This blog post originally appeared in October of 2012, but this is a big question I usually get, so I thought, why not re-visit my answer!
You have planned your trip. Your budget is in place, but it’s still months away, maybe even a year away from your vacation. Then you think, “Oh no! What about souvenirs? I always hear things are expensive at Disney!”. What can a mom (or dad) do to make souvenir shopping less of a dreadful, wallet-emptying experience? How can our children learn how to save their own money for souvenirs?
I have friends that buy their Disney merchandise at stores like Walmart and Target and bring it with them or pick them up down in Orlando. Sounds like a grand idea, but there’s only one problem. Unless you have a backbone of steel, you will NOT get out of the Magic Kingdom or any other theme park without the inevitable “Oh, but it’s soooo cute!” or “I really, really wish I could get just this one thing.”. Maybe you are a stronger person than I am, or maybe you can resist the aisles and aisles of merchandise at say, The Emporium or World of Disney. I know myself, I cannot walk out without buying myself a souvenir, let alone not buying one for my two blessings. So, what’s MamaMouse’s secret?
That’s right. Gift cards. With the holidays coming up -think Easter baskets etc. and possible birthdays, there are lots of opportunities to purchase gift cards for presents. Even if you don’t purchase them, maybe Grandma or Auntie is going to send a small amount of money for a gift or stocking stuffer. Take that money and buy a gift card. You can get cards at grocery stores, chain stores, Walgreens and sometimes even Costco. At Walgreens, you can get a card that can be for as little as $15 on up. They are adorable cards and the kids love them. I suggest holding on to the cards for safe-keeping.
So, how do they use the cards?
My children received money for Christmas, birthdays and a bit at Easter. They “save up” their money and I buy them gift cards. First of all, it is a great lesson in saving and because it is put on a gift card, they can’t spend it just anywhere. Disney gift cards can be used in stores, online, at the resorts or in the shops at Disney World. They can even be used for massages. (yes, moms, massages-think what a nice Christmas or Valentines gift that would be!) When we get to Disney, I tell my children how much they each have on their cards. I explain that this is the ONLY money they will have for souvenirs, so they need to think long and hard before buying the first thing they see. I explain that if we see something one day, we can always pick it up another or most times, Disney will actually have it sent from one place in the world to another.(that’s part of the magic!) They completely understand it. Think your children are too young? Mine were 4 and 6 at the time we started. Definitely a perfect age to do it. If your children are younger, then you can save up the money and use the gift card for them.
Now, that is not to say you can’t buy your kids something little if you want. I know, in this economy, money is tight and we are sometimes pushed to our limits. It may be enough that you can even afford the trip in the first place and you worry about feeling that “mommy guilt” if you can’t buy something. Remember, the best thing about Disney World is the experience, the family time together and memories that will last more than the time your child will play with a toy. Let your children take control of what they want. My children LOVE that they know how much something is and how much they have and that THEY get to choose if they can get it. It is a freeing experience for parents and also an empowering one for your children.
So start talking to your children about ways they can earn or save money to spend on your trip. I am sure they will come up with more things than you can think of!