What are Fish Extenders?
In simplest terms, fish extenders are gift exchanges on Disney cruises. There is a fish on the wall outside of every stateroom on a Disney cruise ship. Guests who sign up to take part in fish extenders will hang a labeled (and often custom made) pocketed wall-hanging from that fish, and other guests will place gifts in the pockets throughout the duration of your cruise.
Who Takes Part?
Anyone can sign up to take part in a fish extenders group. You will provide your name and the ages of the people staying in your stateroom. You will then receive a list of other participants and you will make or buy gifts for everyone on your list. Fish extenders is open to all guests of all ages and is really just a fun way to meet each other and leave some special gifts for others. After registering for a Disney cruise, check DISboards and facebook for groups that are made up of others who are sailing with you. This is where you will find fish extender groups, or you can start one of your own. Try to keep it manageable by having no more than a dozen cabins take part in each fish extender group.
The Wall Hanger
Your wall hanging is important because it will show you are a fish extender cabin; it will have the names of the guests staying in your stateroom; it will represent who you are, and it needs to fit in the proper location. In order for it to fit properly, it must be under 12″ wide and shorter than 6 feet. You can make one pocket for all adults, and one for each of the kids, or make a special pocket for every person. Some people choose to zip tie their wall hangings to the fish to avoid theft or accidentally knocking it off the wall.
There are so many many different things that you can make or buy as fish extender gifts that I couldn’t possibly name them all here, but here are some ideas for purchasing location specific gifts, personalizing gifts and making or buying useful gifts for other passengers.
Location Specific Gifts
As a Canadian, I could bring gifts like ketchup chips, kit kat bars, small bottles of maple syrup or maple leaf pins for guests from the USA and other countries. Anything that you know is only available in your country is a great choice, but remember… you may need to take your gifts through customs or security so you need to follow all laws around food and liquids. If you will be traveling long distances int he heat, you may want to avoid items like chocolate that could melt.
Handmade items like magnets, keychains, bookmarks, etc can all be made with the ship name and cruise dates on them, or with the names of the individuals you are gifting. Items like the Cricut make it possible for people to personalize clothing, lunch bags, water bottles and more that can be used as fish extender gifts. A printer and some labels are all you need to personalize candy, mints or decks of cards with your ship name and sailing date.
Every person on a cruise ship can benefit from having a lanyard, particularly one that has a plastic casing for their cruise card. Comfortable or pretty lanyards can make excellent fish extender gifts. Water bottles, flashlights, pens, luggage tags and hair accessories are all great gifts too. Kids can always use more sunglasses and hats, and travel bottles of sunscreen, aloe or lotion are handy. We never have enough lip balm, so that is another gift that is always appreciated.
As I mentioned previously, keep security in mind when choosing and packing your gifts. If you do pack liquids or lotions for your checked luggage, ensure they are in sealed bags so you don’t end up with damaged clothing from a burst container. Take extras in case there is some damage. You can always leave these extra gifts at the staterooms who don’t have fish extenders as a way of spreading some pixie dust.
Since your luggage will very likely sit in the sun or a hot room between when you hand it off to go to the ship until it gets to your stateroom, try to avoid chocolate or other items that will melt. To save yourself extra baggage expenses, choose lightweight gifts that don’t take up a great deal of space in your luggage.
Keep the fun alive for the duration of the cruise by delivering gifts to different staterooms each day. If you deliver them all on one day, you still have the excitement of looking for gifts at your door daily, but keep the magic alive for the whole group by spreading the love out.
We were overwhelmed with the amazing gifts people gave us when we took part in fish extenders. Truly talented people made extraordinary things for our kids. It has been several years since our last Disney cruise and the kids are still fighting over a laser pointer that came in one of their pockets!