San Diego Comic-Con is unlike any other experience, and that’s just in shear volume. Not only are you surrounded by hundreds of thousands of like-minded fangirls and boys, but all of downtown San Diego gets involved. You’ll see store owners wearing capes and restaurants offering super hero themed meals. You know when Starbucks is showing ‘Return of the Jedi’ on their tv’s, you have made it to the motherland.
Being that this is my second SDCC in a row, I am by no means a veteran, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned. Here are 10 tips and tricks I think will help you get the most of your con experience.
See my San Diego Comicon Tips >
1. The Early Bird Wins Comic-Con
If you have never purchased SDCC badges before, there is some nuance to it.
Step 1. Make sure you have a member ID way before tickets go on sale. Sign up here.
Step 2. Watch your inbox. they will be sending you lots of confirmation requests, announcing ticket dates, etc. Keep an eye out!
Step 3*. When the time comes to get tickets have all your info ready, there is a time limit.
Step 4. Make sure when you get the ticket purchase email, save it. I’d recommend printing it, because they will ask for it when you arrive at comic-con (you can just show them the email on your phone, if you don’t have access to a printer).
Deciding which badges can also be tough. One of our biggest questions was ‘is preview night worth it?’.“If you are a hardcore collector, Preview Night is the best time to get a Comic-Con Exclusive. These are the limited edition toys and collectibles only available at SDCC. As soon as the doors open, head straight to the booth to get what you want” said Eric B. Kim, writer for Crazy 4 Comic Con. This is part of my plan for next year for sure!
Early bird rules also extend to hotel accommodations. Everything books fast. Find something months before Comic-Con or you’ll have to stay further than you like. Even AirBnB fills up fast, so if you don’t want to spend $1,000 a night or stay in a “hotel” where you have to share a bathroom with the other guests…book as soon as you can.
*Note, you can buy badges for up to 4 people but THEY HAVE TO HAVE THEIR OWN MEMBER ID’S.
2. Comfort is Key
The convention center is huge, and the surrounding area is even bigger. Wearing comfy shoes can be the difference between spending all day at the con or going back to your hotel early. This doesn’t apply to those who like to cosplay. You do what you have to do my costumed friends, just be aware if it’s your first time. Comfortable clothes are always good to have but foot care is king. When you’re not walking around, you’ll be standing in long lines, so take care of yourself as much as you can.
3. Do your research, have a plan, and give yourself time
Priorities, priorities, priorities! With comic-con there is so much to do and despite being almost a week long, there isn’t enough time to do it all. For me, the most important thing is to decide what I would kick myself most for not seeing and prioritize that. I’m not just talking about panels – I’m talking about signings, toys, and booth exclusives. During my first comic-con, I was so oblivious to exclusives and signings, I missed so much. This year we did a lot better, but we still missed out on a few things I had my eye on. Artists and celebs alike have ticketed signings that they sell online. So if you want Rebecca Sugar to sign your Steven Universe comic, but you didn’t know you had to purchase your ticket the day before….(this happened to me, so I know), do your research. Research also extends into exclusive merchandise. There are certain SDCC items that you can’t get anywhere else. They will release a list of all the vendors offering exclusives so take note of booth numbers and the stuff you want to buy.
Once you figure out what you can’t miss, make a plan. The schedule isn’t released until a week or two before the con, but there are plenty of ways to find out what’s going on before that. I recommend you follow (on whatever social media platform you like most) all your favorite people. The best source I find for best nerd news is none other than Nerdist*. Keep a running list of all the booths you want to visit and keep track of the time so you don’t miss out on the panels you want to see.
Research in hand, plan ready, now give yourself some time. There will be lines! If something starts at 10 am, be there at 8 am, if not way sooner! If you haven’t been to comic-con before, most of the heavy hitting panels are in a fantastic place called Hall H. It seats roughly 6,500 people, BUT most people sleep outside overnight for days just to get inside. So, if you want to see things like Game of Thrones, Star Wars, or Marvel…bring a sleeping bag. It takes a lot of dedication to get into those panels. If you’re into it, it will pay off big time. If not, most panels let out to the exhibit floor after they are over. So if you’re clever you don’t have to miss out**.
* “Pro”-tip: Nerdist and Nerd HQ do their own panels. Same stars as some of the biggest panels, but in a much more intimate venue. Tickets sell out fast and online. So stay vigilant. They also have free events at Petco Park. You can sit in the stands and see some of your favorite people.
