Every family knows that a visit to the Magic Kingdom is full of temptations, but not everyone knows how to manage souvenir shopping at Walt Disney World. Kids and adults alike can easily be enticed by the copious amounts of souvenirs sold on every corner, and children have been known to plead relentlessly for parents to purchase any and every souvenir they see. How can families control souvenir spending when they visit the Disney Parks and teach their children money management at the same time?
Here are some tried and true strategies for you to try on your next vacation that won’t break the bank – and that can save your sanity, too.
1. Set a budget and stick to it.
Before even setting foot in the park, establish a souvenir budget. How much can you afford for each child to spend? How much will you allow them to spend? Do they need to earn their own money in advance by doing work around the house? What can they buy with their budget? Will each child be responsible for managing their budget or will you oversee it for them?
By discussing these questions as a family ahead of time, families are not only teaching children valuable lessons about money management, but saving everyone some heartache in the long run. When the guidelines are set ahead of time, children are less likely to overstep boundaries, have unrealistic expectations, and appreciate the opportunities they have been given.
2. Consider using Disney gift cards.
Disney gift cards can be extremely useful because they do the budgeting for you. Gift cards can be purchased before you leave for your trip, at the Disney parks, at the airport, or from local stores near the park. The gift cards can be used anywhere on Disney property, from Downtown Disney to hotels to the amusement parks. They can be used to purchased food and beverages, clothing, and souvenirs.
If you know about your trip well enough in advance, ask for Disney gift cards as a birthday or holiday present from grandparents or other relatives. This way you don’t even have to open up your wallet for any souvenirs.
A helpful tip is to write each child’s name on the gift card or choose a different design for each child to avoid gift card confusion. Having a parent hold the gift cards can also prevent losing them at the Disney parks.
3. Buy Disney souvenirs before heading to the park.
A few years ago, I found Disney character autograph books online that could be personalized. I purchased them before we left on our trip so we could hit the ground running once we arrived at the parks. Not only did we save money, we saved time once we arrived.
I have friends who have saved money buying Disney dresses, t-shirts, stuffed animals, and other knick knacks online or at Disney outlet stores beforehand. I recently learned that in Orlando there are Disney Character Warehouses where you can find authentic Disney souvenirs. We definitely plan on checking these out on our next trip.
One fun idea is to present the souvenirs wrapped as gifts to your children before you arrive at the park. Imagine their surprise when they open up their Disney gift and get to enjoy it all day while they explore the parks!
4. Implement a behavior rewards system.
I know some people disagree with bribing children for good behavior, but I believe it can work in certain situations. For years, we have been using a behavior reward system tied to souvenir shopping with our children when we travel. At the beginning of each trip, each child receives five marbles (aka “Meltdown Marbles”) and each one is worth $5. When they were younger, we used actual marbles and we held onto them, now we keep track mentally. If they have any major meltdowns they lose a marble. On the last day of vacation they “turn in” their marbles for money to spend on the souvenir(s) of their choice. This system has been in place for six years and it works like a charm. Any thought of misbehavior goes away with a simple, “Do you want to lose a meltdown marble?” This might not work for every family, but it’s something to consider.
5. Just say “no.”
I have my sister to thank for this suggestion, as this is the method she uses on each and every visit to the Magic Kingdom. Her children are older, and they understand the cost of plane tickets, hotel, rental car, and admission to the parks. When you add all of these expenses together, it’s a pretty expensive vacation. The way they look at it, the memories they make are the only Disney souvenirs they need and the ones that will stay with them forever.
Disney is full of souvenir temptation. From the second you step off the plane or drive through the gates you are bombarded with chances to shop for Disney memorabilia. Having a game plan can help prevent overspending, disagreements, and meltdowns. So I want to know, how do you manage your souvenir shopping at Disney?
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