Last week I wrote about six tips you needed to know before going on your first Disney cruise. If you didn’t read that one catch up here before going on the read about one of my favorite Disney cruise traditions… the Fish Extender.
Since the nature of a cruise is that the same people are going to be on the same boat for an extended amount of time, Fish Extender exchanges came about as a way to add a little more magic to an already spectacular family vacation. Here are the answers to some basic fish extender questions:
What is it? Outside each stateroom door is a metal fish. A Fish Extender (FE) hangs off this fish and becomes the receptacle for all the wonderful surprises that come with being a part of a Fish Extender exchange.
How do you get involved? The first order of business is finding a Fish Extender exchange (FEE) happening during your cruise. You can find groups on Facebook or on the DIS site, just search the ship you will be sailing on and the date you depart. Once you find your group, sign up to be a part of an exchange. You will sign up with your information (usually names, kids’ ages, and stateroom number). Some groups ask about favorite character, favorite color, etc. to help personalize their gifts.
Most groups have a limit to the number of families allowed to participate so that the number of gifts anyone has to bring is not too cumbersome. But, that’s okay; most cruises have several FEE groups! Groups usually close for good between 4-6 weeks before you set sail, so be sure to sign up before then.
How do you get gifts? You have to have something to receive your gifts when you are out of your stateroom. These are your Fish Extenders. They are usually a series of pockets, one for each member of your family. The Fish Extender should be no wider than about 8 inches (10 inches on the older ships) and it will hang on the fish outside your stateroom door. We secured our Fish Extender to our fish with a zip tie so that it wouldn’t walk away. (Yes, this is a magical Disney cruise, but some people are still mean.) You can either buy your Fish Extender (etsy has a ton!), or make it like we did.
How many gifts are you giving? That’s up to you. Some people bring gifts for each person, some bring individual gifts for kids and family gifts for adults, others just give one item per stateroom.
So, what are you exchanging? That’s also up to each family. Most gifts are small. Some are homemade; some are store-bought. Some reflect the giver’s hometown, others are all about the Mouse or the Cruise itself. There are great websites where you can go to get ideas for your FE gifts.
We gave Mickey inspired coffee cozies for the men, and Mickey Christmas ornaments to the ladies. For the boys, I personalized bandanas and gave them adhesive goatees and mustaches (for Pirate Night), and the girls got bracelets which reflected their favorite Disney character.
We got so many unique and fun items in our fish extender. They included:
- Playing cards from a family in Nevada
- Sundae making kits (soft serve ice cream is always available on the upper deck, so this was a fun way to jazz it up)
- Earrings shaped like Mickey Mouse
- A Mickey Mouse frame
- Beef jerky
- A bag printed with our ship’s name and the dates we were sailing that we used to take our stuff to the pool
- PEZ dispensers with Disney characters
- Hair bows done to look like princesses
- Magnets for our stateroom door
- A Disney calender for the next year
The ideas are limitless. This, my friends, is where Pintrest becomes your new bestie and the Target dollar spot can save you money.
I would stay away from:
- Any food item that is homemade – people have allergies (and fears about eating food that is not individually wrapped)
- Breakable items – you have to get your gifts on the ship and the recipients have to get them off
- Anything too expensive – this is not about breaking the bank, it’s about having some fun
How do you do it? This was my kids’ favorite part! We chose a day to deliver our gifts, took the collection of stateroom numbers we had printed out at home, and toured the ship while delivering gifts to the staterooms on our list. We all had a great time looking at everyone’s Fish Extenders and seeing new parts of the ship.
Is there anything else? Of course! There’s always a little Pixie Dust. Some people bring trinkets even if they aren’t participating in a FEE. They put gifts in random FEs, put magnets on other doors, or give treats to kids they encounter in the hall. If you have extra of whatever you are giving as part of your FEE, you might consider bringing them along to spread a little Pixie Dust yourself.
Being a part of a Fish Extender exchange really was one of the best parts of our cruise. We were able to remind our kids about the importance of giving to others, while continuously being excited about going back to our stateroom to see what treasures our Fish Extender held.
What would you want to find in your Fish Extender?