Tip of the week: How to stop your kids from whining over theme park souvenirs

September 11, 2012, 9:56 AM · Here's something no parent wants to hear, over and over and over again, while on vacation:

"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! (or "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!") - I want this! Buy it for me?"

You can try to teach your kids not to want all the cool stuff they'll see when visiting your favorite theme park, but let's face it: You're fighting millions of dollars in research, marketing, and product development. Parks employ and contract with thousands of people whose job it is to sell your kids stuff. You can't win.

So why try to fight a hopeless battle? Focus on what you can control instead - putting a stop to the whining.

Here's a simple solution that's worked for me and for hundreds of other parents: Make your kids spend their own money on theme park souvenirs. Give them an allowance before you leave on vacation, or, better yet, make them earn their theme park spending money doing chores or other work.

Tell your children before you leave on the trip that they can't ask you for money to spend on souvenirs. If they want anything, they'll have to spend their own money. Get started now, though, months before you leave, so your kids will have a fair opportunity to save and earn they'll want for vacation.

Your kids can get an idea of what's available, and how much it will cost, by going on the Internet with you to the parks' online merchandise stores:

You're trying to teach your children how to make a budget, shop around, and learn how to make their own informed decisions about spending their money. Plus, by encouraging them think in advance about what they want to buy, you might find that they're offering to do even more work around the house so they can earn extra money for the trip!

Ultimately, you're trying to change the way your kids react when they see something cool in the store. Instead or reflexively wanting and asking for it, you want them to start thinking skeptically about it instead - "Is this something I really want, or need? Can I get a better deal? Or would I rather buy something else?"

When kids are spending their own, hard-earned money, they're a lot more likely to ask themselves that question than if they're always tapping into Mom and Dad's seemingly bottomless wallets.

So by making your kids spend their own money on theme park souvenirs, not only can you put a stop to the whining, you can help raise some smarter consumers, as well.

Replies (10)

September 11, 2012 at 10:06 AM · Always done this. I would give my son (who is now 22) a $100 budget that he earned for a 10 day trip. He could spend it all at once or he could spread it out. I used to give him Disney Dollars until they were no longer produced and then I eventually gave him cash or gift cards. He also had to use it for snacks because he could have easily "snacked us to death". We did family snacks (when my husband and I wanted one) and then he was included in that and didn't have to use his own money. He didn't truly appreciate it at the time and constantly grumbled but it kept us sane and the pocketbook in check.
September 11, 2012 at 10:28 AM · We've done the budget for our kids, but also pre-bought Disney souveniers from Disney Store and explained that Mickey was like Santa and after naps would leave toys for good boys and girls in his park. So it encouraged behavior, saved carrying stuff around, got kids to nap, and saved money.

Problem is only last till their 10 or so

September 11, 2012 at 11:20 AM · We have a policy that on the LAST day of the trip, each child is allowed to pick something. This way, they have seen everything (or most everything) multiple times so the novelty of all the merchandise has fallen off. Also, whenever they ask, I can say, "you can get that on the last day, if that is what you want". On the last day, we save time to go to the biggest store (Downtown Disney or the big Universal Store at the CityWalk) and they do their shopping. If they want more than one thing, they need to use their own money.
September 11, 2012 at 2:07 PM · Giving them money and telling them they can only spend this amount now or later won't stop the whining. It will only displace the whining. They will see something else eventually that they will want even more. Putting their desires to the value of money is not good training and moral teaching.

Better to train them to not expect souvenirs. You're there to enjoy the park. Memories are the best keepsakes. Take lots of pictures and videos, but t-shirts and keepsakes will be quickly boxed up and forgotten.

There are some things you can do. Buy some cheap related merchandise at home. Bring them on the trip to satisfy the urges. If I will go to SeaWorld, bring a penguin stuffed animal and hide it in the backpack. Take it out when the kid has a breakdown. At home, a 3 inch penguin cost $5. At SeaWorld, it will cost $8 to 12.

I noticed that Disney Store has an excellent sales and clearance rack. I will go there to buy some discontinued items. Bring those to the park and surprise them when they are bored or most whiny.

September 11, 2012 at 11:28 AM · Sometimes I dont have enough money for that item when I'm at the park, so I like to order online. HOWEVER, there are exceptions:

1. Star Wars merchandise- Due to licensing issues, you cant get SW items online.

2. Pins and Mystery Vinylmations- Face it, few pins are avalible online, so youretty much have to buy them at the park. Unlike the parks, Mystery Vinylmations don't come from the same box, thus leading to a more likely chance for doubles.

3. Event merchandise- Besides eBay or Amazon, any theme park event merchandise isn't avalible online.

4. Limited Edition items- Do I even need to explain this one?

Yes, ordering online can save money, but sometimes you just can't.

September 11, 2012 at 5:06 PM · Excellent tip!
September 12, 2012 at 7:44 AM · Well I am a redneck and if my kid whines… I give them a good old back hand right across the face… A good smack usually stops the BS…. If that does not work, I give them a tax break for the richest 1% of the country…

If a second or third whining occurs – well, it’s on - and a full fisted fight occurs behind the nearest bathroom where I kick the ever loving Snot out of the whining brat…

(Disclaimer - This note is not intended for the Humorously challenged. It is just a joke).

September 12, 2012 at 10:35 AM · I've found that parents often bring on the whining themselves. They're looking around the store themselves, pretty much ignoring the child, while the child is picking up everything in sight. Showing the parent the item isn't always about the child wanting to *have* it. Very often, the child is just seeking the parent's attention. A 10 second conversation about the item with a "Yes, that is a pretty doll" or "Yes, that is a cool shirt" acknowledgement is all they want and they'll happily put it back and move on to the next thing. It's the same at toy stores or any other store. Often, the kids just want the agreement, not the item.

We don't buy something every time we go to a park. If we do, it's always on the way out. We give the kids a budget or we explain that we're just looking this time.

September 12, 2012 at 12:12 PM · Eh. Just make them carry everything they buy. They may still be whiny, but they aren't gonna wanna buy everything they see.
September 16, 2012 at 6:00 AM · We save money by buying "souviners" from stores like wall mart or target before we go. A lot of items u get there are exactly what is sold in the parks. U know what ur kids like and what they are gonna cry for so why not pay more than half for it away from the park and have another person take them out of the store and u can take it out of ur pack and say look what i bought for u lol. Kids dont know or dont care cause they are getting something and u saved a bunch of money.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive