One thing that drags my vacation down is my daughter begging for everything she sees. One way to curb the insatiable need for greed is to find souvenirs that are free or cheap. I’ve found a few at the Disney Parks.
- Pressed pennies. If your kid is a collector, like mine is, this is a collection I can get behind. The cost is affordable and I get my kid saving her pennies, literally, months before we visit the parks. Pressed penny machines can be found all over the parks and resorts. They are changed out periodically, so even if you’re a frequent park visitor, chances are the machine you visited a year ago has new presses. How it works: you put in your penny and 2 quarters (the cost of the souvenir), choose an imprint to press, push the button (the old-fashioned hand-crank presses are my favorite but are getting rare), and, voila, the penny pops down to the collection bin hot and ready with the imprint you’ve chosen. Pressed penny collection folders are sold at most gift shops. Cool tips: I ask my daughter to hold her own pennies since she’s old enough to be responsible for them. I keep the quarters in an old film canister. I put a limit on the pennies my daughter can press each day because carrying a pile of quarters is heavy. I found great websites that list the location of all the penny presses. For Walt Disney World see: www.presscoins.com. For Disneyland see: www.parkpennies.com.
- Autographs. You can buy an autograph book at the parks, find a neat homemade one on Etsy, or make one yourself. I’ve seen downloads for autograph pages that are cool. Using a full-sized notebook seems cumbersome to me, so keep in mind that someone has to carry it all day. How it works: you see a favorite character, stand in line and wait your turn, ask for an autograph. Be mindful that characters oftentimes are wearing gloves. A thick marker works best for them. We’ve spent years collecting autographs. Whenever there’s a new princess introduced, you’ll find us in her line! Autographs are FREE!
- Photographs. While you’re in line collecting autographs, make sure to snap a picture. Kids love to collect and save pictures of themselves with their favorite characters. You can use the PhotoPass or Memory Maker service, but there is a cost associated with the printing of those photos. Feel free to ask the photographer to use your camera if you want to be in the picture. They are happy to do that. Don’t forget to take pictures in the numerous “Picture Spots”. These locations are clearly labeled with a red sign throughout the parks. Sometimes you’ll find a photographer lingering nearby too. Photographs on your own camera are FREE!
- Transportation cards. Every vehicle has its own transportation card, a credit card-sized card that describes the vehicle you’re riding on. How it works: Ask the skipper of your boat, driver of your Main Street vehicle, your bus driver, and train and monorail conductor for a transportation card. Collect them all. Transportation cards are FREE!
- Celebration buttons. Even if it’s not your birthday, anniversary, honeymoon, first visit or graduation, there is a button appropriate for you. I like the “I’m Celebrating!” button. Cast Members will ask you what you’re celebrating. There’s nothing better than saying something like, “all A’s on my report card!” or “sunny day off of work.” How it works: Ask for celebration buttons at City Hall on Main Street U.S.A., Guest Services outside of the park turnstiles (this line is very short and you can find Guest Services at each park), some table-service restaurants, or the concierge desk at a Disney resort. Celebration buttons are FREE!
- Pin trading. This hobby gets expensive when you add up the cost of each pin, but there are tricks to get you started cheaply. For young and new pin traders, I suggest bidding on a lot of 20 pins on eBay. There will be some you’ll want to trade and some you’ll want to keep. Take the “traders” to the parks. How it works: you can trade with any Cast Member wearing pins or from pin boards in the gift shops. The pin boards are usually displayed on a back counter. Just ask the Cast Member to see the pins and ask if you can trade. The answer is always “yes”. If you’re a novice, I do not suggest trying to trade with the professional pin traders sitting at a table with their books of pins. Even for my daughter who has hundreds of pins, there comes a day when she runs out of traders. We always go back to eBay for more traders. We also commemorate our visits on special occasions with new pins from the pin shops. Pins run around $8 and up. Pins, lanyard and pin binders are sold in most gift shops.
- Tsum Tsums. This is one of those collectibles that will bleed you dry. Because they are so cute, it’s hard to say no to just one. Found in the World of Disney shops and in the Disney Store in the mall, these little stuffed critters start at $6 each, depending on size. You can now find them in Target stores in the toy section. I don’t know what came first, the stackable stuffies or the online game (connect a chain of like Tsums to achieve fabulous pretend prizes – more Tsum Tsums). Tsum Tsums are incredibly popular in Asia where they originated. I admit to falling victim to their cuteness. Don’t believe me? Check them out online or at your local Disney Store.
- Kidcot stamps. If you’re visiting Epcot one of the best ways to get your kids interested in the countries is to collect stamps from the Kidcot stations. Each country has its own stamp. Sometimes they have a project to do as well. How it works: Start at a country. Any will do. Locate the Kidcot station. Ask for a stamp board. Sometimes it’s a mask on a stick. Speak to the country ambassador. Ask questions about the country and ask for a stamp. Repeat in each country. Kidcot stamps are FREE!
- Resort items. If you’re a resort hopper like me, you’ll visit the Polynesian just to look around. While you’re there say Aloha! to a Cast Member at the front desk and get a lei. You can do the same thing over at the Port Orleans Riverside or French Quarter resorts and get Mardi Gras beads. Tell them “laissez les bons temps rouler” (let the good times roll) for added points. Not really. You’ll get the same beads. Resort items are FREE!
- Blind bags. In the gift shops you will find boxed displays of tiny plastic collectible sets and they are adorable. The bags are sold individually or buy 3 bags for a discounted price. If you have 3 kids, this is a decent bargain. Each blind bag contains 4 tiny figures. Like any blind bag or box, collecting can be addicting, especially when you don’t get what you want in the first bag. I set firm parameters about blind collecting. That said, I have hundreds of Vinylmations. If those weren’t currently priced so high, I’d add Vinylmations to this list. Disney Addict here.
When you do plan on buying a souvenir at a gift shop, the best time to buy is when you have a coupon. COUPON?! WHAT? Yes! Check your dining receipts for a coupon at the bottom. Take the coupon to the gift shop and get your discount at check-out.
For more tips and tricks on saving money at Disney, or any Disney subject, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always ready to chat about Disney and to book your next magical Disney getaway. Until then, see ya real soon!
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