When it's time for a Disney park trip, there's always going to be budget considerations. One of the biggest is going to be souvenirs. It's pretty much impossible to go to Disney and not come home with something, but there's a difference between one or two small items and needing to buy a new suitcase to fit them all in. The cost can be high, plus the fact there are scores of "park exclusive" souvenirs you can easily buy online or even at the local Target store.
But there are a few Disney souvenirs that can be small, inexpensive, and easy to take home. They not only serve as a good reminder of the trip, but a few can even be useful to use at home. It's much easier to have a small item or a shirt than some ultra-fancy huge statue or other souvenir. Here's a look at some souvenirs that are great must-haves from a Disney park trip and a few that should be avoided to show how well some work for guests.
T-shirt/cap with year
This is an easy grab and almost a right of passage for a Disney park trip. Yes, some can be available before a visit, but it's fun to get one in the parks, which can offer a wider selection. The best are the ones bearing the year itself which can always mark your visit. More fun are ones tied to events like Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary or the current 100 Years of Wonder.
Caps are tied into these as it's often smart to get an extra one just in case one gets lost (which has happened to me) and likewise great to wear afterward. They're less expensive than other items, and so a Disney park shirt bearing the year of the visit is always a terrific get for any guest.
Pins and Trading Pins
Ah, the pins. Few Disney souvenirs have become as popular as these, as guests never get tired of grabbing some. The sheer number of them is fantastic, from characters to attractions, special events, and more. They're cheap, they're easy to pack and store, and there's always the fun of trading them for others. A handful of pins can be all the souvenirs some kids need and mark a Disney park visit for a long time.
Whether plastic cups or mugs, these are a great buy for a Disney trip. A few can be a bit too large or fancy, but just a simple cup stamped with the park's logos or a special event can be fun to use over the years. Some coffee mugs have fun touches, and they're a handy kitchen item to boot, so they are worth popping for a larger drink in order to get a good cup to use it in.
Reusable shopping bags
While you can get these with any other gift you buy, reusable shopping bags are also available to buy on their own. It's only a few bucks, but it's more than worth it, as it's amazing how much use you can get out of these at your home or on another trip. They can come in various sizes and a few tougher for shopping or other items. It's fun to break out one of these bags for a different task to make it a good souvenir to keep.
Here are a few more items you should consider picking up on your visit to a Disney park!
- This is, of course, obvious for any little kids heading to Disney parks. They did take a hit in the pandemic, but now that meet and greets are back, kids won't get tired of racing to a character to sign their book. It's a perfect keepsake for them as they grow up and a reminder of the encounter that made this visit so terrific.
- Folks may be into "virtual albums" or such, but there's something to be said about keeping actual physical photographs of a trip. A Disney park photo album is a great way to do it, with most labeled by the year, and just sliding the photos in can be great memories. It's much better to open up an album than a computer file, and a photo frame for the wall is just as great to prove real photos beat looking at something online.
- Yes, they're cheap and small, but that's what makes them a good souvenir choice. Disney parks have more keychain options than you can imagine, from shaped like characters to marking certain attractions, and you can use them constantly. Some may be a bit too large, but the right keychain is a perfectly fine souvenir that becomes pretty handy down the road.
- An underrated cheap souvenir, pressed pennies may not cost a single cent, but they are a fun little item to get to mark a visit. Kids can enjoy stamping them with specific characters, but just a random one can work nicely. They're quick to make and just pocket into your wallet or purse and still keep for showing off at home.
- A lot of framed items at the parks may be complex (like the animation cells). However, a small print can be a nice souvenir. They can vary from photos of the park to old concept drawings, some artist renderings, or the "silhouettes" you can have made on Main Street. As long as it's not too bulky or expensive, these prints are a good keepsake to frame in your home.
- A lot of Disney Park jewelry can break the bank and be way too flashy. Thankfully, there are plenty of smaller and less expensive items, from bracelets to watches, necklaces, earrings, and more, that make good purchases. Some may want to go full-on for Mickey/Minnie items or princess necklaces, while others can go for something themed to the parks. Having a souvenir you can just wear on the plane home is handy and better than some larger items.
- If you're looking for some truly cheap yet practical souvenirs, office items are a good bet. Pens, paper pads, mouse pads, memo holders, and other such items aren't just good for a souvenir but helpful to have around the house. Even things like fridge magnets or such can be a good buy, much cheaper than bigger stuff, and make for a fun addition.
