Disney makes some awesome merchandise, but the reality is that it can be really, really expensive. Like most – maybe all – theme parks, it’s not unusual to see T-shirts costing upwards of $35 or souvenir mugs for $25. And if you’re wanting to buy something related to a specific Park experience, such as dresses for Bibiddi Bobiddi Boutique or pins for pin trading, the price tag might come as a bit of a shock – especially to those who aren’t Park regulars or haven’t participated in a particular activity like either of these before. While you’ll occasionally come across an item or two that seem surprisingly affordable, more often then not you’re going to end up spending a considerable amount of money on a rather small amount of items.
While there are always some things that are worth the price to us – especially if there is a special memory attached or it is a particularly unique item that means something to us personally – other items can sometimes just be too hard to fit into the budget no matter how much we would like to have them. But believe it or not, I’ve actually seen authentic Disney items like Mouse Ears for $1.99 and Disney Parks t-shirts for $0.99 at official Disney stores near the Parks! If you’re like me, you’d probably love to find real Disney merchandise for such great prices, so that’s why I want to share with you the two hidden gems that I discovered while researching one of my trips to Disney World – the official Disney outlet stores near the Parks!
This is by far Disney World’s best kept secret. In fact, most Disney Park-goers that I come across in everyday life have no idea that these outlet stores exist, and some of these families have been taking trips to Disney World for years and years. Shopping at these two outlets literally saved us over $150 on souvenirs on one of our trips (considering we only bought a total of six smaller items that’s a pretty large savings – I would have gotten more if I could, but alas, there’s only so much room in one’s suitcase!). We were able to get some really great items that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to buy because they were either no longer available in the Parks or because they cost more at full price than we wanted to spend on that particular item. For example, I was able to get a Walt Disney World sweatshirt at one of the outlets for $19.99 – a sweatshirt that was originally sold in the Parks for $64.99! And the best part is that these outlets aren’t like a lot of the roadside thrift stores selling knockoff Disney T-Shirts or even the third-party stores selling licensed Disney items… these are real Disney stores with official, authentic Disney products and a team of Cast Members working in both stores.
These two Disney outlet stores are practically down the street from Walt Disney World and are actually quite close to each other (it can be a little confusing because both areas are called “Orlando Premium Outlets”, but they are actually two different locations.) While both are somewhat similar and offer similar stock (although you may often find that one has quite a few items that may not be at the other or vice versa), there’s a few differences between the two that cause many shoppers to prefer one over the other:
1. Disney Character Warehouse Outlet on Vineland Ave.
Though both locations aren’t really that far from the Parks, the Vineland Ave. location is a little closer to Walt Disney World’s property than the International Drive outlet is. If you are ok with driving a little further, however, I would recommend going to both outlets if you can (just be prepared for holidays and holiday weekends to be astonishingly busy).
Some people also consider the Vineland Ave. location to be the least crowded of the two, which I did find to be the case every time we have visited both outlets within the same day. Even though it seems to me to be the smallest of the two in size, there did not seem to to be near as many people in the Vineland location as at the International Drive location – though there were still quite a few people when we were there.
Another pro of the Vineland location is that the entire shopping area does not seem to be as crowded on a regular basis, which makes it considerably easier to park at this location. While it’s nearly impossible to find a decent parking spot at the International Drive location on a busy day (see below), the Vineland location just seems less crazy-busy overall. We still had to park a considerable distance away, but overall it was less stressful getting in and out of the Vineland Outlets parking lot.
There really aren’t too many cons to the Vineland outlet, aside from the fact that it does seem to be a smaller store compared to International Drive’s outlet. They are not terribly different in size, though, so this is perhaps not that much of a con overall. While this does appear to be a subject of debate on the internet from what I’ve seen, my personal assessment from being in both stores is that International’s outlet is more spacious than Vineland’s.
I have also found the Disney Character Outlet on Vineland Ave. seems to have a smaller stock and offer less than the Character Warehouse Outlet on International Drive. In fact, Vineland’s outlet actually seemed quite bare with less racks and less choices each time we have been there in comparison to International Drive’s outlet.
