1st Trip to Disney? Should You Give Kids Money for Souvenirs?

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Money for Disney World

Updated for 2018!

Should you give kids money on vacations? This may add stress to your life, watching as your ever-increasing vacation budget reaches new heights. But ask any kid, and they’ll say it will add joy to their lives.

It’s really hard to gauge how much money you’ll need to bring on a Disney World vacation for souvenirs. If I actually spent money on everything I personally want to buy, it would probably be in the thousands. I can’t afford that, and most of you can’t either, not if I want to continue to pay my mortgage each month. I walk into Disney gift shops, and suddenly, I find myself needing things I never want to purchase on a daily basis at home. Coffee mugs, t-shirts, key chains. The number of key chains I have purchased when not on a vacation in Orlando? Zero, and yet…there I stand in a gift shop, looking at key chains and coffee mugs, Mickey Chef hats and Eeyore throw pillows, pondering when I’ll use them at home, yet needing to buy them in Orlando.

Now imagine being five-years-old and just feel the massive amount of temptation kids experience in gift shops. To use a reference most children would understand, I think it’s like being a Rebel Alliance space ship pulled in by the Death Star’s tractor beam. They are sometimes helpless. Everything looks fantastic. If you have been in Disney gift shops when children were hauled out, kicking and screaming, because they couldn’t buy something they suddenly really wanted, well chances are that was my kid. Joking! (That actually was, but just that one time.) It’s hard for adults to be surrounded by such incredible merchandise and find themselves short on cash. Children are no different, except they don’t have a Disney Visa card sitting in their wallet to bail them out.

Read: If You Can’t Stay in Disney World’s Cinderella Suite, Can You Afford a Disney Princess Bedroom?

Should children and teens have work to earn their vacation money? I’m hearing boos and hisses from the kids panel I’ve conjured up in my imagination, but the parents on the other side of my pretend Main Street are clapping and cheering. Rumor has it, surely spread by parents, that working for what you buy creates a sense of appreciation that just being handed money cannot supply. All those imaginary kids are shaking heads furiously, tongues sticking out, thumbs-downing the whole deal.

We asked our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans how much money they give their children to spend on vacations. We did not ask how often these parents visited Disney. We simply asked their children’s ages and how much money they gave their kids for Disney vacations. We broke these down into amounts to keep things straight for those of you taking notes and making out vacation budgets.

how much money should kids bring to Disney World, should kids earn money for a trip to Disney World

Zero. Zilch. Zippo. 

Mary, “We have three kids. We don’t give them money. It is up to them to earn before our trip. What they have is what they can spend.”

Cheri, “I don’t. My six and 9- year-old know we are going to Disney, and they earn their money. Whatever is in their piggy bank, they take. It usually ends up being quite a bit! They usually save up for a year.

This mom didn’t give her kids any money, but she did enlist family members to help out.

Stephanie, “My kids get gift cards for their birthday and Christmas and regular holidays from family and friends. I made sure to tell family and friends to not buy the presents but to just give gift cards. What ever they end up with is what they take. Last trip they ended up with about $300 each. I didn’t spend any money on souvenirs for them. They also earn money from chores and report cards. We were there for 10 days. My kids are 10, 7, and 5. It was the best trip ever. They was able to get everything they wanted. Driving home, the car was so full of their stuff but we had a blast.”

kids save money for vacation

Less than $50

Melissa, “We go often (annual passes). If they are lucky I’ll give them $10 (ages 6 and 10)”

Mendy, “My kids earn their own money but I do give them each a $25 gift card.”

Melissa, “My kids (currently 13, 9 & 7) all save chore money, Christmas & birthday cash themselves. My husband also gives them each an allowance of what he calls “daddy bucks” to spend any way they choose. This extra cash appears for any vacation, not just Disney. The amounts vary between $20 – $30 each depending on location and duration. This last trip we got sucked into pin trading so much of their money went for those (we did buy them each a starter set!). When my kids were little, stuffed animals and play figures caught their attention. Now that they’re older it”s more about t-shirts and jewelry.”

Kristen, “My kids make their own money to take, but we pay for all snacks and one big souvenir of their choosing.”

Robin, “Wow, I’m kind of surprised at some of these allowances. My kids are now 18 and 20, and I have never given them money. Of course I bought all of their food and treats, and they each got to pick one or two special souvenirs. Our memories of great vacations out weighs everything.”

Kerry Tastinger, “I remember selling all my toys when I was 10 for about $40. It seemed like soooo much money in 1988. That money got me a stuffed cat and a clip board. We buy costumes at Target and the kids save money from chores and relatives when we go. We buy pins from eBay and character clothes from Kmart and shop the Character Warehouse in the outlet mall for souvenirs for family. And we pack snacks and freeze water and Gatorade.”

Lisa, “My kids (4 and 6)  save their money to help pay for their tickets. Going is in and of itself the prize. Last time we went, they were given Disney dollars for Christmas (about $20-$30 each) and they used that to buy souvenirs.”

Melissa, “My kids (10, 12, 13 and 17) bring their own money they earn from chores etc. Then I will buy one thing under $50 for each of them for the entire trip. I get pins off eBay or from the outlet for them to trade, but there is no reason to spend a ton of money at Disney. We go there to have fun not shop. I tell them we are making memories instead of buying stuff. Pictures and memories are priceless.”

Catherine, “We used to give our kids about $100 each to spend on vacation. But now we’ve adopted twins and have five new foster kiddos. We took them all to WDW last month and gave them around$50 each. Some of them didn’t even come close to spending it!”

Read: 6 Reasons to Schedule a Haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Disney souvenirs for kids, Minnie Mouse dolls

Less than $50 Continued

Kristin, “We just returned from a week-long trip with a 4-year-old and a 21 month old. Neither was given money but both received princess costumes as a surprise for the trip. Other than their autograph books, the 21 month old received no additional souvenirs and the 4-year-old received a Cinderella play set ($20 or less). Neither child asked for anything either.”

Briget, “Our four kids earn money doing chores, babysitting, collecting and sorting pop cans. They normally take about $100 on vacation (not just Disney) and they buy their souvenirs and extra snacks. I found they appreciate what they get and are more careful in how they spend because they know how much time it takes them to earn their money. We buy them snacks and a something of their choice as well.”

Candi, “We have gone to Disneyland every year since our youngest was four and 1/2. Now she is eleven and 1/2. The other three kids were 7 and 1/2, almost 13 and 14 on our first trip. We buy the kids new Mickey ears every trip. Otherwise they get to pick one thing that is around $20. The older two started having their own money about age 15, and they were on their own other than their ears. They sometimes will find something at Universal Studios as well but not always. The younger girls would buy stuffed animals, or the youngest used to collect the Princess Polly Pocket sets. I pack dollar bin glow bracelets so they have never asked for the light up toys they sell at parade/fireworks time. Most of the older kids’ souveniers have been shirts. Our son also really likes the build your own light sabers.”

Becca, “Our kids (ages 7, 6, almost 5, and 3) earned a small allowance each week this summer for doing the chores we felt they could reasonably do. (Make their beds, put away their shoes, etc.) We added a little money to their banks, bringing them each to $40 for our trip at the beginning of the month. Two of the four were able to spend all their money, but the others brought money home. We did buy their ears; that was a gift from Mama and Daddy. I felt pretty good about the amount until seeing how much some of your kids got to spend–now I’m feeling a little cheap! I do think our kids are thrilled with their “prizes,” and they understand our trip was a really big prize.”

Cheryl, “I want many of you to adopt me. I don’t even spend as much on stuff as many of you let your small kids spend. We will be taking our soon to be adopted kids in 2015. They will be four, five, seven, eight, and nine-years-old when we go. I will give them each $30 and if they want more than that, they better start saving. I am going to tell relatives to give them gift cards for birthday and Christmas gifts.”

Read: To Save Money, Should You Buy Disney Souvenirs Before Your Vacation?

Disney Mickey Pirate hat

Less than $100

Janet,We have three kiddos 8, 10 & 10. We give them each a $50 gift card, however six months before the trip, we give them plenty of opportunities to earn money by doing chores! And the years we go to Disney, they will save their Christmas, birthday, Tooth Fairy money and bring that too! They usually go with about 200 dollars!”

