10 San Diego Comic-Con Tips For First-Timers
Are you attending Comic-Con for the first time? You're going to have fun, guaranteed.
But preparations are in order. San Diego Comic-Con is no ordinary event. It's the biggest annual pop culture event in the world, and once you see it with your own eyes, you'll know why. It's extraordinary but it's exhausting, and it can be littered with frustration if you don't plan ahead.
It goes without saying that you should familiarize yourself with the Convention schedule and create a schedule of your own listing the panels and events you want to attend. But there are a number of things first-timers won't know to prepare for — and old pros might need reminding about.
Plan smart and be ready for the daunting (but awesome) week ahead of you. These ten tips will help you have a smooth, enjoyable Comic-Con.
1. DON'T take a bag for collecting your swag.
Comic-Con is known for giving away loads of free stuff — everything from t-shirts and posters to pins, stickers, magnets, and more. Random contests occasionally give away much nicer items, like collector's toys or books. Big panels, especially the ones in Hall H, will often give away cool swag like hats or limited edition posters. And then there's the utterly insane amount of merchandise you can buy, much of which is unique and can't be purchased anywhere else.
Time was, you had to take your own bag to collect this stuff in. But these days, it's not necessary to carry a bag with you. Warner Bros. has made a new tradition out of providing canvas bags to every attendee at badge pickup. These humongous bags are more than capable of holding all of the stuff you collect, and there's a slot on one end made to hold all of your rolled-up posters. You can sling them over one shoulder with the long strap or even wear it as a backpack. There are always loads of these bags available, so if you leave your hotel room one day without the one you picked up the day before, don't fret. You can always grab another at the convention center.
2. DO take a bag for your personal items.
A backpack works best for your pro camera, snacks, water and that special edition comic book you want your favorite artist to sign. Keep it light, with just the bare essentials; you're going to be lugging it around all day. And don't bother with one of those handle bags you drag on the floor. They're not allowed in the convention center.
Don't forget to bring chargers and/or extra battery packs for your electronics. You will drain them in the convention center much faster than you think. And don't bother hoping to use the convention center's free wifi to upload your photos. There are 100,000+ people in the building all trying to get online at the same time. You do the math.
3. DON'T forget to carry cash.
Not every vendor on the show floor will take credit cards (though most do these days), so take some cash with you. And don't bother trying to get to the ATM machine in the lobby. It'll take forever. If you need an ATM, look for one at your hotel or use one at your local bank before you leave for San Diego.
4. DO follow these crucial tips about food:
|• Eat breakfast before you go to the convention center each morning. Don't wait until you get there; there's just one place inside that mammoth building for breakfast — a Starbucks — and it's always packed with a super long line.
• Take plenty of $$ for food. Lunch options inside the convention center are few, and stupidly expensive. It's perfectly acceptable to leave the building for lunch and return after. And fortunately, the Gaslamp has loads of great dining options. There's not much in the way of fast food or budget dining, but all of the local restaurants have great food. They all stay open late too, which is great for supper dining; since the convention floor doesn't close until 7:pm, you'll probably be dining later than you're used to. Some local restaurants will be rented out for SDCC and modified/themed around an upcoming TV show or movie. These are usually pretty fun, and are typically easier to get into than you'd expect.
• Take snacks — especially if you're spending the day in Hall H (see #5). There will be times when it's just not possible to get out to go to lunch, like when you're running from one must-see panel to another, or waiting in a long line. There are no rules against taking food with you into the convention center, so pack some easy eats. Water or Gatorade are essential.
5. DON'T expect to leave Hall H for any reason if you're planning to spend the day there.
Hall H is basically an event unto itself, and once you're inside, you're cut off from the rest of Comic-Con. You can leave at any time of course, but with the line to get in known to stretch over a mile in length, you're pretty much done with Hall H for the day once you're out.
There are bathrooms available, as well as a food stand where hotdogs (sorry, no toppings) and personal-sized pizzas are usually sold. Getting food at this stand is going to be idiotically pricy (we're talking $10+ for a hotdog), so take your own food if you don't want to spend that kind of money. Also, if you're on your own at Comic-Con without any friends, don't even think about giving up your seat to go potty or get food. Once a seat is vacated, it's fair game. Most panels will ask you not to save seats for anyone anyway, so just don't.
6. DO walk or take the trolley to the convention center.
Parking near Comic-Con is a nightmare, so don't bother trying. Sure, there are parking lots scattered about, but they'll charge you out the wazoo for leaving your vehicle for the day. Parking prices have been known to reach $50 a day or even higher. The Con itself offers some on-site parking, but you won't be able to get to it.
Do yourself a favor and take the San Diego Trolley. It's inexpensive, it has a convenient stop right in front of the convention center, and it can take you to and from pretty far out into other parts of town. The Trolley runs every day from 6:am to 10:pm, and there's a train stopping at the convention center every 7.5 minutes. It's $2.50 for a single one-way trip, but you can buy all-day passes for up to 5 days, which will cost you just $20. There's an app for that.
7. DON'T wear flip-flops.
I don't care if you were born under the stars and live in a hand-made yurt in the Mongolian wilderness. Wear comfortable shoes. Unless you enjoy blisters. You will spend most of Comic-Con on your feet, so be kind to them.
8. DO be ready to explain to your kids what they're going to see.
Children are welcome at Comic-Con, but that doesn't mean that every attendee will show discretion to suit your tastes. There are always dozens of Slave Leias, for example, so be ready to explain to your 6-year-old "why that lady's wearing fancy underwear." And don't ask us why, but every year there are a handful of silly guys that feel the need to show up wearing almost nothing — and some of them will make you gouge your eyes out. Your kid is going to see some crazy, inexplicable stuff, so... Be ready for the questions.
9. DON'T expect kindness, helpfulness, or anything resembling a happy attitude from security.
Comic-Con security — which is contracted to a company called Elite, and always has its personnel wear red shirts (heh-heh) — is notorious for its uselessness. They don't want to be there, they're probably underpaid, and they judge your lifestyle choices. There are exceptions to every rule, so you might meet a good one here or there, but for the most part, these guys and gals will look upon you with boredom and disdain.
One year I was there, the line to get into the show floor in the morning was obviously established yet people kept trying to go around it to get ahead. As you might expect, those of us waiting in line — who'd been there for an hour or more already — were growing frustrated and angry at these nonstop line-jumpers. A large group of Elite redshirts were hanging out near the line, talking and laughing and completely ignoring us. They never showed any interest at all in resolving the situation. It got so bad that one guy in the line shouted instructions at the top of his voice throughout the massive hallway, explaining where the line was. He was the hero of Comic-Con that year. The redshirts were the butt of every joke.
Moral of the story: If you're lost and confused, if you lose your belongings, or if you just walk by a redshirt and toss them a friendly smile... Lower your expectations when you approach security.
10. DO be mindful of the rules of proper cosplay etiquette.
Cosplayers don't mind taking a picture with you. Really. They usually put a ton of effort into their costumes and want to show them off. They enjoy it, so there's no need to be shy.
But you do need to be polite. Always ask first. Don't grab cosplayers and try to drag them into a quick pic, and be careful about hand placement when posing. Shoulders are always safe, arms around an abdomen are usually fine, but anything else is inappropriate and unwanted. Absolutely no groping, regardless of how little attire they're wearing.
If you're cosplaying yourself, be prepared to spend a lot of time posing for pictures. If you don't want to take time to pose, then don't dress up. Also: if you're wearing a big or heavy costume, pack some extra deodorant and reapply often.
Most importantly, have fun! There's no other experience in the world like Comic-Con. It can be overwhelming at first if it's your first time, but we suggest throwing caution to the wind and plunging in to that crazy-big crowd. You're going to have a blast.
Stay tuned to T-Lounge all week long for more from Comic-Con 2015.
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