Updated for 2016!
What two things keep me from saving money on a Disney vacation? Food and souvenirs. I can save money on accommodations, be it staying off property or waiting for a super sale, you know, the kind advertised on television right now where you can save up to 30% on select WDW resorts. I could save money on food if we could travel during the Free Disney Dining promotions, but we can’t ever seem to get away during the golden days of free food. I can also bring my own meals and snacks into the parks, and that saves a great deal of money, even if it’s not as fun as eating a counter service meal at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe.
But souvenirs? You can all but forget about any great savings on buying souvenirs while hangin’ out in the parks. I have spotted sale stickers on occasion, but Disney sale racks are extremely few and far between. I tell people I could easily spend $2000 on merchandise to bring home from vacation, maybe $2500 if you threw in some jewelry…
Ok, I could spend that on souvenirs, but clearly I do not. Can you imagine the Visa bill?!
Take a look at some average prices for Disney World merchandise:
- Sweat shirts – $45
- Adult T-shirts – $27 and up
- Kid’s T-shirts – $17 and up
- Girl’s Princess Dresses – $65
- Picture Frames – $25 and up
- “Adult” Key Chains – (heavy, good quality) $10
- Coffee Mugs – $10
I haven’t even touched on jewelry, packaged candy, purses, hair bows, and toys, toys, toys! Tons of shopping opportunities, and yet a limited supply of money. What is a cheapskate to do?
We put that question to our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans. Should you buy Disney merchandise before you leave for vacation to save money, or should you just splurge on Parks Authentic Merchandise while you are playing in the parks? Let’s see what they had to say…
Only Parks Authentic
Chris, “I buy in the park. Especially if a souvenir for someone, I want to make sure it comes from the park.”
Ruth, “When I am buying souvenirs from Disney they will be from Disney—-Those items you show I can buy at home. That is not a souvenir.”
Ami, “I can buy Target or Wal-Mart stuff at home. I go to Disney to buy Disney merchandise and enjoy the park! We set $ aside for souvenirs ahead of time and watch for specials. Sometimes if you spend a certain amount you get something at a discount, like a bag, blanket, etc. We were able to get more souvenirs that way!”
Ashley, “It’s only me and my husband and yes, I am a Disney Parks souvenir snob!”
Julie, “While I’m at the park, I buy park souvenirs. I budget spending money for each person and once it is gone, it’s gone.”
Rebecca, “Depends on who I am buying for!!! It ALWAYS has to be a “park authentic” souvenir when getting a Christmas ornament. When the grand kids were younger, they had no clue nor could they have cared if their stuffed Mickey or Pluto came from Target or Wal-Mart!! For me? I admit I’m a bit snobbish about my personal souvenirs!!!”
And our fan with the most enthusiastic comments…
Sharon, “NOPE!!!!!!!! I always get one thing from Disney!”
Jennifer, “I do buy souvenirs at Target or the Disney Store before I go. The toys/ shirts at the park are better quality and I let the Kids buy with their own money at the park.”
Yarlin, “On my last trip I got some sweaters, pajamas, stickers, hats and lanyards at a very good price at Wal-mart. I think that depending on the article and quality, it doesn’t need to be park authentic. You can get some good items at very good prices. But some others I do prefer to throw in the extra buck like on pins, key chains and stuffed animals.”
Jessica, “We usually shop Wal-mart, especially for the kids. But, we also usually get one something special from in the parks.”
Heidi, “We don’t even wait to get near the park! We buy several things from stores near our home and take them with us (in secret) and then dole them out slowly while we’re there but then let the girls get one or two things from the park as well.”
Sabrina, “Since I discovered DDB and Harveys I now have to purchase from Target!”
Elizabeth, “We buy t-shirts for the trip online before we go, but we also budget money for souvenirs we want to buy in the parks. For me, there is a little extra something about having an item from one of the parks, or getting merchandise for a special event. My favorite souvenir, though, is pressed pennies, and those only cost 51 cents.”
Wendy, “I am a pin hoarder. While I can buy shirts, etc, else where, I prefer pins from the parks. I keep saying I will trade, but they are very few. Otherwise, discounted Disney shopping is great!”
John and Julieann, “The only things I buy in park are the kitchen items. Things I can’t get anywhere else. Since I live in Florida, our stores carry a lot of Disney items.”
Gabriella, “We always go to Target for groceries on the first day, so we always check out the Disney gear. You never know what you can find.”
Becca, “I am cheap, so I always shop clearance racks and buy ahead for my son. I have tons of Disney stuff in all sizes and all seasons, so whatever size he is in, I most likely have some new clothes I can pack and pull out at the park. We do buy 1-2 things at the parks, usually an ornament and something small for my son, so we do not feel deprived. Also – if a milestone is reached – we get something. First visit is Mickey ears. In October 2012 my son hit the height limit for Autopia in Disneyland, so we bought the plastic driver’s license with his picture on it to commemorate that occasion.”
So there are Disney fans who prefer to buy their souvenirs at full price for “Parks Authentic Merchandise,” while others don’t mind saving a buck or two with some discount shopping.
Several of our fans had a several more suggestions on saving money on Disney merchandise before you arrive for your vacation.
Karen, “When we went last time, we got a few special things at the parks and a few things at other stores. All of the things we got are just as special, no matter where they were actually purchased because they were bought for special reasons. We even ended up ordering a few things we had seen and regretted not getting after we got home!”
Character Warehouse/ Disney Outlet
Rebecca, “Depends on who I am buying for!!! It ALWAYS has to be a “park authentic” souvenir when getting a Christmas ornament. When the grand kids were littler, they had no clue nor could they have cared if their stuffed Mickey or Pluto came from Target or Wal-Mart!! For me? I admit I’m a bit snobbish about my personal souvenirs!!!”
Teryl, “We get things from the Disney Character outlet stores for a fraction of the price.”
Jacqueline, “I make sure to stop at the Disney outlets…..authentic Disney at half the price! It’s also a nice surprise for our guests that come with us to Disney. I always keep an eye on what they’re looking at and then try to find something similar. Always makes great gifts!”
Yard Sales, etc.
Christine, “We shop yard sales, Craigslist and Disney Store online clearance before we go.”
Should you buy merchandise before you go on vacation? It probably depends mainly on your budget. I also think it depends on the age of your child. When kids are under the age of say, five?, they probably could care less if their toy is stamped with Parks Authentic logo. When they reach a certain age, suddenly this may be important to them. I could buy 4 “Disney” t-shirts from a Florida gas station for the price of one Parks Authentic t-shirt, and my sons had no idea where they came from. Gas station shopping would probably flop in my house these days.
I miss those discount shopping days. And they probably do too, because my kids have to buy most of their own souvenirs, which is another Disney story for another cheapskating day.
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you, stopping the car at a yard sale, a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt in sight…
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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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