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Have you been on a recent trip to Disney and brought back inexpensive souvenirs for you friends and family? Want to take gifts from stocking stuffer to under-the-tree worthy without bankrupting your savings? You want to make your Hanukkah gift budget stretch to all 8 days and nights? It just takes a little imagination.
Mickey Picnic Lunch or Dinner Basket
If you saved your Disney vacation napkins, cups, paper plates and similar, they don't have to sit in a drawer. They make great additions to a gift basket for anyone who loves to dine casually, in the park, or in front of the television. Gather a basket... an old Easter basket will do, or you can invest a few dollars in a really nice picnic basket. Now add a loaf of bread, a baby cheese or fancy wedge, a small sausage or rotisserie chicken, maybe some fruit. Pick things that pack and travel well and that your gift recipient likes. Tuck in your Disney paper wares. If you picked your friend up a mug, plate, or cheese slicer, that can fit nicely in the basket, making a simple thoughtful gift, truly Disney special.
Cookie In a Jar
You've seen them in stores and on Pinterest. This is an idea my son and I tried a few years ago and found it a huge success. Get yourself a clean jar with lid. Don't waste money buying one at the store unless you find one you just have to have. An old mayo or peanut butter jar with the label washed off will work fine. Honey comes in a really cute jar as do many jams and jellies. If the lid has printing on it, you can just paint over it, or glue some fancy cloth on top. Find yourself a recipe. You can download recipe cards from the net, cut it off the back of your flour bag, or find an old cookbook. Here's one recipe that I've made lots of times:
Then, just measure the ingredients into the jar, skipping wet ingredients like butter, milk, or eggs. It creates a more artistic presentation if you layer them so that dark ingredients are next to light. So, don't put the granulated sugar right next to the flour. But if you do, they won't mind. With the lid screwed on tight, you can add a square of wrapping paper, tissue paper, or cloth over the lid with a bit of ribbon, yarn, or raffia to tie it cutely.
Now for the Disney part. Attach a big red Mickey cookie cutter to the ribbon! Or you could attach a set of Disney measuring spoons that you picked up at Disney Springs. A Disney tree ornament makes a nice jar decoration too.
A Santa's cookie plate, Mickey and Friends cookie jar, Minnie Mouse potholder, or Winnie the Pooh tea pot all make nice accompaniments, if you picked one up on your vacation.
Disney Luxury Bath Set
Everyone saves their little soaps, shampoos, lotions, and similar hospitality items, right? I know I always do. If you buy those as part of a gift set in the Disney stores, you'll pay top dollar. Why not make your own, especially if you purchased a related gift for you Disney fan friend already? If you bought a towel, or even towel set, roll them up and tie with a pretty ribbon and add a bottle of shampoo or a soap instead of a bow. Consider shaping them into towel animals the way Mousekeeping does it.
If you want to go further, find a nice basket, crate, or gift box, and start adding. Perfect add-on items include slippers or flip-flops, bubble bath, a scented candle, a comb and brush set, or a bath pillow. If you bought a bathrobe, place a soap in one pocket, and a shampoo in the other as an added surprise with Disney style. If you're buying for a grown up, they might appreciate a robe and champagne flute plus a small box of chocolates.
Disney Day On the Beach
Is anything more Disney than a great beach towel? They'll love your gift. But if you want it to go from terrific to tops, pair it up with everything they need for the beach. A bottle of sunblock, some sunglasses, and a pair of flip-flops packed in a sunny beach bag will remind them of warm days in Disney, even if they live in upstate New York. You can go cheap or classy with this gift. Kids might appreciate a sandpail, floaties, or goggles. Grown ups might prefer a cooler, can coozie, sun hat, umbrella, or book to read at the beach. Don't let the snowy weather restrict your gift giving. There's always a trip down south or out west to warm them up.
Photos, photos, photos. I always plan to put those pictures away in a scrap book, but who has time? If your friend is as disorganized as I am, consider taking care of this detail for them. Buy some fancy Disney print scrap book paper and some Disney character stickers, and put together a memory page or two for them. This is a gift that is more expensive in time and creativity, than money. There are lots of ideas for creating nice scrap book pages with inexpensive or found objects from Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Paper maps make great backgrounds. Use your imagination and put their memories at their fingertips for a gift that will truly touch the heart.
