San Diego Comic Con, that is.
Just under a month away now, SDCC will take place from July 21st to 24th at the San Diego Convention Center. All tickets are sold out and have been since February 5th, the day that ticket sales finally went live. (Four day badge resales sold out within an hour on June 24th. Single day badge resales have yet to go live.) Pretty soon SDCC is going to be a dynastic event—if you don’t buy your tickets for next year’s Con at the current Con, you won’t be going. (Well, until some people die and whatnot.)
This is my third year going, and I intend to go every year until I die or the Con dies (guess which’ll come first).
This brief guide contains some advice that’s common sense, as well as other tidbits that first-year Congoers might not have considered (I definitely didn’t back in 2009). This guide is also slanted towards people who are attending the Con on a budget.
AHEAD OF TIME
- Leave early. I’m pretty sure this applies no matter where you’re coming from. We live roughly 11 hours from San Diego, and we leave around 3 AM the day before the Con so that we avoid most traffic, and have time to pick up our badges from the satellite location in Mission Valley and get settled in. The trolley fills up quick on the days of the Con—for the first few hours of the day, it will be PACKED after the first two stops (Qualcomm Stadium and Fashion Valley). If you’re planning on driving and parking nearby (you can buy parking permits now), something I’ve never wanted to deal with, the sheer amount of traffic (pedestrian and motorized) is madness. Also, if there’s any panel or signing that you want to get to in the morning, there’s probably going to be a line—and if it’s something really popular, the line will start forming well before 5 AM. (Last but not least: if you take the trolley, don’t pay for it. You’re packed in like clowns in a clown car, and they don’t bother to check for tickets.)
- Book your hotel way ahead of time. The year before if possible, but no later than six months before unless you don’t care about saving money. All hotels/motels/haystacks within walking distance of the Con will be ridiculously overpriced, so cheaper stays can be found at Mission Valley or farther out. (SDCC now has bus service to some hotels in Mission Valley—there’s a list on their website—but even if there’s no bus service, you can always get a hotel that’s close to either the Fashion Valley or Qualcomm Stadium trolley stops.) And make sure to get one with a mini fridge at least, but also a microwave if possible. Following this point…
- Stop at a grocery store once you get into San Diego. Obviously, this doesn’t apply if you live in the city or surrounding areas. But if you’re coming from out of town, you can save a lot of money if you get a hotel room with a fridge and/or microwave. That way, breakfast can be kept in the room (this saves time AND money), the lunch that you bring with you doesn’t have to be packing peanuts (see below), and you can even save on dinner (Cup o’ Noodles FTW).
- Check nearby places of business for cool events. For example, there’s usually a zombie walk on Friday or Saturday, Persons of Note often do signings at nearby bookstores, etc.
- Bring friends! Not only is SDCC more fun with a group of friends—it increases the odds you won’t have to wander off by yourself to see the things you want—but it saves on travel (if carpooling) and hotel/motel costs, too.
AT THE CON
- Shoes, shoes, shoes, really comfortable shoes. This can’t be stressed enough. Unless you’re planning on cosplaying—and I recommend bringing a bag with a change of clothes or, at least, shoes—wear your most comfortable shoes, because sitting is a rare event.
- Bring a backpack. Or some other kind of bag that’s comfortable to tote around. You are guaranteed to come away with a bagful of swag, even if you don’t pay one dirty cent for souvenirs. Is much of this free swag brochures and coupons and shitty one page comics? Absolutely. But it will seem precious at the time. If you get tired of carrying it, there are secure places to check your bag for about $2. And following this…
- Bring your own food. (And drinks.) Food purchasable inside the convention center is, like any food at a convention, really crappy and really expensive. They don’t check your bags upon entry, so it’s no problem to bring your own in. (If you’re rich and money isn’t an issue for you, you’ll still have to wait in ridiculously long lines for food, and it still tastes like crap.) Thinking you’ll leave the Con and buy something nice? Think again, unless you don’t mind sacrificing a significant amount of time from your actual enjoyment of the Con—all food places within walking distance will be just as busy.
- Bring a poster tube. If you don’t intend to buy posters, this might be worth leaving at home. However, some of that free swag will be posters, and some of them are actually pretty cool.
- Bring a camera. Most phones have cameras now, so I suppose this is kind of a moot point. But there are many awesome things to see at SDCC—badass cosplay and Persons of Note, etc.—and having a real camera is worth it.
- Bring entertainment. Book, comic book, Nook, Kindle, iPad, iPod, iPhone, smartphone, Nintendo DS, PSP, ball in a cup…whatever it is, bring it. You will mostly likely need it at some point. This is related to…
- Standing in line. If there is even one thing you care about seeing at the Con, you will be doing this. The lines will almost always be worse than you think/hope/pray/foolishly believe they will be.
- Bring cash. As much as you dare. There are lines for the ATMs, too. (That’s not a joke. I wish it was.) Even if you go in swearing you aren’t going to buy anything, you will buy anything.
- Have a plan. Following the likelihood of you standing in line, look over the schedule beforehand so that you know what events you want to attend. Some are going to conflict with each other, so you’ll have to make Sophie’s choice and pick your favorite. SDCC now has an online app that allows you to select events you want to attend from the schedule, thus building your own. Additionally, know which Persons of Note will be there so that you know what memorabilia to bring to get signed. Also, familiarize yourself with a map of the convention center.
- Bring sunscreen. I know you think you’re going to be inside all day. I did, too. Some of the lines might force you outside.
- If you’re going to ask questions during a panel…write them down beforehand. And have at least two, because odds are that someone in front of you will ask the same question. Also, sit as close to the middle aisle as possible, because there will be a mad dash for the microphone once question time is announced, and you’ll probably crush someone’s grandma.
- If a certain panel is really important to you, try to get into the room at least one panel earlier than the one you’re attending. They DO NOT clear the rooms between panels, so if you want a good seat, you need to be in the room before the panel you care about starts so you can move to a better seat when the people who want to leave clear out.
Have I scared you off?
Good. We don’t want you there anyway.