Disney’s D23 Conference : Tips for Attending

Last week we finally got around to attending the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California.
D23 (D is for Disney and the 23 the year 1923 when Walt Disney founded the Company) is the official fan-club expo started by the company in 2009 and held every alternate year since.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending sign

The concept behind it was to give loyal fans a more in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at all the company’s projects; from future movies to theme park expansions.
The convention is highly popular and attracts more than 20,000 visitors during its three-day duration in August. Despite turning out to be one of the hottest weekends of the summer, the large crowds, and long lines; our son with autism managed to have a reasonably good time.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending audience
So, if you are a parent to a child with autism and are considering attending the D23; here answers to questions you might have.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending registration

Should young kids attend?

The expo is structured and geared towards teens and adult guests more than younger fans.
Aside from waiting in long lines to enter the different rooms, young children or kids with autism may find it difficult to sit through the actual panels which can range anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours.
There are specially priced children’s tickets available for those ages 3 – 9. Under three’s receive complimentary admission to the D23 EXPO.
For parents who do decide to bring their young child, the Expo provides a designated Family Play area with seating, entertainment, and games on the second floor.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending

Where is the best place to stay?

If your budget is somewhat flexible, strive to stay as close as you can to the convention hall so your child with autism can take a break if they get overwhelmed or overstimulated; or if you need to run pick up any items you forgot in your hotel.
The two properties closest are the Hilton Anaheim and the Marriott Suites Anaheim. Make sure you book early to grab the best prices, as these hotels tend to fill up months in advance.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending people you meet

Are costumes recommended?

Some guests do come dressed up, but if your kid has sensory issues, I’d strongly advise against it.
Most of the costumes sold in stores aren’t comfortable enough to wear for prolonged periods of time; especially if one needs to sit on the floor.
Also, bear in mind that if you or your child dress up, you might spend your Expo time posing for others’ pictures instead of enjoying the exhibits.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending R2D2

What to pack?

Since you’ll be standing on your feet or sitting on floors most of the day, you should bring along the most comfortable pair of shoes and pants you can.
The Expo doesn’t make public announcements in the event of a child getting lost so carrying two phones to communicate with one another in case you get separated along with a cord to recharge the devices is a good idea.If your kid is nonverbal then temporary tattoos or clothes patches should be used to help him or her be identified fast.
An additional benefit of bringing the phones is that it can entertain your kid if he or she needs to wait in any lines.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending ZOOTOPIA

What’s there to see?

Depending on your child’s interests there are quite a few choices to consider. The key is in the initial planning. You need to pre-plan your days at the Expo just like you’d plan your day in the theme park.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending ANIMATORS
Use the D23 website and mobile app to find out which presentations and pavilions to attend and where each one held, so you don’t waste precious time running around looking for the particular room.

Since there are several presentations given at the same time, you will need to pick which one to attend and arrive at the assigned room, at least, a half an hour before the doors open (for the sought -after presentations you need to come even earlier.)

If your child needs a break, the convention lobby is a great place to people-watch and strike up a conversation. It can be especially fun to see the homemade costumes.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending MOODS
At this year’s expo, the presentations included introductions to Walt Disney’s, Pixar’s and Lucasfilms’ new movies, multiple celebrity appearances; as well as the reveal of the Star War planned expansion in the US theme parks!

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending STARWARS
The Expo featured Live performances at the Disney Channel and Disney Radio booths with presentations from the Disney archives and Disney Imagineering.
There was an entire section dedicated to toys and video games and all the Disney memorabilia imaginable to gawk at and buy for the avid shoppers.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending CAR

Where to eat?

The Expo boasted diverse food venues both inside the convention building all cafeteria style, as well as outside food trucks.There were long lines at lunch time especially the indoors places, sparse seating and few options for guests with special diets.So, my recommendation is that attendees with special dietary should bring their food.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending FOOD

Is the Expo autism- friendly?

This is the million-dollar question.
The Expo states on their website that it can accommodate special needs attendees of all types including those using wheelchairs and service dogs and that requests can be helped by the guest service personnel in the lobby.
However, in reality, the accommodations varied and were not consistent.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending ACCOMMODATIONS

On the first day of the Expo (Friday) our son was let into the building fast without needing to sit in the long lines outside which was a blessing since the temperature outside that day was quite high and he is temperature intolerant.
He was also helped to get a stage pass so he could attend the Inside Out panel he wanted to see.Later that afternoon he asked to attend Pixar’s presentation and was also let in with little wait after explaining his condition.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending QUEUES
Things didn’t go as well the following day Saturday when there were many more visitors than the day before.
He wanted to attend the Lucasfilm and Marvel presentation for which people started queuing the night before.

When we arrived five hours before the doors opened there were already thousands in line. We went back and forth asking guest services and the staff at the hall’s entrance for accommodations, but no one could tell us where to go. An hour later as he tried again to enter the room he was told the event had been sold out.He got highly agitated and experienced a serious meltdown that continued for over an hour. The staff there was nothing short of amazing -they worked on calming him down and were well trained in de-escalation techniques.
As the time neared, a kind staffer was able to secure us two seats in the room which needless to say ‘made our day.
Disney needs to formulate more transparent policy when it comes to persons with autism explaining  when and where to go to ask for accommodations.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending GIFTS

Tips for minimizing wait times

If you’d like to shop in one of the three official venues without standing in the long lines, go to the pass store desk in hall A and ask for a Store Pass that gives you priority entry and a designated time slot to go and shop.
This applies to the Disney Dream Store, Disney Store, and Mickey’s of Glendale, too.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending MEDALS

If you don’t wish to ask for special accommodations but still want to get priority entrance to panels, the Expo offers a system of stage passes that you can get at the designated desk in the hall.
Be aware that this is only applicable for panels that start at 11 a.m., and you can only get one stage pass at a time so if you wish to attend more than one panel you have to go back and get a separate pass before each panel starts.

StagePass tickets are not available for Hall D23 sessions, or for presentations scheduled before 11:00 a.m. in Stage 23 and Stage 28 so if you would like to attend any of these presentations you need to ask Guest Services for help.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending DECOR

Autism Travel Tips

  • The best way to start preparing your kid is to show them video clips and pictures from past events that are available online.
  • Make sure you print a copy of the building map and acquaint your child with the location of the different halls.
  • We didn’t do that and spent valuable time the first day getting lost in all the different rooms.
  • Teach them how to use the phone app to check for new updates.
  • Discuss and formulate a plan B if you can’t get seats for a specific panel that they wish to attend.
  • Explain the reality that they may not see all conferences because of time and logistics.
  • Shopping is an integral component of the Expo so make sure you set a spending budget to avoid arguments and potential meltdowns.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending MONSTER

As longtime Disney fans, attending the D23 was a special treat for us.

Though, things didn’t go as planned (do they ever?) my son looks back and remembers all the fun times he had.

In fact, he is looking forward to booking his tickets for the next Expo as soon as they are released, sometime in January of 2016.
Hopefully, the above tips will be helpful to you as you plan for the D23 of 2017, and you will be inspired to join us.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending BUZZ

Autism Accommodation Suggestions for the Travel Industry

Anyone who knows me and has spent any time on my website would agree that I advocate traveling with special needs family members. In fact, I wholeheartedly promote it as a great idea.
Through trial and error, I have navigated the travel industry and learned many valuable things over the years that have made going with a child with autism a  pleasant experience for both the child and parents.

The success of the family vacation with an autistic child requires lots of planning. In fact, it is imperative.
Not only do you need to have a “Plan A”, but you also need a “Plan B” and even “C” at times.
Even regular getaways involve systematic, minute-by-minute detailed planning; nothing can be left to chance.
When you have individual needs added to the mix, you always need to take the “what if?” factor into consideration and build your itinerary around the worse case scenarios happening.

Lack of planning has led to many families experiencing unpleasant vacations and sadly, they end up avoiding travelling altogether.There are those who get stressed at the mere thought of successfully tackling so many factors. There are some who in the past inadequately planned and became despondent, and then there are those who travelled unaware of the needed planning so threw in the towel.

