By Christine Dayao for ShermansTravel
What's the best way to take home a piece of the magic when you visit Walt Disney World? A souvenir, naturally. With more than 200 retail locations to browse -- from brick and mortar stores to carts selling clothes, designer bags, artisan soaps, and unique knickknacks -- Disney World is a shopper's paradise. Here, we offer pro tips that'll help make souvenir shopping a lot easier.
1. Use the resort's merchandise delivery service. Why get bogged down carrying bags full of goodies when you can have Disney do the work for you? Day guests can take advantage of the Package Pickup program, where your merchandise is sent to a location near the front of the park for you to retrieve anytime during operating hours. If you're staying at the resort, you can have your parcels sent to the gift shop at your Disney hotel. Both of these services are free -- but if you end up doing a lot of shopping than originally anticipated, consider paying for home delivery via UPS or FedEx. Simply bring all of your trip's purchases and the receipts to your resort's gift shop the night before check-out and have the Cast Members handle the shipping process. The best part? The shipping fee isn't dependent on the weight of the package, but rather on the cost of all of your items. (During our most recent trip we spent over $300 and paid around $35 for shipping.)
2. You can use Disney gift cards. Disney gift cards are accepted throughout the resort, with some exceptions like non-Disney venues, and can be used towards dining, tours, and merchandise.
3. It's better to buy some items in person than online. The Disney Store website carries a number of Disney Parks products, but it's only a fraction of what you'll find in the parks -- and the prices in the park are exactly the same. We usually like to wait until we get to Disney World to buy any official park merchandise, especially if we're on the hunt for exclusive Disney Dooney & Bourke items. These whimsical designer duds are available in several collections with all sorts of styles and prints, like character sketch satchels, Minnie Mouse's signature bow wallets, and more. Also, the resort has an even bigger selection of the wildly popular Alex and Ani bangles compared to what you'll find online.
4. Orlando International Airport has two Disney souvenir stores. Want to continue shopping -- or need to get those last-minute gifts -- as you wait for your flight home? Orlando International Airport has not one but two official Disney merchandise stores: The Magic of Disney and Disney's EarPort. Though there's some variation, you'll still find the most popular items like magnets, pins, apparel, mugs, and other goods at both stores. They accept Disney gift cards.
5. World of Disney carries most souvenirs sold throughout the property. Take a trip to Downtown Disney and you'll find World of Disney, the largest store in the world to sell Disney products. The 50,000-square-foot building has 12 rooms full of Disney-branded souvenirs. Since most items sold elsewhere at the resort can usually be purchased here, the store is a great one-stop shop.
6. But some specialty items can only be found at one location. For example, you'll only be able to buy items with individual Disney hotel logos at that particular hotel -- you can't purchase a hoodie with a Disney's Wilderness Lodge emblem at Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter, nor will you be able to snag a Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge magnet at Disney's Polynesian Village.
7. Post-trip, use the Disney Merchandise Department. If you came home from your Disney trip wishing you'd bought that striped Mickey tote bag, not all hope is lost. Contact the Disney Merchandise Department at 1-877-560-6477 or email@example.com and provide them with the most specific description of the product as possible. Tip: If you're on the fence about buying something, snap a photo of it, along with the barcode to make ordering from home a lot easier.
8. Get international goods at World Showcase. The shops peppering Epcot's World Showcase are stocked with items that you would typically find in the countries represented by each pavilion. Pop by the France pavilion to sample French perfume or head over to Japan for tasty snacks. Have your pick of intricately designed masks in Italy or colorful tchotchkes in Mexico.
More from ShermansTravel: