This post is coming to you from a ten-year Comic-Con veteran. A lot has changed in the past ten years, but there’s still a sure-fire way to have a good time.
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1. Map out your plan
The programming schedules should be live some time this week. Once they are, visit comic-con.org and study the information!* Make a ranking of what’s most important to you and weigh your options. When you’ve got a game plan, print out a personalized schedule to quickly reference when the grandeur of costumes and exclusive collectibles makes your head spin.
*Usually, if a major movie production company is listed (20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures), then they’ve got something big up their sleeves. You never know who’s going to step out on that stage.
2. Make use of free shuttles
The sidewalks of Downtown San Diego are going to be packed with people. Like, to the point where you can’t wait for a traffic light without rubbing shoulders with a stranger. Of course, the streets are crowded with cars, taxis, and pedicabs too, but at least you’ll relax your feet for a bit while people-watching from a shuttle window. (There is a lot to look at!) Shuttles pick up from various hotels around downtown and Mission Valley, so do your research in advance and know your route.
3. Don’t forget your ID
If you have a four-day pass, you’ll only need to check in on day one. But one-day passes need to be retrieved each day from the registration desk. You will need your ID for this, no exceptions.
4. Prepare to wait for Hall H
If the sole reason you’re going to Comic-Con is to see a certain panel in Hall H, you need to dedicate your day to it. We suggest lining up four hours* prior to the start of said panel, but there’s still no guarantee. Remember, the rooms are not cleared between panels so you never know when seats will free up. If Hall H is on your agenda, hopefully you have a four-day pass and you can spend your other days exploring what Comic-Con has to offer.
*These extreme measures are typically only for Hall H panels. If you’re aiming for Ballroom 20 or a panel at the Hilton, you should be safe if you start waiting two panels prior.
5. Bring snacks
The food inside the convention center is mediocre at best, not to mention it’s expensive. Yet there will still be long lines because sometimes we’re left with no other option. Don’t let that happen to you. Pack yourself some quick, energy-boosting snacks and a couple bottles of water. You can hit the food trucks or hip restaurants later when you have more time to spare.
6. Look into packable chairs
Like we said previously, a lot of the Con experience is waiting in lines. You might as well give your feet a rest by bringing something to sit on. Save your energy for the endless hours you’re bound to spend wandering around the exhibit floor.
7. Bring your cell phone charger and save your battery!
You’ll see people sitting on the carpeted floors hooked up to outlets at every turn, so we definitely suggest bringing your phone charger. But why not be smart about cell phone use? Reception can be spotty with so many phones being used in such a small space. Close your background apps, switch to airplane mode, you know the drill. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss a golden opportunity for a selfie with Orlando Bloom because your battery died.
8. Carry cash
Worst case scenario: You’re roaming the exhibit floor and you see something you must possess, but the booth only takes cash and all you have is credit. Sure, there are ATMs but there are long lines and your time is precious. Bring cash, problem solved.
9. Dress comfortably (layers and sneakers, oh my!)
San Diego is sunny and if you’re waiting outside in the Hall H line, you’re going to want to wear short sleeves and sunscreen. But, inside the Convention Center, the air conditioning is being pumped at a rapid pace. When you’re moving from room to room among masses of people, it’s easy to feel hot, then cold, then hot. Bring a light jacket and opt for comfortable shoes, even if you’re cosplaying. There will be many photo ops and you can shed those layers when the time comes.
10. Read up on venue policies re: weapons
Your swords, arrows, and ninja stars don’t need to be that realistic. You don’t want to spend all your time making something that is going to get confiscated at check-in. So read the policies here.
11. Ask booths about giveaways
Make use of that giant backpack you receive upon entering the building by loading up on freebies from the exhibit floor. The WB booth is notorious for great ones first thing in the morning. Or some smaller booths might ask that you play a game in exchange for posters, buttons, or stickers. Count us in.