2. Disney Character Warehouse Outlet on International Drive
As I mentioned above, the Disney Character Warehouse Outlet on International Drive appears to be a bit bigger than the outlet on Vineland Ave. As I mentioned above, this is debated and neither of the outlets seemed as big as a typical Disney Store, but International’s outlet definitely felt bigger to me. Because it is larger, I also think it has a much bigger stock and much better selection. I have found a lot of items at the International Drive location that I did not find at the Vineland location at all. While this might not be the case every time depending on a lot of factors, including what time of year and what day you visit the outlets, International’s outlet seems to have a considerably larger stock from my experience. I was overall much happier with the selection and found a lot more things at the International location than I did at Vineland’s location.
By far the biggest con of the International Drive location is the parking, which is directly related to the crowd level. I have been a lot of places and traveled all over the country for most of my life, and I have to say that I have never seen anything like the International Outlet’s parking lot on a busy day. While it is important to note that the worst we have ever seen International Drive’s Orlando Premium Outlets parking lot was on Thanksgiving weekend, I have seen other reports from other shoppers that indicated that this parking issue is not an unusual or rare occurrence, even on more minor holidays. Needless to say, I would not suggest visiting the International Drive outlet during busy holidays or holiday weekends if you can help it.
We actually never found a parking spot at the International Outlets that weekend – even after driving around for over thirty minutes. A lot of that time was standstill traffic, and we were nearly hit or backed into multiple times, so we decided just to skip it and come back another day. For that reason, we will only visit the International Drive outlet if we are fairly certain that it will not be a particularly busy day.
For some, another con may be that the International Drive location is located a little further away from Disney property than the Vineland Ave. location. But they really aren’t that far apart from each other, so we don’t really mind driving just a little further down the road to visit the International Drive location.
What You Can Expect to Find at Both Outlets:
You do have to be somewhat careful about what you buy in these Disney outlets as a handful of items are strangely full price with no discount at all, but it is definitely worth asking a cast member if you’re not sure because they do occasionally miss putting a discounted price sticker on the tag. Though you may come across a few items that aren’t any cheaper than the Parks, the majority of their stock is heavily discounted. I have seen Disney T-shirts as low as $0.99 and Mickey Ears for $1.99!
I’ve also even seen Loungefly, Dooney and Bourke, Her Universe, and The Dress Shop items for sale at the outlets for incredible prices. It is important to keep in mind, though, that these are outlet stores, so they might not offer every size or every style normally available at the Parks or at the regular Disney Stores. But it’s a great idea to check and see if they do happen to have what you’re looking for. Who knows, you might just find that Orange Bird shirt you’ve always wanted hanging on a rack in your size for a fantastic price – I did!
Prices do vary depending upon the item and style of the item, but these outlets are especially a great place to stop before going to the Parks since you can even sometimes find current Park and Disney Springs offerings (Mickey Ears, T-shirts, bags, etc.) for a lesser price then you will find in the Parks and Disney Springs. I was really surprised by this, because I expected everything offered at the outlets to be old, leftover stock. You’ll definitely find things that you can’t find at the Parks anymore (for instance, previous party items like the last Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party T-Shirt), but from what I’ve researched you might possibly find some items that are currently offered at the in-park stores or Disney Springs as well. If you check out the outlets ahead of time, you’ll not only find some amazing deals, you might also find an item cheaper than it is currently selling for in the Parks. Then you can go back later to get that item at the outlet. And if the item is really cheap at the outlets, I would even say to go ahead and get it when you see it at the outlet in case it sells out!
Take a look at the gallery slideshow below to see some items you we’ve found at the Disney Character Warehouse Outlets:
Though it’s not a guarantee that you will find all the items pictured when you go to the outlets, there’s a good chance you’ll at least find some great Disney Parks merchandise for incredible prices.
While we like to visit the two outlets before heading to the Parks if we can, I’d also recommend visiting them again after going to the parks at the end of your vacation. As I mentioned above, you might want to return to the outlets to pick up an item you found at the Parks that is also available at the outlets for a cheaper price. Also, after you’ve bought any unique items at the Parks, you might want to head back to the outlets to see if there are any other items you’d like to get before you travel back home. It’s a great idea to visit each of the Character Warehouse Outlets at least a couple of different times during your trip if you can because they may get more stock in that time period as well, or you may find something you really love that you somehow missed the first time around.
So next time you’re in Orlando, be sure to stop by the Disney Character Warehouse stores at the Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland Ave. and International Drive near Walt Disney World to find some amazing deals on Disney items and souvenirs!