by Pin Trading Diva
The D23 Expo 2015 was my 2nd Expo ever – I’m slightly new to the whole Expo experience. And I tried to be as prepared as possible for what was to come. I knew crowds would be crazy and hot merchandise would fly off the shelves quicker than Lightning McQueen can make it around the track, but I was determined to have a great experience nonetheless! As the days went on, I noticed a few things that helped me get through the crazy parts of the D23 Expo, as well as some tips that saved me a bit of money along the way. Here’s a compilation of 10 Tips I Learned from Attending the D23 Expo 2015.
- When and Where to Park: Since many Expo fans line up early to get into the Expo Floor in the morning, parking fills up quickly. The order of parking locations to fill up is the Convention Center, Disneyland Toy Story Lot Convention Parking, and then Angel Stadium Convention Parking. If you don’t park early enough in the morning you could be stuck waiting in a huge line to be bussed miles to the Convention Center. My tip is to arrive as early as possible to get in line for the Expo. Around 7:00 AM -7:30 AM the Convention Center parking is almost full so try the Disneyland Toy Story Lot first – it’s a large lot and right across the street from the Expo entrance so it’s just a short walk to and from your car.
Annual Passholders to Disneyland Parks (with parking included on their pass) can forgo the $15 parking fee if you park in Disneyland Park Parking areas – NOT Convention Center Parking. Simply park on Disney property and head on over (my favorite is the Toy Story Lot since it’s so close). Depending on where you park you may have a bit of a walk to and from your car – but you saved $15 along the way!
- Perks of Being A D23 Member: The entire D23 Expo is held by the Official Disney Fan Club – D23. If you head to the D23 Website, you can sign up to be a free member or apply to be a Gold or Gold Family Member (perks include monthly D23 magazine, chance to attend special D23 events – even at the Walt Disney Studios, and the chance to order special exclusive merchandise to name a few)
The biggest D23 Gold Member perk for the D23 Expo is that you get into the Expo an hour earlier than everybody else! This gives you the opportunity to see some of the Expo floor before general admittance as well as the chance to line up at the popular stores like Mickey’s of Glendale, The Dream Store, and the Disney Store before the crowds set in and form the 2-3 hour lines you see throughout the day. Whether you grab some exclusive merchandise or some pictures without any crowds in them – getting in early as a Gold D23 Member is really worth it at the D23 Expo!
- Merchandise Reality Check: Everyone and their mother wants to buy the exclusive merchandise given out at the D23 Expo – including items like the Designer Doll Sets or Special Edition Tsum Tsums at the Disney Store, LE 300 Pins from Mickey’s of Glendale, or Expo merchandise from the Dream Store. Because everyone is interested in these items, I found that it is increasingly hard to obtain these items without standing in long lines (2-6 hours long for some stores). If you’re into standing in lines that’s cool for you, but most Expo guests would rather spend their time checking out the different booths and getting plenty of free stuff.
I’ve learned that if you aren’t the first few thousand of people into the D23 Expo floor, your chances of getting that highly sought after merchandise is very unlikely. There are people who camp out overnight just for the chance to be the first few in the lines for those stores which is tough to compete with. The stores only release a limited amount of those items each day (say LE 300 would be 100 items a day) and that makes them sell out even quicker. Unless you take the time to stand in line for a few hours, or have connections, your best bet would be to look for that merchandise online – although it might have doubled or even tripled in price by then.
However, the Dream Store lines fluctuated throughout the day and as I noticed they kept PLENTY of merchandise in stock (like Alex and Ani bracelets, Pandora Charms, Tshirts, etc.) Most of this merchandise was not Limited Edition so it was possible to grab these items throughout the weekend and have an easier time doing so. Just because the lines are long doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get what you want! Just be prepared for long lines and a lot of waiting. But if you are social like me, you can chat it up with people in line or trade pins or cards with guests and time flies by a lot quicker! Plus you could make Disney Fan Friends For Life!
- USE the Expo App!: If you are tech savvy, your go-to guide for anything and everything D23 Expo related is the official Expo app. It contains the entire schedule for each day as well as special guest appearances, a descriptive list of all the photo ops and booths on the show floor, and each restaurant and food cart location. Everything you click on can be shown on the map of the Convention Center – in direct correlation to your location at the time you look at it. You can also “heart” your favorite things you want to check out and keep them in a special folder and even check off your list of trading cards as you collect them to figure out what you still need. There is also a new thing called “Aurasma” where at certain locations on the Expo floor you can scan what you see (like a QR code) and reveal special messages and info. I scanned the Disney Infinity Yoda figure display and got a 3D message from Princess Leia!
The D23 Expo App also directly connects you to D23’s social media! You can see what they are posting as the weekend goes by, and they encouraged you to add #D23EXPO and @D23EXPO in your posts to join in on the fun. It was great to follow them throughout the day because every so often they would post that a limited trading card was available somewhere on the floor, or that the line for an event was still open to guests, etc. The app was useful before (for planning) and during the D23 Expo as it provided me with plenty of options on where to go, what to eat, etc. I made sure to check it all weekend!
- Social Media: The D23 Expo completely revolved around social media! Most of us media representatives were trying to share as much information that came out as possible through Facebook / IG/ Twitter /etc. Following D23 on these social media outlets was also helpful in keeping up with what was happening every second on the show floor. You even needed to rely on social media to get FREE stuff at the Expo! If you showed that you shared, followed, #’d , tweeted a certain thing like #DisneylandToday for example at the correct booth you would receive a free item. You would have to do this for movie posters, keychains, buttons, even a Disney Nature flash drive! There was even a social media vending machine where if you shared a certain post and code about the D23 Expo, the computer would find it and dispense a travel case like a bag of chips! Disney definitely wanted the whole internet to know about the #D23EXPO!
My tip is to definitely have a smart device on you at all times during the Expo. Whether it’s a smart phone (the most popular) or an ipad or something – if you can post from it than bring it! I mean, don’t your friends and family want to see all the fun you’re having at the D23 Expo anyways?
- Charging Stations: A new edition I’ve noticed to the D23 Expo is the erection of charging stations throughout the Expo floor. I think I noticed 5-6 throughout the whole floor, each one like a tall pole with outlet rings around it in levels. You couldn’t have had more than 20 outlets around the whole thing – which sounds like a lot. But when you realize that there are over 10,000 guests at this Expo, it just doesn’t seem like it’s enough. There would just be crowds of people hovering over these stations as they waited for their phones to charge – with rarely an outlet to spare. And there was no seating areas near the stations either so YOU couldn’t rest while your phone was resting. It just seemed a bit unorganized and limited in my experience. This could have been a great addition to the Expo, but it seemed a bit lackluster.
I would recommend bringing a portable charging device/battery extender with you in these types of situations. I personally brought a Jackery – Giant Edition with my Mom and I that we used to charge our phones throughout the day. We charged it each night and could charge each of our Iphones 2-3 times during the day. I just connected a cord to the Jackery and my Iphone and the Jackery was small enough to fit in my pocket, so it was discreet. This was a life-saver since my phone battery was being used up with all the social media I was connecting to. Give this kind of thing a try next time you go to the parks or to an event like the D23 Expo!
- Free Stuff!: The great thing about going to these types of events is the opportunity to grab a TON of FREE stuff while you are there! As you enter you receive a free D23 Expo tote/backpack (sponsored by Target) and an Expo Souvenir Guide filled with information on all the booths and merchandise as well as a starter pack of trading cards – but I will get to that soon. This FREE bag is going to be your best friend as you fill it with all your goodies (both purchased and FREE) during the weekend. The key is to make sure to visit EVERY booth you can whether or not it looks appealing at the time. Almost every booth at some time or another is handing out something FREE to guests (while supplies last).
The TOMY booth which showcased some new Disney themed toys including the Good Dinosaur had Inside Out and Miles from Tomorrowland buttons and the ABC pavilion periodically gave out Disney Channel and Disney XD pins. Bookmarks and pens were everywhere. Be sure to fill out entries into many of the contests because you can get free cups or trivia cards, etc. just for signing up. The Micechat booth (one of my favorites) had lanyards you could wear, buttons to give out, and had a map that if you got each booth on the map stamped you were entered into a drawing to win a big prize.
The most popular FREE thing I think of the entire D23 Expo were the trading cards. You got a starter set with different characters in your Expo Souvenir Guide and there would be card stations throughout the Convention Center that would periodically give out other random cards. Some were so popular (like Darth Vader and the Hippo from Its A Small World) that mobs would form. But if you wanted to collect all 30 cards you could head to the Disney Visa booth to trade with other guests. I collected many of them and managed to get an Ariel, Oswald, Darth Vader, and even the 3 Fairies, and it was so much fun trading with people in line and at the Visa booth!
- Pin Trading Paradise: If you aren’t interested in waiting for hours to get the new limited edition pins from places like Mickeys of Glendale, the Disney Store, or even the Dream Store – head over to the non-Disney funded booths. Some have $2-5 pin boards with a variety of cool pins to choose from. This way you can buy a bunch of neat pins for a smaller budget and save up for one or two more expensive pins later on. Just look at all the pins I bought this weekend this way! And I spent less than $50!
- When and Where To Eat: I noticed that during the typical lunch and dinner hours, the food areas would be completely packed! Everyone is hungry and the lines are atrocious. And there just isn’t enough seating areas for everybody and some end up eating on the floor. The worst part is that you can’t bring your own food and beverages so you are forced to wait in those lines and buy that food. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it at a better time! Instead of eating a 12 AM and 5-6 PM like everybody else, try eating from 10-11AM or 3-5PM. These are mainly “snack” times for other people and the lines are much shorter then. But for seating, be sure that one person stands in line while another finds and saves seats for your whole party. With these tactics, you are more likely to have a quick and less stressful meal with more time spent engaging than standing in lines!
- Things to Bring: There are a few essentials that you should pack in your bag to get through the D23 Expo in one piece. First of all – Water! You can never drink too much water! The hot crowds and walking around can cause you to get dehydrated and water can help perk you right back up during the day. They allow you to bring in your own water or you can buy a bottle or two to keep with you at all times. Next – wear comfortable shoes! The D23 Expo is a 967,407 square foot space so you are guaranteed to do A LOT of walking! To keep your feet from sagging and from aching at the end of the day, wear comfy shoes. Lastly – invest in a fan! It can get hot and stuffy with all those people on the show floor, especially while you are cramped in long lines or tight areas. To ease that discomfort it’s advisable to bring a fan or two. I bring both a neck fan (kind of like a necklace) and a portable fan just in case I get too overheated and they work like a charm! Be sure to bring extra batteries!
BONUS TIP: This could be possibly the most important tip I could give to someone planning on going to any D23 Expo: DON’T TRY TO DO IT ALL!!!! There are over 260 things to see, do, and participate in during the Expo and it is nearly impossible to accomplish everything. And trying to go from early in the morning to late at night with no breaks in between will just exhaust everyone in your party. To keep from being burnt out, make a plan of accomplishing 1-2 major things a day with some leisure time to explore the show floor at your own pace. Try to let the day flow by naturally, taking as many breaks as you need them when you need them. Whether it’s sitting in the D23 Lounge, eating a snack, letting the kids play in the Play Zone on the 2nd floor, or even going outside and stretching – taking those 5-10 minutes of relaxation can refresh your entire day! You may need upgrade to multiple days at the Expo to keep this schedule, but it just might be worth it!
Oh, and HAVE FUN!
Alrighty, these are the most important tips I thought you guys should know before heading to a D23 Expo. Did I miss anything? Do you disagree with any of my tips? Feel free to comment what you think!