Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

Seven Disney Souvenir Buying Mistakes

by on July 8, 2014

The 1,200 Vinylmation figurines staring at me from the shelves of my home office right now will tell you that I am a veteran Disney parks shopper. I truly understand the desire to troll the theme park shops for the perfect souvenir. But as satisfying as it can be to come home with just the right thing, there are plenty of pitfalls to Disney parks shopping. Here are seven potential Disney souvenir shopping mistakes and how you can avoid them.

Some Disney take-home items can be had for free.

Some Disney take-home items can be had for free.

1. Thinking that you have to pay for souvenirs.

Believe it or not, you can score many items for free at Walt Disney World. They practically throw Mickey stickers at kids during resort check in and there’s always a reason to grab a free celebration button. You can also get free bookmarks by participating in the Enchanted Tales with Belle attraction at the Magic Kingdom, free stick puppets at the Epcot Kidcot Fun Stops, or a lei at the Polynesian resort. These free items can go a long way toward scratching that “but I MUST bring something home” itch, with no additional outlay of cash.

And don’t forget that the best Disney souvenir is usually a memory. “Remember when Cousin Billy spilled his milk on Goofy’s shoe at Chef Mickeys?” “Remember when Baby Sally hugged Cinderella for the first time?” “Remember when we finally got Grandma to go on the Teacups and she actually had a blast?” Assuming that you’ve got a digital camera or a camera-equipped phone, these memories can all be captured gratis. Disney PhotoPass photographers will even take group shots using your camera, at no charge. Isn’t a photo of Mom wearing Mickey ears a better souvenir than a snow globe?

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Things to Do Near Port Canaveral before Your Disney Cruise

by on July 7, 2014

Cruising, especially Disney cruising, can be a vacation in itself, but what if you find yourself in the area a day or two before your cruise? Port Canaveral, the home for Disney’s remarkable ships: Dream, Fantasy and Magic is nearly an hour drive from Orlando International Airport so unless you live nearby, it’s a good idea to stay the night before your cruise somewhere between Orlando and Canaveral. Obviously, spending the extra day at Walt Disney World is a great option, but there are interesting diversions much closer to the port that can be relaxing or exciting as well as educational and surprising.

Disney's Cruise Ship Fantasy passes by the fishing pier at Jetty Park.

Disney’s Cruise Ship Fantasy passes by the fishing pier at Jetty Park.

In particular, there are 4 sites that are wonderful to visit, whether you have the whole family with you or if you’re kid-free. All have been popular attractions for many years and all will give you experiences that are quite different from the cruise you’ll be taking.

Considering that the four provide significantly different experiences, I have decided to list them based on distance from the Disney Cruise Line Terminal, rather than ranking them. The furthest is only a 30 minute drive, while the closest is literally right around the corner from the terminal.

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Personalized Souvenirs of Walt Disney World

by on May 30, 2014

As a child with a strange name I longed to find personalized key chains and pencils when souvenir hunting. Even though it was never there, I always hunted through the racks hoping against hope that one day my name would magically appear. Maybe that’s why I’ve scoured Walt Disney World to find the best personalized souvenirs to remember your trip! If you, too, have a weird name, then have no fear, we’ve got you covered.

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Mickey Ears to fit every style!

Mickey Ears: This is an easy one, but anyone can get their his or her name embroidered on a pair of Mickey Ears. Disney has also lightened up on the policies about what can be put on ears these days. I’ll never forget a few years ago when a cast member actually said she had to see my drivers license to put my name on my hat! Locations are available to personalize hats in all four parks and Downtown Disney. Remember, now that fancier fonts available, you normally have to come back later in the day to pick up your personalized hat.

Parasols: While this option can get pricey fast, what little girl doesn’t want one of these? Not only can they be personalized with names, but I’ve even seen art work from Frozen starting to appear on these cute, little umbrellas. Several colors are available. Be sure to stop by early in the day to allow time for the paint to dry on your unique and personalized work of art. You can find these for sale in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom and France in Epcot.

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Frozen Out: Searching for an Elsa doll at Disney World

by on April 10, 2014

Elsa doll Disney World

Searching for an Elsa doll or toy at Disney World? Join the club! (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

My family up north doesn’t necessarily share or understand my theme park obsessions, but every so often they call upon my Orlando expertise. Recently, my young niece lost her mind over Frozen (much like half of America, it seems) and wants an Elsa doll more than life itself.

Unfortunately, it seems Barbie-sized “Sparkle Princess” figures of this frigid sister are scarcer than snowmen in summer, as toy stores throughout the New York and Philadelphia regions are chronically out of stock. So I gallantly volunteered to play the heroic uncle by finding one and bringing it to her during my upcoming visit. Surely it would be simple to find an Elsa doll inside one of Walt Disney World’s infinite gift shops…or so I foolishly thought.

