If you’ve read our Selective Souvenir Shopping at Walt Disney World article, then you know that I am no stranger to getting caught up in shopping temptation while on vacation in the Disney Parks. But in this article, I’ll share some of my least recommended souvenirs.
It’s hard to be a Disney fan in a Disney shop, because you inevitably want to buy everything. Shopping is personal, of course, and you may totally disagree with what I consider to be the worst Disney souvenirs to buy. Like many of my fellow Disney Fanatics, I tend to love everything they sell at the Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland, so I disagree with myself half the time on these, too. Heck, I’ve bought most of these items on my own trips.
In short, I suppose I am confessing that my advice on Disney-related shopping is to be taken with a grain of salt.
Telling you about what not to buy is a bit hypocritical, you see, as my husband and I tend to over-buy on vacation and never learn our lesson. You may have seen my family before- last trip, we were the ones on the plane wearing our souvenirs home (each of us wearing a hat or ears, with my husband literally wearing 2 hats, one on top of the other). You may have also seen us a few years ago, when we stuffed our bags to the gills and my darling husband had to wear a Simba popcorn bucket across his chest on the airplane.
Nevertheless, I hope you’ll learn from a few of my shopping mishaps. Here’s my Disney souvenir “skip list”!
I know your kid really, really wants that Cinderella Castle Playset. Let’s be real; I want it, too. And I know, the new Castle Playset that came out for the 50th Anniversary is just calling your name (I mean, your kid’s name, of course). But friend, how are you getting that thing home? Don’t mistake me: I fully support you getting the monorail set to travel around your decked-out Disney Christmas tree, but don’t buy it in person. Resist the urge to pick out something massive and travel-averse and be a smart cookie: order it online, instead. (But by all means, order it.)
Fragile/Hard to Pack Items
Unless you want to pay to ship your souvenirs home, that last day pack-up nightmare is at its worst when you’re trying to pack oddly shaped Star Wars weapons and breakable glassware. My husband and I literally never follow this advice ourselves, but I care about you, dear reader, and want you to learn from my mistakes.
Clothes You’ll Never Wear
Try to focus any apparel buying on things that you can actually use in your daily life. I don’t think there’s a bad clothing or accessory purchase if you think you’ll actually wear it regularly. If you’ll wear super brightly colored spirit jerseys in everyday life, then by all means, grab one or two! If you’re still living that work-from-home life, I feel your need for the baggiest of clothing, and I support you. If you don’t have use for oversized shirts because you work in a professional setting and have little weekend lounge time, you may want to reconsider. I urge you to consider something a little more adaptable for daily wear, whatever that looks like for you. You probably won’t get much wear out of a poofy Orange Bird dress, either, as fun as it is. Mixing Disney accessories into your existing wardrobe can be a fun way to make your souvenir shopping worthwhile. And there’s always a time for an exception; if you think you’ll be confident in a princess-inspired frock at your next work function, do it!
If you’re out in a theme park at night, it’s almost inevitable that your kids will want you to buy them something that lights up. Glow wands and spinning toys might keep them occupied for a short time, but there are probably items they’ll use more at home that would be a better use of souvenir money. If your family is especially prone to wanting this kind of souvenir, consider coming prepared with glow sticks from the dollar store and letting your children pick out something that will have more staying power after the trip. Let’s also not deny the fact that most kids will try to lick their spinning glow toy and inevitably hit themselves in the face with it.
My child loves his bubble wand, and we have even brought it back and forth on multiple vacations. It makes me happy that he loves it, but it is also a potential fastpass to frustration. If your child turns it upside down or sideways, it will produce a big clump of bubbles that looks like grapes. You’ll end up with drippy, stick bubbles everywhere, at best, and a frustrated kiddo at worst. If you can avoid getting one, that’s probably wise.
Now, I’m going to totally contradict myself (don’t say I didn’t warn you!). If your child really wants one, let them get it but then give them time to truly enjoy it. Find a bench to relax on and let them dance and spin and watch the bubbles fly- your feet could probably use a break. Take a video, because they’re only going to be this age for a short time.
Items You Can Buy At Home
There’s an endless assortment of Disney merchandise in each Disney park and at Disney Springs that you can only find there, and sometimes on shopdisney.com. It’s absolutely tempting to buy lots of goodies on vacation, especially if your local Disney Store has closed and the holidays are coming. Try to resist! You’ll also find items that you can pick up at your local Walmart or Target store. Knowing how to spot those items (and comparison shop on your smartphone) will save you from making a poor choice. You can even buy a few “souvenirs” locally before you leave for your trip and let your child enjoy as you dole them out.
Minnie and Mickey Ears
I hate to say this, because I collect Minnie ears myself. I’ve slowed down my purchasing, though, as the price has crept up and up. After awhile I realized that I only wear them at the Disney parks, and they’re a pain to pack. Personally, I would rather have one or two favorite pairs that I use a lot than a multitude of headbands. If you’re looking for a truly special pair, Etsy has lots of great choices
Souvenir Sippers and Popcorn Buckets
They’re so cute, so Instagram-able, and so… cumbersome. Drink sippers and popcorn buckets have become Disney theme park staples, but seriously, who has room in their kitchen for these oddly-shaped items? My family has occasionally fallen prey to the lure of these items, and we do actually use our normal popcorn buckets for movie nights. But the Simba bucket (below) or a Millenium Falcon bucket? They’re just too hard to clean to be functional!
Credit: Disney Food Blog
As for the sippers, if you’re going to get one for fun, either display it or make sure it’s actually easy to clean. The Star Wars BB-8 sipper is actually super easy to clean, so my 6-year old uses it frequently at home. The Orange Bird, on the other hand? He spends most of his time in a glass-front kitchen cabinet, as any other display-worth collectible should.
What’s more iconic than seeing a bouquet of balloons on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom? They’re oh-so-cute for photo ops, and they might help you find your stroller. Beyond that, they’re a bit hard to deal with back at your resort and on transportation. A balloon may also try to strangle you as you push your stroller around the park (and they’re definitely not environmentally-friendly, especially if you let yours fly away). They’re a temporary souvenir that come with a hefty price tag of up to $17. That said, if you do purchase a Mickey balloon and it pops, you can have it replaced for free. If you manage to keep it safe, your Disney balloon can last for up to 2 weeks! Consider passing it along to another child at the end of your trip to spread some pixie dust.
Overbuying in General
It’s hard to resist buying too many souvenirs, especially during the highly anticipated 50th Anniversary Celebration at Walt Disney World. Specially-branded items make shopping choices even harder. Even if you get one of everything on this list, just make sure that it’s something that you love and won’t regret purchasing (especially for those pricey items). If you’ll get three hundred dollars of use out of this adorable Dooney and Bourke satchel, make the splurge– but if this doesn’t seem like a fit for your wardrobe, skip it.
Now it’s your turn to weigh in! If you had a fully loaded Disney Gift Card, what souvenirs would you prioritize, and which would you skip?
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