When visiting Walt Disney World with kids, you want to ensure they have a great time while keeping costs down as much as possible. We have been visiting the theme parks almost yearly as a family since 2005; when my now teens were elementary school age.
As a young mom of three (at the time) on a very limited budget, I spent hours online researching ways to save money in the parks.
I wanted to make sure we had a fun time yet also keep the trip just as magical as possible without dropping a lot of cash on souvenirs. Here are 8 ways to come home with tangible magical memories of your trip that won’t drain your wallet.
Hidden Mickey’s – Throughout our trip in 2005, my elementary aged kids were so thrilled to be on the hunt for Hidden Mickey’s. You can find a list of spots to search or just keep an eye out, they’re everywhere if you just pay attention.
Add to the fun and have the kids take pictures of their finds; almost like a scavenger hunt. Make it a competition to see who can find the most; if your kids are anything like mine were at that age, it will keep them occupied off and on throughout the parks. They even found several at Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney)
Pressed Pennies – Another favorite item to collect around the park are pressed pennies. You can find pressed penny passports for under $10 and it will cost a total of 51 cents for each pressed penny.
My kids were in K, 1st and 2nd at the time and thoroughly enjoyed this activity. Before we left for our trip, everyone got an empty m&m minis tube and layered 2 quarters and a penny from bottom to top in the tube.
When they came across a pressed penny machine all of the money was right there in one spot – no digging around for change and they were all in charge of their own tubes, so that let Mom and Dad off the hook for once.
Hats at World Showcase – One inexpensive way to create a souvenir is to visit each country at World Showcase at EPCOT and take a picture of yourself wearing one of the hats on sale in the markets.
Now if you have qualms about trying on hats other people may have tried on, then obviously skip this one, but I mean, it’s WDW, what could possibly go wrong, right?
Lanyard and Pin Trading – When we visited over 10 years ago, pin trading was quite prevalent; it seemed to have gone out of vogue for a bit but is now back in full swing once again.
What this means for you is that you can easily grab an inexpensive lanyard at the Disney store or from a pin trading station, but you can also snag an inexpensive one from Ebay and purchase a collection of pins before your trip (just do your homework to ensure you’re purchasing authentic pins)
Once you’re in the parks, cast members are happy to trade with you, it’s fun and interactive, plus you never know what you’re going to find out there!
Glow Sticks from the Dollar Store – Once the Florida sun starts to set over Cinderella Castle, the balloon and all things glowing carts start to line the parade route and if you’re lucky your child won’t even notice, until they see another child walk by with a light up princess wand or spinning Buzz Lightyear toy.
Save yourself a little bit of money by swinging by a dollar store in the weeks leading up to your trip and grab up all the Disney you can find. I’ve come away with Anna and Elsa glow stick wands, regular glow sticks, bracelets and necklaces and even some spinning toys.
Purchase these little surprises ahead of time, pack them and bring them to the park, then just hide them away until you start seeing those carts descend upon Main Street. Chances are your kids won’t care that it’s not the exact item on the cart; something new is usually all it takes for a happy kid!
First Haircut at Harmony Barber Shop – Nestled in the corner off of Main Street is a quaint old-fashioned barber shop where both adults and children can get a haircut.
For my 4 year old, we opted for the Childs First Haircut package ($25) that included a “First Haircut” set of Mickey Ears, a certificate and of course your childs locket of hair in a little package full of pixie dust. I’m not going to lie; I shed a tear or two!
This package needs to be booked in advance on the Disney website and it’s important to be mindful that Harmony Barber Shop books fast and closes early!
Interactive Kid Activity at Epcot – Contrary to popular belief, Epcot is a great park for kids. One fun and free interactive activity that doubles as a souvenir, is part of the Kidcot Fun Stations nestled in each of the countries in World Showcase.
There your child can have a large Duffy Bear or Agent ?? ‘passports’ stamped by cast members native to that particular country. It’s a great way to introduce children to other countries and cultures, learn greetings in new languages and if you’re lucky, the cast member will even write your childs’ name on the passport in that language.
The first time my very shy son did this, he was 3 years old and even at that age, thoroughly enjoyed it and came home with a treasured souvenir.
Autograph Books – You can of course find the official WDW Autograph Books but know that they’re not necessary, any small, thick notebook will do. We found ours with Disney characters on the front, inexpensively at a dollar store.
When visiting the parks for Meet & Greets, your child can have the character sign their autograph book (just be sure to bring a large, fat pen to make grasping easier for costumed characters) There’s nothing worse than a grumpy Tigger that doesn’t like the size of your pen (ask me how I know)
Visiting Walt Disney World can be as expensive as you want to make it, if you’re planning a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, you’ll have likely researched theme park tickets, affordable accommodations and transportation as well but if you haven’t be sure to check my YouTube channel for regular theme park updates and vlogs!