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D23 Expo 2019: How to Prepare, Enjoy, and Survive

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We’re two weeks out from the biggest Disney event of year, D23 Expo 2019. Hundreds of Disney fans will descend on the Anaheim Convention Center to meet Disney stars, attend presentations & panels, get exclusive merch, and show off their cosplay looks.

TICKETS

The first thing to know, in case you’re getting into this late, is that almost all the tickets are sold out. D23 Expo has single-day and weekend tickets, at general public prices and at special discount for D23 Gold members.

As of today, there are only single-day tickets for Sunday (both at regular and discounted prices). Find out more here. If you have a three-day/weekend ticket already (kudos to you), you get access to the entire weekend.

Tickets mailed out this week, unless you selected ‘pick up at will call,’ and will be received by next week. Brand new this year, Disney starts using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tech in the ticket badges, too. You’ll also be able to get more information about your ticket via email on Monday, August 12.

Once you have your ticket badge, you can activate it on the D23 Expo app (now live on the iOS App store and Google Play). Once reservations go live, you can get passes to presentations, stores, and meet & greet/signings.

SCHEDULE

The most important tip anyone will give you is to have a plan. Surviving this convention isn’t just a matter of physical endurance, it’s also a test of one’s time management skills.

To begin with, yes, the doors open starting at 9am but the line to get in starts much earlier. There will even be overnight lines:

For admission on Friday, overnight queues will begin Thursday at 2pm. For Saturday and Sunday admission, queues will begin at 7pm the night before. Main entry for overnight queues is right off Katella Ave, at the Arena Plaza. Everything you bring must fit in a small backpack and everyone in your party must be with you when you get in line. There will be a small concession stand near the line and there’s no re-entry option once you’re in.

So, in the morning, don’t aim to get there right at 9am. Prepare to be a bit sleep-deprived (or motivated enough to get to bed early). Try to get there between 6am and 8am.

The full presentation and panel schedule is up on the D23 website as well as the app. Note the ones you definitely want to attend, the times, and especially where they are. You can’t attend a presentation at Stage 28 (3rd floor) right before one at the D23 Expo Arena (1st floor). Give yourself a comfortable buffer of 30 minutes to an hour between events.

The only main exception is for Hall D23 presentations, for which you should plan to be in line for a while. For popular presentations at Stage 28, the D23 Expo Arena, and the Walt Disney Archives Stage, get in line at least 45 minutes before the start time.

Again, the doors open at 9am but the various presentations don’t kickstart until 10am. For morning Hall D23 presentations (Disney Legends, etc), there will be specific lines, operating a little differently from the outside line. It’s long, labyrinthine, parceled up throughout the convention floor, and involves various wristbands. More information on these lines will be on the website as we get closer to the event.

PASSES

Different from tickets, the passes reserve presentation seats, shopping time, and meeting talent. Reservations are available on the app starting August 16th, once you’ve activated your ticket badge.

If you are bringing a child under 14, they do not need to activate their badge; they can make reservations, etc, on the app as a guest attached to your activated badge.

StagePass

StagePass reservations guarantee you a seat at a presentation. It’s not assigned seating though. It’s still first-come, first-serve so get to presentations with plenty of time to spare. For Hall D23, aim for an hour early, and for other stages, aim for at least 30 minutes early.

You can reserve up to 2 StagePasses per day and they each must be for a different stage. For example, you can’t book two Hall D23 passes in the same day (we wish though).

StorePass

Acting more like a FastPass, the StorePass reservation assigns you a block of time to visit one of the major shops on the show floor.

You may reserve one (1) StorePass per day for either Disney DreamStore, the Disney Store, or Mickey’s of Glendale. One pass does not get you into all three on the same day. For time management, try to get there at least ten minutes before your time slot.

TalentPass

Again like the FastPass, these passes are reservation times for meet & greets, signings, and other Show Floor experiences.

You may reserve up to three (3) TalentPasses per day, and aim to get there at least 15 minutes before your time slot. Events available for TalentPass are also all on the D23 Expo app.

LOCATIONS

There are five main locations: Hall D23, the show floor, D23 Expo Arena, the Walt Disney Archives Stage, and Stage 28. There are, of course, other rooms, specific event areas on the show floor, and dozens of booths – which are all labelled on the app maps.

Anaheim Convention Center has three floors. The show floor, Hall D23, and the D23 Expo Arena (across the show floor) are on the entry-level floor.

The Walt Disney Archives Stage, and a handful of other rooms, is on the second floor. Stage 28 is on the third floor.

You can get from Stage 28 to the D23 Expo Arena in maybe fifteen minutes, and from the Walt Disney Archives stage in around ten minutes. Getting downstairs isn’t the main challenge. You also have to cross the show floor full of booths, meandering fans, various other lines, and stroller families.

If you’re dead-set on two panels close in time but farther in distance, use the maps to find the best and least crowded route. Hint: stick to the edges.

Show Floor

On the show floor, there’s exclusive Disney merch, fan-created merch, exhibits, experiences, various Disney branch pavilions, signings, photo opps, meet & greets, and, even more lines for it all.

