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I worked at Disney World. Here are 7 things I never buy in the gift shops.

Hayley Hutson   

I worked at Disney World. Here are 7 things I never buy in the gift shops.
  • I did the Disney College Program at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and worked in gift shops.
  • I like to buy Minnie ears, Disney clothing, and character stuffed animals outside of the parks.

As a former Disney World employee, it should come as no surprise to learn that I love all things Disney — including the merch. But as a broke college kid, I certainly didn't enjoy the lofty price tags.

During my time working in the parks through the Disney College Program, I learned a lot about how to stretch a dollar and save money while having fun in the parks on my days off.

Here are a few things I never buy in the gift shops at Disney World.

Most of the clothing isn't worth the price

I know spirit-jersey lovers everywhere are grimacing already, but I'm standing by this one.

If you're looking for matching family shirts or cute onesies for your baby, you can find Disney-themed clothing for a fraction of the price at off-property stores like Target, Walmart, and even Orlando thrift shops.

The only time I'd recommend buying clothing in the parks is when you have your sights set on a particular design that you know you won't find elsewhere. Otherwise, your baby won't know the difference, so you might as well save a few bucks.

DIY Mickey and Minnie ears are better than the ones in the parks

Unless you're shopping for a set of limited-release ears that you won't find off-property, you can find better ones sold by small-business owners through storefronts on Etsy or Instagram.

Why spend $35 on the same mass-produced headband everyone in Magic Kingdom is wearing when you can snag a handmade set for the same price or less?

If you're the crafty type, you could even make your own personalized ears to really stand out.

Take a second to think about whether you'll actually use a bubble wand again

The moment your children see the colorful flashing lights of the bubble-wand cart, it's usually game over. They're tugging on your jacket, insisting, and perhaps even downright begging for you to buy them one.

But the sheer joy they'll feel when you finally hand over your credit card will last approximately 10 minutes (maybe an hour if you're lucky) before they forget their beloved bubble wand ever existed.

Savvy parents can save up to 50% by purchasing a near-identical bubble wand via Amazon or Target beforehand.

Only buy souvenir popcorn buckets if you know you'll make your money back

I'll be the first to admit that I've been a sucker for the occasional souvenir popcorn bucket. But as a fiscally responsible Disney adult, I can now say no to the painfully adorable souvenirs.

As cool as they are, the iconic Disney popcorn buckets serve no functional purpose beyond securing you a discount on future refills. So unless you plan on making your money back by purchasing several refills throughout your stay, I'd steer clear.

Baubles, knickknacks, and tchotchkes are a hard no for me

Sure, baubles are fun. It can be easy to get distracted by the comparatively low prices of the small souvenirs near the registers. But even if those postcards and key chains are cheaper than other souvenirs, you'll likely still pay more than they're worth.

I recommend browsing the aisles of a local Target or souvenir shop to get your fill without breaking the bank.

Pro tip: Ask a park employee (literally any of them, anywhere) for stickers. By the end of your stay, you'll have a collection of fun Disney stickers you didn't pay a dime for.

You probably don't need the overpriced stuffed animals

If you're shopping for a small child, I promise they'll love the stuffed Mickey Mouse from Walmart just as much as the overpriced one you almost bought them in Hollywood Studios.

Buying stuffed animals in the parks is only worth it if you're looking for a limited-edition, park-specific, or unique character that you won't find off-property.

Do I actually regret buying the Donald Duck plushy that now sits comfortably at the bottom of a basket in my living room? No. But it still stung when I saw the same one for cheaper at a nearby Walmart a week later.

I buy comfort items ahead of time

I always buy things that will make me more comfortable in the parks, like rain gear, sunscreen, bug spray, handheld fans, and reusable water bottles, in advance. A little extra planning saves me tons of money in the long run.

I can't express how painful it was to shell out big bucks on a glorified trash bag the day I forgot to bring my drugstore ponchos.

Pro tip: If you forget a water bottle, you can get free water cups from most quick-service dining locations.

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