Realistically speaking, planning the itinerary for a family dealing with autism can take double or triple the amount of time and effort to organize in comparison to one for a typical family.

With that said, It is my firm belief that families with special -needs should not be excluded from travelling.
I believe that the key to solving many dilemmas lies mainly within the Travel Industry’s ability to aid and encourage families with autism to travel.
In fact, these proposed low-cost accommodation suggestions could prove if implemented, quite lucrative for the Travel Industry and beneficial for the growing segment of the population with autism and other special needs, in the long run.

Top suggestions how the Travel Industry can Accommodate Autistic Travelers Must -Do Activities in Brussels for Families city center

Suggestions for States and Cities  CVB

Since most states and towns have websites to inform tourists of the area’s history, attractions, activities, and lodging opportunities; adding a page for tips to help autistic families plan their vacation better should not be a problem.
This page should include necessary information that the visitor bureau staff can quickly assemble and can contain the following details:

  • Restaurants that cater to special -needs and offer gluten-free or casein-free items on their menu.
  • Attractions that incorporate hands-on, interactive and visual displays like museums, zoos, and aquariums, especially those that provide discounted rates for disabilities.
  • Hotels that offer autism-friendly rooms and babysitting services so parents/caregivers can get much-needed respite.
  • Local pharmacies for quick medication refills.
  • Local grocery stores or supermarkets with their operating hours—especially if they are open 24/7 for families to purchase any needed supplies.
  • Local pediatricians and dentists that have been trained to deal with special-needs children in case of emergency.
  • Local vets for service dogs.
  • Telephone numbers of local police staff trained to aid with autistic children wandering off.


Top suggestions how the Travel Industry can Accommodate Autistic Travelers Luxury Stay at the Sofitel Brussels Le Louise bedroom

Suggestions for Hotels and Cruise Ships

  • Lodging facility websites for hotels and cruise ships should include an added section with accommodation suggestions for travelers with autism describing the property’s quiet rooms away from streets, elevators, vending machines, and lounges as well as rooms far from any cooking venues for the smell-sensitive guests.
    Moreover, the hotel or cruise line should advertise their ability to accommodate
  • Patrons suffering from different allergies.
  • Those who need hand-held shower attachments or anti-slip mats in the bathrooms.
  •  Families who need extra locks on room windows and doors to prevent accidental wandering
  • Guests following GFCF diet guidelines.
  • Kids with autism in Kid Clubs and or pools.

Top suggestions how the Travel Industry can Accommodate Travelers with Autism ship
Suggestions for Transportation Companies

Proper transportation arrangements are of particular importance as they constitute the first step in most travel and can often foreshadow future mishaps.Airports, Airlines, bus companies, and train companies need to provide an informative web page on all possible accommodations available for the different sensory issues of the autistic travellers.

Accommodations may include

  • Seats away from the excessive noise areas like wings, galleys and lavatories areas (strong smells) as well as the exit doors due to limited personal space and potential overcrowding.
  • The options of pre-boarding and extra leg room seating for those autistic travelers with involuntary or repetitive body movements should be offered as an option by all transportation authorities.
  • Families and Caregivers should always be seated next to the person with special needs!

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Suggestions for Day Trips and Shore Excursion Operators

Companies should post detailed descriptions of the suggested itineraries on their page along with the main symbols to alert autistic travellers to the possibility of potential sensory problems like

  • excessive noise
  • strong smells
  • dark areas
  • strobe lights
  • slippery terrain or stairs
  • extended stays in extreme temperature conditions
  • bathroom breaks
  • food options
  • the availability of places to regroup if necessary
  • the seating arrangement of transportation like buses and ferries where parents should sit with their kids, preferably in front.
  • walking or any other activity that exceeds 15 minutes at a time or requires closed toe shoes.
  • Activities that necessitate wearing specialized equipment like masks or goggles.

By following these simple suggestions, companies would not only help families choose more activities but encourage new travelers to sample more day trips.

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