When you embark on a fabulous vacation to a well known and loved destination, it isn’t uncommon for some of your friends, family, or even distant acquaintances, to expect their own little piece of it. While you might have the best of intentions, bringing home 50 lbs worth of gifts for everyone you have ever met is not only expensive but leaves no room for your own souvenirs.
On the first few trips it can be easy to get sucked into this idea that your vacation entitles everyone at home to a present, but after a while this brainwashing will fade and be replaced by an adamant lack of caring if anyone receives a gift upon your return.
Until that carefree attitude sets in, here are a few ideas of what you can bring home from your Disney Parks vacation that are unique, memorable, inexpensive and easy to transport. Don’t go buying one of everything, try to select just a couple of people back home that you would like to bring something special back for.
Your mailman does not need a spirit jersey.
That Special Someone
If you are visiting the happiest place on earth and missing your special someone, it’s easy to find something they would love at every turn. Don’t blow your holiday budget and all the space in your suitcase filling the missing piece of your heart with merchandise. Instead, see if you can find the Grape Soda Pin in the parks or Downtown Disney / Disney Springs. If you are not familiar with the story, in the Disney·Pixar animated feature UP, a child-aged Ellie pins the Grape Soda bottle cap to Carl’s shirt in recognition of their friendship. Even when Ellie sadly passes away, the Grape Soda Pin remains and stays with Carl on his adventures, symbolizing their long-term love and devotion to one another.
What says I love you better than that? One thing I will caution you on: These little things are way heavier than one would expect them it be, so if your suitcase is on the verge of an overweight meltdown at the airport, consider packing this one in your carry on.
Parents & Grandparents
This one depends on how close you are with your family as to how far you want to go to please them. Grandparents tend to be focused on their grandchildren, so photos are a big win. Frames, on the other hand, are heavy and bulky so have a good look through the Main Street shops to find the light-weight frames that are less breakable. Not so close to your ‘rents and grand ‘rents? Opt for a more generic tea towel set or some Mickey-themed home goods.
Another option for those that celebrate ornament-related holidays — grab one. Try and select something relevant to who you are buying it for, perhaps their favorite character or something that reflects their own personality in Disney.
Your Brothers & Sisters
While it is super tempting to bring home that massive Goofy hat with the floppy ears, in the long run, that will probably be a waste of time, money and effort. Sure it will be a laugh when you pass it on to your bro, it might even make a good photo or two, but that will be the end of your massively sized $25 gift. Instead, try some homewares which are easier to transport and have a practical use once at home. A cleverly themed coaster set or cute apron can be used daily and makes the sentiment of your gift last much longer.
Nieces & Nephews
I know what you are thinking, and you can stop it right now. Plush is not the answer. Yes, they are cheap and easy but what child really needs another stuffed toy? Also, it isn’t special or unique to where you have been, considering you can buy plush Disney characters in every other store. For this one, we are going to think outside the box. Or in the box, as it may be.
I love these Disney Parks themed board games; Clue® The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ Disney Theme Park Edition Game, The Game of Life® The Haunted Mansion® Disney Theme Park Edition, and Disney Theme Park Edition III Monopoly® Game. They are great because they are practical and can be used over and over again. You can also purchase one per family as a joint gift, saving you money and suitcase space. These are not focused on a specific character or gender so they can tick all the boxes for a family you love with kids back home.
This one is easy, pick them up a set of ears or a hat and invite them on your next Disney vacation! Start planning your next escape before you even touch down in your hometown. Invite your friends along and make the adventure even more fun.
Your Child’s Teacher
When I was in school, it was almost customary to buy your teacher a coffee mug when you traveled overseas. This practice was in part to be a lovely, appreciative student and in other parts to keep them on-side with you taking your child out of school term to travel. Since our travels have expanded and my own packing needs have increased, carrying a few heavy, ceramic mugs around with me is no longer an option.
I still like the idea of a tea- or coffee-related item, so I tend to favor the best travel gift of the 21st century, the travel mug. These are light, cute and no one ever needs to know that you stuffed them with your socks to get them home.
Your Pet Sitter
What’s a perfect gift for someone who comes and goes to other people’s houses for a living? A keychain. This relationship doesn’t require a gift so much as a token of your appreciation, so pick you your favorite animal-themed keychain and tick that gift off your list.
The purpose of the ideas above is to help you transition from complete gifting lunacy to buying just a few select and personal gifts for the two or three people that deserve them. Do not be tempted to buy a present for every person in your child’s class. Some children may be bold enough to ask if you have brought anything home for them, so prep your child on politely saying no. Even suggest they blame it on you if there is an issue, “My Mom and Dad said we didn’t have any extra space to bring home presents.” That usually stops them in their tracks. As a general rule, remind them that anyone who asks about a gift from your travels didn’t deserve one anyway.
Try to make your holiday just about the people you are there with. Be in the moment and enjoy all the little things. If you spend too much of your time worrying about what to bring home, the gesture, and your vacation, can start to lose their magic. Less is more.
Disclaimer: I take no personal responsibility if you purchase some or all of the above suggestions only to decide you are unable to part with them and keep them for yourself. I do reserve the right to be a little bit proud of you if you do though.
All product images sourced from ShopDisney.com
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.