D23 Expo 2017 is starting this Friday! We’re lucky enough to be able to attend this year, and with less than a week to go it’s time to start packing and make sure all of our necessaries are ready. We’ll be staying close to the convention center but with so much packed into three days we need to make sure that everything we need is either on our persons or readily accessible. Here’s the breakdown:
We received our convention credentials (aka passes) a few weeks ago. They’ve got our names on them, my status as a Gold Member on mine and a guest designation on Busy Bumble’s. These are gold. I’ve read horror stories about attendees and even guest speakers forgetting their passes and the struggle to get in. With roughly 40K-50K individual attendance per day expected the guest relations team can’t always just print out a new pass for you. Check, double-check, and triple check that these are packed away.
Included in the mailing was a letter detailing what we could expect during the convention. This was a great heads up for ground rules and standards of conduct before we even travel. There’s a D23 2017 app that has all the information we’ll need when we arrive and even some info before we go. Naturally that’s been downloaded to my phone.
A few of the interesting tidbits from the letter:
- All bags are subject to search before entry, just like in the theme parks.
- No outside food or beverages, although special dietary restrictions are accommodated. In the past this has meant that snacks are okay, but nothing purchased from an outside vendor and no picnics/coolers.
- No camping out overnight in your car in the parking lot. While it can be tempting to save some money ($14 per day for parking versus $200 hotel room?) they will be checking each night to make sure there’s no one car camping in the various lots.
- For major panels and presentations all electronic devices will be checked in before entry. This is to prevent filming and photography of coming attractions. Disney likes to control how folks learn about these things. No doubt they’ll record and release these presentations later, but when it happens live they want to be the ones with the news, not the fans and their followers. Check in is free and I’ve read that this is a time-consuming process. While I’d love to leave my phone in my hotel room, I do want to take pictures of other things during the day so this poses a problem. I’ve got five days to think about how I want to do this.
- Lines for major panels and presentations on Friday and Saturday begin at 10pm the night before. Holy cheese and crackers! Guess if I want to see Mark Hamill, Stan Lee, and Oprah in the flesh I’d better bring a pillow and some melatonin. They will have the convention center building open for those waiting overnight and a concessions stand will be open for those inside. Everyone in the party has to be in line. No spot-saving. This goes for all the lines at D23.
Planning Before We Go
Thanks to great guides on DisBoards, Inside the Magic, Happiest Blog on Earth, Film School Rejects, and DAPsMagic I think I know what to expect. This is out first year attending, and with the convention only coming every two years it’s hard to tell what it will be like beyond crowded and eventful.
A few of the questions I had when I planned were:
- For the major panels and events (Legends Celebration, Feature Animation/Pixar, Live Action Film, Theme Parks and Resorts) how early should I arrive to stand in line?
- For overnight lines: what can I bring and what is the experience like at D23?
- How many panels and presentations can I reasonably expect to be able to experience?
- How does StagePass and StorePass work?
- What can I bring with me inside the convention center?
- How should I prioritize my day when there is simply so much to see?
Here’s what I learned:
- The overnight lines were something I kind of expected, but still had me anxious. I read about people’s experiences in 2015 and they said overnight lines are for those who want primo seats assured. People have lined up at 6am and still gotten in. This is good news for Busy Bumble who was not happy about the thought of sleeping on a hard, dirty convention center floor.
- For overnight lines the bag check rule still applies so bring what you’re okay with having searched and okay with carrying around the rest of the day. Yeah, you could bring a tent and sleeping bag but do you want to deal with that later? You could leave the convention center and put them away, but that would mean having to stand in line to get back in, which is a waste of time. Most people seem to bring a pillow or cushion for when you get tired, some snacks (which are good for the rest of the day in general), and something to occupy your time. While people have said that the attendees in line are friendly you might not want to talk to people for potentially 10 hours.
- Keep your expectations low as far as panels and experiences go. Have first, second, and third options ready for when your choices max out with room capacity, you run late, or something else happens. Have one thing that you really want to do, try to aim for that, and take the rest as it comes. This is the same philosophy Busy Bumble and I use with our theme park vacations, so this is something we can definitely do.
- StagePass and StorePass are kind of like FastPass for D23. StagePass is only for the non-major panels and presentations in the afternoon. You’ll still need to line up and see what’s available. Much like with FastPass, this only guarantees you a spot in a shorter line. It does not guarantee you a specific seat or that the panel will go on as planned in the event of a change or emergency. There does not appear to be a StagePass for the fixed exhibits (Imagineering, Archives, etc). It is free and has no cash value (unless you’re a nasty scalper). StorePass grants you 30 minutes of shopping at a specific time at one of the Disney pop-ups: Disney Store (merchandise released only for D23 as well as other Disney Store products), the Dream Store (D23 specific merchandise and exclusives), and Mickey’s of Glendale (the Imagineering Store). There’s a line to get these passes and you’ll need to show up a little earlier than your time to get in. There are no StorePasses for other vendors on the show floor.
- You should bring with you:
- Your pass, obviously. When you enter for the first time you’ll get a lanyard to protect your pass, a bag for any items you receive in the day, and a commemorative program of the convention’s events.
- Antibacterial solution. Convention Flu is not cool if you have to go back to work on Monday.
- Water or a water bottle.
- Snacks. Food inside the convention center is expensive and depending on your day you might not get time to go outside to eat until the day’s events are over. Tide yourself over with some filling snacks that can fit in a small bag.
- Extra foldable shopping bags. Apparently there is much free swag to receive.
- Sunscreen and other sun protection. There is the possibility of lines outside, so ward off melanomas with some strong sunblock and a parasol.
- External backup batteries. There are charging stations throughout the convention center, but with thousands in attendance and time at a premium why tether yourself to an outlet? Charge your devices with a backup battery in your bag and just recharge that backup overnight.
- A Sharpie. You’ll receive glossy posters and flyers throughout the convention and you never know if that’s the only thing you’ll have to write on or if you’ll bump into a VIP. Sharpies can write on all that glossy cardstock.
- A small notebook and pen/pencil. For the big panels you’ll have no other way to take notes about what happened to tell everyone later, unless you’ve got a good memory.
- Whatever you need to feel comfortable. Some say an extra set of shoes, some say a neck pillow, and other suggestions abound.
- For your day stick to the plan of one big thing you want to do and see where the rest of the day takes you. Consult with your party members to see if everyone can come to a consensus and have backup plans for when things inevitably go pear-shaped. Consider that you’ll only reasonably be able to attend one big panel each day, so don’t kill yourself trying to do everything possible. One of the big things about conventions is the sensory overload right from the get-go. Breathe and think strategically. In many ways this is a hyperintense theme park experience: lines, confusing layouts, high demand experiences, and lots of things to spend money on.
D23 Expo’s site had a printable schedule available ahead of time, which allowed us to start thinking about what we wanted to do each day. We’ve now got to consider overnight queues as part of the experience, so our plans are ever-changing. What we do know is that these are the big things we’d like to do:
- Feature Animation/Pixar Panel
- Either Theme Parks and Resorts Panel or Live Action Film Panel
- Alan Menken in Concert
- Shopping at the Disney boutiques (have you seen the D23 Mickey ears?)
We’re planning on skipping the Legends presentation so that we can try to do shopping and fixed exhibits that morning, or stand in line for the Feature Animation/Pixar panel. We’ll go for StorePass if its available early on Friday (Sunday is another possibility, but with that being the last day I worry about what’s left in stock).
Saturday is the busiest day typically, with two high demand panels and the most single-day attendees. This will be an endurance test. We’re still debating how we want to head into Saturday, but much of it depends on what it is like on Friday.
Sunday will be a mostly chill day. We have a flight to catch in the evening, so we can’t stay the entire day. This may be the best day to check out exhibits and just unwind.
We’ve got clothes. We’ve got toiletries. We’ve got ID and tickets. What’s left? Because we’re taking a smaller plane to get to the convention we’re restricted to 25 lbs each in our luggage or 50 lbs total without paying extra. We’ve approached packing with the expectation that we’re coming back with more than we’re leaving with. Two bags with ample room for our future purchases should be fine. Here’s a few of the other things we packed:
We got some cushy travel seats for those overnight queues. Busy Bumble’s is actually a meditation cushion, so it’s really comfortable. Mine is half gel-half inflatable for easy packing. They’re comfy for the two of us and we’re okay with these being a potential “bed” at least one night (I will be strong and courageous in my queueing). Busy Bumble has a plush neck pillow that she always brings for long trips, but I’ve upgraded mine to an inflatable one to save room. This one inflates by using two built-in pumps and valves. It’s actually very comfortable and easy to stow away.
Lysol spray. I’ve got antibacterial gel but you never know what else needs to die before I touch it.
Travel first aid, complete with blister Band-Aids. We camp a lot so being prepared for an emergency is a must. I’ll deal with the scrapes and blisters. Convention First Aid is only for those big emergencies, in my opinion.
My Anker external battery. I’ve got about three backups packed, but the Anker can give both my phone and Busy Bumble’s a full charge before needed to be refilled.
The SitGo seat was a fun find that I think will be a great investment in the future. Basically this functions like a one-legged chair. It folds then telescopes out with a rubber-capped pole topped by a seat. I tried it when it first arrived and was surprised that it was actually very comfortable! This is the solution for when you’re in line and need a seat! I’ve seen too many people break ropes and chains or topple over in my time as a Cast Member. This little beauty will give you a leaning seat that takes some stress off your hips, knees, and feet. Just keep it slightly tilted: anything more than a 75 degree angle is advised as dangerous.
For our daily snacks we’ve got Fruit Snacks and Tiger’s Milk bars. I’m not a huge fan of protein bars (why do they always taste fake?) but I love these. They like candy bars, almost. I’ve got them in two flavors for a little variety, but these are meant to keep us going until we can find real food.
Sunscreen in various forms. I love the La Roche-Posay Anthelios sunscreen. It’s pricey, but it goes on without that yucky oily-ness of typical sunscreen and it’s very strong. I’m also a huge fan of the mineral creme sunscreens, which have zinc for stronger protection. For my face and touch-ups throughout the day, this Fresh Sugar Sport sunblock stick is my best friend. At the end of the day, Badger’s After Sun Balm is soothing on burned and non-burned skin.
Why get burned when I can block it, literally. I’ve got this sweet umbrella that I ordered from Etsy with Disney’s TsumTsums all over it. This will be my parasol for the trip.
We’re close to being done, but that probably won’t happen until right before we go. We’ll keep up with posts about our flight (Our first time on a private shuttle!), and the convention itself. You can also see convention news and updates at d23.com/d23-expo. We’ll be counting down the days!