Marcie, “We have four kids (13,11,5 & 3) and they get $50-$100 depending on the length of our trip. We don’t allow them to purchase items that are found in everyday stores like Target, etc. We also make them wait a day or two before purchasing items to ensure they really want it. We go annually and it’s worked out well for us.”

April, “My daughter has always been able to get one nice keepsake for about $30. I have been saving any cash I get, since it’s such a rarity to have cash. I will split it between my three-year-old and my six-year-old. It’s looking to be about $100. We also take a trip to Wal-Mart or souvenir shops and get something small for school.”

Julie, “My daughter is seven, and we just came back. She sold some things at a garage sale, and she was given some money from her aunt. She left with a little over $100 and came back with $5 and change. We did buy her two things with our money.”

Erin, “We gave each of our kids about $75-$100 each trip. We started when they were six and eight, now they are 11 and 13. Now this gets supplemented with savings from allowance, birthday money, etc. as well. We usually buy at the end of the trip. Money gets spent on pins, shirts, funny hats, Legos, and Pokemon/Beyblade stuff in Japan.”

Heather, “My kids have always had to save their own money and also sometimes get a little from grandparents ($25.00). We would usually let them did find some special things we would pay for such as the pearls from Japan or a dates baseball but no more than $50.00. We like to buy things that you can use again or collect. Now that they are teens, 15 and 19, the same is true. We are already paying for the trip and don’t want to waste money on junk stuff I can get online or at the Disney Outlet! Sorry, we are cheap, but my kids are fine and appreciate money more too.”

Olivia, “We start at $50 for our over 15 age child and welcome the chance to earn more with extra chores.”

Barbara, “My kids are five and three. Their grandparents give them each a $25 gift card to use. They usually get stuffed Disney animals or light up parade toys. I go to my Walmart and Target and buy little souvenirs ahead of time. When we are ready to leave for the park, my husband walks ahead with the kids. Then I lay a souvenir for each child on the table that “Mickey and the gang” left for them. So when we get back to the room, it’s there for them! Mostly all under $5 items, and they love it!!

Read: 12 Disney Craft Ideas from Pinterest for the Disney Princess on a Budget!

how much money to take to Disney World, how much money to budget for Disney vacation

Less than $100 Continued

Kellye, “What in the world does a small child buy at Disney for $500? My boys are seven and ten, and they don’t really have a budget. I just buy them souvenirs if they ask and usually they don’t spend $100 between the 2 of them!”

Crystal,We give our two kids $50 Disney gift cards at Christmas to bring on the trip. We tried cash the first time, but we kept giving a little more here and a little more there… They can bring whatever allowance money they want. Our daughter (age 7) loves the little stuffed animals, and we feel they really boost the character interactions for her. And our son is all about Star Wars and anything from the glow carts.”

Beth, “I have two kids ages 10 and 13. They have always taken around $500 each. We give them $100 Disney gift card every birthday. They save their allowance and other birthday money they may get.”

Elyse,My kids (six and three) each had a $15 gift card from an aunt from Christmas, and then we gave them $20 each. My son got a stuffed Stitch and my daughter got a Doc McStuffins. With the left over money, they bought lollipops. They were very happy with their souvenirs.”

Susan, “Our first trip for family of five (the kids ages are 17, 8, and 4) was last summer.We spent less than $350 total for souvenirs. We each has $25 gift cards, and the kids had a little saved money from birthdays, etc. We did pressed pennies. I got t-shirts ahead of time at the Disney Store, Target and Wal-Mart, since park prices are outrageous for things the kids will grow out of.  Money spent on PhotoPass is totally worth it. Those are souvenirs that we can all look back at and remember.”

Angela, “I only have one kid. I probably give her $100 dollars over the course of a week. Usually she buys a couple of pins, hat, t-shirt, a new lanyard, and something special from Epcot. Last time it was a painted pig from Mexico and an autograph book, passport, pen and something for her friend, plus a flag bracelet from England.”

Debra, “I spent about $100 each on both my two kids last week. They are three and nine. My son (age 3) collected the Disney cars and buses and got a lightning McQueen set. My daughter (age 9) picked a charm bracelet, a pin lanyard, a princess play set and Expedition Everest set.”

