It is no secret that I love going to race expos. Race expos can tend to be a little overwhelming for runners, especially if it is your first large race. Remember, race weeks should be fun so here are a few tips to help make your expo experience a little more magical.
As with any expo, merchandise is limited and runDisney is no exception. Thousands of runners eager to purchase official race merchandise and other limited edition merchandise (Dooney & Bourke purses, runDisney New Balance shoes, etc). In addition to runners, there are unfortunately people looking to purchase limited edition merchandise to resell at a high premium.
Lines tend to start forming early for entry to the expo, so remember that the early bird gets the worm. If you cannot get to the expo first thing, don't worry, there will still be merchandise left however sizes and styles will become limited as time goes on. If you have a friend going to the expo earlier than you, you can perhaps have them pick up the things you just have to have. I highly recommend going to the race merchandise area as soon as possible though if you wish to get any - remember you bib will not go anywhere.
Make sure you print up your waiver before you leave for the weekend. While you can print up a copy of your waiver at the expo, doing so can waste precious expo time. Your ID is vital in packet pick-up - a lot of major races require a photo ID in order to pick up your bib. (NOTE: runDisney no longer allows participants to pick up a bib on someone's behalf). I personally also wait and pickup my bib and shirt LAST. I always enjoy shopping at the expo, and some items might have limited availability, so I shop first and then get my bib. My bib isn't going anywhere, so I might as well get that last.
Yes, you might be on vacation, but that is not an excuse to overspend. While it is tempting to buy all the merchandise, it can get expensive...QUICKLY! Look at merchandise previews (if available) and see what items you would use the most. My typical splurge is a race jacket - I wear them all the time in the winter and usually have one at my desk for when the office is cool.
runDisney posts the official event guide on the race website a few weeks before race weekend. I always make sure to print out the map of the expo with the vendor list. I first go through and mark the vendors that I am already familiar with and want to check out their booth for new product and/or expo specials. Make sure you keep an eye on your favorite vendors' social media outlets for potential expo specials and/or giveaways.
Next, I do some research on other vendors that I am not familiar with and mark them on the expo map if they have a product I might be interested in (remember, NO NEW GEAR/FUEL ON RACE DAY THOUGH!). While I still walk through the entire expo, having a plan of attack helps me make sure that I see all the vendors I want.
You will likely spend a little bit of time browsing the expo, so make sure you bring a light snack and your water bottle. You are here to run a race, so you want to make sure you are staying hydrated even while at the expo.
There are different ways to save a few dollars at the expo, you just need to know how. In the official merchandise area, you can save on your purchase a few ways. If you are a AP, DVC, or Disney Visa member you can save on your official merchandise purchase (ask your cashier for specific details).
Did you know that you can pre-purchase Disney giftcards at some wholesale discount stores (such as Costco) at a discount? Disney giftcards can be used as payment at the official merchandise area at the expo as well as throughout the Disneyland resort on food, merchandise, etc. While these discounts might not be huge, every bit helps.
There will be a lot of freebies at the expo - promotional items as well as photo opportunities. Make sure to take advantage of the free photos for sure! These are a great commemorative keepsake to remember your race weekend with.
We are all here to have fun. Don't let the little things ruin your time. Yes, it is upsetting if you don't get the shirt you want because your size is sold out already, the line to check out is long, or it is crowded. We all want to continue our vacation adventures by going to the parks, hanging out the pool with our families, etc....be patient and BE KIND. Remember, have a MAGICAL time!