The app can help you track signings, meet & greets, experiences, and even giveaways. You can get a StorePass for the big Disney shops and TalentPasses for signings, but everything else is pretty much a free-for-all.

There will also be a minimal food court of theme park fare. If you have a chance to have a lunch break in the day, take it elsewhere, both to save money and your taste buds.

LINES

Like Disneyland itself and any other convention, there will be lines everywhere. A line to get in, a line for any given presentation, a line to shop, a line to eat, a line to meet people, and a line for the bathroom. Sometimes, there is even a line for the elevator (no, we’re not kidding).

Get used to it and use the time to make friends. We’re all Disney fans, so there is instant common ground. Plus, you’ll make a line buddy who can hold your place if you need another jolt of caffeine or a visit to the restroom.

COSPLAY AND DISNEYBOUND

The costumes will be incredible, and there will be so many creative or obscure characters represented. If you’re interested in finding the ‘celebrity-status’ cosplayers, turn to Instagram (Amber Arden, Jimmy Sherfy, Traci Hines, and Chris Calfa come to mind in particular). And don’t be afraid to ask for pictures with excellent cosplayers; they’ll love it and they’ll love if you ask about their Instagram or social media.

 

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If you’re cosplaying, stay hydrated, cool, and find a couple side spots to use for touch-ups/adjustments. The upper floors are usually way less crowded than the show floor and have plenty of area to chill in.

Remember to review costume rules here.

If cosplaying seems too much (especially this close to the event), turn to Disneybound. Disneybounding incorporates a Disney character into more everyday clothing, or sometimes more dapper clothing, rather than being a full-on costume. Check out TheDisneybound on Instagram for tons of ideas.

 

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THE BASICS

While some of these tips may seem common sense, beginning Expo-goers may not think of all this in the midst of everything else.

Water

Stay hydrated. Unfortunately, outside food and drink is not allowed. You can bring an empty reusable water bottle to fill up at water fountains to avoid getting lots of water bottles over three days.

Food

The food court is marginal and it’s theme park quality for theme park prices. Take a lunch break if you can and grab food elsewhere. Downtown Disney is a short walk, and the Anaheim GardenWalk (featuring the House of Blues) is right down the block.

Or, if your hotel is close enough, go grocery shopping & stock up. There’s a CVS, a Walgreens, and a Target right near the convention center.

Shoes

A surprising amount of people wear flip flops, sandals, or flats on the first day and immediately realize their mistake.

This is like a Disneyland trip. Wear good walking shoes. Even basic canvas sneakers are better than sandals. Unless your cosplay must have a certain type of not-so-comfortable shoe, wear the good shoes. Your feet will thank you in the long run. And if you’ve got room for a splurge, try a pedicure at the Grand Californian; just one of those foot messages can save a whole Disney vacation. Or, save your money and soak your feet at the hotel.

Clothes

This also seems to be an afterthought sometimes. Aside from cosplays and Disneybounds, always consider your comfort. Wear clothes you can stand in, move in, sit in for a long time, sit on the floor in, can eat in, won’t overheat in, and can easily remove for bathroom breaks.

Electronics

Charge your phone, camera, iPod, whatever you need overnight to get through the day. And get a portable charger to charge overnight every night. There will be charger stations, but sometimes you won’t be in a convenient time or place to use one.

Transportation

The ART buses run from early in the morning through late in the evening. Regular cash fare is $4, but you can get one-day and multi-day passes on the website. The Katella Line stops right in front of the convention center, while the Grand Plaza and Buena Park lines have stops along Convention Way, between the Hilton & Marriott. Harbor Line South also takes you right near the Convention Way stops.

There are also OCTA bus lines that can get you to the Expo. Line 50 drops you off on Katella, right near the main entrance of the convention center. Line 43 drops you near Convention Way. Regular cash fares are $2 and they have passes available on the website.

TIPS & TRICKS

  • There is a bag check in Lobby A. It’s five dollars per bag, so, shoppers, load up one of those huge Disney bags and then drop it off.
  • If there’s merchandise or giveaways you want, get it early Friday or Saturday morning. Or even wait until Sunday. Most people are at the big panels on the first couple days and Sunday is usually the least crowded day.
  • Find the bathrooms and any other important rooms (such as the sensory break room) on the map before you get there. It will make finding them in the midst of the crowd much easier.
  • The edges of the show floor are always the least crowded. Need to get to the other side in a hurry? Walk the wall.
  • Don’t forget to make time for the various occasional freebies on the show floor.
  • Like with Disney Parks, don’t try to do it all. Make priorities, around three or four presentations on a given day, and time to check out the show floor.

For all the rules, details, and other information, check out D23 Expo’s Things to Know list.

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About Kajsa Rain Forden

Kajsa is a writer from foggy San Francisco, living in sunny LA. She spends most of her time writing, binge-watching animated movies, and working in web design. With a soft spot for stop-motion, her favorite films are Coraline, Castle In The Sky, and The Thief and the Cobbler (Recobbled). You can find her on Twitter, or Pinterest, and most other social media @TheKajsaRain, or at Disneyland.