Sarah has lived in the Orlando area for 5 years and has experienced every season in Orlando.
What Is D23 Expo?
D23 Expo is the largest Disney convention in the world. D23 is known as the official fan club for all things Disney. This organization was founded in 2009 and is known for hosting a very large exposition event called D23 Expo every other year.
The first D23 Expo was held in 2009 and has been hosted every other year in the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, ever since. The D23 Expo includes exclusive merchandise that can only be found at the expo, presentations and panels held by Disney voice actors, meet and greets with celebrities, presentations about the history of Disney, and exclusive first looks at new movies and new projects at the Disney theme parks.
There are so many things to do that for someone going to D23 for the first time, it can be very overwhelming. How can you see it all, and how will you have time to do everything you want to do? The truth is that even though the expo is three days long, it's really hard to see and do it all. I've been twice and haven't seen it all, but I'm here to share with you the best tips to help you have the best possible experience at your first D23 Expo.
Tip #1: Buy Your Tickets Early!
D23 Expo is the largest Disney convention in the world. Due to its overwhelming popularity, the expo has thousands and even millions of visitors. This means that tickets sell out, so don't wait too long to buy. D23 Expo tickets usually go on sale in November the year before the next expo. You don't need to buy tickets right when they go on sale, but I recommend buying them at least six months before the start of the convention.
You can sometimes buy D23 tickets the day of the convention, but the expo has become so popular that tickets can sell out a week before. Also, buying tickets ahead of time gets you into the convention hall quicker since D23 Expo mails your convention badges to your address before the start date of the convention.
D23 Expo is three days long and always runs from Friday morning until Sunday evening. You can buy single-day tickets if you plan to only go for one day, or you can buy tickets in a package for all three days. I recommend buying tickets for all three days because each day has different panels and different events. While it's impossible to see everything at D23, going to the expo all three days increases your chances to see as much of the convention as possible.
In both 2015 and 2019, I made the mistake of waiting until a month before the start of the expo to buy my tickets. I learned that Saturday is always the busiest and most popular day because Saturday is when the biggest celebrities show up. When buying my tickets for 2015, Saturday was sold out, and I had to settle for buying a single-day ticket for Friday. In 2019, I also made the same mistake of waiting too long and could only buy tickets for Friday and Sunday.
Tip #2: Do Your Research Before Going
I always recommend people going to the D23 Expo for the first time do their research before the day of the event. There are so many panels and exclusive merchandise items that it's easy to feel overwhelmed. If you look online at the D23 Expo website or the D23 Expo app on your phone, you'll be able to determine exactly which panels are happening when and find information about exclusive merchandise available for sale. This will help you plan out your day so you're not wasting your time seeing panels you're not interested in.
Also, "exclusive merchandise" means really limited amounts that were manufactured to be sold. This merchandise can only be purchased at the D23 Expo, so that also means long lines to buy it. If you're planning to buy exclusive merchandise, make that your first priority because, after Friday, most of the exclusive merchandise is sold out for the entire weekend. These lines can be up to two or three hours long, but if you are really set on getting that exclusive merchandise, then don't wait until Saturday or Sunday, or you will be very disappointed.
If you're planning on seeing panels, prioritize which ones are your top five for each day. In 2019, I noticed multiple panels happening at the same time or close to the same time, which meant I had to choose one. It's not possible to see them all, but if you prioritize what you want to see and do, you won't feel disappointed. In 2019, I waited until Sunday to buy exclusive merchandise because I didn't want to wait in long lines. I ended up not finding the hoodie in my size and wished I had bought it on Friday instead.
Tip #3: Get Enough Rest and Relaxation!
There are so many things to see and do at D23 that it can be hard to remember to get enough rest and relaxation time in. However, it's very important to get enough sleep before going to D23. It's true that the best panels happen at 10 am and to get in, you really need to be there very early. However, getting to the Anaheim Convention Center at 4 am to get into the panel at 10 am isn't ideal. You'll be so tired from not sleeping the night before that you won't even feel like you're enjoying the panel.
My recommendation to you is to get enough sleep and try to be there at 8 am. It's true that you might miss out on that first panel at 10 am, but you'll be energized and ready to go for the rest of the day. In 2015, my friend and I drove all night long to get to D23 on Friday, and we were so excited to be there. However, once we got to our first panel at 5 pm, we were both so exhausted that we ended up falling asleep during the panel!
Also, it's important to remember to stop and relax once in a while. You need to eat, so don't get so caught up in going to panel after panel or buying merchandise that you don't eat at all during the day. You need to take time to relax and take care of yourself. Panels and exclusive merchandise aren't worth you falling down from exhaustion or passing out from hunger.