This may be my favorite idea; let the kids earn spending money based on behavior during the ride to Orlando. Genius…

Stephanie, “We are going in two weeks. We will be driving 900 miles one way. My children (ages 7, 11, and 14) will have the opportunity to earn one envelope every 100 miles (based on how they behave in the car and treat one another). The 10 envelopes will total $100 but they have to earn all ten to get the $100. What they earn by showing kindness to one another on our long drive is what they can spend on souvenirs. Oh and NO WHINING OR COMPLAINING IS ALLOWED!”

Read: How Can You Look Like a Disney Princess? You’ll Need to Start With Their Make Up!

Mickey mouse coffee mug

Less than $200

Beckie, “At age seven, my son collected about $180 in change over  nine months, and that’s what he got to spend.”

Kelly, “My kids all usually get around $100 to $150, no matter what age they are.  We buy them pretty much whatever they want because its fun, and they do not usually get to do that!”

Tonia, “The first time we went to Disney, I allowed one souvenir from each park. So my daughter’s budget was around $150 for five days (she was five at the time) Now she is seven, and she saves her own money. Usually about $100 is average.”

$200 to $300

Megan, “I saved about $250 for my two-year-old. She got Mickey ears, a tiara, an autograph book, an outfit (or two) and a teddy. That trip was her birthday trip. Once she’s older we will give her opportunities to earn her money.”

Micheal, “I “give” my two girls (ages 6 and 13) between $350 and $500. For birthdays, I offer a party or the cash I would spend on a party. For Christmas they can have several presents or one or two presents and the cash I would have spent on other gifts. They save birthday money, report card money, and random chore money. Then they can buy anything they want, but I buy nothing. When it’s gone, it’s gone. The oldest has a great collection of Vinylmations she’s been working on, and the little one collects pins, ears, and playsets (ie Cinderella’s Castle, Tree of Life).”

Micky Mouse Ears Hat

$300 or More

Julie, “I’m going with a child for the first time in 2015. She will be three, and the adults are getting $500. I’m thinking at least $300 for her, but if our budget gets cut so will hers!”

Tara, “$300 for a nine-year-year old.”

Maria, “My two-year-old and seven-year-old boys each got $500 on our trip this past summer.”

Jessica, “My son is five, and he got about $300.”

Brandi, “My kiddos usually have around $300 each. They save all their birthday, Christmas, and chore money for over a year. When we go next September, they will each have around $500. They are 11, 9, and 7. We make them get things that you can not get anywhere else. So the money is park specific, and they each have to buy a sweatshirt and a t-shirt. The rest is up to them.”

Michelle,”My child gets around $500 (she was seven last year). She saves up change, allowance, birthday money things like that. She likes to buy the big statues and things like that and it adds up quickly. We do buy all her snacks and little things (balloons, ears, shirts) but she is good with her money and thinks about it before she buys something.”

Read: Why Should YOU Not Plan Your Next Orlando Vacation? To Get All the FREE Stuff!

Mickey and Minnie dolls

Now, this isn’t about parent shaming. I know we moms can frequently compare ourselves to other people to see how we stack up. We’re definitely not telling you how much you should be giving your kids for your next Disney trip, but now you have an idea what other families budget. People vacation differently. Some people take fewer vacations and go all out, splurging on characters meals, Deluxe Resort accommodations and all sorts of souvenirs. And other people go more frequently, allocating less money per trip. That doesn’t make one way better than the other. What is best is really what works for your family.

I do find it interesting to see how much vacation money other people give their children. About ten years ago, we started giving our kids a choice, $100 for a birthday party or $100 for Disney. They always choose money for vacations. After reading these responses, I don’t feel one bit guilty that they only get $100. However, I might take steps to ensure they do not read this article!

One thing that easily suck up $100 or more on vacations? Costumes. Should you wait and buy them at the parks.

Read: Can You Afford Those Adorable Disney Princess Costumes at Walt Disney World?

We’re grateful to our readers who offered to share how much money they gave their kids on Disney vacations, which can help you plan how much money you might want to give your children. Or as you will notice in the vast amount of these families, how much money you might want to let them earn through extra chores and work for their trip.

Now you need to decide for yourself how much, if any, money you plan to give your kids before you arrive in Orlando. Because trust me, they can’t wait to spend your money. And when you walk in the gift shops, like a tractor beam, you’ll soon  understand where they are coming from. 

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you in the gift shops… 

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