I was so wrong.

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How Much Do Disney World Souvenirs Cost?

by on April 17, 2013

I often hear guests planning Disney World trips ask, “How much should I budget for souvenirs?” I find this tricky to answer because there is a near unlimited supply of things to buy at Walt Disney World, with prices ranging from free to tens of thousands of dollars. Depending on your personal preferences, you can spend anything from nothing to a full year’s paycheck on Disney souvenirs during a single trip.

To give you an idea of what you might find during your Disney visit, here’s a sample of merchandise available for purchase in the WDW parks and resorts. These photos and prices were gathered during two Disney trips in early 2013. The exact items may or may not be available during your trip later in the year, but the general pricing should remain in the same ballpark. For example, the exact same t-shirt may be out of stock in the fall, but you will find plenty of tees at a similar price point.

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Buying Disney Parks Merchandise From Home

by on January 11, 2012

I know that many of you are able to resist the siren song of tee shirts and totes adorned with the image of Mickey, but not me. I find the Disney parks merchandise endlessly enticing, as evidenced by my home office being completely overtaken by Disney souvenirs.

Most of the time, I buy what I want while I’m visiting the parks and then move on, not making any more Disney purchases until my next trip to Florida. Yet every once in a while I think back to “the one that got away,” the perfect Disney memento that I wanted to buy, but didn’t. I call this my non-buyer’s remorse. And sometimes that remorse needs to be salved with an at-home purchase.

I didn't buy a Disney phone case when I was at the parks last week, but I wish I had :-(

Before I discuss how to get Disney merchandise at home, let’s talk about reasons why you might not have made a purchase during your vacation:

  • You’re concerned about luggage space. I often fly to Walt Disney World using only carry-on luggage. Because of this, I’m always hesitant to buy large or fragile souvenirs. This rules out big replicas of Cinderella castle, snow globes, mugs, and many Christmas ornaments.
  • You’re concerned about price. You have a fixed souvenir budget for your trip and the item you want falls outside your price limit.
  • You’re deciding between two items. Do you want the Mickey version or the Minnie version? You finally decide on the Minnie version, but then can’t find it again anywhere.
  • The item you want is theme park specific, but you’re not able to get back to that park. This can happen if you don’t have a park hopper ticket or if you run out of time before your departure.
  • The item is a gift for someone traveling with you and you don’t want them to see it.
  • You simply forget to pick up something you wanted.

Many merchandise items are similar. Be sure note details about exactly which item you want.

Lucky for me, there are solutions – ways to acquire Disney parks merchandise when you’re far away from the House of the Mouse.

  • Visit your local Disney Store. The retail Disney Store merchandise has very little overlap with the theme park merchandise. However, the items there may be similar enough to satisfy your needs.
  • Visit the Disney Store online. Over the past two years, DisneyStore.com has added much formerly park-only merchandise to its inventory. This includes toys, clothing, jewelery, collectibles, tech accessories, kitchenware, photo accessories, and even the iconic mouse ear beanies. Some of the clothing items can even be personalized.
  • Ask a friend. If you have small children, chances are you know someone, or several someones, who will be visiting the parks. It never hurts to ask whether they would be willing to grab that Dooney & Bourke bag you forgot to buy and bring it home for you.
  • A photo of the SKU tag can help locate your item.

  • Use the Disney Merchandise Department. Did you know that Disney has an entire department dedicated to finding theme park merchandise for guests and sending it to their homes? (I guess there are plenty of other regretful non-buyers like me out there.) There are two ways to contact Parks Merchandise: by phone at 407-363-6200 or by email at wdw.mail.order@disneyworld.com. The cast members there truly want to help, but to be most effective, they need as much information as possible. You can’t just say, “I want a Mickey shirt,” and expect them to know which one you need. This means being vigilant when you’re shopping. If there’s anything you think you might want, but are hesitant, make note of the item. Jot down where you saw it and a full description. Even better, take a photo of the item and the SKU number on the price tag. You can email this documentation to the Merchandise Department and they’ll be able to find the exact object of your desire. One your item is located, they can take credit card information via phone or email and ship the merchandise to your home or office. One caveat, the merchandise folks are unable to mail most food items. If you want to bring home park food (Chip & Dale pretzels anyone?), buy it while you’re there.
  • Use an independent Disney merchandise reseller. I can’t personally vouch for any particular reseller, but I have heard good things about the service from MagicalMemoriesStore.com and LaughingPlaceStore.com. Some resellers may even be willing to make a trip to the parks to pick up a particular item for you. Expect to pay either a flat fee or a percentage of the merchandise price for this service.
  • Many formerly park-only items can now be found at DisneyStore.com.