Penny Picture Frame/Shadow Box
If you visited Disney with a roll of pennies in your fanny pack, congratulations, you are a true penny-wise Disney fan. Those pressed penny machines are fun to use and create unique souvenirs you cannot buy online, or anywhere but in the parks. But what to do with them after? You can get real creative and create jewelry from them. They make great charms.
But for those with less creativity (or poor small hand coordination) an easier idea is to just display them in a shadow box. You don't have to buy expensive shadow boxes, because smashed pennies are so thin. You can buy a regular picture frame. Take out the cardboard at the back. Use a very thin sheet of foam, like the kind you get to cut craft projects out of. If you get a tight enough fit, you won't need to do any cutting or gluing. You can add a second sheet of foam if necessary. If you feel like being more crafty, you can add artsy flairs such as a layer of cloth between the foam and pennies, a scroll-cut paper frame under the glass, or bric-a-brac. You can add a few pops of color by mixing up pennies and trading pins. You might want to decorate the frame itself with paint, buttons, sequins, or gems.
Did you cheap out and buy a pen or pencil, and now feel bad? No, no, no. You haven't gone cheap, you've just bought a starter set. Now all you need is the rest of the set. Pick up a cheap stationary set. Add a few Disney postcards. If you didn't think to buy postcards, you can actually purchase them online. I like to get them in the parks though, just for the fun of it. If you have the time and inclination, get super creative and sort through your personal pics from your vacation. Then just print them out on card stock.
Ok, now buy a set of Disney stamps from the post office or just go to USPS online, if you live in the US. The latest ones are Romance stamps featuring Beauty and the Beast, Lady and the Tramp, Cinderella and Prince Charming, and of course, Mickey and Minnie.
Complete your set with an address book and save them the trouble by adding the addresses of yourself and a few other friends and family.
Now, people don't write a lot these days, and you know they'll wonder if you were born in 1946 if they are like many people today. So you can add a twenty-first century touch with something as expensive as a cell phone, or less expensive like an online gift card. That starter gift really got you going, didn't it?
Pins and Pillows
Cinderella's glass slipper rode on a satin pillow, so why shouldn't your inexpensive gift come that way? If you picked up a one of a kind trading pin, deliver it to your loved one pinned to fringed pillow. You can cover an inexpensive pillow in pins, or place just one in the corner of a beautiful satin pillow with a print of the Castle on it. Want to go further?
Did you buy a Disney throw while you were there? Or maybe some pajamas or nightgown? Shouldn't they be presented with a pillow? Now, if you're super crafty, you might go so far as to make that pillow yourself, but I would never suggest you need to go to that much trouble. If you pick up one of those cute pillows with a pocket sewn on, any gift, no matter how impersonal ("A gift card is like money, with an expiration date.") will seem more personal tucked into that pocket. Disney Dollars have been discontinued, and so have paper tickets, but a magic band just might fit. Just saying.
Tea Time Trio
Did you pocket those little tea bags and coffees from your resort? It's okay, we won't judge you. In fact, good on you! You've just made an ordinary gift a little more Disney. Now all you need is the teapot you bought in Epcot. What? You didn't buy one? Well then, you'll need to get one, or a tea cup and saucer set, or a biscuit jar. Inside your tea pot or biscuit jar (cookie jar), pack in some tea, maybe a special teaspoon or tea ball, a small packet of English tea biscuits (or your friend's favorite treat), and if you're a really specially nice person, a tablecloth or set of napkins. You don't even have to wrap it up. Just add a ribbon or bow and make sure they open it first. They can put a pot on and enjoy a cuppa while the kids tear into the rest of the presents. Now that's how you bring the Disney magic to the crazy holidays.
At the end of the day, when the batteries have finally died in their new Zurg action figure and the last of the Christmas specials have been played, laying back on the sofa or bed and sipping a cup of warm cocoa (or something a bit stronger) while reading a good Disney book is the perfect way to unwind from the holidays and energize for the next year. I personally recommend Three Shots Fired from Cinderella Castle for that bit of Disney trivia fix and slightly more grown up entertainment. But maybe I'm biased. There are lots of good books about the Disney parks or featuring those familiar Disney characters. Ok, you might find those books too hard to part with to give to anyone else. So who says you can't buy a present for yourself to get through December and January? You deserve some Disney magic too!