D23 Expo Tips from My First Experience in 2019
Disney’s 2019 D23 Expo was my first experience with this ultimate fan event. From one first-timer to another I have created this post with my D23 Expo tips to help you for the future. Some of you know I am a massive Disney fan and have even worked at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. I hesitated on buying tickets due to the cost and most of the time I was working. This past year I decided I would finally go but the tickets officially sold out the day I decided to buy one. Luckily, several SoCal radio stations were giving away free tickets and I got my boyfriend to play Battle of the Sexes of 104.3 MyFm and he won a four-pack of one-day tickets!
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I was looking for the big D23 expo sign featured in the picture above. This was located by the big fountain outside of the main part of the convention center where the show floor and all of the panels were being held. There will be a line all day long but if you want to grab a quick photo you can climb up the fountain as I did.
I did a lot of research for my first D23 expo. And honestly, the information I found did very little to set up me for success. That is why I decided to create this post to try and provide some of the information that I was trying so hard to find. One thing to keep in mind is since this convention happens every other year there is a possibility that things will change between the 2019 and the 2021 convention.
How to Prepare For the D23 Expo
Get your tickets as far in advance as you can. The earlier you purchase your tickets the more money you will save. D23 Gold members not only get a discount on tickets to the expo but also get priority access to the lines at the event. Membership to D23 is best for those living close to Disneyland or Walt Disney World as that is where most of the events take place. Being a member during the year of the expo is the best way to get the most out of your membership. A one day ticket purchased one month before the 2019 expo went for $94.
For the 2019 expo, one of the biggest advantages to getting your tickets in advance was getting to register for the Show Pass, Store Pass and
What to Wear
A lot of my research warned me how freezing the convention center was and how I should dress warmly. Well, that only turned out to be true half of the time. I found myself taking my jacket on and off throughout the day. Definitely bring a jacket with you but feel free to wear whatever you would like. Most likely you’ll feel warm or cold off and on throughout the day depending on where you are. Hall D23 and the Expo Arena were the spots where I was the coldest. The show floor was where I found myself the warmest.
Comfortable shoes are a must! My outfit consisted of a Disney shirt, a denim jacket I customized with patches at Disneyland Paris and a Little Mermaid hairbow. I opted for an outfit that would keep me cozy but also show my Disney side. There are a lot of fun photo ops so keep that in mind as well when you decide what to wear. A lot of people came in elaborate costumes though I can’t imagine being in a costume for 12 hours.
Download the D23 App
The app was such a great tool for planning. It had a complete schedule of all of the events happening throughout each day. Plus, if you turn on notifications the app will let you know if a panel has extra seats available or if it fills up. This will help you know whether you should stay in line or move on. You’ll also find a map of the convention which is very helpful as well. In the free bag I received upon arrival at the convention it did include a magazine with similar information but by being able to use the app for research before the convention I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I also recommend following the D23 account on twitter and turning on the notifications.
What to Bring
I decided to bring a small backpack to help store my jacket and water bottle. Don’t bring a bag so filled up with stuff that your back will start bothering you halfway through the day. Only bring what you think you’ll need. I recommend bringing a few snacks at least. Hand sanitizer and cash are two other things that will come in handy as well. Most vendors will take credit cards but a few did ask for cash. You will most likely be using your cell phone a lot so having a portable charger with you is a great idea.
The food options at the expo are not very good at all. I read that it depends on who checks your bag for whether or not they’ll let you bring snacks in. My friend was able to get her snacks in without a problem. If you bring a water bottle and would like to refill it head out to the hallway outside of the showroom floor. The water fountains have a spot for you to fill the bottles.
I thought parking was going to be crazy and it was completely manageable and not too outrageous. My friends and I parked at the Anaheim Convention Center. The price was $18 and made it very convenient. We arrived 90 mins before the expo opened and we had no line for the parking. Even when we left we had no problem getting out quickly. I highly recommend making it easy on yourself by parking at the convention center. However, if you are planning to go to the park after you might want to park in the Toy Story lot off of Harbor Blvd.
What To Do Upon Arriving at the D23 Expo
When we exited out of the parking garage we were towards the Katella Ave side which was perfect since we needed to get our tickets at Will Call. The only bummer was that we missed the entrance where they were handing out a complimentary bag that included a lanyard to hold our badge. After we stopped by Will Call we ran into a cast member who had extra bags for us. Be sure to ask if they are giving out the bags & lanyards if you don’t see a pickup spot. Whether you have your ticket in advance or are picking it up the day of the event you’ll want to activate your badge asap!
Once I got my badge I was directed downstairs to get in the mainline to get into the convention. People were able to start lining up as early as 7 pm the night before. That’s right. At 7 pm you could start lining up for the Sunday expo which began at 9 am. Honestly, I saw no reason whatsoever to do that. I got in line at 8 am and was still able to attend the 10 am 30th Anniversary panel for the Little Mermaid in the standby line. The morning felt like the craziest part of the experience just because we weren’t fully sure where to go once we got inside.
Once the Expo Starts
If you’ve done your research you should have a game plan on what your first plan for the day is. I recommend checking out the show floor first if there is not a panel that you’re immediately trying to attend. My only regret is I wish I could have done a full lap of the show floor to get an idea of what all I would like to check out in between panels. And yes, there are meet & greets that will take place throughout the day but my friend and I were thrilled to find Imagineer Bob Gurr at a booth who was meeting fans and signing items throughout the day. So don’t overlook all of the booths. You never know who or what you’ll find!
The two largest venues at the expo are the D23 Expo arena and Hall D23. These two locations will give standby guests the best chance of getting into panels. Of course, there is no guarantee but out of the three panels I attended in these locations I saw empty seats at each one. Which brings me to my next tip. If you really, really want one of the freebies from a giveaway that starts close in time to a panel I would go attempt to get the giveaway and come late to the panel. Yes, you risk the panel filling up but I regretted not attempting more freebies when I saw all the empty seats in the panels.
One thing I wish my research would have told me is that the line for HD23 is located in the hallway outside of the showroom. My friends and I stayed inside the showroom looking for the line and entrance. The entrance to the arena was inside the showroom and the map showed Hall D23 was on the opposite side. We wasted valuable time by not knowing the exact spot to go.
All of my research made me feel like this was going to be an overwhelming and crazy experience. I suppose I could see how some might feel that way but I didn’t feel stressed once. My biggest takeaway is that getting the advance reservation gives you so much more time to explore because you can line up 15 minutes before the event you want to attend and still be guaranteed a seat. With only one day and the need to wait in standby lines, I didn’t feel like I got to explore enough of the show floor. I did, however, make it into the three panels that I really wanted to see! So if you have to wait in stand by lines know that it some cases it will work out for you.
My Highlights From the 2019 Expo
The Little Mermaid 30th Anniversary Panel
This panel was my very first event at the expo and I loved it! It was so wonderful to hear Jodi Benson and members of the crew sharing highlights and challenges of getting the movie made. They showed special clips of cast members during the making of the movie and a few from those that are still with us but could not be in attendance. Upon exiting the panel everyone was gifted with an exclusive Little Mermaid print and a sample of the Little Mermaid H2O beauty line.
Heroes and Villians Costume Exhibit
This exhibit was filled with stunning costumes from some of the most iconic Disney movies of the past and present. I absolutely loved getting a chance to see these beautiful pieces of upfront.
Final Thoughts About the D23 Expo
I definitely recommend that Disney fans attend this event. However, it is not for everyone. I would not recommend bringing children under the age of 10. It didn’t seem like there was much that would keep them interested. Other than the lines for giveaways I don’t recommend spending too much time in line for the stores. I waited about twenty minutes for the Disney Dreamstore and it was a major disappointment. Nothing felt very exclusive and seemed like mostly merchandise I could find in the park on any day of the week. If you can only get tickets for two days I would recommend Saturday and Sunday.
If you’re a big Disney fan you might want to check out my Guide to LA for Disney fans.