Years ago while waiting with my husband at our resort’s bus stop, two small children where excitedly taking photos of everything in sight with disposable cameras. Soon, one of the two asked if she could take our picture; while I thought it was a little strange, we obliged. It was then that their mother explained that “Mickey” had brought them each a camera that morning along with a note telling them to take lots of photos of his park that day. Clearly, they were destined to run out of film before they reached the park, but they were overjoyed that Mickey had surprised them, nonetheless.
That day, I made a point to log that moment away in my memory for when we finally visited Walt Disney World with our own child/children. Obviously, Walt Disney World is not lacking in the magic-making department, but that moment with those children made such an impression on me. Simple disposable cameras, costing less than $5.00 at the time, made memories for that family. Those children truly believed that Mickey had visited their resort rooms and left gifts just for them. Away from the little ones, their mother had explained to me that she had purchased small, inexpensive items to leave out for her kids each day of their vacation along with notes she had pre-written from “Mickey.”
As my husband and I are in the midst of planning our first trip with our son, we have decided to make a little extra magic by following in the footsteps of that family we met all those years ago. As such, I have brainstormed a list of ideas for what surprises Mickey could leave him along with the text of his letters. It is my hope that this post will help your family make a few special memories, too! Each item on this list can be purchased for under $10, with most around $5.00.
Character Meet and Greets are almost like a rite of passage for children visiting Walt Disney World. Available in almost every gift shop on property, you could sneakily purchase an autograph book ($10-$20) once you arrive at your resort; however, you could also save a little money and pick up a small notebook from your local dollar store or Amazon. The online retailer has a number of small spiral autograph books available with a variety of characters such as Mickey and friends or the princesses gracing the covers, and they come in at around $6.50!
Mickey’s Letter – Hi _____, my friends can’t wait to meet you! I wanted you to have this special book so that you can get everyone’s autograph. Your pal, Mickey
Golden Books are one of the best ways to expand your child’s library because they often cost less than $4.00 apiece! Even better, their ever-expanding list of titles includes tons of Disney classics and new favorites. Honestly, I love this idea so much, we may have Mickey surprise our little guy with a book for several days of our trip! Plus, they pack easily into any suitcase.
Mickey’s Letter – Hi _____, sometimes after an exciting day in my parks, it is nice to come back here for a good night’s sleep. I thought you would like to have a special bedtime story to read tonight, and this is one of my favorites! Your pal, Mickey
As was clear that day at the bus stop, little kids love taking photos. Today, many children may not have ever seen a camera that requires film, and the idea of having to wait to have the film developed creates an extra surprise for when they return home. Most Walmart, Walgreens and CVS locations still offer traditional film developing, and disposable cameras can usually be found in their photo departments. A Fujifilm disposable camera can also be purchased from Amazon for $7.82.
Mickey’s Letter – Hi there _____, I hope you are excited to spend a day in my parks! I want you to have this camera so you can take pictures of all the new things you see and all of my friends that you meet today! Your pal, Mickey
If you have ever attended one of Walt Disney World‘s nighttime spectaculars, you know that there is no shortage of light-up toys available for purchase at a premium price. Consider doing a preemptive strike by having Mickey surprise your little one with a glow necklace or light-up toy you purchased ahead of time, for a much cheaper price. This type of toy can often be found in the party isle at Walmart or even in the checkout aisle.
Mickey’s Letter – Hi Ho _____, I heard you are planning to watch some fireworks tonight, and I wanted you to have this special ____ so you can light up the night, too! Your pal, Mickey
Walmart and Target are great places to pick up inexpensive Disney t-shirts. While this surprise is the most expensive one on the list, you can still usually find kids tees for under $10.00. This would be a good surprise to plan for a day when your child is most likely to meet his or her favorite character, as you could purposefully choose a shirt with that character on it.
Mickey’s Letter – Hiya _____, I heard you are meeting _____, and I thought it would be fun for you to have a special shirt to wear when you have your picture taken together! Your pal, Mickey
Alternate Letter – Hiya _____, I found this shirt and it was just your size. Plus, I heard that my friend _____ is your favorite character. I hope you have a good time wearing it in my park today! Your pal, Mickey
As a child, my mom made sure my sister and I were never without our own small personal fans while visiting the WDW parks. While they do not put out a ton of cool air, they definitely keep the cries of “I’m hot…” to a minimum. Check the camping or seasonal areas at Walmart for these, and for your child’s safety, try to find one with foam paddles. If you are lucky, you might be able to pick up one of these light-up ones (pictured right) in the checkout aisle!
Mickey’s Letter – Hi there _____, it is going to be pretty hot out there today, so I thought this might help keep you cool! Your pal, Mickey
Pennies and Quarters
There is a reason there are pressed penny and quarter machines littered all over Walt Disney World property because kids love them! Getting to turn the crank and smash money has that ever-so-slightly deviant feeling that kids find totally cool. Find a list and maps of all of the machine locations here. If you want to spend some extra money, shopDisney.com has a pressed coin collection holder that could be added to this surprise.
Mickey’s Letter – Hi _____, did you know that there are machines all over my parks where you can put a penny, turn a crank, and it comes out with special characters pressed into it?! I am leaving you some coins so that you can start your own collection! Your pal, Mickey
Has “Mickey” ever left your child/children surprises while your family was vacationing in Walt Disney World? If so, what were they? Please let us know in the comments section!
(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)
To learn more about Kendall and read her recent posts for WDW Radio, visit her author page by clicking the link on her name at the top of this post.