What if  I told you that you can avoid tiny human melt downs on your Disney vacation AND get your kids/self souvenirs?

Here I will outline what I learned about ways to trim down on our spending money when we went to Disney. I’ll do this with the help of insight from other people’s tips and by recommending various shops and locations to purchase items beforehand.

The Overview:

  • Pins & Lanyards
  • Mickey/Minnie Ears
  • Plush, Bubbles and more
  • Specialty Items
  • How to Save on Food
  • Things to Purchase in the Park

Pins

Since the opening of both Disney parks there have always been pins available for collection. It really wasn’t until 1999 during the Millennium Celebration that pin trading became the insanity it is today!

Now whether you’re visiting Anaheim or Kissimmee, Paris or Tokyo you can’t walk more than 10 feet without seeing a lanyard decorated with pins or browse a shop without spotting a whole selection of stainless steel wonderment!

However, like most things inside the parks, pins can be expensive- ranging anywhere from $10/piece to $18. That adds up very quickly! My oldest spent his entire allotted souvenir money ($100) on Star Wars pins in the park. YIKES.

I’m here to spill a secret or two with you so that doesn’t happen to your child or you for that matter.

AMAZON!

Simply search for disney pin lot and a variety of options for purchase will come up. My family bought a lot of 25 pins for $20.

Insider Tip: With most collections you do not get to choose which pins you receive. M

any of them are older but they’re perfect for trading in the parks!

Lanyards

While most people choose to accompany their pins with a lanyard others opt to decorate their caps and ear caps (seriously cute). True, sometimes the fully decorated lanyards can get oober heavy and uncomfortable for little necks, so caps and bags are another option.

But should you choose to go with a lanyard those can also be purchased at Amazon as low as $5 and tend to have more variety than what I’ve seen in the parks. They even come in multipacks!

Insider Tip: the backings that come with the pins you purchase are horrible with staying on. I can’t tell you how many times we’d lose a backing or be walking and a pin would just fall off a lanyard. I advise purchasing these pin backings to swap out.

Mickey/Minnie Ears

Okay, who doesn’t love the insanely gorgeous Mickey and Minnie ears that don just about every head in the parks?

While almost any shop you walk into inside the parks will have a pluthera of ears to choose from you’ll find (like most things inside the park) the price tag isn’t so cute.

The amazing news is that I have found numerous vendors all over the country (working moms like you and me) who design and create these stunning ears! Not to mention the options are out of this world and not something I’ve seen inside the parks. Here’s a few:

1. Mayra’s Creations: Custom ears and cups

Photo courtesy of Mayra’s Creations

2. Shop House of Mouse: Custom Ears

Photo courtesy of Shop House of Mouse

In a pinch and need ears for your trip tomorrow?? No worries! Simple mouse ears can be found at the following stores: Walmart, Target, Safeway, Dollar Store. They can be found by the checkouts and in the party planning aisles and all for about $5!!!

Plush, Bubbles, and More

Believe it or not, much of your Disney goods can be purchased right under your noses. It wasn’t until we got back from our Disney vacation that I began to notice that just about every store we went into had a vast amount of Disney items.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with any of the below mentioned stores and do not profit off of them, nor do I represent their goods or beliefs. I also do not guarantee items will be in stock.

1. GAP: Gap has contracted with Disney to bring you a line of clothing and shoes

2. Walmart: You name it, they have it

Plush Mickey & Minnies for $5

3. Target

Most of Target’s goods can actually be found in the party aisle. Their selection of vintage tees always has a Mickey and/or Minnie option as well!

Specialty Items

Whether you want to be creative and dress your children up for their park hopping fun or whether you and your children love to make your own items and save money, these two gals will be your go-to!

1. Queen Elizabeth’s Aprons: Specialty Aprons for All Ages and Genders

Fairy Godmother courtesy of Queen Elizabeth Aprons

2. Kidsivity: DIY Autograph Book

A MUST have in the parks for your children, autograph books come in all of maybe 2 patterns and will cost you about $13-$15 each! Follow her instructions to make your own.

DIY autograph book. Photo courtesy of Kidsivity

Or choose from a wide variety on Ebay, from $4 to $12!

How To Save On Food

Saving money on food is the BIGGEST way to cut down on costs, in my opinion. Here’s how my family of 5 spent 4 days at Disney and $500 on food.

1. Grocery delivery

Vons grocery delivery service in Anaheim is an amazing tid bit to know about ahead of time, even prior to arriving. Simply go online, fill up your shopping cart and input the address of your hotel and the groceries are delivered to the front desk. A bell hop will even deliver them to your room!

My family was able to get groceries for lunch each day and snacks to take into the park. Most hotel rooms have fridges and microwaves to use! This was such a blessing and cut down on trivial spending when the infamous “I’m hungry” whine begins in the park.

2. Pack your food

As stated above, purchase snacks and water ahead of time (granola bars, apples, oranges, cheese sticks, trail mix, pretzels) and take a backpack into the parks. Trust me, it isn’t a burden! You’ll be incredibly thankful when you’re standing in line for a ride and someone wants to have a meltdown because you didn’t purchase that $6 pretzel.

3. Share your food

Should you choose to partake in dining within the park (hello monte cristo) but don’t want to spend $100 on lunch- share your food. Most meals are more than enough for an adult to eat alone and thus would be perfect for splitting amongst children.

For example, a monte cristo sandwich and fries from The Blue Bayou is cut into fours. I, myself, cannot eat more than two cuts so I split it between myself and two kids with fries and voila! That’s 3 people fed for the price of one (a total of about $15).

4. Book a Character Breakfast

You may be thinking, wait…. what? Isn’t that expensive? Well, yes and no. For my family of five the character breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen was approximately $150. HOWEVER! I highly recommend this for two main reasons.

First, the experience is unforgettable! One on one interaction with characters, lively music and tons of photo ops as well as getting those autograph books filled up.

Secondly, the buffet. Oh my heavens. The food is like a feast for royalty. From pancakes and sausage to pizza and cupcakes, your bellies are sure to be full for at least 2 hours. Well worth the price! And my mom may have snuck some sweets in her napkin into her bag (shhh).

All my men enjoying food and fun at Goofys Kitchen with Pluto!

5. Plan Ahead

I know, I know. This seems like a no-brainer. However, you’d be surprised at how tempted you are to see something and go “ohhhhh I want that” and next thing you know you just spent $30 in snacks that you weren’t planning on.

My husband and I decided well before our trip there were just certain foods we HAD to have. We had to stop at Ghiradelli’s Soda Fountain for ice cream, churros, lobster nachos and Mickey bars. We booked the character breakfast and made reservations at the Blue Bayou *I’ll do a full blog on goodies later*  Aside from that we said we would do two dinners in the park and then everything else was groceries.

It is difficult to say no but let me tell you, at the end of our trip when we tallied the money we had left over (having splurged on some souvenirs) we were incredibly thankful we stuck to a system.

Items to Purchase Inside the Park

There are just going to be those items that you HAVE to get while you’re there. For me, it was a Beauty & the Beast puzzle I hadn’t seen anywhere except The World of Disney in Downtown Disney and coffee tumblers.

The finished product! Found at: The World of Disney, Downtown Disney

My coffee tumblers came from The World of Disney and Main Street Coffee Shop (it was a Starbucks/Disney travel mug).

Like with the food planning, we set aside an amount of money for each child to spend and that was it!!!! However, after asking my husband and kids what their opinions were on splurging, as well as giving you mine, here is our conclusion:

1. Balloons

Now I’m not normally one for spending money on temporary items, but the balloons they sell on Main Street and within the parks are just too cool. Especially if you’re staying for the parade. These balloons light up. The death star one even had me shrieking! But be prepared, these helium balls of happiness will put you in the hole $15/each.

Insider tip: if your balloon pops, they’ll trade it in for free!

2. Light up Ears

The Star Wars light up ears were just too awesome for us to pass up. They were about $18 and hold a place on his wall that he occasionally lights up as a makeshift night light now.

Insider Tip: Try them out before buying as they can get extremely uncomfortable on the head and some don’t work having been played with sitting on shelves!

**You’ll find anything that glows is a hot commodity for children, so I advise purchasing glow sticks and necklaces at Dollar Store prior to your trip to save you big $$$

The ears can be seen on my son in the middle. My youngest (far right) has a BB8 glowing necklace.

3. Specialty Pins

Contrary to my aforementioned post about buying pins in bulk ahead of time- this is my husbands profound opinion! There are thousands of pins all over Disney parks and depending on your taste (Star Wars, Pirates, Traditional, Unique, etc..) the variety can be overwhelming and tempting.

If you’re one of those people that decides to collect pins based off of an interest or system then you’ll find the $10-$12 per pin isn’t a big deal.

My husband bought a pin for each of his favorite rides and then a Beauty and the Beast one to commemorate our favorite movie.

Capt America, Beauty and the Beast, Pirates of the Caribbean and Avengers

Do you have an idea of how to save money on your vacation? Share it below!!!

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