, or that you are keeping them informed of how much money they have left until they hit “flat broke” status. It’s a gamble for young children to make purchases early in the vacation. Something else may look so much better after visiting a lot of gift shops.
What looks like the greatest toy ever now may not look so great after three to five days of Disney merchandise overload, especially if they know they only have a limited amount of funds left to spend. Those mental wheels start turning for kids who understand simple math, that if the Buzz Lightyear action figure goes back, then they will now have enough money for that Star Wars light saber, which they hadn’t seen four days ago in the same shop with Buzz and Woody. I think the younger they are, the more likely kids may be to ask to return something, because little minds change their minds often.
Now I am a huge proponent of spending time in gift shops shopping. Disney merchandise is fantastic, and they have some of the greatest Disney-character-inspired decorations anywhere on property, especially during the holidays. I claim that the “Disney Effect” in gift shops entices me to buy things I don’t need, like coffee mugs and t-shirts. There is no better shopping experience anywhere, and I tell parents all the time – going to Disney isn’t just about riding roller coasters.
Shopping is a big part of your overall vacation experience. Imagine being five-years-old, fighting the “Disney effect” in shop after shop, decision after decision. Let’s face it- Disney shopping is tough for all of us, regardless of age, because no one has an unlimited budget. Now if your child does, that’s another discussion for another day…
But returning something when someone has changed their mind? Remember what I said about Disney time is money? Standing in a return line is not going to make you feel like this is the best use of your vacation time, and thus your money. This Disney vacation is going to cost a lot, so take some Cheapskate Princess advice: talk your kids into making their purchases toward the end of your trip, unless it’s a specific item at a theme park you know you won’t be returning to again. If the toy is in your resort gift shop, then you probably have lots of time to make that purchase.
And good luck, because those Disney Gift shops cast a Wicked Queen spell as soon as you walk through the door, almost if your money is burning a hole through your pocket. I’ve been under that same spell for the last 40 years, and I don’t see a cure in sight.
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you spending time in a gift shop…
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Amanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.
Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast.
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