Okay, this subject is touchy. Everyone loves Disney, and their merchandise is legitimately some of the best in the world. Just a quick glance around my house verifies both the quality of the goods and the fact that I could have bought a Tesla with the money spent on such items. So, I’m in a “do as I say, not as I do” situation.
My strategy for a Disney vacation is to set a daily budget for shopping. I keep it separate from the food budget for the most part, although DDP tips could go into either category. What I’ve learned over the years is that impulse spending can set your vacation finances more than anything else.
The reason why is because everything that Disney sells is overpriced. I mean that in a general sense. A shirt costs double what it would at your local retailer of choice because it has the Disney stamp on it. When you’re shopping on the Disney campus, you’re going to get gouged. You can make your peace about it, or you can get smart about it.
As Theme Park Tourist’s own Amanda Leanne once said, the best-kept secret at Walt Disney World is the Disney outlet store. Disney’s Character Warehouse has multiple locations in Orlando. Here, you’ll find all of the merchandise that Disney tried to sell in the parks but over-produced. Sometimes, the goods are as recent as from that month and usually at least from that season.
You can fill up your shopping bags for a fraction of the price. It’s the best way to maximize your merchandise budget. Otherwise, you’re going to waste a disproportionate amount of your vacation budget on merchandise. Shopping at Disney provides the second-worst value of anything on this list…although it’s also the most fun.
You can think of Disney as a mafia enforcer whom you owe money. The mouse isn’t above lifting you in the air, turning you upside down, and shaking you until all the money falls out of your pockets, wallet, and/or purse. No matter how much love you feel at Disney, never forget that it’s a business. During every corporate earnings call, one of the topics for discussion is how much Disney earns per guest. At the end of the day, you are that number first and foremost, an item on a spreadsheet.
Presuming that you have any money left after all of the topics discussed previously, Disney will try to persuade you to splurge on upsells. Let’s be clear that out of everything listed here, these are the priciest and the worst investments. I speak from much personal experience here. I’m a sucker for exclusivity.
Many of the upsells at Disney are clever in design. Corporate executives understand that experiential events have more value to anyone in Generation X or any of the more recent generations. This knowledge explains why concerts and plays quintupled in price over 20 years and why cast members in plaid jackets charge thousands of dollars to walk you around the parks. A VIP Tour is only marginally more expensive to the company, realistically just the cost of that one employee. Disney can charge you 40 times as much as the price of a standard admission ticket for it, though.
Sure, VIP Tours are the extreme example, but most Disney upsells are superfluous by nature. Having a private tent or cabana sounds lovely…and it is. Two weeks after you’ve returned from your vacation, however, you’ll have nothing to show for the experience and be out all of that money.
I’m emphatic when I state that upsells are the most dangerous form of possible entertainment at Walt Disney World. You’ll stretch your budget too much while gaining too little. It’s least cost-effective Disney offering…although also arguably the most memorable, depending on the event. Fans of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party understand the paradoxical nature of this thought process.
Putting together the entire picture, you’ll get the best value with admission tickets, hotel accommodations, and food. Transportation depends on where you live. Merchandise and upsells are where you’re most likely to blow your budget. These are the areas you need to be savvier with your purchases. And by you, I mean me.