The D23 Expo is a convention held in Anaheim every two years. This year it will be held July 14-16. If you’ve ever been to a Star Wars Celebration or a comic convention you’ll have a solid idea of what it is all about.
But what if you’ve never been to a fan convention before?
Though I haven’t been to D23, I have been to plenty of other fan conventions. Here are a few tips I’ve learned from my various experiences.
Bring a comfortable bag: I highly advise against any type of bag that isn’t comfortable, for example, the drawstring bags. Those can put a lot of pressure on your back and shoulders since the straps are just skinny ropes that will dig into you if you have anything heavy in there.
Bring a water bottle: Convention spaces always leave me feeling dehydrated. I don’t know if it is the air or the lighting or what, but staying hydrated is a must. Food and concession lines will be outrageous and everything will be overpriced. Therefore, if you bring your own refillable water bottle you’ll be ahead of the game. There will be plenty of water fountains to refill your bottle.
Pack snacks: Officially, D23 states that no outside food or beverages will be allowed inside unless you have a special dietary issue or an allergy. In the past, people have always been able to bring snacks like crackers and granola bars and the like. You’ll be glad you did pack snacks; the concession lines can be outrageously long, overpriced, and you’ll most likely spend a good bit of your time waiting in a line unable to leave to attempt to get food.
Bring a binder or other protective casings for anything you plan to purchase: I like to meet celebrities and artists at conventions, so I bring a binder and clear plastic sleeves for the autographs to sit safely inside. There will usually be vendors that will sell the clear plastic sleeves, but they will be priced at a markup. I prefer to bring my own. I am also going to bring a tube for posters. Even if you don’t plan on buying any artwork or posters, there are still a lot of giveaways at conventions and you never know when you’ll get a cool poster. Being prepared with a tube to safely store the poster could alleviate a lot of stress. You can get a tube for posters at any shipping store like the post office, UPS, or Fed Ex.
Wear comfortable shoes: I cannot stress this enough. You will spend most of the day walking around or standing in line. If your feet start to hurt in the early afternoon, this will really put a damper on your day. If you really must wear uncomfortable shoes, pack a pair of flip flops or tennis shoes in your bag for later.
Pack a first aid kit: I like to bring moleskin in case I get blisters, Tylenol, tums, eye drops (it’s just something about the convention spaces, my eyes always dry out). Pack anything you think you might need. Most of these items are pretty light and don’t take up a lot of space. Most conventions will have a first aid area too, so if you do end up needing an Advil or something make sure to check the map for the first aid area.
Bring a battery charger for your phone: You will be surprised at how quickly the battery on your phone will drain. You might not think you’ll use your phone a lot, but I use mine to take pictures, to keep myself busy while waiting in line, and to check Twitter hashtags and the convention’s Facebook page so I don’t miss anything. You might get lucky and find a wall outlet to plug into, but those are few and far between.
If you don’t have a high or unlimited data plan you might also want to look into renting a portable wifi router: Google this, they really don’t cost that much and can be a life saver at conventions for those of us who don’t have a lot of data. Conventions will usually advertise free wifi, but there will be so many people trying to connect that at points you won’t be able to use it. If the wifi connection is bad, your phone battery will also use a lot of charge because the phone will have to keep reconnecting and looking for a connection.
Bring pins or vinylmations if you collect them: I’ve already heard a few people say that they are going to bring their Disney pins or vinylmations to trade. There is not going to be an official location to trade, so you’ll have to find other people. I’ve heard that some people are going to make little signs to put on their bags that say “ask me about pin/vinylmation trading”. So if you are big into trading those items, you might want to bring some with you and find some way to alert others around you that you are ready to trade.
Be prepared for temperature swings: It is most likely going to be hot outdoors. The convention center, if it is like all other convention centers, will be kept very cold. I would recommend not dressing for the outdoor temperature, but rather dressing a little bit warmer for inside. Especially if you are someone like me who gets cold easily. Dressing in layers is also a good idea. At the very least, I’d bring a light long sleeved shirt just in case.
There will be tons of great photo ops on the convention floor: Don’t be shy to ask to take pictures with people who are in full costume. Odds are, those people are in those awesome costumes to get attention and would love to take pictures with you and your kids. A note on that, though, it is always best to ask first. Don’t be that creeper taking a stealth photo; ask and you’ll probably get a great pose to go along with your picture!
There will also be tons of backdrops to take great photos in front of: Just be a little cautious with some of these, some vendors might charge a fee, so be sure to ask before you take pictures. If you can find the 501st (the Star Wars cosplay group), pictures with all of their great backdrops and characters are free, but they do gladly accept donations which are all given to charity.
Don’t be afraid to barter with the vendors: Inside the convention, there will be 3 official Disney sponsored stores. Throughout the convention floor will be independent vendors who will be selling everything from toys to original artwork. Don’t be afraid to haggle prices with them, especially if you are getting more than one item. Another way to convince them to lower their prices is to offer to pay in cash.
Manage your expectations: You are not going to get to see and do everything you want. You just can’t, there is way too much to do and the lines for the more popular things are going to be long. A good piece of advice that I’ve heard is to pick your “must do” panel for the day. Anything else will just be extra after that panel. That way you won’t be disappointed because you planned on seeing 5 panels and only got to see 2.
Do your research: It is ok to not have your day planned down to the minute. However, I find that a little research goes a long way. Definitely know what times the convention center opens. I think it’s a great idea to arrive at least an hour or two before it opens. I’ve heard horror stories about people who arrived right around opening time in the past and had to wait in a 2 hour line to get inside. If you don’t want to arrive early, maybe plan to get there an hour or two after it opens. Make sure to download the D23 Expo app (not available as of June 26, when I am writing this article). The app will let you know about autograph signings and panel times.
Pictured below is Tom Bancroft. He was at a convention I recently attended. The artists are not always the best advertised, so if I had not done my research I totally would have missed out on him making me a sketch of Mushu, one of my favorite Disney characters and a character that he created for Mulan. You gotta find the hidden gems, people.
Have a backup plan, then develop a backup plan for that backup plan: Things don’t always go according to plan. When this happens, we tend to freeze up. I know because I do it. You get one idea in your head and all of a sudden that line for the panel is already capped or the autograph line for Auli’i Cravalho (the voice of Moana) is full. At this point I tend to wander around a bit dazed and waste time. Especially if you’re with other people, then it turns into “well…what do you want to do?” ” I dunno, what do you think?” This will waste valuable expo time. Have your back up plans in place. If the line for Live Action is already capped, maybe your plan B involves going to check out the Star Wars Land pavilion.
Make new friends: Time and again I hear that people’s favorite part of the D23 Expo is making new friends. If you are going solo, don’t be afraid to chat up the people next to you in line. We’re all Disney fans, so we already have a lot in common.
There you have it! I hope some of my tips can help your D23 Expo experience to be a great one! If I forgot to include your favorite tip, add it in the comments.