Mickey ears, stuffed animals, princess dresses and pirate swords. Walt Disney World is filled with venues for selling souvenirs and much of it is very overpriced. It's the nature of souvenirs that you take them home and rarely look at them again (except possibly the stuffed animals for small kids), so why do we spend so much money on things that do not matter once we get home? I did the Mickey Mouse ear hats and the expensive t-shirts, and then I decided to get creative. We always leave the parks with inexpensive Walt Disney World souvenirs to help us remember our trip. None of them cost very much money, and many of them are absolutely free.
There are hundreds of press penny machines in Walt Disney World, and each one creates a unique design. Simply put in a penny along with two quarters and push the lever. Out pops your penny, squashed and embossed with a Disney design. There are sets to collect, like the Epcot country logos, pennies commemorating rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and Tower of Terror and even pennies marked with resort hotel designs. Check in Downtown Disney for collector's penny holder books to hold your loot. Your kids can add to this collection over and over again. Check out the press pennies and quarters list on Allears.net for an idea of all the locations.
Special Friend Photos
If your child has a special stuffed animal, you'll probably have it along on your vacation. Turn that animal into the subject of a photo series all over Disney World. Bring the animal along on the rides, get it a seat at the table for dinner, have it give Snow White a hug in front of the castle. Snap pictures of how much fun your child's stuffed friend is having all week long. Print out the photos when you get home to create a unique photo album for your child to keep.
While many people buy specialized autograph books at the resorts or parks, you can get one at a dollar store before you pack for the parks. Look for a notebook with a Disney design on front, or buy a plain autograph book and let your child design the cover with Disney character stickers. Get autographs from the characters, of course, but make it even more special. Ask cast members for their autograph when they offer a little bit of Disney magic for your day. Request autographs from waiters who smoked through a busy shift, cashiers who offer to let your kids peruse their trading pins, people who run the rides with a smile on their face or custodians who do a fabulous job at a difficult task. You'll make the cast member's day and make yourself feel pretty good, too.
T-shirts and Pins
If you absolutely do not feel like it's a vacation without buying something with Mickey's face on it, head to one of the Disney outlet stores just outside of the park area. There are three outlets that take from 7 to 18 minutes to drive to from the Disney parks. Each of the outlet stores carries hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts, beach towels, coffee mugs, pins and a huge variety of other souvenirs. Almost every items in these stores is 50% off the price in the parks, and some of it is up to 80% off. Who cares if it's last season's Mickey head design if you're paying 20 cents on the dollar?
Disney World souvenirs do not have to be expensive plush toys that sit on a shelf and collect dust all year. Get creative with your souvenir hunting and pick up a series of items that remind you of your magical time but do not cost a fortune. After all, it's the memories that count, not how much you spent in building them.