While you may want to jump and blow your next 5 paychecks, some souvenirs, you should avoid.
This may annoy the kids to say no to, but a great many Disney stuffed animals may not be worth it. Many can be found online or in local stores for much cheaper than the parks, and it's also a bit of a hassle to have to carry around the parks. Some may stand out for special themes for big events and park exclusives, but the price isn't quite worth it when it's easier to buy them before a visit.
The Disney park balloons can be beautiful, especially the ones with a second mouse-ear-shaped balloon inside a larger clear one. But they're not worth the outrageous prices Disney charges for them. Parents know what a hassle it is keeping them tied to a stroller or the kid themselves and impossible to handle when boarding a ride. Plus, sooner or later, they're going to deflate, and trying to reinflate at your place is a futile task. So balloons may look great but not the best souvenir to buy.
- They look fun, coming in different shapes and sizes and forming a variety of bubbles. But the wands can leak more than one might expect and spray their formula over other items in a bag. They also can break way too easily when dropped, necessitating a makeup one. Even if they work perfectly, the ones making music or sounds can become very irritating, so not buying one saves a lot of hassle.
- Some of the fancy crystal works around the parks can be gorgeous to look at, from statues to other items. Yet this leads to the challenge of keeping them from shattering when on rides or even just packing into your bag. Smaller ones might be okay, but they're also pretty expensive, and some are too fragile for their own good. As much as guests can enjoy looking at these on a shelf, putting it on your own can be costly in more than one way.
- Much like crystal items, ornaments look great but can be a hassle to carry around. There's also the fact that a great many of them can be available in regular stores or online, often at cheaper prices than in the parks. Maybe some one-of-a-kind ones are tempting, but there's no need to waste money in July for an item you only show off a month or so every year anyway.
- Some will insist a bucket of some kind is a must for a Disney visit. They range from character-themed ones for popcorn to the fancier Halloween or Christmas ones, and fans love to collect them. But these things can be ridiculously bulky to carry around and a nightmare to try packing when you go home.
Bulk "one of a kind" items
Every park has that store that boasts some huge fancy items you can only find there. Think the models of a Castle or huge toys, etc. Not only is the cost prohibitive, but there's also just trying to carry it around. Even having it shipped to the hotel can be problematic, not to mention figuring out how to pack it for the trip home. I once purchased a huge Mickey Star Wars figure set only to realize how messy it was carrying around and packing. Thus, skipping the huge stuff saves a lot of money and trouble for something that's just to show off more than practical.
It's smart to buy a costume for the kids before they ever get on the plane rather than pop for the park versions. Sure, those are great in detail, and it's tempting to get an "official" outfit from Disney themselves. But considering some can be almost $100 and the risk of having it dirtied or torn up, it's a lot smarter to go for a knock-off than the more expensive real thing.
A major push of Galaxy's Edge is being able to assemble your own lightsaber and buy it. You can do the same with droids, while Animal Kingdom offers it for Banshees based on Avatar. If you're an uber fan of these franchises, they're great but can be costly, and try carrying a lightsaber or robot toy onto a roller coaster. This goes for a lot of the toy weapon types as it's another bit too costly and bulky to waste money on.
This may sound crazy, as surely buying a classic "mouse ears" cap is a must for any Disney visitor. But those things are not built for sturdiness as they can snap and be easy to lose sometimes. It's also not the type of cap you can wear in everyday life (well, at least for most people), and if you buy it for a kid, eventually they're going to outgrow it. So they may look fun but really not useful outside the parks.
The "mystery packs."
The Wishables packs come in a few sizes, anything from pins to small plush items, and Disney entices by offering a "mystery prize' in each one. The trick is the selections are random and too easy to get repeats of some items you wouldn't want. One may be okay but not necessary, while others are just a waste, as who wants to pay money without knowing what you're getting?
So what are the final thoughts on the buy and don't buy landscape? Well, in the end, it comes down this final summation.
Yes, having some souvenirs from your Disney park visit is a great idea to remember this wonderful time. But you have to be careful about what to buy, not going to expensive items or ones you can easily buy elsewhere. Yet something simple, from a hat or cap to even a pen or keychain with the Disney labels, can still be great, and make sure you bring some of that Disney park magic home with you.