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in the Park
Tips and ideas for the traveling family
|Adrienne Krock, editor|
MousePlanet has been a pretty busy place the past couple of weeks. Jim Hill's been cleaning his desk, Fab's been packing, Karl, Al, Kevin and others have been busy shuffling directories around.
And what about me? Well, like any good mom, I'm busy doing really really important stuff, too. Now that I have Monkey Boy to help watch Matthew, I've been SHOPPING. Lani and I have been busy outfitting the MousePlaneteers with cool stuff, because important events like launching a website community require commemorative souvenirs, don't you agree?
OK, so that was a stretch to my topic today, but today I decided to talk about souvenirs and shopping.
Shopping with Kids
Emotions at theme parks run high. Everyone is usually excited to be there and all five senses are being bombarded. Add to this equation rows and rows of stores full of goodies, outdoor vending carts tempting our impulse- shopping urges, and fanny packs full of cash, traveler's checks, or worse yet, credit cards!
Shop early in the day before 3 or 4 p.m. If you're planning a multiple-day trip you can wait until the end of your trip so you have an opportunity to check out all your options. By shopping early in the day, you have a few advantages that make your experience less stressful. The stores will be less crowded and easier to maneuver through and examine merchandise. Lines will be shorter. You and your family will be less tired. With all these factors, tempers will be less likely to flare and decision-making will hopefully be easier.
I know what you're saying, "But Adrienne, if I shop early in the day, I have to carry around bags of stuff all day!" There are alternatives to carrying your merchandise. All Disneyland stores offer a free service called Package Express. Package Express requires you to fill out a form with your name and address, and you pick up your package at the newsstand right outside the exit when you are ready to leave the park. Keep in mind, you do stand in line at the end of the day to pick them up, so plan for this added wait later. The length of the line, of course, depends on the size of the crowd that day.
If you are a guest at the Disneyland Hotel or the Disneyland Pacific Hotel, you can arrange to have your purchases delivered to your hotel room. This form of delivery can take some time and there is a shopping deadline each day, after which no more hotel deliveries are made.
Another option is to rent a locker. Locker rentals cost $1 for one-time use. Lockers are located on Main Street and near the Fantasyland Theater and It's A Small World. Outside the Main Gate at Disneyland there are now all-day rentals. For $3 you receive a code which allows you to open and close your locker throughout the day. On crowded days, the lockers get filled quickly, so you may be better off renting an all-day locker at the beginning of the day. Of course, there's always MY way: Stuff everything into your stroller!
If you let your children make their own souvenir choices, consider their developmental abilities to make the process smoother. Children seven and younger don't have strong concepts about money, and making choices from a large selection of items can be overwhelming for them. By narrowing choices for your children, you can control budgets but still give your children a voice in decision making.
For example, our friend Beth recently helped Sarah, her three- year- old daughter, choose a souvenir during her first trip to Disneyland. Beth showed Sarah two Mouse- ear hats. One was a black hat with a red bow; the other a pink hat. Sarah chose the pink hat (her favorite color, of course) and was quite proud of it.
As children get older, the choices can become broader. An example could be a choice between a t-shirt or a hat. Beyond second grade, children are better able to understand and manage money. You may wish to give your older children a small budget to buy anything they want, or anything they want, with your approval. Do set your guidelines beforehand to avoid surprises and unwanted conflict later.
Disney sells Disney Dollars, printed currency that is good at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Disney Stores, and are used much like gift certificates. It can be fun to give your children their own spending budget in the form of Disney Dollars.
Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes "more is better." The cost of two smaller items might be less together than one bigger item, but to your child the two smaller items might seem like a better deal. I'm not suggesting that you deceive your children, just remember to think like them. What is important isn't the cash value of the souvenir but the sentimental value.
So what is available...
Of course you can find pens, pencils, cups, mugs, magnets, keychains, jewelry, hats, shirts and more. But while many items are exclusive to Disneyland and / or Walt Disney World, many are not. Personally, I recommend getting items that are specific to the park you're visiting.
For example, Disneyland sells three autograph books, only two of which say Disneyland. Also, only some of the many sipper cups available say Disneyland. Many items that are not labeled for the specific parks, most notably books, videos, toys, and plush (a.k.a. stuffed "animals") are available outside of the parks and often for better prices.
Disneyland and Disney World both have ongoing promotions this year. In Florida, there is the Millennium Celebration. Disneyland is celebrating it's 45th Anniversary. You will find merchandise to commemorate these two events including clothing, postcards, books, plates, and more. I found a 45th Anniversary deck of playing cards at Disneyland for $5.
You can also find souvenirs themed for various attractions. These items are usually located in stores and carts near the attractions. There are beanies of the Country Bear characters as well as the Hitchhiking Ghosts from Haunted Mansion. T-shirts are available for many attractions as well.
Don't forget that there are also "free" souvenirs. If a member of your family is celebrating a birthday at Disneyland, stop by City Hall and pick up a "Happy Birthday" sticker. When you visit official character meet and greet locations, they often hand out "I met Mickey" or "I met Ariel" stickers. Children who are selected as volunteers at the Aladdin and Jasmine storytelling receive special buttons. In New Orleans Square, the musicians toss out Mardi Gras beads. And of course, don't forget to save the guide maps for your scrapbooks! Little "free" gems can be collected all around the parks.
Here is a list of of items I that found on a recent trip to Disneyland, with price ranges to help you prepare for what you'll find. If you can't wait for an item, you can visit MouseShoppe here at MousePlanet and have it shipped to you. If you don't see an item I've listed, email the MouseShoppe Adrienne (yes, there are two Adrienne's here at Mouse Planet,) and she can help you.
$5 and under
Postcards, lollipops, washcloths (the kind that are wrapped very tightly and expand when you put them in water,) baseballs, car antenna balls, water bottle lanyards (for carrying water bottles,) magnets, pencils, pens, personalized Guest of Honor badges or keychains
BEST FIND UNDER $5-- a small circular magnet with a silhouette of the Castle, it says "Disneyland" across the top-- $1.50
$5 to $10
Coins, frames, mugs, keychains, pens, spoons, sipper cups, straw
Mouse Ear hats ($5.25 for kids' sizes, $6.25 for adults' sizes.) There is no extra fee for adding names to any hats.
Autograph Books ($5.50)
$10 to $20
Baseball caps, t-shirts, fanny packs, lunch bags, onesies (all- in- one infant t-shirts) Lunchboxes ($12)
I hate glow swords. I really really do. And it's not the glow swords' fault. What I really hate is the irresponsible behavior displayed by many people who buy them.
I've too often seen children, teens and yes, even adults, parading around with glow swords extended, paying little attention to their surroundings. My companions and I have even been struck by them.
To add insult to injury, the glow swords are not unique to Disneyland; many theme parks sell them. They don't say Disneyland on them. They don't thematically tie into any Disney movie, show, or attraction. And they cost $6.00. I have seen these for sale for $2.00 or less elsewhere.
If you do allow your child to purchase a glow sword at Disneyland, please remember to be courteous to other Disneyland guests. I personally don't understand why people buy them although I suspect they are often impulse buys.
My advice: buy toys at a toy store outside of Disney and save your money for a more authentic souvenir.
Adrienne gathered experience taking kids to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job, being Matthew's Mom.
Adrienne and Matthew visit Disneyland several times a month, usually with Daddy, too.
Besides Matthew, Adrienne and her husband Kevin created and maintain The Happiest Potties on Earth website.
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