April 2, 2017 – So the big weekend has finally arrived. For months you have been fantasizing about, and have made travel plans to attend, Star Wars Celebration Orlando. You walk up to the mammoth Orange County Convention Center and – gasp! – you see thousands upon thousands of others streaming in.
Are you really prepared to take advantage of everything Celebration has to offer?
Whether this is your first visit, or you are an experienced pro, here are some helpful tips. Follow them, and they might reduce your anxiety, free up some valuable time, and allow you to experience an additional panel, stage show or exclusive you would have otherwise missed.
TIP No. 1: Know the basic rules. Read “The Guide to Navigating Star Wars Celebration Orlando” (SUMMARY: Where and when to queue up; wristband requirements to see certain panels; registration, badges and security screenings; prohibited items; Wed & Thurs sleepover nights; store pick-up and autograph check-in).
TIP No. 2: Realize that you cannot possibly see and do everything at Celebration. There are far too many stage shows, collectors panels (20), celebrity autograph signings and photo-ops (33+), Star Wars club booths, fan exhibits, contests, exclusive give-aways, merchandise vendors, screenings and other activities for you to cram in. So relax and draw up a Plan of Attack. Determine what are your top priorities, what is secondary, and finally leave some “free time” so you can relax, stroll and explore things you never knew existed.
TIP No. 3: If you like spontaneity and dislike the confines of a detailed schedule, that’s fine. Feel free to roam about the four stories of the West Wing and see what piques your interest. See Floor Plan here.
But if you really want to maximize your time, catch the “Must See” panels and shows, and reduce your time standing in line, you really should start drawing up a Plan of Attack. Or a Battle Plan. Or a schedule, call it whatever you want. Even if it’s just a rough draft, start writing something down.
TIP No. 4: When drafting your Plan of Attack, read and research as much as you can before you arrive. StarWarsCelebration.com is the starting point for schedules, changes, and floor plans. Also visit StarWarsAuthentics.com (for celebrity autographs, photo-ops, or general merchandise) and follow the Celebration Facebook page for the latest updates and fan comments.
Read the fan clubs’ websites (see sidebar links at right). The collectors’ sites and social media often drop clues as to exclusive collectibles, freebies, meet-ups, and tips from old hands.
TIP No. 5: Once you have determined your top priorities (attend a panel? autographs? exclusive store merchandise? cosplay? vendors?), list those first on your Schedule or Plan of Attack.
Allot sufficient travel time between panels and rooms. The Orange County Convention Center is HUGE. Think several football fields long. Then multiply that by four floors. It might well take you 15-20 minutes or more to get from “A” to “B” if on different floors.
TIP No. 6: There are queues/lines for just about everything. But you can save valuable time and minimize waiting in line (or even bypass some) when you:
● Pre-purchase your admission pass online (buying tickets at the door is sometimes risky as they sometimes sell out online the night before)
● Pre-purchase your autograph and photo-op tickets
● Either go immediately to the Celebration Store first thing in the morning when it opens, or pick up a free “Lightspeed Lane” pass (they start handing them out at 10:00 AM every day) for an assigned return time for priority access.
● Enter the LEGO store online lottery for a timed admission ticket
● Submit an application online if you’d like to be interviewed and videotaped (about 10 minutes) to share your Star Wars fan collecting experience at the Collecting Track Social Lounge (room W305)
TIP No. 7: The exclusives (both free and those collectibles you have to pay for) usually go fast, sometimes even within the same day. So don’t dawdle.
TIP No. 8: Bring bottled water and some snacks or healthy foods. Frankly, the food at the Convention Center can be less-than-healthy, overpriced, and not at all tasty. Save time by snacking in line or finding a quiet corner to eat, near your next venue.
TIP No. 9: Stick to your budget. There will be LOTS of temptation to buy this and that. The feel-good hormone called serotonin may give you a rush of excitement at time of purchase. But you don’t want to feel the crash and burn when you return home and receive a surprisingly large credit card bill. There are LOTS of free events, contests, freebies and experiences already paid for by your admission badge.
TIP No. 10: If you absolutely have to have a near-front row seat for a celebrity panel, then a Wednesday or Thursday sleepover might be the answer. (Convention Center doors open 8pm til about 12 midnight the night before the scheduled panel, and you can sleep safely inside the hall with access to bathrooms. But you must already have your badge for the day of the panel.)
If you don’t sleep well inside the hall, or rather sleep in your own bed and start fresh in the morning, you can arrive as early as 5:00 AM, when convention doors open. You will still, highly likely, obtain a wristband for the panel. In fact, if you do not mind the distant or nosebleed section, you might even take a chance and waltz in, say 2-3 hours before the 10am opening, to see if any wristbands are left. (There usually are.)
TIP No. 11: Pace yourself. Your day at Celebration will be long. It’s possible you might not even see the sun if you arrive before dawn (sun-up is just after 7:00 AM) and leave in the evening (sunset is around 7:45 PM). There is a Quiet Room as well as quiet corners and dedicated spaces and events for children.
TIP No. 12: Talk to anyone and everyone. Don’t be shy. Most everyone is a UPF (Ultra-Passionate Fan), and they may have great recommendations for you. Some might even trade items with you (pins and patches) or give you a freebie.
TIP No. 13: Fully charge your smart devices before you leave home or your hotel room. Also consider bringing your charger, just in case, because it’s going to be a long day. Spare batteries and an extra memory card for your camera are always helpful.
TIP No. 14: Bring cash in addition to your credit or debit card. On rare occasions, a credit-processing machine might go down. Or a vendor might be willing to offer you a better price for cash. Ask and negotiate, especially towards the end of Celebration.
TIP No. 15: Travel like a Boy Scout/Girl Scout, and “Be Prepared”. Orlando weather is usually decent in mid-April, but you don’t want to get caught in a downpour when your car is parked far, far away in Lot B. Or your hotel is a long walk away. Also consider bringing a poster tube, a stiff sleeve-protector for your just-autographed photos, a star case for any carded figures, and anything else your Mom would pack (lip balm, hand sanitizer, snacks, a pen and highlighter for the free booklet they hand out, charger, batteries, memory card, change of clothing if you’re the sweaty-type, etc.)
TIP No. 16: Be courteous and aware of others around you. Be aware of personal space and your talking volume, especially in close quarters. Don’t litter. Ask cosplayers for permission to take any photos of them.
And now you’re all set!
More great tips: