If you are like me, a trip to a Disney Park isn’t complete without some serious retail therapy. I absolutely adore wandering from store to store, checking out the newest merch. From collecting Disney pins, to picking out that perfect coffee mug, shopping at the Disney Parks can take up a solid amount of time in your vacation. That being said, I have composed a list of my shopping do’s and don’ts to help you make the most of your budget, time, and overall Disneyland/Disney World experience.
DO: Buy right before leaving
Purchasing souvenirs right before leaving the park is always a good idea. I don’t know about you, but I personally hate carrying shopping bags all day long. Also, if you are staying at the park until closing time, the shops on Main Street at open an hour after the park closes. This is an ideal time to make your purchases and head back to the hotel.
DON’T: Buy early in the day
Any Disney Park newbie is likely to make this mistake. Your sweet little girl begs you for a life-size Elsa doll; you indulge her, and end up lugging that darn ice queen around with you for 10 hours. Hey, it happens. Usually, once you make the mistake of purchasing something too early in the day, you will NEVER do it again. However, small items, such as jewelry, can easily be purchased early, especially if worn immediately.
DO: Shop around for that perfect gift
There is truly something for everyone while shopping at The Disney Parks. By taking your time and not rushing you are likely to find that perfect something for anyone. Buying gifts for someone else can be very difficult, but if you give yourself enough time you are sure to find them something special.
DON’T: Wait until the last-minute
If you wait to shop for souvenirs until the last-minute I guarantee that your gifts will not be as special. By limiting your time to shop you are likely to buy something impersonal and on a whim just so you don’t come home empty-handed. Trust me, no dad is going to appreciate a Cinderella snow globe you bought last-minute, they just aren’t. But, bring dad a pound of delicious pecan fudge and you’ll have one happy camper. Take your time and shop around.
DO: Give yourself/family a budget
Having a budget for your trip to the Disney Parks is always important. By budgeting a certain amount for each day you are more aware of where your money is going, and can be that much more responsible with it. When I visited the parks with my family as a child we were allowed to pick out one toy or treat each day. That way, we would have the entire day to decide which item was the most important to us and get it at the very end. I think this system works well and keeps everyone on budget.
While it can be really easy to spoil yourself/family rotten at the Disney Parks, I would not suggest going hog-wild with shopping. First off, if you have traveled far you will most likely not have a ton of suitcase space to buy a million things. Secondly, you are more likely to get behind financially with your Disney budget if you spend all your money shopping, as most items at the parks are fairly pricey.
DO: Set boundaries with children’s gifts
It is important to set boundaries with your children when visiting the happiest place on earth. The whole place can be a sensory overload in the eyes of a child, and by setting boundaries for toys/gifts/candy/etc. you will keep the whole family happy and smiling. Like I stated above, limiting a child to one treat a day can be an effective method, as it usually keeps the child focused on picking that one special thing, not running around demanding you buy them everything.
DON’T: Let your kids run the show
I can’t even tell you how many $10 Mickey shaped balloons I have seen floating up into space because someone let his or her 2-year-old be responsible with it. Nothing will turn on the waterworks and cause a temper tantrum quite like a lost or broken toy. Save yourself the headache and keep a close eye with your kid’s items.
DO: Pay more for quality
When it comes to shopping at the Disney Parks it is often important to remember quality over quantity. If you are looking for a ton of small items, keep in mind the less expensive/free souvenirs the park has to offer. From pressed pennies to postcards, there are a lot of ways to bring home memories without breaking the bank. However, for a lot of other items this is not the case. By spending a little more on higher qualities items they are more likely to last.
DON’T: Pick out the cheapest items
I have personally made this mistake many times and I am starting to learn that buying the cheapest item usually doesn’t pan out. For instance, I recently took a trip to Disneyland with a friend who was moving away. I thought it would be special to get friendship bracelets for us, so I picked the cheaper ones. By the next day both of our very cute bracelets where broken and left us very sad. If I could go back in time I would splurge a little more and buy the more expensive items, which would actually last.
DO: Know where to go
If you have a certain gift in mind for yourself/others it is essential to know where to look. The Disney Parks are very big and if you have no prior direction you will never find the item you’re looking for. I would suggest looking online ahead of time to find out which stores carry certain items. You can also use deductive reasoning in the parks to find a certain item based around a ride, attraction, or land. For instance, if you are buying for a serious Star Wars fan you’ll want to do the majority of your shopping in the Star Wars store located right outside the Star Tours ride.
DON’T: Forget where you saw an item
While a lot of the Disney Parks stores do carry the same/similar items, many specialty gifts can only be purchased in one specific spot. If you see just the right thing and wait to purchase it at the end of the day I would suggest writing down where you saw the gift. This way, when you are ready to leave you won’t find yourself scrambling to remember where you saw that one perfect item.
DO: Purchase something helpful when needed
Disneyland and Disney World come prepared with all of the items you may need should you forget something. In the past I have purchased Disney socks (when I was getting blisters), sunblock (when I forgot to bring some), and even ibuprofen (when a headache sprung up on me.) While these items have always been far more expensive than they are outside of the park, they were all needed at the time and made my experience more comfortable. It is better to spend a little extra for a better day all around.
DON’T: Waste money on items you forgot
While I have purchased emergency items many times, I try to come prepared as best I can as to not waste money. Come over prepared, rather than under, and you will save money you could spend on fun things rather than sunblock, socks, or ibuprofen. (How boring.) It is also a good idea to bring a reusable water bottle to the parks. You will save money and are helping the environment.
Good luck with your shopping in the Disney Parks and have FUN!