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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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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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.
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.
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!