Sarah loves Disney and went to D23 in 2015 and 2019. She knows how to budget her money at conventions and make the cash stretch.
Welcome to D23 Expo
If you're going to the D23 Expo, it's probably because you're a big Disney fan. Tickets are expensive, hotels are expensive—it just seems like everything is expensive! It's really easy to lose yourself at a convention, and next thing you know, you've spent $1,000 or more in just one day! I know what you're thinking—how could I save when everything is so expensive, and there are so many shops to see?
In 2015, I was feeling the same way. I was so excited to be at my first D23 Expo, and I just wanted to see it all. There were rows and rows of independent sellers selling their merchandise and Disney's exclusive D23 shops. It was pretty hard to stop myself from buying everything in sight. However, there are definitely ways you can save money at the expo, and I will discuss them all here.
Tip #1: Go to Panels
Something that can save you a lot of money while going to the D23 Expo is watching panels. Panels are free and included with your admission. Panels are really cool because you can see the voice actors and celebrities live. It can be a little hard to get into the most popular panels because there are so many people that want to get in and only a certain number of seats. However, if you research ahead of time to determine which panels are on your must-see list, you can maximize your time and efficiently see many panels. Panels are exclusive to D23, and for a big Disney fan, panels are a must-do. Panels are an excellent way to enjoy D23 and maximize your time there without spending any money.
When I went to D23 in 2015, my friend and I had seen a panel called Walt Disney Home Movies. The panel was really cool because we got to see Walt Disney's homemade videos in black and white about his family and the train he built. In 2019, I saw the Voice Actors panel, and I really enjoyed it. I got to see the voice actors for most of the princesses, Mickey, Goofy, and many others. These are things that can only be seen at D23. I know that you can watch these as recorded videos on YouTube, but it's more amazing to see these voice actors and celebrities live.
Tip #2: Don't Impulse Buy!
My next tip to save money while at D23 Expo is not to impulse buy. I get it; it's really hard to resist buying whatever catches your eye. I know you're thinking that this is your once in a lifetime chance to go to D23 and get exclusive merchandise. However, I know that you can do it. My advice is to walk around once on the first day and look at all the independent sellers, then try to look at all the Disney-owned shops. Seeing all the Disney-owned shops and galleries can be difficult, though, due to long lines, so try your best. If you just buy everything you see, then you'll end up spending $1,000 on your first day there because merchandise at D23 Expo can be very expensive.
When I went to D23 Expo, I looked at all the independent sellers' shops, then made my way around to the Disney-owned shops. I walked around all the merchandise shops once, put a note on my phone which number booth I wanted to visit again, and made a list of my top five merchandise that I had to have. It's important to make a note of which booth had which merchandise because the sellers' hall is huge. It's really easy to forget where and which seller had the merchandise you wanted to buy. If you take some time to walk around and think about what merchandise you really want, this will help you save a lot of money.
Tip #3: See the Displays and Galleries
Another free thing that you can do at D23 Expo is walking around the displays and galleries. D23 Expo is home to historical Disney items like the first-ever Disney cast member name tag and old models of the Disney monorail system. These pieces of Disney history can only be seen live at D23. You can always view pictures of them online, but it's not the same as you being able to see pieces of Disney history in person.
There's something amazing at being able to take your own photos of the first-ever monorail system or the first-ever Disneyland tickets. D23 Expo has a lot of historical items that you are able to see and plenty of areas to walk through that show the history of famous attractions. This is something free that you can do at any time of the day while D23 is open and is included with your admission price.
When I went to D23 in 2015 and 2019, I really enjoyed seeing these pieces of Disney history. I really enjoyed seeing the ride vehicles for the Disneyland gondolas and each version of the Autopia cars. In 2019, I also saw a Pixar area where you can walk through and see some of the statues of characters and some of the set designs. Walking through these areas is an enjoyable experience that I think you should take your time with. There's no need to rush, and this is another free way to maximize the money you spent on tickets to D23.
Tip #4: Eat Outside the Expo
Another tip to save money while at D23 is to eat outside the convention center. D23 Expo is located in the Anaheim Convention Center. D23 Expo sells a lot of food but at an expensive price, and there are very long lines. D23 Expo has a lot of food trucks parked outside the Anaheim Convention Center so you don't have to leave to get a snack or to get lunch. The food from the food trucks is good, but it's expensive!
In 2015, I got a burrito from a Mexican food truck, and the burrito was almost $20 and didn't even taste that great. I also waited half an hour in line just to order, then another half an hour to get my food. In 2019, I learned that even though D23 is crowded, there are only long lines to get in during the first few hours on Friday. Therefore, I learned that I could just leave the Anaheim Convention Center and get lunch elsewhere, then return once I finish eating.
There are plenty of restaurants and fast food close to the Anaheim Convention Center, and most places you can walk to easily. In 2019, I ended up getting lunch at a Chinese fast food about a 10-minute walk away from the Anaheim Convention Center. My meal cost me about $10, so I saved a lot of money from not eating at the Expo, and I didn't have to wait in a long line.
Tip #5: Shop Around for Hotels
Tickets for D23 Expo are already very expensive, so it makes sense to try to save on other parts of your trip. You might not live in California and have to fly from another city, state, or country, so you also have to pay for airfare. Wouldn't it be better if you could stay at a nice hotel but also save money?
Thankfully, D23 Expo is located at the Anaheim Convention Center, which is located very close to various hotel chains. I recommend using websites like Priceline or Booking to shop around for hotels. You can see how far the hotel is from the Anaheim Convention Center, how many stars the hotel has, and the price and reviews. You don't need to stay at the Disneyland Hotel or the two other Disney owned hotels in the area to have a good hotel experience. There are plenty of nice but cheaper hotel chains located in the area, such as Hilton and Marriott.
You get to choose how fancy or how cheap you'd like your hotel stay to be. There are also very cheap motels in the area such as Best Western and Super 8 if you prefer motels to more expensive hotels. There's a hotel for everyone around the Anaheim Convention Center, so don't feel like you have to stay at a hotel for $500 a night to be close by.
Sarah Wong (author) from Florida on September 14, 2020:
Liz I agree with you. Thanks for posting that comment
Liz Westwood from UK on September 14, 2020:
These are all good tips. They could also be applied to other similar events to good effect.