** Miss a panel? Head to the floor. Most celebs do signings on the floor after their panels. You might be able to get closer to them than you would in Hall H. Trust me.
4. Bring the Necessities
Getting into panels takes a while. Sometimes you will get lucky and there aren’t lines, but that almost never happens! More often that not, you will stay in one hall for an entire day, because either the line-up is just that awesome or getting back in line is just too tiring to fathom. With that said, snacks and body spray are your best friends. Snacks will help you get through a really long day without falling over. Most halls have water coolers in them, so bring a water bottle and just refill it. This year we made PB&J sandwiches and omg did they save our hungry butts. Small snacks like granola bars, chips, really anything that will last the rough and tumble of your backpack is the way to go. Body spray isn’t a must, but if you want to not be the smelly one in the room, it’s a good look.
5. Gear up
During our first comic-con, San Diego was experiencing a heat wave. This year there were spots of rain. Keep an eye on the weather forecast the week before and try to bring the appropriate gear. Bring sunscreen, it’s always good to have rain or shine.
Two items we invested in this year were a good digital camera with an amazing zoom lens and a small tripod stool. While my phone takes pretty good pictures, nothing compares to the real thing. If getting good photos is your thing, I’d recommend bringing a real camera.
Remember those lines I’ve been going on about? Well some of them require you to stand up for hours. We saw lots of people our first year with these nifty fold out stools that you can fit in your backpack. They looked way more comfortable than the rest of us. We decided to do some research and find a good brand that offered durability and reliability. Walkstool comes highly ranked and can hold a lot of weight.
6. Explore the area
A good chunk of comic-con actually exists outside of the convention center. These little installations are run by networks and studios, but still amazing and worth exploring. This year Adult Swim was running their own fair. Scream Queens had a giant ride. There is the Game of Thrones experience where you can actually sit on the iron throne. These are not only fun to do, but the best way to get some extra goodies for free. Nerdist also sets up shop in Petco Park, where there is way more things to experience. From laser tag to virtual reality and everything in between. Don’t miss out, see what’s around. You’ll be surprised who you run into.
7. Shop around
While there are booth specific exclusives, there are tons of little shops that sell goodies you might want to buy. If you think you can find it at a similar booth, shop around. At these merch booths, they get to set their own prices. Most, but not all accept credit cards. Bring cash if you’re hoping to hit these little booths. We found a vendor selling the Funko exclusive gold Bender for $15 cash only. We went to another booth that accepted cards, and they were selling the same figure for $80. Diversify your currency and keep your options open.
8. Don’t be afraid
I personally am a huge chicken. I get nervous around famous people. I don’t know why. Luckily my boyfriend is pretty brave, so he spoke up for me when we ran into Chuck Palahniuk (the author of ‘Fight Club’). He actually agreed to take a picture with us. You will run into celebs a bunch walking around SDCC. So, if you love them, be brave but also respectful. They are real people and like to eat in peace. If you do talk to them, be nice. We heard from the cast of The 100 that some meanie walked up to them and refused to believe they were them. Accused them of being poor look-a-likes. If you think it’s them, it probably is.
9. Treat Yo’self and Swag Up
There are tons of giveaways. Walking around on the floor, you’ll get more lanyards and buttons than you’ll know what to do with. Some of the giveaways are really fun stuff and great if you don’t have time to buy souvenirs. There is way too much cool stuff to pass on all of it, and you never know if you might be able to get it signed. If you have some extra cash, I say get your hands on some fun stuff. If you are wary about buying exclusives, just know that your $15 vinyl toy can sell for up to $150 (if you want to part with it).
10. Have fun
Trust me I know that all of this sounds daunting. Plans, research, and money don’t exactly scream “fun”, but it’s sooooo worth it. If you enjoy planning like I do and have FOMO (fear of missing out), then this is the path. If you want just go and see what happens, you’ll have a good time no matter what. I think it’s important to not get bogged down on stuff you might have missed. Live in the moment as much as you can.
Much like the writers of Once Upon A Time said in their panel (about their show), comic-con is made for those who still believe in a bit of magic. Getting to see the people you admire and would “die” to meet, buying lots of awesome stuff, and experiencing the whole thing with the people you care about, is indeed magic.
Photo Credits to Jesse Aranda and myself 🙂