  • Try eBay. You need to be a smart shopper and stay aware of possible price gouging, but if you absolutely MUST have something that doesn’t exist through other channels, it’s certainly worth a shot.

In addition to providing a resource for post-trip shoppers, all of the above avenues can also be a source of merchandise before your trip. Guests visiting the Walt Disney World Moms Panel frequently ask for a source of Mickey ears that they can use as an at-home prop to tell their children about an upcoming trip. Similarly, many guests want to have an autograph book in hand before their trip.

While you can usually expect to pay a bit more Disney parks merchandise if you buy it from home, even if it’s just a shipping fee add-on, there may be instances when buying from home is less expensive. In particular, keep an eye out for sales at DisneyStore.com. Their deeply discounted end-of-season closeouts might be the perfect thing to bring to the parks with you as a “souvenir” to distract your children from full-price items during your trip.

What have your experiences been with buying Disney parks merchandise at locations other than the parks? Have you had merchandise sent to your home? What source did you use? Please let us know in the comments below.

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Under-21 GNO in WDW

by on May 13, 2009

Girls’ Night Out in Disney World is a blast! Downtown Disney, the Boardwalk, and Epcot’s World Showcase, are all great places to have fun with the divas. But what if you have somebody under-21 in your GNO group? Mexican margaritas, German beer, French wine, martinis, G&T, and vodka, just became illegal. (And in case anybody got a non-Disney-esque idea, Mickey does check ID.) But in addition to no buzz, how does a mom, fun aunt, or another lady friend, entertain the teen or preteen while still doing stuff that everybody else likes?

In my experience, the best way to lower social inhibitions among girls (without alcohol) is chocolate. Chocolate ice cream is preferable, but chocolate chip cookies, hot cocoa, or chocolate candies, will do the trick. I recommend Ghiradelli’s Chocolate Fountain at the Downtown Disney Marketplace, Selma’s Cookies at the Boardwalk, or Boulangerie Patisserie at the France Pavilion. If you check out DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney, the Cheesecake Factory Express inside (open seasonly) has the best chocolate cupcake ever to bless the earth with its awesomeness.

Shopping is a must, of course. At Downtown Disney, World of Disney is so darn huge (50,000 sq. feet!) that everybody will probably find something they like. But the new must-do for girly gear Downtown is TrenD. I haven’t been able to personally see the store yet, but from the reports, no teen girl or young woman can skip TrenD. The store sells clothes, accessories, pillows, writing stuff, even furniture! And oh my gosh, Tinker Bell! If you want a nuclear bomb with Tink on it, I bet you could find it at TrenD. As for other stores, avoid Summer Sands. The bikinis are cute there, but they’ll make you feel guilty about all the chocolate you ate.

All of the World Showcase pavilions are great for browsing, but if you actually want to buy something: visit the China Pavilion for adorable parasols and fans, the Norway Pavilion for winterwear (Go fleece!), Italy for headache-inducing perfume, Japan for pricey jewelry and “Hello Kitty” nostalgia, and the France Pavilion for make-up (I like to tell people I bought it in France, which is kind of true).

As for the Boardwalk, there are a couple of stores, but the main attractions at Boardwalk are the activities. A personal favorite are the dueling pianos. And for your older teens: watch the guys watching TV at the ESPN Club.

If your budget is tight, though, you can have a Girls’ Night Out right at your resort! Both the Port Orleans resorts have live, free entertainment (a musical comedy show at Riverside and a jazz club at French Quarter) on select nights. The Polynesian has some very fine-looking lifeguards and God’s gift to earth, Dole Whip soft-serve. All the resorts on Seven Seas Lagoon, the Boardwalk, Yacht & Beach Club, and Caribbean Beach, have beaches – and more fine-looking lifeguards.

What it comes down to for a G-rated (okay, PG) GNO at WDW is that there are no rules. Let your adolescent know that whatever happens in Disney will stay in Disney; they don’t need to worry about being embarrassed. Squeal like crazy on rides, dance in the middle of the street, and flirt with the cashier! Act like you’re buzzed even though you can’t be. Buy too much, stay out too late, and be too loud! To please your teens, just keep moving until they don’t want to anymore. Then get a cold drink – preferably one that’s pink – and wish on the stars at the most magical place on earth.

Thanks for reading, everybody! If you have any questions about teens in Disney, feel free to ask them in the Comments. I’ll try to answer them in my next Thursday post!

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