We all do it. We go on vacation and get talked into buying trinkets and baubles that have little to no relevance to the vacation, the location, or the experiences had while there. We give in to the moment and walk away with useless junk that clutters a space in our homes until it is eventually broken or thrown away. Disney is no different. They’ll happily sell you an LED glow stick that will promptly stop working the minute you get back to your resort. So, what kind of souvenirs should you buy instead?
There are a couple of different perspectives from which you can approach this topic, and I’m going to attempt to address them in the most kind and gentle way possible — and by kind and gentle, I mean honest and soul-crushingly blunt. If you’re the type of person who just buys little Johnny anything and everything he wants, then I can’t help you, and it’s very likely that little Johnny will grow up to be a terribly warped person who will likely do time in a state correctional facility. However, if you struggle — as all parents do — with wanting to purchase some truly memorable souvenirs for your little ones without completely indulging their every whim, there are a two simple rules to consider:
The Cost to Longevity Equation
Kids are young, but they won’t be forever. They’ll eventually grow into unlikable hormonal teenagers who lose all sense of human decency before morphing back into hedonistic twenty-somethings who only care about “finding themselves” and eventually ending up as jaded and cynical thirty-somethings who regret every decision they ever made and should have worked out more and should have eaten fewer deserts but there’s still time, damn it, there’s still time! Ahem. In any case, you want to consider how much the item in question costs relative to how long you expect it will be enjoyed. I’ve found that this makes the financial pain of souvenirs a lot less irritating. If I think that the Rad girls will enjoy a particular item for an extended period of time, or if it will be a memento representative of our vacation, I’m a lot more likely to indulge them than if it’s a toilet brush with a partially faded outline of Mickey on it. You laugh, but this item can be found in the Emporium. (I’m totally kidding, but is it so far-fetched to imagine that such a thing exists somewhere…?) With the rise of Instagram small shops, I’ve found that the items purchased in the Disney park shops are usually plush toys of some kind (we call them stuffties because we’re adorable like that) because we’ve been purchasing most of our ears and clothing swag from different online shops with which we’ve come in contact. Even Rad Ella, who is rapidly approaching the terrible teens, enjoys having a small stufftie sitting on her bed or displayed elsewhere in her room. Sure, some of the characters who were bought during an especially intense phase of watching a certain movie may or may not end up at Goodwill at some point, but many of them become room decorations that have lasted for years and marked especially poignant moments during our trips. Plus, there are many plush toys that are impossible to find outside of the parks, and they come in a variety of sizes that are difficult to find at a random mall Disney store. (Rad Hallie picked up an especially cool Mickey and Minnie pair dressed as Jack and Sally from The Nightmare before Christmas on our last trip.) These types of gifts far surpass the spur-of-the-moment purchases that mean almost nothing when removed from the context of the Disney parks: the infamous light sticks, the bubble shooters, the plasticky toys that feel as brittle as Lindsay Lohan’s career. These toys are fun in the moment but really, assuming they last the year, mean nothing when rediscovered at the bottom of a toy bin. Their fragility prevents them from ever becoming a cherished memory. Since nothing is cheap when you’re at Disney, a souvenir that endures for some time makes more sense, especially if it becomes representative of a certain experience or milestone. Each
of the Rad girls has a Yeti stufftie from the first time she conquered Expedition Everest, which makes for a fun reminder of a major moment in their Disney experiences. It was a not-terribly-expensive way to commemorate a portion of that trip. Conversely, Rad Ella once purchased an incredibly expensive Disney journal and pen (like, a twenty-something dollar pen) with a gift card she had received for her birthday — despite our advising against such a decision. To this day, the journal is almost completely empty and on a shelf somewhere, and the pen disappeared into the netherworld of a young girl’s bedroom. It was a good lesson that giving a little thought to your purchases yields a better, more lasting result.
The Collectibility Factor
This is an interesting topic because it means different things to different people. I’m going to give you two examples that apply to the Rad Family, but before I do, you must first repeat after me: “Be honest with yourself.” Casual collecting should be evocative of the trips and/or experiences. The collected items should be the kinds of souvenirs that don’t become clutter, no matter how many of them you acquire. So if you honestly think that you’re going to start a Disney character ceramic figurine collection, you do you; however, if you just know that your significant other will be secretly wishing he or she could overturn the table upon which they sit and tap dance them into
dust, perhaps you really aren’t ready to collect anything. Or you shouldn’t. Or your significant other needs to seek anger counseling. Either way, you’ve got some thinking to do.
There are two collections that have been steadily growing in the Rad estate for the past few trips: the first is Rad Mom’s Disney mug collection and the second is our lanyard and pin collection. Since we are both avid coffee drinkers (because we’re teachers and teachers can’t survive without coffee in copious amounts), I thought a mug collection could be a cute way for Rad Mom to pick up a souvenir each trip that would remain relevant for quite some time. Sure, we have a lot of mugs, but the Disney mugs tend to fill two important requirements that we look for in a coffee mug: they’re Disney themed and GINORMOUS. As for pins, let me first say that we are not avid pin collectors. We know very little about it other than OMG that pin looks awesome! Rad Ella was the first to get a lanyard and start trading, followed by Rad Hallie, and then on our last trip Rad Mom and myself. It’s tons of fun, takes up very little space in your home, and isn’t terribly expensive if you just do it casually. Furthermore, in the short time we’ve been trading, we’ve each acquired certain pins that we just can’t part with;
they’re too special. Whether they relate to an attraction, a character, or a Disney film, they have become too special to wear on our lanyards lest we get talked into swapping them for something we later regret. To me, that’s the perfect kind of Disney souvenir — something small, memorable, and cherished. What more could you want? (If you say an LED light wand, I’ll throw you into the briar patch.)
Let me know in the comments what your favorite items of Disney swag are! Shop wisely!
Rad Dad, out.
(Thanks to Nicole Ellington for spotting me the mug picture!)